Managing Rett Syndrome is a Full-Time Job

A few months ago while Lily and I were flying back from Florida, we struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to us.  It turns out that this woman works in the media – in a pretty high-profile way.  Vera had never heard of Rett Syndrome and was intrigued.  And so we kept in touch.

About a week into my 5-week leave from work this summer, she interviewed me for an online magazine.  We weren’t quite sure what the focus of the interview was going to be but it became pretty apparent with the first few questions that it was going to be about how the hell I manage working full time and caring for Lily.

You see – I was week one into a 5 week leave and it hit me in these first five days of not going into the office just how much I have on my plate with Lily.  Managing her 4 caregivers, her 2 home-based therapists, her 15+ doctors, filling out medicaid paperwork, filling out private insurance paperwork, making appointments, thinking about her diet, writing about her diet, counting calories, carrying therapy over into the home, ensuring that I’m communicating effectively with her teachers and therapists at school ALL while managing a home (laundry? dishes?).  Holy shit.  I really didn’t know how I was keeping up.  And now that I’m back at work, I’m still not fully sure how it all comes together.  But it does (hint: super helpful caregivers and therapists/teachers).  And so I continue – on most days, with a smile on my face.  Because I really have the sweetest, smartest, bravest, funniest, coolest kid in the world.

If you want to check out our interview, click here.

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Back to Work, Back to School

Both Lily and I transitioned easily back into our routines. I returned to work with a clear head about the direction we were/likely are going in with the feeding tube. Of course my kid upended it all by devouring most everything in her sight after the appointment with her pediatric GI (who recommended a small feeding tube). So for now, the decision is still somewhat up in the air. She’s still eating well. But I’ve done my research, I’ve written out the pros/cons and I’m as comfortable as can be about this situation.

Which is a good thing as it’s been a crazy few weeks at the office. Thankfully my team held things together while I was out. Actually they did more than hold things together – they did a phenomenal job managing some really complex projects that arose during my absence. And the projects have kept piling up since my return. Currently my team is running multiple community fundraisers and assistance programs for employees who have been severely impacted by these recent disasters (the company I work for operates in over 100 countries and 500 cities). Additionally we hosted Cherie Blair (former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife and kick-ass advocate for women’s rights) for a conversation and cocktails the day after the earthquake in Mexico. It’s been both a a sad and inspirational time at work. So much devastation but also so much support for our employees (which my team and I are managing). And to top it off, a cool panel session with some awesome ladies.

As for Lily – she continues to have her ups and downs. But is loving school and her therapies. I’m getting notes from her teachers and therapists that she is blowing them away. I’m so proud of this hard-working kid.

From top to bottom:

  1. Mom working hard
  2. Lily letting me know what she thinks about Rett Syndrome on a bad day
  3. Excited about the first day of first grade!

Some good news

The week started out tough.  Lily got a ‘failure to thrive’ diagnosis on Monday from the nephrologist.  This is like getting (as one wise Rett momma so eloquently put it) a punch in the gut.  Hearing those words, especially as a mom, well… the guilt and disappointment and anger is indescribable.  I walked away from that appointment trying to not feel like a total failure as a mother. Thankfully my kid was being extra sweet and silly which helped shake me out of my funk.

The next day I got a video from school showing Lily holding onto the handlebars for close to 40 seconds while riding a bike.  This is HUGE.  Her hand function has slowly been improving over the past few weeks.  I can’t post videos to this site so you’ll have to settle for a screenshot instead.  If you’re on Facebook, I’ll be posting the full video shortly.

And then this morning, we had to see her pediatrician to get his signature for a Medicaid form.  They do not make it easy to get, nor maintain Medicaid but holy cow am I glad that Trumpcare failed because I’m not sure what we’d do without it.  But I digress….  We did a weigh-in at the same scale we used 5 weeks ago and according to the scale, she gained 2 pounds.  It’s taken a lot of effort – and patience – for both Lily and her nannies, therapists, teachers, parents, etc. to get here.   And we’re not done yet.  She’s still 3 pounds away from where she was 6 months ago but she’s starting to gain it back.

How did she gain 2 pounds in 5 weeks?  Well, Lily’s been on a steady diet of home-made mac-n-cheese, duck, tater tots, cupcakes, avocados, yogurt, pudding and pizza.  I’m still slipping in super healthy stuff for her morning smoothies to ensure she’s getting the vitamins and minerals her body needs.  But she’s basically eating anything and everything she wants.

In two weeks we are seeing the GI doctor to discuss further this ‘failure to thrive’ issue but I’m hopeful that the conversation will be a mostly positive one.

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Holding on to the handlebars like a pro!

A hell of a disorder

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday she could barely stand. Today she walked to school all smiles.

She was super wobbly when she woke (unfortunately this is quite common most days) and she only had a few tiny sips of smoothie this morning. But once I started talking to her about her day (school with friends, and then summer camp), she perked up.

I’m grateful for these mornings when she can walk to school. And it’s in these moments that I remind myself how lucky we are.

We have a few big doctors appointments coming up. Next week we are checking in with the nephrologist about the pee situation (which is still a pretty big issue). And then in August we are seeing the GI doctor. This appointment is the one I’m dreading the most. You see, Lily has lost 3.5 pounds since February. This is a lot of weight loss for her tiny frame. We will be discussing whether she needs a feeding tube. Her eating has not returned to the levels needed and it is concerning (to say the least).

I will keep you posted.  In the meantime, we will continue to make the most out of this summer.  This may just be my kids favorite season. And damned if we’re going to let Rett Syndrome get in the way of our fun.

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Anxiety

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Adventures with mommy! Pete the cat book launch followed by lunch at 5 Napkins and a stroll in the park (mom had to do minimal carrying of child)

I know these photos don’t depict a child struggling with severe anxiety but she is.

Screaming and crying for hours at night, unable to be consoled in any way, it’s been heartbreaking. And exhausting.

I’ve been in touch with her specialist. We are considering changing her sleep medication. She’s only on one medication for sleep. Clonidine. And am so grateful that we’ve been able to keep the drugs to a minimum so far. Most girls with Rett syndrome are on upwards of half a dozen medications.

Clonidine obviously hasn’t been working so great lately. But I may have found something that has – continuos release melatonin. It never worked for her in the past, but the past two nights she’s been sleeping. Is it luck? Is it melatonin? I don’t know. But I hope we continue with this streak.

Stronger

The past few months have been extremely stressful so writing posts has not been a top priority.  However, I didn’t want to leave you hanging for too long.  I’m proud to say that Lily has been showing improvement in many areas.  Her appetite has come back (for the most part), her peeing has normalized (for the most part) and her gross motor function/walking has also returned (for the most part).  Her breathing is still an issue though that too seems to have gotten better.

I have been obsessed – OBSESSED – with her caloric intake.  And I’m pleased to say that a steady diet of pizza, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, rice pudding and vanilla yogurt coupled with her morning smoothies (which has a pediasure base and some raw veggies that I slip in) has helped her fill out and get stronger.  She still has more weight to gain but many days I’m finding myself not completely stressed and uptight about her eating.  It’s helped that most days she’s opening her mouth for food and is genuinely interested in eating again, though her former diet of uber-healthy food has screeched to a halt.  Whatever.  The kid is eating.

But I can’t completely relax.  We still have days that are difficult for her.  Really difficult.  Heart-breakingly difficult.  And I’m trying to shake the hangover of what she went through these past few months but I can’t completely.  Rett Sydrome is always lurking around and we just never know when it will pounce.  I can’t make this the focus of my attention as it will destroy me.

So I remain in hope.  And there’s good reason.  Last month two significant announcements were made about Rett research.  One was regarding a research trial on a drug that ameliorates a handful of painful symptoms in our girls.  And the other was regarding the path toward a cure using gene therapy.  Awareness-raising and fundraising are now more important than ever.

Until the cure comes, us warriors will continue to battle against the day to day struggles of Rett Syndrome, and we’re going to do our best to have as much fun along the way.

Love,

C and L

 

Spring Break 2017

Spring Break 2017 in South Florida with Grandma and her cousins!

Throwing (almost) all the rules out the window

For at least two years, Lily was on a strict GAPS diet (basically grain free, dairy free, sugar free). When she started preschool, I started letting her have pizza (pizza Fridays!) and a nibble or two of a cupcake if there was a party at school. Safe to say, 90% of the time she was eating clean and healthy food. And she loved it

But then about 3 months ago, when things started heading south for her, one of the things that was impacted was her voracious appetite. She no longer harasses me in the morning to get her smoothie. Now she won’t even open her mouth to drink it. Lunch and dinner are pretty much the same. Mouth shut, not interested in eating.

Lily was a slight kid to begin with (even when she was eating voraciously) but now that she’s lost interest in food (for the most part), she’s gotten dangerously skinny. At this point I’m feeding her anything that will get her to open her mouth. She’s had pizza for lunch, and dinner at least 4 times this week. Tonight we ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a vanilla milk shake for dinner. Anything that will get this kid interested in food again. She needs to gain weight. Urgently. And she will.