Tag Archives: Missouri

The Great Seizure Wait

Day 12 of Blogging for TSC Awareness

by guest blogger Hannah Lorraine  (St. Louis, Missouri)

I was standing in the nail polish aisle in CVS when I got the call.  I rarely ever paint my nails, so that was odd enough, but getting a personal call from my OB was even stranger. She had news, she told me. They saw a mass at our 20-week ultrasound.  In her heart.  Maybe nothing, maybe serious.  A specialist, she said.
And I don’t remember taking in a real breath after that for a very long time.

Elise 3 daysI held my breath through the first appointment with the cardiologist when he told us he saw not one, but two tumors taking up a large area, one in each ventricle. I held my breath three weeks later when one of the tumors grew so large that they sent us to consult with a surgeon.  I held my breath through learning the ins and outs of what heart failure looks like and praying I’d make it to at least 30 weeks without seeing any signs of fluid build-up around my baby’s tiny heart. I prayed and wept and pleaded with God that he would have mercy. I had so many ultrasounds, I learned how to look for all the markers myself. I always felt so relieved to see her heart pumping away, the largest tumor dancing inside rhythmically.  I saw her little hands, always in the fighter position, a good sign I thought.   I held my breath when they told us that she probably had a genetic condition that caused the tumors and that she could have them in other parts of her body as well. And still she kept growing and thriving.

Through the incredible fog of hope, confusion and fear, I gave birth, Elise 4 monthsagainst all the odds, to an otherwise healthy, full-term baby girl. Not to a genetic disorder, not to a defective heart, but to a person. One whom I had loved so intensely through it all, but had only just begun to know. A person with my eye color and her daddy’s chin and a personality as unique as her fingerprints. A person with countless other genes besides the broken one–all making up bits and pieces of the whole beautiful baby that is my daughter. And I am so unbelievably grateful. To know her, to have her as a part of my life. To have the honor of being her mother and walking with her through life. I can barely remember what I was thinking before the day that 2015-05-06_14.20.48everything changed, before hope and fear became two almost indistinguishable sides of the same reality for us.
Then a part of me shattered when we found the tumors in her brain, too. Oh, please, God, not her brain. The diagnosis was confirmed now: tuberous sclerosis.  I had never heard of it before this, never met anyone with those kinds of symptoms.  Sometimes I look at her soft, fuzzy head and cry, wondering how it could be filled with tumors when she looks so normal, so beautiful.

Elise is now seven months old and our waiting game has changed.  Instead of worrying about her heart, we wait and watch for the seizures that usually result from the brain tumors she has. Every day that goes by without one is a joy. No healthy moment is taken for Elise 3 monthsgranted.  Elise is growing and developing beautifully.  She is babbling and sitting unsupported and already crawling.  I have learned to enjoy these healthy days, and yet in my weak moments, I find the familiar fear returning and worry that she will lose the milestones she’s gained. I worry that someday seizures will steal the clarity in her eyes and dull the sparkle from her smile. And so we wait. And refuse to let it define our lives.

We had an EEG this week that showed a number of spikes while Elise was sleeping, upping our concern and our seizure watch. Our neurologist told us that if those spikes turn into seizure activity, the likelihood is that it’s going to happen in the next few months. Statistics are not our friends, but they are not our story either. I am scared and sad, but I refuse to allow the seizure wait to steal my joy in the healthy days. My girl is a fighter. We decided to name her Elise so that she would always know that she is “dedicated to God” and that God is her strength, no matter what suffering she might face. None of us are certain of our tomorrows, but we will rejoice in gifts we have been given today. And carefully watch and wait.

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My New Normal

Evie Cards outfit

Day 9 of of Blogging For TSC Awareness

by guest blogger Jackie Grenia  (St. Louis, Missouri)

For 15 years, my normal consisted of all things BOY.  In 2014, remarried with now a fourth son, and pregnant with a girl, I knew that my normal was going to change significantly. Everleigh Sophia was born on December 5, 2014, after 41 weeks of an uncomplicated pregnancy and about 10 hours of beautiful labor.

This pregnancy, so unexpected, and belated, worried me, but by the time my gorgeous girl appeared, my worry took a backseat to my joy. I was so grateful to have this experience again. Evie arrived into a room full of eager family.  7lb, 5oz with all 10 fingers and all 10 toes.  Perfection!

Everleigh was wonderful and distinct.  Nothing about my experience with her felt normal from day one. My mommy instinct kept telling me that something was “off” but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I’d express my concern to anyone that would listen but kept hearing that I was used to boys and this girl was bound to be different.  She seemed so restless and irritable, so nursing was a challenge to say the least.  She made strange, unfamiliar noises that we jokingly referred to as her “growl”.  She also looked dramatically to the side (first right and then left) & fluttered her eyes often.  We again joked…”she’s a diva”, “already stubborn, refusing to look us in the eye”.  Was this all normal baby stuff? Had it been so long that I’d forgotten?

Evie was nine weeks old and I was unable to shake my unease.  My DSC_0306 (800x536)gut wasn’t just telling me there was a problem, it was screaming at me. No doubt, I was trying everything.  I was a slave to google. I made numerous calls to lactation consultants. I took her for extra visits to her pediatrician. I visited another “holistic” pediatrician some miles away (who performed a frenectomy of her upper lip and tongue in an attempt to improve what might be the cause of her breastfeeding problems). We had multiple pediatric chiropractic appointments (to treat what was believed to be torticollis). Each time, I would be reassured that these were “normal” baby issues and each time I would go home to the continued feeling that we were missing something.  I sat staring at my sweet girl, crying, and that’s when I began putting all of the behaviors together.  I suspected seizures. It took a couple of days to completely convince myself and my husband (who was now getting used to coming home to hear my “freak out” about Evie’s behaviors of the day).

We nervously went to our pediatrician on February 11th, and after she actually witnessed the “behaviors”, we were promptly sent to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.  The ER doctors agreed that it was seizure like activity.  Could she possibly have an infection? I was almost excited. That must be it!  She lives with 4 hygiene deficient boys.  Simple explanation!  An acute infection that has caused some seizures.  We can treat it and move on. The ER staff drew blood, performed a spinal tap, started antibiotics and asked us a thousand questions. They gave her Ativan and almost immediately, the seizures stopped. A CT was suggested just as a precaution. We accompanied her and then waited for answers.

DSCN0036Only moments later, a nice young doctor entered the ER room to tell us that he had preliminary results.  This is when my normal exploded into a thousand pieces. I heard what must be two of the most feared words a parent could hear, brain and tumors.  It all happened so fast. I felt sick, dizzy, confused.  We were told that the tumors were benign and most likely due to a genetic disease. Something like tumerous?  tubulous? scler something??  Evie would be admitted for more testing to confirm. I wasn’t even quite sure what he had said.  He exited the room and I sat dumbfounded.

The next two days were a whirlwind.  Evie had more tests than I’ve had in my 43 years of life. An echocardiogram, EKG, EEG, Brain MRI, Abdominal MRI, and general X-rays. The diagnosis was confirmed.  It was a rare genetic disorder; tuberous sclerosis. We were told that our daughter had “multiple brain tumors…too numerous to count”.  The tests revealed five tumors within her heart, multiple, small tumors in both kidneys, along with the tumors in her brain. We were given some informational pamphlets and told that there are varying degrees of the disease and there is no way of knowing how Evie will be affected. Our job was to go home and give her a daily anti-seizure medication and monitor her. Seriously? Monitor what? I wanted to ask what to expect, but they had already said there is no way of knowing. I glanced at the information but honestly didn’t want to know the possibilities.  What’s the point?  I didn’t want to spend any time worrying about what might be.

We went home and it was like a miracle.  Our irritable, uncomfortable baby was now much calmer.  The seizures were gone and nursing was improving.  She still had her quirks, some rigidness, and a left gaze, but I could deal with that.  It wasn’t so bad.  I decided that everything was going to be fine, if anything, better than before her diagnosis. I went into a state of blissful denial.

And then it began again.  Two weeks later, the seizures returned.  It felt like a slap in the face. This was followed by more doctor visits, an ER visit, med adjustments, and finally another hospitalization before the seizures finally stopped. My bliss disappeared. Maybe it was time to educate myself.

I obviously hope for a mild case for Evie.  She’s had more seizures, but I am now educated and somewhat prepared.  I will not allow TSC to take another cheap shot at me. I’m smarter and stronger. I’m tapping into all of the resources available and going to bed each night knowing that I’m doing everything that I can. I’m definitely “on the lookout” which no doubt makes me seem a bit more nervous than usual.  But, I’m also much more aware of the beautiful moments in each day. My eyes are opened wider. My love feels deeper. I’d like to think that I’m becoming a better mom to all of my children.

I never would have thought that my normal would include a seizure diary, daily medications, weekly therapy appointments and discussions of MRI results.  Of course, I never expected to see my boys nuzzling with their baby sister or hear them talk sweetly to her while she admiringly coos. I feel blessed to experience this new normal.

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“If you spend too much time waiting for the storm, you’ll miss the sunshine.”

Day 5 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

by guest blogger Amy Dublinske  (Kansas City, Missouri)


kier06“If you spend too much time waiting for the storm, you’ll miss the sunshine.” A wise quote to live by, though easier said than done when battling a chronic illness.  Realistically, with the tribulations of tuberous sclerosis complex it does feel like you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the train that’s about to hit you or walking through a land mine.  Our journey with TSC officially began one decade ago today, 05/05/05.

Cinco De Mayo is the ultimate celebration in the United States and kier03-2Mexico.  A day observed to commemorate Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces.  For the past decade Cinco De Mayo has carried a new meaning for me and my family.  On May 5th, 2005, our precious daughter Kierstin Gabriella was born….with tuberous sclerosis complex.  May 5th now marks the day we officially entered “The TSC Club.”  The dreaded diagnosis that we truly feared that may just become our reality.  Cinco De Mayo has truly been a bitter-sweet day for the past ten years.

kier09While pregnant, doctors told us that there was a 50/50 chance that our baby girl had TSC due to numerous cardiac rhabdomyoma tumors.  We researched TSC.  We talked to several TS families but were plotting out how we would tell them the day that they determined that our baby “really didn’t” have this awful disorder after all.  Denial is a happy place, Right?! Unfortunately that day never came and we were officially inducted into “The Club.”

I can clearly recall the cardiologist trying to gently explain Tuberous Sclerosis to this very pregnant mom-to-be for the first time ever hearing those words uttered. Though his English was broken, the one thing that was abundantly clear in any language were his words “we hope it is not Tuberous Sclerosis.  This is a very grim diagnosis.”  The words “brain tumors, heart tumors, kidney tumors, mental retardation and there is no cure” were also communicated rather clearly.

When leaving the hospital, while nearing the elevator I witnessed a mom pushing her infant daughter in a stroller.  She began lifting her in the air and playing peek-a-boo with her to the point of the baby belly laughing.  I suddenly became weak in my knees and collapsed right there on the floor at over eight months pregnant. It suddenly struck me that we may never have this with our baby girl or may never experience the privilege of hearing those belly laughs.  How could this possibly be happening to us and to our precious daughter that we longed for years to have? We had so many hopes and dreams for this little one and all those dreams seemed to be suddenly shattering with just one sonogram.   I think at that very moment I knew in my head that she had TSC, yet my heart wasn’t willing to accept it.  The next month is a complete blur as we prepare for the unimaginable while still holding onto a small shred of hope that they might be wrong.

Essentially, May 5th doctors confirmed what we dreaded and the medical journey which was filled with much uncertainty began.   She was induced with the anticipation of open heart surgery given large rhabdomyoma tumor growth.   Though her heart was more stable than initially expected, we quickly received the dreaded diagnosis of TUBEROUS SCLEROSIS.  All of her organs were affected with tumors at birth.   We were devastated beyond words!  A short glimpse of the journey begins with evaluating every organ by a new “ologist.”  Countless appointments, numerous medications, relentless seizures, years of therapies, multiple hospitalizations, brain surgeries and weeks and weeks and weeks advocating and educating about this diagnosis that I have quickly become an expert on is what our “new normal” consisted of.  No one imagines their baby struggling to reach the most basic of milestones like rolling over or sitting up.  Who plans their family vacation destination in conjunction with medical appointments with specialists from across the country?  Every parent of a child with special needs grieves their child’s diagnosis at one point in time.  I remember silently crying in the shower in the mornings, so that no one would hear me.  I am ashamed to admit that I have never completed Kierstin’s baby book. Every time I would try it would be a reminder to me that she had not met any of her first year milestones, or if she did, briefly she would lose the milestone with the next seizure.

If I knew then what I know now, I would definitely have spent more time in the sunshine and less time waiting for the storm.   “The storm,” which was more equivalent to a never-ending roller coaster ride with some of the most gut-wrenching twists and turns you can imagine, has taught us how to live in constant chaos and crisis so to speak.  This journey and particularly Kierstin has taught me more about life than anything else I have ever experienced.  Throughout the years I have had dozens of people say “You are such a strong person, this must be why you were chosen to be Kierstin’s mom.”  Being strong is the ONLY option.  We refuse to allow TSC to define our daughter, but more importantly SHE refuses to let TSC define her!!

royalsKierstin has taught me unconditional love to a higher degree than I ever thought possible.  Though my dreams of having my first born daughter are much different than today’s reality, I have so much to be thankful for.  This journey with TSC is not quite the journey of my dreams; though Kierstin is the daughter I have always dreamed of!!  This year we celebrate Cinco De Mayo thankful for God choosing us and mostly trusting us to be her parents.  We are eternally blessed and thankful for this privilege of meeting our hero on May 5th of 2005.  Many people dream of someday meeting their hero, but fortunately I gave birth to mine!! So after a decade battling TSC, Cinco De Mayo is now my day of celebrating my HERO!! Enjoy the sunshine, forget about the storm.  And Always Remember: We Will Give Everything!  But Up!!

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I wouldn’t change her for anything.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 14

by guest blogger Amy Dublinske   (Kansas City, Missouri)

Every Mom dreams of having their first born daughter.  They dream of their first steps, first birthday, first kiss, first prom, first love, and their wedding day.  Pregnancy is an exciting time.   The anticipation, planning, preparing the room, sonograms, baby showers, and the much anticipated birth.  NO ONE EVER dreams of fetal stress tests, rhabdomyomas, SEGA tumors, brain MRI’s, seizures, open heart surgeries, testing, treatments, or brain surgeries. NO ONE DOES.  To say that “hearing the words “Tuberous Sclerosis” uttered for the first time is a not a dream but a nightmare,” would be a gross understatement.  My story begins at 34 weeks of pregnancy with my first born daughter, Kierstin.

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It was April 2nd, 2005 when I walked into a Level Two Sonogram feeling “On Top of the World.”  I left feeling an overwhelming amount of fear, stress, and pain.  An indescribable, immense fear that I have never encountered before or again since that day.  Before I knew it, we were being rushed to Children’s Mercy Hospital for further evaluation by the Chief Cardiologist.  Though his English was broken, the one thing that was abundantly clear in any language was his words “we hope it is not Tuberous Sclerosis.  This is a very grim diagnosis.”  The next four weeks are a complete blur as we tried to live in a state of denial, but reality set in very quickly.   Kierstin was born on 05/05/05.  She was induced with the anticipation of open heart surgery given large rhabdomyoma tumor growth.   Though her heart was more stable than initially expected, we quickly received the dreaded diagnosis of TUBEROUS SCLEROSIS.  All of her organs were affected at birth.   We were devastated beyond words!

blog1When researching TSC and talking with other families, I remember hearing things such as “most children don’t have SEGA tumors, most children do not have eye involvement or kidney involvement at birth, etc.   We learned that Kierstin had two SEGA tumors, she had eye lesions at birth in both of her eyes and several kidney tumors when she was an infant.  Due to relentless seizures starting at eleven weeks  she had two rounds of brain surgeries.  She has been diagnosed with TSC2 which we believe was a spontaneous genetic mutation.  Once the seizures were controlled, we began battling the developmental delays and behavioral issues associated with TSC.  Life with TSC has most definitely been a roller coaster ride with many unexpected twists and turns.   If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me “You are such a strong person, this must be why you were chosen  to be Kierstin’s mom.”  Being strong is the ONLY option.  We refuse to allow TSC to define our daughter, but sometimes the twists and turns of this roller coaster are more than even the strongest person can handle!!

Parenting a child with special needs had been the most difficult challenge of our lives, while at the same time quite possibly the most rewarding aspect of blogparenting.  Some days I become frustrated that I have a nine-year-old who still puts toys into her mouth, cannot bathe herself or cannot button and zip her own jeans.  But that level of frustration is not even comparable to the amount of pride I felt the first time I heard her say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the National Anthem or score her first goal in soccer.  Still to this day, listening to Kierstin read me a story brings on the “Ugly Cry.”  We were told by doctors that she would never walk, talk, run, or sing.  How can she possibly be reading me a Chapter Book? She is without a doubt a true miracle and we thank God each day for choosing us to be her parents.  No one chooses TSC! No one wants their children to be born with medical and developmental challenges! But at the same time, as much as I loathe TSC and the challenges we face because of it, I feel blessed because of the positives.  I have met some of the most wonderful people through the TS Alliance staff, physicians, parents battling TSC themselves, teachers, therapists who have given so much to our family and mostly to Kierstin.  I have poured my heart out and gained commitments from senators and representatives who have become invested in TSC because of our advocacy.  I have provided much support to new families who are walking down the same scary, terrifying path that I did only nine years ago.  Because of TSC, I am the co-founder of the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance of Greater Kansas City.  We have raised nearly $200,000 collectively in the past eight years through walkathons, golf tournaments, and  other fundraising events.   I have discovered patience within me that I never knew existed.  I have learned the true meaning of “paying it forward” after so much love and kindness has been shown to us because of TSC.  Though my dreams of having my first born daughter are much different than today’s reality, I wouldn’t change her for anything.  This journey with TSC is not quite the journey of my dreams.  Though Kierstin is the daughter I have always dreamed of and I couldn’t be more blessed!!  We Will Give Everything!  But Up!!