Tuesday, December 31, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mighty Contributor

Friday, December 27, 2019

Dec 26

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

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

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

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

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

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, December 23, 2019


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

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

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

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, December 16, 2019

The plan

I have always been a planner.  I surprise myself sometimes with my ability to continue planning, even though so many times over the last close to 5 years my planning has not yielded the same outcomes as I had anticipated.  I have learned planning is just one component and not even necessarily the most important part, it is the execution of those plans that almost weigh more than all of the preparation, and sometimes even though the plan is in plain sight and you can clearly see the words written out in front of you, your specific desire for the situation to unfold in the manner you thought, isn't always in the cards.

April 16, 2015, was the day that reality shifted, all of our parenting plans as we knew them, changed.  It was the day that I learned you could breathe but your lungs might not fill up with air.  It was the day that I learned that rare can happen to anyone and when it does, it doesn't feel very rare at all.  It was a day that time simultaneously stood still and flew by all at once.  It was the day despite being married 6.5 years already that I would first see Sam cry not because of a birth of one of our children, but because his world was crumbling around him.  There was nothing we could do but once we collected ourselves we made a new plan.

Had you asked me 4.5 years ago, I would have said the first death amongst my non-special needs framily would have been Sonzee.  The plan was Sam and I sitting shiva first because she had passed.  It was supposed to be our friends navigating how shiva worked and things to do.  I never entertained that one of my closest friends would have had to suffer the loss of her mother first, and I certainly never imagined any of Sonzee's grandparents passing first.  Logically I know that is how it is supposed to be, but that wasn't part of the current plan.  It's true you just never know what can happen, and for the last week and a half, I have been wondering why Sam's dad passed.  His soul's mission had clearly been accomplished and his purpose on earth fulfilled, yet none of us here will be privy to the real answer.  What peace I have gathered in my mind over it all is that someone needs to be waiting for Sonzee when it's her turn, and I know when her turn comes, he will be waiting with a cigarette in hand, open arms, on a bent knee and a huge smile on his face...at least that is the plan.

The Mighty Contributor

Monday, December 9, 2019

368 Days

On December 5, 2018, Sonzee had a checkup with her ophthalmologist at 7:45am and then we made a mad dash to admitting at PCH in order to make our check-in time for her port placement.  The surgery went quickly and thankfully uneventfully, and then later on that night she began her 2nd journey with TPN (an acronym that in short means she is getting food via a central line directly into her bloodstream).  We didn't know what to expect, we didn't know where the journey would lead.  A year ago she weighed 8lbs less and was about 5inches shorter, her GI system was exhausted, and she was in so much pain it was unbearable.

368 days have passed and it is hard to consider her without her extra tubing and hardware, yet eventually, we will probably have to do just that.  Every month the suggestion is made and Sam and I take a deep breath, swallow, and say "no".  If there is one thing I have gained on Sonzee's journey it is confidence in truly knowing that I don't need to humor anyone anymore to prove I know her best.  I know what taking her off of TPN will look like.  I know it in such a way that I could place dates next to each step forward and ultimately backward she will take.  I know that for 4-6 days her body won't say a word.  I know that after a week she will start to display some discomfort.  I know that we will never be able to maintain her required nutrition.  I know that she won't gain any weight, and she will eventually lose all the weight she put on over this past year.  I know that in the long run, it just won't work and we will be back to debating putting her back on it for the 3rd time.

Yet, I sometimes wonder did we get ourselves in too deep when we initially made this decision.  I know we did it with her best interest at heart, we did this for her, but what is supposed to happen next?  Is keeping her on worth the continuous risk of a central line infection that could cause her to be septic?  Is taking her off worth the risk of her losing weight and ultimately ending up in excruciating pain 24/7?  Does keeping her on or taking off even matter in the long run when she is now anemic, and still dehydrated despite all our efforts?  If only we could know what lay ahead.  If only we knew that keeping her on it or taking her off was the right answer.  Yet, we don't have the answers and we won't know what is meant to be until it happens.  So on Tuesday, we will go for our monthly appointment only to be faced with the same question and ultimately we will wait another month because that seems to be the only decision we are able to make.

The Mighty Contributor

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

1000 words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  That was the very first thought that popped into my mind when I received the email from Shutterfly that Sonya's school pictures were ready to be viewed.  I had spent the last week in anticipation of seeing hers since her older siblings all received theirs already.  I quickly opened the email and then paused.  Or maybe it wasn't so much a pause as I got smacked so hard in the face I had to pull myself together.  Maybe it hit so hard because things are completely all over the place in our house this week?  Maybe it hit so hard because I am a firm believer in never doing retakes because whatever occurs during the picture is the reality of life in that specific moment?  Maybe it hit so hard because I initially had forgotten about what actually occurred on picture day in the first place and after a quick moment I was jarred back into reality.

I debated between this two-piece outfit and its fraternal twin whose shirt was a dark shade of greenish blue.  I had been voting on the darker shirt but was vetoed by others who felt the mustardy yellow was brighter and better suited for picture day.  I obliged.  I picked out 2 glitter ponytail bows and let nurse Paige do her thing (clearly she is always on point as evidenced in the image below). The morning of picture day I told Sonzee numerous times "your pictures are in the morning, please wait and seize after".  When I dropped her at school a little after 9am I gave her a kiss and reminded her again to just hold off until after her pictures, and then got back into the car.  Within 8 minutes I received a text that said "Ugh. For real. Pics are at 1030".  Nurse Paige mentioned they were going to try and fit her in at a different time after she woke up, and I replied: "ok, if not it's the life of Sonze".  They waited, put on a horse and pony show-pompoms and all and nurse Paige said: "she is just sort of blah". 

A month later and I forgot.  I forgot how much I dislike CDKL5 and I forgot how her mutation causes issues in every. single. domain.  I forgot that I don't exaggerate when I say "she seizes all the time".  I forgot that no matter what medication we put her on it won't take away the negative effects her frameshift mutation causes.  I forgot that she gets absolutely no say in how her body treats her and how much she has to always endure.  I forgot that even though a picture says 1000 words, Sonzee cannot say one and we won't ever know what she must have felt like after she endured one of the literally (conservatively averaged) 5,000th seizure she endured before being placed in this chair.

The Mighty Contributor