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!

Improving Quality of Life

Many of you are wondering how the meeting with supportive services went this morning.  Here is a bit of a run down of what the plan is and what’s happening.

 

Let me begin by telling you, it was decided this morning’s meeting would not cover any of the difficult palliative issues at this time.  Those talks will happen, but today the priority was pain management and quality of life concerns.

Patrick’s pain seems to be managed fairly well with the medication he’s on.  He’s taking Gabapentin and Valproic Acid.  He doesn’t complain of headaches as often as he had been, which is good.  Tylenol is being used when needed to help take the edge off at least.  It really doesn’t do much for him honestly and thankfully is not needed as often at the moment.

As for quality of life, fatigue is making Patrick’s not so good.  He is awake and alert for periods throughout the day, but they don’t last and he tires easily and quickly and falls asleep.

What is causing the fatigue?  We wish we knew.  The Doctors wish they knew.  Could it be the meds?  Possibly.  Could it be the increased pressure in his head? Sure.  Could it be the seizures?  Again, it’s a possibility.  The fact is, he has been like this before when seizures and medication weren’t in the picture.  Both the seizures and the meds won’t help it indeed.

It’s so difficult to write so much out and so that many will understand.  It’s easier to inform verbally, but I will do my best.  I have considered doing videos instead of writing for updates, I may still, we’ll see.

Fatigue is causing issue and concern with eating and drinking.  He’s so tired, that it’s taking 2-3 hours to get through meals and drinking.  Tiring, not only for him, but for the caregivers as well.  The decreased alertness and increased sleepiness while eating and drinking can become a serious health and safety issue for Patrick.  Not being awake enough to chew and swallow properly can cause him to cough and choke and potentially aspirate.  Chances of pneumonia increase with aspiration, something he can’t get.  We’ve been lucky thus far, but he does cough alot when trying to eat and stay awake enough.  He wants to eat, but it tires him so much.  It’s alot of work to co-ordinate chewing and swallowing, something many of us don’t realize or think about.

A consult for a feeding assessment is being done as well as a recommendation that Patrick have a G Tube put in.  The G Tube will not be to replace his eating, but to help.  He will still eat what he wants and can, but in a 20-30min time period.  Anything after that will be done by the G Tube.

By doing this, the hope is to improve his quality of life, even if just a bit more and hope that it preserves some of his energy and that maybe his awake/alert periods could possibly start to become longer.

A social worker is going to be asked to become involved as well.  As I am usually the one who looks for information and resources for most things I need to know, I’m so tired, I’ve not had the energy to do a whole lot.  As Lisa (support services person) told me this morning, she has no doubt how tired I am (you just have to look at me) and that I am doing a great job and being a great advocate, but it will be nice to have someone else involved who can advocate for me/us and do that extra stuff for me.  Looking for information and resources.  A little reluctantly, I agreed.  Social work is apparently going to get me more information on Kids Country Club (their website is down), a respite for children who are technology dependent and medically fragile.

I hope to hear from Neurology next week regarding the 24hr EEG.  My thought is now that with them deciding to put a G Tube in, it would make sense to co-ordinate the two since he will be in hospital 4-5 days with the G Tube.   Hopefully this will be done sooner than later, so this surgery can get done and he can start recovery and get better.

Lisa did make a point of saying that no one is thinking he will not make it.  The reality of it is though, this a very big, complex and complicated surgery and the risks are great.  Everyone needs to be prepared for ALL the possible outcomes.

I’m tired and can’t think of the rest at the moment, so I will sign off and update again later.

I did get a call this afternoon though from Neurosurgery Clinic saying they wanted a CT today/tonight or tomorrow for Patrick.  He’s having it 730am tomorrow morning.  I’m off to bed to get some sleep.

Goodnight my friends, thank you again everyone for your kind thoughts and prayers! HUGS!

 

Supportive Services = Palliative Care Team

I had posted a bit of an update the other day on my FB status.  It was in response to a family member asking for the latest update on Patrick. Based on reactions to my status tonight, it is quite clear, not everyone saw/read it.

I apologize.  I should have posted the update IN my actual status or here on my blog.  I’ve been so tired to do any length of updating, it’s just much easier to talk to someone in person or on the phone.

Here is the update I posted the other day…

Waiting to hear from Neurology to see when the 24hr EEG will be. They have told Neurosurgery to hold off on the surgery till the seizures are managed. I left a message for Neurology this morning. Supportive Services (Palliative) called this morning and are coming to the house on Thurs to go over things etc…

Patrick is doing ok. He has bouts of animation, but still tires easily. Dietition has been in and he is needing to have 2 supplements/Ensures a day to make his caloric intake. OT is coming out this week to discuss energy conservation for him.

As the day goes on, he tires more. A nurse comes to the house 2x a week. He will get his stitches out today and will need a port flush in the next couple weeks.  (stitches came out yesterday, port flush next week)

CCAC has given me information on services I can hire to come in at night if I decide to use a PSW or Nurse to keep an eye on him through the night. If I go this route at some point, it will be a nurse coming in, not a psw.

The money I have for respite can be used to pay for that service as well. It will just take those ‘hours’ away from the girls. Im going to call VON and see if there is additional funding somewhere so I don’t have to use those funds if I decide it’s necessary to have someone come in at night.

 

I used the term most are familiar with, perhaps that was a mistake, but it has also made people realized how serious this surgery will be.  Supportive services will be supporting us leading up to, during and after the surgery.  They will also be preparing us for things in case the outcome of the surgery is not what everyone is hoping for.  No one wants to think negatively, but we do have to deal with the reality of the situation as well.  Neurosurgery thought having them involved was a good idea for this.

In all the surgeries Patrick has had, I have never once thought he would never come out.  I will maintain that thought through this one, but as I mentioned, I have to look realistically and be prepared for this one.  This is a complicated and very long surgery and one that no one, even the Doctors are looking forward to.

I have my moments with things.  I’m tired.  I miss seeing friends and family, but very much appreciate when they stop by for a visit here to see us.  It makes me feel like I’m still connected to the outside world and provides a nice distraction, even if only for a little while.

We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers everyone has been sending.  Those who have dropped meals off because there are days I’m too tired to think about cooking or remembering to take something out to cook, it’s truly appreciated! Thank you!  Our schedules have been off because of Patrick’s tiredness, so meals are not always at meal times.

Thank you everyone, I will try to keep things updated, but please don’t hesitate to call or message or come by for a visit if you’re wondering how things are and have not seen a recent update.  I am tired.

HUGS to those who need them and thanks for those sent back! 🙂

 

Impressive Disney Planning – Cont’d

For all the changes that we’ve had to make in the past week, our travel agent has been wonderful!  She has been quick with information, bookings, reservations and insurance stuff and more.  The girls are excited and Patrick is waiting for me to make up a countdown calendar to put on his wall.

4 of our sit down meals are reserved, one for each park, including two character lunches!  One with Winnie the Pooh Gang (whoever of them can make it) and another with one or more of Mickey’s Gang!   The other two reserved meals are suppers, one being a Chinese cuisine and the other Italian.  With the Dining Plan we have, (we have the dining plus plan for free), we get one table seated meal, one quick serve meal and one snack each day we are there.  Heather, our travel agent, called me today with some great news!!  All the restaurants we have our reserved meals with, will accommodate Patrick’s diet as well!  How awesome is that!! 🙂  They will chop/puree up Patrick’s meal for him/us! How great is that?!  That will make some of our meal-times easier! 🙂  We’ve been informed to inquire at any others we attend for meals, as they may accommodate him, but those are not guaranteed!  Regardless, those 4 meals still help.

We’ve been given information about accessing many of the attractions at the parks with regards to accessibility and their alternate entrances for persons using mobility devices.  These entrances also allow a maximum of 6 people from the party including Patrick to stay together.  Since we are now 5 again, we can stay together and enjoy the attractions together!

A couple of the attractions we are looking at, are Kilimanjaro Safaris and the Jungle Cruise, both I know Patrick will love as it will give him opportunities to see many different types of animals.  He is also excited about going on any attractions that are train rides.

Today, we went for passport photos.  I had already called Passport Canada and inquired about what would happen or need to be done if we couldn’t get a photo of Patrick not smiling and without his teeth showing.  They said I would need to get a letter from a Doctor explaining why.  So in the meantime, I’ve put a call in to the Ped. Dentist for a letter with an explanation and why I’m requesting one.

Everything about the trip is booked now.  Plane tickets, Insurance, Resort, Transportation to and from the airport, Park tickets and some of our meals…everything is booked and paid for.  The reality of it is starting to hit me!  All the little pieces of information that we’ve been given and all the answers to all the questions we’ve asked have been answered and answered quickly as well.

I’m a little extra tired tonight, so I’m going to end here for now.  I will post more updates soon.

Thanks for stopping by and keeping up to date with us.  We love to hear from you too!

Have a wonderful evening! 🙂

 

Disney Planning Cont’d

Well our numbers have decreased, but we are still going!  Flights are booked and the rest will be finalized next week, just waiting for confirmation invoices and info.

I must say I’m a little impressed with some of the information that is available on the Disney site regarding accessibility and information for multiple disability types.  I will also say, it involves ALOT of clicking to go through everything!  I’ve printed out over 60 pages of information to go over rather than having to click around and find my way back to it all.  Here are some of the pages on their site:

More clicking throughout these pages to get more detailed information is required, but these pages are a place to start.  They have printable guides for each of the parks, which when printed out, is quite small in font size.

You will read quite a bit about how you should plan ahead as much as possible, and I completely agree.  For myself, I like to be as prepared as possible, know exactly what we’re getting into and how to best organize things to make things as relaxing and enjoyable as possible for everyone.

We are fortunate enough to have both respite workers coming with us to help out.  It’s amazing how much arranging and planning you have to think about to pull a trip like this off.  I’ve been doing the bulk of it thus far with laying the ground work and making sure we will be in accomodations that will work for everyone, especially Patrick.  Mom has appreciated this very much.  It’s a little more stressful, for me anyway, having someone else do it when they don’t ‘live it’ like you do every day.  I’m sure many will agree, when it comes to things like this, you feel better knowing that the necessary things are in place to ensure a good time when you have had input.

We have a great travel agent!  Heather has contacts and has worked with the people who arrange the Sunshine Trips for the kids.  She has used those contacts to help plan our trip as well.

I would suggest, as would Heather, to make sure you double check your booking and explanations of what type of accommodations you need and are getting.  We have found Disney really needs to update their website and look at some of their terminology.  They also need to better train their agents.  Twice Heather has called to double check bookings and been given mis-information.  We had to change our accommodations this morning as the accessible room we were given at one resort was not what they told her yesterday and it didn’t work for us.  We are thankful she has been diligent and making sure everything we need is in place for us.

Medical insurance is another thing we needed to look at.  Patrick had done so well for about 6 years, but in the past year, his health has not improved back to what he was previously.  For those who don’t have coverage with other companys or through work, there are some fairly strict guidelines to go with the coverage.  It is wise to check into exactly what you are/will be covered for to make sure there are no surprises.  One of the girls has medical insurance through her work, but still needed to have the coverage added for this trip.  Basically for us, as long as Patrick doesn’t end up in the hospital or have any change in medication between now and the trip, AND it isn’t for the same reason’s he was just in for, he will be covered.  Keep your fingers crossed, because if there were to be issues, they would likely be for the same issues.  Send a few prayers up for him 🙂

Heather has also looked into extra luggage for us for some of the extra stuff needed to bring for Patrick, and also found out I’m able to bring the Chopper with us as long as it’s in the checked luggage.  With Patrick’s medication needing to be refridgerated and such, they are supplying a small fridge for us at no cost because it’s for medical needs.  They have arranged accessible transporation for us from the airport right to our resort and back again when we leave.

We are working on some other details while waiting for the final confirmation numbers, but things are moving along fairly well at this point.  Aside from the ‘hiccup’ with the accommodation (which has been sorted) and the particulars of the medical insurance (didn’t surprise me), we are quite happy with things so far.

Our travel time falls during a week that offers a free Dining Meal Plan, which is great, and as recommended MANY times about reserving your sit down meal as far ahead as possible as they fill up quickly, Heather will do that for us next week.

Next week is passport photos for Patrick and I, and going through the information I found and printed to see what attractions and rides are accessible, which require transfers and which one’s Patrick would be more interested in seeing.  We already know he’s very interested in Animal Kingdom, so that’s a given. 🙂

One more note before signing off for the night.  My sister’s SIL (sister-in-law), gave me a site to take a look at also.  They also have some great information and more photos of rooms and attractions and accessibility (Disney has very few accessible room photos, and I’ve not seen any accessible ride/attraction photos at all so far).   allears.net

It just so happens, when I shared this site with our travel agent, her contact with Sunshine Foundation, gave her the same site 🙂

Feel free to email any comments, suggestions/feedback.  I’ll be happy to reply.

Till next time…. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Accessibility to you?

Wikipedia defines accessibility as the following:

“Accessibility is a general term used to describe the degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible. Accessibility can be viewed as the “ability to access” and benefit from some system or entity. Accessibility is often used to focus on people with disabilities or special needs and their right of access to entities, often through use of assistive technology.”

The dictionary has an interesting definition of accessibility:

1. Easily approached or entered.

2. Easily obtained: accessible money.

3. Easy to talk to or get along with: an accessible manager.

4. Easily swayed or influenced: accessible to flattery.

 

Both have offered a very broad, general definition.  What does accessibility mean for you?

For many people who live with disabilities, accessibility can mean the difference between being able to get out of the house to attend to the daily chores/outings/events and things typical for many people, or NOT being able to get out or get to many places to do what many take for granted, go to work, go shopping, visiting, etc…

Accessibility means different things for different people.  We all need to have accessibility to some extent.  You may be thinking, “I don’t have a disability!”.   Disability or not, we all use things everyday that help make things ‘accessible’ to us.  Think about it.  Can you think of 3 things you use every day that help you do things and get places?

How many times have you used the automatic door openers to enter buildings?  That’s accessibility!  How many times have you chosen to take the ramp instead of a few stairs?  That’s accessibility!  Have you ever used a ‘jar gripper’ to help you open jars and other lids difficult to open?  That’s accessibility! Do the taps in your kitchen or washroom have ‘lever-like’ knobs instead of the usual ’round’ ones?  Believe it or not, that’s also accessibility!

More and more I think about how things are looking and how they will be, accessibility-wise, with regards to my son.  Where can I take him that will be accessible?  What if he wants to go places with his friends more as he continues to get older, and it’s not accessible?  My thoughts already go to even just the simplest things like going to family dinners.  Not everyone has an accessible place.  At 14yrs old, he is too big to be carrying on my own.  Even to do a 2 person lift, how many doorways are wide enough to accommodate?

1 in 7 people in ON have a disability and that number will increase as our population ages. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was passed in 2005.  Its goal is to make Ontario accessible for people with disabilities by 2025.  Through province-wide accessibility standards, they will improve accessibility by identifying, breaking down and preventing barriers to accessibility.

In the near future, I’m going to take a look at accessible housing to begin with.  How many homes are actually accessible?  What does the market consider accessible? (Yes, it will be different for each person’s needs, but in general, their definition)  Are the accessible houses affordable for those who actually need them?

I’m also going to look at transportation.  It’s availability; it’s cost and is what’s in place working? Is it enough?

If you know someone in either of these areas that would be interested in meeting with me, discussing this and even possibly giving me a ‘guided tour’ to see what’s out there, please contact me, I’d be pleased to meet you.

I will be writing about the information I find for articles and for my blog.

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