Growing up with sacral agenesis, some of my memories are different from the “usual” childhood memories that other people have. I remember them with fondness, mostly. For example, I remember distinctly when my mom took me to have my casts changed every month. This was to help correct the bilateral club feet I had since birth. My mom often speaks of these casts as having been painful for me, but I honestly don’t remember the pain. What I do remember is riding in the car with my mom. She would roll down the windows and we would sing to the music on the radio, giggling together as our hair was blowing all over the place.
Off we’d drive to the hospital, with no seat belts…hello, it was the 70s. I remember the techs cutting off the casts. The casts in the 70s were not like the fiberglass ones we have today. They were very heavy plaster. I would scream and scream when they cut them off. I think I was afraid of the noise. Who knows, I was so young. I only have snippets of memories. My surgeon came in one day and tried to soothe me. But I was having none of it. Finally, he took the cast saw and put it on his hand to show me it wouldn’t cut me. Voila! After that, I was not afraid of getting my casts cut off anymore. But I did become acutely aware of how much it tickled when they were cutting off the cast. This was because when put on a cast in those days, they put your feet and legs in what seemed like a cotton sock before they put on the plaster. It was probably to protect the skin from the new cast they were about to put on my little feet and legs. This cotton “vibrated” gently, tickling me, under the movement of the saw. I went from screaming to giggling. I guess the power to make me giggle is a super power!
Ugh, the next cast was applied shortly after they removed the last one. The difference between the plaster casts of those days and the fiberglass casts they have now is like night and day. First, there were NO fun colors and it was very, very, very hot when they systematically wrapped the layers of plaster around and around and around my feet and legs, forcing them to the positions they needed to be in to help slowly correct my bilateral club feet. I just remember thinking the plaster would burn through my legs and feet. Plaster undergoes a chemical reaction making it very hot until it cools and sets. It didn’t cool until it was dry and hardened. I remember my little toes poking out and I wanted to blow a fan down in the little space between the plaster cast and my feet and legs.
This is just one memory I have with my mom, going every month, for what seemed forever, to remove and put on new casts. Yes, I recall my crying for a while and the temperature of those heavy casts, but what I hold dear is remembering the time I spent with my mom.
It’s very strange, but it seemed like every time we went to the doctor, the same song would come on the radio. We have coined it “our song.” It is our special memory, our snapshot in time, giggling in the car singing the words to Bertie Higgins, “Key Largo.” Our favorite line was, “Here’s looking at you, kid…” The power of music to calm me and make me happy started at a very young age.
I love you, mom, and thank you for always turning even the scariest things in my life with sacral agenesis into moments of laughter and bonding. You’ve never stopped teaching me to be a better person.