Tuesday, September 27, 2011

STRONG WOMAN IN TRAINING -- Vonnie Davis

I’m taking a different approach with this blog. We’ve had some delightful ones on woman of strength. I’ve learned a lot and I thank each of you for your research. When the idea hit me to blog about my granddaughter, I feared it would be too boring. You know, another grandma on a bragging tirade. I’d chosen, instead, Pearl S. Buck as my topic. Then my granddaughter got hurt over the weekend and suddenly Pearl S. Buck was the farthest person from my mind. So here we are, talking about my sugar pie.

My Lauren Elizabeth was born with her right arm ending about an inch below her elbow. Uterine bands had grown blocking off half of my daughter-in-law’s uterus. One of the bands grew around Lauren’s arm and slowly amputated it as she moved around. The sonogram at 16 weeks showed two hands, so the event happened sometime afterwards. Because of her lack of space as she developed and grew, her face was pushed in and her right foot pressed flush to her shin bone. We didn’t know if she would ever walk normally.


My son and daughter-in-law handled their daughter’s issues differently at first. Steve, a middle school teacher, wanted to protect Lauren, to shelter her. Angie, an executive at a large bank, adopted an “in your face” approach. “Let everyone get a good look and then get over it,” she’d say. Slowly Steve saw the wisdom in Angie’s accept-Lauren-as-she-is attitude. Angie also worked with Lauren’s foot, massaging it every day and slowly stretching the leg. Normal movement eventually occurred.


When she was a few months old, we began kissing Lauren’s hand and then also kissing the end of her shorter arm to show her both were equally beautiful. We also encouraged her to engage in whatever activity sparked an interest: gymnastics, swimming, singing, horseback riding and dancing. Believe me, when my granddaughter is dancing onstage with other ballerinas, there’s not a dry eye in the house. Many know how hard she’s worked to get where she’s at.


When Lauren was in the first grade, she told Steve and Angie she wanted two hands like other girls. They looked online and found a hospital in Houston that was doing marvelous work with prosthesis for children operated by a computer chip embedded under the skin. They flew to Houston for two weeks so Lauren could be fitted and then go through physical therapy to learn how to use this new forearm and hand.


Her first day back to school, she was understandably proud of her new arm. As she was showing it off to the other children, one boy—Justin—told her it wasn’t as good as a real arm. He began teasing her about her “worthless, fake arm” and claimed she couldn’t do anything with it. His taunting continued. When Lauren saw he wasn’t going to leave her alone, she took off her prosthesis and chased him around the room with it, bopping him over the head.


When Steve, who was by this time an assistant principal, got the call that his first-grade daughter was in the office of her school, he said he wanted to bang his forehead against the desk. He went to her school and got permission to take her outside for a walk. He told her that removing her prosthesis and using it as a weapon was unacceptable.


“But, Daddy, Justin got on my last nerve telling me I couldn’t do anything with my new arm, so I just showed him what I could do with it.”


Steve bit the inside of his cheek and looked the other way. After their private chat, he escorted her back inside and proceeded to ask Lauren’s teacher some hard questions. Like how had the boy’s teasing escalated to the point Lauren retaliated? She had no answers. When Steve also asked what punishment the boy received, the teacher claimed Lauren had traumatized the boy and therefore he wasn’t being punished.


“Traumatized boy” continued to harass Lauren about her “fake” arm. One day, while he was in the restroom, my granddaughter—the angel—glued his box of crayons to the bottom of his desk.


Last January, she had her first epileptic seizure. They typically last for about an hour and her lips turn black. She can’t talk for a couple hours after the seizure ends. Thank goodness a specialist in child epilepsy at Children’s Hospital in DC found a medicine that keeps the seizures at bay.


As a fifth grade student, Lauren reads on the tenth grade level and she’s learning to play the French horn. More importantly she’s our teacher. She’s taught us the power of determination, the depth of the human spirit and the sweetness of success, no matter how small.


Sunday, while roller-skating at a friend’s birthday party, Lauren fell and broke her wrist. Since her only hand is in a cast, going to the bathroom, eating, dressing and writing are next to impossible. I can hardly wait to see what she teaches us about this. For, without a doubt, Lauren Elizabeth is a strong woman of the future. She will not be defeated.

17 comments:

Margaret Tanner said...

Gorgeous blog Vonnie. Send Lauren hugs and kisses from Australia for me. If they had out medals for determination she should be first in line.

Regards

margaret

Jerri Hines/Carrie James-Haynes said...

Absolutely love your granddaughter. She's going to make it just fine in this world...just fine. Wish sometimes I could take something and show someone what I could do with it. (Good for her!)
You're a lucky grandmother. What a beautiful smile.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Okay, tears welling in eyes. But she is quite a little lady. And all of you have to take some pride in yourselves. After all, her attitude and strong will is directly linked to the attitude and will of those raising her.

Alison H. said...

Well, I'm inspired! What a wonderful spirit. I LOVE the story about that boy getting on her last nerve and have to applaud her direct approach to dealing with him. Nothing's going to hold this girl back.

Barbara Edwards said...

What a great kid! I think God knew what he was doing sending her to your family.
Barbara

Melinda said...

Oh Vonnie this made me cry. My son, who is 23 now, has hearing aids got them when he was 5. A lot of the kids made fun of him and he showed them though.

This inspires me to write something about children who inspire us

Walk in harmony,
Melinda

Kellie Kamryn said...

What a fantastic post! You should be so proud of her strength of spirit and drive to persevere :) I loved reading this.

Vonnie Davis said...

Thank you all for taking Lauren into your hearts, if only for the day. Remember, in times past, when imperfect children were sent away or locked in attics. In some cultures, Lauren would have been killed. If only those family members would have realized that those children were equally as valuable, loving, charming and intelligent. Our Lauren brings her own brand of magic to the lives of others. As for her Uncle Mike, she is forever baking him cakes and decorating them with gummy bears and decorations. She slides her chair next to his and watches every nuance of his expression while he eats it. He puts on quite the show, just for her. Loved? Oh, yes, she is greatly loved.

Mona Risk said...

Vonnie, give a hug to Lauren for me and tell her I'm proud of her for hitting the mean boy with her fake arm! What a brave little girl. I will print your post and show it to my cousin. He was born with cerebral palsy that left him with bent knees and hands. He worked hard in school and became a lawyer. He'll be happy to know that others too are fighting their handicaps. I can feel she will be a successful young woman.

Autumn Jordon said...

OMG what a wonderful little lady. I don't think you have anything to worry about with Lauren. She is going to set the world straight! I just want to hug her.

GRINNING in PA

Jannine Gallant said...

This was soooo much better than Pearl Buck - No offense to the lady in question. LOL

I'm 100% certain Lauren will become a woman of achievement. Thanks so much for sharing her story.

Nightingale said...

Very touching post. You have a lovely granddaughter.

Celia Yeary said...

VONNIE--I wouldn't have missed this for the world. My great-niece was born exactly this way with the arm ending just below the elbow. It was her left, though. Fortunately, she had no other such as your sweet granddauter has, but the arm is enough.
The doctor called all the family in the day Lisa was born and told them--"Start acting right now as if nothing is wrong with this baby. If you can do that, you'll treat her like all other children, and she'll do fine.
She had a brother two years older. She also got a prothesis, two hooks attached to straps that ran across her back and shoulders. At a very young age, she learned to control the hooks--that worked like a clamp--with her shoulder muscles. She could cut her own meat, but her big brother had to get Mommy to cut his.
One day Lisa's brother made her mad, so she began hitting him with the prothesis and hooks.
He ran to Mommy-"Mommy, Mommy, Lisa's hitting me with her 'official' arm." Even Lisa laughs about that to this day.
She became a beautiful woman, but she'd given up any kind of prothesis back in grade school. She did almost everything. She married and had twin babies. She could diaper and dress and feed them as well as I could.

So, bless, you all..for your love and your acceptance...keep it up. The rewards will keep piling up.
Love you, Celia (who used to be a Davis.)

Calisa Rhose said...

Tears, Vonnie. I'm so proud of your granddaughter. One day maybe my niece and sister will let me tell their story. I can't tell you, as one who lived with a teased child, how it fills my heart with gratitude to the family and friends who helped Lauren develop into such a strong young lady. As we as writers often encourage one another, please tell Lauren for me to never give up.

LaVerne Clark said...

What a pleasure it is to meet your granddaugher Vonnie. Thank you so much for introducing her to us!

I hate bullies with a passion having been bullied years ago and I know from experience the only way to make them stop is to stand up to them and yes, occasionally 'bop' them! : ) I laughed out loud at your Lauren giving that silly boy what he deserved. What an amazing person she is - shaped by an amazing family. Big hugs to Lauren from me too : )

Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks to all of you for caring enough to leave a comment. I think I cried over every one. Your caring is indicitive of your sweetly powerful spirits. Cyber hugs to you all.

glenys said...

What an incredible story of love and courage! I cried over this one. You must be so proud of Lauren and her Mom & Dad. May this little girl go on to enjoy more triumphs, love and happiness.