Friday, June 16, 2006

The Significance of A Name

I gotta tell you about this cool thing that happened yesterday.

Michaela had an appointment with Chief in the afternoon. Just a check-up and lab work (which, by the way, was fine, again). I had an issue to discuss with him, but nothing overly urgent or horrid. And for the most part, this meeting was routine and benign.

Can't say we've had a ton of those, and it was really nice to just relax and not have anything major to discuss (like liver failure or potential bone marrow transplants!).


Michaela has been pretty talkative and interactive lately. So I made a mental note of this because Chief doesn't often get to see her that way. Many times, she's unresponsive and all but ignores him.

Which really makes me feel badly for him, because he tries so hard to be expressive with her. He never ignores her. Even when she was having absence after absence seizure, he would try to communicate with her. She would fade out, and as soon as she would come back again, she would say "Hi!". And so he would act like he had just met her and go, "Hi Michaela! How are you?!" Then she'd be gone again. This would happen over and over, every few minutes, and every time he would show her how excited he was to see her.

But she rarely acknowledged him.

And she never addressed him.

So, since she was doing well and seeming capable, I thought I would try to work with her on it. I just knew it would tickle him if she would just say his name.

So we practiced.

I showed her the picture of the two of them:

"Boo, who's that?"


"Uh huh....and who's that?"

"A boy........(turning away) see Blue's Clues?"

"Wait Boo, look again. What's his name? Who's that?"

"I don't know."

"It's Chief! See? Dr. Chief! Can you say that?"

(Staring) "I can't...."

Bummer. This was going to take more work than I thought.


So I tried the saturation approach.

"Hey Boo, who are we going to see today?"

"I don't know."

"Yes you do....Chief. We're going to see Chief. Remember? Say Chieeeeeeeeffffffff."

"I can't."

"Sure you can! Say chicken. Ch-ch-ch."


"Good! Now say Cheeeeeeese."


"Yeah! Now say Chieeeeeeeee----ffffffffff....."


It was a start. And all day I practiced with her. Trying to build those mental bridges. Association. Hospital=Chief. Elevators=Chief (she LOVES the elevators). Ch-ch-ch. As much as we could.

But for some reason, she could only come up with "the Boy" on her own.


So the time came. We were in the room, waiting for our turn. I asked her a couple more times, "Who are we going to see? That boy? What's his name?"

No response.

She decided she wanted to doodle on the table paper.

Oh well, I thought. It was worth the shot.

So he comes in and says "Hi Gorgeous! How are you!" And I think she just stared, or maybe said hi. But nothing exemplary or earth shattering. So he just went on with typical office visit type stuff. Talking to her occasionally, but not worrying about the blank stare or lack of response. He's used to it.

But then it happened.

She was looking at a book, and it dropped. Right at his feet.

He looks at it and says, "Do you want to pick it up, or do you want me to?"

"You." She says.

So he picks it up and gives it to her slowly. I prompt her out of motherly habit...

"Say 'Thank you' to Chief, Michaela."
"Thank you, Chief."


I don't know who's smile was broader.

His or mine.

It may have been a small step, a relatively insignificant thing. I mean, so many people take such things for granted. But to me, that was a very cool thing. Not only did she learn something that I taught her, but she interacted with someone she really hadn't before. Someone who is very important in her life. Someone who cares a lot about her, and who is doing everything they can to help her.

Someone who can appreciate the significance of saying 'thank you'. The significance of remembering a name.


He was very pleased with her progress, and how she had stayed stable for so long. I think he was relieved. Just plain happy.

I think she had made his day.

And before he left us, he noticed the doodling she had done on the table paper.

"Did YOU do this Michaela?"

No response.

"Wow. Can I have it? Would that be OK?"

Blank stare.

He proceeds to tear out a yard's worth of table paper very carefully. Making sure that the edges don't catch the drawings. He folds it neatly, precisely, until it can fit in a much smaller place. And tucks it away. He didn't say what he was going to do with it, but I had an idea.

Let's just say, I don't think it saw a trash can......

Yes. It was worth the shot.


Alabamabrands said...


I'm so glad she said it.
Sounds like it made his day.
I know how he fels, she made my year once. . .

"Where's the kids?"
Wasn't the speech therapist shocked! Ha Ha!! Next time she'll know she just needs to bring Morghann with her if she wants to get Michaela to pipe up!

Kelly said...

Yeah, I remember that!

It's like she "pulls it off" just in time to completely shock everyone around her...

...hmmmm, do you think it's her "modus operendi"?

LOL ;)

Denna said...

Chief sounds like a very caring Dr. Not one of these Dr's that JUST wants your money and that pretends they are interested in you. That was a sweet story that brought a smile to me. I know when I worked with Michaela in Sunday School I felt great when I could get her to respond to me. I have two memories of her in class. One is when she would look at me and smile and say teacher. I think that started after we visited her in the hospital and brought her that doll. Another time she was just staring at me. She would not say anything. I would talk to her and smile at her. She started reaching for me and she said "Mama" "I was thinking does she think I am Kelly? I guess we do have the same color of hair and if she was not having a good day she could be getting us mixed up. She kept doing it that morning. She would reach out and grab my hair and call me mama. I had to smile. If mama was what she thought, and she was happy, that was all that mattered. At least she was talking a little bit.

Dana said...

Chief is a special Dr. with a big heart. I know he tucked that special artwork away and put it in a special place. I also know he was thrilled to hear Michaela say his name. Good going Michaela!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I know just how it feels for those "little" things to mean so much. I also know how horrible it is to lose your child in the absence seizure fog & then have them back again. That is so great for Michaela!

Danielle said...

Oh I just loved this post!!! It reminds me why I want to be a doctor!

Aunt Christine said...

that was a great story with a fabulous ending. I realized I was reading it so quickly to find out if she would. How wonderful that she actually said his name. Love to you and the family, and congrats on your 100th anniversary post!

jaim said...

I guess I didn't realize how much I shouldn't take it for granted that she says Auntie or Amie to me so much. I love her bunches.

JeniBeans said...

she hugs my heart everytime she says "hi". :-)

Pushypaws said...

When you're young, it seems like every little thing is important, life is full of long-stretching moments ... summers are endless. By the time you're a teenager, and on through adulthood, you think life is full of major challenges... and you often miss the little things, while dealing with all of the major obstacles and goals in life. By the time you're older (hmmmm - wonder what that age is?) you start realizing ... it's all those small things that really matter - like a smile and a name remembered.

Michaela is our sweetheart. Every time I think of her singing "great is Thy faithfulness" as you described in one of your blogs, it makes me smile. Chief sounds like a wonderful person and I'm glad she made his day.

Kim said...

Oh man, that was a wonderful post!
How exciting for all of you, Michaela, Chief and YOU!

I was holding my breath....hoping she would say it!

Megan said...

thanks for your posting on my blog! Yours is great! I'm enjoying the read....without the brie!