On neuroplasticity

Only a month ago I wrote about neuroplasticity. I didn't know it back then, but less than a month later that knowledge was going to save me, on so many levels.

Because... a week ago I got a late evening call from The Kid's paediatrician. I'd been expecting it.

A few days before that I had been in the hospital for The Kid's next set of leg casts and a conversation with a physiotherapist had filled me with a premonition. She had been explaining to me that both the soft tissue and the bones in The Kid's legs are clear of any malformations and as she was still strapping a new cast around his leg I went, "But... if both the soft tissue and the bones are fine, where's it coming from then?"

"You need to talk to your paediatrician."

I paused. Breathed out, then in again. The nurses kept working on the leg. I was still standing there, looking at the physiotherapist. I knew she had seen the leg MRI - but had she also seen the brain MRI?

"I understand you may not know or may not be allowed to tell me what was on that brain MRI, but... do you know what was there?" I held my breath.

"Yes," she replied, "but I can't tell you, I'm sorry. You need to talk to your paediatrician."

And that's when I knew.

The whole way back from the hospital I cried, both of the anxiety and of relief. I knew it was likely going to give us a final diagnosis on what was going on, but I also knew that I wasn't going to like it.

And then when the paediatrician called me late in the evening, after she'd tucked her own kids in bed, I talked to her and cried some more.

A few days later I cried yet more. We met with The Kid's paediatrician in a room full of tables, chairs and children's toys and for two hours we talked.

About MRI scans.
About developmental milestones.
About support networks and schooling options.
About the importance, beyond any schooling or support networks, of maintaining our family happiness which is the cornerstone of children's health and happiness.

Then I tried writing something on the blog. After writing and deleting and writing and deleting, I switched on the camera and simply took a photo of what I was looking like, spread out on the sofa trying to write a blog.

And now I am back on the blog.

I don't write in too much detail because I feel that I am treading on another person's territory - it's not entirely my story to tell any more.

But what I do want to share is this: the fact that I know about neuroplasticity and the way people's brains change as they do things, helps me. It helps me understand that whatever happened during that goddamn labour and birth (link), it's not the end of the road.

People used to think that once damage to a brain was done, that was it - that there was no way back or around it - but now we're fortunately smarter than that.

People can go through their entire lives not knowing they haven't got a corpus callosum, the "George Washington bridge" between two brain hemispheres. Some have stroke-damaged areas without knowing it. Kids that do well academically can discover, later in life and by coincidence, that they owe some of their brilliance to subtle or sometimes not so subtle changes in the brain. Savants - you ever heard of savants?

Some can even have entire hemispheres removed and live to tell the tale.

What I am getting at is, I guess, that for the moment I am just processing and giving myself time and grieving. I read and laugh and cry when need be - and whoever tells me not to cry will be told to go packing - and once some of the processing is done I will just move forward.

Because, like the paediatrician said: it is an old injury. It's been there for over four years. It's been there the whole time that I've known The Kid; he's never changed.

I will process and read and laugh and understand and cry - if need be - and then I will just continue supporting him, supporting my whole family.

I am lucky enough to live at a time when people are smart enough to understand that if someone doesn't have a part of a brain or has an injury to it, information can get re-routed. Just like when there's an accident on a major highway and drivers are asked to take a de-tour through rural backroads - a brain can do the same. It can try, try, try, try again - and then at some point, bang!, a neural pathway gets put in.

Neuroplasticity - the fact that brains change. All the time.


PS. Be kind to yourself today. I know I will be.

PPS. My family is cool. :)


  1. Sattusin su blogi lugema kui oma esimest last ootasid. Ka minu poeg sündis 37.nädalal, suht väikese sünnikaaluga ja tekkis bilirubiini probleem. Taastusravi arst ütles hiljem, et oli hapniku puudus ja sellest tulenevalt tekivad koolieas probleemid. Sünnituse ajal ei rääkinud keegi mulle, et mingi probleem oleks. Sünnitus ise oli ka pettumus, sest keegi eriti ei juhendanud ja tehti lampi lahklihalõige.
    Laps on praegu igati tubli 6 aastane, aga kohati ma mõtlen kas ta on ikka kooliküps järgmisel sügisel kooli minema, sest temas on mingi tohutu püsimatus viimase aastaga tekkinud.

    1. olge ise eriti eesmärgikindlad! Edu Teile! Manni ema Silvi

    2. Ma ei tea, kas sa näed seda kommentaari (nii pika aja tagant), aga ma arvan, et me samuti ootame tiba pikemalt, enne kui poiss kooli läheb. Siin mindakse viiendal sünnipäeval tavaliselt (iga laps alustab erineval ajal, nii et esimesel aastal nad vaikselt "korjavad" lapsi, kuni klass "täis" saab, ja siis nad korraga lähevad 0. klassist 1. klassi. Aga võib oodata kuni kuuenda sünnipäevani, ja ma arvan, et me ootame kuuenda sünnipäevani. See paneks ta nö "järgmisesse" klassi, vanuse mõttes, nii et kuigi ta oleks vanuse mõttes teistest tiba vanem, see annab talle võimaluse lugema õppida, ja arvutama natuke, et ei pea siis teiste laste vahelt üritama järele jõuda.

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  3. I was going to suggest a Facebook charity and support group that's part of it but I don't know if you're on Facebook. If you are let me know and I'll send you the details, the charity is called Smiledial and is there specifically to give support to children who are "a different kind of perfect" and their families. The support group attached is really good, but as I said, it's Facebook. The charity does have an independent webpage.
    Our family belongs due to youngest being ASD, but there are so many kids with different diagnosis' and we all have in common that we adore our kids no matter what letters they may have gained.
    Give me a yell if you want to talk, we need to book in a time to meet up anyway, before any more appointments fill in my days before I go in to hospital.

    1. Heya, not on Facebook, but I'll go write an e-mail to you now. Yes, could really do with a catchup!

  4. Sa oled täiesti õigel teel. Te olete koos, te olete pere, te armastate üksteist ja muu ei olegi oluline. Paid ja head soovid!

  5. Ma hindan su otsust sellest niimoodi kirjutada. See on teie kõigi lugu ja ma olen sulle juba aastaid kaasa elanud. Aitäh, et lasid mul sellest osa saada.
    Sa oled tugev, kuid ka sul on tuge vaja. Ma ei saa sind küll kuidagi aidata, kuid ma saan sulle kõike head soovida.

  6. Pai, pai, pai!
    You so rock! All of you! And you're amazing. And the Kid's amazing! You all are!
    Sending you lots of strengths (Alpine strength!)