Mattie Miracle 10th Anniversary Walk was an $119,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

October 28, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. As I mentioned in previous postings, that year Mattie was a calico cat, like our cat, Patches. I made this costume originally for Halloween of 2005, but Mattie was hospitalized that year with sepsis. So fortunately we were able to hold onto the costume and use it the following year. Mattie and I designed this costume together. We went to AC Moore and picked out the brown, white, and beige felts (that represent a calico's spots), cut them, and Mattie helped to place them onto his sweat shirt and pants. Mattie also enjoyed watching me transform a black stocking into a cat's tail and my black hairband into cat ears.

Quote of the day: Not all who wander are lost. ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

On this day four years ago, Ann's brother died from cancer. Unlike with Ann's father (who also died in October), I never met Ann's brother. I have only heard about him through pictures and stories. Naturally spending a great deal of time with Mary, we exchange thoughts and feelings often about our sons with each other. I think it is important for you to know the fact that I never met Ann's brother, yet I find despite not knowing him, his death has meaning to me. I am not sure why. Certainly I am human, and as such I can't help but feel deep sadness when someone so young is struck by cancer and dies, and of course I know all too well the ramifications such a death have on those left behind. But I believe Ann's brother's death somehow integrates into my life. Maybe because this all happened only NINE months before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer.

In 2007, Mattie was in kindergarten. Because Ann's daughter and Mattie were in the same kindergarten classroom, we interacted with each other on occasion. We have known each other since 2005, since our children attended the same preschool and she and I sat on the preschool advisory board. But that was the extent of our knowledge of each other. To me our lives really began to intertwine, perhaps unknowingly, during Halloween of 2007. Ann was scheduled to run a party in Mattie's classroom that year. However, she was unable to do this because she was in Boston planning her brother's funeral. I remember finding out about Ann's brother and in the process being assigned Ann's tasks. I distinctly recall a fellow parent handing me all of Ann's Halloween bins with activities and she told me to run with the party. This parent figured because Ann and I knew each other from preschool, I would be familiar with the content in Ann's bins and how she wanted the activities to be presented. However, that couldn't have been further from reality! I most certainly never hosted a party with Ann and I had NO idea what was in the bins. In a way, opening up her bins and seeing what activities she had in mind for the kids to do was enlightening. When I opened the bins, I quickly determined that they reflected who she is as a professional. Ann is an occupational therapist by training and many of her activities provided the kids with opportunities to create and use their fine motor skills. I still recall one activity corner I set up in the room with Ann's materials. It was a bead corner, where the kids could string all sorts of great Halloween beads and make necklaces and bracelets. The fascinating lesson I learned that day was the boys were as equally engaged by the beads as the girls. I parked myself at this station during the party and assisted many children with the beads. I enjoyed watching the process unfold and observed how the kids negotiated and compromised with each other for certain beads.

I may not have known Ann's brother, but it was through his death, that I learned more about Ann. There were other parents who could have been assigned Ann's tasks, so why was I selected? I think some things happen for a reason. On October 28, 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series (A FEAT!), Mattie was healthy, and he was excited for Halloween to approach. This seemed like such a great date, and yet for Ann, it was a date that changed her world forever. Not unlike September 8, 2009 for Peter and I. So as Ann mourns the loss of her brother today, I find that this date for some reason has some sort of significance to me. For it was on this date, I learned that a young person, who I indirectly knew died from cancer, and now of course, with hindsight I also know that only nine months after this awful realization, Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. So for me October 28, is a turning point.

As today was the fourth anniversary of Ann's brother's death, I felt compelled to do something to support her in some way. However, having lost Mattie, I realize the complexities of anniversaries. It is hard to know what to do on these days, how to act, what to talk about, and whether you want to allow people into your world and to share your feelings. I know on Mattie's second anniversary this year, Peter and I were all over the map. One minute we wanted company and the next minute we wanted to be alone. So I am more than cognizant of the fears, irrationality, and emotions associated with grief. I could write a book on those internal feelings alone. We feel compelled to help a friend who is grieving, it is only natural. Yet I have found that it is just better to ask a person outright how you can help on an anniversary day, find out whether your company is desired, and if not (which is okay) to respect that. If you find that your friend who is grieving doesn't want your presence around, do not take it personally. Certainly it is natural that you would, but the feelings of wanting to be left alone have nothing to do with you or the importance of your friendship. Nonetheless, reaching out and communicating to someone on an anniversary date I feel is crucial. Grieving is ALWAYS about REMEMBERING. Remembering comes in many forms.......... emails, text messages, phone calls, and remembrance gifts.

This afternoon, I received a phone call while driving from Alison. Alison, as my faithful blog readers may remember, was our Team Mattie Fund coordinator. Alison asked if I wanted to get together for lunch, which I welcomed. Alison has been helping me brainstorm a Foundation activity that I was considering. As I told her today, the last lunch we had together, stimulated my thinking, and forced me to take a long and hard look at one of my goals. Her line of questioning made me seek out answers and do some further investigative work. I realize with Mattie's death, it is sometimes hard to say no to me or my ideas in fear of hurting my feelings. But Alison was brave enough to venture in this direction, and I realize it was because of her I was able to think this through and come back out with a more solid position on the subject matter. A position that will only help the strength of the Foundation.

October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006 at a Fall Festival. When Mattie saw the cut out of one of his favorite characters, Bob the Builder, he ran up to it and as you can see he gave Bob a big hug. Mattie had Bob the Builder bed sheets and my friend Mary Ann, gave Mattie a Bob the Builder stuffed toy one year for Christmas. Mattie LOVED that toy, and Bob is still in Mattie's room today. He sits with some of the other Mattie favorites. Mattie gravitated to building, designing, and creating, and therefore Bob the Builder represented everything Mattie wanted to do and be.  

Quote of the day: Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. ~
Dr. Seuss


My friends Charlie and Mary Ann, both sent me an article today about an 8 foot Lego Man who washed ashore in Florida. Naturally this story caught their attention and they immediately thought of Mattie. It is funny how certain things now remind my readers of Mattie. Legos are definitely one of those objects. Legos will always be near and dear to my heart, because they were our therapeutic tools and really kept us sane while battling cancer and confined within a small hospital room for weeks on end.

The story about this 8 foot giant is fascinating. The message on Lego Man's plastic shirt reads "NO REAL THAN YOU ARE" across the front and the back reads "EGO LEONARD" with the number eight. I included a link to the story and the news video if you are interested in learning more below. But apparently this is NOT the first Lego Man to wash ashore in the world. Holland and England have had the same sightings! But who is placing these Lego Men in the water and why? The mystery continues, a mystery that would have absolutely intrigued Mattie!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/giant-lego-man-florida_n_1032597.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl1%7Csec3_lnk1%7C107915


This morning before I left home, I decided to upload some pictures of the Halloween mask I have been working on for Ann's son. This is a mindcraft creeper mask. It was a labor of love. Basically you are looking at a packing box that I transformed. The intensive labor was a result of the 400 colorful squares that I hand cut. Once the squares were cut in one and a half inch pieces, I then had to arrange them in a mosaic fashion on the box. In order to do this logically and methodically, I drew a grid on each of the five sides of the box so I knew exactly where to place each square. Without the grid, this would have looked like a mess!

Here is a front view of Creeper! Or as I have affectionately called him over the past week, Mr. Creepy! Mr. Creepy's nose is actually a cut out in the box, and on the inside I placed a black stocking, so that Ann's son could breathe better while this is on top of his head. This afternoon, I worked on gluing a hat inside the box, so that it is easier to wear and it won't move around so much when on one's head.

This afternoon, I met up with my friend Carolyn. Carolyn's daughter and Mattie were in the same preschool class back in 2005. We have been connected ever since. Carolyn is also our Foundation's raffle chair and has done an amazing job two years in a row. During raffle season she is my comic relief and we have some zany email exchanges! When Mattie was battling cancer, Carolyn would bring us dinners from the Cheesecake Factory. She introduced us to some very tasty items on their menu. So our tradition now is to meet at the Cheesecake Factory and have one of these tasty items. In a way, Mattie is with us in spirit during these lunches.

I spent the rest of the afternoon at Ann's house. I put the finishing touches on Mr. Creepy, and it is my hope that tomorrow everything has glued and set and will be solid enough for Halloween.

October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken at another Fall Festival in October of 2006. If you have been tuning into the blog for the past couple of weeks, you maybe seeing a trend. What I am trying to illustrate is we covered a lot of territory during our October weekends together. Peter and I both consciously decided that over programming Mattie with activities would not be a good idea at any point in his development. Of course that decision was a curse and a blessing. It was a curse because that meant that we had to direct and guide the activities and be fully on all the time. The blessing however, is that it gave us the time to connect and bond as a family. Now that Mattie is gone from our lives, I never look back with regret. I would have hated to reflect that I had him jumping from one activity to the next, and thereby having only memories of interrupted and rushed moments together. Peter and I made this challenging decision, and it certainly wasn't easy especially when we live in the Washington, DC area, where I see children on complete overload. But one thing is quite certain about myself, once I have a conviction, I am not easily swayed or intimidated by the opinions of those around me. In the end, this was the right decision for us as a family.  I can say this with great clarity now that cancer has ravaged our family, that as a parent you will not be looking back at the achievements and successes your child had in school or during any particular activity. You will be evaluating the emotional ties, connections, and the bond that was created and will hopefully last a lifetime. Such bonds do not just happen, and healthy emotional connections take time, patience, and personal investments.


Quote of the day: Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean. ~ David Searls

I began my day with my walking routine. I find I always begin walking very tense, with a headache, and pondering Foundation items and of course the planning of the next Walk. However, as I continue walking, I always feel the tension dissolving, as if with each step, the stress and at times emotional pain are somehow escaping from my body. After my walk however, I went through my emails, and within seconds my stress level returned to its heightened state.

I learned today that one of the counseling professors, Chris Erickson, at The George Washington University died on October 20. I never experienced Chris as a professor, but we worked together in other capacities. Chris' battle with cancer began before Mattie's. She battled it for quite a number of years, but she did tell me one day that her condition was terminal because there really wasn't a treatment out there to help her. Unfortunately she was right. Chris and I did not always see eye to eye on things professionally. However, once Mattie developed cancer, she and I were most definitely on the same page. It is funny how cancer can change your life and in a way I hate to say this, cancer brings about enlightenment. I do not limit this enlightenment to just cancer, it could be any life threatening or traumatic experience that produces internal changes.

I can vividly recall the last conversation Chris and I had together. She told me that cancer taught her that she had to listen to her body, when she was tired, she had to rest. If she wanted to go on vacation and see different places and meet different people, then she should do that. That putting off things until tomorrow is ridiculous. Because tomorrow may never come, and then what? She also said that the competition and intense work schedule we follow in our area in the end serves no purpose. Chris and I actually had a very existential conversation that day, a conversation I very much appreciated. We had this chat prior to Mattie developing cancer. She was telling me that she admired my decision to be a full time mom and a part time professional, and told me that in the end that will be more important than what job I had, what papers I published, and the list goes on. As I replay this conversation in my head today, it is almost eerie. Eerie because Chris was 100% correct. Cancer strips away the nonsense in life. It is raw, it is real life and death situations, and it instantly removes the murky decisions we have to make. That is because the only decision to focus upon is how am I going to live and fight this disease TODAY. There is no tomorrow to think about, there is only today. It is a frightening and yet freeing existence.

Needless to say, I am deeply saddened that Chris, who was only 47 years old, has been struck down by cancer. This is yet another example of cancer running rampant and there was NOTHING the medical community could do to stop it.

In the midst of all of this swirling around in my head, I got an email from my friend Tina. Tina has a way of sending me messages on days when I seem to need them. She had no idea about Chris and we did not discuss this today, which was good. I needed a distraction and to chat with a friend. Because Tina and I do not know each other as mothers, this makes connecting with Tina easier for me. Tina and I became friends once Mattie died. Therefore our children do not bond us together, we are connected because we have many things in common. Each time we meet the list only gets longer as we found out today.  

October 25, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 -- Mattie died 111 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006 at Pumpkinville. Pumpkinville is a fall festival held in Leesburg, VA. This is a wonderful festival because it is located on an animal farm, where the children can actually meet and pet some wonderful barn yard animals in addition to participating in fun and creative activities. As you can see, I had Peter and Mattie stand by a pumpkin ruler to capture Mattie's height. What I also notice in this picture was Mattie's red coat. That was the first year he wore red! He picked the color, because typically I would buy him navy colored jackets. However, Mattie was all about bold and happy colors, and in all reality he was definitely right he belonged in a red coat, NOT a navy one.

Quote of the day: Unable are the loved to die for love is immortality. ~ Emily Dickinson

I think tonight's quote is truly beautiful. As soon as I saw it, it spoke to me. Maybe it spoke to me because of a chance encounter I had at lunch today. This chance encounter impacted my feelings for the entire day. After zumba class, I met up with Ann. She is working on a chocolate project with her children and we met each other at one of my favorite stores, AC Moore. After shopping we went for lunch. At lunch, I noticed a familiar face at the restaurant, Chris. I met Chris through Ann back in 2009. One summer, Ann invited me to her daughter's dance recital. While at the recital Chris came up to me, introduced herself, and hugged me because she felt she knew me from my writings. Chris let me know that she was an avid blog reader and thought about us everyday. Actually Chris' words at the dance recital were quite powerful and I had no idea how someone whom I never met could be so in love with my son and our story. Chris' feedback was so appreciated and made me feel like through the blog I was making a difference in how other people lived their lives. Our story doesn't end there. Chris and her family are still connected to us. At this year's Foundation walk, Chris and Chris' sister, who I believe lives in NJ, came to the walk with their family. In fact, Chris' children and her sister's children raised money for the Foundation and presented it to us at the walk. I was beyond touched, and very impressed with the initiative from these children.

When I met Chris today, I did not realize she was still a faithful blog reader. After all, I know the main draw to the blog when it was created was Mattie, and now that this cutie is gone, the fight is in essence over. The remaining battle is grief, and I know that isn't always fun to read about. Nonetheless, Chris got a hold of me today and hugged me and thanked me for my writings, my honesty, and for being SO real. She also let me know that she loves Mattie's pictures and getting to know him through the blog. What she was saying is she loves my son! It is the word LOVE that captured me today, because if people love Mattie, beyond my love for him, then in fact like the quote says he is immortalized. So though I have moments where I would like to say, NO MORE BLOG. Or I am tired of writing, or what could I possibly write about, I find the strength to continue writing because I have found through words, Mattie's memory remains alive and well. For some writing a daily blog maybe about getting words out to the masses, but to me the blog is very personal and perhaps is the living testament of how a seven year old touched his family and his community.

As I was having lunch, Chris came by to let me know that she thinks I am "amazing." That she admires my courage and most importantly she says she is so impressed with what I accomplish each year. So she says when I have doubts, I should just reflect on what she said. Her continual words of kindness and encouragement remain with me.

This evening Peter and I went to the Kennedy Center to see the new 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables. The key word in this sentence is NEW. Sometimes NEW isn't always better. That was certainly the case in tonight's performance. Honestly as I was sitting through the musical, I began to get more and more disappointed in what I was seeing. The staging and scenery were a nightmare, compared to the original revolving or turntable stage. However, the true disappointment was the singing. If you could call it singing, it was more like screaming. I am quite sure that if tonight's performance occurred 25 years ago, Les Mis would never have become the smash hit that it is considered today. The only thing this show had going for it tonight was the actual music and the story line which were all powerful and touching.

However, post-Mattie's death I realize my view of things can be skewed and distorted and things that once interested me, may now seem blah or boring. So when I got home tonight, I googled the Washington Post review of this performance. I don't always agree with the Post, but I felt I needed to read a critic's reaction. I included the link below if you would like to read it, but after reading this piece, I feel good knowing I am not living on another planet too affected by grief to be objective.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/les-miserables-back-at-kennedy-center-for-25th-anniversary/2011/09/29/gIQAnKId8K_story.html



I would like to end tonight's posting with a message from my friend and colleague, Nancy. Nancy wrote, "The pictures and stories about Mattie and October are precious. For many children Halloween is about candy and trick or treating, with Mattie it seemed to be pumpkins. (You would have enjoyed the restaurant we went to on Saturday evening as they were featuring pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin cheesecake.) Mom's note about Tricia was poetic and full of important information about Mattie and Tricia's care for him. It was exciting seeing that she was a finalist and I'll wait patiently to learn the final decision. It seems like many people have been involved with the blog recently as I noticed the hits are over 311,000. That says a lot about the team of Vicki, Peter, and Mattie Brown! I had the same reaction to the Anais Ain quote that Charlie sent and ended up reading it a second time too. Filters have their purpose and not everyone of them is for the good of a relationship. I remember some of the doctors and how they responded to all of you during Mattie's treatments and hospitalizations. Thank g-d for Tricia and the other wonderful members of Georgetown Hospital that you've described to us many times as they were able to assist, advocate, nurture, and relax all of you even at the worst of times. The quote by Sydney Smith was special to me too: "It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can". In my opinion this doesn't apply to you directly as Peter and you were fierce advocates on Mattie's behalf. It does echo some of the other conversations that we've had about others reactions to Mattie's situation and now your feelings following Mattie's death. For some, the depth of feeling following a loss so deep is a feeling of helplessness on the listener's part. Of course, you were not looking for some to do anything because there was nothing that they could do, all you needed was for them to do what they could; and what you needed was for them to just BE with Peter and you. I forgot to mention that I was glad to read of Peter's trip with the other Peter. I know how important the outdoors is to "your Peter" and after his last two business trips, this must have been a welcome gift. Thinking of you and sending hugs today and always."

October 24, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. Peter, Mattie, and I practically visited a different local fall festival each weekend in October. Outdoor time was crucial for Mattie and typically despite the temperature, we were out there right along side him exploring. In this visit to a pumpkin patch, Peter and Mattie grabbed a wheel barrel because Mattie's intention was to fill it with pumpkins to take home. This was an activity right up Mattie's alley. Mattie loved tools, things with wheels, and naturally pumpkins. So the fact that we combined tools and pumpkins in one setting was a big hit.


Quote of the day: We don't see things as they are; we see them as we are. ~ Anais Nin

My friend, Charlie, sent me this quote today. I admit when I first read it, I paused and had to re-read it! In a way this quote means a great deal to anyone who works in the mental health profession. The basis of our profession is that people come to us with issues and problems, but it is NOT necessarily the "things" in a client's life that need exploring or changing. Also in many circumstances the "things" in our clients' lives are unavoidable and also can't be controlled. However, the art of any good therapist is to be able to step into your clients' world and understand their perspective. Each of us approaches life with our own lens. This lens has been nurtured over our lifetime and through our experience (both good and bad) this lens develops a sensitivity and clarity for certain things. Which is why two people may interpret the same interpersonal interaction quite differently! This is because we see things not necessarily as they are, but as we interpret and perceive them to be. The art of therapy is to focus on clients' perceptions, on their lens, and in some cases assist the client in re-evaluating what they are seeing and hearing so that they can be more objective or simply view "things" in a different and more healthy manner.

It is ironic that I would receive this quote today considering that I spent the entire day presiding over an ethical violation case of a mental health professional in the District of Columbia. I was at this case for seven hours straight with NOT one food break. I am used to working with my board's attorney and my board members on these types of trials. But today, I learned my attorney was undergoing surgery, and I had to work with a different professional. Also in addition to my typical board members, members from the board of social work  were also participating in our hearing. It is hard enough to try an ethical violation case, to endure all these hours, but when you change some things up on me, I don't like it or always manage it well. However, what I did was adjust my perception. Yes things were going to be different because of the lawyer and board members, but that did not mean the hearing would be compromised. In fact, things worked out fine because I was very upfront and open about my concerns at the hearing. So instead of keeping my perceptions and feelings to myself, I aired them with the new attorney and what that accomplished was we were able to understand each other and developed our own working rhythm to have a successful hearing.

Needless to say, I am exhausted tonight. Sitting still, concentrating, and moderating witnesses for seven hours was quite taxing. Top it off with no food, and I was not a happy camper. So I am signing off for today and as always thank you for clicking in and staying connected with us!  

October 23, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tonight's picture was taken in October of 2006. Peter and I took Mattie to a local pumpkin patch and as you can see Mattie picked several pumpkins to take home with us. Mattie and I loved pumpkins. So much so, that we loved this time of year, because we could eat all things pumpkin such as cookies, breads, muffins, pie, soup, and even ice cream! I miss my pumpkin buddy and though I see pumpkins for sale all around me, Peter and I haven't purchased a pumpkin since Mattie died. This is not something we talk about, it just seems like an understood feeling between us.

Quote of the day: It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can. ~ Sydney Smith

About a week or so ago, I received an email from my mom encouraging Peter and I to see the movie, Dolphin Tale. For the most part when Mattie was born I stopped going to the movies. However, that wasn't a loss or big adjustment for me. Mainly because I am not a fan of most modern day movies. In fact, I probably can count on one hand how many movies I see in a theatre in a given year. It is fortunate for the film industry that I am not a critic, because the industry would either go out of business, or perhaps be forced to make better and more inspiring movies. Movies that actually told a story and made you feel happy to be human rather than embarrassed by the perverse and sinister concoctions that Hollywood is so good at producing. I am telling you this because when my parents recommend a movie to me, they know it has to meet certain criteria in order for me to see it. When my mom said Dolphin Tale reminded her of Mattie, that peaked my curiosity. So I googled the movie and read the following synopsis..................................  

Dolphin Tale is inspired by the amazing true story of a brave dolphin and the compassionate strangers who banded together to save her life. Swimming free, a young dolphin is caught in a crab trap, severely damaging her tail. She is rescued and transported to the Clearwater Marine Hospital, where she is named Winter. But her fight for survival has just begun. Without a tail, Winter's prognosis is dire. It will take the expertise of a dedicated marine biologist, the ingenuity of a brilliant prosthetics doctor, and the unwavering devotion of a young boy to bring about a groundbreaking miracle--a miracle that might not only save Winter but could also help scores of people around the world. The real Winter, who plays herself in 'Dolphin Tale,' today serves as a symbol of courage, perseverance and hope to millions of people--both able and disabled--who have been touched by her remarkable story of recovery and rehabilitation.

I even read this Washington Post article about the movie and the true story behind Winter, the dolphin, before going to see the movie. Because of the content of the film, I decided to read the story line to Peter this morning, so he would be prepared.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/movies-true-story-behind-dolphin-tale/2011/09/20/gIQAZCFLrK_story.html


For Peter and I, this was a very emotional movie. We naturally love dolphins and are touched by most animal stories. However, this story hit a lot of personal and emotional buttons for us. The first thing that struck me immediately in the movie was the little boy named Sawyer, who rescues the dolphin. Sawyer is a misunderstood kid, who isn't like the other boys around him. He loves to build and construct things, he is the ultimate gadget kid without many friends. Well that is until he discovered his new friend, Winter, the dolphin. Then Sawyer discovered that he had many talents, compassion, and skills that are impossible to learn or develop inside of a classroom! Sawyer reminded me of Mattie. He was slender in build and his character just screamed out Mattie to me. Sawyer was sensitive, perceptive, and mature for his age. Just like Mattie.

However, what moved me was seeing the rehabilitation of a dolphin who lost its tail in a crab trap. A dolphin without a tail, is like a human without a leg. Winter and other dolphins who lose a tail typically do not have a long life expectancy. Dolphins may learn to compensate for the lack of a tail, by swimming like a fish (moving its body left and right, rather than typical dolphin fashion which is up and down). However, this form of swimming is not sustainable since the backbone structure of a dolphin is not built for side to side swimming motion. So long term swimming like this produces paralysis in dolphins. Therefore, the movie takes you on an emotional ride as Winter becomes the first dolphin to be fitted with a prosthetic tail. The technology of this invention fascinated me. Dolphin skin is apparently much more sensitive than ours. The analogy is if you scratch our skin within minutes we will notice that the scratch is barely visible. This isn't true for a dolphin. A light scratch will remain on a dolphin's skin for months. Therefore fitting a prosthetic on a dolphin is almost impossible, that is until the development of winter's gel (a new product designed especially for Winter, the dolphin). Winter's gel is a"sleeve" which helps keep the tail in place but avoids damaging the dolphin's skin, and makes the tail easy to remove. Such a sleeve, is now used on human amputees as well! It has been said that Winter's gel enables amputees to feel less pain and gives them much more freedom than they had before using their prosthetic.

Winter is considered a bionic bottlenose dolphin. A title I used often with Mattie. I always told him, post limb salvaging surgeries, that he was my bionic boy. He got a kick out of that especially when I joked with him that these special parts gave him extraordinary strengths. Strength that a typical boy wouldn't have. The movie in its own way showed us the mental and emotional adjustment this dolphin went through to accept a prosthetic limb. Not unlike what a human most likely faces. The connection however that touched my heart was that Winter has become a role model for children with disabilities. Needless to say this movie made us think of Mattie. Mattie being different, Mattie have prosthetics, Mattie not feeling normal, and Mattie learning to adjust to his disabilities. Throughout the movie we were both in tears, and by the end of the movie, it looked like someone punched me in the face. My eyes are still swollen and I feel like I went 10 rounds emotionally. The movie was touching in its own right. Seeing the connection between a human and a dolphin is very powerful. But if you are also a parent who has a child with a disability, or know someone who is an amputee, then I have no doubt this movie's message will hit close to home.  I leave you tonight with two links about Winter and the hope that this will inspire you and your family to see this movie. The message is beautiful and powerful, and illustrates what is right and meaningful about the human race.

Video of Winter (the bionic bottlenose dolphin)..............
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh8xijsR1J0


Winter is therapeutic for people with disabilities...............
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB-GQKyhdS8