Thursday afternoon we met the family who heads Fundación Magar here in Vigo. Their daughter, N, who is 13 years old, loved meeting Belalu and played with her pretty much the whole time. When Belalu was clearly ready for a nap, N rocked her in the stroller until she fell asleep.
As the kids played, the parents talked. We learned that they started the foundation when their daughter was just a baby, because when they searched the Internet for information about her condition and wanted to contact other families, they had a hard time finding relevant information. She said the primary aim of their foundation is to raise funds for research in achondroplasia, but that their web page also serves as a space for families to connect and keep up to date on conferences, reunions, and news regarding medical advances, etc. Regarding the social aspect, they know of about 15 families in this region of Spain (Galicia) whose children have a skeletal dyplasia, the majority with achon. They also said that almost all the young people with achondroplasia that they knew have chosen to undergo limb-lengthening surgery. N herself spent the past year lengthening her legs and just started on her arms. She told me it didn’t hurt at all, and her parents reiterated that the surgery was completely her idea. Her mom told me that they hadn’t planned to do it, but that N saw the results of one of her friends that did, and she wanted to do it, too.
We asked how it’s been for her socially, and they assured us that so far it has been very positive. They shared an anecdote about how when she was 5 years old, they realized she didn’t know how to button her shirt. Nevertheless, she always had her school shirt on correctly (in Spain all little kids wear a uniform at school - a type of over-shirt). The teacher watched her one morning and realized that she would put the shirt on, walk over to whichever friend was free at the moment, and that friend would button up her shirt for her. “She has a whole court of ladies-in-waiting ready to help her out,” laughed her mom. When we asked about strangers staring, they just dismissed that worry, too. “Oh, she doesn’t even notice anymore.” While I appreciate the positive perspective, I’m hesitant. After all, N was insistent on doing the limb-lengthening surgery. However, I didn't press the issue.
The families in Galicia usually get together for a day in the summer, and we just missed this year’s gathering, but we’ll be in touch for next year and they said they’ll try to match our schedule with theirs so we can meet more families.
N and her family were very open and welcoming, and we spent a nice afternoon with them. They assured us that the most important thing we can do for Belalu is to promote her self-esteem and confidence. N’s personality reminds me a lot of Belalu. I look forward to seeing them again next year and we’ll be in touch via email until then.