At the end of May we had the opportunity to spend the morning in the Children's Developmental Clinic, an all-in-one-day approach where various doctors came to our exam room instead of us going all over the place to visit with specialists. We had been referred to this specialty clinic back during our NICU stay, when we met with the geneticist who works with this team. Anyway...initially our appointment had been set for July, AFTER our moving date! Thankfully we caught the mistake (our own paperwork listed June as the appointment date), and they were able to work us in May 31.
Verity and I were up early to prepare for our big day. (Ted and 4 of our kids were in Colorado for a family visit and house hunting trip. We have a rental--hooray! Looking forward to being settled in our new home with mountain views! But I digress...)
As you can see, Verity was exhausted from getting up early, ha! Actually, if I recall correctly, due to a concentrated prayer effort (I believe!), Verity actually let me get a decent night of sleep the night before this long day...a much-appreciated gesture, to be sure, after a number of horrific nights while single parenting.
We first met with a pediatrician for an overview. He showed me Verity's growth chart--at 8 pounds, 11 ounces, she's still a little peanut for a 3-month-old, but he was pleased with her growth curve, as it is proportional and definitely trending upward. I spoke with him about her seemingly unending fussiness, and he said that if it doesn't improve after some more time, he would look into possibly trying reflux medicine, but he wasn't sure that was the best first option. Overall, he was pleased with her progress and her appearance, which of course was incredibly encouraging to this mama!
Next we saw an orthopedic representative. Our doctor who did Verity's castings and tenotomy wasn't available, having had her own baby a couple of weeks prior. The lady who came in admitted that the boots and bar wasn't her specialty; when I asked her about how to better help Verity's feet stay IN the boots and avoid pressure sores, she called in a man from orthotics who ended up being my favorite person of the day: he took one look at Verity's bar and pronounced it TOO LONG! He took it to his shop, shortened it maybe 2 inches or so, and voila! Soooo much better! In fact, Verity spent most of the rest of the day sleeping, lol. Clearly it wasn't the cure-all, as she is still a terrible sleeper at night, but it has helped tremendously with her overall well-being. And Jim also gave me lots of great little tips for getting the boots and bar back on without so much of the trauma-and-tears routine. I am so very grateful. Below you can see a side-by-side comparison of the before and after bar.
Next up, a physical therapist. Her recommendations for Verity included ways to help her do a "push-up" kind of motion to develop those muscles. After 30 years in this profession, she clearly knows a lot and has a lot of practical wisdom, such as trusting our own parental instincts and asking therapists about research to back up their suggestions (or preferences). Best quote: "She is so precious! Your main job is to love her." Aaaaaahhh. More wisdom included to keep on keeping on--keep doing what we're doing; let Verity lead but also let her go at her own pace. Wonderful advice.
The occupational therapist also gave some great practical tips. Since tummy time is not a favorite for Verity, she recommended doing it at each diaper change, just a quick, short burst that would make it part of our routine. For Verity's clenched hands, she suggested a small bit of cut up cloth to roll up and put inside her hands to help with the sweat and skin breakdown as well as give gentle stretching for her fingers. Also recommended: lotion massages, starting at the shoulder and working down to the hands to help relax them and allow us to open up her hands a little more easily. [As a side note...it has now been almost 2 weeks since we were at the CDC, and I confess I have NOT yet done the cloth-inside-the-palms thing, although I did locate and wash the washcloth I intend to cut up for this task!! But, on the plus side, her hands have been so much more relaxed recently, allowing us to work our thumbs and sometimes plastic toy rings inside for her to "grip" and do a bit of "tug-of-war." So...we are making progress anyway!]
The genetics team visit was a very short one; I hardly have any notes. I did learn (upon questioning) that they aren't really interested in pushing for more testing to see if Verity truly is a full trisomy 18 or if she might be mosaic. (Some have questioned, because she is clearly doing much better than many FT18 babies...or at least better than a FT18 prognosis.) Otherwise, the only things I wrote on my note sheet were to "keep doing what we're doing" and "keep the bar of expectations high."
Finally we saw a social worker. Since some folks had recommended looking into respite care, I did ask what she knew about that, whether military coverage allows for anything like that or not, since we heard at one point that Tricare doesn't pay for home visits from nurses (back when we were trying to figure out if we could learn to place the NG tubes ourselves). She said the EFMP folks (Exceptional Family Member Program) would be the place to start asking and that with programs like the ones that pay for respite care, generally the funding is available but it's usually up to the parents to actually find the caregivers themselves. The Colorado Early Intervention people could probably give us referrals. Obviously this isn't something we have time to investigate before our move (which is happening in just about a month, eeeek!). Thankfully, though, we have been blessed with an amazing church family, and Verity has had several overnights with loving ladies who have offered to give us the gift of sleep!
So! That's the story of our visit. We were there a total of 4 hours, and it was all positive and encouraging feedback.