I felt misled

This morning my eye caught a post from a special needs page that mentioned hope for the continual grief special needs parents experience. I chose to read it. Perhaps because of where I am at this stage of things, but I actually felt ‘misled’ when I read it! It felt weird having that thought/feeling about this article.

The truth is, parents of special needs children deal with unique grief from the moment of diagnosis of their child(ren). It’s a different type of grief and many don’t understand it. Parents of special needs children can get struck with grief at any moment and it’s a cycle that happens again and again. They don’t always go through the regular stages and find resolution.

What made me think I was misled was that when the article asked what grief experiences have snuck up on you lately, the answers all had to do with children that were still alive. I was taken aback as I had thought the article was going to be about loss. The loss of a child. Although the article was still true with it’s content, I felt misled.

We as parents have been grieving for our children all along. It’s difficult to explain but there is a different type of grief associated with raising a child with special needs. Some may say it’s not grief, but the reality is that it is a type of grief even if we don’t want to admit it. The grief we experience is sudden situations and/or circumstances that remind us that our child(ren) aren’t able to do certain things as their peers do. They aren’t at ‘level’s’ they should be for their age etc…the list could go on…

To us, our child(ren) is/are perfect. Even with our own imperfections, we are all perfect in God’s eyes. We are who we are for a reason and there is a plan for each and every one of us. Even as parents, we know our children are different, but this is normal for them and normal for us.

I hadn’t really thought about, that to a degree I was also grieving during those years. I never looked at things Patrick couldn’t do as a loss though because there were so many other things he could do even if it had to modified for him to do it. He smiled so much and so often, how could one look at it as grief?

The grief now is SO different. I have those moments when something all of a sudden strikes me and I am in tears, wishing with all my might that Patrick was still here. That I could hear his laugh, see his smile, hold his hand and get a hug from him.

For myself, I feel a loss in my self esteem and confidence. I hesitate to make decisions on my own now, which sounds odd because I had to make decisions ALL the time with regards to Patrick’s life! I’ve gained weight (even watching what I eat) and can’t seem to lose the weight as easily as I could before.  Tired feels like part of my vocabulary now. I feel like I’ve been running non-stop for almost 17 years, and now my body seems to feel like it needs time to recuperate from all those years. It’s frustrating because all these losses I feel, I didn’t feel before when Patrick was here.

I think I feel like Patrick made me strong. He was strong, and maybe he felt I was too and we fed off each other that way, and it worked!  We were a great team together!

As many of you know we started Grief Group a couple weeks ago.  With many being away this week, group was cancelled, but next week I am going to share this with the other parents attending and get some feedback and thoughts on this.

Let me finish off though with this…

Although the loss is huge, the JOYS are many!  Recalling the joy of who he was, how he interacted with others, the way he made people feel and especially how happy and proud he made us feel…that will never go away!!

Focusing on the JOYS makes the loss a little easier each time.  Sharing about him makes the loss a little easier each time.  Some may tire of hearing about him, but we never will!  His impact and legacy has helped and will continue to help many people and for that we are truly grateful!!

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive, loving, kind and generous.  We couldn’t have done it without you either.  Thank you for being a part of our lives, whether near or far, we love you all!

JOY!

His laugh was infectious! He loved to laugh!!

JOY

Patrick & Bruiser!

Family JOY

Playing with the camera on Patrick’s iPad. He loved seeing Auntie Rosanne!

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When what you prepared for isn’t what’s happened

I know it seems like forever since I’ve posted. Life has been busy with Patrick quite ill. He is on his 2nd admission since January and we are now heading into week 7 of this one. He is not looking at being able to go home till some time after the end of May.

Last year, after Patrick’s Wish Trip and before Christmas, I finally did something I should have done years ago. I created a ‘fan page’ for Patrick on Facebook. It was an easier solution for people who follow him and see what he’s up to and how he’s doing.

I just wanted to post this quick update that we are still here and hanging in. Patrick has been quite seriously ill. All the updates have been posted on his page if anyone would like to follow along.

https://www.facebook.com/notbythebooks

Watch for more…thanks everyone for your support!

Have an awesome weekend!!

How did you start your day? (updated)

First video blog! 🙂 They will get better I promise! 🙂

London Drop Zone 2012Click the ^above^ picture to watch this blog post!

Have you ever thought about what exactly you do in a day?

Have you ever thought about how easy your life is?   Easy you say? My life easy?

Take a moment and think about what you did this morning when you got up and started your day.

You got yourself out of bed – you went to the washroom – you brushed your teeth – you had a shower – you got dressed – you made coffee/tea – maybe you had time to read the paper or check emails before jumping into your car and heading to work, the gym, shopping or where ever.

Does any of this sound familiar at all? I’m positive some of it applies to many.

Now…imagine this…

You’re lying in bed awake, ready to get up.  But wait…you can’t!  You have to wait for someone to come help you get out of bed.

Perhaps you’d call out to someone to come help you…but wait…you’re not able to speak.  Maybe you use an augmentative communication device to speak for you, you might be able to use it to help you get someone.

Now…someone has arrived to help you get up.  Maybe they even need to help you get dressed.  Perhaps you need help using the washroom.  If you need help for these things, you’re going to need help in the shower as well, right?

What if you couldn’t eat anymore?  What if you could, but it wasn’t recommended you do, due to health risks it would cause if you did.  Imagine being fed through a tube in your nose or your stomach.  Not being able to taste food anymore!

Those a just a few thoughts for you to think about at the moment.  Stop and really think about it.  What if that was you?  How would you feel?

Now let’s see, based on the above questions, let’s surmise that you aren’t able to walk, so you would likely be in a wheelchair.  (Let’s make a little side note here that there are many types of disabilities and not all of them require use of a wheelchair or other assistive devices).  Let’s also assume that because you can’t eat orally, you have a g-tube with which you get your nutrition.

Did you walk to your car or to work or the gym today?   There are literally thousands of people who weren’t able to.  Have you ever thought about getting around in a wheelchair?   Think about some of the places you go and take a visual as to how accessible they are?  Are there ramps?  Automatic buttons for the doors?  That are in reach?  Are the doorways wide enough for your wheelchair?  Are the things you use everyday within reach for you?

Seems like a lot to think about so far doesn’t it?

On the other side of the coin so to speak, what if you were the one who was helping that person everyday?   Circumstances are different for everyone and every situation it’s true, but suppose you had to get someone else ready to for their day before you could get started with yours.  Oh wait, this is how you start your day.

What if you were the parent and this was your child?  There are thousands of families that do this everyday!  This is their life!

How would you cope/handle things?  Do you think you could?   Without complaining?

Imagine all the things you will have had to learn and the all the things you’ll continue to learn.  All the Doctors, therapists, nurses, teachers, suppliers of equipment and things your child needs.  All these people remember are multiples!! In other words, there are a number of doctors/specialists, there could be anywhere from 1-5 therapists, multiple nurses and teachers and a limited number of suppliers for your equipment and supplies needed.

Think about work.  Is your boss wonderful and patient enough to let you answer those calls from the school where you might be needed?  How about all the doctor’s appointments and tests/procedures your child may have?  What about the hospital stays?  Staying 24/7 at the hospital with your child because no one knows your child like you do!  No one there would understand your child’s communication either.  Who is the best advocate for your child?  YOU!!

watch the video for the rest….

Here is the link for Easter Seals Drop Zone 2013 🙂

http://my.e2rm.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=1810209&registrantPreview=1

Thank you so much!!

Reality – Let’s Dwell on the Now!

So I decided to write this while it was still fresh in my head.  I really should do that more often, but it all ends up being said in the end regardless, so it’s ok.

Today was a check-up appointment for Patrick with Nephrology.  This is the second time in a row I’ve come out of an appointment with information I didn’t have previously.  I am known to ask questions of the doctors and nurses, and they know I will continue to ask questions and talk to them till I am comfortable in my understanding and knowledge of whatever the issue is.  It looks as though I will need to start asking more detailed questions about reports, tests and scans.  I have also requested all clinic and hospital reports for the past year and all scans since 2005.

Let me start by saying that the update I’m about to give, may not sit well with many and I will emphasize repeatedly that we are/everyone is to dwell on the positive aspects of this information.

Without going into extreme details, I will begin with a bit of history that perhaps some don’t know or didn’t realize.  One of the ‘symptoms’ that typically goes with Patrick’s diagnosis of Meckel Syndrome, is polycystic kidneys.  This means that it is common for the kidneys to have and/or be covered in cysts.  The cysts get so bad that the kidneys end up having problems functioning and eventually shut down.  When Patrick was born, no cysts were detected or found.  A few years ago, a few started showing up on his ultra sounds.  There were only about 3 in total.  There had been no real issues with his kidney function…till about 4yrs ago.  It started to decrease.

In April of this year, we found out Patrick was in Stage 2 Chronic Kidney Disease and his kidney function had decreased to 60-65%.

Now, let’s jump to the present.

The appointment this week has brought some more information to light and also given us a bit of a reality check about this issue.  We’ve always known his kidneys were and were going to be an issue, but it’s always been tucked in the back of our minds as there hadn’t been any major issues and he was being managed well to look after them as best as possible to prolong them as much as possible.

Information this week has told us, Patrick’s kidney function is now 50%.  He also has more cysts on his kidneys.  The bigger Patrick gets, the harder it will be on his kidneys.

The Doctor told me that when his function gets to 30%, we will begin having talks about what will be the options for Patrick and what will be in his best interest.  A number of factors will come into play at that time, so it’s not something that can be discussed to much this early on.  The Doctor also mentioned that sometimes it is good to begin to discuss some of these things now, as it is generally more difficult in the ‘actual’ moment and our judgement can be ‘clouded’ sometimes in those types of situations.

They are managing him as best they can, as I mentioned, to prolong his kidney life as long as possible.  Some of the things they monitor are his phosphate and potassium levels, his blood pressure, his meds and a few other things.  Patrick’s ‘numbers/levels’ are good at this time under the circumstances, and that’s a great thing!! It means he’s being managed well!  Let’s keep that in mind!

Not to put a damper on things, or to sound morbid, but to a degree the reality of the situation has been brought a little closer to the front of our minds now.  The reason being, if his function continues to decrease at the rate it is now, we’ll be having these talks within 2 yrs.

But let’s try not to dwell on the future too much at this moment.  Patrick is a happy boy!  He loves school and being around his friends and family!  He loves to do crafts and bake!  He loves going for drives and music!  He’s an amazing young man!  He’s doing better and being looked after by the best people!  His numbers are good at this point as mentioned previously, so again, his health is being managed well at this time!

 

How can you smile not smile at this guy?

 

Genetics again – How interesting!

During the admission earlier this year, genetics were brought in again due to something seen on an MRI Patrick had done while in hospital.

 

As most already know, Patrick was diagnosed with Meckel Syndrome.  At the time of his birth, there were no tests for this syndrome.

About 3yrs ago when Patrick had his cranial vault expansion, genetics was brought in to see if they could shed some light on what was going on with Patrick.  Was there any more or new information regarding Meckel Syndrome?  Was there anything else they could think of that could possibly be the cause of what was happening with him?

We found out then, there were now tests available for Meckel Syndrome!  I signed papers to give permission to have his blood sent for testing.  It had to be sent to the states and would take up to 3 months approximately for results to come back.

Fast forward a few months to the results of those initial tests…

There are actually 7 different tests!  Meckel Syndrome can be found on 7 different genes now.  When the results came back negative for all 7, we were quite surprised!!  This wasn’t the end though!  The Genetist was shocked on some of the results and wondered how he was going to tell us.

Apparently, 2 other damaged genes were discovered in this process.  Guess what?? Neither of these had ever been seen or documented before! Ever! Anywhere!  So we were asked to sign forms to take more blood so they could store his DNA and send it for more in depth testing and that the government would cover the cost of any and all further genetic testing for Patrick.  (It will likely take years before anyone finds anything out about these 2 new damaged genes.  We’ll be lucky if it’s in our life time)

Done!

Fast forward again to earlier this year…

As I mentioned, after an MRI during this admission, something was noticed on the scan and genetics was brought in again.

In one of the pictures from the MRI, you can see something in Patrick’s brain that looks like the shape of a tooth.  A molar tooth!

 

The Molar Tooth Sign

It’s NOT an actual tooth!!  The easiest way to describe it, is type of malformation in the brain that just LOOKS like a molar tooth, hence its name.

The molar tooth sign is a classic sign/symptom for Joubert Syndrome.

Joubert Syndrome is another rare, recessive syndrome that hasn’t been around very long, and they are still doing research to find out more about it.

 

Meckel Syndrome vs Joubert Syndrome

Both of these syndromes, as mentioned, are rare.  They are recessive as well, which means they don’t appear very often.

There is no history in either myself or Dave’s family of anything like either of these syndromes, but the genes are carried in the families and can present themselves whenever nature decides to.

*Let me just interject here, that every one of us carries thousands of bad genes!  Every one of us has a 25% chance of having a child with any of those thousands of ‘bad’ genes.  It also takes BOTH the sperm and the egg to be carrying those same genes for the syndrome or whatever to make itself known.  In other words, both the sperm and egg that created Patrick carried these particular genes.  If only one of them carried them, Patrick would likely just be a carrier and not have any issues at all.*

Research and information show both Meckel Syndrome and Joubert Syndrome ‘share’ some common genes!  And while Meckel Syndrome usually has a not so good mortality rate, Joubert’s is good!

There is continued testing being carried out for both these syndromes, and over the years, more is expected to be learned and found out about each.

The shocker from blood work taken earlier this year for genetics?  Now positive for one of the genes for Meckel Syndrome and negative for Joubert!

So what does this mean?

Patrick has the Molar Tooth Sign!  That is classic symptom for Joubert!  What do we tell doctors and everyone else who asks about this now?

The Answer is…

Patrick DOES have Meckel Syndrome!  And while so far the tests for Joubert say negative, he DOES have the classic symptom for Joubert!

Patrick has Meckel Syndrome AND Joubert symptoms!

That’s what we tell people now!

Did you get all that?  Please feel free to ask questions if you like.  It’s not the easier thing to understand for sure.

Water in my brain – A Child’s Explanation

Last year I wrote an article about Hydrocephalus for information purposes and to add to the resource guide Sylvia McGrath and I have been writing the past couple years for families/individuals who have chronic illness, learning disabilities and/or special needs.  Section One (A-I) is done, available online and in the Canadian Library Archives.

I was asked to write about it, from a childs point of view.  I chose to take the route of explaining it how I think my son would explain it to one of his friends or to another person in general.  I wrote using terminology/words that I think most would understand.

As we know with most children, there aren’t too many details when it comes to stuff like this.  Things are typically explained as much and in as little time as possible so they can continue on with whatever they were doing.

As I mentioned, since my son has Hydrocephalus, I used him to write this.  I look forward to your feedback and comments.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi, my name is Patrick, I’m 14yrs old and I have ‘water in my brain’.  In the hospital, they call it Hydrocephalus (Hi-droh-cef-a-lus).

All of our brains make ‘water’.  The doctors call it, CSF (Cerebral Spinal Fluid).  For most people, the ‘water’ gets soaked up in our bloodstream and then goes away when we go to the bathroom.

For me, the water doesn’t soak up.  It keeps collecting and fills up the spaces inside my brain called ventricles (ven-trick-culls).  When there gets to be too much water in them, I feel a lot of pressure in my head and I get bad headaches.  Sometimes my eyes go funny and sometimes I even fall asleep.

The doctors have fixed it though, so I don’t feel pressure all the time or get headaches all the time.  They put 2 shunts in my head.  A shunt is a little thing they put in my head that has a dial and some small tubes attached to it.  One tube goes from the dial into my ventricles, the other goes from the dial down into my stomach.  You can’t see them when you look at me, they are underneath my skin.  The doctors set the dials, and when the pressure in my head gets too much, the shunts ‘turn on’ and take the water out of my head.  The water gets pumped down to my stomach where it gets soaked up there instead of in my head.

I go for Cat Scans (CT’s) once a year to see how my ventricles look.  It’s a big round machine that takes pictures of your head.  You have to lay very still when they take the pictures.  It doesn’t take long at all if I don’t move.

If the pictures show my ventricles are bigger than normal, the doctor will do some other tests to make sure my shunts are working ok.  If they look ok, then I go home and come back in a year so they can see how I’m doing.

 

 

Written Oct/11 by:  Renee MacLachlan

Update 6 – one of those appointments

It’s been a few days since I’ve done an  update.  I’m so tired when I get home in the evening and getting up so early in the morning.  I’ve been setting my alarm for 530am so I can get used to being up when he goes back to school.  I’m at the hospital just after 730am and I try to be back home around 8pm as long as nothing is going on.

At the last update, we were waiting for the new valves to come in so they could get into surgery and fix them.  We did go home for the long weekend.  Patrick did alright, nothing major to warrant an earlier return to the hospital and thankfully didn’t need to give him any codeine over the weekend either. 🙂

Tuesday afternoon we went back to the hospital to get admitted again.  The valves arrived Tuesday and surgery was Wednesday, first one in the morning.

I’m going to try not to go into too much details, I know for some it is over-whelming and difficult to understand.  If there are ever any questions about anything I have written, please feel free to email/comment and ask.  I will happily answer.

Surgery Wednesday morning went well.  They took the full 3hrs and a tad more.  Both valves were replaced as well as the upper end of both shunts.  Testing during the surgery indicated no issues with the bottom ends.  At the upper end, the left was blocked/plugged and the right was likely partially plugged as it was quite slow, hence both got replaced.

Both shunts are set at 60, where they had been set for the past 6-7 years.  For those interested, the settings range from around 30 – 300.  The lower the number, the more it allows the shunts to drain the ventricles.

Patrick came out of sedation and recovery quickly.  They were actually paging us throughout the hospital to get us to go back to post-op.  We didn’t hear the page even though we were just in the hallway talking to Dr. Ranger.  We went in and were able to get him calmed down.  The nurses were amazed apparently at how well we communicated and got him settled.  They said they were getting alot of ‘no’s’ and didn’t know what he was saying.  Understandable.

The days following surgery have been up and down.  A CT was done Friday morning.  Results were that the ventricles were a ‘little’ smaller, but still generous in size.  They were heading in the right direction.

Friday afternoon, Patrick started to become symptomatic again.  Lethargic, uncomfortable, fidgety, head pain, slow responding and there was ‘swelling’ at the shunt sites.  The swelling is actually fluid, not swelling.  He was having times of alertness, smiling and such, but then would go down and have the aforementioned symptoms.  He had slight elevated temps on Friday, but none since.  His vitals have been good, blood pressure, temps etc…  Saturday he began having longer periods of lethargicness and periodically breaking out in rashes.  His chest was sounding crackly and a bit rough with a phlegmy cough.

Too make a long story short, as a result of how he’s been this weekend, another CT has been ordered for today.  We’ll see what the CT shows, pharmacy is looking into how his meds are made up and what’s in them to see if that might be the cause for the rashes (they don’t think so), we’ll see what Dr. Ranger says tomorrow (she’s going to scratch her head again and sigh wondering why this is happening when he has 2 new, great working shunts).

It’s frustrating when people (Dr’s/Residents etc.) come to see your child who have never seen them before and think that because what’s happening isn’t “typical” or “by the books”, that it’s probably nothing serious and to ‘give it time’.

It’s frustrating when explaining to them about your child and they look at you as if you are reaching for ideas and/or looking for something to be wrong, when in fact you are trying to tell them what IS typical/normal for your child!

It’s frustrating when they talk to you as if you know nothing and can’t understand what they are saying/explaining!

Thankfully, this afternoon the adult Neurosurgery Team Resident that came, remembered Patrick from last fall and all that happened there.  He remembered seeing Patrick a couple times and hearing about his case.  I think Southwestern ON heard about him!  He said it was quite the interesting case.  I’m thankful he listened to us and understood what we were saying and explaining and didn’t try to brush things off or us off.

I’m glad that I am a great advocate for my son.  I ask questions until I get answers I’m satisfied with and understand.  I work with the Dr’s/Nurses to decide what the best plan of action should be.  I keep them informed and help out as much as possible.

I know things will get sorted with Patrick this week.  Until last fall, he had gone 6yrs or so with no pressure issues, and now if this is what’s happening again, we aren’t even a year yet since the last.  I’m hoping this isn’t a sign of things to come.

I’m going to post a Poll asking your thoughts on Doctor/Nurse – Patient/Family Communication and how you feel about it based on personal experience.  I’m quite curious.  I hope you will take a quick minute to answer it.

Thanks to everyone for their continued thoughts and prayers for Patrick.  Again, it is truly appreciated.

Patrick asked for Bruiser to come visit him tomorrow.  I have given Bruiser a bath tonight and will confirm with the Nurses it’s ok to bring his dog up to see him again tomorrow.

Patrick didn’t want me to leave tonight.  I told him I had to pack up some things for him and to bathe Bruiser if he wanted to see him tomorrow.  He seemed ok with that.  Dave, Patrick’s father has been staying the night at the hospital so I can go home and sleep.  He has been up since the week of his Shunt-o-gram and likely will not leave until Patrick is ok and able to come home.  If Dave wasn’t up here, I’d be at the hospital 24/7.  Someone needs to be there all the time.  It’s mandatory in most cases.

I appologize if I seem all over the place here, I’m tired and heading to bed.

More to come…