A Wink And A Smile Josh F. Griswold Middle School “The good news is that you have a new daughter. The bad news is that she may never be able to walk.” These were some of the first words that the doctors told my parents after my sister was born. My parents say that was one of the scariest things ever said to them. I wish I could remember better, but I was only six at the time, so I don’t have the same memories as my parents do. My sister has taught me to appreciate health much more and to look at people in a whole different way. My sister Torah struggles with many physical problems. When she was born, she had hip dysplasia. That is when the hip joint is not properly formed, putting the legs in odd positions. Only 0.5% of people are born with this. We were told that she would never be able to walk. She was put in a full-body, or Pavlik brace for the first two years of her life. She was also the only child to ever get out of that brace at the age of two weeks. She went to sleep with it on, and while she was sleeping, she wiggled her way out of it. She also got another type of brace that covered just her hips and thighs and this spread her legs apart. She never learned how to crawl due to this brace, and started to stand in a position with her legs spread apart in the shape of the brace. She even started to walk or hobble in that shape. That takes an extreme amount of muscle and strength for a little kid her age. To this day, she can still pop her hips at will and this problem has never been solved. Another problem that my sister had was her eyes. By the time she was four years old, Torah had had two eye surgeries to tighten the muscles in her eyes. After these surgeries didn’t work, the ophthalmologist said that she should have an MRI because he thought that her eye problems could possibly be related to her brain. When she went for the MRI, we found out that she had Chiari 1 Malformation. That is where the skull is formed incorrectly and part of the brain sticks out of the skull, causing the flow of spinal fluid to be blocked. This was causing her multiple physical disabilities including speech and her uneven balance. She underwent a four- hour cranial decompression surgery on June 15, 2005 in the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to correct her Chiari. During this surgery the doctors opened up the back of her neck and shaved a little bit of the lower skull and the upper spine. Then they put a patch to hold the brain in her skull, allowing flow of the spinal fluid. What amazed me about my sister the most was that at four years old, after such a major surgery, she was very calm and happy. She lay in a bed almost unconscious, with seven different machines attached to her and three needles in her arm; the doctor asked how she was doing and she nodded and gave a thumbs up. She recovered in the hospital for three days and recovered at home for 6 months, while undergoing intensive occupational, physical, and speech therapy for five hours a week for four months. She is currently going to Stevens School for occupational and physical therapy. The Chiari Malformation had a direct effect on why her eye muscles wouldn’t tighten. She had to try to train her eyes to work together. This was back in 2005, and she has almost completely recovered except that she can’t play contact sports and still has some trouble with her eyes around TVs and computers. Torah will be dealing with physical disabilities for the rest of her life. The worst part is that she is only seven and the doctor continues to find problems with her body. The most recent thing that the doctors have found is that one of her kidneys is in her pelvic area, so she can’t get hit in the stomach. The reason for this is because before a person is born, the kidneys are in the pelvic area. While the body is being formed, the kidneys move to the normal position. Before my sister was born, her body did not form properly, so one of her kidneys is in the correct place, but one is in her pelvic area. Going through all of these things, she has always had a smile on her face and a joke to tell. My sister has changed how I look at many things, but especially people with disabilities. Back in third and fourth grade, if I saw someone that had a disability I would think that they had something wrong with them and that they were an outcast. There are people in our school who are physically challenged; it makes them less able than the average student and because of that, they would be alone at recess or free time. Now I am friends with most of these people and realize that on the inside, they’re the same as we are, and in some cases, actually nicer because they’ve been through much more. I used to look at overweight people like they were different because they couldn’t run as fast and they would get picked last on teams. Now I think of how much harder they try than most people do at anything, and it makes them better for a team. My sister has taught me a different perspective. In our school, kids are sometimes made fun of or ignored by others because of how they look or physical disabilities that they can’t even control. I used to not care much about it, but after what happened to Torah, I talk to all the kids and look at them in a more open-minded way than most people do. Torah has taught me to value my health much more and taught me not to think of people with disabilities as outcasts. I am extremely grateful for my sister, and because of her, I value health and physical ability much more than I did before. The seven years that Torah has been in our lives have been interesting, scary, exciting, and fun for the whole family. She has taught me to have a positive outlook on life and to be appreciative of every moment that I am not sick. She is my little hero… my best friend.