Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Gratitude is the Heart's Memory

The mechanics of speech are complicated, even mysterious. For example, say the simple word "cup" and you can feel, ever so slightly, a kind of involuntary closure near the back of your throat, a critical speech reflex that just seems to happen on its own. To speak well under the best circumstances requires a finely tuned concert of jaw and teeth along with a wonder of coordination among nerve signals from the brain and reflexes involving lips, tongue, palate, uvula, and the pharyngeal tube at the top of the throat where that aforementioned closure occurs. Last week during a visit to the hospital our doctors were able to insert through Henry's nasal passages and into his vocal cavity a thin tube with a video camera at the end. We discovered that in our push to explore every possible way to surgically prepare our little guy for his school years ahead we missed an important point our doctors had been trying to make in subtle ways over the past year or so.

There on the hospital video monitor we were given an interior view of exactly how Henry manages to speak with half of his speech apparatus handmade from stretched musculature, processed donor tissue, and repositioned skin and cartilage. Point made.

As we all stared at the monitor, our primary surgeon had added a quiet note to the usual objective refrain, one that really sunk in. "Listen, folks, he's talking, not perfectly, but talking, which is very, very good," he said with the unmistakable tone of someone referring to an outcome that had been far from certain. "You have to consider where he started in this."

We understand more so now that, so far, our surgeons and the others on our medical team have carefully woven a miracle.

When our girls were little they sometimes spoke of piggy "binks" or, during parade season, Zulu "cloconuts." Now the same age, Henry takes his own unique angle toward almost all of his words, skipping the consonants from nearly every first syllable for example, because for now he has to. But we suspect that someday we'll smile in warm memory of this too, since he's so exuberant in his effort and is making such obvious although difficult headway.

Meanwhile, Henry passed his readiness test and is officially set to enter kindergarten in August.

A very sincere thank you to those who pitched in to support physical therapy at the Pingliang orphanage after our latest call for contributions through Love Without Boundaries. It's a small world after all. We were able to raise the funds needed for the orphanage to send the additional staff members to an intensive physical therapy training program (see previous post). They left for Chongqing in October and will have returned home in time for Chinese New Year, bringing the number of staff formally trained in physical therapy at the orphanage to four. Some of you made general donations as well.

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