My next post was supposed to be about what TSC is, but yesterday was my fourth 29th birthday and today we were out enjoying the pretty fall day. So, in other words, not a weekend conducive to serious writing. But Connor’s getting pretty pumped about Halloween, and insisted on wearing one of his Halloween themed shirts today. In keeping with the theme of his shirt, we went to the Sunday in the Park Festival at Atlanta’s Historic Oakland Cemetery. He had a great time. I can always tell when he’s having fun because he closes his eyes and goes to sleep to show it. I’ve also finally gotten on board with Instagram so I’m about to take annoying to a whole new level.
It turns out that if you spend 9 months growing a baby with Oreos (along with the requisite veggies, fruits and grains of course!), even if you significantly reduce your Oreo intake for the following 6 months, you will not be able to then jump on an elliptical and resume your previous 45 minute routine. In fact, after 4 minutes, you will probably have a near death experience. Just a random observation for today.
Soooo picking up from yesterday, the seizures began around 5 or 6. We hadn’t seen him for several hours because of both the regular newborn checkup and the cardiac one. It was actually reaching a point of, “Where is my baby?” frustration. And let me say, care at Northside Hospital is excellent. Communication between floors and departments…not so much. When we started trying to locate him, nobody could find him. We were told to call this nursery, then that and he’d always already been moved. I was told to ask my nurse. She didn’t know either. This went on for a bit, and then I heard it. Chris was downstairs trying unsuccessfully to locate him as the alarm went off alerting the floor that a baby had been taken past the boundaries. Chris couldn’t get the elevator because they were on lockdown, and then he heard a security guard mumbling into a walkie talkie, saying something that certainly alluded to a baby being missing. This was the last straw that lead to Chris’s very loud and public demand to know where Connor was. And this is when they located him and informed us of the seizures. (The alarm was a staff member accidentally passing the boundary and would happen a couple more times while we were there. No missing babies!)
I wish I had written about this at the time because the emotions are hard to recapture 6 months later. But I could barely talk out loud about it for a couple months. But as scary as it was, we were still in the mindset of, okay, they’ll get these meds going and he’ll be home in a few more days. Well, a few more days stretched into 5 long weeks as the seizures were incredibly resistant to the medication, a hallmark of TSC. He started on phenabarbitol, then Keppra was added, and by the time he left he was on Dilantin as well. But he was still having an extraordinary number of seizures a day. At least 80 a day, maybe more. Many of them were subclinical which means only an EEG can detect it. They don’t cause the outward jerking. At this point it looked like we were gonna have to go on the surgery, so he was transferred across the street to Scottish Rite. I could have carried him over, yet it involved a $1500 ambulance transfer. Thank God for insurance.
We met with his potential surgeon Dr. Chern at Scottish Rite. At this point we were finally miraculously seeing some improvement with the meds. He was still having a number of seizures, mostly subclinical, but it was decided that the benefits of waiting to do the surgery when he was bigger outweighed the cons. It would be safer in a few months. So after 5 weeks of driving to the hospital every day, he was finally released on April 23, 2012. And I have to say my husband got me through this. He was a rock. He had his moments, but I would have lost my mind without him. Just the simple fact of having a sick child is scary enough, but on top of that it shattered that “it can’t happen to me” belief that gets many of us through life. I’m a worrier by nature. Takeoff makes me nervous and the word cancer makes my stomach turn. And yet I still fly and could improve some health habits. Now for the first time, I truly realized that anything can happen to anyone at anytime. My plane could crash. I could actually get cancer. Fortunately we had so many other family and friends there to support us through all this. So thank you to all of you.
Connor’s official diagnosis wouldn’t come for several weeks. That’s the genetic test confirming his TSC, but from the rhabdomyoma in the heart, and the seizures, tuberous sclerosis was the immediate thought. He subsequently had an MRI for his brain, a kidney ultrasound, and an eye exam as those are areas most commonly affected. Thank God his kidneys and eyes were clear. But clearly the brain wouldn’t be. The tubers, including the one that would be surgically removed were evident. For my next entry I will get into the specifics of what TSC is.
Breastfeeding never worked out with all that was going on, so I pumped for the next 3 months until I couldn’t take being attached to the machine anymore. But it may have been for the best considering I had to carefully time my glasses of wine around pumping. Otherwise I probably would have knocked out a bottle on a nightly basis. When I tried going online for advice, I was shocked by how harsh and nasty a lot of the hardcore breastfeeding community is. It left me with a lot of guilt when I finally quit, but I had to for my mental state. It also left me disappointed that there was yet one more way in which women can be extremely unsupportive of other women. It’s easy to judge when everything goes hunky dory according to plan, isn’t it? I still have hostility about it. But women need to know that it’s extremely common to have problems with latching, pain, lactation failure, and many other things. So NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg can stick it where the sun don’t shine.
It’s insane to think six and a half months ago I didn’t even know what tuberous sclerosis was. Now it’s something I think about every day. In fact, I never even heard the words tuberous sclerosis until January of 2012 and even then it didn’t mean anything to me.
My husband and I went for our 30 week ultrasound with nothing but anticipation. Pregnancy had been a piece of cake. No morning sickness, or any other issues other than a few weeks of serious fatigue that prompted me to sleep 18 hours a day–so basically reliving my early-mid 20s, minus the drinking. The tech did the initial checkup and then the doctor came in. He expressed concern about an irregularity of the heart wall, but not in a panicked, this is an emergency manner. However, he did set us up to have another ultrasound the next day with a cardiac specialist. The appointment did NOT go well.
Naturally we were nervous to hear there was something strange, even if the doctor had said there was no problem with the functioning of the heart. But the next day’s appointment rattled us to the core. First, it was a new machine and nobody seemed particularly adept at using it. We felt like the guinea pigs while two middle schoolers triend to navigate a new gaming system for an hour with no feedback or information offered to us whatsoever. Had this been a routine appointment, I probably would have been laid back about it, but I was waiting to hear what might be wrong with the heart, so I was definitely not feeling very laid back. Medical vocabulary like rhabdomyoma, calcium deposits, and tuberous sclerosis were thrown out as vague possibilities. Nothing concrete enough to lead us in a particular direction. And when we asked what this meant for the baby, they weren’t quite so comforting as the perinatologist. We couldn’t even get a straight answer on if he’d be born. In the meantime, there were attempts to continue light, casual doctor/patient conversation that we were no longer interested in. When I started to cry, I was handed a box of tissues and they left the room, telling us to take as much time as we needed. We got the hell out of there.
Within a couple days we managed to get the perinatologist back on the phone and he quickly soothed our fears. Yes, the baby would be born, and the heart was functioning perfectly in spite of this oddity. I was to come back every couple weeks until the birth. As time went on, the ultrasounds showed it wasn’t growing and continued to have no effect on the heart. We relaxed. They induced me at 39.5 weeks as a precaution simply to be sure he could be checked out by the cardio team. Everything went fine. Then a few hours later, the seizures started.
We hadn’t looked much into tuberous sclerosis because it was mentioned in such a remote, vague way. But we did see it was rare. Estimates are 1 in 6,000 or about a million people world wide. So there was no way. A million people in the world? That was a fraction of the population of our city of residence, Atlanta. That was obviously not it.
Except it was.
I’m going to continue to recount our experiences up to now in the hopes that maybe this blog helps someone going through this. And perhaps in some small way to help draw attention to a disease that so few have heard of. The whole blog won’t necessarily be all about TSC because we are more than that, but obviously that will be a part of it. And it’s important that people hear about this genetic disorder because the research done to cure it can help people afflicted with many things, such as autism, obesity, certain cancers, ADHD, depression and tumors, even if they don’t have TSC because they share similar neural pathways and other sciency stuff that frankly I don’t get because I was never very adept at math and science.
…but I’ve been asleep. No, really. I’ve been so blessed as to have not thrown up once for the entire duration of the first trimester, but as for that fatigue thing they mention? I’m matching my cat hour for hour. Today was the first day in weeks I’ve summoned the energy to exercise, and of my usual 4 mile walk, I managed just a little over a mile before I was ready to curl up under a shady tree. In fact, the most significant aspect of the walk was when I came across Pachelbel’s Canon in D on the iPod. It’s not one of my usual musical motivational tools, but I just felt I needed to hear it. When the violins swelled, so did the hormones and emotions, and the baby immediately let me know that I should immediately take up the violin, indeed should have done it 20 years ago and that I’m a musical failure. Great.
We had our first ultrasound last week. I was expecting to have a Jennifer Aniston Friends moment of “I don’t see it!” but it was clearer than I could have expected. Unfortunately, being the 12th week, we had no luck with the sex, but it was fascinating to see the translucent skin and vital organs. The baby was all stretched out in a manner that reminds me of the way my husband hogs the bed. So I guess I know what I’m in for. I also realized at that moment that it was a real child, and had to breathe into a paper bag for the rest of the day.
Since I’m way behind on this blog: some of my favorite reactions to the news of my pregnancy:
1. So no drinks for Becky at the wedding? Wait, maybe this is good for my wallet. (husband’s cousin)
2. Holy sh#%! (long shocked pause) You’re spawning? (my brother)
3. I just peed my pants a little…I’ll bring back little Swedish baby toys or baby skinny jeans! (friend who is studying in Sweden)
4. So he IS hitting that! (husband’s cousin’s fiance)
But I needed something else to talk about. I mean, sure I could stick to my personal life, but the stuff that gets me really fired up and sarcastic is work. Probably because modern pharmaceuticals helped me find an inner peace I didn’t have the first time around blogging.
So let’s start with the attempts to get pregnant. Don’t worry, it’s not that kind of site. But I have to say, I was shocked throughout my 20s to discover how many people experience fertility issues and miscarriages. I know people, multiple people, who have done fertility treatments, in vitro, adoption etc. And yet, many girls (sadly not enough) hear their whole lives IF YOU DON’T USE PROTECTION YOU WILL GET PREGNANT! so I couldn’t believe it was really true until I tried it.
But there is always a bright side. The bright side being that I could drink for another month.
But what do you know? The second time worked. I remember my final drink fondly, an apple martini, two days before I found out.
I’ve already had to out myself to a friend. It’s just that weird when I go out and don’t have a drink. This could be a problem.