I took Oia to see Dr. R today, her orthopedic doctor. He's the go-to guy when Oia needs new braces and we schedule with him every 6 months for regular check-ups. Kiddos like Oia have to be monitored closely due to the negative effects that bone misalignment and irregular muscle tone has on a palsied body. Thankfully for Oia, her degrees of misalignment and compensatory strategies are very minor but still warrant full attention.
Her current AFO's are no longer the right fit. Too small, too tight and they limit some natural movements that her feet and legs have developed. In fact, she has learned in the recent months how to walk reliably around the house without them. She hasn't had her feet in AFO's for over a month! She can walk balanced and bare foot but we keep shoes on her feet for most of her waking hours. Her shoes have a sole insert to support her under-developed arches but currently this is the only orthotic support she has.
But let me be clear here...her gait is not typical. Oia walks toe-heel or toe-sometimes heel, not heel-toe like you or I. She can bring her left heel down completely to the floor most of the time while standing still. Right heel though is still quite high. The good news is that after Dr. R examined, stretched, and re-examined Oia again, he decided she did NOT need a brace on the left foot AT ALL. Oh my! Only her right foot will require a brace. I'm amazed.
And something else that amazed me today...Oia has grown 3 inches since June! Rapid growth can be cerebral palsy's worst nightmare as the bones grow and lengthen making the muscles pull tighter which in turn limits movement but Oia's tone is still quite manageable and she has full range of motion, especially while relaxed. Dr. R said her rapid growth right now is nothing to worry over but we must continue stretching as often as possible. This is one area where the long term must be kept in mind.
So, Oia was casted right away for her new brace following the appointment. Her new AFO will be hinged to allow her foot a more full range of motion. Should get the new brace in about 2 weeks.
After the appointment, Oia and I headed to our favorite kids shoe store at the mall to get her new shoes to wear for CME. Like her braces, she has outgrown her shoes too. (Oia does not wear AFO's for CME.) I found a summery, lightweight pair that should be quite comfortable for her. While checking out, I told the girl (who has helped me numerous times) that I'd be back for another pair as soon as Oia's new brace was in. I told her the shoes we bought today were for therapy only. She then asked me, "Oh, so will therapy fix her legs?" I told her no and that Oia has cerebral palsy. With eyes the size of Texas she said "Really? I would have never known. I just thought she had some issues with her legs." We chatted a few minutes longer as she shared about a young boy she once knew who had CP and some of his many struggles (immobile, seizures, feeding tube, etc) and then Oia and I began to walk out. As I was leaving she tells me how 'lucky' we are and how 'patient' I am with Oia. She told me it takes a 'certain kind' of parent to do what I do and my reply was simple....
"I'm just doing what I hope any other mother would do."
(This recent photo of Oia shows her flat left foot but high right heel. She swiped a wooden spoon from the counter to stir the dog's food and water. Stinker.)