Where there is life, there is hope

Every hospital appointment that we have with Joshua, we usually have some hope that the Doctor can improve Joshua’s quality of life in some way and yesterday was no exception : Joshua suffered a stroke at birth and as a result his right side is weaker than his dominant left, he has always walked with a limp, his right leg is much shorter than his stronger left. In 2014, he underwent brain surgery to try to improve control of his epilepsy, and while it has reduced his seizures, this surgery also has caused his right wrist and foot to tense up and contort. We have an appointment about his hand/wrist in a couple of weeks, but yesterday we took him to see a local orthopaedic surgeon to see if they could intervene and improve his foot position and consequently help with his walking and comfort.

We hardly had any wait at all at our local hospital, we were called in to see the Doctor before we had even sat down in the busy children’s waiting room. We had not met this registrar before and he fired questions at me, while I was trying to control Joshua, who wanted to use his telephone or keyboard and did not wish to sit down. Rather than read Joshua’s notes he asked me when he last had botox in his legs and what age he was when he walked, he had no rapport with Joshua at all – as opposed to his hand doctor who I love , he always asks Joshua if it is OK if he speaks to us, his parents for a while. This Doctor asked if I could “make him lie down” and he made me feel pretty uncomfortable while Joshua was lively in his consulting room. I was able to make him lie down, with some encouragement, so that the Doctor could see the different leg lengths for himself.

Joshua stayed on the couch, all the fight gone from him, and began to doze while the doctor delivered his verdict to us, we have seen him use this coping mechanism before when he is not impressed by being the sole topic of conversation : There was nothing surgical that he could do to help Joshua’s malformed foot. Tendon lengthening surgery was unlikely to be sufficient and he did not think that Joshua would be able to comply with 6 weeks of non-weight bearing after reconstructive surgery, which could mean that he could be less mobile after surgery than he is now. We were not keen on the idea of surgery anyway, but if he could have given us convincing arguments and made promises about Joshua’s improved walking ability or comfort then we would have faced it, but given the doubts that he expressed, it was clearly a non-starter and he seemed delighted to discharge us. He even complimented Joshua on how well he had behaved during the consultation as we were leaving!

I was disappointed as we left, as I had had my hopes dashed yet again. I had gone into that appointment thinking that we had options and had left knowing that we had none, so it reinforced how cruel life has been to Joshua during his 17 years. Looking for a silver lining, at least we do not have a difficult choice to make now, there was no choice, he is only looking at a continued life wearing splints and built-up clumpy NHS boots to try to compensate and support what has happened to his right foot. That is better than nothing, I am always grateful for his splints – or AFOs as the professionals call them  – as without them he may never have walked as a toddler. But it does feel like another slap in the face for our brave son.

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