The day I found I was pregnant for the third time (two previous miscarriages) I was scared, excited, HAPPY. My husband and I are what you would call high school sweethearts, married young. After the first two pregnancies, this one was unexpected. My pregnancy was really uneventful, with the exception of the last 4 months. I kept feeling sudden movements, then none. I would be so sick, my stomach kept feeling tight, tight, however I was told numerous times nothing was wrong. Every appointment my husband and I held our breaths waiting to hear a heartbeat, we knew then our little girl was a fighter. We had 4 ultrasounds throughout this pregnancy.
I was admitted on August 12, 2006 to be induced. After 12 hours I was fully dilated and ready. After 2 hours of “normal delivery” our baby’s heart rate had spiked off the monitors for roughly an hour. It was time for emergency c-section. I was awake when Caitlin was born, the first cry, made me cry. I remember her doctor bringing her to my head and saying, “She’s missing two toes and her left hand is webbed.”
He showed them to me and in what seemed like seconds I kissed her forehead and she was gone. Caitlin was born with her left hand having four webbed fingers and a normal thumb, her right hand her middle finger is just a bubble, her pointer is swollen from constriction, her right foot is missing three toes (she has a big bubble but doctor’s aren’t sure if there are any bones), her left foot has a partial band just above her ankle. Later in the hospital room I was told the doctors had sat the entire family down and explained to them what was happening. They were asked to explain the “SITUATION” to the kids. My husband was asked if it was still okay for my daughter to be viewed through the window. After all the shock of it all I wondered if I was being looked at different, was my beautiful little girl being looked at different. The next time I saw Caitlin’s pediatrician, I asked the most important question, “Is her brain, heart, and lungs healthy?” he told me they were. I told him this was nothing. After two miscarriages I could handle this.
We were sent to countless specialists, all acting as though they just wanted to see this condition. We truly felt we were a low income family with insurance and getting the run around. We finally got in touch with a friend of my great grandfather’s, a Shriner, we had a sponsor!!! We just had to wait for acceptance. Our first appointment was on Nov. 21, 2006. Caitlin’s first surgery was scheduled for February 13, 2006. We were terrified, family took off work and we prayed, she was only 6 months old at the time. I cried more for the pain she would have to go through.
Caitlin was supposed to have her middle finger and her ring finger separated, however her surgeon realized in the operating room the bones between the two were fused and it would be a more complicated surgery and wanted to separate the pinky and pointer finger first. All, I asked the doctor for was my daughter back as happy and healthy as she was when I handed her to the nurse. It has been 2 1/2 weeks since her surgery and we just had the casts removed. They think the fingers may have reattached when the swelling went down and cast shifted but we are extremely optimistic. I thought my strength would be challenged until I realized it wasn’t mine, it was hers. My nieces and nephews ( ages 2-12 ) love her more today than yesterday. They call it her mitten hand and are very protective of Caitlin. She responds to them and even holds their hands. My mother gave me a plaque that reads, “God gave you the best he had!!!” It hangs over Caitlin’s bed. We have multiple surgeries left, but my husband and I try not to dwell on that, right now I am raising the strongest person I have known and trying to make life as “normal” as possible.
Right now we are trying to hold a spoon…at 6 1/2 months. Don’t let anyone say this can hold a child back. Three days after surgery she held her bottle with her feet. With all of my heart I owe my daughters future happiness and sense of normalcy to The Shriner’s Hospital for EVERYTHING they have done. I would love to talk to other parents or family members, feel free to email.
Patty, Caitlin’s mommy