I began noticing it about six months ago.
Felix favored his left hand. A lot. He reached with it. Ate with it. Used it to do most everything. The right hand he kept balled up (as in the picture above) and close to his body.
At first, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. Griffin and Amos also favored their left hand at a young age because I remember my mother warning me they would be left handed. It became pronounced right around the time he rolled off a bed at my sister-in-law's house so I worried he might have suffered some type of head or arm injury.
My pediatrician assured me he had not suffered a head trauma sufficient to affect the usage of his limbs from rolling off a bed. I continued to worry and began consulting Dr. Google.
If you google handedness in infant, you will get a ton of results telling you your baby has cerebral palsy. A scary diagnosis made even scarier for me because I confused cerebral palsy with cystic fibrosis. P.S. NOT the same thing.
After weeks of fretting, we decided to take Felix in for an exam and the doctor agreed that something was going on. He suggested pinning his sleeve closed so he couldn't use his left hand and see if that affected the use of his right.
In the meantime, I spoke to as many people as I could with expertise in this area, including another pediatrician with several decades of experience and a neurologist.
Both recommended having Felix examined by a pediatric neurologist. Both suggested it was most likely a very minor form of cerebral palsy and that he would most likely need physical therapy.
Last week, we took Felix to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to the pediatric neurology clinic. The doctor was incredibly kind and helpful. She examined Felix and walked through several possibilities. At first, she was concerned that maybe he had suffered some nerve damage in his arm. However, using the 1 Second Everyday video I took his first year of life, she was able to tell that he was using both early on and eliminate that as a possibility. (Win for crazy documenting moms and technology!)
Then, she told us exactly what we expected to hear. She told us he most likely suffered a small stroke in utero or after birth that has affected his right arm. Cerebral palsy is basically just a term they use to describe damage to the brain either from stroke or birth injury. She told us we did not need to get a MRI because it wouldn't change the treatment, which is physical therapy.
Thinking about my baby having a stroke is incredibly scary. Strokes are a scary thing. However, by the time we heard those words come out of the doctor's mouth, I'd had months to adjust to the idea. The diagnosis is scary but Felix's actual situation isn't. Many children suffer paralysis and delays and many, many other problems.
Felix hasn't missed a milestone. While he army crawls instead of getting up on his hands and knees, he has already started pulling up and his language is also progressing much like his brothers. The doctor confirmed that he seems to be in great shape and will most likely regain total usage with therapy.
I walked out of the Children's Hospital - a harrowing place to be - thinking we had the best outcome we could ask for when we walked into the doors. Our child had exactly what we thought he had and was getting the treatment we expected.
Then... she called back.
After discussing Felix with a pediatric stroke specialist, the doctor had concerns that Felix's symptoms could also be the result of a very rare vascular malformation. Now, the recommendation is that Felix have a MRI, which will require general anesthesia.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to any of you that I HATE the idea of my one-year-old baby going under general anesthesia. HATE. While I know children all over the country go under general anesthesia every day, I also know there are real (and growing) concerns about it.
However, the risks of a vascular malformation are real and incredibly dangerous. Should Felix have the malformation he would require surgery. A possibility I'm not even trying to think about right now.
We've scheduled the scan, although we're still having lots of discussions with medical professionals we trust about how to reduce the risk of long-term consequences.
And - despite the latest curve ball - I'm still grateful. Grateful it's not worse. Grateful he's still a happy, healthy baby. Grateful for our supportive family and friends.
Grateful we have the time and energy and resources to get Felix all the help he needs.