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Ellie - St. Paul, Minnesota

Ellie at her first dedication. Ellie is our first child. I was so excited when we became pregnant with her. I am the oldest of seven children and Ellie is the first grandchild (first of many, we hope).

Everyone in my family was jumping for joy when I announced that my husband and I were expecting. My pregnancy was completely uneventful until close to the end. Around the 36th week I had a follow-up ultrasound. At that appointment, they discovered that I had low amniotic fluid.

My midwife agreed to follow me closely, to allow me time to finish my second year of law school, since Ellie did not appear to be in any distress. Over the next two weeks, the fluid level did not resolve itself, so on May 14th, 2002, my husband and I were sent to the hospital to have Ellie induced.

Two LONG days later, she made her appearance. I was exhausted from a prolonged and unproductive labor, followed by a failed vacuum extraction and then a c-section. Even though I was exhausted, I will never forget hearing Ellie's first cries, and then the doctor's voice telling my husband and me, "Your daughter has a birth defect." All I can remember after that was my husband's shocked response, "OK."

The pediatricians that saw Ellie in the hospital did not know very much about limb differences, and so our early questions about what caused Ellie's hand difference and what could be done to help her went unanswered. But, that did not matter much! We needed to learn how to take care of this beautiful little girl that was miraculously entrusted to us. We stumbled through the first several months, adjusting to becoming new parents, and beginning to look for a hand specialist who could help us to understand Ellie's diagnosis.

We finally found an excellent orthopedic surgeon who impressed us immediately with her competence, her confidence, and her swift diagnosis and plan for Ellie. Ellie had the first of three reconstructive surgeries on her hand in December 2002. The surgery improved the web space between her thumb and the rest of her hand, and moved a bone from the left side of her hand into the middle, to improve her grasping function.

The surgery was a big success. The casts that she was in afterwards, however, were not! She wriggled out of 4 casts total, necessitating three trips to the emergency room to be recasted (one on Christmas morning!). Ellie is now under the care of a very nice physical therapist, who gives us great suggestions for how Ellie can improve the function of her hand.

"Bean" with her mother, Peggy.

Ellie is doing extremely well. She just turned one, and she is walking, babbling, and playing like anything. There is little she can't do with her left hand. She can grasp cheerios and peas and feed herself with them. She can't lift heavy things with her left hand alone, but she uses it as a helper hand. It is second nature to her.

I am so proud of her, and I think that she is the most beautiful and wonderful baby ever. But I guess every mother does! I know that challenges lay ahead both for Ellie and for us. I hope that we can equip her to remain a confident, outgoing girl who considers her body a blessing and who thinks that she is perfect just the way she is.

To communicate with Ellie, you may contact her parents by email.

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