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Max’s BackStory Update

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.

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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.

L-O-V-E

The spirit of Valentine's Day is in the air.  You know, L-O-V-E.  For weeks, Mia has been talking about a young man in her class… we'll call him Mr. "B."  Yesterday, Max and I got to meet Mr. B for the first time at Mi's class Valentine's Day Party.  She's in the back row and guess who's standing to her right?

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My little lovebug has been coming home from school with stories about Mr. B.  First he was kissing her shoulder. Next he was kissing her on the face.  Then he told her he loved her.  That's when Mia informed me that they're getting married.  Sigh.  I think this girl is going to be a handful.  In a good way!

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Here are my little Valentines.  Best buddies most of the time.  

I wouldn't call the relationship between Max and his Physical Therapist love.  But I would say it's authentic like by both parties.  Here's the Valentine's Day card that Max made for Ly.

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I like how he drew me sitting down (that's pretty much what I do at PT) and that he made Ly pink.

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I think friendship is a wonderful kind of love.  Sweet Michelle had her final chemo on Monday.  Look how this girl rocks a head scarf.

IMG_8998-1This may sound strange, but Michelle's last chemo was fun.  She had a bunch of gal pals there from all different times in her life (highschool, college, work, early days of mommy-hood).  They were fantastic. You can never overestimate the power of girl friends… or love!

Rainbows On The Way

Mia Rainbow
"The way I see it… if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain."  

-Dolly Parton  

I think the forecast is for rainbows.  Michelle has her last chemo next Monday (!).  Max is going to the Pediatric Sports Medicine Doctor today.  I am hopeful she'll allow us to increase his activity.  I am ready for a rainbow (or two)!


Exactly Where He Should Be

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After three months in the brace, Max still has his sense of humor.  According to Ly (Our Physical Therapist) he's exactly where he should be with his recovery.  Phew!  I was a little concerned.  Between our trip to Chicago and the food poisoning we brought back with us, we missed a few sessions.

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 Max is learning some new exercises.  

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This is his favorite. 

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Mia tries to be a supportive sister but gets a tiny bit bored sometimes.  I can't wait until they are running around and playing together like they used to.  But for now, one step at a time.

Riding the Wave into the Yellow Zone

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We are celebrating today… Max is officially in the "Yellow Zone."

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He did a perfect backbend without any pain

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Right leg at 90 degree angle

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And the left too.

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(Max & his Physical Therapist, Ly)

Reaching these goals seemed like a dream just a few months ago.  There's still a long way to go, but what a fantastic gift Max has given to our family and to himself.  He's worked so hard each and every day since his diagnosis.

There will be a new set of goals next week, but for right we are basking in the happy glow of the yellow zone.

All we want for Hannukah & Christmas

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Max Update:  He is very close on reaching all three of the goals he needs to accomplish to order to get out of the "Red Zone" and into the "Yellow Zone."  The Yellow Zone will mean he gets to to do more activity and that he is officially out of the scary danger zone.  

We are working towards getting to the "Yellow Zone" by Christmas.  His Physical Therapist, Ly, thinks he will make it. We're so excited.

This was Max this morning at 7 am.  His leg is at about an 85 degree angle.  Once he gets to 90 degrees we're golden.

The back bend is coming along too.  Every time I see him do it I think– there is no way I could even come close to how far he's bending back!

In other news, Ly the (Physical Therapist) has stress fractures in her back.  They're a result of all the positions she puts her back in and force/strength she uses in doing her job.

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Now Ly and Max have coordinating braces– like salt & pepper (although hers is a "soft" brace).  She has to wear it all the time and go to PT twice a week.  It's too bad Ly has to go through all this, but it's a good thing she caught the problem.

She's extremely patient, encouraging and good with Max. Even very early in the morning.

We are so fortunate to have her as our PT!