Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Still taking shameless advantage of the firefighter obsession
We're at the office of the physiatrist Max sees about once a year. I've brought him here with this promise: "You can tell him you're going to be a firefighter when you grow up!" And it's worked. Max sits patiently in the lobby as I check in, then again in the waiting area.
A nurse calls his name and I stand up.
"No!" says Max. And I ask, "Would you mind calling him Fireman Max?"
Max makes a motion to close the door and for me to sit down, I realize he'd like a total do-over.
"Do you mind starting again?" I ask, only she's already gotten it. This is a nurse at a center for children with special needs.
She closes the door, I sit down. She opens it and says, "Fireman Max."
"YEAH!" says Max, jumping up with a big grin and trotting in to an exam room.
"Max," I say as I remove his foot braces, "why don't you tell her what you want to be when you grow up?" I am trying to distract him from the fact that I am readying him to get on the scale. For whatever reason, he's always had an aversion to standing on it.
"I want to be a fireman when I grow up!" Max tells the nurse, and I explain what he's said.
"Oh, that's good, you want to help people?" she asks.
"YEAH!" says Max.
So I say, "Let's see if you are at a good weight to be a fireman!" and he gets right on the scale. And then, "Let's see if you are at a good height to be a fireman!" And he is.
Then it's time to visit with the doctor.
"Oh, I see you've become a fireman since I last saw you," says Dr. D.
"YEAH! I want to be a fireman when I grow up!"
I translate and Dr. D says "That's great!"
While I'm catching up Dr. D on Max's walking, his ability to climb stairs and how much better his hands have been functioning, I see Max peering intently at Dr. D's computer screen. He is making sure that his records refer to him as Fireman Max, I suspect.
Dr. D hands Max that knee tapper thingie to check his grasp. I mention that Max is now spontaneously using both hands a lot more. Max's left side is the better functioning one; his bilateral stroke was bigger in the right side of the brain. (The left and right parts of the brain control the opposite sides of the body.) Traditionally, his right hand has been the weaker one, more of a "helper" hand. But Dr. D thinks it's coming along.
Next, Dr. D wants to see Max's gait.
"OK, Max, let's pretend you are a fire truck—go! Go fast!" I say. Max dashes out the door and makes his pitch-perfect siren sound as he zooms up and back down the hallway.
Then Max is sitting on the exam table and Dr. D is manipulating his feet, flexing them and pressing them. Max winces, and I wince, too. I hate seeing him hurt.
"Both feet are pretty tight, even the left one," says Dr. D. "I think he's resisting me when I press."
Now Dr. D wants to see Max's gait with the braces, so I put them on again and say, "Max! Let's pretend there's another fire! Go!" Again, he does his siren wail as he runs around.
"His gait is much better when the braces are on," says Dr. D. They're relatively new, and we decide that we'll come back in four months to see if they've helped stretch his foot out. We are trying to avoid having to do serial casting again.
He shows me a website for a cool rock-climbing gym a colleague has started for kids with disabilities, and the video.
"Max, do you want to try that? Firemen need to learn how to climb."
"NO!" says Fireman Max, who has run out of firefighter patience. He picks up my pocketbook (with both hands, I am psyched to see) and starts to head out the door.
"Hold up, Max, you haven't yet told him about your firefighter boots!" I say. I've promised to buy Max a pair. So Max talks a little about boots and I manage to squeeze in more conversation with Dr. D before Max heads out the door.
I have to stop at the nurses's station and fill out paperwork, only Max is about to leave the area. I spot a fire extinguisher in a case.
"Max, if you just let me take a couple of minutes to fill out the forms, I will take a picture of you with the fire extinguisher!" I say.
He says OK. I finish the forms. I take the picture.
On the way to the car, we pass a little boy and his mom heading into the building. The boy points to Max's hat and says something.
"He also wants to be a firefighter!" his mom translates. "Maybe they can be firefighters together!"
Max is smiling.
"Do you want to drive the truck?" I ask the child.
"Then you'd make a great team, because Max wants to sit in the back," I say.
"YEAH!" says Max. He gives the boy a high-five and we head to the car.
I hope his firefighter stage lasts a looooong time.