The scoop about my wry neck

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Born with a wry neck.

It should not have begun at birth, but it did. Was it a so-called “act of God” or simply the foolishness of man? That answer is up for grabs.

My twin brother, John, was born four minutes before me. I was fast enough on his heels to cause some to wonder if there was a race to see who could get out first.

Joan with wry neck at 7 months oldI experienced a bit of birth trauma in that I was born with a wry neck. The official word is , a twisting of the muscles of the neck. The head is drawn to one side and usually rotated so that the chin points to the other side. This can be seen in the picture to the right.

I was sent home weighing in at 4 pounds, 9 ounces... the hospital giving up on keeping me when I lost 4 ounces under their care. Everything was working, I was just little, so they let me go home to join John. At a year old I weighed in at a whopping 12 pounds, while my little hunk of a brother weighed in at 20 pounds. I was walking for several months and potty trained by the time we hit a year old, while John was sitting in the middle of the floor directing me to wait on him.¹

John should have been waiting on me considering I’d already had major surgery to fix my neck. At seven months old I’d been taken to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland where they removed the main muscles from my left neck and shoulder in order to release my head.

From then on.

From then on it was to be my lot in life to walk through life with a cosmetic deformity... my head forever not sitting straight on my shoulders. Because the muscles are absent on the left side, the muscles on the right side over compensate making the deformity more obvious. But alas, such is life.

My parents were told the wry neck was a result of my brother kicking me in the womb. And that was the end of that story for forty-five years, until a new friend, a chiropractor, insisted my brother kicking me or not did not cause the wry neck and that forceps had to be used on me during birth. I told my friend forceps were not used, but he insisted I ask my mother and order a copy of my medical records from John Hopkins Hospital. I did both.

Photo of John and Joan as young childrenIndeed, forceps were used. Why in the world were forceps used on a 4 pound 13 ounce baby that was speeding down the delivery canal? Was I moving too fast and need to be slowed down? What?

For forty-five years my twin brother carried around within himself the knowledge that he damaged my body in the womb. I used to joke around to lighten it up, but perhaps it was more damaging to his gentle disposition than the physical damage to my body. Somehow that seems more unfair than anything I’ve had to endure.

The wry neck was the beginning of my journey.

¹ John took his sweet time in learning how to walk, but he did pay me back for those months of catering to his every whim. For eight years after he learned to walk, he waited on me. Until he decided he had a mind of his own, and rebelled. That was okay too because I just adapted a different method of approach and everything carried on as usual. He just didn’t know it. return

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