Today was my daughter Mimi’s weekly osteopath appointment. Last week Sarah, her osteopath asked to see the CD I had of an MRI done on Mimi soon after it was discovered that she had had a stroke during birth. Sarah said that it would help in her treatment of Mimi.
I had never really looked at the MRI images. The MRI was done over three years ago in Switzerland (where we lived at the time). We met Mimi at the Kinderspital (Children’s Hospital) in Zurich. She and her twin sister were still in the NICU at a different hospital due to their premature birth. She had to be sedated so that she would not move too much during the MRI.
She was so tiny, not yet five pounds, so fragile.
My parents were there at the hospital with my husband and me. We all waited in a small, plain, gray room as the MRI was conducted. None of us bothering to make small talk; we sat together in silence.
After about an hour the doctor called us into his office. We were very lucky, as he was the head of pediatric radiology and somehow, was overseeing our case. I remember him telling us that he had just returned from a two year stint at Children’s Hospital in Boston. That he was Dutch. He wore a striped bowtie.
From the point that he put the pictures of Mimi’s damaged brain on the computer monitor, I remember nothing. I looked away when I saw the obvious extent of the damage. I stared at the floor and did not look up or hear anything that he said, until my father touched my elbow to lead me towards the door of the doctor’s office. Just before we walked out, the doctor said what I am sure he knew we needed to hear, ‘She will probably just be a clumsy girl.’
I knew that no one could tell us what the future held for Mimi; if she would ever learn to walk or talk, or be able to use her right hand. How she would fare cognitively. We just had to wait and see how she developed.
Like any parent of a cerebral palsy child will tell you, this is the hardest bit—the not knowing.
At eighteen months, Mimi began to talk and show all signs that she was learning at the same rate as her twin. At two and a half she began to walk.
I could finally exhale a little.
Sarah put the CD of Mimi’s brain up on her computer screen. I did not want to look directly at it, but felt strong enough now to do so.
One third of Mimi’s brain is missing on the left side. Where tissue should be there is only fluid.
I breathed a heavy sigh. Sarah looked at Mimi and said, ‘Your daughter is a miracle, Jenny. If I hadn’t met Mimi I would never have believed that inside that little girl was this brain. She should not be walking or talking or using her right hand. She should have emotional difficulties, too. But she doesn’t. The right side of her brain has compensated for the left. She is a miracle.’
I wish I could say that I felt a rush of joy at her words, or a tremendous sense of relief. I guess the situation is not as simple as to solely feel grateful or reassured. I do feel those things, but as I looked at the MRI I felt drained, as if a wound, not yet quite healed, was scraped opened again.
Then Sarah looked at me, ‘Take this CD and stick it up on a shelf. It does not represent what your daughter has become.’
Mimi works hard at physical therapy. She works hard to run as fast as her twin sister and to climb up the rocks that her friends do. Mimi is also aware of her short-comings, and tries to overcome them or at least compensate for them.
Mimi, for so many reasons more than just the obvious, is indeed a miracle.