I have avoided writing the About Me section of my blog because everything I’ve written, to date, seems so superficial, and like it belongs in a Match.com ad! “I like cooking and baking, spending time with my beautiful children and wonderful husband, and reading Maeve Binchy books”. Actually, this is all true, but it doesn’t really say much about ME. Consequently, this page has remained “under construction” for a long time.
You may be wondering: “What changed?”. Well, in a recent exchange with Phyllis T., I recounted the events of my infancy and early childhood, and through this recollection, I had an epiphany of sorts.
This is who I am. The events of my childhood and youth had a profound effect on me, defining the person I would become, and so the “About Me” page was reborn.
I will write my mini “autobiography”, adding a new “chapter” here and there, and hope that my story won’t bore you too much! Here it goes…
1. IN THE BEGINNING (1968)
The first time my mother went into labour with me (yes, you read that right – the first time) my father brought her to the Wellesley Hospital in Toronto…for some reason the nurses thought it might be a false alarm when Mom asked for her makeup. Against a backdrop of her protestations, my mother agreed to go home with my father and come back when she was really in labour. A few days later my mother returned to the hospital, this time in active labour, and the nurses had a chuckle as they offered my poor mom her makeup. Needless to say – she declined!
I was born in the midst of a heat wave on August 19th, 1968, while the world anxiously waited to see if Soviet troops would invade Czechoslovakia.
I am my parents’ firstborn. They eagerly awaited impending parenthood and all that came with it – booties, bottles, prams and diapers. Imagine their shock, surprise and concern when I was born with “complications”. This young couple was suddenly facing spending the next few years in hospitals, meeting with orthopedic and plastic surgeons, and praying for positive results following many long, complicated surgeries.
Amniotic Constricting Bands (now known as ABS – Amniotic Bands Syndrome) are thread-like bands that form in the amniotic sac and wrap around whatever they come into contact with, constricting and severing their targets. This is possible because our bodies are malleable, soft and fragile in utero. In my case, they found my right hand, my right foot, and my left ankle. (for information go to Amniotic Constricting Bands).
The three middle fingers on my right hand were severed just above the first digit, and the skin fused so that all 3 were encased in the same skin….forming a big “stubbie”. It was a similar story with the toes on my right foot. The skin encasing my index and middle toes fused. Then there was my ankle in my left foot – the doctors began unraveling the bands that were wrapped around my ankle, for what seemed to be an endless time. The bands were so deeply embedded in my ankle that all that remained intact was the bone and tendon.
On top of everything, I had severely clubbed feet. (for information go to Clubbed Foot).
The doctors came out to tell my father about his new daughter, and brought him to see me. He insists that I raised myself on my elbows and looked directly at him as he approached the incubator and saw me for the first time. He said that it was at that moment that he realized I was tough and all would be okay.
They then took Dad to see Mom (different day and age, women labored and delivered babies, men went for a beer, cigar and take in some sports or a card game until their baby arrived). The first thing she said to him was “Moishe, have you seen her? Isn’t she beautiful?”. No self-pity, no lamenting, just finding the positive in what appeared to be a doomed situation. I love that story of Mom…it reflects her amazing capacity to find the good in things…and her tremendous, unconditional love for her child.
My first surgery was when I was 3 days old. I am not sure which surgery it was, because there were 9 of them by the time I was 4 ½ years old. I think the first one was to begin repairing my left leg. They had to reconstruct the blood vessels (no small feat in 1968) and then find a way to reattach the skin so that it would grow properly, with skin that would be flexible to move. They used a technique called z-plasty, which is where they sew the skin in a “z” pattern. (for an image go to z-plasty).
This was followed by 1½ years of casting on my legs, and Dennis Brown splints to mould my feet back into a typical form from which they could begin to operate. I wore them until I was 18 months old. When I was 9 months old my parents were going to leave me with a babysitter and go out for dinner. Dad found my mom standing by my crib, a little weepy. She said that she could not leave her vulnerable little baby, to which legend has it that I flipped over on my tummy, grabbed hold of the crib and pulled myself up into a standing position. I was fine and they went out for dinner!
Tendon transfer surgeries to correct my clubbed feet were next on my surgical adventures… I learned to walk many times. At least 4, maybe more.
And through that period there were also the grafts…you may recall, my stubbies were all encased in one “finger”…and the doctors suggested that I may find it more useful to separate them into their individual digits. Skin was grafted and eventually they operated and separated my stubbies. They also did small z plasty’s on the base of my thumb and baby finger.
As I write this entry so many memories come flooding back to me…but, alas, I will have to save those for About Me - Part 2, as I have to run and get on with my day! I am going to see Mom after I drop the kids to Hebrew School, then this afternoon it’s a cook-a-thon that I am hoping with yield muffins, cookies, and at least 3dinners for this week!
Until next time, I wish you a day filled with fun, friends and fantastic food! B’Tayavon and Buon Appetito!