Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 25
by guest blogger Becky Ruppe (Cumming, Georgia)
I will start off by saying how hard it is to sum up our journey as it is a never-ending battle and the past seven months seem like years. Our story with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 begins with twins, after many times trying to start a family and after trying everything; as soon as we stopped trying, we were blessed with twins. We were so happy, but we would soon find out; everything was not as it seemed. As time progressed in the pregnancy, his twin sister passed in the womb from another rare disorder, Trisomy 13. Not long after all that, on ultrasound, the doctors found tumors in our son Ben’s heart. We were devastated by this news and still recovering the loss of his sister. That day was tough and the first time we had ever heard the words Tuberous Sclerosis. I remember thinking there is no way we could have two rare things, but as time progressed more tumors popped up on ultrasound and we were told our son Ben had an 80% chance of having TSC. He had more than seven tumors in his heart and one that should have been blocking his outflow; it kept growing and growing. It was honestly a miracle that he was surviving, as the one blocking his flow was so large. We found every day was a challenge emotionally and we had nothing left to do but to pray for a miracle that we wouldn’t have to do an emergency c-section to try to save his life with open heart surgery to remove it.
We had fetal MRIs to look for tumors in his brain, but nothing showed up. Finally on October 23 we gave birth by c-section to our son James Benjamin Ken Ruppe, he went straight to the Nicu when born, he was not eating and was given a feeding tube and was given medicine to keep his blood flowing through his backup channel in his heart. We stayed hopeful, but by day three they did an MRI and we were walked into this tiny room and given the findings of his MRI. I remember that walk like it was yesterday, I had tears before we even made it to the door. They found multiple tubers and nodules in his brain and was given the actual diagnosis of TSC. It was heart wrenching, the hospital made it seem as though it was a death sentence, we had him baptized that night. We were clueless what was going to happen, would he need heart or brain surgery, would the medicine continue working, would he start having seizures, so many questions not one doctor could answer. Then two days later; our son Ben was able to come home. We followed up with three doctors the week we came home. It was overwhelming, scary and honestly I don’t know how we made it through all that.
Since giving birth, most of his tumors have reduced in size in his heart and he is currently in therapy once a week for muscle loss due to his TSC. He started having seizures New Year’s Eve and ironically those seizures did not show up on his EEG. He has had several EEGs, and the seizures have become more frequent. About two months ago we were told his EEG reflected localization epilepsy with focal onset seizures. It has been really horrible to watch him go through all this. Every EEG brings tears for our son.
Thankfully, when we found out about the possible diagnosis of TSC, I reached out to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and have met a really great support group. We also enrolled our Ben into two studies that we travel to Boston for.
Most recently we noticed Ben started to drop his head and we called his neurologist and went into the hospital for a VEEG. Within an hour and half of him being hooked up, the doctor came in to tell us he was in fact having infantile spasms. The funny thing was that they give you this button to push every time he has an episode. I pushed the button twice during that hour and half. What I found out later, was that he had multiple spasms and clusters and other seizures that I did not even recognize. I will say it was very frustrating that nobody came in and showed me on the video — this is a spasm, this is a seizure. I was told by the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta that they do not have the medication Sabril, which I understand is the best med of choice to treat Infantile Spasms. This to me was a load of crap. How can you not have this medicine and why did we have to wait to get our son the best treatment when from day one we were told that Infantile Spasms can be deadly?
They said I had to wait and get it from his doctor’s office and they sent me home with Klonopin. He was already taking Keppra for complex partial seizures. Thankfully, his local neurologist Dr. Flamini got us the meds in two days, but in my mind it was still unacceptable to be sent home without the best meds for his treatment.
Since coming home from the hospital Ben is having probably close to 70 + seizures a day.
We have increased some and lowered others of the meds he is taking. We are currently on day 4 and waiting for a change. His spasms have changed into something completely different, with the occasional head drop. Now looking back, when Ben was 8 weeks old, he was extremely colicky. We took multiple videos and were always told it was nothing and that he was fine, but I know now, judging from his current colicky status (Infantile Spasms) that he was in fact having IS and or some seizure activity as a baby and because his EEG was not showing it and based on opinions of doctors, we delayed treatment. I also know that his infantile spasms are not the normal spasms you would see. They are not as defined and often rotate from one side to the other. We also were told recently that he has multiregional epilepsy and that he is not the best candidate for surgery.
If I could go back, I would have started medication sooner, because who can help but wonder what damage has been done. In five days, my son went from having excellent head control to having very little and he also went from being able to stand and put weight on both his legs to not being able to do that for more than a second.
This past Saturday we called 911, as Ben had a seizure that lasted over 20 minutes. The EMS came and they said his heartbeat was fast, but everything else was good and we just continued to watch him per his local doctor. I am not sure how everyone else feels about giving your baby medications, but giving my Ben three medications twice a day is a struggle. It is hard… every time I have to mix it, I have to take a deep breath to get through it.
I will never give up on my Ben. My husband and I are in a constant struggle with acceptance, and no matter what people say, it is sad and it is hard. There is nothing that can describe watching your son, your sweet innocent baby boy, have seizure after seizure and all we can do is sit back, love him and watch. TSC is the worst pain in the world to us. We aren’t giving up, but we are giving in to the emotion that we are allowed to feel pure anger and a little helpless at times, as there are limits to what we can do for him — the rest is up to somebody else. I hate every second of every day that I have to watch him suffer. Many will say that is not a way to live — nope, it is not — but it is our truth. We still check him to make sure he is breathing and we are still living and fighting and find massive amounts of joy in everything else our sweet Ben does — when he smiles and when he loves. Our relationship with TSC is completely unavoidable and that is what makes it suck and it is what it is.
Each day we face TSC, we face many challenges emotionally and financially and many sleepless nights. We want a cure so bad it hurts. You are never prepared for the what ifs. I never thought I would be writing this story. I never thought we would be living it. I never thought I would be giving our son three medications that make him totally not himself. I never thought I would be learning a whole new language. I thought I would be going somewhere completely different. I thought a lot of things. I have wanted to be a nurse my whole life, and I have wanted to be a mother my whole life. I thought so many times I would go to nursing school. I know now that that feeling of wanting all those things is now my reality, I got what I want and wouldn’t trade it for anything, I am right where I am supposed to be. I thought having a child would be so different and that we would play normal people, but turns out we are, it’s just our normal day to day is just a little different than others.
I love every minute I have with my precious Ben, I love that I have been able to jump right in and take care of him. I love that I can make him smile. I love that my husband is such a great father and husband to me. I know that TSC affects us, but it also affects our friends and family, as they are constantly in this battle with us. We are thankful for all the support we have been given, by the TSC Alliance, the TS Mommy site, Dr. Flamini and all the doctors he sees.
We don’t know how the next year is going to go, we don’t know if he will stop breathing tomorrow from a seizure or if the next seizure will be the one that slows his development even more. Will he need brain surgery? Will his kidneys be affected? Will he be able to have children? Will he learn to walk and throw the ball? All the simple things in life; we are left wondering and hoping. We don’t know what kind of life he is going to lead yet. Will we as parents be able to afford the best treatment for him? Watching our son have seizures is something you can’t describe, there are no words. I do know that my son saved my life. If it was not for him, I am not sure I could have made it through the loss of his sister. So, now my husband and I are giving our life to him. I know now that his sister is in Heaven watching over Ben and our family and not a day goes by that I don’t think about how our life would be if we still had her with Ben, but I know now that that happened for a reason. Ben needed his extra Angel and she will take care of us and watch over our family.
We find great comfort with every second we have with him and every morning we wake up to his smile. The light at the end of our tunnel is holding onto hope that research in finding a cure for TSC 2 is continued and that one day there will be more options for treatment for our son and maybe soon medical Cannabis Oil will be legal in the state of Georgia, because after giving my son all of these harsh medications, I have no doubt that I would choose that first before any of this stuff he is on currently.
My family is the best family in the world. We will never give up and we will fight every day.
Our story with TSC 2 will continue and one day I hope we can look back on all these hard days and say, We showed you TSC… We showed you…