Please Note: I wrote this in 2006, therefore the only and most recent medical information and statistics I could find were from 2004. Since then more, and more recent and detailed, information has become available. Thank you and enjoy, leave comments if you want.
The next day, in spite of all that had happened the day before and Dr. Cornwell’s warning about needing rest, Victor had gone into work early.
Victoria, on the other hand was working at home. “I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. Working at home is so much easier, with fewer interruptions, it’s quiet and peaceful,” Vicki said to herself as she sipped her second cup of coffee.
Fuming over Victor’s total refusal to listen to reason and stay home, Nikki walked downstairs intending to grab some breakfast and then go for a walk, hoping it would clear her head.
“Morning, Mom,” Vicki greeted her cheerfully, unaware of her horrible mood.
One look at her mother and Vicki knew something was wrong! “Okay, what happened now? What did Dad do this time?”
“You sure you want to know?”
“Yeah; it’s obvious you’re upset about something. What happened?” Victoria asked concerned.
“Oh nothing, just your father being his usual macho, take charge self!” Nikki exclaimed angrily.
“Alright, what did he do this time?” Vicki asked, wondering what Victor could’ve done to get her mom so upset.
“You and Nicholas were right. Your father’s hiding something!”
“What?” Vicki asked, throwing down the file she’d been reading.
“He wasn’t in Detroit on a business trip!” Nikki bit out.
“What? Then, where was he?” Vicki asked confused.
“At Genoa City Memorial,” Nikki replied, her blood pressure rising.
“What? What was he doing there?” Vicki asked, wide-eyed and shocked.
“He claims he was just there to have some tests done.”
“But you don’t believe him,” Vicki replied wisely.
“Not one damn bit! He’s hiding something! And, he’s hell bent on keeping it from me.”
“What aren’t you telling me?” Vicki asked wisely.
Hesitating for only a moment, Nikki replied, “I tried to get to the bottom of this, but we ended up arguing and he started having trouble breathing and I could tell he was in pain and…”
“Mom, don’t worry. You don’t have to explain anything to me,” Victoria reassured her. “I can see why you’re upset. It doesn’t make any sense for Dad to be acting like this.”
“No kidding! Why the hell won’t he tell me anything? What’s the big secret? I’m his wife for God’s sake. There shouldn’t be any secrets between us!” Nikki agreed, still furious with Victor for keeping his visit to the hospital from her, regardless of his intentions. ‘Even if it was only for a test, he still should’ve told me, I had every right to know, I have every right to know! Although, something tells me, it wasn’t just for some stupid tests.’
“I need to know what’s going on with him, no secrets, no lies, nothing standing in the way of that. That’s the only way this marriage will survive. Then again, maybe he doesn’t want it to, maybe he’s given up, lost interest, I don’t know.”
“Mom, come on, you know that’s not the case! Whatever’s going on, Dad’s still head over heels in love with you!”
“Oh yeah?” Nikki asked sceptically.
“Yeah, listen, I heard him in his office, he was pretty upset, whatever’s going on with him, he’s afraid to tell you about it.”
“What? Victoria, that doesn’t make any sense!”
“Yeah, it does. I heard him ask how he’s supposed to do it, how he’s supposed to tell you the one thing he knows will break your heart.”
“What? What does that mean? What was he talking about?”
“I don’t know. He sounded very upset. He’s convinced that you not knowing anything about whatever’s going on is what’s best for you. It sounds like he’s convinced it’s his only option, like it’s your only option. He’s determined to protect you, no matter what it costs him.”
“Victoria, I’m not a child, I don’t need your father’s protection! I need answers!”
“Then, why not go back to Dad and try to talk to him, he may surprise you.” Victoria tried to offer her mother some hope.
“No, I won’t get anywhere. My only option is to go talk to Dr. Cornwell,” Nikki decided, before grabbing her things and heading out the door.
“Okay, call me if you need anything.”
Nikki wasted no time in trying her best to get the answers she was after.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t having much luck.
“For what it’s worth, Nikki, I completely agree. Unfortunately, my hands are tied. I unless Victor’s spoken to you, I can’t tell you anything, not until he tells me to. Victor’s the only one with the answers you need. Talk to him. I’m sorry, I really wish I could help you.”
“Alright, thanks.” Frustrated, Nikki left the doctor’s office and drove home.
“Nikki, I’ve told you not to worry, why are you still so concerned about this?”
“Because, I want to know what’s going on. Victor, I can tell something’s wrong. I wish you’d talk to me and stop all this cloak and dagger secrecy!”
“As soon as I have something to report. As soon as I know something and I’ve got some good news for you, I’ll tell everything, alright?”
“Why do you need to wait for anything, let alone good news?” Nikki asked, as her suspicions increased even further.
“Nikki, please, let’s not talk about this, alright? Not now anyway, we’ve got more important things to do.”
At her confused expression, Victor asked, “You ready to go to the doctor’s? Today’s the day we get to see the baby.” Victor’s smile was the brightest she’d ever seen.
“I almost forgot about that. Yeah, I can’t wait to see her.”
“You mean him.”
“No, I mean her.”
“You are so stubborn sometimes,” Victor teased smiling.
“And you aren’t?” Nikki asked, teasing him in turn and returning his smile.
“Darling, come on, we’re having another baby boy. Just admit it.”
“You think so, huh?” Nikki asked smiling mischievously.
“No, I know so,” Victor replied with a cheeky, somewhat arrogant smirk.
“Oh really? Care to put your money where your mouth is?” Nikki asked, sensing an opportunity to make some money and teach her hubby a lesson at the same time.
“I say we’re having a baby girl, you think we’re having a baby boy. If I’m right, you pay for dinner at Yves’ and a room at The Lodge.”
“And, if you’re wrong?” Victor asked, curious about what he=d get out of the deal.
“I’m not,” Nikki replied confidently.
“If you’re wrong?” Victor persisted.
“If, by some very, very small chance I’m wrong, I buy you a case of your favourite wine. Deal?”
As they headed out the door, Victor turned to her and said, “Nikki?”
With an arrogant smirk, he continued, “You’d better get your money out.”
Giving him a playful shove, Nikki replied, “Let’s go, we don’t want to be late.”
Having gotten to the doctor’s office early, Nikki sat, waiting impatiently for her doctor to arrive, while Victor paced the room anxiously.
“Sorry I’m late.”
“Dr. Thompson, what are you doing here?””Doctor Simpson was called away on an emergency with another patient, so I’m here to fill in. I hope that’s okay, Nikki.”
“Yeah, fine. I was just a little confused.”
“Good. Ready to start?”
“You bet! We’ve been looking forward to this for months!” Nikki replied happily, excited to finally see her baby girl.
It didn’t take long for something to show up on the ultrasound monitor.
“Wait a minute, am I seeing double?” Nikki asked with a confused smile.
“You can’t be, I’m seeing double too.” Victor sounded just as confused as she was.
“You aren’t seeing double. You’re having twins. Looks like one of them is a boy.”
“Looks like we need a bigger nursery.”
“Yeah, and more clothes, more toys, more diapers, more bottles.”
“In short, more of everything,” Victor happily agreed.
“I owe you wine.”
Turning to the doctor, Victor asked, “What about the other baby?”
“I really don’t know. The baby doesn’t seem to want to turn around, looks very comfortable,” Dr. Thompson replied with a smile.
“Come on, sweetheart, we want to see your face, not your backside,” Nikki coaxed.
After a few moments of decision-making, the baby finally turned around.
“It looks like you have another daughter. Congratulations.”
Nikki just lay there looking at her two babies, thinking of how good it would be to finally hold them, and all the wonderful memories that lay ahead.
Dr. Thompson’s smile faded as she realized something wasn’t right. Determined to find out exactly what was going on, she began pushing buttons. ‘I need to find the first picture of their baby girl. Where is it?’ she thought to herself frustrated. After a few minutes of searching, she finally found what she was looking for. “Good. Now, let’s see what this will tell me,” she said to herself, studying the ultrasound intently.
“Dr. Thompson, is something going on?” Victor asked. He and Nikki had been watching her and were starting to worry.
“Is there something wrong?” Nikki asked, starting to get worried, and very nervous.
Trying to keep both Nikki and Victor calm, Dr. Thompson replied, “Not necessarily, I just want to heck something.”
After pushing more buttons, Dr. Thompson was able to zoom in on the baby’s lower back. “What? What’s this?” she asked, forgetting for the moment, that Nikki and Victor were in the room. As she zeroed in closer on the lower back, Dr. Thompson zeroed in on a pouch protruding from it.
“Dr. Thompson, what’s wrong? What’s wrong with my baby?” Nikki asked, well beyond nervous, and starting to get very frightened.
“Nikki, darling, we need to stay calm and just let Dr. Thompson do her work. Alright?” Victor tried to calm her down.
Ignoring his well meaning attempts to calm her down, Nikki asked again, more frightened and forcefully, “What’s wrong with my baby?”
“I’m sorry, there’s no easy way to say this,” Dr. Thompson began.
“Just say it!” Nikki snapped impatiently, angrily, fearfully.
Swallowing the lump of bitter regret lodged in her throat, Dr. Thompson replied softly, “I’m sorry, but it looks like she has spina bifida.”
“Which is what, exactly?” Nikki asked, needing answers, needing to make some sense of what she was hearing, part of her desperately hoping it wasn’t true.
“It’s a birth defect that affects both the spinal cord and the lower lumbar region.” She hesitated for a moment, then realized she owed them both the truth. “It can and more often than not does affect the brain as well.”
“Are we talking brain damage here?” Victor asked. ‘This can’t be happening. It can’t!’ he thought to himself, angrily, his heart breaking little by little.
“No, not necessarily.” Dr. Thompson remained guarded about a prognosis.
“Then, what are we talking about?” Victor asked, starting to lose his patience with her.
Taking a deep, quiet breath, Dr. Thompson answered what she knew was only the first in a long line of questions. “Learning disabilities,” she answered earnestly, “along with problems walking, potential paralysis, and other things. It’s really difficult to say at this point, Victor. Every case is different.”
Nikki lay there in shock, couldn’t believe what she’d just heard. After the doctor had told them their daughter has a serious disability, everything else seemed to fade away into complete insignificance. ‘Why her? Why now? She didn’t even get the chance to live a happy, healthy, normal life! Why is this happening?’ Nikki asked herself, feeling such intense rage and frustration at the helplessness that it blinded her to everything else around her. ‘Do I scream, throw something, punch something? What do I do?’ Dragging herself out of the heartbroken daze she’d been in, Nikki took a moment to consider what this must be doing to her husband. ‘Victor has to be shocked too.’
Despite the heart wrenching pain surging through her, Nikki couldn’t help but want her own questions answered. “Is there a chance, any chance…” Nikki’s voice trailed off, unable to ask the question burning inside her, making her blood run cold. Nikki took a deep, steadying breath and fearfully asked, “Could my baby die?”
“No, that’s not very likely. Thirty, or forty years ago, that would be a very real risk. But, with today’s medical advances and technology, your baby has every chance to live a long, relatively healthy life.”
“Relatively healthy?” Victor asked, picking up on the distinct impression that something very important was being kept from them.
“Yes, there are some complications that can set in though. And, I should mention something else.”
“Because of how serious and severe the complications associated with this disability, with this birth defect are, because of how serious and severe they can be…” Dr. Thompson hesitated for a few moments, wondering if telling them what she was about to was the wisest decision. “Parents are given the option to terminate the pregnancy,” she finally finished, fully expecting both Nikki and Victor to put up a strong argument against such a thing.
“What? What do you mean, terminate the pregnancy? No way, we are not doing that!” Nikki’s tone was firm and unwavering.
“You”re absolutely sure?” Dr. Thompson asked, not trying to push, but needing to make sure she fully understood the consequences of her decision.
Frustrated with the entire situation, Nikki replied tightly, firmly, “With all due respect, Dr. Thompson, these babies came into the world a package deal, and that’s the way they’re staying! If, God forbid, something happens to one of them, I’ll find a way to deal with it. I’ll have no other choice. But, I will not knowingly choose one over the other, I will not knowingly kill my baby!”
Needing reassurance, she looked at Victor, for the first time since Dr. Thompson had given them the news.
“Dr. Thompson, I think you have your answer,” Victor replied simply and firmly, smiling at Nikki proudly, tenderly and bitter sweetly.
Satisfied they understood what they were getting into, Dr. Thompson replied, “In that case, why don’t we make another appointment to discuss the situation further?”
“Alright.” Nikki’s voice was barely audible as she fought back bitter, angry tears.
“It’s a start,” Victor replied just as sadly.
Back at the ranch, although it had been a relatively quiet day, Victoria got a very unexpected phone call. “Hello?”
“Hello, is Mr. Victor Newman there?”
“No, he’s out at the moment, may I take a message?” Victoria asked politely, a little curious who was calling.
“Yes, it’s Dr. Cornwell’s office calling to remind him that the doctor would like to talk to him regarding his test results and the options available to him, now that the situation has changed.” The secretary on the other end of the line knew nothing about how hard Victor was working to keep what was going on a secret from everybody, especially his family.
In a daze, completely blind sided by what she=d just heard, Victoria replied, “Thank you, I…I’ll give him the message.”
“Thank you, have a nice day.”
“You too,” Vicki replied before slowly, numbly hanging up. ‘What did she mean? What test results? Dad already had his physical,’ Vicki thought to herself, trying to ignore the goose bumps prickling her skin.
Nikki and Victor sat in the car, unable to wrap their minds around what they’d just been told, let alone discuss it. They sat in complete silence the whole way home, neither daring to utter a single word.
As he focused on the road in front of him, Victor thought to himself frustrated, ‘How do I make this better for her? There has to be a way to do that.
‘This has to be a dream, some horrible nightmare. It can’t be real. What did I do wrong? How could I have stopped this?’ Nikki thought to herself, wrapped up in her own pain.
Meanwhile, at home, Vicki sat on the livingroom couch, still trying to figure out what the surprise phone call she’d gotten earlier meant. “Dad’s hiding something, it’s my job to figure out what it is. But how, how do I do that?” she said to herself as she walked upstairs to her room to sit and think.
She was so wrapped up in trying to figure things out that she almost didn’t notice Abby heading downstairs. “Where are you going?”
“To get a snack,” Abby replied simply.
“What do you want? You want me to make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”
“No thanks, I want an apple.”
“Alright, you’re sure you don’t need anything?”
Satisfied Abby would be okay for a little while, Victoria walked to her room.
Abby was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying her snack and reading a book when she heard the front door open and her parent’s voices.
No sooner did they enter the livingroom than she came running in.
“Hi, how did the doctor’s appointment go? Is everything okay? What did she say? Am I getting a baby brother or sister?” she asked excitedly.
Smiling at her excitement, Nikki replied, “Both.”
Abby’s eyes lit up as she looked from Nikki’s face to her stomach with an ear to ear smile. She didn’t even stop to say anything before running upstairs to give Vicki the good news.
Victoria was downstairs within minutes, asking with a bright smile, “Is it true?”
Victor chuckled at his eldest’s enthusiasm, while Nikki replied simply, but not without her own excitement, and wonders “Yes, it’s true.”
“Wow! I…I wasn’t expecting this,”@ Vicki replied honestly.
“You weren’t expecting this?” Nikki asked teasingly, smiling genuinely for the first time since she’d left the doctor’s office.
Victoria’s eyes lit up and she quickly headed for the kitchen.
“Victoria, what are you doing? Where are you going?” Nikki asked confused.
“Milkshakes,” she replied simply.
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Well, you can’t have any champaign or anything, and milk’s good for the twins, right?” Vicki asked, stopping for only a moment to answer her mother’s questions.
“I’ll be right back, I’ve got to go pay Nick a visit. He owes me money.”
“For what?” Victor asked curious.
“Well, we had a bet going.”
“What kind of bet?” Nikki asked with a curious smile.
“Nick bet me you were having a baby boy, and not a girl. I’ve got the beer I owe him, since I said it was a girl, and not a boy.”
Nikki couldn’t help but laugh, as she replied, “I should’ve known.”
“Yeah, you’re slipping, Mom,” Vicki replied cheekily.
“Good-bye, Victoria,” Nikki asked, feigning anger, unable to keep the smile from her face.
“Before I go, I just thought of something. Dad, we need a bigger nursery, more toys, more clothes, more of everything.”
“And I don’t know this?” Victor asked with a smile.
“I’ll take care of the toys, and the estimates from contractors.”
Victor smiled and shook his head as he watched her leave.
As reality hit once again, Nikki gave her daughter a sad smile as she left.
The minute the front door closed, Nikki collapsed onto the couch, finally able to let the anguished, bitter tears she’d been holding in fall.
Heartsick over what the situation was doing to his wife, Victor silently, tenderly wrapped his arms around Nikki, letting her cry.
Drained and numb, Nikki looked up at him and whispered, her voice small and full of pain, “What did I do wrong? Did I not get enough sleep, enough vitamins? Did I spend too much time on my feet? Was it my diet? Did I eat too much junk? What did I do wrong, Victor? What did I do?” Stubbornly, she rose from the couch and walked into the solarium.
“What are you talking about? Nikki, listen to me. There was nothing you could’ve done to prevent this! It’s not your fault! This isn’t your fault at all!” Victor exclaimed forcefully, trying with everything in him to make her see reason.
Her eyes ice cold, Nikki replied angrily, almost accusingly. “What are you saying, that this is her fault? It’s not, Victor, this isn’t our baby girl’s fault! Do you hear me? It’s not her fault!”
Trying desperately not to become defensive, despite his own pain, Victor exclaimed, “Of course not! Of course it isn’t. It’s…” His voice trailed off, as he let out a broken-hearted sigh and thought to himself, ‘How do I do this? How do I make her feel better? What do I say to make her feel better? Is there anything I can say?’
Without hesitating, Victor rose from his spot on the couch and followed her into the solarium, where she stood staring blankly out the atrium window at the bright spring day and listening to the faint, sweet song of birds singing.
He tried to wrap his arms around her and hold her close, but all she did was push him away and head for the door. “I’m going for a walk.”
“You want some company?” Victor asked hopefully.
“No thanks, I need some time alone.” With that, Nikki walked out the door.
After silently, sadly watching her leave, Victor sullenly, feeling very depressed, walked to the bar and poured himself a large brandy.
Feeling for the first time in his life like he was completely incompetent and utterly useless, he gulped it down. The brandy burned all the way down his throat. Without hesitating, he poured another.
He was about to gulp down the second brandy when Victoria entered.
“Hey, where’s Mom? I wanted to talk to her about all the stuff we need to get done before the twins get here. There’s the furniture we still have to get and the clothes, bottles, diapers and, of course we need to convert one of the rooms upstairs into a nursery. I can’t wait! It’s been way too long since we’ve had a baby walking around!” Vicki began excitedly.
Victor didn’t hear her though, he was too wrapped up in his own thoughts. ‘What do I do? What do I do to make this better?’ he thought to himself heart-brokenly, almost frantically.
She hadn’t noticed Victor’s strange silence, until she looked up at him and saw the heartbreak in his eyes.
“Dad? Dad? Dad?”
“I’m sorry, my sweetheart, what were you saying?” Victor asked distractedly.
“What’s going on? What’s wrong? What can I do to help?”
Victor smiled sadly at his daughter=s obvious concern and her willingness to do whatever she could to make the situation better.
Victor considered his words carefully, then replied, “There’s something going on. I can’t say what, I need more time to think about things, to figure out where we go from here.”
“What do you mean? Are you and Mom having problems, is that it? Are you getting a divorce?”
“No, my darling. Don’t worry. We’re certainly not getting a divorce.” Victor tried his best to reassure her, although he couldn’t help but wonder if his whole future wasn’t up for grabs. Trying to focus on the here and now, he told Victoria, “Your mother will need your support, she’ll need the whole family’s support in the next few months.”
“She’ll have it!” Vicki replied solemnly, “And so will you.”
“I’m glad to hear that, my sweetheart. Um…I think I’m gonna go out for a horseback ride to clear my head. I’ll be back later,” Victor said quietly, before starting to walk upstairs to change. Thinking better of it, he turned around and walked back into the living room where Vicki still stood by the couch, bewildered and determined to figure out what was going on. Without a single word, he walked up to her and, with tears rising in his eyes, he gently kissed her forehead before heading upstairs.
Having come back from a long walk, Nikki now sat on the livingroom couch, looking through old photos of Nicholas and Victoria taken when they were just babies.
As she heard the front door close, Nikki looked up to see Victor walking in after his horseback ride. “I’m sorry for earlier. I shouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I shouldn’t have shut you out.”
“Nikki, it’s alright, I understand. Believe me, I understand,” Victor whispered softly, comfortingly.
“Thanks,” Nikki whispered tiredly.
Silently taking her hand, Victor lead her upstairs to the master bedroom where they turned in for the night.
Both Nikki and Victor tossed and turned, unable to escape the questions racing through their minds, wishing they could find the answers. The one thing they knew for certain was, the dreams they had just a day ago were now completely shattered.
The next day, as the first rays of dull grey sunlight crept into the master bedroom, Victor lay sleeping soundly, after a night of tossing and turning restlessly.
Meanwhile, Nikki was downstairs in the den, sitting at the computer looking up any and all the information she could find on spina bifida.
Slowly, tiredly, Victor woke up and rolled over, expecting to see Nikki. When he realized she wasn’t there, her got dressed and set out looking for her.
It didn’t take him long to find her exactly where she’d been since before dawn that morning. “What’s she doing up? I hope she’s not worrying about what Dr. Thompson said yesterday, it won’t do her any good!” Victor said to himself as he stood in the doorway, studying her for a few moments.
Silently, not wanting to scare her, Victor walked up behind her, the moment he looked at the computer screen, Victor realized that was exactly what she was doing. ‘I wish she wouldn’t worry so much. It won’t help anything. Then again, how can she not? I’m worried and I’m not even in her shoes, so how can she not worry?’ Victor thought to himself, beginning to realize what this was doing to his wife.
“Nikki, come on, come back to bed. Don’t worry yourself with all this stuff.”
“Victor, you’re the one who always says it’s better to know what you’re dealing with, regardless of the situation. We need to know what to expect here!” Nikki’s tone brooked no argument, as she rose to face him.
“Yes, that’s why we made the appointment with Dr. Thompson,” Victor tried to reason.
“What if it’s not enough? What then, Victor?”
Her question was so unexpected and her voice so fearful, that it nearly broke him.
Trying his best to do whatever he could to comfort her under the circumstances, Victor silently, tenderly, yet firmly took her by the hand and lead her to the couch to sit and talk. “My darling, the more you look at all that, the more upset you’ll get. You know that’s no good for the baby.”
After taking a few minutes to consider his words, Nikki honestly replied, “I know, but the details about this and the possibilities of what could happen scare me, Victor, they really do.”
“What are you talking about?” Victor asked worriedly, a little confused.
“Take a look at this,” Nikki said, handing him a printout of statistics.
“Prevalence rates? For what?” Victor asked, still confused.
Victor silently read the sheet. Surprised at what he read, he asked, “Why does the U.S. have such a high prevalence rate? We’re at the top of the list in North America. The only other country with a higher rate than us is China. Mexico had ninety-two cases recorded out of over a million, and Canada had twenty-eight cases recorded in over thirty-two thousand.”
“I don’t know, but, can you believe that out of over two million people there were two-hundred-fifty-nine cases recorded in two-thousand-four? Wait a minute, how many cases were reported in China?”
“One thousand, one hundred-forty-six.”
“Besides all the high prevalence rates, what’s scary is how recent these stats are. I mean, these are only from two-thousand-four. My God, those poor kids,” Nikki whispered, now having a sense of what they must go through on a daily basis.
“Yeah, I didn’t realize it was that bad.”
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there.”
“What are you talking about?” Victor asked, not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
“Take a look at this,” Nikki replied, handing him another pile of papers.
“Spina bifida describes birth defects which are caused by an incomplete closure of one or more vertebral arches of the spine, resulting in malformations of the spinal cord. The spinal membranes and spinal cord may protrude through the absence of the vertebral arches (called a cleft). These malformations fall into three categories: spina bifida occulta, spina bifida cystica (meylomeningeocele) and meningeocle.” Victor tried to swallow the sick feeling rising in his throat as he tried to wrap his mind around what he was reading. ‘This can’t be happening, there has to be some mistake!’ he thought to himself starting to become frantic. Taking a deep breath, he read on. “It says here that this often results in hydrocephalus and other neurological disorders.”
“What does that mean? Hydrocephalus, what’s that? How serious is it?” Nikki asked getting more nervous.
“I don’t know, but we’ll ask Dr. Thompson when we see her, alright?@ Victor answered honestly, trying to offer her whatever comfort he could.
“What else does it say?”
“That this birth defect likely results from the interaction of multiple genes and environmental factors.”
“Well, at least they know a little bit about what causes it,”@ Nikki replied, somewhat hopefully.
“Yeah, but they still don’t know what causes most of the human cases,” Victor replied apologetically. “The article talks about the importance of folic acid and that it be taken early in pregnancy, especially since spina bifida happens by the forth week of pregnancy. I guess a lot of women find out they’re pregnant, but not necessarily early enough to do anything about this kind of situation.”
“God, do I know what that feels like,” Nikki replied thinking back to when they found out about her pregnancy and how excited they were, how happy; knowing full well what a contrast there was between their lives then and now.
“Does it say anything else?@ Nikki asked, wanting to know anything and everything she could about what they might be dealing with before the visit to the doctor’s office.
“Yeah, it says that the two most common places for malformations are the lumbar and sacral areas…”
“Sacral areas? What are those?”
“Hang on a second, I’ll grab the dictionary.” It took Victor a few minutes to find the right page. “It says that’s the plural of sacrum, which is a triangular bone in the lower back between the two hip bones of the pelvis.”
“Okay…” Nikki said, still not quite clear on exactly what he’d said. “Go ahead.”
“You sure you want to hear more?” Victor asked, unsure he should continue reading all the information to her. ‘She’s upset enough as it is. The last thing she needs is to hear any more of this.’
“Yes, I need to know, Victor.”
“The lumbar nerves control muscles in the hip, leg, knee and foot, and help to keep the body erect. The sacral nerves control some of the muscles in the feet, bowel and bladder and the ability to have an erection. Some degree of impairment can be expected in these areas.”
The more Nikki heard the more her mouth went dry and her blood ran cold.
“Okay, that’s enough of that,” Victor said as he got up from the couch and began to put away the papers she’d given him.
“Fine, if you’re not going to read those articles to me, I’ll read them myself!” Nikki’s tone made it clear-she’d find out everything there was to know about what they might be dealing with; for their daughter’s sake!
Taking the papers from Victor, she read on. ASpina bifida results in varying degrees of…@
Her voice trailed off and her eyes bulged out of her head as she tried to make sense of what she was reading. Her voice was a mere whisper, as she continued disbelievingly, Aparalysis, absence of skin sensation, incontinence and spine and limb problems depending on the severity and location of the lesion damage on the spine.@ Her stomach lurched as she finished, AIn very rare cases, cognitive problems also result.@
ANikki, this isn’t doing you any good, come on, let’s just put this away,” Victor suggested, hoping she’d agree.
“On the contrary, it’s helping me a lot! At least now I know what we might be dealing with, what I might be dealing with!” Nikki shot back pointedly.
“I said I would be with you every step of the way through this whole thing and I meant it.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me,” Nikki whispered sheepishly.
“This isn’t easy for you, I understand that. But, I don’t want you doubting me again, alright?”
Nikki nodded solemnly before continuing. “Most babies born with the condition will need surgeries to correct spinal, foot or leg problems, shunt surgery to drain fluid from the brain, application of techniques to control bladder and bladder and bowel function, and braces and other equipment to assist in walking.”
“Shunt surgery? What’s a shunt, and what are they talking about, draining fluid from the brain?” Victor asked thoroughly confused and getting frightened.
“I don’t know, but that’s just another question we can ask when we see Dr. Thompson.”
“Why don’t we go for a walk and then get back to all this?” Victor suggested helpfully.
On their walk, Nikki remained silent. No matter what she did, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t help but wonder why this was happening, and just how much she could’ve done to prevent it, if anything.
Knowing what she was thinking, Victor took her hand, making her stop, and, when she turned around to face him, said, “I know what you’re thinking. Nikki, you couldn’t have prevented this. You didn’t do anything wrong, so stop beating yourself up!”“What if there was, Victor? What if there was something I could’ve done, but I didn’t?” Nikki’s voice was so faint, Victor almost wasn’t sure he’d heard her.
Not knowing what else to do, Victor wrapped his arms around her protectively and held her for what seemed like forever while she cried silently in his arms.
“Are you sure you want to go back to reading that research you found earlier? You were pretty upset,” Victor asked worriedly, skeptical that it would do her any good at all.
“Yes, I know you don’t think this is good for me, but I need to do it, Victor. I need to do this, I need to find out everything I can about this before it’s too late.”
“Alright,” Victor replied, not wanting to argue.
As he followed her into the den, Victor couldn’t help but wonder if he was doing the right thing. ‘Shouldn’t I be trying everything I can to protect her, no matter what that is?’ he thought to himself tiredly, worried he was making things worse instead of better.
When he reached the den, Nikki was already sitting on the couch, papers in hand, reading. “It says that more than seventy-three percent of people with spina bifida develop an allergy to latex, which can be mild to life-threatening. What makes latex so much of a threat?” she asked as Victor sat beside her.
“I have no idea, maybe something to do with the immune system?” Victor speculated.
“If I read that there isn’t a cure for this one more time I’m going to lose it!”
“Nikki, what else does it say?” Victor asked, trying to calm me down.
“To prevent further drying and damage of nervous tissue and infection, doctors operate as soon as possible on the back, however, no surgery can be done to fix damaged nerves. Skin grafts are used to cover the exposed spinal cord and protect it from further damage caused by prolonged exposure to amniotic fluid. It also says that in-utero surgery may be able to decrease some of the damaging effects of the spina bifida lesion, but…” Nikki saw red as she rasped, “it is not a cure.” Barely resisting the urge to shred all of her research, Nikki went on.
“Nikki, come on, put that stuff away, you’re driving yourself crazy.”
Stubbornly ignoring Victor’s plea, Nikki went on. “In America, one in every thousand to two-thousand births is one with spina bifida. More children in America have spina bifida than have muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and cystic fibrosis combined.”
“Why is the rate so much higher?” Victor thought to himself out loud.
“No clue, but there’s got to be reason for it. They kept mentioning how important folic acid and vitamin c were in terms of prevention, but they didn’t say anything about the reason why.”
“It’s probably because they don’t know yet.”
“Well then what do they know, Victor? Because it seems to me, even though they’ve got a lot more information than they had; they still know a hell of a lot about nothing!”
“Nikki, come on, you can’t think that way. Doctors are getting closer to finding a cure, it just takes time,” Victor tried to reason encouragingly.
“Why didn’t I do any of this research before? Why did I wait until now? Why didn’t I watch my diet more before we decided to have another baby? Why didn’t I see this coming? Was I so wrapped up in everything else that was going on that I just didn’t care?” Nikki asked, desperately searching for answers where, unfortunately, there were none.
Unable to sit there and listen to Nikki beat herself up, worrying about what she couldn’t change, no matter how much both of them wished she could, Victor stopped her. Trying to make her see reason, unable to sit by silently and do nothing while she tried to handle the whole terrifying situation on her own, he said adamantly, “Nikki, you can’t think that way! We need to take this as it comes!”
“Maybe you can, Victor, but I can’t! I can’t ignore this! I would if I could, but I can’t, alright? I’m sorry, but I just can’t ignore this!” Her voice broke as terrified, angry tears began to fall.
Dragging his hand over his face and letting out a small, sad sigh, Victor searched for the right words to let her know that everything would be okay and that she didn’t need to worry, that it was useless to worry. “I know that, but worrying and fretting won’t solve anything, it won’t solve any of this.”
Having reached her breaking point, Nikki shot back, angrily, “Then you tell me, what am I supposed to do, Victor? Smile and pretend I’m fine?!” Unable to keep the pain raging inside her at bay any longer and tired of trying to do so, she added, “Maybe you can, but I can’t! And I’m damn sick and tired of trying!”
After considering his words very carefully, Victor replied, AI don=t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know one thing.”
“Whatever the future does hold, we’ll face it together! I’m not going anywhere, I won’t let you face this alone!”
With a tearful, somewhat comforted smile, Nikki replied, “Really?”
“Of course!” Victor replied softly, yet firmly.
Knowing it wasn’t enough, and that all the words she could come up with were completely inadequate to describe just how grateful she was, Nikki whispered softly, “Thank you.”
Victor lovingly, simply replied, “There’s no need.”
Gently, tenderly and lovingly, he dried her tears with his thumbs. When their eyes met, Nikki couldn’t help but smile, relieved that she wasn’t going to be alone in facing whatever lay ahead. ‘I should never have doubted him, he’s always been there for me when I needed him,’ Nikki thought to herself, feeling guilty. Victor didn’t seem to mind though, as he kissed her softly, sweetly and passionately before wrapping his arms around her and holding her tight.
Author’s Notes: The medical information and statistics paraphrased and otherwise was taken from the following websites: