Tag Archives: Christmas

A trip to the ER and other medical hassles.

And of the medical hassles, the ER was the most pleasant one.

Our Christmas Eve tradition for the last few years is to have family over for Christmas Eve dinner. We stuff ourselves with appetizers and leave a ton of leftover ham, mashed potatoes, pasta salad and green bean casserole. Within three minutes of our guests leaving, hardly even giving us time to complain about the bottle of wine that we opened and was hardly touched (it was one of those mondo size bottles that leaves me torn between not wasting perfectly good wine and the fear of sleeping through Christmas Day in a stupor), Connor was fussing for his iPad by the kitchen table and went down with a loud thunk. I picked him up and set him on the island, hoping for his standard forehead bruise. It’s a constant battle to keep his forehead a normal skin color, and that is why he frequently wears head protection. I realized he was bleeding and called to Chris for paper towels. One swipe and I knew we had a problem. This was deep.

We headed to the Kennestone Hospital ER where Connor received three stitches. We were in and out in just under two hours. It was impressively simple and undramatic, but I guess when you’ve already done the NICU and brain surgery, three stitches ain’t no thang. In fact, Connor had spent the entire day being royally uncooperative as far as smiling for photos, giving me the first in the waiting room with a hole in his forehead.

IMG_3389

IMG_3423

Getting the stitches in was easy. Getting them out turned out to be the pain. The ER doctor informed us that while we could come back after the holiday, the wait would go back to standard long waits and suture removal is bottom priority. He recommended getting them removed at his pediatrician. I love his pediatrician. I do NOT love the office staff that stands between us. I called to make an appointment and was told that she’d have to check and see if anyone would do it on a young child’s face. “It’s just three!” I tried to persuade her. Two hours later, a nurse calls me back and says it’s okay. She transfers me to the scheduler. “Well, they don’t usually do this on kids under three. I need to check.”

“We just went through this,” I explained. “I was transferred to you by the person who got the okay.”

“I still need to check.”

WTF.

After a long hold, she comes back. “You’ll have to take him back to where you got them.” I don’t think a doctor was even consulted. It was just “office policy.”

I was pissed now. I informed her we would not be going back to the ER. I did not inform her of how wasteful of time and money this was, or what a burden this kind of crap is on the system. I asked if an urgent care would do it. She thought they would. But after careful consideration of the all the germs floating around in waiting areas and the fact that the flu is reportedly raging through Georgia, we opted to Google stitch removal and do it at home. If there were a lot, we wouldn’t, but three seemed doable, and it was actually pretty easy. So take that, idiotic office policy.

I also handled the fact that last month’s paperwork glitch regarding Connor’s Sabril (vigabatrin) prescription was apparently never resolved. Typically, if there is an issue filling this prescription, a group called SHARE works with the manufacturer to make sure prescriptions go out. I learned that this is not the case if you are marked non-compliant with the eye doctor paper work. They had sent us last month’s prescription in spite of the screwup. Thanks to the FDA, they couldn’t do it again.

You see, Connor takes a seizure med that carries some risk to peripheral vision. The FDA, when they finally got around to approving it in 2009 — 30 years after initial clinical trials — decided that if you wanted to use it, you had to have eye exams every three months. They also recommend ERGs every three months. An ERG requires Connor to be put under for 45 minutes to an hour. We stopped those a long time ago. He had one come back indicating a change. But nobody could tell us squat about what that meant, or if it was even more than a fluke. Not even all eye doctors recommend it. Some bend to the fear of the FDA and others flat out tell you it’s a waste of time and they can tell you very little with young children.

The regular eye exams (at which the eye doctors also acknowledge they can’t tell you much and it’s just an empty requirement) are very mandatory. Paperwork must be submitted to keep the meds coming. Some parents speak of obtaining waivers for these, but those waivers seem like unicorns to most of us. Something wasn’t submitted properly. Then it didn’t get fixed properly. And then it was decided by all parties (other than me) that the best option was to not give my child his seizure meds and status seizures, brain damage, even death was a better possible option than some minor impairment of his peripheral vision. The FDA is apparently well aware that one needs 20/20 vision when on a ventilator fighting for life. I did not inform the manufacturer or pharmacy that I was able to obtain some for Connor so that he was not at risk for the terrible dangers of cutting a med cold turkey. Eventually the kickass assistant at his neurologist’s office was able to fix the situation, further proving that they are the only medical office I have ever been able to count on.

Sabril was not the only source of my fun with pharmacies. I tried to refill his Onfi. When I called to do so I was informed they were out and I could fill it locally if I had the local pharmacy call to transfer it. Annoying (don’t you plan for your regulars?) but okay. I had filled it at CVS before. First I tried Walgreens because it’s closest. No pharmacy in the area had it. Then CVS. Nope. Then Kroger. Nope. I called the mail order pharmacy, Optum Rx, back and asked what was I supposed to do now.

“Well, you may have to call his neurologist and get a prescription for something else.”

Something else? Just replace his highly addictive benzo?

“I don’t understand how you just run out of something you are supposed to mail on a regular basis. I want a supervisor.”

Three people later, we were able to piece together that by “out” what they actually meant was that they could have it to me by the following Wednesday, but they didn’t have it that day (Friday). It apparently took three people to get this vital piece of information that took a major issue to a non-issue. In pissed relief, I told them that was fine.

Have I mentioned I have three different pharmacies for Connor? So much for safeguards where the pharmacist can be that extra set of eyes watching for interactions and issues. I have to get Sabril from CVS Caremark (which is great as long as the FDA stays out of it), Onfi is from Optum Rx (their motto is “At least we’re not Accredo”) and all others from a local CVS.

So now we’re stocked back up on meds. It’s 2015. Despite all the venting in this post, I think it will be a good year and I hope it will be a good year for all my friends in the epilepsy community that spent the holidays in hospitals. I will leave you with some pics of Connor’s Christmas (three times in three homes!) to cleanse the palate.

Emptying the stocking.
Emptying the stocking.

IMG_3438

With Aunt Donna.
With Aunt Donna.

IMG_3457

IMG_3459

Checking out the turtles with Grandpa John.
Checking out the turtles with Grandpa John.

 

Merry Christmas! It’s a tonic-clonic seizure!

I can’t believe Christmas is over already. Seems like it was Halloween a week ago. Connor had a good Christmas, despite some not so fantastic developments beforehand.

I blogged previously about his bout with bronchitis and I mentioned that instead of an increase in seizures, which can happen in times of illness, he had a major decrease. Turns out many other parents have experienced this when illness causes their child to stop eating much. Hopefully, that’s a sign that the ketogenic diet will work for him. Did I say ketogenic and not modified Atkins diet? Yes, you read that correctly and I’ll come back to that.

Turns out, a week and a half almost seizure free wasn’t worth it because once he recovered and started eating again, they came back with a vengeance. They were longer, rougher and he was wobbly for a bit afterwards. His seizures for the last several months have topped out at 30 seconds. Now they were lasting two minutes. And they looked…odd. I sent a video to his neurologist who called me with the %&*# news that Connor’s seizures had morphed into tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures. Now, I knew they were rougher than the partials we have always dealt with, but you can read descriptions all day long of seizure activity and it still may not look exactly as expected. So they were rougher, but still not as rough as the grand mals I envisioned. I was shocked and not shocked at the same time.

So damn. A new seizure type. Common in TSC, but we had been lucky to go so long without that turn of events considering Connor’s seizures started at birth. Until now, other than partials, his only other confirmed seizure type was infantile spasms. I have sometimes suspected absence seizures, but those are tough to peg.

Shortly before this development, his neuro had changed his mind about the recommended course of action. As I mentioned in another post, we were trying to get him into the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite or Egleston ketogenic diet clinic for consultation regarding modified Atkins and seizure control. They couldn’t get us in until March, four months out from when we sent his records over. It took a month for them to even make the appointment, and our neuro was quite perturbed that after a month of trying to get started we had gotten nowhere and had three more months to wait. He did not say this, but my guess is that he was on board with MAD when he thought we’d be able to test out the efficacy quickly. Now, that we are facing several more weeks of seizures, I suppose he wants to take a more hardline approach. With the appearance of tonic-clinics, I’m very much on board now, whereas before — I was NOT thrilled with the idea of keto.

So we have continued our efforts to get in earlier at CHOA and they also referred us to Johns Hopkins and UAB in Birmingham, which also has a TSC clinic.  Johns Hopkins also can’t get us in until March. So far UAB is the winner with a date of Feb. 4. So unless we get a miracle at CHOA, we will drive two hours to Alabama, which is preferable to flying to Baltimore.

In the meantime, we have upped his vigabatrin, something we were trying to avoid. His seizures shortened again and were less severe, though they still leave him wobbly. Most days he’s had one. Until two days ago when he had five. Yesterday he had one that left his right arm almost useless for 30 minutes after.

But on a happier note, Connor sure cleaned up at Christmas. We opened gifts at home in the morning with Chris’ parents who were in town, then headed to my parents for the afternoon and dinner, then stopped by Chris’ brother’s house where Connor went hog wild with his 10-year-old cousin Cody and their dog.

We can now start a family band, hopefully less annoying than Laughing Pizza, with Connor’s new keyboard, drum and xylophone. I continue to live vicariously through him by getting him a tent for his playroom (I can’t wait until he’s old enough for the Power Wheels I never got in the 80s). One of the gifts my parents gave him is the rideable airplane from Cars. He likes it until he accidentally triggers the mechanism that makes it light up and make noise. He takes off like a bat out of hell, so I suppose I will remove the batteries for the time being so he can play with it without fear of being eaten or chopped up or whatever it is he’s afraid of. He otherwise adores spinning the propeller.

IMG_5962

The Christmas gift exchange between Chris and me was rather perilous…for me. Chris is not a “stuff” person. If it were up to him, we’d have a lot more bare square footage in this house. He always makes a list, and I always feel compelled to find at least one thing not on the list. However, I’ve completed his collections (that I started) of Chicago sports team Mr. Potato Heads and garden gnomes. I knew he wanted the Lego Rockefeller Center for his office, so score! An off-list item. Except when I got home, I made the mistake of asking for the updated Christmas list since I had only looked at his November birthday list. Guess what he had added? Dammit. So I gave it a shot by picking him up a button-up shirt at Belk. I stuck to his beloved Izod, but veered from his color palette. I knew there was a 95 percent chance of exchange. Mine’s on the left, his exchange is on the right.

The hubs prefers a more subtle earthy hue...unless the Bears are playing.
The hubs prefers a more subtle earthy hue…unless the Bears are playing.

For me he did a good job with three necklaces he picked out on his own, in addition to some Loft clothes I picked. He also got silly with this, which surprised me because my excessive mug collection drives him bonkers.

IMG_5952

He also picked up a cow chip clip that moos loudly, as I am obsessed with black and white cows and hold to a belief that if I can get it out of the pantry with no one knowing, the calories don’t count. Massive backfire on his part. The thing is so sensitive, that even after being buried in drawer, open the fridge — MOOOOOOO!. Pour some milk — MOOOOOOOO! Turn on the sink — MOOOOOOOO! Then on New Year’s Eve it went completely batsh** and wouldn’t stop mooing even when we were sitting on the couch partying hard with VH1’s Happy Endings marathon surrounded by laundry (jealous?) I was upstairs when I finally heard Chris lose it and yell, SHUT UP! I heard a drawer being yanked open, so I rushed down to save my cow from possible obliteration.

IMG_6109

I’m also thrilled to say we made it through all of 2013 without one hospitalization! Since Connor will be admitted in order to start the keto diet, we will not be able to say that of 2014. 2012 gave us five weeks in NICU, a brain surgery and an in-patient VEEG. Here’s hoping we all have a medically uneventful year.

One last thing — please keep in your thoughts that one of our newer TSC families entered our world of seizures last night and had to welcome 2014 in the ER. I’m hopeful they will quickly find seizure control. He’s doing well I understand.

I was contacted by Dave Terpening Insurance Company to be part of their “I Was Thankful for Insurance When…” post on their blog. I love any opportunity to get the word out on TSC so check it out here.

Clapping with Grandma (Chris's mom)
Clapping with Grandma (Chris’s mom) and remembering Lost back when it was good.
My brother came in from NYC and refused to change a single diaper.
My brother came in from NYC and refused to change a single diaper.

IMG_5931

Mommy is so awesome, i even lover her Mii.
Mommy is so awesome, I even love her Mii.
Christmas Eve bowl-off.
Christmas Eve bowl-off.
Mommy has lost her mind. I'm not getting in that.
Mommy has lost her mind. I’m not getting in that. Mommy is also questioning why her footwear looks so orthopedic here.

IMG_5983

Flying with Uncle Carey.
Flying with Uncle Carey.

IMG_5978

IMG_5918

Connor loves Cleo the dog.
Connor loves Cleo the dog.
Dining out with Cousin Cody.
Dining out with Cousin Cody.
Escape at the bowling alley!
Escape at the bowling alley!
A cool cousin is one that gets down and crawls with you.
A cool cousin is one that gets down and crawls with you.

Is this the person with the most Christmas spirit in Atlanta?

If you are wondering where the biggest lovers of Christmas — or at least of Christmas inflatables are located — they are here, at Peachtree Dunwoody and Winall Downs. I don’t know how the neighbors feel about them, but I looooove this house. And I have it on authority from some commuters, that it’s a royal pain in the butt, but for me, it’s absurdly fantastic. I have no idea how many inflatables there are, but several of them move. When we went by this year, several cars were stopped in front checking it out. And better yet, the people who put this up direct attention toward charity. It was drizzly the day we went by so the information sheathed in plastic that they had placed on a table at the foot of the driveway was covered in drops, but a quick Google search led me to the recipient of the donations, Genesis Shelter, a group that works with homeless infants and their families.

It appears our new neighborhood is dominated by white-light people. So I needed a little color in my life. And I got it:

IMG_5868

IMG_5855

IMG_5854

IMG_5856

IMG_5857

IMG_5858

IMG_5859

IMG_5860

IMG_5861

IMG_5862

IMG_5863

IMG_5864

IMG_5865

IMG_5866

IMG_5867

Now here are some photos I took in 2009. My, they’ve grown!

11445_210968669371_4903088_n

11445_210968654371_6429196_n

And a little update — Connor is feeling much better and is back to tearing the house apart and attempting death-defying jumps off the back of the couch.

Please vote for me by clicking the icons for Top Mommy Blogs and Mommy Hot Spot to the right!

I ate a piano. How is your diet going?

I have been having a lot of vivid dreams lately. I’ve had a couple in which Connor started crawling or walking, so vivid, that when I woke I felt sorely disappointed that it wasn’t real. I know he will…I’m just ready to see it. Then there was the one in which we took him to a very questionable looking children’s salon, one that looked like a candidate for Tabatha’s Salon Takeover. He was preparing to get his first haircut, but then, in true dream fashion, Chris and I were suddenly in the car driving away. In dreamworld, it was acceptable to leave him to get his haircut. But I realized I had meant to stay and now I would miss it and get no pictures, so I started to cry. Chris turns to me and says, “Well, why didn’t you tell me you wanted to stay?” “I forgot!” I replied. “You’ll get over it,” he says.

I shared this dream with Chris the next day,  and when I told him that I started to cry in the dream, he laughed and said, “You’ll get over it.”

Editor’s note: When Chris read this he said, Hey! This doesn’t paint me in a good light! So I want to clarify that my subconscious merely is incorporating the fact that we both have an obnoxious sense of humor. And if  you don’t immediately get up and get me a glass of water when I ask for it, I will use my blog to make you look bad.

But the weirdest dream was the one in which I ate one of his toys. It made complete sense in the dream that I would. But as soon as I was done I was racked with immense guilt. You’re probably envisioning a small toy, like a rattle or block. No. It was this:

piano

The foot is for size comparison. I ate…a piano. It was like a cartoon with big old bite marks in it. I don’t even want to know what a therapist would say all this means.

I was looking through my bedside drawer the other night where I stash books I haven’t had a chance to read. I came across a book I had buried months ago when Connor was in the NICU. It was a collection of stories about living with TSC, and part of an information pack given to newly diagnosed families. I was too freaked out to read it then, but this time I actually flipped it open and read a few. No anxiety attack, no heart racing, no dizziness. What a difference a few months make. I can even interact in online discussion groups now. It was a long process of enter and retreat for me.

I’m impressed I haven’t felt more blah with the end of the Christmas season. There was still a bit of the letdown of putting everything away and life going back to normal, but it still went fairly smoothly. It was a bit of glum feeling for a moment tonight though, when the last house on the block (the closest one we have to a Clark Griswold) threw in the towel on the outside lights.

But in a way, Christmas is now a permanent fixture in our house, as it spelled the end of our dining room. Connor officially now has too much stuff not to dedicate a space (besides his room) to him. We pushed the table against the wall, surrendering the space to him, as he looked on smirking, sipping his Similac and pretend smoking his teething ring . He gave us a smile that said, “you held on longer than I thought you would.” He thinks it’s “charming” when we pretend to be in charge.

Our new dining room. Dinner guests can fight over the jumperoo.
Our new dining room. Dinner guests can fight over the jumperoo.
In his new playhouse. His trump card in the battle of the dining room.
In his new playhouse. His trump card in the battle of the dining room.

You want answers? I WANT THE TRUTH! Well, good luck with that.

December has been a tough month for blogging. I feel like I’ve been going, going, going. That’s even more than I usually feel like I’m going, going, going with a 9-month-old. It started with stressing over trying to get that confounded EEG appointment, then going down to Florida to see Chris’s parents, coming home and checking into the hospital the next day for the EEG, getting discharged in time to start all the family festivities with those that came to town, then Christmas. I was so exhausted I had to renege on plans to hang with some friends at a bar downtown. This after weeks of thinking, “man, I want to go out.” Not that I don’t go out, but I wanted to go out more like I went out pre-baby.

It didn’t help that we went from warm, sunny Florida where it was still summer, and we floated around in the backyard pool with beers in our hand, back to chilly Atlanta, where we immediately had to check in for the stay from hell at Scottish Rite.

Pics from Florida:

A snowman

A pool

A pier

A kiss

A flamingo Santa

A elf

A duck

A crane

A chris and me

So we got all nice and relaxed in time to check in for Connor’s EEG where we could promptly become stressed and agitated. We had no issues with our neurologist. He kept us informed and even let us out a day early as we’d caught several “episodes.” This is our second less than satisfactory in-patient experience. First time was after his brain surgery. The surgery part went great. We love our surgeon and we had a good experience with the surgery department. There were a few issues once we moved to his room though, the primary anger-inducing one being that the day after surgery when he started swelling, he was clearly in pain. His heart monitor kept going off because of it, but nobody ever came to check on him (or for any other alarm for that matter). Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand that every alarm is not an emergency, but as parents, when things go off repeatedly for an extended period of time, we might benefit from a little explanation of what warrants concern. Not to mention, it’s already stressful and then you’re sitting in a room with all this machinery beeping at you obnoxiously. It got to the point where in the middle of the night I just started silencing them myself (after it had been clearly established which ones were clearly unworthy of response). At any rate, we finally asked when his next round of pain meds would be. I stupidly assumed (as I am new to the medical world-my first hospital stay being Connor’s birth) that he was getting them because his skull had been drilled into and his brain resected. “Would you like him to receive pain meds?” was the response. “Ummm…yes. He’s in pain and crying.” The nurse responded, “Yes. I saw his heart rate kept going up on the monitor out there.”

Well, alrighty then. But this was before I read an article that advised to never have surgery on Fridays because weekends aren’t exactly the best staffed, so I chalked a lot of it up to that. Also, before I continue, I want to be clear that it’s not my intention to bash nurses. We’ve had great ones that were very proactive in pushing doctors that were taking their sweet time taking care of business, especially in the NICU, but it’s like any profession. Some are great, some are good, some suck. Because then there was the evening Aunt Donna watched him while we went to dinner and he pulled his IV out, spurting blood everywhere. The boy loves to yank his wires. She was left applying pressure to the bleeding spot until the nurse could return with a bandaid. Good thing it finally quit bleeding because nobody ever came back. We also couldn’t get his med schedule reestablished while we were there becaue every time shift changed, nobody had passed on that he takes them at 8 and 8, so they were coming at all crazy, inconsistent times.

So this time we were there mid-week. I do think he got more attention this time, which was funny because it was just a testing situation. But the meds were consistently late messing up his sleep schedule, sometimes more than an hour. And the most frustrating part is that I don’t want to yell at the wrong person. I don’t want to go off on the nurse, because if they are understaffed, that is not her fault. But with a lot of the stuff that doesn’t go smoothly, you just don’t know where the breakdown happened. I’m particularly uncomfortable in this area because I taught for seven years and I know what it is to have parents let you have it over things you have no control over.

But even midweek, we weren’t issue free. There was the EEG removal and shutdown I mentioned in my last entry. Then came the big one. The second night we were there I noticed Connor’s eye was red and irritated. I thought perhaps that in his rubbing and messing with his electrodes he may have gotten some glue in his eye, so I asked the nurse if there was something that could be done to soothe it. She was uncertain whether it was irritation or an infection so she wanted to check in with a doctor first. Thirteen hours later he finally got a saline flush. (And I had brought up the eye problem twice more). By then it had progressed to goopy, not opening, and him screaming like a bat out of hell when we pried it open. Sixteen hours later after more followups from me, a pediatrician checked him out. He’s still screaming and refusing to open his eyes. Seventeen hours later he got ointment and a swab to test for pinkeye. The swab would later come back negative, affirming that perhaps if he hadn’t had to wait 13 hours for an okay on a simple saline flush, that maybe he didn’t have to suffer the next few days, even after he came home, unable to see us or his toys. Here I thought being in a hospital was the optimal place to be if something like this happened. Who knew we’d have been better off at home and taking him for an emergency pediatrician appointment? Sixteen hours as a patient in a hospital. What happens if you contract MRSA? Does a limb have to fall off?

Headed home after his two-day EEG. Too bad he can't open his eyes to see his awesome hair.
Headed home after his two-day EEG. Too bad he can’t open his eyes to see his awesome hair.

I’ll end my diatribe there. But I will say that I’m the calm(er) one, always telling Chris not to burn bridges. God help any hospital that houses me should I ever lapse into a coma.

There was one thing that led me to feel grateful after this stressful stay. After we were home, a friend posted a link on Facebook  about the passing of a friend’s premie baby. I didn’t know the parents, but as I was downstairs bitching about Connor’s eye, there were parents above us in a NICU I know all too well losing their child after 77 days of life. Things can always be worse. I can’t even imagine.

As I mentioned, Connor’s eye-rolling “episodes” as I now call them did not show up on EEG as seizure activity. After another day of comparing video of his eye-rolling with simultaneous EEG activity, one correlation our neuro could find was that when Connor is awake, electrical activity from his left occipital lobe tuber spreads over the left side of the brain. When he’s sleeping it spreads all over the brain. However, when he has the eye-rolling episodes, the activity resembles what it does when he’s sleeping even though he’s awake. But it doesn’t build up into a seizure. It’s just a little quick burst of activity from the tuber (which if I understand correctly isn’t uncommon in TSC) that dies away before it builds into anything. So, for the neuro, it still doesn’t explain why his eyes move like that when he has these clusters. He is still looking into it because he’s never seen this before. I’m glad now that he didn’t okay the ambulatory EEG because the test would have been a wash without video.

Anyway, December has been so crazy I never got to do my post about decorating for Christmas, which I love. So here are some shots of our house:

B outside

B Santa

B soldiers

B train B tree

B room

And my new pride and joy: a Lego Christmas village! Put together, of course, by Chris. I don’t have the patience. Chris’s initial plan was to assemble and disassemble on an annual basis since he enjoys Legos. Several hours of construction later, that plan was out the window. I’ll explore the fake snow option next year, but after hours of work, Chris was opposed to anything that required the manhandling and moving of the parts. Very, very opposed. So Merry Christmas. I didn’t break the village!

village 3

village 7

village 6

village 5

village 4

village 2

village 1

Shots of Connor’s first Christmas in the next blog entry!