As she rolled into the waiting room I recognized the wheels right away. The curve in the metal tubing was almost identical. Although larger and purple, it was most certainly the same wheelchair as Dermot's. I felt a strange kinship with the owner of this chair and I hadn't even looked up yet.
She had to be about 12 years old, her body was stiff, limbs twisted, her face quite gaunt. Her medium length blond hair was pulled back and looked as though it hadn't had a proper washing in weeks. I was set aback. Feeling quite awkward, I tried to make eye contact with the girl's mom. Eager to give her a knowing smile to let her know that I know what she's going through. I did not succeed with my eye contact so I resumed my focus on Dermot while we continued our never ending wait in the doctor's lobby.
I couldn't help sneaking glances of this severely disabled girl. A respirator hose protruded from her throat, I could see the machine that was breathing for her carefully placed behind the same wheelchair I push around daily. Then I glanced at her AFO's that covered the entire lower part of her legs. I thought about Dermot's tiny SMO's that he only wears when he's standing. I looked at her hair once again, I tried to imagine the huge task of bathing her. It was obvious she didn't receive a bath everyday or even every other day like Dermot. I wondered if she had a bath lift or a shower chair that her mother placed her in to clean her. Did she have to be hooked up to the respirator at all times? Did she even get showers? Perhaps she was only allowed sponge baths. I thought about how much Dermot enjoyed his baths and felt a tinge of gratitude.
I noticed the spasticity in her limbs and wondered if she was here to for a follow up visit after hip surgery, I thought of Dermot's upcoming Botox injections and wondering when we would wind up on the road to hip and/or spine surgery.
Then she vocalized. A very faint "ahhh" and I watched as Dermot perked up. She "talked" again, this time louder, Dermot smiled. Another "ahhh", with his grin going strong, Dermot answered back with his own brand of "AHH!". This went on for a minute or two, then I got it. Eye contact. Her mom and I smiled at each other.
It was an exhausting three hour and fifteen minute visit at the physiatrist that morning. A few x-rays, a preliminary conversation with the nurse, a long conversation with the doctor that ended with an explanation about proper hip development, an appointment for next Wednesday for Botox injections in each hamstring, an appointment to meet an orthopedic surgeon, an appointment for a wheelchair upgrade, a prescription for something to stop Dermot's drooling and a SMO fitting. It was only natural that I was feeling overwhelmed and sad, but going back out to the waiting room to wait for the ortho guy to fix Dermot's braces was a reminder.
No matter how hard I think my life is, and it is pretty hard at times, it could always be worse. I could be the mom that wheels her child into the waiting room, with the respirator, the unwashed hair and the full leg braces.
Perspective. It's a powerful thing.