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Thankful for a new face; there is great good in some plastics

Whenever I get down about how much we are overusing and abusing the planet, and all the literal crap we have made out of plastic for no good reason, I try to refocus back to what matters. Let me tell you a story.


When my boy, my sweet middle, was only about 3 months old, I saw that his eyes were wrong; he couldn't look at me while nursing anymore.  Actually, his face was wrong, but it was hard to put a finger on how, unless you looked at him in a mirror, and realized how your own mind was working to force the illusion of symmetry.  It took five doctors later, and well over another year, before he got a diagnosis of craniosynostenosis.  This is fancy talk for "his skull ain't growing in one quarter," particularly the right side of his forehead; the coronal suture, which runs a bit at an angle over the right eye, was fused shut, and couldn't grow.  The brain grew anyway, even though his face couldn't, bulging at all the other seams.  He was slow on the milestones, and everything in my intuition screamed that something was very, very wrong. They needed to do skull surgery--make that brain surgery--on my baby.  He was about 18 months old at the time. This was the hardest time in my life. It was overwhelming--the cost, the surgery, the implications, everything.


The surgery itself was in two parts, both requiring a careful hand to separate the skull from the dura mater, the covering of the brain.  There was only one thing that could really go wrong, as in really wrong, and it did. The dura mater was torn off by the bone saw, and it took another skillful hand an additional two hours to fix it, bringing the total surgical time to 6 or 7 hours (forever, in my world).  But I didn't know it till it was done anyway.  They took out a strip of bone from ear to ear, but the scary part to me was this: they took out his forehead.


They took out his baby forehead, cut it into pieces, and shaped them back together with 'plastic plates' and plastic screws and put it back above his eyes.  It was terrifying. I pray you never experience that form of helplessness in your whole life, but if you do, you can survive it. I found him asleep in the ICU, a huge bandage wrapped around his head and his eyes swollen shut for days.  He looked like he'd been in a prize fight--and lost. 


But after he woke up, he was still my same little boy--no, he was MORE my little boy.  Now, he learned to run.  Now, his vocabulary jumped from 20 words to 200 almost overnight.  He stopped having headaches for which he had no name, because he'd lived with headaches his whole life.  He laughed! He smiled! He grew, thank God, he grew.


His forehead was held together by some magic-science medical 'plastic', which slowly re-absorbed into his body as the bone reformed and grew back.  In the months that he healed, his forehead went from slightly bruised, to sort of flat, to downright hilarious--riddled for months on end with perfectly formed and paired HORNS.


Yep.  My two year old son grew horns, in each symmetrical place where a resorbable plate was affixed by a screw.  As each was reabsorbed by the body, encouraging bone growth as it went, the body and water broke apart the chains of the poly(lactide-co-glycolide) into smaller, weaker pieces. The smaller bits were then--brace yourself for science!--phagocytized (ingested and digested by cells of the body) into lactic and glycolic acids, which were then eliminated through body metabolism in the form of water and co2, without toxic tissue accumulation.  I stole this bit from a web site, but it just restates what I was told by the masterful, brilliant surgeon Dr. Honibier (pronounced "Honeybear"). 


While I found these horns rather funny, impish boy that he was, it was somewhat disconcerting for people who didn't know the whole story...not to mention that this pastor's son quite literally behaved like a little demon sometimes, complete with pointed, perfect protrusions patently paired like the Devil's. And since some people have NO sense of humor, I kept his hair styled with full, fabulous, Justin Bieber-esque bangs until he was about three and a half years old.


Then, he got his first 'real' haircut, like a little boy should have, spiky and free and not worried about scars or horns. No, really, his first REAL cut, with lots of hair missing and clippers and the whole nine yards.  I didn't save a lock of hair because I didn't want it.  I was so DONE with the idea that I'd need to hide any part of this beautiful kid.   His ziggy-zag scar will only be visible decades from now, when he goes bald like his father, and his forehead is smooth and flat and fine. It was the best haircut ever, except for each summer since, when he gets another one and I'm reminded again of that first hair cut and the fine, gently undulating surface of a forehead imperfect but whole, gloriously unique, grandly holding in a universe of dreams and potential.


We've got a lot of explaining to do about environmental toxins, and our overuse and disregard of plastic is nothing but actual sin, but one place we've correctly captured the divine creative spark is in the medical field and the gift that is plastic; intravenous lines, heart valves, bones, machines, medicines, plates and screws and an endless litany of devices. May more people have access to life saving, life altering health care.  It is a human right, not a privilege.  God Bless resorbable plastic screws and plates.  They saved a life. I can think of nothing negative to say about any of them.


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