Thursday, April 3, 2008

Patience + Persistence = Progress

Expectation: My wife and I, like most parents, do everything possible to protect our children from danger and pain.

Doubt: When he was an infant, we noticed our son's left hip clicked and it was not flexible. It did not open as easily, or as much, as his right hip.

Trials: We took him to an expert Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon named Michael Ehrlich who determined Noah has Legg-Perthes disease. In these patients, proper blood flow does not reach the head of the femur; it dies, and regenerates in about 70% of the cases. The malformed head does not fit well in the hip's socket, thus causing tightness and muscle spasm.

He was placed in traction every night between the ages of one and six, when MRI's showed normal bone formation. Noah was given freedom to participate in physical education and we put away the traction apparatus.

Most recent pictures showed further femur deformation. We consulted with Dr. Ehrlich and our family friend, who trained Dr. Ehrlich during his Mass General residency many years ago. We all agreed surgery was the best option to afford the femur proper space to grow, to improve life quality, and to reduce the likelihood of early hip replacement.

Watching one's child suffer is painful. When I was a child, my mother had extensive cancer surgery requiring over 1000 stitches to mend. Although I felt bad for her in her condition, I also felt she had the strength to beat it. Perhaps this is the perception most children have about their parents. They are heroes.

Anticipating Noah's six hour procedure, and seeing him in post operation, was horrific. Seeing him suffer and feeling little control over improving his condition is my ultimate parental frustration.

Transcendence: He opened his eyes. He did not cry. Dr. Ehrlich credited his "gorilla brain" - high pain threshold. He amazed his nurses and staff in his initial recovery. He ate and slept well, and required minimum pain medications.

The Dr. was very pleased with the surgery, but nothing is certain. He's now in a body cast for ten weeks, but he's home, with a structured day filled with reading, internet communications with friends and family, movies, bird watching out the back window, computer games, Lego building, and writing crazy stories with dad.

Hearty giggles have returned. The pain has further subsided.

We hope the same for all hospitalized and suffering children.