Monday, September 16, 2019

September

I wonder what it is about September and my inability to get my thoughts out of my mind.  I am thinking it is because this month historically tends to bring about undesirable thoughts or just doesn't do much to bring closure to any situations we are currently facing.  I have spent the majority of the previous two weeks not even wanting to sit down and write.  A few times I did consider it, but then decided I wasn't ready to make my thoughts completely public.  One additional time I began to write and two paragraphs in I was met with a barricade and haven't gone back to see if I am able to finish.  Tonight I am watching the time tick by, my eyes are blurry, but for some reason, this piece of paper keeps calling me back to it.

There is a constant lump stuck in my throat and tears that are literally a blink away.  4.5 years ago I couldn't have imagined a more delicate, emotional, and challenging journey to unfold for us.  4.5 years ago she was doing so well comparatively, and we were going to have the child who "broke the mold", who was the outlier, who didn't check off every damn box in the potential for CDKL5 directory.  4.5 years ago I told myself that she probably wouldn't sit, and if she did it would be around 3 as a method of self-preservation, but deep down I rooted for her, and could envision the excitement and party that was definitely going to unfold when she DID meet that milestone.  4.5 years ago we were blissfully unaware of the struggles that were occurring within her body metabolically and gastrointestinally speaking.  4.5 years ago we took it all day by day but woke up each day celebrating whatever Sonzee-stone she met.

Today on the couch in our living room we had another weighted conversation.  This wouldn't be the first of its kind this month, and it certainly won't be the last.  They are conversations that I never anticipated could occur in a casual manner, as we were drinking some cold brew, and while two of our kiddos were running through the house.  Conversations that prompted us to keep sending the one child who was old enough to understand on various expeditions to keep him out of earshot because it probably wasn't the most appropriate conversation for a child to be overhearing.  But as everything else CDKL5 related, we find ourselves dealing with a new normal, of completely abnormal and just going along with it, because that is all there really is for us to do. 


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, September 9, 2019

Choices.

A week ago everyone was home from school, the day was perfect to be outdoors, and without even second-guessing anything, we took Sonzee's port needle out and she was able to spend her day in her favorite place, the pool.  Despite losing time on her TPN/Lipids, it was an obvious choice. On Tuesday my phone rang and it was her endocrinologist's nurse.  I can't say I was not expecting this phone call, but I would be lying if I didn't admit that it should have occurred weeks ago and I was just waiting for it to happen.  The insurance kinks of her bone infusion have been worked out (I knew this weeks ago, but didn't rush to tell the office) because we have yet to decide is if it is in Sonzee's best interest for her to undergo the infusion.  On Wednesday Sonzee ended up with a fever and the protocol with the central line is anything over 100.4 becomes an automatic ER trip, yet we didn't exactly rush to take her in, the odds were in her favor that it was "just a virus", and lately the consideration of hospice has been on our minds.

Choices.  This journey presents us with the illusion of choices.  A choice is deciding on what is for lunch or dinner, or what drink you want from Starbucks.  By the way, all of those, thanks to the type of choices we have been presented for the past 4.5 years evoke major anxiety and panic attacks.  How is it even considered a choice to decide if Sonzee should go in the pool and have fun or be given nutrition?  Why do we have to decide to attempt to strengthen her bones to maybe prevent fractures and improve her bone health or keep her from experiencing 6 weeks or more of pain that historically wreaked so much havoc on her body she will cry to be picked up and won't be able to tolerate feeds for weeks?  Why are we even having to consider if we should be switching our 4.5-year-old daughter from palliative care to hospice care? 

None of this makes sense. Processing that this is part of our journey knocks the air out of my lungs. These choices might not have a "right" or "wrong" answer, but the results of each choice impact her life and our family's life.  There is no way around sugar coating the immense amount of weight that we are bearing.  I wish the biggest choices we were faced with were, which after school activities she wanted to be participating in, what lunch she wanted us to pack, and does she want to sleep with a nightlight on in her room?  But, that isn't our reality, and that isn't how life with a CDKL5 mutation works, so I will wipe away my tears, pull on the big girl panties, and try to do this right.


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, August 26, 2019

"Giving up"


This meme keeps popping up in my newsfeed.  The first time I read it quickly and passed by it, it was not the right time.  Then, of course, like a wildfire, it began to get copied and pasted by so many parents of CDKL5 kiddos and parents of children with medical complexities, so it popped up more and more.  Each time it emerged I couldn't stop myself from reading it, so each time my eyes would become watery and I would again move off the image.  I knew I wanted to save the image for when I was ready to address the words I kept reading, so eventually, I right-clicked it and pressed "save image", and now approximately a week after the first time I saw it, here I am.

"You're really advocating for someone's quality of life.  That's the moment you realize that you won't give up"

These two sentences take the air out of my lungs.  Maybe they hit home because of what is going on currently, maybe it would have knocked the wind out of me regardless of where we were on this journey had it appeared at another time in my newsfeed?  But all I think after I read the last sentence is, "what is giving up? what does giving up look like, how are those words even part of this picture?"  Advocating for someone's quality life is no small feat.  It looks vastly different for every single person who has to do it.  Advocating on someone's behalf is scary and unknown and when it comes to "quality of life" I feel like the answers are blurry, but the giving up part does not present itself as a single moment when it becomes "more than accommodations".  If you are advocating on behalf of a person there shouldn't be an epiphany where you suddenly realize "that you won't give up", because advocating in and of itself means you are going to represent what is best for that person until you are red in the face and no one has any doubts that you aren't backing down until this person's needs are met.  

Yet, the weight that is placed on those of us who are responsible for advocating for a person's quality of life is unexplainable.  It often brings with itself the inner feeling of wondering if a choice will be considered to be "giving up".  When it comes to "quality of life" in a medically complex child, who is to say what "giving up" looks like?  If the choice you choose on behalf of "quality of life" results in a potentially shorter life is that giving up?  Is it "giving up" if you no longer choose to keep seeking treatments?  If the main goal is "quality of life", then I feel like the words "giving up" should never even enter into our minds, because it has to be known that there is no such thing as "giving up".

The Mighty Contributor

Thursday, August 22, 2019

When life gives you lemons


When Sonzee was only 10.5 months I wrote a blog post about lemons.  As I read it now I know it was one of those posts that I wrote to try to boost my morale and attempt to be positive.  So much has happened since that blog post, yet there is still the same passionate desire for "her life [to] be easier, less painful, less scary, and less dependent."  I cannot say that these past 3.5 years have brought any of those things, but it certainly was not for the lack of trying.  I know we have made every decision for her based on our desire for her to achieve her best quality of life possible.  I will always wonder if she feels we have been successful or if she wishes we made different choices.  

Last night one of her sisters was at a class at the mall and while I waited I was able to walk around a little.  I have been meaning to get the initial bracelet for her baby brother because my best friend started the tradition when our oldest was born when she sent me the "L".  So when I saw the Alex and Ani store, I walked inside.  After picking up the letter "N", I was taking a look around.  These last few weeks we have been bearing an extremely heavy weight on our shoulders and I wanted to see if anything spoke to me, so when I saw the lemon, my only decision was necklace or bracelet.

I wish I knew what you're supposed to do "when life gives you lemons" because Sam and I don't always agree.  We have tried shelving them, squeezing them, making lemonade, freezing them, throwing them, making margaritas and every other possible alcoholic beverage with them.  Nothing seems to be fulfilling, nothing seems to make me feel like we have done anything correctly, nothing seems to make sense, and nothing seems to have made a damn bit of difference for everything we have done for Sonzee.  The only thing I can say is that we have been doing our absolute best and no matter where this journey goes, there won't ever be regrets.  

So every day I put this necklace around my neck I will remind myself that when life gave us lemons we did everything we could with the information that was given to us, with the support of those who have shared in the ups and downs of this roller coaster ride of a journey, and that really was the best we could do, no matter how short-changed or inadequate it might have felt.


The Mighty Contributor

Friday, August 16, 2019

Riverbend

We had the Alexa playing Disney radio this afternoon after Sonzee got home from school.  I feel like more often than not it plays the same exact songs on repeat; songs from Beauty & the Beast, Frozen, Moana, Tarzan, Little Mermaid, and The Lion King are the most often played.  For some reason today I noticed not only once, but at least twice "Riverbend" from Pocahontas came on, I wonder if it has played before and I just didn't hear it, or if today it was just one of those songs that came on because it was so relatable.

I feel like life has given us a swift kick in the behind these days.  These last two weeks especially have been weighing ridiculously heavily on me.  It seems it is just one thing after the other and I have no idea why it feels like everything is crashing down around us.  We have been in the trenches before, but for some reason, this time just feels different. As usual, I have no idea what lies ahead, but this time my heart hurts for different reasons and my gut is yelling at me at the top of its lungs.  It is deafening and suffocating any other thoughts all at the same time. 

It's tough, although I feel like that word doesn't really bring justice to what this whole journey has been and continues to be. But tough is just what it is, and for now "I look once more just around the river bend.  Beyond the shore where the gulls fly free.  Don't know what for what I dream the day might send. Just around the river bend for me"


The Mighty Contributor

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Resurface

The pain that accompanies this experience is one that I am sure will resurface as the years continue to breeze on by. 

I was driving in the car this morning on the way to a toddler gymnastics class with Sonzee's baby brother.  I have been looking forward to starting this class since the minute he was born.  As the months past by I was so eager to enroll him, and finally about 3 weeks ago I did just that.  I confirmed that our beloved Coach Susan was teaching all the morning classes like she did over the previous years.  Halfway to the gym my eyes filled with tears as I was thinking the first time we set foot in this gym was 8 years ago, then our second child followed suit as soon as he was 18 months, followed again by our 3rd, but then our time with Coach Susan came to an end with Sonzee, and now here I am bringing baby #5.  At that moment I remembered I had written a post about that chapter closing.  While not completely surprised I found myself crying again in the car, it still caught me off guard.

My heart finds itself in a constant battle of celebrating these amazing family milestones and broken over Sonzee never being able to be part of them.  Had she been able to bear weight maybe we could have modified the class?  Had she been able to sit maybe we could have had her do the circle exercises?  Had she been able to use her gait trainer when she was younger and in an efficient manner, maybe she could have run in a circle?  Maybe if she hadn't spent her earlier years in excruciating pain we might have learned she loved gymnastics?  No matter how many therapies or activities we have tried her in, it won't ever make up for the things that she has been unable to participate in. 

Lately, my heart has been in so much pain over where we are today.  A giant disaster of a circle that truly is never-ending but yet always seeming to start back up with pain, discomfort, sadness, and difficulties.  I do not understand how much more her little body can take and I do not understand why it has to be this way.  I can't even imagine what else could pop up, but I am sure I won't have to wonder too long because inevitably it will present its unwanted self.  Not surprisingly, but yet at a level of fascination with myself, I cannot believe how spot on I was so early on in this journey to assume all of these emotions would resurface, because they certainly always do.

The Mighty Contributor

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Processing

It feels like it has been forever since I last sat down and allowed myself to take a deep breath.  I decided even though I am exhausted from our final drive home, the beginning of unpacking, and the fact that it is 1:44am, I wouldn't let myself go to sleep without writing a blog post.  So many thoughts popped in and out of my mind over the last couple of weeks, yet time didn't allow for me to devote more than the second to them, and I know I need to make them coherent and sort them out in and outside of my mind.

This summer has officially come to a close in terms of travel and play, albeit not so much in terms of Phoenix's 112-degree forecast.  I am not fully ready to reflect on the events of summer as a whole because for the first time in Sonzee's life I feel like this summer was not actually a summer.  I honestly feel in a way we were robbed of my expectations, and maybe that was my fault for even setting any.  That is what I hate about CDKL5, so many plans that don't come to fruition, in their place is the life that I have minimal say and control over, and for some reason, I am still unable to relinquish the reality of that concept.  Deep down I know that there is a reason for everything, that there is a purpose for everything that occurs to Sonzee and for all the experiences we have because of her, but closer to the surface it remains a constant struggle.

4.5 years in and I still cannot grasp why she needs to struggle for any potential "better good".  While I am so fortunate to those who have literally become like family to us, I wish it was not at our daughters' expenses.  There is no amount of life learning lessons or inspirational gain that should come at the hands of pain and suffering of Sonzee or any other child.  I still have moments, like right now where I wonder why her?  I still hate that this is her life and her reality.  I still hate having to act like I am okay with any of it because of occasional societal pressures.  I still cannot shake the pain and physical strangling feeling that has consumed my heart since first hearing and reading the letters CDKL5, and I am starting to understand that I don't think I ever will.


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, July 22, 2019

Stacking blocks

When my oldest was a toddler she had these rubber squeaking building blocks that she would play with.  She would take the blocks and build a tower high as she could before it would either tumble down to the floor or she got overly excited and decided kicking it down would be more fun.  Each time they fell she would squeal with excitement and then start the process all over again.  I can still envision her huge baby toothed smile while she was jumping up and down.  This morning her smiling face popped into my mind as I was thinking about how much this relates to Sonzee's milestones, more specifically her GI accomplishments, the main difference every time the tower falls there is no smiling face there to celebrate.

We spent years building tower after tower trying to find a solution to Sonzee's GI difficulties and pain.  Every time the reprieve would be short-lived and we were back to situating our building blocks into the perfect configuration to maybe reach some kind of success.  Finally, in December, after close to 3 years of being made aware of her struggles, it felt like our final tower was built.  Since then there have been a few occasions where a couple of blocks have fallen.  Every block that fell was replaced within a few days, maybe a week tops, but slowly the tower would resume its height and we would breathe in a sigh of relief.  It had been close to 6 months since the last time a few blocks fell from the top of the tower, so maybe my comfort in the situation was unfounded based on history, but since they say we are supposed to have hope,  we did. 

Over the past month, it seems like we have been traveling in a falling block zone.  It started with a single block falling, turned into 2-3, and now there is no proof there ever was a tower.  The base block is nowhere to be found, it too has lost its grounding and has completely disappeared.  We are back at square one, really below square one, everything has been erased, it is as if the tower was never built in the first place.  I feel defeated, I am angry and so incredibly sad.  I am in the place of wondering if this tower can actually be rebuilt or if our new tower will even include all the blocks we used in the first tower.  Everything is lost.  Everything is gone.  Everything has been erased, yet a tower needs to be rebuilt, but there is definitely no eager toddler awaiting the thrill of stacking the blocks waiting for them to eventually fall down.

The Mighty Contributor

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Reset Button

The big kids are off at camp, little brother is on a walk with his babysitter, Sonzee is in her P Pod, Sam is in Phoenix, and I just finished vacuuming and doing a couple of loads of laundry.  The last 24 hours have been a complete whirlwind of experiences and emotions, scratch that, the last 5 days.  I feel like that is synonymous with life in general.  We spend all this time anticipating and preparing for a wedding, a family celebration, a big event in general and then when it happens some things go as planned, others don't, but after it is over you just want to plop onto a fluffy piece of furniture, let out an exasperated sigh and reflect on what just occurred.

Since 2016 when Sonzee received her first intestinal feeding tube we always had steps in place for what to do if the tube came out.  The first summer in NY with the NJ tube was so scary because it had just been placed, she was fresh off a 28 day hospitalization that had included TPN and left her stomach unable to be used, but at that time we were not even fully aware of the extent of her GI issues.  It was all new to us and we had limited experience with intestinal feeds in general.  We thankfully never needed the tube replaced during that summer, but we had our backup plan in place; to go to the hospital we initially attempted to go to this past Friday.  Every summer since, that was the plan on record, and every year we skirted by with no tube issues.  Thankfully all of the other summer hiccups had been easily handled at the local regional hospital or the urgent care clinic.  I suppose "luck" eventually runs out, and maybe that was why my gut was nagging at me as summer 2019 approached. 

Until yesterday I looked at the summer as a sort of escape, a place for us to go as a family and reset so we could take on the next school year and 11 months in general until we could again escape.  What is something that I have known since the beginning of life with Sonzee but for some reason always need some sort of harsh reminder is that there is no escape.  There is no putting a medically complex life on hold.  The challenges are always there, they will always be there, it doesn't matter that you planned to leave them back home, miles away, as if they didn't exist.  The only difference is that you have an extremely long yet amazingly beautiful view as you drive to attempt to sort through your emotions, to reflect on everything that is occurring, and to realize there is no way to plan a reset button.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, July 15, 2019

There's always one

There is always that one picture that does me in.  Every. Single. Summer.  The one that I know is inevitably going to occur but I have forgotten over the year is going to be taken so it will always continue to catch me by surprise.  It is the one that makes me smile for a split second before my brain registers what I am looking at and what is missing, well actually more like who.  This is then followed by a dialogue that occurs silently within my mind about how nothing/no one is really missing and that it is just the (sad) reality of life.  Yet, my internal negotiation doesn't change the fact that the damn picture has still managed to pierce my heart.

I HATE after 4 years on this journey that these types of moments still occur.  More often than not I find myself in a state of numbness that only periodically allows this sort of real life pain awareness to seep inside.  Call it whatever you want, it is one hell of an amazing protective device, and personally, I prefer the numbness over the stabbing pain my heart feels when one of these moments creeps in, so I am glad they are only occasional.  What I dislike most is that it almost seems like my mind takes the picture completely out of context.  Where I should be looking at my oldest daughter, her best summer friend, and her little sister, standing on scooters posing for an adorable picture, my mind does not see Sonzee standing next to (who should be) her summer best friend.

I HATE these types of reminders of how old Sonzee is.  I HATE these types of reminders of what Sonzee is unable to do, of who she is unable to be, of how much of life she is missing out on.  I HATE that this picture that I should be printing and placing in a frame for my oldest daughter because it is such a great picture, takes the breath out of me every time I look at it.  I HATE that these types of reminders pop up randomly without notice and seem impossible to prevent.  I HATE that not only was she missing from the picture, but she was sitting at home miserable, unable to be outside.  I really do my best to not focus on what Sonzee isn't able to do, or doesn't do, or can't do, but sometimes life seems to get in the way.



The Mighty Contributor

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Good Luck

"Did you have testing done while you were pregnant?", "Did you know before?", "Was everything "fine during your pregnancy?"  95-100% of the time after someone meets Sonzee and we begin a conversation those or similar questions and/or comments are brought up.  Grandparents, soon to be parents, friends of pregnant mothers, young adults, inquisitive people, you name it, everyone wants to know.  My guess is people want to be told we knew and yes it can be prevented, but we must have made some choice to keep her. But the hard reality is, "Yes we did have testing, no we didn't know beforehand, yes, everything was fine while I was pregnant, and good luck."

"But if you had an amnio then you would have found out!"  "Good luck", I say "because no we wouldn't have, not with her type of mutation".  For those who respond that they had microarrays completed in utero for their unborn child, I say, "Good luck, Sonzee's microarray is normal".  "Good luck" to those who are under the misconception that genetic means Sam or I passed down the mutation because "yes we did have testing and no neither of us have a mutation on our CDKL5 gene, Sonzee's mutation is de novo-it's hers, it's random, and she's the only one in the world currently with it, good luck."


It is hard to comprehend the complexities of genetics.  It is hard to fathom that no matter how much prenatal preparation occurs, no one is exempt.  To those who don't think about the possibility of rare, "good luck, we never did either".  The truth is, CDKL5 and the approximately 7,000 other RARE genetic disorders that are currently known are rare, but not one person is immune and not one person is guaranteed that rare won't happen to their child, so I say, "good luck".


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, July 8, 2019

The middle

I went outside to walk my oldest daughter to her friends for a sleepover.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  The sun had disappeared from view, but the sky was still blue with a sliver of the moon visible and some greyish white clouds crossing by.  There was a slight breeze and the air smelled like the real version of the mountain breeze fragrances that you buy to attempt to replicate the real thing.  My first thought was that I was going to come back, grab my computer and sit outside, so after a successful drop-off, with my coffee in hand, I did just that.

I set up my chair in the same spot I had placed Sonzee's 4 hours earlier.  The same place that when I walked out of the house one-day last week I stumbled in my tracks as I watched two deer eat from the grass and couldn't believe how close they actually let me get to them.  If I turn my head to the right, beyond a not so tall tree and empty parking spaces there is a hill defined by large rocks at the bottom and topped with tall green trees that stretch upwards of at least 40 feet.  To the left is the grassy field which ends in green brush, more tall green trees, and power lines that mark the descent down another hill.  It's a quiet spot in terms of little car traffic but filled with various birds chirping.  It's the only place I don't actually loathe the sounds of their incessant conversations.

As I sat between the steep incline of the hill to my right and the abrupt descent of a hill to my right I reflected on how similar this specific location represents where we are on Sonzee's journey.  Cautiously we move on our semi angled flat surface carefully avoiding slipping down the hill on the left and avoiding the struggle of climbing the hill to the right.  We hope and pray to stay firmly in this spot.  The spot where the smells are crisp and clear, where the sounds are happy and wanted, where the unexpected albeit positive things come our way, and where the view from both the potential up and downhill situations look clear and beautiful yet equally uninviting.  It is the spot I don't ever want to leave,  the one I know we won't be able to stay in forever, but the one I always look forward to coming back to after the journey takes up and or down the hills.

The Mighty Contributor

Friday, July 5, 2019

Split second

Sometimes I feel like Sam and I part of grand jury spending hours deliberating making a life or death decision when it comes to Sonzee's care.  Partly because that is literally what we are doing, minus the whole being paid to sit on a jury component, and partly because we spend so long making sure we weigh the pros and cons of every possible solution to ensure we are making the best possible choice when it comes to Sonzee's life.  Then approximately every 2 months, give or take some time, it seems one split second of time rattles all the confidence we had placed on whatever decision it was we had made.  I wish I knew why my initial reaction is to second guess the decision vs just acknowledging this is simply the beast of CDKL5, but alas that is what occurs.

I wonder if it's because of the fear that occurs wondering if the solution we were hoping would last has in fact failed.  Or maybe it just simply feeling vulnerable because our choice was not correct. (I do know there isn't an actual manual to follow in regards to caring for a child with medical complexities and we do our best, but that doesn't mean I believe it all the time).  Or maybe the choice was the best choice for the time period that has passed but now we have to go back to the deliberation room and review all of our notes knowing we are even more limited this time in our potential band-aids.  Maybe it could just be a simple fix, but history has repetitively negated that idea, so that is shelved until all the above has been ruled out in my mind.

In the back of my mind, there is always this voice that pops in to say what happens when we have exhausted all of our options and nothing works?  What then?  What choice do we have at that point?  Is there going to be a time that we say we have done all we can do?  If so, then what?  Gosh even with a little over 4 years under our belts in some ways I feel like we just started this journey.  The weight of the past and fear of the future continue to get heavier and heavier as time goes on, yet instead of it lasting a split second, it seems to be never-ending.


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, July 1, 2019

I knew

I knew the day would come.  I thought about it numerous times during her first year of life.  I wondered when exactly the moment would happen, how it would occur, the situation I would find myself in.  I never had a clear image of what exactly would transpire, but I knew after so many encounters that one-day things would be vastly different. I knew there would come a day when the small talk surrounding a run in encounter with a "baby" in a stroller would yield a different response than "how cute", "oh, is she 1?", "what's her name?", "she is so pretty", "what pretty eyes", and/or some other similar but positive and smile exchanging encounter.  I wondered at what point it would occur, always fearful of the day it would happen, but then of course forgetting about the potential on the day that it did.

After all the years of hesitant exchanges standing next to her stroller, eager to just smile along and chuckle at whatever praising remark was made, the one time that I forgot it could occur, is of course when it did.  I knew she wouldn't be a baby forever, I knew she wouldn't be tiny forever, G-d knows she has enough tubes and medical interventions erasing the Failure to Thrive diagnosis as we speak.  I was never naive enough to think that she would always get positive head turns, but in the end, maybe I was.  I knew once she was bigger she would get noticed for her hand stereotypies and her abnormal flexibility.  I knew people would start to realize she wasn't a baby, but in the majority of ways, she really still is, and ironically the phrase "look at the pretty baby" that used to make me grit my teeth because she wasn't a baby, I wish would return.

I knew her growing up would eventually happen, but I didn't expect for the day to occur while walking down 68th Street in New York City.  I knew one day someone would act in a way that hurt me to my core, but I didn't expect it to be a man walking a cute Yorkie named PJ, who (I can only assume) had zero intention to break a mother's heart while he was out walking his friendly dog.  I knew one day it would be completely obvious that the little girl in the stroller with splatter colored framed glasses and a customized pacifier clip was not actually a baby, but I didn't expect the silence after responding to the question about her age to be so deafening and feel like an eternity was passing by.  I knew one day there would be no words to fill the awkwardness that filled the air.  Yet the thing about preparing for the future with a diagnosis like CDKL5 is that there really is no way you can, because no matter how many dress rehearsals you have; when the curtains lift and you find yourself center stage, it is never exactly how you anticipated it to occur.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, June 24, 2019

Are there...

"Are there ever even split seconds where you forget you have a child with CDKL5?" read a text across my screen a week ago.  I replied with, "I haven't had that I don't think".  My friend explained what had occurred that prompted the text and I replied with a sigh emoji.  The conversation ended.  A little over a week has gone by and I honestly had forgotten about the text, until yesterday morning.

Sam left on his drive to NY with a trailer full of all our things and I am still in Phoenix with all of the kids.  The older kids and baby brother were running around the house, some in their pajamas, some actually dressed.  None of the girls with their hair brushed, and it is debatable if any really had brushed their teeth when I asked.  I was going between the kitchen and Sonzee's room getting her refrigerated meds and making her batch of food, sorting it into containers, and then bringing in what she needed to begin the day.  I changed her diaper, picked out her outfit for the day, started her feed, and then began giving her meds.  Part way through her TPN/Lipids finished and I got out my supplies to heparin lock her central line.  After I was finished I hooked her feeding bag on her Rifton chair, scooped her up, and simultaneously words flashed across my mind as if I was replying to a freshly asked question.

"How can there ever be a split second where I forget I have a child with CDKL5?"  Whether she is awake or asleep there are always tubes coming out of her body.  When I watch her sleep she is always hooked up to a machine.  The only way for her to get in and out of a chair or car is with full assistance.  She cannot get from point A to point B without someone else being involved.  My dreams are beyond having substantial hope for her to have a functioning CDKL5, and my nightmares consist of what is going to happen because of her CDKL5 deficiency.  There are no split seconds of forgetting she is not typical; thank g-d for that too, because coming back to reality a split second later would most likely cause me to fall to my knees and suffer another form of diagnosis day, and I am over that repetition, it happens enough as it is.

As I brushed her hair and picked out her hair tie, I was still thinking about all of my split-second thoughts over the past 4+ years.  How does she have CDKL5?  Why does she have CDKL5? What if she never had CDKL5? What if she were typical?  How would our lives be different?  How would our family look?  What would it be like to have 5 typical kids?  Would we even have 5 kids?  What is a typical life?  Why can't I remember what life was like before CDKL5?  What kind of parent was I before CDKL5? The list continues, there are so many split seconds in a day, but none of them are ever filled with that minuscule bliss of forgetting she has CDKL5, but maybe like everything else, it is for the best.


The Mighty Contributor

Friday, June 21, 2019

Trepidation

The U-haul is sitting in the driveway waiting to be loaded.  I wouldn't let Sam put anything inside it last night out of fear of losing my visual guidance of the items I packed.  I just finished the last of Sonzee's boxes, but those are the last things to get loaded since Sam will have to take the majority of them out each night due to temperature parameters.  I remember the first time we traveled as a family of 3 with Sonzee's oldest sister.  We had so many bags and so many items all for this one little baby.  Now I look at Sonzee's section of the garage pile-which extends into the main area of our house so those items stay cool and I wonder how one person can require so much.

This year marks the 4th summer we will be going to NY with Sonzee.  The only summer of her life we missed was the first year she was born because we were so afraid she would start having infantile spasms and we would be in the middle of nowhere.  Every year since her doctors wish us well and send us on our way, reminding us before we go how proud they are for us not stopping our lives, how great it is that we still go, and how we can reach them at any time if we need to.  Every year we pack up and go more excited than apprehensive, however, this year I am filled with more anxiety than excitement.

This will be the first time we will have traveled out of state with Sonzee since she had her central line placed in December.  This will be the first time she will be on TPN/Lipids and we will not be within a familiar hospital's nurse's reach if she has an emergency or needs emergency labs.  The closest hospital is a regional center that we have visited once and she was out of their comfort zone and all we needed was basic abdomen x-ray.  I am so beyond fearful of a fever.  I am scared out of my mind for a central line infection.  Will she require air flight if that occurs since the children's hospital (that her amazing GI told us to use because she knows the doctors and will coordinate her care once we tell her we are on the way) is over 2 hours away?!  I want to plan and prepare, I do not even know how, and I want it to be a complete waste of time and worry.


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, June 17, 2019

CDKL5 Awareness Day 2019

2015 was the very first year that today became "a day" in our house.  The very first June 17 we all wore CDKL5 shirts and we hung balloons on the CDKL5 awareness yard sign that was placed at the edge of our yard.  We had only known what life with CDKL5 was for technically 4 months and 6 days but really only for the previous 7 weeks after we first learned that CDKL5 WAS the reason behind Sonzee's lack of eye contact, her lack of ability to hold up her head, her lack of ability to give a social smile or to roll, and the reason why she was constantly seizing.  Since that very first June 17 I have always struggled with this day, staring at a blank blog screen but eventually figuring out the best way for me to give homage to a day I rather not know exists.

My biggest struggle with this day is that my brain is conflicted on what the purpose of this day should be.  I wonder if I am supposed to give a little more insight into what exactly life with CDKL5 really is.  I wonder if I should share statistics of the prevalence of CDKL5.  Then I wonder if it is better for me to not say too much, after all, there is surely a newly pregnant friend of mine scrolling through facebook who certainly does not want to know that such a life like this does exist and could happen to them.  I wonder how much I should share as far as how much Sonzee struggles or post one of her seizure videos that inevitably gets cut off at the 10-minute video mark because that is all the seizure tracker app allows.  I wonder if any part of this actually makes a difference to anyone who is not living this life and if so what type?

Bringing awareness to CDKL5 doesn't help prevent the diagnosis occurring to the projected 2 currently undiagnosed families wondering why their child is experiencing seizures, delays, and or difficulties each week.  It doesn't change the fact that based on the projected rate of incidence there are thought to be 30,000 individuals living with CDKL5, with the "official" diagnosed count between 2,000-3,000.  Knowing about CDKL5 does not change that 1:40,000-60,000 births will result in a new baby joining the family. 

Wearing lime green, a CDKL5 child's "team" shirt or some article of clothing with CDKL5 most likely won't bring about questions or do much to strangers walking by, yet all of us families essentially beg others to do so for us.  When you stumble across one of those requests you might continue to scroll by, thankfully it does not really apply to you, and luckily you dodged this really awful bullet.

As I sort through my emotions about awareness and balance out the ups and downs of this roller coaster of a journey, I am left with the feelings of respect and honor.  Today is a day that some of us will always love to hate and or hate to love, but regardless of which, we will shout about CDKL5 from the rooftops to anyone who says even one word to us.  It is a day to simply be aware of all that those of us with a child diagnosed with a CDKL5 diagnosis have lost but simultaneously gained.  It is 24 hours devoted to so many people coming together due to an unfortunate common bond as we try to do something, anything, whatever it is we can to try and make our children's lives the best they can possibly be.  And so to that I say, please help us spread awareness of CDKL5.  Please help us get our stories heard so we can continue research efforts to maybe one day, hopefully during our children's lives, bring about some sort of permanent formal seizure control, and or some type of way for them to make-up all the milestones that they continue to miss.  If for no other reason, please help support us on our journey as we simply parent children who could have very easily been yours.

The Mighty Contributor

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

But just because


As we finished our three day holiday weekend, my older kiddos and I sat on the couch deciding what book I would read to them.  I have an Alice in Wonderland series from my childhood and originally I grabbed that.  Naturally, that opened the way to my son announcing it was "girlie", and my oldest daughter wanting me to read a "Babysitter's Club" book instead, and me saying "It's not girlie, and no we aren't reading the Babysitter's club".  As I opened the book to begin reading my son ran excitedly over to me, handed me "The Phantom Tollbooth", and I said, "Oh, yes, this will be great".

I have to admit I have always known about this book, but honestly have never read it, so part of my desire to oblige my son completely came from the fact that I wanted to read this.  So the four of us sat down together and I began to read.  As I turned each page and read the words I kept thinking how amazingly quotable this book is.  It seemed as if every other line was one I wanted to burn into my mind to reference at a future point. Some of the phrases were cute, some made me chuckle, and others I felt spoke to me in a different way.  We only got 4 chapters in when it was time for the kids to get ready for bed, but I knew there was a quote I had not come across that somehow would be the perfect quote for me to relate to Sonzee.

I posted a picture on Sonya's Facebook page and mentioned how I had hoped Sonzee wouldn't have another seizure but of course within 10 minutes of posting that my hopes were dismantled.  During the 10th day of CDKL5 Awareness month, during neither her first nor most likely last 13+ minute seizure of the day, my mind wandered.   Should I post one of her seizures? Does posting one actually brings more awareness or just bring about pity?  If I posted it would people even want to watch it? I am pretty sure those of us who have to, would much rather not.  If people watch the video would someone comment about our lack of giving her a rescue med 2 minutes in?  I responded in my mind to that comment with the blatant fact that rescue meds do not stop her seizures any quicker than her body chooses to finish them and inevitably within 4-5 hours another one would occur again.  

Returning back from "seizure land", I was wondering if it was time to email her epileptologist and ask for the new medication titration schedule.  Feeling all sorts of weight from watching her endure all that she just had and not even feeling a glimmer of hope that we would ever stop her from this sort of suffering I came across the most clarifying quote.  Maybe CDKL5 won't ever be a string of characters that is known to everyone or will make the daily news in every city, in every state, in ever country, or on every continent.  Maybe there won't ever be a child with a CDKL5 mutation who makes it onto Ellen or is born to a world figure, actor, or famous athlete.  Maybe seizure control or the ability to be more typical won't ever be in Sonzee's cards, and Maybe finding a cure for CDKL5 won't, sadly, fall during her lifetime...

The Mighty Contributor

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

CDKL5

Jun 4, 2019, 2:59 PM
"Hi Randi,
I just got Sonya’s WES back today – it found absolutely nothing else (other than her known CDKL5 mutation). There were not even any variants of uncertain significance. And mitochondrial sequencing was normal too.
So at least we know there’s nothing we’re clearly missing in terms of a second diagnosis."

4 years ago Sonzee received her official diagnosis.  It is the reason behind her seizures, the reason given for every other situation she has encountered since.  The reason that has never given me any excitement as an answer because there is no solution to the issues with an answer like CDKL5.  It was a reason and an answer that just wasn't good enough, so we sought for more clarity, and just shy of 4 months since we did so the answer remains the same.

CDKL5.

While I should be ecstatic that her only mutation is CDKL5, I am honestly completely devastated.  I feel the wind has been knocked from my lungs all over again.  Every single one of the additional diagnoses that she has acquired since she was a newborn baby are all due to a spelling error on one gene out of the 20,000-25,000 that she has in her body.  How can one little gene carry that much weight, how can it hold so much responsibility, how can it create so much havoc? 

I wanted there to be something else to share the burden of all that has happened to her body.  I wanted to be told that her brittle bones and her horrific GI system were not all due to her CDKL5 mutation.  After all, there are not as many children who have either of those issues in the same manner as Sonzee, so there had to be another reason why, another gene to blame, another thing that could share in the cause, another thing "Sonzee related" that explained why.

But here we are, 4 years into her journey and 15 years since the CDKL5 gene was identified in 2004, and children like Sonzee are still seizing 100s of times a day, are still unable to walk, are still unable to talk, are still unable to live independently, and are still dying, all because of a "tiny" mistake on an extremely imperative gene for typical function, all because of CDKL5.


The Mighty Contributor

Friday, May 31, 2019

Becoming wise

I have always been a type A person, and one of my biggest challenges is relinquishing any type of control.  Add that trait to having a medically complex Sonzee where a slip up in the majority of her care could result in catastrophic results, and well you get a neurotic, anxiety-ridden, overprotective, helicopter mom Randi.  I would say it sounds like it could be a good thing, but rereading the previous sentence, it sounds just as crazy as it is.  The reality is that on one hand, it really is a good thing because when life depends on not making mistakes or following procedures specifically, you need to make sure there is one person in charge, the downside is that then it falls to one person, and the fact is, there doesn't have to be just one person doing it all.

Yes, there is a specific protocol for some of Sonzee's medical care that does require a specific set of directions to be followed.  Does that mean it has to be done in the same exact way by every person? No.  Does that mean if it is done slightly different than it is wrong? No.  Does that mean that I am ok with the slightest alteration of my perceived only way? That would be a BIG FAT No!  The truth is, as long as the main components are followed, in theory, she will survive with someone else performing the care, and raw truth time, the fact that I have made it so I have to be in total control has placed an unnecessary burden on me, and created a situation where I am more apt to make a mistake than someone else.

Coming to this revelation over the last couple of months has been both scary and refreshing.  Caregiver burnout is real, it exists, and it can be dangerous for so many reasons.  There is a reason jobs come with paid time off.  There is a reason for fall, spring, winter, and summer vacations.  Everyone needs and deserves a break.  Everyone needs a chance to rest, recharge, and be given the opportunity to come back to work with a fresh pair of hands and a clear set of eyes.  I can just about promise that the majority of moms of special needs hardly consider the fact that they really really really need a break.  But maybe if we all realize it honestly isn't even just for us, but for the well being of the entire family unit, it might be considered more often. 

Now realizing this truth and doing something about it are totally different things, but awareness is key and knowledge is power.  So like everything else I have learned on this journey, it is the inchstones that count.  So this morning while I write my blog post sitting at my best friends kitchen table in Florida while drinking a venti Starbucks coffee, I trust that I have left Sonzee in the most capable hands, with an immense amount of love, and I did it so that I will come back to her better than I left her, with a refreshed point of view and some solid hours of sleep to carry me through until the next time I am wise enough to know that I too need and deserve a break.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, May 27, 2019

Wish I could...

On Saturday night my three oldest children and my nephew who is only 7 months older than Sonzee had a much anticipated, by all, camping sleepover in a tent in my parents' backyard.  The kids planned this sleepover weeks ago, my father has been eager for it to happen (probably) literally forever, and no one was more excited that Shabbat ended then all of these participants.  I loaded the 4 kids into the car filled with backpacks, stuffed animals, pillows, books, games, and an overabundance of energy and excitement.  I had a quick detour with our middle daughter so the initial drop off occurred and we returned about an hour and a half later.  Despite returning twice, neither drop off included Sonzee, she was at home seizing in her room.

During my second return I popped in for a bit to steal some dinner, grab a smores, and take some adorable pictures, but didn't want to take away the kids parent-free, way too much candy, junk food, and Gatorade, typical grandparent spoiling grand event that was occurring, so I left shortly after I arrived.  I returned home to two little people tucked into their beds, and within 30 minutes Sonzee's pulse oximeter began ringing.  I am partially relieved she is back to these atrocious seizures because when it begins to ring it is a guaranteed seizure when it alerts, there are no false alarms, and no wondering if we might have missed one.  6 minutes and 5 seconds later she was finished, I tucked her back under the covers, I disconnected her from her tube feeding because the pump was ringing they were finished, I checked her central line, made sure her TPN/Lipids were not leaking and everything was secured, gave her a kiss and walked out of her room.

After I got ready for bed I opened this mindless candy crush meets decorating game on my phone that I play religiously at night before I fall asleep.  I stared at the start screen frozen as if I forgot how to press the green play button staring back at me.  My mind unable to turn off, was unable to forget the fact that Sonzee should have been tucked into the tent in my parents' backyard with her siblings and her currently same-aged cousin.  I cannot tell you how often I forget her cousin and her are the same age for 5 months and 5 days every year.   I cannot tell you how often I forget that Sonzee is a school year away from Kindergarten, the same grade her middle sister is graduating from in just a few weeks.  Of all the things I constantly forget about her, I wish I could forget that her age puts her perfectly alternating with her cousins and that she should be at their school having recess with her older and younger cousin.  I wish I could forget that she should be having a 1:1 sleepover with her bubbie and pop-pop when they are in town, that she should be having play dates with her cousins and annoying her sisters when they have friends over.  What I really wish is that I could forget everything that she should be doing if she had only had a functional CDKL5 gene.




The Mighty Contributor

Thursday, May 23, 2019

May 23

May 23 seems to be a difficult day every year.  It is really odd considering it is the birthday of Sonzee's middle sister, so you would think it would only be a day of complete celebration, but that is mainly the reason that it is not.  This date every year has become one of those reminder days.  A day that reminds me of how much our kids, especially our 3rd have had to sacrifice since the birth of Sonzee.  A birthday that was celebrated only one time before Sonzee was here.  Which means this year it has been 5 middle sister birthday's that have gone by since.  Which equates to essentially her early childhood years (and even her birthday itself in 2016) have been spent in and out of hospitals as a sibling in tow.

Sonzee's middle sister has always taken the role of big sister seriously.  Prior to even turning 2 or being potty trained, she learned how to identify and notify us of Sonzee having a seizure.  That means on top of the typical things she has learned over the last 6 years, she has spent over 4 of them gaining medical and life knowledge she should not be exposed to.  Due to her being so young and not not in school in 2015, she was the only sibling to see Sonzee outside of the NICU the day she was born before she was sent up 2 hours after her birth.  She bonded with her in 2 different NICU level nurseries and in 2 different hospitals before she celebrated her 2nd birthday.  There are numerous pictures and videos of her kissing, coddling, cheering, dancing, and playing with her.  These captured memories make me so happy to watch and yet so sad because they aren't showing what should have been typical sisterly bonding moments. 

Each year on May 23 I am reminded of how many years have truly gone by.  It is the first immediate family birthday after Sonzee's.  It is the birthday that not only ages her middle sister but also ages Sonzee.  It is the day that I am forced to realize how old everyone in this house really is.  It is the day that falls at the end of the school year where we say aloud how crazy it is that each child is going into grade xyz next year, thus making it unavoidable to realize that where Sonzee is going physically does not match up to her developmental status. May 23 is a day we recognize another journey around the sun has occurred for our middle daughter, we accept that it means it was another year she was forced to grow up sooner than we had planned, and it is just another day that CDKL5 barges in and makes itself known in a random and unexpected way.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, May 20, 2019

4 years and 2 days ago

If you have followed Sonya's Story long enough then you are aware that when I am in need of inspiration or unsure of what I want to write I will read back on previous blog posts.  I typically look back to the same month but different year to see what post I wrote exactly on that day.  So last night I  opened the archives of May 2015 and glanced at each post from the end of the month towards the front.  I saw the title Dear Sonya and since I couldn't remember what I wrote in that letter, I opened it, I read it, and since multitasking is my thing, I cried.  It is fascinating to me that 4 years and 2 days later those exact words would be the same words I would write to her in a letter today.  The pain is the same, the dreams and desires are the same, and the fears are the same. 

4 years and 2 days later the same is true about her doting siblings, except there is one none of us ever met and another one who competes to be her biggest fan.  We have continued to do our best to ensure her quality of life leads every decision we make.  While we have found our secret language with each other it does continue to be a daily struggle making sure we are really honoring everything she wants and not our assumptions.  I feel fairly confident that we are living up to exhausting all medical interventions to help make her life easier.  I wish we could say that we found a way to make the seizures stop, we haven't, however, we have done our absolute best to stick to our promise to not medicate her personality away. 4 years and 2 days later we are still filled with the same doubt, same questions, and same exact sorrow.

The letter is a reminder of all that we lost when we were told of the mutation on her CDKL5 gene.  It is the realization that the time on this journey continues to pass us by, but not much else has changed.  We still pray for the same exact outcomes that we did 4 years and 2 days ago, but the naivety is no longer present, the belief in hope not as strong, and each day is a fight from within to remind myself that we are doing our best, that we aren't failing her, and that "It is not going to be easy, it is going to be a tough road, some days will be a struggle, but WE ARE GOING TO MAKE IT."

The Mighty Contributor

Friday, May 17, 2019

Muddled thoughts

I started to write a post the other night after I came across a picture of a child younger than Sonzee diagnosed with CDKL5 who was sitting.  I couldn't shake the feeling that came over me, so I opened up blogger and scribbled down my thoughts.  In summary, it was happiness panged with being envious that Sonzee's mutation was not affording her the same capabilities.  Naturally, life got in the way so I have not had a chance to finish those initial thoughts.  Then today, completely unexpectedly, it was me witnessing and then posting a video with 13 seconds of my child with CDKL5 sitting.  It wasn't pretty, it wasn't the way any of my typical children began to practice when they were 5-7 months old.  She was completely wobbling, her body awareness was completely off, she required multiple touch cues, and she fell over every single attempt, BUT she sat.

I hesitated about posting it, even though it is only 13 seconds, it is 13 seconds longer than so many children diagnosed with CDKL5 or other various causes to their medical complexity have been able to do.  While it by no means can count as hitting the milestone, I am feeling a pang of milestone guilt for the other mother's who have not experienced these 13 seconds.  I still cannot leave her on the floor to play, sit alone on a couch, put her in a shopping cart, or place her in any other situation that the majority of parents of 6-8 month children get to celebrate doing, it is 13 seconds longer than I expected at this point in her life, and 13 seconds longer than some of my special needs mommy friends haven't been afforded. 

4 years into this life and I feel like I am still figuring out how to make it all work.  The desire to celebrate milestones met by our children's friends, yet silently mourning the fact that our child can't or won't meet them.  The desire to want to celebrate our child's accomplishments without making another parent cry themselves to sleep because of it.  The doubt we feel about what we are doing to support our child when another parent says all that he or she has their child participating in.  The wondering if what we are doing is ever enough.  The confusion of if our choices are right or wrong, and if those choices are the causes of the negative outcomes that ensueAnd the ever-present, always lurking question of despite what we may or may not have our child try, despite them ever officially meeting any standard milestone, does everything we do at least add up to a desired quality of life. 


The Mighty Contributor

Sunday, May 12, 2019

It's been 4 years....

It's been 4 years and yet I was caught off guard on Friday.  I would like to say this is rare for me, but for some reason this past week, I have been experiencing all sorts of whacked out crazy sensitivities and emotions.  Maybe it is the accumulated exhaustion of participating in this journey over the last 4 years?  Maybe it is the fact that I prefer to not deal with a lot of my emotions because I tend to write a blog post about how I am feeling in that moment, press post, and then move on.  More often than not that way of living has seemed to work best.  But then there are those moments, like Friday where three concepts slammed into me at full force despite the fact that I have dealt with them multiple times over the last 4 years.

It became extremely clear to me on Friday that I am not over Sonzee receiving her CDKL5 diagnosis.  So for those of you just starting out, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years or even more into hearing the string of characters "CDKL5" it is completely normal if you have yet to accept its fate or if today it is just clicking what it might actually mean.  As I sat with Sonzee's epileptologist and she answered the same exact questions I have asked every PEMU stay since 2015, on Friday, it clicked.  Even if we gain some sort of control of her seizures, which we all agree she most likely won't ever be seizure free nor will she likely ever be 90%, it won't change her background and it won't change the fact that CDKL5 is the reason she is able to do what she can and not able to be typical.

This led me into the 2nd revelation; the one where it becomes clear that even though I don't speak the words and I don't put much faith into it, somewhere in my soul I still believe there is hope for her, because it is during moments where I feel the wall slam into me at 500 miles per hour that I realize the slamming feeling is because I was obviously holding onto some sort of hope.  The hope that maybe one of these PEMU stays it will reveal she does not have an abnormal EEG background.   The hope that one of these PEMU stays will reveal she isn't seizing unless we notice and hit the red seizure button.  The hope that one of these days she will wake up and be typical.

Which led me to the final revelation that we are never going to fix her.  We appreciate who she is, we love her the way she is, but honestly, if you told me a specific amount of money would make her be able to become a typical child, I would pay it plus a tip.  I do not know why all these 3 items became clear on Friday.  I have heard the answers before, I am sure of it, and I do not know why, but for some reason, it all clicked and since then it has been weighing me down like a ton of bricks.  I am having an extremely difficult time comprehending that nothing we do for her will ever make her better.  No medication is going to stop her seizures, no medication is going to clear up her background, and no medication is going to fix her...but for some reason knowing this we still cycle through medicine cabinet trying to find the answer....and it's been 4 years.

The Mighty Contributor

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Sacrifice

Last night our middle daughter was calling for Sam at bedtime because she was waiting for him to read her a book.  I was getting Sonzee's TPN supplies put away, giving her meds, and getting her ready for bed.  I let our daughter know he would be there in a minute.  During the time she was waiting, the other two elders called for him as well.  It doesn't make me angry that this has become the norm, it just is how it is.  But the moment flashed a memory in my mind of a time, that seems to be from a completely different life, but was just a few years ago.

There used to be a time that bedtime took hours because each child chose a minimum of 2 books and both Sam and I took turns going from bedroom to bedroom.  There was tickle time, laughter, talking, and books.  There was "Emmmmaaaa" being called and I was the one who cuddled next to each of them and endured the 2-hour long ordeal.  Sam and I joked about the length of time it took but also felt it was so ridiculous....I think about it now and cock my head to the side as the word perspective flashes brightly in my mind.

Since February 11, 2015, bedtime routine has never been the same.  Children certainly adapt to the situations they are presented, but it comes at a cost, and the price in this situation was their ability to rely on my presence.  In the beginning, it was hard on all of us, then at some point during all the hospitalizations, it became their norm, but for me, remains a constant heartache.  Each night when they ask for that extra kiss from Sam, for him to read the book, or for him to come back in, it is a reminder of all the nights I haven't (and won't) be there, and for the sacrifices that come living the medically complex life.


The Mighty Contributor

Monday, May 6, 2019

Rerun

We are more than halfway finished with weaning one of Sonzee's seizure meds.  There is always the initial joy of watching skills return to her that we had somehow forgotten she once had, then there is the brief, but still, present sorrow that presents itself when we realize our choice of medicine is the reason the skills were put on hold.  Pair that with the fact that her seizure presentation was not significantly reduced or impacted by the medication, and knowing that our PEMU stay is going to present another medication as the (what is most certainly not going to be a) solution, and well, that continues to be Sonya's story.

This cycle of repetitious history you would think would make us wiser or at least pave the way to a clearer outcome, but for some reason, our continuous game of groundhog day meets real life is not changing.  Then there is the worst part that we somehow forgot happens when Sonzee is in a medication fog and it becomes temporarily lifted, her endless battle with her GI system.  The whimpering and pain that had seemed to subside, that we were optimistically thinking her gut rest had aided seem to be popping back up here and there.  The Aha moment always catches me off guard, takes me a day or two to actually realize I am entertaining and then smacks into me like a ton of bricks.  The question presents itself, "Was the gut rest and TPN the answer to her pain, or was the increase in her seizure medication masking her ability to process it?".  This answer, like every other one that is asked that would require her to be able to give us the answer, will always remain one of those unknowns.

The potential defeat that would come if the answer is the medication was masking her response to the pain will be so soul-crushing I am not yet at a place to fully even entertain it.  The potential disappointment that would follow if the answer is that the solution was yet again another failed bandaid will just be completely deflating.  Either way, the situation remains "wait and see", the question will soon enough become, "now what? ", and the answer will be whatever is feeling best for us to do for her at that time.

The Mighty Contributor

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Humbled

She had two of her long seizures and too many of her cluster seizures to count.  She spent her day awake, wringing her hands, clapping, pushing her glasses off of her face, and content.  She didn't cry in pain at all and she not only stood in her gait trainer, something she has not been afforded the opportunity since the fall, she also took multiple steps.  She was proud of herself, you could see a smirk across her mouth, a look of satisfaction in her eyes, and just sheer joy come over her entire face. Her ability to literally make the best and most of her days, albeit her brain misfiring for over 25 minutes a day has me sipping my coffee in complete admiration as I'm reflecting on what she endures daily.

As her mom, I over analyze every minute of her life in general, but it wasn't until I was staring at her seizing awake from her sleep at 10:45pm that I truly comprehended how incredible of a human being she really is.  I readjusted her pulse oximeter while she seized, her values thankfully staying stable, and I was filled with this feeling of heartbrokenness mixed with complete awe.  Just hours before, we were challenging her fragile, and I am sure exhausted body, to do things the majority of us haven't had to think about doing since we were between 12-24 months old.  She rose to that challenge, she smashed the ball out of the park and gave me renewed faith in her desires.  Then she participated in a girls only dance party after dinner and didn't complain when we didn't move her into her room until after her typical bedtime.  Now here she was convulsively shaking, her limbs contorting, her mouth quivering, her eyes rolling all over, her head thrusting forward and then abruptly pulling back, and this is what she does all the time.  This is her life.

During these moments when I am reminded that her life is not about me or my feelings, or how hard watching her go through it all is, or what her missed milestones mean for me; I feel this overwhelming sense of pride and adoration towards her my heart could physically burst.  I always suspected she would bring me similar joy and delight as her siblings, but I was not sure what it would look like.  I now know that there is nothing that could make me a prouder parent than watching her literally fight to give herself a self-determined quality of life on a daily basis.  For this, I will forever be humbled.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, April 29, 2019

When?

I feel like this April, in general, hit me like a ton of bricks.  Deep down I know the reason is that we have been on this journey for 4 long years and even though each minute brings on something slightly different, the meat and potatoes are always the same.  It is the same race for a cure, the same challenge to find seizure control, and the same tight rope walking of managing a nonverbal 4-year-olds quality of life. The years seem to go by, the medicines and equipment change here and there, but the routine of it all stays the same.

Honestly, it is quite daunting.

It seems we are always trying to find the perfectly shaped bandaid to cover whatever difficulty Sonzee is facing, yet each time I feel like we are living out a real life version of one of those arcade games where you have to hit the chipmunk as it pops out of the hole with the rubber mallet.  Each time we manage to get one chipmunk back down underground, sure enough, the next one is popping up.  Sometimes I am quick enough to smack the chipmunk head on, a good portion of the time I maybe nick the side, but the majority of the time I am completely off the mark as I hover wondering which of the holes the chipmunk will emerge from.

Last night while dinner was warming in the oven, I was finishing up with TPN preparation, my sister and her family were hanging out waiting for the rest of my family to come over for dinner, and Sonzee was in her ppod, when she started having a 19 min and 50-second seizure.  That was not her first seizure of the day either, however, it was her longest by 5 minutes.  I stood next to her videotaping for the 10 minutes the seizure tracker app allows me to record, sent an email asking them to consider expanding the length of videos that can be saved on the server, and waited next to her until the entire 19 minutes and 50 seconds had passed.  Then, as if this is normal, because it is our normal life continued with getting her washed down and dressed for her TPN connection, yet as usual, I was left wondering what kind of life is this for a child, why does she have to endure this, and when is enough, enough?


The Mighty Contributor

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Undesirable Mess

My thoughts today have been all over the place, in fact, every other thought I have is contradicting itself, which isn't exactly helping me sort anything out.  I cannot pinpoint if there is one specific thing that is causing the chaos, but I am feeling a bit like a cranky overtired toddler who is trying to prove that it is not bedtime while falling asleep in a highchair crying.

I am trying to find positives in all the negative situations that Sonzee is dealing with and besides the fact that the task itself is exhausting, there is a part of me that does not want to find any positives.  I just want to wallow.  But I can't.  Or I should say, I shouldn't.  That isn't what I am supposed to do.  Those of us in this life are supposed to look at the good, and to feel/recognize/acknowledge that our children are gifts.  We are supposed to see the silver lining, or the bright side, and not get caught up in the dark hole tornado pulling us down.  We aren't supposed to focus on the negatives because it isn't healthy, because G-d is good.

But nothing about this life is actually healthy, and personally speaking, I don't know if it matters whether G-d is good.

There is nothing healthy about watching your child seize multiple times a day for a minimum of 15 minutes each time.  There is nothing healthy about having your child be fed into her intestines or via a central line going into her bloodstream because her stomach shut down years ago.  There is nothing healthy about giving your child non-FDA approved for her age grown man medication dosages that are equivalent to water in terms of how her body reacts to them.  There is nothing healthy about making life-altering choices and then wondering if those choices were, in fact, the "best" choice and or what would have happened if the other choice was made.

Like I said.  Nothing about this life is actually healthy.

So while I want to give myself a pep talk and throw some inspirational words on the screen and press "post", that isn't what is going to occur.  Today I am just going to honor the undesirable mess that was thrown at us 4 years ago after the spontaneous de novo CDKL5 mutation happened to occur at some point while Sonzee was in utero by letting myself grieve all that has been lost and will inevitably be lost as we continue on this journey.


The Mighty Contributor

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Losing

Death.  It is something that happens entirely too often in our already small CDKL5 community.  Every year I find myself and other moms I am closer with saying, "this is a bad year".  In reality, I am pretty sure every year since Sonzee has been diagnosed has been "a bad year".  Just one loss is honestly too many, and we have yet to finish a full 365 with only one loss.  When the losses come back to back, weeks or months apart it is especially more difficult.  Each death shakes our entire CDKL5 family to the core.  We break for the child's family first and then we break for ourselves.

Age doesn't matter.  My heart aches for the families of the babies, of the toddlers, of the school-aged, of the teens, and of the adults.  I walk around wondering when will it be our turn to join #lifeaftercdkl5.  I wonder if it really is even life after CDKL5.  Does family life with CDKL5 actually end?  I know the day to day dealings do, but you can't exactly end the life you gain with a diagnosis of CDKL5.  CDKL5 will forever be part of our life. 

Today, Sonzee's CDKL5 sister Sadie was laid to rest, for some reason her loss seems to have sent a tsunami of a ripple into our close-knit family.  Maybe it is the fact that it was "unexpected", yet at the same time, was it?  Our children suffer daily, whether it's publicly shared or not.  If you have a child with CDKL5 you know this.  It sadly really isn't ever a surprise that it happens, it is just the punch when you find out who it ends up being.  I keep thinking that there isn't anything left of my heart to break, but then another loss is shared and a new crack begins.

It has been 4 years and 2 days since we were welcomed into this family.  A family that continues to grow yet continues to shrink simultaneously.  A family that honors those we have lost with bows, colors, words, gifts, letters, fundraisers, and the hope for a cure in their honor. Prior to 4 years and 2 days ago we weren't aware that there was even a potential of losing Sonzee at an increased risk to that of her siblings, yet now we seem to be reminded of that reality every single day.


The Mighty Contributor

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Diagnosis Day for the 4th time

"2:30pm on Thursday, April 16.  We waited only 5 minutes for her to come in the room.  To tell us again they only tested 71 genes, to tell us Sonya's positive result was on CDKL5.  To tell us that with that positive result on this gene and her clinical presentation of seizures, she would most likely have: epileptic encephalopathy early infantile 2, x-linked infantile spasm syndrome, and or Atypical Retts Syndrome. 

We asked our questions, I left there with some odd reassurance that just because she had a mutation with her CDKL5 gene did not mean she would have any of the ugly possible disorders assigned to the gene. 

Then I went online and typed in those 5 seemingly innocent letters, that in combination are no better off than a death sentence to a parent of a 2 month old baby.  And it was at that moment that I realized, sometimes it is better to be blissfully ignorant...sometimes it is better to not have all the answers, to not know the why."  - Originally posted on April 19, 2015

4 years have passed since we were given an answer.  An answer that over the years has been used and honestly overly abused to explain why she has seizures, why her stomach doesn't work, why she requires feeds directly into her bloodstream, why her eyes make wonky movements, why she has cortical vision impairment, why she does not sit, why she does not talk, why she does not have functional use of her hands, why she has low tone, why she cannot run outside and play with her siblings, why she does not interact with others in a typical fashion, why she has poor bone mineralization, why she is failure to thrive, and why one day I will have to bury my daughter. 

I wish the diagnosis had explained why it had to be her, the best way to treat all of the problems it has brought into her life, and at the very least given her a voice to let us know if she agrees with our management decisions, how the medications make her feel, if we truly are giving her a better quality of life, if the procedures have been worth it, and if she wants us to keep doing what we are doing. 

I have found myself wondering over these past 4 years, what good has knowing the cause actually done for her?  We dove right in thinking knowing when she was 8 weeks old would actually make a difference for her.  We clung to the (few) children we saw crawling, walking, and saying words, whose parents said that intensive therapy is what made the difference.  I convinced myself that Sonzee was young enough, surely she could beat the odds.  Except over these past 4 years, I have learned that no amount of intensive therapies, money, will power or determination can compete with her specific mutation.  It's helped our family cope, but it hasn't healed our hearts.

While we have spent 4 years gaining an extended family that stretches around the entire world, we have mourned the loss of TOO MANY siblings.  We have spent 4 years knowing that there is no cure, that there is no specific medication or treatment that can replace her mutated CDKL5 gene, that there is no way to stop her intractable epilepsy, and that there is absolutely nothing we can do to ease any of this for her.  We have spent 4 years clinging to hope of what I am not even exactly sure, but I suppose hope that all of this will change?

Of all the answers that we were given on April 16, 2015, I wish one of them had been, the results of the infant and child epilepsy panel did not yield any results.



The Mighty Contributor

Monday, April 15, 2019

The day before Diagnosis Day


It was a Wednesday.  I cannot remember the exact time, but I remember walking around the house while on the phone picking up toys and putting things away.  I can tell you what rooms I was walking in and out of and where I was when the neurologist said the words, "we got results back from her genetic testing, but I don't want to tell you what they are over the phone.  I don't want you to look it up, and think that will be Sonya".  I remember when I hung up the phone I felt relief.  I was actually giddy with excitement because we had an answer.  We would never have to wonder why she was having seizures.

This was great news.

I quickly learned on this journey that everyone processes things at their own rate and in different ways.  When I told Sam that we were meeting the next day because she didn't want to tell us the results over the phone I didn't quite know what he was thinking.  It wasn't until a little later that day when he called me from a gas station that I got a glimpse into his mind.  "Randi, it isn't good", was what he said when I answered the phone.  I was not even sure what he was talking about, but he continued on to say, "I looked up the panel, and there is only one good thing, and she doesn't have it".  I said, "Sam, you don't even know what you are looking up, it is going to be fine, we will have our answer tomorrow, stop looking things up."

I honestly was so content with knowing we had an answer it never dawned on me to even look up the panel.  Not once during the 3 weeks since that test was sent off did I even consider what was actually being tested.  I guess I was not always as neurotic, worried, or as pessimistic as I have become. When I think about that fact, I realize how much I have changed in 4 years.  4 years ago today even though I knew we had an answer, I still had no idea what that answer was going to lead to and what was going to be in store for our family.  4 years ago today, we were a little on edge, but still BLISSFULLY unaware of all the pain, all the surprises, all of everything that the characters CDKL5 was going to bring into our lives, and a lot of the time, I wish I could back.


The Mighty Contributor