Triumphing Over Exstrophy
By Mindi Plumley Thayer
I was born on April 17, 1982 at 3:43 pm. I was the first child of two for my parents Dale and Nina Plumley. At birth the doctors thought I had a hernia. When they went in to repair the hernia they discovered that I had classic bladder exstrophy. At that point the doctors were in over their heads so they sent me to Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Over my 34 years I have had numerous surgeries. I was incontinent and wore diapers through kindergarten. Before first grade the doctors made me a stoma and I had an ostomy bag. In the fall of the fourth grade Dr. Mitchell had a plan. He would put a cuff on my urethra and I would be able to push a button to release the cuff and I would urinate. I was incredibly excited about this prospect. I would urinate like everyone else! Upon completion of this final surgery as I woke up from the anesthesia I was told that things did not go as planned. Instead of the cuff system I had a catheter system. I know would urinate from a catheter from my bellybutton. I was devastated to say the least. But over time I learned to accept and embrace my new way of urinating.
Making friends in school was difficult. I was always afraid the other kids would find out about my difference and not want to be friends with me. In kindergarten I remember the kids calling me baby because I wore diapers. I remember the teacher having me stand in front of the kids and tell them why I was different. I managed to make a few good friends during elementary school. But middle school and high school was much more easier for me to make friends. I made many that I still see and talk to often.
It wasn’t until middle school that I really blossomed as a person. I met and started dating my future husband in the 7th grade. And by high school I had finally and fully accepted the way my body worked. My freshman year I wrote and presented a report on bladder exstrophy. During my time in high school I would repeat my story many times in front of a variety of audiences. I even presented in a competition setting for a club I was involved in. I learned through these experiences that everyone is different and we need to celebrate these differences.
During high school I attended the United Ostomy Associations Youth Rally. Until this time I felt isolated because I had not met anyone that had exstrophy. I met so many people that had similar stories and even more difficulties. I felt very blessed and encouraged after my first trip. I couldn’t wait for the next youth rally. I attended the youth rally for four years. I made lifelong friendships that are dear to my heart.
After high school I went on to attend Eastern Washington University. I achieved the highest level of education of anyone in my family. I currently hold a bachelor of arts in special education and one in education. I am currently one student teaching away from being a birth to 21 special education teacher.
My parents and family never treated me differently. I was made how I was made. They just made sure that I always had the proper tools at hand. I was held to high standards and made to feel like I could achieve anything I put my mind to.
On April 12, 2003 I married my middle school sweetheart, Joshua Thayer. A few years after our marriage we wanted to start a family. We tried many years unsuccessfully. I saw a specialist and was told because of endometriosis harvesting an egg would be next to impossible. And due to a prolapsed uterus carrying a child would also be extremely difficult. We were shattered but didn’t give up hope entirely. We knew that one day we would have children; we just didn’t know how.
Eventually we ventured into foster care. We knew there were children out there who needed loving homes and that the state would assist in the adoption process. On September 25, 2009 we got placement of a brand new baby boy. At the time we didn’t know he would be our forever child. But on February 4, 2011 we were able to adopt him. We named him Kaden J. Thayer. A week later we received a beautiful four-month old girl into our care. Two years later on September 26, 2012 she became our forever daughter. We named her Miah Leona Thayer. We were done adopting but we continued to foster other children. On December 10, 2014 we received our daughters’ half-sister. We thought we were done adopting, but we are currently waiting for the adoption process to start with her.
Yes, I was born with exstrophy. But I don’t let it define me. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a friend among other things. Having exstrophy kept me from having a normal life. But it didn’t keep me from having a wonderful life. I can write my name in the snow. Not every woman can say that.
© 2016 Mindi Plumley Thayer & Courage to Shine™
E-mail Mindi at firstname.lastname@example.org
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