Ever since she has been able to walk, I have noticed that Carolyn walked differently from her siblings. When everyone started to run, she would run differently from them, too. Her legs wouldn't really bend at the knee and she didn't seem as flexible. Instead, she appeared stiff and her gait uncoordinated. Whenever we would go for a walk, within a matter of minutes, she was anxious to be carried or ride.
It just didn't seem right.
Her siblings would be running around and exploring and she would be perfectly content to sit in the stroller and ride. Or, she would collapse on the ground and moan, "CARRY ME! I can't WALK!"
Then, she started to complain that her body hurt. Her joints hurt. Her knees hurt. Her ankles. Her thighs. Her hips. Everything hurt. The poor little dear would be on the verge of tears because she was so uncomfortable. Seeing as she was growing so fast, I attributed her discomfort to growing pains - which made sense considering she has at least three inches on Elizabeth and two on William. But still, I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind.
What if there really was a problem?
What if she had a bone disorder?
What if she had a muscle disorder?
What if she had arthritis?
What if it was something even more serious?
So a few months ago, I called to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic specialist. But because the wait to get in for an evaluation can take so long, I've tried to suppress my concerns.
Finally. Today. I loaded Carolyn up and we drove north to meet with the doctor. While we waited to be seen, we watched several people emerge from the office. There were young people and old people. There were people in casts, braces and wheelchairs. We saw one little girl, smaller than Carolyn, who had a severe limp when she walked.
After waiting for 45 minutes and reading through every Highlights magazine in the office, I asked the receptionist if they had forgotten we were there.
Apparently they had, because seconds later we were called back.
The doctor was a nice man in his late 60's. He was warm and kind. He commented on Carolyn's sweet features and asked her where she got such beautiful blue eyes? When she matter-of-factly responded, "GOD!" he laughed and asked her if she had any siblings.
Without hesitation, she named off her sister and brothers and then told the doctor their ages while holding up the appropriate number of chubby fingers as numeric evidence. He took pause and asked, "Did she just say that she has a brother AND a sister who are four-years-old?"
When I nodded yes, he smiled broadly and with genuine sincerity said, "Wow. Aren't you lucky?"
I have found that there are two predominant reactions when people find out that I am the mother of triplets. The first reaction is what I consider to be sympathy. The second is what I consider to be wonder.
I much prefer the latter of the two.
After the doctor told me about his family, the four children he and his wife (whose name is also Carolyn) had in five years, he began his exam.
He checked the motion of Carolyn's legs. Could he bend her knees when she was on her tummy? Could he bend her knees when she was on her back? Could he rotate her legs and evaluate the movement of her hips? He checked her gait. He had her stand on one leg, then the other. He had her bend down and touch her toes.
Then, he ordered x-rays. (Which we had to call "pictures" because Carolyn threw a fit thinking anyone was going to take pictures of her BONES.)
While we were waiting, the nurse loaded her up with stickers. Dora. My Little Pony. Princesses. The radiology technician came to take her back and when Carolyn read the sign on the door, she threw another fit. The technician in a desperate attempt to calm her, loaded her up with even more stickers. Thomas the Train. Puppies. Kittens. Horses.
Clutching no less than 50 stickers, Carolyn begrudgingly had her x-rays taken. And then we were sent back to our room. A few minutes later, the doctor reappeared. He pulled the images up on his computer and after a few tense moments, he told me that everything looked great.
Her ankles, knees and hips look fine. Her hips are aligned with her knees are aligned with her heels. The discomfort that she has been experiencing most likely is attributed to growth pains, especially since the highest incidence of occurrence is usually after she has participated in some kind of physical activity. Like gymnastics. Or soccer.
Or jumping on the couch.
Then, he took his glasses off and leaning back in his chair said, "Just a little while ago, I saw a little girl who is four-years-old. She was adopted from Russia. She has a severe hip dislocation and can hardly walk. She will require major surgery," and then hesitating for a moment, he gave me a solemn look and said, "there could be significant complications."
He chewed on his glasses thoughtfully and continued, "You would be amazed at what I see. Children who come in that might never be able to walk. Children who will be crippled for their entire lives. Children who are born with defects, children who contract diseases or have injuries that will effect them, forever."
"Today I have seen two four-year-old girls. The little girl that just left this office was on one end of the spectrum. Your little girl is on the other end. Your little girl is perfectly healthy. She is perfectly fine." He took my hand in his and he added, "This is my favorite kind of appointment and my favorite news to give." Then he bent down to look in to Carolyn's big blue eyes and said, "I think you might be my new favorite patient."
When we left the office and were driving home, I looked in the rearview mirror at my little girl who was randomly placing her 50 stickers on anything within arm's reach. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.
A weight that I didn't realize had been so heavy, until it was gone.