The Bionic Man

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row _builder_version="3.0.92"][et_pb_column type="1_2"][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.92" src="http://www.brendashiekh.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/1.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" force_fullwidth="off" show_bottom_space="on" /][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type="1_2"][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.92" src="http://www.brendashiekh.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/4.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" force_fullwidth="off" show_bottom_space="on" /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.92" background_layout="light"] You guys might be too young to remember Lee Majors in The Six Million Dollar Man, but I was glued to that show when I was a kid.  Little did I know back then, I would grow up to have my very own extremely expensive bionic superhero in the form of an adorable son with epilepsy. There is nothing funny about the injury that caused his cerebral palsy or the lawsuit that won him a six million dollar award, but I learned a powerful lesson from this amazing son of ours. Life follows art, so be careful what you watch.

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When the injury happened, I’ll admit it – I thought they ruined him.  They said he would never walk and never talk.  I was overwhelmed with pity for him. We put all of his money into an annuity for him to have when he’s an adult and started the painful process of trying to fix him.  I spent almost a full year projecting sadness and anger.  Maybe I was afraid that if I wasn’t sad enough or if he wasn’t able to make his developmental milestones it meant that I was a bad mom. One day, I decided I liked it way better when I thought of him as perfect.  I didn’t need him to talk or walk to love him and it set us both free.  I also stopped believing what people said he could never do.  Last year he joined a Runner’s Club at school and he’s been learning to communicate on an iPad.

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He started having seizures at three years old and he’s been through at least a dozen medications,  none of which were stopping them.  His meds made him practically a zombie and muted his vivacious charm so much that everyone including his sweet and fairly religious aunties started sending me links to stories about cannabis over prescription medications.  My neurologists warned me that cannabis might not mix safely with his meds, that weaning him off could put him into an emergency situation, and when confronted in the emergency room with traces of cannabis in my son’s blood, I could be in for trouble.  The kind that leave you without the privilege of custody of your children.  If I had one kid, maybe I would go to the mat, but eleven kids…my husband would kill me!

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The neurologist recommended an alternative to meds that sounded pretty state of the art, but it would require surgery and they would need to install a machine into his chest and connect wires to his brain to make it work. It’s too high tech for me to explain so I’ll plagiarize the Epilepsy Foundation website’s description.  It’s called a “Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS Therapy®) … designed to prevent seizures by sending regular, mild pulses of electrical energy to the brain via the vagus nerve. These pulses are supplied by a device something like a pacemaker.”  Statistically, fifty percent of the children who have epilepsy and have these devices installed are fifty percent likely to receive a benefit.  It’s a decision that shouldn’t be an emotional one, but a numbers one, right?  But who does that?

We pretty much took a vote.  The kids were thrilled with the idea. It sounded like Iron Man (which I guess is today’s modern day bionic man).  The device sits on the chest underneath the skin near the heart. It runs a pattern of electric current that is supposed to prevent a seizure, and in the event of a seizure you swipe a magnet across the area to activate a stronger flood of electrical current designed to stop it.  The boys wondered if you could have apps installed in it and we laughed about which ones we would put in.  The favorites were Yelp, Waze, and Tinder so he could get directions, restaurant reviews and good looking single women for the future. My husband’s vote doesn’t count, so, eleven to one, we voted in favor of the device.

It’s been a little over a month since the surgery and I can’t tell if it’s a coincidence, the placebo effect, or if the machine actually works, but his seizures have been cut in half, he snaps out of them faster, and we’ve slowly been weaning him off of his meds.  The boys are so proud of his scars from the implant, he looks like he’s been in a knife fight in some shady alley and they laugh about what the other guy must look like.  Really the device just solidifies the whole bionic man metaphor for all of us and Viktor’s totally our hero.

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KidsRosemary Watson