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

Better and different

Last Friday was a pretty big day for us girls. You already caught a glimpse of Wonder Woman and heard that she was having a tough morning. But so many other things happened on Friday.  Even though this kid was feeling like crap in the a.m., she still made it to a dentist appointment.  She was brave, but man she hates going to the dentist.  Who doesn’t?

Then it was to school for super hero day, then PT and afterwards, I took her for a haircut.

She’s been wanting, and needing one for some time. And a few weeks back we had an appointment, but that was the day Lily fell at school and had to get 4 staples to hold her scalp together. Oh, that was a fun day indeed. However, I digress…

As many of you may know her hair is quite a topic of interest. We have had many conversations and even more debates about what she wants to do with it. For a while we were creating a weekly hair menu where she would plot out every hairstyle for each day of the week (see below).

But the debates about her haircut were always the most interesting. She would tell me, incessantly, that she wants bangs and short hair. To which I would reply, ‘short hair in the summer isn’t a great idea’ and wax on as to why. Her response was always quite diplomatic, ‘I can see your point’ she would navigate to on her Tobii (completely independently I must add); not that she agreed with me, but that she understood my reasons why.

In the end, she won. Mainly because the person cutting her hair cut it much shorter than was discussed. But Lily has been so pleased with the result.  She told her teacher yesterday that her hair is ‘better and different’. Why yes it is, smart, sweet, stylish child of mine.

Aloha!!

Lily’s 8th birthday was such a success. In the lead up to her birthday (and the subsequent week), she was ecstatic. Birthday parties, Valentines Day and Hawaii? All in one month? It was almost too much.

But not really – seeing her so happy and (mostly) healthy – especially at this time of year – is such a relief.

We are day 3 into our Hawaiian adventure and this kid hasn’t stopped beaming. Thank you Make-a-Wish! Here are a few shots… leaving for Honolulu at JFK, getting a tour of the cockpit with the captain of the plane at landing, riding a limo (with Urszula), relaxing at the pool/beach and partying it up at a luau! More photos to come.

Lily’s luau birthday bash

This kid turned 8 today. Can’t begin to explain how proud I am to be her mom. In anticipation of her upcoming Make-A-Wish trip to Hawaii, we celebrated with a luau!

The party was a success. It started with a ballet class taught by New York City Ballet (check out Lily independently getting her feet into 5th position in the second set of photos) and then the luau at school with pizza, cupcakes, giggles and dancing. Lots of dancing!!! After school we had a play date with her friend Xan, followed by dinner at her favorite restaurant. And then we went home, exhausted, full and happy.

Today

It’s 5:30pm on the 24th of January. And it just hit me. Today marks 5 years since d-day–Lily’s Rett diagnosis day.

What a 5 years it’s been. What a roller-coaster. But I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I’ve got the sweetest, coolest almost 8 year old I know. She is my joy, my inspiration.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. Every day I say to her when she’s having a tough moment–like trying to walk in the morning or crying uncontrollably in the middle of the night–that I can’t fix things. But that I can make them better. With love and comfort and compassion. But I can’t fix it. I can’t fix it.

That sucks. No one should ever have to see their child suffer so much. Every day. Every day. I’ll say it again: every day.

And we are so fortunate right now as Lily is going through a relatively stable period. And the ‘relatively’ is truly that. I am not trying to sugarcoat any of it: our ‘normal’ is anything but that.

So it’s been 5 years. And we’re getting closer to the ‘cure’ but it’s still not here. And every day as Lily grows and Rett continues to ravage her body, that ‘cure’ looks less and less like a cure for her. At this point I’ll take whatever it is we can get. Just to let her have the ability to breathe with ease, to wake up and not be in pain… I’ll take it.

I can’t believe she’s going to be 8 in a few weeks. I can’t believe how much she’s grown and changed. I can’t believe how much I’ve transformed because of her. And for that, I am grateful.

In so many ways, she’s such a ‘normal’ kid. She’s been putting together weekly hair menus letting me know how she wants her hair done every day. How freaking cute is that? Currently she’s all about pigtails. As you can see from the menu and hairstyle:

Her birthday is on the 8th of February. And I wish I could give you a list of things she wants as presents. But I don’t have one because she cannot tell me outright. So if you want to do something for her, consider making a donation to Rett Syndrome research. Not only will it go to her future, but the future of all her other Rett sisters and brothers.

With love,

C & L

A friendly reminder

Please don’t tell me you are “sorry”. When you find out someone’s child is disabled (i.e., has Autism, Rett syndrome, Down’s syndrome, etc.) do not say you are “sorry” – we understand you mean well, but it is incredibly upsetting to hear. Our child is still our child. She has not died and we are not at all sorry she exists. We are madly in love with her. As you are with your child. Every accomplishment, development, laugh, makes our hearts sing! Just as your child’s accomplishments, development, happiness, makes your heart sing. Every tear she sheds breaks our hearts. Just as your child’s tears breaks yours.

Granted, ours is not a life we likely would have chosen. And we have had to drastically shift our expectations (like continental – tectonic plate shifts). And we have had to come to terms with a life completely different than the one we had expected to lead. And it is a challenge. And it is not one we would ever expect you to understand. And it is not one we would ever want you to lead…it is hard. And we are NOT sorry. Our child gives us unspeakable joy and you saying you are sorry about her is heart breaking and painful to hear. We only wish you could see her as we see her and enjoy her as we enjoy her…So do not tell us you are sorry.

Just that.

Lifted, almost verbatim, from Jocelyn Gould Turken, super Mom and autism advocate. ❤️

Lily was featured in this years NYC Disability Pride Parade. This kid is making headlines. And changing perceptions about what it is like to live with a disability. She is my hero.

Scenes from a snow day

As you know, the east coast was hit with quite the storm. Lily and I hunkered down and did our best to enjoy her day off from school.

We played dress-up, read books, watched movies and even went outside for a nanosecond. She doesn’t like the cold or the snow. She too must be a Floridian at heart like her momma.

Winters are not easy for Rett girls. Not only is it more isolating than usual, but also they struggle more with their health. Peeing, sleeping, breathing and eating have become concerns again in this house. For the most part, she’s staying positive. But she’s had more than a few moments of feeling miserable and sad. I’ve seen many more tears than usual these past few weeks.

We are both trying to keep our spirits up. It’s not so difficult to do as we are heading to Florida to visit our family next week. We are both excited to feel sun on our skin and sand under our feet. And of course see our relatives!!!

Stay warm.

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!