Practically perfect…

It’s continued to be a roller coaster these past few days. But hopefully we’re turning a corner. More smiles and less tears. And lots of creativity today.

Today she made art with her hands in school (photo of that forthcoming) and after school she decorated the cover of her school communication book (it’s the book that goes back and forth between home and school so the home teachers and school teachers are connected). After she decorated it, she told Elaine ‘show mom’ in ‘home office’. (I was working from home today). The kid was so proud of her work. And so was I. So creative. #lilypoppins

The road to recovery… for us both

Last week, a few days after Lily’s accident, Stephen gently nudged me out of the house to go to a previously scheduled yoga retreat. I was a wreck. I didn’t want to go. But I also didn’t want to subject my already traumatized child to a mother who was in break down mode. 

So I begrudgingly packed my bags and went to Mexico. It was beautiful. It was healing. It was filled with the most magical people and experiences. I was conflicted  the entire trip. But what kept me from ditching my retreat was the logistics of trying to find my way out of the jungle on my own. I could have done it. But it would have been a lot of work. And for what? Getting back one or two days early?

So I stayed. And I laughed. And cried a lot. And did a lot of yoga. And slept. 

Which is a good thing because Lily’s recovery is going to be far from straightforward. 

Lily will be having oral surgery on Monday (yes this coming Monday) to have her teeth repositioned.

Then two weeks later she will need root canals in both teeth as the nerves will be damaged when they move the teeth.  And after the root canal, the tooth that was chipped will be reconstructed. 

She’ll go under anesthesia for both procedures. 

The logistics of making this all happen and in such a quick turnaround has my head buzzing. Her dentist helped tremendously by making the dental appointments, including procuring an anesthesiologist for both procedures. But the pre-op appointments, the multiple calls with all the doctors, and the paperwork… oh the paperwork. Well, that’s mostly been on me.  And today Stephen is taking over as I’m heading to another previously scheduled day-retreat. 

Things are moving in the right direction. And for that I am grateful. I’m also grateful that I’ve got the most resilient kid in the world as well as the most encouraging and loving partner. 

But I can’t downplay how draining these next few weeks will be. So if you get a chance, send some positive thoughts our way. This kid, and her momma, could sure use them.

Getting stronger

Six years ago… she needed to be harnessed onto the treadmill to be able to walk. She was having dozens of seizure-like episodes daily. She lost her appetite/ability to eat. Everything deteriorated. I couldn’t dare articulate this back then, but I wasn’t sure she’d survive. I wasn’t sure I’d survive.


The recovery was slow. She weighed 40 pounds for almost 4 years. I didn’t know if she’d grow again.


Now we are in a place where she keeps growing out of her clothes. It’s always the last thing I think of – that she’s grown. I was blaming the clothes dryer for a while but then remembered that kids grow. Kids should grow.


Earlier this week in physical therapy, Lily did 10 minutes on the treadmill at speed 3. A far cry from where she was six years ago.

There is so much people take for granted but I marvel at every pound gained. Every new skill attained.


This is Rett Syndrome.

Rett Syndrome and a pandemic don’t mix together well

I know that everyone can say that the last 12+ months have been a roller coaster. For us parents of kids with complex medical conditions, we were already on a roller coaster so life just got crazier and more intense.

That’s why you’ve not heard from me in a while.

Yesterday is a good example of the roller coaster of our lives. It started out with a semi-urgent scheduled appointment with Lily’s Rett specialist. And ended with a jam session (courtesy of Stephen) dance party/giggle fest. In between, we went to the botanical gardens to decompress from the hospital visit which has become somewhat of a family tradition.

So let me backtrack. There’s a lot that’s been going on with Lily. Some of it good. Some of it not so good.

The good: she’s gained 10 pounds, grew a few inches and is progressing well at school (even in a fully virtual environment).

The not so good: during her growth spurt, her feet didn’t grow right which has been impacting her ability to walk, she’s having zone-outs that are looking more and more like seizures and she’s become very temperamental.

Hence the appointment with the Rett specialist.

A lot came out of that appointment that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. Lots of recommendations were made. And with the help of Stephen and the doctor, we’ve prioritized the to-do list. Here are the headlines:

1. We will need to admit Lily for a 3-5+ day EEG to see if she’s having seizures.

2. Lily will be getting Botox treatments for her feet. The AFO’s (i.e., leg braces) which we got about a month ago to help with her gait and foot deformities aren’t doing enough. Adding Botox will hopefully assist in the mending process.

I’m overwhelmed. I’m heartbroken. But at the same time, I couldn’t be prouder of this person who is turning into a beautiful young lady, inside and out.

Double Digits

This kid is going to be 10 in a few days.


In these 10 years, she’s beaten so many odds. She’s doing well. But there are still so many things that she can’t do.


I often think about the conversations we would be having if she could talk. I have them with her regardless, searching her face for answers. But what about the conversations she wants to have? The Tobii is great but it is so very limiting. This child has complex thoughts and feelings. I can see it in her eyes. And those thoughts mostly stay trapped in that amazing brain of hers.


And when I say that Lily is doing well, it’s not like when typical kids are doing well. Doing well for her means that she’s not having significant breathing problems, she’s sleeping (albeit with medication), that she’s still able to walk independently, hasn’t been to the ER in a while and is capable of swallowing food. She still needs 24/7 support as she’s unsteady on her feet, her hands don’t function and she’s nonverbal.


And nothing is linear. Not her growth chart. Not her capabilities. Some days her ability to swallow food gets so compromised that we have to purée her meals.


But there’s good news too. She’s getting taller, she’s gained some weight (over 5 pounds this year alone) and she’s progressing academically (even in a fully remote environment). She also continues to be super cool, super funny and silly and super optimistic.


I say to her every day ‘how did I get so lucky to be your mom? To have such a sweet, smart, tenacious kid!’ I am so proud to call her my daughter. Everyone who knows her will tell you that she exudes love and sunshine and acceptance.
And she’s busting to see all of you in person — to give giggly hugs and have dance parties and make you read her books.


Hopefully we will get the opportunity to see you at some point this year. I’ll try to send more updates through www.blueberriesandgiggles.com as I’ve been off social media for a few months.


But for now, we celebrate a decade of Lily. Ten years have flown by and I want to make damn sure that the next ten are superior to the last.
I wish I could give you a list of things Lily would like for her birthday, but she’s gotten most of the tangible things for Christmas (which was less than two months ago). If you feel compelled to give something, please donate to Rett Syndrome Research Trust as the best gift this kid could get would be a cure. The second best would be something palliative to mitigate her symptoms. Both are being researched right now.


Sending love and health (both physical and mental) to you all.


C

Winter wonderland

Sprinting a marathon

We have been up here coming on seven weeks. In some ways, it feels like it’s flown by. In others, it seems to drag on. And on.

We are also coming on 7 weeks with no caregiver, full-on homeschooling (which ends up being about 4-7 lessons or therapies a day for Lily) and two full-time jobs that are in the throes of trying to help people through this pandemic. Thankfully we both have some flexibility in our schedules. Stephen is working mornings doing this and I’m working afternoons doing this. As we both manage global teams, our schedules can’t always stick to what we’ve tried to carve out. But we make it a point to participate daily with Lily in her lessons/therapies.

It is more work than any two people should be able to handle or be asked to handle. And as this doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon, we’ve started to put feelers out there for temporary live-in help.

Don’t get me wrong – we are grateful. Grateful to be spending more time with my two favorite people. Grateful that we are all healthy (or in Lily’s case, healthy-ish), we have jobs, we’ve got a beautiful house to camp out in, and we’ve got a school and an army of therapists who have been working with us from afar to figure out the best way to teach/treat Lily.

But we need help. So I am putting it out there to the universe (i.e., you)… if you know of any college student tired of living at home, wanting to make money and is interested in special needs or maybe you know a therapist or a para-professional or a person who used to be a nanny or caregiver who is looking for a job and a temporary home and wants to spend the next few months living in a private cottage on 2 lovely acres with a swimming pool, taking care of the sweetest, coolest kid in the world, please send them my information so we can talk.

Fingers crossed that the universe will provide.

Take good care.

Love,

C & L and S

A day in the life

Day one of x???

Wild times. Unprecedented times. For everyone.

And I hope you are all taking the necessary precautions. We are. Yesterday we drove up to our house in Connecticut packed with food, clothes, books, computers. Spent the day settling in. It is truly beautiful up here. And to be able to go out, smell the fresh air and see nothing but nature, that is a real gift.

These photos from yesterday depict one of joy and calm. And during some parts of the day, it was true. For others, not so much. Lily really misses school and her friends. I miss going to work, as does Stephen. We were trying to juggle it all yesterday, and without any support. It did not all run smoothly.

I have two immediate concerns – the first is that it has been years since I’ve not had daily support for Lily. She needs a lot of supervision and guidance. She can’t run around unaccompanied or sit there and play with her dolls, or play a game on her iPad or whatever it is that typical 9 year olds do. The other is also related to Lily. It’s been years since she’s not had intensive, consistent therapy. In a typical week she has at least 20 hours of direct treatment – occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech, etc…

To sum it up: I’m most worried about my capacity to care for her WHILE ensuring that she maintains the skills she currently has. And working full time.

Thankfully we’ve got Stephen. We are very lucky girls. And I know that he and I will create a new norm – one that will work for us all. It is not going to be easy. Nor will it always go well. But together we will do our best.

Oh, and then there’s this whole pandemic thing. Health risks, massive disruptions to the community. As someone who has spent the last 8 years living in a state of near-constant panic, who has fought for basic rights, who knows that each day can bring a terribly scary turn of events, I’m empathetic to everyone who is now dealing with these feelings. It is not fun.

But we will get through it.

Sending health and peace of mind and abundance to you all.

Love,

C & L & S

Highlights from a very interesting day in the country…

Another year, another trial

Happy (belated) New Year. 

This kid never ceases to amaze me. She went through so much last year and yet these are the smiles that we get. (See above photo for reference).

Last year she struggled with so many things such as: increased breathing issues, weight and height issues, mobility issues, challenges with her classroom setting and massive dental issues.  The last two problems thankfully were something that were relatively straightforward and remedied. The others, not so much. 

Regardless – when I look back at last year, I see it as a success. We had so many amazing adventures – from going on a Make-a-Wish trip to Hawaii to visiting our family in Florida to buying a weekend home (that has a pool!!!) to having the support that we need to manage our day to day (which is much more than one could imagine) and many other big and small wonderful things in between. 

Another important milestone she hit last year: Lily finally broke the 40 pound mark. She had been stuck at 37 lbs for over 3 years. We still have a ways to go to get her to a better weight, and we may never get there. But I’m learning to make peace with it as best I can. She doesn’t seem to mind. 

This year we have so many things to look forward to and be hopeful about. This kid is loving school, embracing her after-school therapies and is becoming much more vocal. We are seeing a lot of monosyllabic words shouted at the right times, often in cheeky manner. She’s been using her right hand relatively consistently to give a gentle pat or a hug (which is absolutely heart-melting if you happen to be the recipient).

And she’s starting one of three trials that are happening for kiddos with Rett this year. It will mean a lot more hospital visits and tests, but we are hopeful that this medicine provides her with some much needed relief. Even if I see a 5% reduction in her tension, anxiety, breathing issues, I’ll be happy with the outcome. 

And she is going to be 9 in less than a month. How is this possible? I had hoped that by this age, there would be a big breakthrough to ease the god-awful things that Rett Syndrome brings.  But we’ve not had any success. Yet.

I will never give up hope that things can get (even marginally) better for her.  If you were considering a birthday gift, the best present you could give her would be to support RSRT which is working towards helping kiddos with Rett. So if you are so inclined, you can donate here.  It all goes to the same place. Thank you in advance.  Love and peace and giggles.

THE CUTEST!!!!!

It takes a village

It takes a village – literally – to get this kid places. Trick-or-treating is just one example. Below are a few photos of behind the scenes efforts, and a few cute ones of her thrown in for good measure.  

Lily wanted to love Halloween, and we did get a few smiles from this cool cat. But there was also tears and exhaustion and not having the energy to walk at times.

We are both so lucky to have so many angels on earth helping us, and they came out in droves on Halloween!

So we went trick-or-treating New York City style, up and down the streets of Columbus Avenue and through the cross streets that go all out with decorations (west 68th and 69th Street FYI). It was an exhausting, but mostly fun time and we got entirely too much candy. Come over and help us eat it before we turn to sugar cubes! 

Never-ending attempts for normalcy and fun memories

Advocate like a mother

When so many things are going wrong for my kid, it’s not easy staying positive. Every institution that has been (supposedly) set up to help my kid is failing miserably.  Everything is a battle. Every day there is someone to call or email or visit. Some days I write dozens of emails and scan just as many documents to move things forward for Lily.  Inching forward is more like it.

Thankfully I am not alone. I have an army of people helping me along this battle – from Stephen to Lily’s therapists and doctors, and the other special needs moms – who are in the trenches with me, fighting similar battles, sharing their knowledge, their love and support. But we are outnumbered.

Yet we move forward. With determination and hope. Because we are fighting the good fight, trying to get the most basic of needs for our children met.

The absurdity of the situation (like so many other things going on in this world) baffles me. Here is one such example: We recently saw Lily’s neurologist as she is starting to have episodes that look like seizures. The doctor prescribed a 48-72 hour EEG. While trying to schedule it, I learn that my insurance company will not pay for a prolonged EEG without putting her first through an in-office 30 minute EEG. It is a foregone conclusion that we will not get any answers from this short study; Lily has these episodes maybe once a day. What I do know is that this 30 minute EEG will cause a significant amount of stress for my kid and we’ll have to do it all again a few days later.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what an EEG entails, here is a quick overview:

  1. Walk into a small, claustrophobic room filled with medical machines and a hospital bed.
  2. Get the kid to lay still while the technician glues 20+ leads on her scalp and then wraps head, which takes about an hour. (Many of you know Lily so you could imagine the herculean effort it takes to keep her still.)
  3. Sit there for 30 minutes to 3 days hooked up to a machine.
  4. The technician (who is often slurping on a smoothie or munching on chips throughout the process and sometimes smells bad) removes the 20+ leads and we go home.
  5. The parent then spends 2-5 hours getting the glue out of the kids scalp.

Could you imagine putting your kid (and yourself) through this twice? The first time for no reason other than to tick a box for the insurance company.  So I’m fighting back, knowing it is unlikely that I will win this battle.

So, I am angry.  And scared.  Because Lily may now be having seizures which is why we are doing an EEG in the first place.

But I am also hopeful.  And proud.  Because through it all, my child shines.  She is not easily deterred. And neither am I.  And I know that – given all these crappy circumstances – we have a lot of great in our life.   And some days, I’m actually able to focus on this and suspend my worries about her future.

One of those days to be grateful for… picking flowers, veggies and picnicking with friends at our country house.