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.
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 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.