Friday, May 26, 2017

Never ending with GI....

If you have been following Sonzee’s journey for a while now then you are probably aware that her biggest battle has always been her gastrointestinal system.  Since she was six months old she has battled with gaining weight and from trying to solve that issue we found ourselves on a downward spiral in the land of GI.  We started by having a gtube placed, thinking that would solve the problem, but we all know that did nothing to help.  From that point onward it has been a constant battle of trying to keep her health and keep her comfortable, lately, both I feel we are failing with.

When she hit rock bottom last May we had no choice but to start her on TPN (Total parenteral nutrition: Intravenous feeding that provides patients with all the fluid and the essential nutrients they need when they are unable to tolerate anything into their stomach/gut).  We transitioned from TPN to intestinal feeds that went through an NJ (naso-jejunum-from her nose into her intestines).  A lot of people assumed her tube in her nose was going into her stomach, but it was actually bypassing her stomach and going into the 2nd part of her intestines.  The thought or hope (if you will) was that her stomach would miraculously turn back on and we could get her off the intestinal feeds.  A year later and this has proven to not be the case (I am honestly not the least bit surprised).  When she was finally big enough, we had the NJ removed and they added in an extension to her stomach tube, which is what she has now, and it is a GJ tube (goes to both stomach and intestine).  We only use her intestinal port except to open the stomach side to let out excessive air in the hopes it will make her more comfortable.

She has had various tests performed on her GI system, besides showing she has extremely slow motility (movement of her stomach and intestines as far as processing food and moving it through the system), they all always come back “normal”.  She has spent most her days over the last year miserable, in pain, and uncomfortable from her feeds.  We cannot turn them off because she needs to keep hydration, we cannot run them any slower because she needs to keep hydration.  We are stuck, grid locked by the way her body interprets typical bodily functions such as gas, digestion, and bowel movements.  She was diagnosed back in November with visceral hyperalgesia, which is the term used to describe the experience of pain within the inner organs (viscera) at a level that is more intense than normal.  A diagnosis that gets her nowhere but to take another medication that does nothing to relieve her symptoms. 

I have reached my breaking point with these GI issues.  Her doctors tell me they have done everything they can do.  I agree that they have tested plenty, but I do not agree that there is not some option out there that would be a better answer for her.  We have an appointment with her palliative care doctor next week because her quality of life is far more important to me than the quantity.  She CANNOT be this miserable any longer.  It is beyond disheartening to watch her suffer daily.  There must be some solution besides “dealing with it” and another medication that only appears to be a solution but in reality, does nothing long term.  I am hanging onto a small thin thread of hope that we will reach some sort of resolve next week, whatever it may be…but let me tell you, after the past two years it’s really challenging to believe we will find a winning solution.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Missed out moments

For those of you who I know personally and were able to view Sonzee's (as of 8 hours and 59 minutes ago) now four year old sister slather lotion all over herself and her bedroom, I hope it provided you a decent bedtime laugh.  For those of you who were unable to view the video, it went something like this.  I went to get a t-shirt out of Sonzee's sister's dresser and noticed she was not in her bed, but instead there was a lotion container extremely messy along with her pillow, sheets, and blanket.  I summoned for her and she came back into the bedroom from the hall bathroom, which I had just walked by, but somehow missed seeing her.  I asked her why lotion was all over bed, and then I noticed it was all over her body, her clothing, her hair, the floor in was EVERYWHERE.  The only thing I did besides ask her what she was doing was call for Sam to come to her room.

While she burst into tears explaining she was extremely itchy all over her body (she has bad eczema) she noticed Sam and I were "holding back" our laughter and so she calmed down.  We of course had to document this moment to look back on as the years pass by as her final hoo-ra of an event as a three year old, and so we recorded the outcome of lathering her body in Eucerin cream to combat her itchiness.  The video goes onto to show her telling Sam it was in fact me who put the lotion all over her and then she gave her signature "get out of jail free card" grin indicating that maybe that really was not the case, but never fully admitting it was in fact her who placed the lotion on her body and the contents of her bedroom.  The video ends with her saying next time she will ask for me or Sam to come and put the lotion on.

After giving her another shower, changing her sheets, and rubbing the lotion off of her furniture and the floor I became a bit sad thinking about the fact that Sonzee won't be able to pull off these types of shenanigans.  These are the moments that unfortunately don't permit themselves in the special needs world, at least not the one Sonzee is in.  Even if she has the desire to do so, she lacks the motor planning and actual physical capabilities of pulling off such a fete.  She is unable to climb out of her crib, grab a lotion container, sit back on her bed and attempt to relieve her itchiness or whatever else a toddler is thinking in their mind.  She cannot rip out pages of a book, get construction paper and attempt to write her own book using the spine of the original.  She cannot sneak into the kitchen grab candy and "drop itself into the stomach without tasting it".  These are just childhood achievements she won't ever get to participate in.

It is moments like this one that are bitter sweet.  Maybe I only appreciate the joy, creativity, and overall fantastic humor of these events because we have a Sonzee.  There was honestly no getting mad or even annoyed, there was definitely an element of surprise and shock, but I was more in awe of her desire to handle the situation on her own and choosing to do so in that manner.  One of my most commonly thought and uttered parenting phrase is "what were you thinking?" and my favorite part is hearing each of my children's replies. However, without their specific replies the event in and of itself is usually momentous and does not require an explanation, so it just sucks we won't get these types of moments with Sonzee.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Keeping the faith....

Lately I have been really struggling with the whole concept of having faith.  It is hard for me to keep hope and be optimistic when I feel surrounded by not only Sonzee, but other little children trying to battle incurable disorders and diseases.  I realize it is during these types of times that I should feel the magnetic pull to G-d to place my fears, frustrations, and questions on him...but for some reason, I just cannot.  I am unsure if it is because I secretly believe I have some sort of control of how anything in my life is supposed to go and "having faith" admits that I am relying on something other than myself, or am I afraid that having faith puts me in a vulnerable position to be extremely disappointed with the outcome?  

The biggest challenge with my ability to keep faith is that I feel like for the past two years I have been relying on my faith to get me through and I continuously feel "let down".  Maybe that is not necessarily fair considering how many times in the past two years Sonzee has scarcely made it out of various situations; but truthfully, it just feels like it prolongs the war and has not really gotten us completely out of the trenches.  I do not even believe being told we are "in the all clear" is at all possible with a diagnosis like CDKL5, but it just continuously feels like we are being lifted up to crash back down.  Am I feeling this solely because my faith is wavering?  

When we have been faced with situations I try to look, focus, and believe in what the best-case scenario might turn out to be...and the majority (if not every time) that is never how our reality turns out.  It becomes an arduous task to continuously set myself up for the potential disappointment, which to be honest in our case is typically not potential but actually, more likely.  If there is a "rare" complication/side effect, you can bet money that it has Sonzee's name on it; complications that are even rare to other children who have CDKL5 mutations.  27 months of watching my baby girl suffer has drained a lot of my faith and I am desperately trying to not lose it all, but every day it is becoming increasingly difficult. 

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The evolving role of Mother's Day

From the time I was a little girl I have wanted to be a mom.  I couldn't wait to grow up, get married, and have a baby of my own.  When Sam and I first got married I (naively) thought that it would happen just as I had dreamt.  The first 9 months of our marriage turned out differently than I anticipated as month after month I cried never seeing one positive pregnancy test.  In May 2009 when Mother's Day came around I was so overwhelmingly excited for my friends who had been or would shortly be blessed with their new titles of mom, but equally heartbroken it wasn't my turn.  Sam bought me my first Mother's Day card with words of encouragement, but my heart was shattered.  Within weeks of that "first" Mother's Day I found out that my dream would be coming true.

In 2010 I was beyond fortunate to celebrate Mother's Day as a mom of a beautiful baby girl, my dream finally complete.  In 2011, I was not only a mom to Laeya, but I was pregnant with our second child.  I was so beyond excited to celebrate that day, but my heart broke for those who were still struggling to build their families.  I felt so fortunate to be where I was.  By 2014 I would celebrate Mother's Day as a mom of three, and by 2015, a mom of four.  The day always amazing,  but that year was my first time with the title of "special needs mom".  At the time that specific title was new and had little meaning to me, but as the years continue on the uniqueness of that title plays a bigger role.

By the end of the summer of 2016 Sam and I were surprised when we found out we were expecting baby #5.  We were surrounded by fear and uncertainty rather than the typical burst of excitement.  We were scared and unsure. What if the baby wasn't typical? What if the baby had special needs?  What would people think that we were chancing fate?  By the beginning of October those fears were unnecessary as we didn't see or hear a heartbeat, we experienced our first miscarriage.  We were both "at peace" not being faced with needing to make challenging testing decisions or playing the "what would we do if" game, and we felt thankful that G-d intervened how he felt necessary.

Today is Mother's Day 2017.  I am so honored to celebrate being a mom to four amazing children I have been fortunate to meet, yet today is the first day my heart hurts in a different way.  Based on my previous pregnancy experiences and my due dates, I would be holding or about to be holding baby #5.  I wonder if my son would have a brother or if he would still be the prince of the castle.  I wonder how I would manage being a mom to Sonzee and a baby, and I wonder how amazing it would be for Laeya to be the biggest sister of four.  I think about how fortunate I am that today I can snuggle my four awesome children because there are so many beautiful mom's I know who are unable to do that, but today is the first day I have given this topic enough thought to be sad the number isn't five.

Mother's Day to me isn't about being spoiled or wanting to be appreciated more than any other day.  It isn't about what gifts I get or if Sam was able to get to the store last minute to pick me up a card (that I honestly could live without).  For me, Mother's Day is about honoring what it is to be a mom and learning how to adapt to the various titles, curve balls, and ever changing roles that come with being a mother.  Today is one of those reminders of how mothering can be done in so many different and beautiful ways.  So if you are a pregnant mom, a mom to a child you didn't birth, or one you had to or have to share with someone else, a physically living child, a healthy child, a sick child, a child you never got to hold in your arms, or to a child you are no longer able to hold in your arms, today and every day you should be honored to be a mother, and I wish you the happiest of Mother's Days.

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

it will be...

I feel like there used to be a time when I could undoubtedly say to someone "things will be fine".  I do not remember second guessing the words or ever really giving it an extra thought of whether the outcome would actually be "fine", because of course it would be.  Everything works out...until it does not, and then you realize saying "everything will be fine" may not actually set a person at ease, because no, things may not be.  There used to be a time that my neurotic parenting fears were based off reading blogs of parents going through horrific battles, or having a friend of a friend experience something rare and challenging with their child.  Then one day, two years ago I am the one who began blogging.

I wish I could back to a time when my fears were completely irrational instead of them being because I am parenting a medically complex child who has changed the way I parent all my children.  I wish I could go back to a time when my brain would interpret ailments for what they were instead of everything turning into a code red/worst case scenario.  I wish I had not let this life get me so jaded.  I know there is always hope for the best, but I struggle believing the outcome will be "fine". 

It is a hard place to be stuck in between wanting to believe "things will be fine", reality, and things actually turning out to be fine.  I find myself holding back telling others things will work out and then I wonder if that is helpful or not.  I know people have to have hope, but I feel like it isn't my place to reassure someone when I honestly do not know...will things be fine?

I do believe everything will be the way it is meant to be, but no, I do not always feel things will always be fine.  I do however believe no matter what it is, you will be able to handle it.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

No longer a baby...

We got up and went to the airport yesterday like we have done many times with Sonzee in tow.  We even managed to get there early (yes, even we are capable of doing that on occasion- we just try not to make a habit of it).  We got through security in our usual amount of time with the typical pat-down and analysis of all the supplies we bring for her.  TSA at Phoenix Sky Harbor is always amazing to deal with and we never have any problems, things just take time.  The truth is, no matter how prepared we are, how accommodating everyone is, or how smoothly the process goes, traeveling with a medically complex child is still extremely hard.

Yesterday was the first time we flew with Sonzee in her convertible carseat, in the past she has been in the infant carseat, so of course, there will be a new learning curve.  We were the third in line for preboarding (Sam and the kids came with us) and we were the reason the plane was four minutes late departing.  I will let that sink in with you for a bit.  It took us the entire time of the boarding process to get her carseat installed correctly and we ended up having to forward face her because the distance between the seats would not allow for the proper recline with her seat facing rear.  Yes, Sonzee's one famous skill is her head/neck control, but it is nowhere near what a typical two year old's ability is or should be.  No matter the various supports I tried, her poor neck was flopping forward.  This was not ideal.

When we finally got her situated, the plane pulled back from the gate.  During the chaos of boarding, the pilot (who actually helped carry our bags onto the plane) placed Sonzee's medical bag in the overhead bin while we organized to make things easier and I never had a chance to grab her VNS magnets in all the chaos.  Naturally, it made sense that during our exact pull back from the gate she would have a seizure and her magnets would be out of my reach.  Again, thankful for being with amazing care, we pressed the call button and the flight attendant more than happily grabbed her magnets and checked up on us multiple times within the 6 minutes it took for us to get to the runway to ask if we were okay to take off.

Thank G-d for the amazing staff at Southwest who never once said anything negative, did anything to insinuate we had to rush and were overwhelmingly supportive during our entire experience.  Like I mentioned previously, this all helps, but the fact is this traveling gig is not what pleasant dreams are made of.  We have medical bags complete with essentially a portable hospital; a pulse oximeter, portable oxygen concentrator, feeding pump and supplies, medications and supplemental supplies that go along with her VNS, not to mention the various other supplies that come with having a toddler who is essentially still a baby.

I guess I had not really considered that traveling on a plane as she got older would be significantly more challenging.  Even with her being in the 2% for weight and height I didn't even bother changing her in the small little fold out table in the bathroom because she is too long.  I think the reality is setting in that we are no longer traveling with a baby, we are traveling with a child who has special needs.

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Monday, May 1, 2017

It's been busy

Life is busy.  It isn't busy in a bad way, just the typical chaos of having a family of six and the school year winding down, doctors appointments, extracurruicular activities, and getting ready to head to Florida in a couple of days for a family event.  I try to do posts two to three times a week, but each time I opened the screen to write something over the past week, I ended up just staring blankly at the screen.  So much going on, yet nothing I really want to write about.

We are traveling again on Thursday this week and we have (thankfully) chosen to fly Southwest.  I am not really that worried as our typical experiences with them have been nothing but amazingly accomodating and the one small glitch we had was not with any member of the airline, but just disgruntled passengers.  So I am hoping to report only good things.  This will be her first time flying with her VNS, and I am slightly excited to show them her little card.  We have never had issues going through security with her feeding tube connected or with her supplies, so again, I am not worried, but it is always a little anxiety filled leading up to the actual experience.

We have an official start date for the construction we have been planning for the past two years.  We begin demolition a week from today and it will probably be 4-6 months until everything is completed.  I am extremely excited to be getting a garage so that will make getting Sonzee in and out of the house much easier.  We are also giving her her own room in our master bedroom which will be great for everyone.  It sometimes doesn't really process in my mind that we have a two year old toddler sleeping in a crib right next to our bed.  While we have decorated her small little corner with her name on the wall, and she has almost an equal amount of furniture in our room as us, I am sure she will appreciate her own space.  The best part of her new room is that it is literally a wall seperating her from us, but it won't add any additional time in getting to her quickly.

The other main event that I have slowly been getting ready for is our trip to New York for the summer.  It will be nice to not be home during the invasive portions of our construction, and it will also be an amazing retreat for us.  I am really hoping Sonzee's tube issues have been sorted out prior to us leaving because the nearest children's hospital will be 2 hours away and I would  prefer not to get on an email correspondence basis with any doctors there.  We were extremely lucky to have an encounter last summer with a doctor who works at the pediatrician's office, so hopefully if she requires anything at all, it will be the basic lab work and quick/easy fixes.

Seizures unfrotunately have not improved, but we are hoping once we start to amp up her VNS on Wednesday that will change.  We are also going to be weaning her of her medication, as the VNS will take the place of hopefully preventing status epilepticus, it is a fancy term for saying a nonstop seizure state.  If you click on the link you will notice more recently they term "status" as a seizure lasting longer than 5 minutes, and Sonzee's always last 5 minutes so we are basically concerned about one that might not stop after a rescue medication was administered.  There is no way to prevent it, nor do they really know what causes it, but it is definitely more common in patients like Sonzee who have uncontrolled epilepsy, so we like to keep her "armed" in a sense with at least seizure fighting modality.  We would just prefer to not have the side effects of these medications that are clearly not helping her seizures at all.

I will hopefully post a blog or two more this week.  Thank you all for keeping up with Sonya's Story.  I am happy to report that we will be sending off our contribution to UCSan Diego to help store Harper's cells within the month.  It feels amazing to have raised $5,000 to go towards this cause.  Thank you to everyone who has donated so far.  If you haven't checked out the awesome perks, please be sure to visit: Sonya's Story: Feeding Harper's Cell Line.

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