Thursday, January 9, 2020


When my oldest was 16 months old I enrolled her in a gymnastics class in north Phoenix.  At the time I was 8ish months pregnant with her brother.  We began going on dates after her gymnastics class to a local coffee shop.  She got her cookie and chocolate milk and I, of course, some form of coffee.  When her brother was born he tagged along, first in a carrier, and soon as a member of our special time.  Eventually, my older two began preschool and my dates became with our 3rd and Sonzee in tow in the carrier or stroller.  3 years ago when our middle daughter began school, the dates stopped.  Sonzee wasn’t enrolled in gymnastics and while I could have taken her to a coffee place and drank coffee with her in her stroller, it just wouldn’t have been the same.

When our youngest became enrolled in gymnastics this past fall I was looking forward to having our dates.  It had been a while since I had a date with a toddler and I was so ready to start them back up.  Fast forward to this morning.  We have about an hour and 10 minutes between the end of gymnastics and getting sonzee from school, and boss baby is finally at the perfect age to have his attention focus on a cookie and chocolate milk for more than 5 minutes in a chair, so off we went on our date.  I snapped pictures, he picked out his chair, I was so excited to be sitting there with him, and he appeared to feel the same excitement.  Then I saw the crumbs.  Little tiny toddler crumbs on the table, on the chair, on the floor, just staring at me so I grabbed a napkin to wipe them up and then this emotional tidal wave washed over me.  Crumbs...the same ones I used to apologize for when we went to this same coffee location with my older kiddos and they were all over the place.  The same crumbs the employees used to smile off at me and say “don’t worry about it”, while they grabbed a broom and swept them up.  The crumbs that toddlers make but ones that Sonzee has never gotten to make.  Cue to the tears.

Now with glossy tear-filled eyes, staring at my son trying to not let the tears fall as I was wiping up crumbs in a coffee shop while trying to get over the emotions quick enough to enjoy the moment of actually being on a date.  So many more of these moments keep happening.  It's always dual-edged, the same thing I am not taking for granted fills me with dread because Sonzee couldn't or cannot do it.  The pain of it continues to get worse for some reason the older she gets.  Sure she can unhook her feeding tube and her stomach drainage and make a wet mess, but the reality is, she cannot and won't ever be able to make any crumbs.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Same

We are a month and 5 days away from Sonzee turning 5.  I really am trying my best to focus on the sheer fact that she will be turning five, that she is here to celebrate such a milestone; but the human side of me says that still is not enough.  It is honestly just not enough to be celebrating a milestone that I am not even sure she realizes is occurring.  The doubt in that fact alone is enough to bring tears into my eyes.  Watching her seize and sleep her days away otherwise is enough to release the tears straight down my face.  It just isn't fair.

We are a month and 5 days away from our youngest being officially more than 2.5 years younger chronologically from Sonzee, but developmentally 2 years more advanced than she will ever be, with an ever-growing gap as each day passes.  It hurts. It hurts in such an incredibly unexpected way.  Watching him as he gains every little skill.  As he speaks more words each day.   With each and every smile he flashes my way.  With every gentle pat and snuggle he gives her and concern he extends toward his bigger sister.  It just isn't how the roles are supposed to be.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever really wrap my head around the fact that this is the life she is destined to live.  I wonder if I will ever truly be able to accept that this is how it is supposed to be.  I wonder if I will one day truly believe she really is who she is and it was a purposeful genetic mistake, or rather not even really a mistake.  I wonder if I will ever be able to give up on what I still honestly secretly wish she could achieve, and the dreams of normalcy I wish her to have.  I wonder if there is ever going to be a way that I can look at her siblings and not have a cloud dampen it because Sonzee isn't or won't be able to do xyz.  The minutes and hours are ticking by.  The days are going by faster than I can keep up.  The years are speeding by at a rate I feel I am not even able to process, but Sonzee, she always stays the same. 

The Mighty Contributor

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


I have been thinking about this post for the last couple of days, thinking how different this one feels to write compared to the previous four year in review posts.  While it has been just another year filled with too many doctors visits to count, approximately 15 or more ER visits, multiple procedures, two potential sepsis' due to central line hospital admissions, PEMU stays, routine meetings, nursing challenges, out of state hospital adventures, and the usual major decision making, it has also been a year that has provided some more specific directions for how we continue our care for Sonzee.

This year we were able to find a seizure tracking device that is actually able to detect Sonzee's bigger seizure types due to a company that was willing to give us a company laptop and the go-ahead to keep it until we figured out the best algorithm for it.  We are so appreciative for this peace of mind we have been given.  2019 was by far the worst year of seizures for her, and despite my firm stance on not trialing another medication, I gave in and it sadly turned out the way I anticipated.  She has had twice the amount of seizures than she did in 2016 and over 160 more than last year.  We end the year with her on 2 high doses of anti-epileptic medications, a rapid cycling VNS, and still no seizure freedom in view. 

2019 was the first entire year of her life she spent with a central line and one that was accessed 269 days of the year.  Having a port afforded her the opportunity of adequate nutrition, the ability to avoid multiple hospital admissions due to the ability to treat her with fluids at home, 1.5 times her hydration needs, and to still spend approximately 60 days in the pool getting her swim on; however, it resulted in at least 52 needle insertions and allergic or adverse reactions to numbing creams and antimicrobial patches.  Via her port Sonzee received Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) and Lipids in addition to her intestinal feeds and gained 4.2 pounds and approximately 7 centimeters.  However, nothing is ever without a cost, and so we also learned this year that she is anemic and for the majority of the year was Fatty acid deficient.  She is currently on or has had treatments to ensure neither becomes a problem in the future.

In 2019 it was confirmed her bone density is due solely to her CDKL5 mutation as her other genetic panels revealed no other genetic mutations.  Throughout 2019 she only suffered two new spinal fractures and one tibia fracture in January, but as of her March scans all bones were healing appropriately and she has (thankfully) not suffered ANY fractures that we are aware of.  In 2019 we learned her DEXA score is -11.8, which places her in the severe osteoporosis category (anything -2.5 and beyond is osteoporosis) and she is her endocrinologist's all-time 2nd worse DEXA scoring patient (yay?!)  During 2019 Sonzee traveled for the 3rd time to the CDKL5 Clinic of Excellence in Denver Colorado, gained a new interventional radiologist at Columbia Presbyterian in NYC, and added another orthopedic doctor here in Phoenix.

During 2019 Sonzee gained a new home health nurse and then 8 months later lost that same nurse so she can could further her career, but her favorite and first nurse since she started with home health nursing became her main and only nurse.  We also sadly lost our favorite clinical nursing supervisor with our agency due to scheduling, and also had yet another change with her DDD supervisor, but we are learning to adapt to these types of changes better.

In 2019 we learned that Sonzee's CVI score drastically fell from a 5 or 6 down to a 1 or 2 despite the fact that CVI scores do not typically worsen (unless there are extenuating circumstances), but she has managed to thankfully be a solid 2 out of 10 based on her December Opthalmology visit.  This, unfortunately, has left her with limited desire/ability to utilize her Tobii eye gaze device and so it sadly sits collecting dust in her room.  During her recent eye visit, we were also given instructions to begin patching again to try and help her better utilize what sight she has with fewer distractions.

The most challenging part of 2019 was watching Sonzee begin a steady decline in all areas of her health and visible zest for life.  2019 led Sam and I to many difficult tear-filled discussions and arguments with multiple professionals in order to determine what is really the best for Sonzee.  We signed a DNR and made the decision to treat her at home and avoid the hospital at all costs.  While the decisions were not easy to make and put a lump in my throat, we know this is for the best for her.  2019 was the year we fully began to fully embrace palliative care on a different level.  It was the year we refused treatments based on our confidence in knowing Sonzee best and with no regret, but with a tinge of sadness lingering in the air over the situation itself.

It is hard to say whether 2019 was Sonzee's worst year, she has had so many rough times during each of her years, I cannot say one full year was actually the worst, but I can say this year was certainly not her best.  I can say with assurance that as we close out this year, it is the one that leaves me feeling the saddest about where we currently stand, and extremely hesitant for what will come.  I feel like 2019 took a lot from our little bear, and along with it a lot of my faith, hope, and what limited positive outlook I might have been hanging on to.  2019 is another chapter I am glad to be turning the page on, but if I am honest, scared to be doing at the same time.  We have enough years under our belts to know better than to ask for calmness or for CDKL5 to be kinder to us, so for 2020, I will ask that whatever happens, I am able to see and truly believe happened for the best.

The Mighty Contributor

Friday, December 27, 2019

Dec 26

It seems like, with all momentous occasions, meaningful dates in the land of medically complex life are just par for the course. The dates and sometimes even specific minutes or hours are etched into your mind as if they are celebrations, and maybe sometimes they even are.  I was signing a paper last night when  I noticed the date was 12/26/19.  It was at the same time I remembered a year ago Sonzee was discharged from her 22 days stay hospitalization on this very date.  While it was not her longest stay ever in her life, it thankfully has been the longest stay for her over the past year.  I certainly didn't forget she spent the majority of December 2018 as a resident of the 8th floor at PCH; meeting Jason Mraz, switching into 3 different rooms and watching the candlelight walk to ignite hope looking through her hospital room window.

Just a year before on December 26, 2017, Sonzee could be found swinging in the infant swing with pillow prop support at the park near our house.  Loving the breeze in her face she smiled multiple times while she was being pushed. 

A year before that on December 26, 2016, we were found in Florida at Sonzee's grandparents opening Chanukah presents while Sonzee worked on tummy time and spent some time relaxing in the hot tub.

During her very first December 26 in 2015, we were in California at Big Bear sledding in the snow.  She actually didn't mind being outdoors and I remember her having a fun time sledding.  During our drive, she gave us one of her biggest smiles I think she has to date ever had. 

On her 5th December 26 in 2019, while she wasn't the happiest bear, she did manage to get some pool time in, while on the last day of our staycation at the Great Wolf Lodge in Scottsdale.  She also was able to participate in her typical routine activities, going on a walk, taking a nice nap,  having a good bath, going in the car, and of course, seizing.  She finished off her day rolling around on a mat and then going to sleep.  It is amazing to me how all five of her December 26ths I remember as if they were all yesterday.  I know better to even attempt to imagine what her sixth one could look like, because a lot can happen in a year.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, December 23, 2019


Sonzee's older siblings always love to put on shows, so when it came time for me to complete their wish lists for Chanuka Angels gifts it was a no brainer to include a karaoke machine and karaoke microphone.  The box of the karaoke machine came unwrapped and our middle daughter knew it was for her because it was in her pile, so she has been eagerly anticipating opening the actual box.  Our son who really didn't know everything that I requested for him was eyeing a specifically shaped box in anticipation of it being a microphone, thankfully it worked out for the best when he opened his gifts.  Sonzee did get a really awesome spinning light wand from her aunt that would be totally awesome to use during their shows, but as usual, despite our best efforts, she was unphased and indifferent to her gifts.

I usually keep Sonzee's gifts limited to things she actually needs, such as clothing, backpacks, pacifiers, or pacifier clips.  She doesn't show any reaction towards anything she is given, and honestly, she doesn't seem to even be aware that she on the receiving end of a gift.  It is probably more a protective mechanism for myself that I limit the types of gifts she receives because there is no excitement, no reaction, really, there is no awareness at all.  From a parent's perspective, it is really sad because the best part of having your child open a gift is their initial reaction.  Due to the safeguards I have in place and the fact that we are blessed with four other kiddos, I didn't find it difficult to handle the gift opening portion last night on the first night of Chanukah but then we started family karaoke and I have yet to find the solution to the unplanned emotional situations that inevitably occur.

The karaoke machine was hooked up to the TV, the microphones were connected, the lyrics were on the screen, red, blue, green, and white disco lights were spinning in a darkened room, and the music was blasting.  We might as well have been called club Zaila, it was the best.  I started to record the kids singing at the top of their lungs and then panned across the room until I got to Sonzee who was just laying in her ppod not participating.  A mixture of exhausted from her recent seizure, the multiple other ones she had throughout the day, and just CDKL5 in general.  She didn't care for the disco lights going, she wouldn't even look at the awesome spinning wand her aunt gave her.  She was just blah.  I felt the tears enter into my eyes, but I immediately pushed them away.  I didn't feel like letting CDKL5 steal another moment.  It was much more fun to focus on my older three dancing while they sang at the top of their lungs, so I flipped my emotional switch to off and pushed the pain away.  Always on the tight rope of acceptance and hope of something.  While I fully accept who she is as a person, I still hold onto some hope that maybe tonight she will want to look at her amazing spinning light-up princess wand when we turn back into club Zaila.   

The Mighty Contributor