Back-to-School and the beginning of cold/flu season marks the one year anniversary season for most of the kids dealing with varying degrees of whatever terrible virus attacked Ryder’s spinal cord. A few have fully recovered. Most have not.
Today, we had the opportunity to check in with Ryder’s neurologist, for the first time in six months. He was impressed by the improvement in Ryder’s grip strength and wrist flexion, and also his ability to pinch. He mentioned that the county health department recently contacted him and asked for his notes on Ryder, so we’re hoping this means the CDC is following up and taking the next steps in identifying the cause of his paralysis. While we know there’s nothing ground-breaking he can share with us, it’s nice to gain some perspective from someone who was with us during the worst of it, who doesn’t see him very often, and can really appreciate how far he’s come. We offered to be a point of contact for any families who may deal with this in the future and then agreed to seem him in about a year.
Upon our arrival at home, I went to check the mail and was delighted to see a bright orange package waiting for me. When Ryder was born I started making digital scrapbooks for each year of his life. They are significantly smaller, less time-consuming and less expensive than traditional scrapbooks, and so far I’ve been able to keep up-to-date on them. Over the summer, I required both boys to read for 15 minutes every day as part of their morning chores. Most often, Ryder chose a “birthday book” to curl up on the couch with. So of course, when he saw the orange package, he was excited to open up this most recent volume.
We stood in the kitchen together as he cracked open the shiny cover and began to recount the year, starting from his 6th birthday. Each month has its own two-page spread, and as he turned the pages he commented here and there on some of his “before” pictures with a twinge of regret and sadness. But when he came to December, I noticed his voice begin to change a bit, and he was staring at the photos a little longer than he had been. And suddenly he backed away from the book and began to cry.
“This is so sad!” he sobbed into the crook of my arm.
It’s been awhile since he felt the need for a good cry. And I’ll admit, this one caught me off guard a little. He has told and retold his own story a thousand times. He knows every detail of his diagnosis, and more about human anatomy and medical jargon than any other newly-minted seven year old I know. But seeing those photos and reading aloud about his time in the hospital seemed to shake him a bit.
I wanted to cry too… I’d give anything to take his place. But I simply rubbed his back and agreed with him. “Yes, Buddy. It sure is sad! We’ve had a pretty tough year, haven’t we?” I let him know that he didn’t have to continue reading if it was too much for him to bear. But that warrior of mine dried his tears, took a deep breath and finished that book. It served as another reminder of just how far he has come.
We haven’t had any major breakthroughs in several months, but Ryder’s progress has been slow and steady the entire time, and for that we are so grateful. He has handled this whole thing with such courage and grace that it’s easy to forget he’s still just a little boy. But I have no doubt that God is using all of this to grow him up into a man of incredible strength and courage… a man with a story to tell, that will point straight back to the very God who knew him before he began to grow in my belly.
Thanks to all of you who are still following along (despite the long stretches between updates), and to those who continue to remember Ryder in your prayers!