Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017

As 2017 is hours away from coming to an end, so is yet another chapter in Sonya's Story.  Sitting here reviewing the past 365 days in my mind takes me on a virtual roller coaster ride complete with flashbacks.  It is always amazing to me how quickly the time has flown but how slow it feels like it is moving at the same time.  Just a year ago I was sitting at my computer writing 2016's end of the year post without a brand new baby in my arms, unsure of the trajectory of 2017, but hopeful because as of press time 2016 Sonzee was seizure free 71 days 8 hours and 26 minutes and she was alive after a touch and go 2016.  Her seizure control would last another 10 days and over the course of 6 weeks we would slowly lose any semblance of control.

Her struggles this year were different than in the years past and while they didn't require many emergent hospitalizations, it is hard to say that the year was any easier.  She did have her fewest emergent hospitalizations with the longest stay being only 8 consecutive days and only a handful of scheduled inpatient stays throughout the year.  Her health overall was relatively stable and while we didn't receive answers for everything, we did learn that her stomach dismotility was not a result of Sam's or my decisions and just part of the luck that came with her CDKL5 mutation.  The jury is still out on if that brings me any sort of peace.

In 2017 Sonzee's CVI score remained unchanged from 4/5 out of 10, and we learned she developed optic nerve damage in her eye due to her 6-month stint on Sabril.  She wore her glasses regularly and we patched her eyes 15 minutes each every day.  Her physical development was mainly unchanged with some decreases in head control and overall strength.  While it is challenging to say if was due to her mutation limitations, medications, or seizures none of the above aided with her gaining skills.  She is still able to roll back and forth, but I leave 2017 slightly disappointed with how that turned out.

2017 was the year we lost complete control of her seizures, going from 310 episodes in 2016 to 595 episodes.  While numb to watching these episodes on repeat daily, this was the year the deep-rooted fear of "is this the seizure that takes her" mixed with the pleads of "please take all of this away from her" planted themselves into my mind.  It was the year we were forced to use her rescue meds for the first time, and (sadly) now have to use on a weekly basis.  It was a year Sonzee failed an additional 3 seizure medications, we had to finally accept CBD wouldn't be her miracle and she underwent surgery to have the Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS) implanted.  It was the year we essentially threw everything we had at her seizures and inevitably fell completely short.

2017 was the year Sonzee turned two and officially became a toddler thus entering the dreaded CDKL5 toddler years.  It was the year she received her first pair of AFOs and Spio suit, two items that will provide her body added support.  She was approved for a communication device and she communicated to us she loves Bruno Mars.  It was the year she went to the dentist for the first time, experienced her first cross country road trip, and met Harper's amazing family in person.  2017 was the year Sam made me realize that no amounts of physical or alternative therapies no matter how expensive, will change who Sonzee is and we decided to encourage her love of being in pool and stopped therapies that won't necessarily be beneficial to her.  


2017 was a year that trampled my spirit to the core and the year I wrote my fewest blog posts.  It was a year that tested every single aspect of my faith and left me with pieces of doubt and many questions.  It was a year that I wanted to admit defeat and just give up on trying to beat CDKL5.  It was a year that I constantly questioned who allows a child to suffer so often and in so many ways.  It was a year that left me feeling continuously broken and challenged to find any ray of hope.  As we close out 2017 I feel my strength has been depleted and just like turning the page to the next chapter in any good book, I will wake up tomorrow in the new year of 2018, eager to see what will be written on the pages ahead.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Do not want...

Between Christmas Eve and Christmas as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed I was met with 100's of sweet family pajama pictures.  I absolutely love watching my friends’ families change and grow over the years; each picture I see brings a smile to my face and for a moment I wonder how on earth time has flown by so quickly.  So many of the pictures were posted in our CDKL5 support page and while I may not personally know these families, I know more about them than some of my closest friends' children.  They posted their pictures with a blurb, "Wishing our CDKL5 family a Merry Christmas" or "From our CDKL5 family to yours..." thrown into the mix were those with well wishes to the families in the hospitals, pictures of her CDKL5 siblings on various breathing equipment helping them to survive their colds and infections.  I was nursing little man and Sonzee was in her Rifton chair participating in her typical hand stereotypies, making her noises that express she is not exactly comfortable and the tears filled my eyes.

I am so grateful for so many of the parents who have become more than just people on the Internet.  I am so thankful there is a place to go that has parents who get it in a manner that no one can unless they have a child who has a CDKL5 mutation.  It is a place that when someone types "I am so sorry you are going through this", you know they aren't just words and that they understand the depths of whatever the current struggle is.  I truly am appreciative of our CDKL5 family, but honestly, I HATE that we are part of this family.  I DO NOT want to understand anything CDKL5.  I DO NOT want to know about seizures and the side effects from being on anti-epileptic drugs.  I DO NOT want to witness so much pain, grief, and sadness.  I DO NOT want to HAVE to celebrate inch-stones.  I DO NOT want to know family support groups like CDKL5 even exist.


On December 15, 2010 on the "on this day" memories page on Facebook was a status I wrote that said, "I know G-d only gives people what they can handle, but some things no one should have to handle".  At the time I could not have predicted how true my own words would circle back to express my current disposition in such an exact manner.  I know this journey was given to Sonzee and our family for a(n) (unknown) reason.  I have to truly believe I can handle it in its entirety, but personally, I feel this is just one of those "life experiences" that no one should know anything about.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

When history repeats

They say "history repeats itself", I sadly don't need to look back on my December blog posts for the past two years to know this is true.  Every year (at least since 2015) around this week in December and into the early spring months, there has inevitably been at least one post asking for prayers for a CDKL5 sibling and their family.  I hate to say that I am numb to reading the posts, but sadly I know what this time of year brings to our small knit group.  It is too painful to accept, but this is just part of our "normal"; yet there is absolutely nothing about it that is normal. 

This time of year is supposed to be full of happiness, full of joy, and full of hope.  Yet there are so many families who are full of the fear this season brings, me included.  It is a time for many that is full of the fear of illness and of hospitalizations, and the unspoken fear that this might be the last holiday season our children will participate with us.  Many will say not to think in negative thoughts, to them I will reply these are simply the facts of living with a medically fragile child. 

Lately my heart feels suffocated by CDKL5.  I feel angry that a "simple" change in genetic coding can have such profound effects.  I feel betrayed in a sense that it was my daughter who was one of the "lucky lottery winners", and my family who has to know the intricacies of this type of life.  Every day finding the positives in living life knowing this string of characters is a choice I have to make.  I make this choice because it is what I need to do to survive, but there is so much heartache, so many fears, and so much grief.  Today I am grasping at the positives, but watching as CDKL5 history repeats itself is causing me to fall a bit short.



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Monday, December 18, 2017

I Did not know...

I had a lot of assumptions of how things would be with a new baby after having a child born with a rare and complex genetic disorder resulting in intractable epilepsy.  I imagined the Moro reflex would make me question infantile spasms and that any type of twitch, jerk, or shake would cause my heart to skip a beat.  I assumed that leaving the hospital without a NICU stay would be emotional, and that the fact my kids were able to wear their "big/little" sibling shirts would cause me some tears because we never got around to doing that when we had Sonzee.  I figured that at some point it would be bitter sweet as I watched Sonzee remain frozen in time and our new baby advance and meet milestones.  What I did not anticipate or did not know (how) to prepare myself for was the constant flashbacks and memory reels playing in my mind of Sonzee as our new baby does something similar to a seizure, but is just being a "typical baby". 

I can vividly see every seizure she had while in the NICU that had me on edge, but that happened too quickly for any medical professional to share in my concern.  I can clearly remember saying to my mom during that first week in the NICU that my fear was Sonzee was constantly seizing because of her wonky eye movements.  I remember when my dad told me "the thing about seizures is that you just have to wait and see".  I don't even have to close my eyes to see the video of Sonzee's seizure that won us her ticket to the PEMU at PCH at just 4 weeks old.  I can "play it back" in my mind on repeat and tell you every detail.  I know it is completely acceptable that I am on "red alert" with Sonzee's baby brother, but I didn't expect for every little similar movement to bring back the live playback of Sonzee front and center. 

Despite relying on the statistics that "it would be extremely rare" for another child of ours to have CDKL5 or even another de novo mutation, there was and is a constant fear lurking in the back of my mind about "what if"; after all, Sonzee is an extremely rare statistic.  There is nothing anyone can say that will calm the fears of the potential of rare occurring in any facet within our family.  Despite a friend of mine who has a 2 year old daughter with CDKL5 and an infant son warning me that things would be different this time, I shrugged the warnings off, because I am a seasoned neurotic mother and all but one (now two) of my children have been to a neurologist at some point in their lives for various reasons. 

I did not know that a simple sound, eye flutter, or body movement would cause my body to freeze and bring on a complete panic attack.  I did not know there were so many "weird" things that newborn babies can do, and I have no idea how I did not notice these with my first three, or did I?  I did not know there were so many ways to analyze "typical baby behaviors".  I did not know how scarred I am or how tainted my views have become due to life with rare and specifically CDKL5.  I didn't know so much fear circulates within my body that I bury on a daily basis.  What I did not assume or know was just how mentally challenging a baby after Sonzee was going to be.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Comfort

On Wednesday I took little man to his 2 week checkup.  As we walked into the room the nurse asked me if I had any concerns.  I paused for a moment as I formed the thoughts in my mind to attempt a coherent sentence aloud, and then muttered the words, "Concerns?  umm...I don't know if I would classify anything as a concern...nope".  We did the typical weigh in, head circumference, and height check, and then she said that our pediatrician would be in shortly. 

When our doctor walked in we engaged in our typical small talk and she looked over little man.  I don't know why, but every second felt like an eternity, as if her thoroughness meant she was going to tell me something was "off".  Besides commenting on his clogged tear duct and writing a script for some eye ointment, she never mentioned a concern.  Near the end of our visit I mustered the courage to bring up my "not really concerns, concerns"...

Me: "Ok, the "typical baby shakes" when do they end?" (I was relieved when her face said "you aren't crazy")
Dr. K: "Oh, those can be a couple of months",
Me: "Ok, because they are honestly making me crazy, even though they are completely different than Sonzee's 'shakes'".
Dr. K: "Well you can always send me a video"
Me: "You'll just tell me it's normal
Dr. K: "But if it makes you feel better..."
Will anything short of a PEMU stay, genetic testing, and time actually make me feel better?  Despite trusting ALL of Sonzee's doctors as much as I am capable of trusting a medical professional, words without anything tangible to back up claims will not calm my mind or fears.  Almost 3 years ago I told multiple doctors and nurses my concerns over my 20 minute old daughter and none of them listened.  The NICU nurses and doctors while amazing, never entertained seizures and Sonzee's original pediatrician also told me "you have a healthy baby" and "babies do weird things".  I don't fault any of these professionals, Sonzee is rare, early onset seizures are NOT typical, CDKL5 is NOT common; but besides having to rely on my (conflicted) gut, time, faith, and hope, I am not sure there is anything that will give me actual comfort.



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Monday, December 11, 2017

It's not just me...

Our lives forever changed when our Sonzee bear entered into this world.  It wasn't just mine and Sam's, it was also her two sisters and one brother who became immersed in a world of medical jargon, hospitalizations, and talk that is not exactly suitable for children.  They (as most children do) adapted quickly to our normal and made us as parents even more proud than we knew was possible as we watched them interact and include Sonzee in their sibling activities.  No matter what though, it never was the older sibling experience that they would have asked for.  Sonzee's oldest sister wanted (and still wants) nothing more than to hold her and walk around, or hold her hand and help her walk, or get on all fours and chase her around.  All of these experiences have just not been possible, and while sad, our oldest as resilient as anything, has made the best out of the situation.

When our oldest found out we were expecting this time she was so excited, I was so excited at the hope of providing her a new healthy sibling that she could tote around and interact with in a more typical manner.  Apprehensive but optimistic we answered her with "g-d willingly yes", and "hopefully that will be the case", as she asked if she would be able to do all the things she isn't able to with Sonzee.  Fast forward to 3am on the morning her baby brother was born.  She was too tired to sleep once she woke up and found our baby sitter in our house and so when Sam went home to grab some items the first question he was met with was, "Does baby have CDKL5?"

We did a screening during our pregnancy which indicated at 97% her baby brother does not have CDKL5, so Sam told her g-d willingly no.  I don't think I mentioned to anyone that our oldest asked that question because I was honestly so heartbroken about it.  I wasn't heartbroken that she was concerned or that she asked in general, I was heart broken because with her asking that question it showed me just how impacted she has been by her sisters diagnosis.  In her almost 8 year old way, she let us know she too is scared of her baby brother not being typical and or healthy.  I honestly can't and don't blame her, as a parent I am petrified of anything being "off" with this little dude.  It is just part of the everlasting scarring that is brought into a family once they become a rare statistic.

As my oldest holds the baby and he makes random, jerking movements more than once she has either stated "that looks like a seizure ema", or "is that a seizure".  I have to admit my heart skips a beat each time she mentions it, yet attribute it to any potential denial or overt confidence in my gut, but I assure her that "babies do weird things".  I am continually talking myself off the proverbial ledge of panic attacks, and have managed to have only 1.5 in his 12 days of life, I will take that as a success.  Thankfully our pediatrician understands and is quick to reply to my messages of panic.  I think it is going to take us all some time to accept that our little guy is (appearing) healthy and (g-d willingly) typical.  While there is some comfort that it is not just me, I so wish it wasn't my 7 year old who is laced with this same burden.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Adjusting...

It has been a week since we brought home our new little man.  A week of adjustments for Sonzee and for our parenting of her.  She has been receiving extra love while in and out of the Ryan House and we couldn't be more thankful for having such a facility to help us care for her.  Her seizures have continued to be atrocious and I have already sat on the floor breastfeeding a newborn while consoling her and simultaneously crying.  Honestly the weight of it all at times is a bit much.  I have found myself wondering "why her?" and "why us?" more often than not.  

I know this newborn stage will fly by for our little man and I am torn on wanting to cherish and pause every second of it all and wanting it to fly by to be a bit more manageable for myself.  My heart is in a constant battle with itself bursting with joy and sadness literally in the same seconds.  Watching little man perform a simple task of moving his eyes in a way that Sonzee never did, focusing on my face with the blank newborn look of curiosity, another thing Sonzee never did.  All these small little things that he is doing that had me on edge with Sonzee because "something just wasn't right".  My heart simply hurts for her, for what she must endure, for what she doesn't get to do, for what her siblings won't have with her, for what I can't change or fix, for what we missed out on together.


I know the next couple of weeks will involve a lot of tears, both happy and sad, as we learn how to balance our "new normal".  I know it will be filled with a multitude of smiles and some stings to the heart.  I know it will be filled with a mixture of doubt and worry, deep breaths, and confidence that things will work out positively as I slowly learn to overcome the fears brought on by having a newborn turn out to be a statistic.  I know this part of our journey is going to be filled with difficulties, different trials and errors, and a good portion of mommy guilt...but then I have to ask myself, what journey isn't?

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Facing Facts

I am sitting in my newly renovated master bedroom, listening to the musical sounds coming from a swinging baby cradle swing holding a 67-hour old baby boy, and diagonal from another newly renovated space whose occupant is currently sleeping downtown.  It is probably not a fair week to judge me on my emotions, but my heart is bursting at the seams and simultaneously broken into pieces.  Most of these emotions I expected, but then there are the others, the sneaky ones, the ones that I wasn't aware even existed.

We introduced Sonzee's baby brother to all his siblings when he was about 14 hours old.  He was sleeping and content and doing exactly what a typical newborn baby should be doing.  He wasn't hooked up to any oxygen or receiving any antibiotics, and he didn't provide me with that lingering feeling of "something just is not right".  Our oldest two children were beyond excited to run over to the bassinet and see him inside, while our third child was a bit nervous and reserved.  Then there was Sonzee, sitting in her wheelchair, kicking her feet, moving her body, and I wondered, "Does she know what's going on?".  I quickly moved on from that thought, because honestly what almost three-year-old really understands the gravity of what having a new sibling means?!

Each sibling took turns saying, "hi baby", patting him, and holding him, and before it got too crazy I wanted a picture of my 5 babies, so I gave our oldest our youngest and I snapped about 40 pictures.  My heart exploding the entire time as I sat with them all, and then it was time for everyone to go home and get ready for bed.  After they left I took out my phone and reviewed the pictures of the meet and greet.  They are some of my most favorite pictures on a whole, but then it hit me like running into a brick wall.  4 out of 5 of our kids were sitting on the bed, while Sonzee was in her wheelchair.  In that moment it was a colossal explosion in my brain.  

I could have 10 more children, but none of them are going to make her typical.  Did I subconsciously think that a healthy child would erase the last 2 years and 9 months of pain I have experienced by watching her endure all she has?  Did I think that a new baby would suddenly cure her of her CDKL5 mutation and she would get up and jump on the bed with her siblings?  Did I think the memories of her NICU stay and the initial unknown worry, panic, fear, and confusion surrounding her first hours of life would be replaced by a new experience?  What exactly did I think would happen when this little man was born (g-d willingly) healthy?  


When Sonzee was the youngest her experiences were removed from those of her siblings.  There are years between when she should have completed certain skills and the moments her older siblings mastered them.  When I see other children Sonzee's age it doesn't bring me pain, and I have 3 other typical children I can quickly swap out the experience with, so I am no longer focused on "what if that were Sonzee?".  I don't think I fully realized that by having these amazingly positive experiences as we move forward, I will now have to really deal with the pain and the heartache of what we never had and won't have with our Sonzee.



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Sonzee's Slideshow