Joe Maddon has been officially installed as the Angels’ next manager and my new tattoo has completely healed. While otherwise unrelated, Arte Moreno and I had plans that enabled me to pull off a fun social media gimmick. I had initially figured the pursuit of Maddon would be much quicker, so the joke ended up being a longer play than intended.
You see, I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate my daughter Addison’s impending stay at Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis. Her congenital scoliosis had finally worsened to the point that surgical correction was necessary. But because the curvature was so severe, she would need to be prepped for it by undergoing six weeks of halo gravity traction that utilizes increasingly heavier counterweights to essentially “unwind” her spine.
So I got the idea to use the Angels logo, since it’s an A with a halo. Rather than the traditional red, however, I opted for Addison’s favorite colors. Having not explained all of that ahead of time, the reaction to my tweets was…something.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) October 17, 2019
The most enjoyable, or just frustrating, were the people who explained to me how their personal experiences gave them the authority to determine that it was obviously fake. That opinion was apparently shared by the hosts of MLB Network’s Intentional Talk, who featured my tweets on their show. I never did see it, though I was able to reach Chris Rose on Twitter to know that it was indeed the real deal.
In one interesting twist, a Twitter user who was particularly skeptical about the whole thing, to the point of leveling several personal insults, actually ended up donating to the GoFundMe we set up for Addison. I had initially started the fundraiser as a way to organize gifts from friends and family, thinking a goal of $1,000 would allow us to get her some books and other little items to make her stay more enjoyable.
Well, that goal had been surpassed within about an hour of me creating it and I’ve had to increase it many times over. Now so much more than just helping Addison, the money we’ve raised will allow us to work with the hospital to purchase specialized walkers for several other halo traction patients. We’re also going to be purchasing items for their physical and recreational therapy departments, thereby helping lots of other kids and their families as they go through similar processes.
Oh, there are books too. Lots of books. Cubs books, even.
The hospital library here in St. Louis just got a little less boring. pic.twitter.com/u8y6pKsXN3
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) October 26, 2019
As I type this, Addison has been in the hospital for five days and things are starting to normalize a bit. The first few days were difficult, since having the halo implanted resulted in excruciating pain that nothing seemed able to alleviate to any significant extent. Weird how having a metal ring affixed to your skull via six screws will do that.
In addition to the pain, the weight being added to her halo via a hook at the end of a pulley system caused Addison to experience pretty serious nausea. By the time she’d woken up Friday, however, the pain had dissipated almost entirely and her equilibrium had normalized as well. In other words, she was almost back to feeling like herself.
Her weekdays now consist of various forms of therapy, all of which is performed either sitting or standing in the walker with her weights attached. That weight started at 10 pounds, roughly the equivalent of her head, and will be increased by one pound each morning and afternoon until it eventually reaches 30 pounds. Then it’ll increase more gradually until it gets to 40-45 pounds.
She’s still attached to weights even when she’s in bed, though that amount is half that of the walker. If all goes well, the traction will correct approximately 25% of the dual 86-degree curves that have developed in her spine. In addition to prepping her for surgery, this should take away some of the constant back pain and gastric reflux she’s dealt with over the past couple year while also improving her lung capacity.
At the conclusion of her six weeks of traction, Addison will undergo at least one surgery on December 2 to permanently correct her spine. That will include a fusion, the removal of a bone bridge that has formed between her right scapula and her spine, and the reconstruction of several hemi-vertebrae that have developed over the last 13 years. If the issues are extensive enough to require more than eight hours of surgery, she’ll have a second one a week later.
The wildest part of the whole thing, at least to me, is that she’ll be up and walking within a day or two of the fusion surgery and will be released from the hospital after three days. So at the very latest, she’ll be back home by December 12 and will be able to celebrate Christmas with the rest of our family.
It hasn’t been an easy process thus far and there’s still a long way to go, but the support we’ve gotten over the last few weeks has just been tremendous. Having a mild degree of notoriety from this blog and my other endeavors certainly helped to raise awareness for Addison’s situation, and it seems as though a lot of people have been able to draw inspiration from her in the time since this all started. That not only makes her journey a little less daunting, it’s going to do the same for so many other children in the future.
New ink makes a little more sense now. pic.twitter.com/TYgDHVjUj0
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) October 26, 2019
I’ll be posting plenty of updates to my social media accounts, and both my wife and I are constantly updating that GoFundMe page as well. Even if you’re not able to donate, you can follow for photos and videos of Addison’s progress. I’m particularly interested to see the results of the x-rays she’ll have every Friday, which I plan to share if I can access them. The progress should be noticeable, as she’ll be 3-5 inches taller after everything is complete.
Thanks for reading, even though this really had nothing to do with the Cubs outside of some of the books we’ve purchased. Oh, and the decorations in Addison’s room. I really just wanted to share a few details, since I have been more than a little detached over the past week or two. That may continue for a little while and I can guarantee things are going to be light around the time of her surgery, but working on this site has been pretty therapeutic and I appreciate the opportunity to share.
Ed. note: Not sure how I forgot to mention it in the post itself, but I’ve had several people reach out to ask how they can send cards or other items to Addison during her hospital stay. The address is 4400 Clayton Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110 (Room 5) and it’d be pretty neat to get her wall covered with Cubs cards so we can make the place a little less boring.
She also has an Amazon wish list that people makes things easier, though people have been buying items faster than she can add them and it’s gotten to the point where it almost feels too self-indulgent to add more.
Finally, I would be remiss not to thank the amazing staff here at Shriners, each of whom has been so kind and attentive throughout this entire process. They are obviously aware of our Cubs fandom, which has been the source of a few jokes, but it’s been really fun to share with them that ta big reason Addison keeps getting so many packages and that we’re able to buy the walkers is the Cubs community.