A few years ago, I wrote an article "The Other Shoe." That life with a special needs child is all about waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Last week, the other shoe dropped when my daughter fell and broke her left arm.
For most children, a broken arm would simply slow down their daily activities. For a child who depends solely on her left arm because a stroke affected her right side, it put a stop to her world as she knew it. For a child who depends on her left arm to maneuver her walker, it created additional obstacles to overcome and it immediately limited her mobility and her freedom.
While I drove to the emergency room, she whimpered over every bump in the road and with every turn we made. But to my surprise, I didn't whimper with her. I was on the phone arranging the next phase – the newest phase - of our life with our special angel. Called the family. Arranged for a much needed ramp. Had my parents get out an old wheelchair because I knew she wouldn't be able to walk with her walker for quite some time.
Despite the fact that my worst nightmare had come to fruition, I didn't cry. I didn't even freak out as most anyone would have expected. I always said, "Even though she isn't walking independently, at least she's walking with a walker. She'll never need a wheelchair."
And here I promised her that we would have her walking independently for Kindergarten graduation this year.
Shoe. Dropped. Hard.
I had already rearranged our lifestyle in my mind during the ten minute drive but it wasn't until my mother arrived at the hospital that I realized the magnitude of Jaiden's fall. It wasn't just about walking or not walking. How could she feed herself? How could she write at school? How could she crawl without both arms, especially without her strong arm?
I could see my mom realize the same things. She put her hand over her mouth and whimpered. I turned away. It was over. Seven years of keeping her from a wheelchair were wasted as that was now her only means of transportation. While we were frustrated that Jai preferred to crawl over using her walker, a simple two foot fall ended that option as well. In a split second, she became wheelchair bound.
Two hours later, we were home and Jaiden wanted to eat. It was the first time I had to fight back tears. 'You will not feed her, Jaime. You will not,' I told myself.
I warmed up some left-over pizza per her very loud request as they took x-rays of her arm at the hospital and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I placed the fork on the left side of the plate as always then realized I needed to reposition it.
Page 2 of 2 - She immediately grabbed the fork with her weak hand. A hand that had never been lifted above her shoulder. A hand that tightened up when she was hard at work with her left hand. A hand with very little strength and even less coordination. A hand that only kind of functioned when we would say, "Jaiden, use both hands."
"I can't do it," she announced while I recorded her first attempts to bring a bite of pizza to her mouth.
She finally got a hold of one piece. All the way to her lips and then it fell.
"Oh crap!" I joked. She smiled.
A second piece was on its way but then it fell as well.
"Crap again!" I said. She smiled again.
Finally, on the third try after adjusting her fork in her weak hand, she was able to get the pizza into her mouth. We high-fived and she looked like she'd just won a gold medal. I have never been more proud of her.
In a world full of people who use the word "retard" without thinking… in a world full of people who bully kids like Jai for being different… in a world full of people who complain that their kid didn't ace his spelling test… in Jaiden's world that is rocked by one teeny, tiny fall, I still have hope.
The other shoe dropped. But Jaiden is bringing out her gloves.
Jaime Simpson is a Gazette columnist, business owner, and busy wife and mother.