Last night, Queen Teen stood up from the kitchen table and then promptly fell, her knee twisting under her, sending her crashing against the metal garbage can and smacking her foot on the side of the hard, wooden kitchen table. Of course I was on the other side of the kitchen with my back turned, so there was no way I could break her fall. She immediately started to cry, her body shaking so hard her teeth chattered. I dashed to her and started to look for obvious injuries. Did she smack her head? Was there any bleeding? Anything broken? Her knee was still tucked underneath her so I slowly helped her untangle her legs, relieved that her knee seemed fine because there wasn't any pain as she straightened it out. But then I saw her foot, which was bright red and already starting to swell.
Rick got her off the floor and carried her to her bed while I grabbed the ice pack. We got her as comfy as we could, then put the ice pack on her foot, which made Queen Teen shout, "That's cold!"
"I know," Rick said. "It's supposed to be. But you need to keep it on so your foot doesn't get too sore."
She sighed and then looked at me, her lips in a pout and big tears rolling down her face. "He's right, honey."
I sat with her while Rick ran to the drug store for kid strength Ibuprofin (ever notice no one will get hurt UNTIL you run out of it?). Her entire body shook from the cold pack on her foot, so I wrapped her up in the blue blanket Aunt Tama had made and held her close. She was shaking so badly it was like we'd set her entire body on ice. I guess this is her wonky neurology reacting to the presence of cold; it can't differentiate a little ice on one part of her body from a lot of ice on her entire body.
Rick returned with the medicine and we dosed her up, then took a look at her foot. Thankfully, it didn't look broken, just badly bruised.
I let her sleep in this morning to see how she was feeling before sending her to school. Her foot seemed a lot better and she could put weight on it, but her heart was still aching. While eating her breakfast she softly said, "I hate my ataxia." Then she started weeping, big, racking sobs that made me want to burst into tears too.
We sat together quietly, my arms holding her tight, while she cried. Sometimes a girl needs a moment to feel sorry for herself.
When she calmed down I gave her a donut to go with her eggs, but I knew she was really depressed when she only ate half of it. She talked to me about how much she wishes she'd never been born with ataxia, how she wishes she was more like the other kids, how she's the only one who falls down all the time and has to use a walker. "No body else in my class has this."
"You're right, but they all have other things they have to deal with." I told her how some of the kids in her class have trouble learning, trouble controlling themselves, and trouble taking care of themselves. Some of the kids can't run very well or throw a ball or jump rope because their coordination is poor. They may not use a walker, but they struggle with disabilities just like she does.
"Really?" She wiped the snot off her face.
"Yep. And so do I. Remember how I can't see out of this eye very well?" I pointed to my left eye.
"Because I can't see very well, I'm always running into things on this side of my body and getting banged up. It's annoying! And I tend to trip over things more than other people because my vision doesn't work as well as others. I hate it."
She frowned. "Me too."
"Everybody has something they have to deal with, honey. You just have more to deal with than most. I know it's frustrating and depressing and I'm so sorry I can't do something to make it better. But I'm so proud of you for hanging in there and trying so hard. I think some people would just give, but not you."
"I wish somebody could make my ataxia go away!"
"Me too sweety."
She curled up in my arms and cried more. After a while, she pulled herself together and I asked if she was ready to go to school. "Yes," she said.
At school the kids greeted her with cheers. "Queen Teen is here!" Her best friend raced up to her and gave her a big hug. One of the students told her how he fell down two days ago and he got hurt too. When I left, Queen Teen was at her desk, visually wobbly, but smiling again.
Her ataxia becomes more and more of an issue for her, especially now that's she's 14 and intentionally compares herself to others. She cares what people think of her, how she looks, how she's different. No 14 year old girl wants to be "weird."
I have absolutely no idea how to help her with this.