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