I was planning on taking all of us to Paris this morning (at least in through photos) but I'm going to write about something closer to home instead.
My 7-year old, Max has spent the past 6 months wearing a brace for 23 hours a day. He hasn't been able to run, jump or basically do all the things little boys do. No sports, including swimming. No PE and only recently, he's been allowed to go outside for one 15 minute recess a day (but no "physical" activity).
He's spent 2 hours a week in PT and about 30 minutes a day doing exercises at home.
Last September, he was diagnosed with two fractures (2 mm apart) in his back at his L4 vertebrae. It's scary because untreated, it could lead to a slipped disc and a lifetime of pain. You can strengthen the core muscles through intensive exercise but there are no guarantees the bone will heal.
How did this happen? We don't know for sure. This is an injury older kids get when they do a lot of gymnastics. It can also happen (on one side) to kids who kick the soccer ball or swing the baseball bat a lot. Max was the youngest child that the Doctor or the PT Team had even seen with this injury. They believe Max's injury was caused by doing the Butterfly Stroke (for years) starting at a young age.
There is little information "out there" about the connection between the Butterfly Stroke and fractures in children's backs. According to our Doctor, the up and over movement of that stroke, along with the force it requires, is literally impossible for young children to do because their backs aren't long/strong enough. If they can do it, it's possibly causing an injury. She thinks kids should hold off on the Butterfly Stroke until age 9 or 10.
How did we know? We really didn't. Max said his back hurt. We took him to the Doctor. She thought it was a pulled muscle. It seemed to get a little better. Then he went swimming one day and literally couldn't stand up straight.
Has this been a negative experience? Here's the interesting part. It hasn't been a "negative" experience. It's been incredibly tough and occasionally heartbreaking. It's also been a great learning opportunity, teaching disclpline and teamwork to our whole family. We have been amazed at Max's strength, courage and determination. This injury has given Max a gift– now he knows bad things can happen out of the blue. He also know you have a choice in how you approach them. And most importantly, he knows he can get through hard times and that he has the discipline to do it.
Yesterday, on Thursday we got some good news from the Doctor. She feels Max is ready to transition into a soft brace and he doesn't have to wear a brace overnight anymore. She will let him "walk fast" with his core muscles on for half the 15 minute recess and we can work on building up his running strength at home. He will start seeing a trainer once a week to help him keep his core strong. We will be able to cut back our visit to PT to 2x a month. It's a HUGE milestone.
We are holding off on getting a CT Scan for a few more weeks (to see if the bones have healed). He isn't 100% or back to normal. But it's a victory of sorts and he's so happy and excited. He's been in the red zone and yellow zone and the now green zone is in view.