Monday, February 20, 2012

What Causes an 8 Year-Old Boy to Mature

Our eldest child and eldest son has always been the most apprehensive of all of our children.  He has always been hesitant to try anything new, to talk to anyone he doesn't know or to go anywhere he hasn't been before.  I don't like using labels but most would call him shy.  Very shy.  And I am okay with that.  For the most part.  I love watching how he thinks through things rather than just jumping right in.  His apprehension can be a very good thing - he would never willingly wander off with a stranger like some of my other children would.  But it has really been a struggle to get him to grow past all the fears and apprehension.  I don't mind a thoughtful child or a hesitant child but a child full of fear about every and any situation is not a healthy child.  I have been praying for him to grow in confidence for a long time and I think the Lord has been using many health-related situations to cause him to grow and mature and gain confidence.  Over the last number of weeks I have taken him to many different appointments and it has cause me to think back on his life, short as it is, to all the experiences he has already had.  I think each of them has brought him to where he is today, growing in confidence.  When he was just an infant, less than 6 months old, there was some concern with his health, some wierd facial thing that would happen in conjunction with lack of breathing when he would nurse.  After expressing my concern to my doctor, we went through a series of tests with him to try to get that situation to repeat itself in the presence of trained doctors who then could discover what was going on.  He had a number of EEG's, where they wrapped him mummy-style, stuck all these electrodes to his head and got me to nurse him - or at least try to.  He was on a bed and was supposed to stay there so I had to hang my breast over his face and try to get him to drink while all these staff and cameras were watching.  A little nerve-wracking for me, terrible for him since he was so hungry and had cried so hard he usually fell asleep, and in the end, they didn't learn anything conclusive though they did say he had some "seizure activity" which, apparently, can be normal in some people and never present itself as a seizure.  Not fun for a first time mom, or any mom, for that matter. 

Just before he turned 2, he broke his leg in 2 places and needed to be in a cast.  That was a terrible situation.  We didn't realize he had broken it until he wouldn't put weight on his leg.  We then suspected a broken leg and x-rays confirmed it.  They put on a back-slab and wrapped his leg in a tensor band and sent us home, telling us we would need to go to the city sometime the  following week (this happened on a Saturday night) for a cast.  The next night, Sunday night, he screamed in pain for hours.  We called in to see what we could do and they suggested Tylenol and Advil.  If the pain persisted, we should bring him back in for some morphine.  He wouldn't quit screaming (and he was never a screaming/crying kind of kid unless something really bad happened).  He screamed the entire 15 minutes back to the emergency room but as soon as those doors opened to the hospital, he quite crying. This was in the middle of the night and the doctor was not happy to have been woken from her sleep.  The first thing she said was that he looked just fine.  Oh, I could have blown a gasket.  Like we had nothing better to do than to race to the emergency room with our 4 month-old and 23 month-old sons in the middle of the night.  The caring and understanding nurse pushed for the morphine and it is what he needed to be able to sleep that night.  Then we got a call on Monday saying we could take him back into the city 3 days later, on the Thursday, for a casting appointment.  That was completely unacceptable.  Because he was only in a backslab and a tensor band, anything touching his leg caused pain.  Sleeping was painful.  Everything was painful.  I told that lady I was not waiting until Thursday - something had to be done right away.  So, I took him back into the emergency room that day and she put on a cast that came over his knee, stating that when we went in on Thursday to the city hospital (these emergency room visits were in a completely different town in the opposite direction of the city) they would probably remove the cast and put on another one.  That was fine by me.  At least with the cast, his pain lessened.  They did remove that long cast and put on a shorter one that Thursday and then 4-5 weeks later it was removed all together, just days before his 2nd birthday.

When he was about 2 and starting to talk, I began to suspect he might have hearing issues.  His speech was so muddled, and as he grew he needed everything much louder in volume - the radio, the TV, even me talking to him.  He often needed things repeated and eventually started reading lips.  It was so inconsistent that I wasn't sure if he had hearing issues or just attention issues.  When he was 3 1/2, they did a preliminary hearing test where a sound is played in your ear and they wait for the echo to return.  That little test is supposed to print out a bell-curve on the testing machine.  Pepe's gave a straight line.  They didn't know what that meant and chalked it up to his cold.  We went back about 6 months later and the same thing happened.  At that point we were sent to the audiologist for the first time, about 5 years ago.  After about 1 year of numerous hearing tests, it was discovered he has chronic fluid build-up in his middle ear causing hearing loss.  This type of hearing loss can be sporadic as the fluid levels can rise and fall plus it most often will affect the lower registers and lower tones or an area where lots of sounds compete.  Exactly as we had noticed.  It came to the point where he wouldn't talk to his dad in the van because he had such a hard time hearing his dad - he only talked to me.  Surprisingly, he never had any ear infections.  Just days before his 5th birthday, he had t-tube surgery for the first time.  It was horrible.  He kicked and screamed and cried.  He wanted me there.  They tried to pick him up but he was so heavy they couldn't.  Once those big doors closed, he had no choice but to go with them, which he did.  When he woke up from the surgery, he was agitated and crying, wanting to be with me, practically crawling into my arms when he was supposed to stay in bed.  I had to walk with them leaning over the bed holding onto him while they wheeled him to the recovery area.  The results of the surgery were immediate and dramatic.  He could hear everything and it was so overwhelming, he cried most of the way home.  Toilets flushed too loudly.  Rocks bouncing on the van were too loud. His siblings were too much for him.  It was a very hard day.  But, he also discovered the sound of pop fizzing, which he had never heard before.  Eventually, the tubes came out, just as they are supposed to, but once they were out the hearing decreased.  He went back for his second t-tube surgery just a couple months after turning 7 and it was a much easier transition for him.  He even got to drive a large kids car into the surgery room!  Once again the hearing improved.  His latest audiology appointment, just last week, showed that the tubes are still in place but are beginning to make their way out, as they should.  It leaves us wondering what will happen when they come out - will he be able to hear without them or will we have to go back for surgery again?

Then, at the end of 2011 we took the kids to the dentist for the very first time.  I know, a long wait, but we were not sure who to go to that would be good with the kids and take all of them at the same time.  Some places would only take 2 kids per family per day.  We weren't about to make 3 trips.  Finally we found a pediatric dentist, recommended by a friend, and we love him.  The staff and doctor and environment are fantastic and the kids loved the experience.  All 7 of us were in one room with 2 dentist chairs and never once was there any irritation or harsh words said.  It was great!  But, with that appointment we discovered that Pepe had 2 cavities between his teeth due to overcrowding plus he needed to see an orthodontist to consult on the overcrowding and the apparent missing teeth.  We saw the orthodontist just a little after that and learned that Pepe already needed a retainer on the top to deal with the narrow jaw and large space between his front teeth and partial braces on the bottom to deal with teeth in very wrong spots.  So, that meant more appointments for him and more courage to be found.  But, with the first appointment, just the consultation, his little brother joined him to see where he was at.  Because his little brother is a bit more adventurous, he had no problem going by himself with the lady to get all sorts of photos taken of his teeth.  Not willing to be outdone by his brother, Pepe went by himself as well.  That was a HUGE step for him!  Since then, I have made him go into all his appointments by himself, unless they specifically ask for him.  HE still tells me he needs me to come with him but I know he can do it and so does he.  So, he does and with a good attitude to boot.  He needed to go back once to get the retainer and then again for the braces.  Plus, he had to return to the dentist twice to get the fillings dealt with, all without me by his side. 

When I look back on where he was to where he is now, he really has matured and grown in confidence like I never expected.  But I don't think it would have happened as clearly if he didn't have so many appointments to attend.  It really is neat to see how far he has come and I am thankful the Lord has used all this things to grow and develop him into someone growing in courage.  I am so proud of him but know he will continue to grow since the appointments aren't ending any time soon!

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