My mom and dad arrived yesterday at my house in Voorheesville, New York from Bluffton, South Carolina. Their trip was two-fold. They came for the Thanksgiving Holiday, but also so my mom could attend an important doctor’s appointment with me.
Morning came, and my mom and I went to the doctor’s office. We arrived 30 minutes early, and walked through a maze of hospital hallways, until we arrived at a Pediatric Genetic Clinic. It was as if I had entered Disney World. A huge Theodore Chipmunk stood at the entrance, and I mean huge. it was fat and went from floor to ceiling. I had to follow little colored footsteps to the reception desk. My mom and I were then taken into a back alcove where my vitals were taken. Next was a patient room where I waited for about five minutes, at which time a young woman pregnant with her first child walked in, and introduced herself as Katie, a genetic counselor. She took down my family history, and said Dr. Shur would be in shortly. My mom and I waited…and waited…and waited some more. About 45 minutes to an hour later, a young, vibrant lady walked in. “I Am Dr. Shur, and it is a pleasure to meet you! I am so excited to get to meet with a 34 year old who wants to discuss the possibility of having effects from fetal alcohol. I have never had a patient your age. I am so pleased to meet you!”
Dr. Shur then began to study my face, and my hands, and my now bare feet. She made notes on a piece of paper, and took out a book which had diagnoses in it. She would jot down some facial characteristics I had, and then refer to her book, explaining what she was writing and researching. “You definitely have a long, thin philtrum (the area between your nose and upper lip). You have slight palpebral fissures for both eyes, the left more so than the right (this is the distance between the corners of your eyes). You also have hockey stick formations on both palms (lines on my palms). OH and yes, your pinky toes are characteristic as well (hypoplasia of the pinky toes, no toenails ever formed)
She took out a tape measure, and measured my head. “Your head size is in the 3rd to 10th percentile. This is so hard to diagnose, especially because I didn’t know what your head size should’ve been at birth. I did not have the opportunity to hear it from your birth mom’s lips that she was a drinker throughout your pregnancy (She passed away in 1999 due to alcoholism and falling down the stairs and breaking her neck). You say friends of hers said she drank every day. You say they told you she was drinking when she went into labor. Your mom was told she may have been drunk during the delivery. You definitely have Fetal Alcohol Effects. I would say even Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but without getting to talk to your birth mom, I can’t put that down as a diagnosis.”
At that moment, she stopped and looked at me and my mom. She told me I was a beautiful, successful woman, and told my mom that she had done an amazing job raising me. My mom’s answer was, “We just treated her like a child, and gave her lots of love.”
Dr. Shur’s diagnosis was what I wanted to hear. That may sound odd, but it is the answer I needed for all the “whys” of the many impulsive choices I have made in life. It explained why I have always struggled understanding abstract concepts and never remembered how to get to the mall. It explained…so many things. Why I went from zero to sixty with my children when milk spills, or act like the sky is falling if I trip over a toy.
Dr. Shur referred me to a Cognitive Behavioral Specialist, who will now assist me in learning strategies to implement so I have less impulsive moment, and do not flip out over little things in life. I will do the therapy and get everything I can out of it.
Before Dr. Shur left the room, she told my mom and I a story about one of her families that she saw, and how the mother sobbed when she diagnosed her adopted child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. She told us that she was so happy to have met me, because she can now say she met a 34 year old who has lived with Fetal Alcohol Effects for 34 years. She was encouraged that I am a successful employee, daughter, wife and mother. Those words touched my core. If I can help those parents who feel there is no hope for their children diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, then I have made a positive impact on a small part of society. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I am more than ready to walk through those doors that await me.