We've been moving toward two different outpatient surgeries for Joy, for a while now.
One of them has to do with the scar from her nevus-removal. Joy had three surgeries in her second year of life to remove the nevus-sebaceous "blotch" from her scalp, so that it would not run the risk of cancerous changes later in life. Cosmetically, it was good to have it gone too! It healed up quite neatly, but her scalp stretched as her head grew, and now the scar is about a quarter-inch wide. Nobody notices it when her hair is long, but last year when she had a buzz cut so she wouldn't pull out all her hair by the roots, you could see it pretty clearly:
Way back when she had the surgeries, the plastic surgeon advised us that we'd probably want to do a scar-revision surgery once Joy's head had grown, maybe before kindergarten -- and that our insurance generally covered scar-reduction because it was a follow-up to the original covered surgeries. We were going to get it done last summer, but then we had other health issues to contend with and decided to wait till this year.
Meantime, we discovered that Joy has a small umbilical hernia. With many kids, little childhood umbilical hernias close up on their own by the age of 5 or so. And when it's as small as Joy's is, even past age 5 they'd normally leave it alone. But we've got a bit of a family history -- JoyDad had such a hernia that "popped" on him as an adult (as in, lots of pain and two surgeries, one on an emergency basis). Plus, Joy has unusual pain responses and isn't reliably able to show us where it hurts, just in case things did go wrong with hers.
Fortunately, the surgeons to do both procedures are in the same network. Joy's pediatrician helped us come up with the clever idea to do both the procedures in one event, so we'd only need one go-around with the anesthesia. The surgeons agreed, their schedulers got us all set up, we were on the calendar for June 2...
And then our insurance denied the scar revision. JoyDad went to a hearing to make our case, and they denied it a second time. Further pursuit of the case might involve legal consultation, and would certainly not be settled in time for the scheduled surgery date.
Our current plan is to pursue the hernia repair, but not the scar revision.
Thought experiment: what if these surgeries were for Rose instead of Joy? Would we react differently?
I can tell you right now, for Rose the scalp-scar would be a BIG DEAL. She's sensitive about her appearance, sensitive about teasing. If she reached adolescence with such a scar, it would be an emotional issue and a decided challenge to overcome (though I've no doubt she'd deal with it if need be). Pushing the case would be worth some sacrifices. I think I'd feel the need to at least consider the out-of-pocket option.
If Rose had the hernia, however, we could let it ride. She could tell us immediately if something did get to the point of hurting.
Meanwhile, Joy has shown no self-consciousness whatever about her appearance so far (and why should she, adorable as she is, in our unbiased opinion?!) She interacts with mirrors enough to be drawn to them and make funny faces -- does that mean she knows its her, though? As far as noticing teasing, we've been fortunate that she hasn't encountered it yet. Though of course she's off to school in just a few months.
But it doesn't take a scar to mark Joy as different.
Given where we are right now, and what we know about autism and about the world: the people who are sufficiently open of spirit to accept Joy for the amazing person she is, are going to be entirely unfazed by the presence of that scar.
The people who are going to be cruel to her will find plenty of differences before they even notice her scar.
Plus, the scar may simply never matter to her, even if/when she becomes aware of it. And if it does turn out to matter? Maybe that's something she ought to get to decide when she is at a point to be making such decisions.
With the hernia, though, that could potentially turn into a medical emergency. Even, possibly, way down the road when JoyDad and I might not be around, and nobody remembers that JoyDad had a hernia history. And we can't guarantee that Joy will be able to communicate about it.
So we're on the calendar for a hernia fix, still in early June. Think good thoughts for us, that the surgery goes smoothly and doesn't put any major setbacks into Joy's wonderful developmental progress these past weeks, and that we've made the wise call.