Tag Archives: MRI

Scars Do Not Define Us

Day 28 of Blogging for TSC Awareness
by guest blogger Katie Eliot  (Durham, England)

Hi!  I’m Katie, I’m 35 and I have TSC.  My TSC story should have begun when I was a baby, but a series of events put off my diagnosis until much later in life.

Doctors realised that there was something very wrong with my heart while my mum was in labour.  Mum told me that the delivery room was like and episode from M.A.S.H and soon after I was born I was whisked away for test after test.  It was assumed that I had aorta stenosis and I was scheduled for open heart surgery at three weeks old.  The surgeon opened me up, saw I actually had a rhabdomyoma (a heart tumour associated with TSC) and they realised that, without a heart transplant, it was unlikely that I would survive.

But survive I did!  However I wasn’t diagnosed with TSC as my paediatrician told my mum that “I was too intelligent to have tuberous sclerosis.  Unfortunately, back then mum had no idea how ridiculous that statement was!

So I went through childhood like most other kids.  At age 7, I moved to South Africa and rarely thought of my operation as a baby.  If I ever did, mum would say, “it could be worse, you could have tuberous sclerosis!”  South Africa was a wonderful place to grow up, but in 1992, our family moved back to the UK.  I did my GCSEs and passed with flying colours. However my life changed completely during my A Levels when, aged 18, I became very poorly at school.  I had many tests including a brain scan which showed the tell-tale tubers of tuberous sclerosis.  My world fell apart as for 18 years I had thought myself TSC free.

I think I was in denial for a while, but I finally got in touch with the Tuberous Sclerosis Association in my early twenties.  However, my tango with tuberous sclerosis was far from over!

Eight years ago, after many, many years of pain, surgeons realised I had a tumour in the joint between my right collarbone and sternum.

In August ’08, I underwent a 11 hour surgery to remove a section of my collarbone and graft a section of my fibula into my chest.  It was at this point that I realised I couldn’t ignore TSC any more and I went on my first TSA Outlook Weekend.  It was amazing and I instantly made life long friends.  Little did I realise at that time that one of those friends, Andy, would become the love of my life.

I went on to have five surgeries until it became clear that the grafts were never going to work properly.  It was decided that I needed to have my collarbone completely removed.  So, two weeks ago, on 14 May 2015, I went down to theatre to have it taken out.  I can honestly say that I was utterly petrified!  A few hours later, I was in recovery and I was in far less pain that I had imagined.  After a few days, I was allowed to leave hospital and go home to continue to recover.

I’m getting stronger every day and I am amazed by how little pain I’ve had.  I still have a long way to go, but I’m getting there!

But, I’m not done there!  From something so painful, was born something positive.  Some time ago, someone told me to cover my scars, in case “I offend someone!”  Well, I thought, “Stuff that!” and I decided to make it my personal  mission to help to stamp out negative body image.  Hence, Sport Your Scars was born!  I set up a Facebook page and I posted a photo of my scars.  The response was amazing!  It’s only in its infancy, but I truly believe that scars do not define us and that EVERY woman is beautiful, irrespective of her shape, size or skin tone.

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If you’d like to follow my story, you can find me on Facebook or follow my video log on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLgMCfg-HVY1xms6iBVvR8Q

Also, you can lend your support to the #SportYourScars campaign by backing our Thunderclap here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/26780-sport-your-scars?locale=en

A Glimpse into the Journal of a TSC Mom

Day 23 of Blogging for TSC Awareness

by guest blogger Kaci Kennedy  (Woodward, Iowa)

A glimpse of my last two days thanks to TSC.

May 17th, 2015. In to do mode. Pack the van. Must hydrate Porter. Push Pedialyte. He will gladly drink the sugary drink all day long. Drive four hours to our nearest TSC clinic. Try to check into hotel. Realize your ID is not in your wallet. Hold back tears but minorly freak out you may need to drive all the way back home. Go back out in the rain and search the van. It’s found! Check into hotel. Try to sleep with a 22 month old and his little 5 month old sister.

May 18th
6:15am Wake up all, get dressed, drive to yearly MRI.

image1-37:30am check in. Porter is historically a hard poke to get in his IV. The MRI team is ready for that. Nitrous Oxide. A special team to put his IV in. They get it the first time. Praise the Lord! (Last time it took over two hours with many many different interventions.)

8:30am He goes back as they put the medicine in his IV, his IV slips. Must put in another one. Porter screams and screams and screams. Finally he’s asleep.

8:30-10:30am I wait. Little sister sleeps. I’m typically as far from an anxious person as possible. Easy going, go with the flow. People with anxiety are a puzzle to me. Except during these two hours, anxiety makes sense. Will he have a SEGA? What will his kidneys look like? Did the fluid around the brain increase? I have a fear they will find something major and we will have to stay at the hospital. Again crazy thoughts. So highly unlikely but with tsc you never know. My thoughts are attacked.

Continue to wait…

10:35am  My guy is back. Sleeping still.

11:00am slowly he awakes in my arms. He’s ready to walk and wants to run away, but his body says not quite yet.

11:30am We get the okay to go get lunch. (Let me tell you the talent of a mom to feed herself, a 22 month old and breastfeed a five month old simultaneously)

1:00pm We go to the TSC clinic to meet with his neurologist. He shows off his recent tricks. He walks, he throws balls, he kicks balls. He says his one word often with much enthusiasm…GO! The dr asks where is the ball and he delightfully shows him he knows where that is. Porter plays and we all sit in amazement of the huge strides of development he has made since our last visit.

I get out my list of questions. The doctor and nurse are wonderful in answering each. Are those facial angiofibromas? Is this forehead plaque? What treatment do they recommend? His next status seizure what should we do? Recommendations on how we should minimize risk? What about eye exams and Sabril (my nemesis)?

We get to the MRI…no segas…my heart can breathe again. (Exactly it’s pretty spectacular that my heart can do that because it should beat but in cloud nine it breathes life.) No major growth and kidneys look overall good.

2:30pm Start the four hour drive home. Contemplate a stop at IKEA
but the two crying babes dissuade me quickly. Pray that we won’t be back for a year. Pray that the seizures stay at bay. Pray that no strange behaviors bring us back in Porter’s case extreme sleepiness. Thank God for the joy he has placed in Porter.

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Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Awareness Day “Thingie”

Day 15 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

by guest blogger Julia Gray  (Atlanta, Georgia)

I’m supposed to write about my identity.

Frankly, that’s easier said than done.

I’ve been told that INFP personalities,

Like me,

Have a hard time getting their thoughts and feelings

Out of their heads and into real life.

In the words of Holden Caulfield,

I can’t explain what I mean.

And even if I could,

I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

But I might as well try.

I am tumors

Surrounded by a body

A brain

And a vast imagination.

I am an annual MRI visit.

I have to lie completely still, quitting my twitching and itching for an hour while I lay inside a huge metal cylinder that takes pictures of the problem areas.

I am an uneven heartbeat

Belonging to a heart that wants to dance away from its problems

Or just write or draw them into oblivion.

I am the constant fear that when I zoned out just now I had a seizure and didn’t notice.

I am a lot of things.

An imagination.

Unending passion.

Personality.

I’m not just a cluster of tumors.

They say I’m a rarity,

An unfortunate privilege for people like them.

Unfortunate for me, that is.

They love it.

When my disease, my tumors and I walk into a room together, and the putrid medicinal smell pervades my nose,

We are involuntarily attached,

And they thrive on it.

I’m like a scientific oddity.

They are an undesired gift

For them and their white coats to gawk at and inspect.

I am known as my disease.

But I am not my disease.

Or my tumors.

I am a victim of it.

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One Hour At A Time

Day 6 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

by Anonymous  (London, England)

I had a pretty normal pregnancy; all of our scans and tests showed that our beautiful boy was growing normally and we had nothing to worry about.

Our 36-week scan would be our last chance to see our boy before he made his big entrance into the world, so we were very excited. Little did we know that November 13, 2014 would be the day that our world would come crashing down.

“I see a tumour in the baby’s heart. I am going to ask a doctor to come in to double check,” said the sonographer. Within 10 minutes I had four doctors in the room, confirmation of several tumours and a probable diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis. I had the legal right to terminate, mental retardation, epilepsy all thrown at me by the doctors and I couldn’t utter a word. But inside I was screaming. This wasn’t happening to me; any minute now someone will say a mistake has been made, but unfortunately that minute never came.

The following week a fetal MRI showed brain tumours and a tuberous sclerosis diagnosis was confirmed.

I spent the next four weeks reading everything I found on the internet about TSC and I cried like I had never cried before. My heart ached for my baby, and it ached for my husband for losing the normal healthy son he was so looking forward to having. I resented every healthy baby and all the mothers that would never experience this overwhelming pain. Most of all I hated myself for being healthy but carrying a baby that had a disease that had no cure.

Eli was born on December 15. We had accepted his diagnosis and had great hope that we might be one of the lucky ones and his case would be a mild one. Once again God had other plans for us. Eli started having seizures from birth. Doctors gave us worst case scenarios and told us that the likelihood of Eli being a severe case was high as he presented with seizures so early on. That night I begged God that whatever Eli ends up with, please don’t take him away from me. To this day I refuse to ask the question about his life expectancy.

Eli is now 4 and half months old, we are at the beginning of our journey and the road ahead of us is long , there are many uncertainties that lie ahead.My heart breaks a little more with every test Eli has. People tell me that I’m strong but I don’t see what other choice I have. My son needs me to be strong for him. He needs me to fight this disease and not give up.

With every milestone that Eli meets my heart soars with happiness, but at the same time a crippling fear overtakes me; one big seizure and he could lose it all.

One night when I felt nothing but despair, a mother of a TSC child told me to take it an hour at a time and not think too far ahead. At times I catch myself looking at young boys out and about and wonder if my Eli will be like them? Will he ever talk, walk or have friends, but then I have to stop myself and come back to the here and now.

My boy smiles at me when he wakes up in the mornings and for that I am eternally grateful.

 

You are not winning, TSC.

Day 2 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month
by guest blogger Mary Garnett  (Roanoke, Virginia)

10530697_10152504883715700_7231308209995918033_nI was just 24 weeks pregnant when the words “tuberous sclerosis complex” were muttered to my husband and me, and pamphlets about this disorder were thrust into our hands by the doctor. They found cardiac rhabdomyomas on my otherwise healthy baby boy in utero. From that point on, I had biweekly monitoring by multiple doctors, scanning every bit of our child to detect any other marker of TSC and they did not find anything, even after a fetal MRI.

Our little boy, Owen, made his appearance on March 16 at exactly 1619175_435903126574175_3888823022529246311_n40 weeks. Everything about labor and delivery couldn’t have been more perfect and our son scored wonderfully on Apgar and hearing. After four days and some NICU monitoring, we were able to take our little man home to enjoy. We didn’t realize how soon that would change.

Three and a half weeks later, I began noticing a twitching of Owen’s r11046409_447237978774023_1711788437182916419_night arm. I had done my research on TSC and the different types of seizures I should be on the watch for. Intuition was telling me these WERE seizures. My husband was more optimistic, but the twitching was increasing, so off to the pediatrician we went. Following that appointment, we were immediately sent to be admitted at the hospital after our pediatrician got to witness what I had been seeing all along.

Multiple tests including a lumbar puncture and bloodwork came back normal. It was not until a VEEG was done that we got our confirmation that these were indeed seizures. A brain MRI the next day then officially diagnosed our son with TSC after finding multiple tumors in our son’s brain. You know when four doctors, a chaplain and social worker walk into your hospital room at the same time, that the news can’t be good. Owen was started on his first anti-epileptic medication that same day. We were thrilled when it worked from the first dose and were excited to go home, thinking this was the end of seizures for Owen. That medication worked for three days.

Multiple seizure types, six medications, one diet and one brain surgery later…

Owen is now 13 months old and experiencing freedom from seizures for the first time since he was a newborn. How has someone who just celebrated their first birthday been through so much already? How does he continue to smile and play despite seizures wreaking havoc on his development for 11 months? Because this kid has strength and spirit that only God could bestow.

We don’t know what the future holds for Owen, but we don’t care. He has taught us that no matter the battle, the strength to continue on will always be there for him, and for us that is enough. You are not winning, TSC.

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Connor’s version of March Madness includes an MRI and sedation

So much going on this Month but we made it.

We gave him a playroom, and he acted like he'd been sentenced to Riker's.
We gave him a playroom, and he acted like he’d been sentenced to Riker’s.

We still have a child named Connor, in case my lack of blogging made you think he had packed up and run off to Borneo as revenge for us regulating his iPad time.

Let’s back up to February when we heard a loud thump followed by crying from his room. We ran in to discover that we had a Defcon 1 situation and Connor had escaped the crib. He wasn’t so much hurt as I think he was surprised by the floor, so he transitioned to the toddler bed that week. I did not expect it to go well. We moved more toys into the room, added a gate to the door and removed all potentially dangerous and/or greasy objects from his drawers. The first night he cried and yelled for two hours and I had to rock him to sleep. Not because of the bed, but because baby gates have always inspired great rage in him.

IMG_3673But after that, piece of cake. He would actually get in bed and stay there. I was shocked. I had expected him to trash the room and pass out in various spots on the floor. Instead, he stays in bed until light begins to peek through in the morning, and then he’ll either go play or drag objects into bed with him. In the beginning I’d find him passed out in a sea of pants and diapers he’d dragged from the drawers (yeah, no idea) but he has since graduated to his puzzles and trucks. The transition has been incredibly easy as long as he has his Pillow Pet dog to shine on the ceiling.

Staring into is even better than watching the ceiling.
Staring into is even better than watching the ceiling.

March was probably the busiest month we’ve ever had.

Washington D.C.

Chris and I joined other TS Alliance volunteers from around the country again this year to meet with our congressional representatives and senators on behalf of our state. I’m excited to say that the Alliance got the most signatures ever in support of the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Research Program. Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson was one of the authors of the senate Dear Colleague letter, and in the House of Representatives from Georgia, both Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. David Scott signed on in support again this year. We were fortunate that the meetings were set for Wednesday March 4 since a snowstorm blew in and shut down the government on Thursday. Despite the cold, Chris and I got a lot of sightseeing done. And I only busted my butt on the ice once.

Boston

IMG_3995We flew home from D.C. on a Friday, picked up Connor from my parents and flew up to Boston on Sunday morning. I had booked an early flight since this was our last trip given Connor is aging out of the TSC study and I wanted to make the most of the day. I was not aware at the time of booking that we would be losing an hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings. We boarded our 7:30 flight, took off, and landed right back in Atlanta 10 minutes later due to an issue with the landing gear. I was tired and disinterested in dragging a sleeping toddler off the plane so my thought was, if we gotta land on it, let’s just do it in Boston. If it meant spending the day in the airport waiting  for a flight we weren’t going, but crazily enough Delta had a plane ready immediately so off we went. Boston was still covered in several feet of snow from the big storms the previous month. Roads and sidewalks were cleared, but space was tight with the mountains of dirty snow and abandoned cups on each side of the sidewalks (because apparently trash melts too when thrown in a snowbank).

While we were there we scheduled Connor’s annual scans. He had a brain MRI and an ultrasound (the recently updated IMG_4016protocol recommends an MRI of everything, but I just couldn’t seem to get someone on the phone that would make that happen this time). Since kidney involvement is common, we prepared ourselves for the possibility that Connor would have some sort of involvement by now, even though his previous scans at birth and six months were clear. When the tech came back to take additional photos after showing the initial pictures to the doctor we were pretty sure we were right. Connor does now have signs of TSC in his kidneys–innumerable minuscule angiomyolipomas. They are not problematic or affecting his kidney function, so we will just continue to monitor for growth. Hopefully they will not ever require intervention.

Weirdly, though I prepared myself for changes in the kidneys, I did not expect any change in the brain. There is no rational reason for that, I just didn’t. Turns out that one of his SENs in the ventricle has grown from 5mm to 7mm. It does not require intervention at this time, but the doctor recommended a followup in six months to be safe, rather than waiting the usual year.

So, not the best news, but certainly not the worst, or anything too crazy for TSC.

My crowning achievement of the trip was while Connor was having his MRI. I fell asleep in the waiting room, and awoke to the nurse telling us we could come back and see him. I jumped up in a half-asleep state of confusion not realizing my leg was completely asleep. I mean absolutely 100 percent numb and unfunctional. I crashed to the floor drawing a gasp of horror from an onlooker. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. My leg could not support any weight whatsoever. I looked really cool, but seemed unhurt…until we flew home that night. Then began the first of several days of my ankle looking like this:

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But I must reiterate — I looked really cool.

Katie Beckett and IEP

Upon return I dealt with the immediate turnaround of Connor’s Katie Beckett renewal paperwork. They give you like a whopping two weeks to get it done, plus it came while we were out of town and was due when we would be gone again. Thankfully, we had an easy renewal this year (assuming we get re-approved), requiring only some basic forms and not the common 10,000 pages of therapy notes.

Then we had Connor’s first IEP meeting since he’s aging out of Babies Can’t Wait. He will begin at the special needs preschool in April, attending Monday through Friday from 8 until 12. It went pretty well. Their goals were well in line with what we were looking for. He will receive 45 minutes of OT, 45 of PT and 60 of speech a week. Plus he will continue with private speech, OT, music and aquatic.

Connor’s 3rd Birthday Party

We celebrated Connor’s construction-themed birthday a week early since we needed to be out of town for a wedding on his actual birthday. He was very accommodating in that he doesn’t know what date it is anyway and never has objections to being given trucks on any given day. Rosie the dog donned her construction gear and I even tried my hand at amateur cake making:

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A few days later Connor went to my parents and we went to Antigua, Guatemala to round out a whirlwind month…but that’s my next post. Stay tuned so I can get all Rick Steves on you.

I knew there had to be something wrong for the EEG to continue…

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 31

by guest blogger Sandy Rhodes  (Altoona, Pennsylvania)

IMG_147969384610702My husband and I were married two years when we decided to start our family. We had it all planned out to try for a child in the late fall so that I could deliver between semesters. I was accepted into a school for my Family Nurse Practitioner degree in 2012 and didn’t want to take a semester off. The stars must have aligned just right, because we found out in October we were expecting our first child! I cannot begin to tell you the emotions of seeing two positive pregnancy tests after trying for three months with no luck (I am aware that isn’t a really long time). I was so excited I called off work thinking the OB/GYN doctor would want to see me that day.

We had our first appointment in late November that confirmed our pregnancy. We told our families on Thanksgiving. They had to know something was up when I volunteered to do the blessing before the meal. The pregnancy was not anything unusual. I was sick the first twenty weeks with horrible nausea. I was sick daily and spent my fair share of time in the bathroom. My husband was a superstar during my pregnancy. He made it to every appointment, dopplered the baby’s heartbeat daily with our home Doppler, and cared for me on top of working full time. Our labs and ultrasound were all normal. We found out we were having a boy right before Easter 2013.

The labor and delivery of our son Camden was uncomplicated. I had a great epidural! My son Camden weighed in at 8 pounds ½ ounce born July 20, 2013. No one could believe the size of him. We brought Camden home July 22nd with no complications. Things would stay relatively normal for approximately seven months.

February our lives changed forever. My husband was explaining an episode Camden had when he was giving him a bottle before bed. He said his arms flewIMG_147874206265976 up several times, and he was really fussy. I am a nurse and wrote the entire situation off as the startle reflex. It was two days later walking through Walmart when I witnessed an episode for myself. It made me uneasy to see Camden’s arm rising up to the left and his head turning that way in a series of pull like motions. I told my husband I would call the pediatrician in the morning because Camden seemed fine before and after the episodes. I thought maybe he was teething or had a low grade temp. That night as I was rocking Cam to sleep he had an episode in my arms. This is when I knew things were more wrong than I could figure out. I called our pediatrician on call who told me if it was his son he’d go to Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. We packed a bag, called our parents, and drove the two hours to Children’s. My father and mother -in-law made the trip with us, thankfully.

We checked in and were taken to a bay in the ER. They were very slow that night and we received several ideas that seemed like minor fixes. The ER physician said he believed Camden was having intestinal pain and a minor laparoscopic surgery would easily correct this common retropulsion issue. Camden’s electrolytes came back with high potassium, but that was later found to be hemolyzed and inaccurate. That would’ve required the administration of medication to make him poop out the extra potassium. While in the ER bay Cam had another episode. I yelled at my husband to find a doctor and pulled my cell phone out to record what I was seeing.

IMG_147889059842634 We were admitted and Cam was given an IV bolus of Keppra. This made things so much worse. He had several more episodes when we reached our room. We were hooked up to an EEG machine in the wee hours of the morning for an hour long study. Cam only had one episode during this time. When the tech came to remove Cam’s leads he received a call stating he was to be left on the machine. My heart sank. I knew there had to be something wrong for the EEG to continue. Three hours into the EEG a neurologist came into the room. He explained that the EEG was showing hypsarrhythmia. This was a common feature of infantile spasms. I was kind of optimistic in the next few seconds thinking how minor most spasms are. The optimism was short lived as the physician continued to say the word epilepsy. How could my baby have epilepsy? We aren’t epileptic, our family has no history, there were no problems during my pregnancy, and he was an uncomplicated delivery! He ordered an MRI for that day.

So much had happened in half a day. I was sitting in the noisy MRI machine as my sedated baby underwent his testing. I remember praying to God to make things ok and get us home. I remember picking him up off of the table to go to recovery where my husband was waiting. I laid him down on the table so the nurse could get vital signs. The BP had not even come up yet on the machine when two physicians entered the room. We were prepping Cam for a lumbar puncture to rule out infection at this time. Then another nurse came in and removed the LP tray. The doctors looked at Mike and me and asked us to sit down. I lost it. I knew in that instant there was something drastically wrong. My mind was running wild thinking about tumors and defects and malformations.

The neurologist from earlier started by saying your son has a textbook case of tuberous sclerosis. I was sobbing and had no idea what tuberous sclerosis was. I remember trying to write down the name so I could relay it to our family, but the pen in my hand felt foreign. The doctor explained there was an amazing website to look for information because we might become overwhelmed if we use Google (TS Alliance.org). They told us our son would most likely be autistic, have delays, and had potential for other organ involvement. They remained with us for about ten minutes of crying questions about outcomes, treatments, and pathology of TSC. I asked them to spell vigabatrin about three times before I just gave up. They left us with our sedated son and the nurse.

How could this be happening to our baby? We had prayed and planned for him. We had zero neurological history anywhere on our family trees. Could things be any more crazy and devastating!? We stayed in our devastated state for several hours, inconsolable.  Our parents were trying to be positive, but we were stuck with the reality our son would have TSC for life. He could potentially some day want to have children and have to deal with this ugly disease.

It was later that night a nurse sat down with us and brought us a computer to look at the TS Alliance site. We read about others with the disease and actually watched videos of other babies having infantile spasms. It was uplifting to read positive stories of achievements and children reaching milestones. This was our first glimmer of hope that we held onto and used to fuel us to remain positive. Camden had an echo, renal ultrasound, and EKG that were normal. We used this as motivation as well. The entire four-day admission our son was pleasant and cooperative with testing.

On Sunday February 10 they decided our son was a candidate for Sabril. We signed consent forms and had our supply for home delivered that evening to 20140526_204209Children’s Hospital. Cam received his first dose in the hospital. Monday he had his eyes dilated for an eye exam which was normal, and we were discharged home. Our five day stay in the hospital revealed more than anyone could’ve ever guessed. We had a diagnosis no one locally had ever heard about.

At home we continued Sabril. Camden’s last episode of IS was February 16. He has become an even happier baby with the use of Sabril. I rely on the TS Alliance for updates and support on a daily basis. This diagnosis is not a death sentence. The overall vibe from Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital was professional and geared at being prepared for the worst. They have been excellent with our follow up care, and we have grown extremely found of Dr. Thodeson who will be leaving in June. We found our way to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for a research study and felt a completely different vibe. They are all more personal and positive. It has been amazing to have exposure at two TS Clinics. We are in this for the long run to do everything in our power to better our son’s life. We will go anywhere, pay anything, and be there 24/7 for every up and down. This disease is filled with ups and downs. We are pretty new to the TS community, but the welcoming and support has really kept our faith alive. We pray every day for our son to live a long life, learn from everyone, and love all. We are not going to let TSC define our baby. He will show TSC who is boss! He’s come so far already. He is 10 months old and has not yet had any delays. He rolls, crawls, babbles, and has the greatest smile. We are thankful every second of every day to have Camden the baby we prayed and planned for!

We didn’t know at the time that there was a 50/50 chance the baby would have it…

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 28

by guest blogger Krystal Meier  (Rochester, New York) 

WP_20130503_022My story begins in 2005. I was 20 years old and I had just started dating my husband. We had talked about it and I knew he had TSC when we started dating. I was aware that he had seizures daily and that he had a kidney removed at age 20. That was all I knew of TSC and I accepted all of it. Then I got pregnant. We didn’t know at the time that there was a 50/50 chance the baby would have it. I was not the most careful and I didn’t go to the doctor the first time until I was 16 weeks pregnant. We asked the midwife if she knew anything about TSC and the risk to the baby and she thought it could be like other genetic disorders where both parents needed the gene in order to pass it on. We scheduled our first ultrasound and left that day feeling pretty happy about things. At that ultrasound we were excited to see what we were having and had no idea what was to come that day and what would follow. The technician did the ultrasound and told us it was a girl, which was very exciting for me, but then she promptly left the room. I was scared and had no clue what to think about what was happening to me and my baby.  The doctor came in and went over all the pictures again and saw a giant tumor on the baby’s heart. He sent us from there to another hospital and genetics. On this day that I was so excited for I was told something heart breaking — and that was not even the start of it. We sat at a giant table surrounded by doctors as they told me all kinds of information that I cannot remember. All I wanted to do was WP_20130504_004cry. My baby was diagnosed with TSC and I was in and out of the hospital for tests weekly. There was a 10% chance the baby would survive and I took that chance and kept the baby. We did all the appointments, and in the  meanwhile, I was working. I had no idea what was to come and how much this would change my life forever. The weekend of September 11th in 2005 I was at a festival and felt like I couldn’t breath. I was getting no air in my lungs and could not take a deep breath. I called the doctor who told me to come right in and they would take a look. Everything from that point on is a blur in my mind and just small pictures but I can tell you what happened from others’ accounts. I was admitted and put on oxygen immediately. I was dying of heart failure as was the baby growing inside my stomach. My lungs were drowning in fluids and I had preeclampsia. I lost the baby and almost lost my life at that point. I had what was called a peripartum cardiomyopathy  cause by mirror syndrome. One would think that I would have given up on having a baby with my husband at that point. Not me. I wanted a baby and I wanted it with my husband. 

In 2007 I got pregnant again. The doctors followed me for my entire pregnancy and at my first ultrasound all looked well. They told me I should come back in a month and check to make sure all was still well. I was happy that all look good, but when a month came around I had to fight to get that ultrasound. I eventually was able to get it at 20 weeks and it was then my heart broke all over again. This baby, another girl, had tumors in her heart. I was filled with the anxiety that she would not make it. I was afraid to plan for anything too far out, but I also felt that I had to enjoy the pregnancy. I worked throughout my pregnancy and they planned to induce at 39 weeks. I was excited to meet my baby at that point but still slightly scared of what was to come. They induced me on a Tuesday and I was sent home on Wednesday because the baby just wouldn’t come. On Thursday I went in for an ultrasound and WP_20140521_001the baby hadn’t grown in two weeks so it was back to the hospital for induction again. Once again the baby was not coming and they wanted to check on her again. The baby was breech and I was sent for an emergency C-section. Fiona was born at 2:42 on January 18th. I was so happy but didn’t get a chance to hold her before she was swept away to the NICU. I went to the NICU after I was finally able to move my body. She was in the NICU for four days to wait for a duct in her heart to close and to see if her heart could function after it did. All went well and I was sent home after four days. Our lives were good, and aside from some appointments to check on her, our lives were pretty normal until she was seven months old. Early September in 2008 I started to notice her having infantile spasms and knew what to look for because we had her in to see a neurologist since birth. I wasn’t completely sure but I was guessing that was what it was, but I ignored it at first. I let it go until others saw it also. She was admitted to the hospital on September 11, 2008 and was kept for six days to monitor and get meds adjusted. By December 1, 2008 she was seizure free and stayed that way until October 1, 2010. That day was one of the most terrifying days of my life. She was sick and had gone down for a nap. She awoke and was just staring at the ceiling. I went to her and tried to move her head but it was locked into place. She was just staring ahead and could not move. This went on for 15 minutes and then she seemed tired but well. We rushed her to the hospital and on the way it started again. She was again unable to move, only this time she was vomiting all the while. She was still in a seizure when we arrived in the emergency room. They gave her a medicine that stopped it immediately and they ran all kinds of tests but there was no cause for the fever that she had earlier in the day that caused this seizure. Once again, after this episode, all was well. This calm period went on for about a year then she started having a new type of seizure. She would wake up and scream and rock and all sorts of other things. At first I thought it was a night terror until she WP_20130321_001-1started to have them during the day. She would be up 10-20 times a night and have 3-7 during the day. I called the doctor and he wouldn’t see her or even talk to me; he just sent me a message to increase her meds and add new ones. She was suffering this entire time. I reached out but everyone said it was just night terrors or a febrile seizure. I felt alone and I was getting no sleep. I was afraid of what was happening to Fiona and her behavior was awful. Finally I decided to take her to her primary care doctor and he got the neurologist on the phone. We set up long term monitoring for Fiona and she went in two days after her birthday in 2012. We were in the hospital for four days that time. It took four days to have a seizure during the day that didn’t follow a nap. It was a long and hard process but her meds were once again adjusted and it worked. Since then she wakes up once in a while with a scream. She has started to have episodes at school where her eyes go back and forth quickly and she sees things. These have only happened at school so I have never seen it myself. Every once in a while I will catch her eyes with a look that says maybe she might be having a seizure but it never amounts to anything and more recently she has complained about feeling funny. I hope nothing comes of these things and she remains seizure free. 

During this time I also had another baby girl. Bonnie is 3 and so far has no signs of TSC though she has yet to have any genetic tests done. When she is much older they may do an MRI to check to see if she has an signs in her brain but for now she is health and happy.

They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 27

by guest blogger Susan (last name withheld)  (New York, New York) 

I do.100_0031

And with those two words, said seven years ago today, Marc and I were made husband and wife. Richer, poorer, sickness, health. Sure, we agreed to all of these things, but did we really know what we were bargaining for? Were we just looking forward to the cocktail hour? The honeymoon? Some amorphous version of the future that involved 2.1 kids, a white picket fence, and a golden retriever? Suffice to say, the future we envisioned probably didn’t involve our child having a rare genetic disease.

But here we are, seven years later, with an incredible son who happens to have a disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. If you are reading this post, you may already know a little something about Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). I’ll give you a very brief synopsis of our journey with it.

In April of 2012, Elliot was born. He was declared perfectly healthy and we brought him home to begin our life as a family of three. Within the first few weeks of his life we began to notice that he was always looking off to the left side. By the time his three-IMG_0142month checkup had rolled around, the gaze preference was notable and we mentioned same to his pediatrician. He referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist who referred us to a neurologist and ordered an MRI of Elliot’s brain.  Everyone assured us that the MRI was merely a precautionary measure. They were incorrect. The MRI revealed many tumors in Elliot’s brain, consistent with a diagnosis of TSC.

We consulted with several doctors and hooked ourselves in with two TSC clinics. Elliot’s neurologist determined that the gaze preference was likely persistent seizure activity and started Elliot on an anti-seizure medication. Within days he began having infantile spasms and another medication was added. Only several weeks later did that medication seem to control the spasms. His EEG revealed he was having other types of seizures so new medication and dietary therapy were added.  We began to notice the developmental delays. Eventually it became clear that further intervention was needed and Elliot underwent a series of brain surgeries before his first birthday. A few months later, he underwent a second series of surgeries. More medications. Trips to the Emergency Room.  Daily battles for Elliot’s myriad services and therapies. Acronyms I still don’tIMG_4697 understand for tests I still don’t understand. In and out of the hospital for weeks on end.  Bleary-eyed husband and wife. Can we go back to the cocktail hour, please?

Marc and I entered into our marriage young, excited and excitable. We were both starting careers and ambitiously laying the foundation for our future. We were ready to travel, embracing our new sense of “adulthood” and learning how to navigate people and life.

Nothing could have prepared us for Elliot’s diagnosis. The shock of being told that your child is stricken with a life-long, complex medical condition is enough to rattle even the strongest of bonds. The endless uncertainty and the constant anxiety caused by this confounding disease produce stress that others really cannot understand. It is very easy to see where people start to break down and therefore relationships start to falter. We have to make decisions like who will go into the MRI machine with Elliot and which one of us has to hold him down as the nurses try to get an IV for the umpteenth time. We have discussions about what medications to put Elliot on and whether he needs surgery. Again.

Notwithstanding, I am very fortunate to say that I feel much the same about our life and marriage as I did seven years ago today. We share a life in which we get up everyday ready to tackle the world together, where nothing seems beyond our reach, and where we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We know it is important to take care of each other, with the mutual understanding that we must also take care of ourselves. Though I am lucky to say that our marriage does not ever feel like work, life itself, especially this life that we have, requires tremendous effort and motivation. And I couldn’t imagine spending this life with anyone but Marc.

IMG_4475Just because our life is different than the one we envisioned does not imply that it is bad. We have no picket fence, but we have Central Park as our backyard. We have no golden retriever, but we have some amazingly cute stuffed animal puppies for Elliot (waaaaay less mess). I don’t even know what .1 child means, but you catch my drift, right?

It is preachy of me to even suggest that I can understand the complexities of anyone else’s situation but I hope that if you struggle with the stress on your marriage, perhaps you can just take a moment to remember why you chose this person to walk through life together. What hopes and dreams did you share on your wedding day as you gazed into your future? Despite a more complicated life than you envisioned, can they still be your hopes and dreams today?

There is a great scene in the movie “Parenthood,” in which a grandmother gives an analogy to her grown grandson and his wife, as they face the prospect of adding a fourth child to the family. She says “When I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a rollercoaster…Up, down, up, down. Oh what a ride…I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

So today, on our seventh anniversary, I take this opportunity to thank my husband for riding this rollercoaster with me. And I hope everyone can take a moment to appreciate their own version of the same.

From Reflux to TSC

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 20

by guest blogger Melissa Marino  (New Orleans, Louisiana)

photo-4-1Our story began in November of 2012 when we found out that we were expecting our first child.  My entire pregnancy was a breeze, no morning sickness and no complications.  Every ultrasound was absolutely perfect and we could not wait for our bundle of joy to arrive.  Carter was born on July 11, 2013 weighing 6 pounds and 13 ounces.  He was the most beautiful thing that I ever laid eyes on, with his perfect bald head and big chubby cheeks.  The first two months were great and he was the happiest, most laid back little boy in the world.  In September, shortly after turning 2 months, I began to notice that something was not right with him.  He would squint his eyes and his right arm would raise into the air.  This happened in clusters several times a day.  I immediately took him to the pediatrician and she referred me to see a neurologist at our local hospital.  I called that day to schedule an appointment, explaining to them that I believe my two month old is having some sort of seizures.  I was given an appointment four weeks away.  Seriously??  I am telling you that my baby is having seizures and you politely say that you can fit him into the schedule in four weeks???  I was devastated, so I started doing research using google and the more I read, the more anxious I got.

After about a week of him having these episodes, I finally had enough so we headed to the emergency room.  The first thing they told me was not to worry, it is probably just reflux.  I was not settling for that answer, so I demanded that they watch the videos and check him out anyway.  Finally they ordered an EEG, and sure enough the EEG showed that he was indeed having seizures along with an abnormal heart rhythm.  That evening, cardiology came in and told me that Carter has Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome. After a couple days in the hospital, they finally took him down for an MRI.  The next morning, the results were in and his MRI was normal.  The doctor explained that since they could not find a cause for his seizures, there would be a good chance he would grow out of them.  Carter was started on Phenobarbital, which did not work.  We were sent home on Keppra and Topamax, but the episodes continued.  We went to our cardiology consult where they did an echo of his heart and everything came back fine.  The WPW wasn’t causing any photo-3-1symptoms and his heart structure was perfect.  I took him back and forth to the hospital for constant EEGs and everyday his seizures were only getting worse.  Come October, we were back in the ER.  The weird arm movements finally stopped, but now he was having full tonic clonic seizures.  I just could not understand what was happening to my baby.  His blood work was always normal and his MRI was normal, so again they had no answers for me.  I finally agreed to let them do a lumbar puncture on him — at this point we were reaching for any answers.  Yet again, another normal test result came back.  His tonic clonic seizures continued to increase every day and Vimpat was added, which of course failed.  They finally decided to give him high dose steroids through his IV.  He would get a couple rounds of Solumedrol and we would take him home on a Prednisone taper.  This combination would decrease his seizures by about 80%, but they would always return within two months.

He was developing and reaching his milestones through all of this, but at a much slower pace than normal.  No matter how hard things got, Carter always kept a smile on his face.  After failing all these medications, Carter was started on the Ketogenic Diet. Unfortunately, by the third day of the Ketogenic Diet, his seizures had tripled.  He was having 40-50 tonic clonic seizures a day, so they immediately discontinued the diet.  Onfi was now added on top of everything else.  With every failed medication, my heart broke even more and I finally started to lose hope.  So much for him outgrowing these seizures right?  The neurologist decided it was time to do a genetic test, but she explained that she really did not expect to find anything.  She just wanted to check everything before putting him through a muscle biopsy.  She explained that they were looking for Epileptic Encephalopathies, but Carter did not seem to have any of them.  Those six weeks were the longest weeks of my entire life.  While we were waiting for the results to come back, Carter again developed a new type of seizure.  The tonic clonic seizures had pretty much disappeared thanks to the Onfi, but along came the head drops and spasms.  So now Banzel was added to his long list of medications.

photo-180In March of 2014, he was 8 months old and we finally received a diagnosis of Tuberous Sclerosis.  My heart was shattered; I was confused and angry.  How could six months go by and not a single person figure this out?!?!  Well here is the reason, his heart is normal and as of now, his MRI is normal.  He has no signs of TSC except the horrible seizures that do not respond to medication.  He has had two scans of his kidneys, which both came back normal.  Since he was a little older and we now had a diagnosis, another MRI was ordered.  The results came back within a couple days and we were once again normal.   Just recently, he started to develop white spots on his skin.  Anyways, back to the dreadful journey.  So now at this point, he is on seven medications including 250mg of Sabril that he just started.  The head drops are getting worse, the spasms are increasing and my happy baby is now miserable all the time.  So again, I take him back to the emergency room and they give him IV Solumedrol to slow the seizures down.  The steroids always seemed to be a miracle drug, but it did not work for these new seizures.  The seizures were getting worse, his entire personality was gone and all we could do was cry together.  I asked on several occasions if he was having Infantile Spasms, but I was quickly assured that it was not IS.  I went back and forth between doctors and the insurance company trying to get him out of state to a TS clinic.  My everyday life consisted of waking up and arguing with someone all day, which only added to the stress of taking care of a very sick baby.

The reason why I decided to tell our story is because I want to pay it forward.  Only four weeks into his diagnosis, I decided to reach out and ask for help through a support group on Facebook.   I knew he needed to be at a TS clinic and I was fighting everyday to save my baby, but I was also losing hope at the same time.  I wanted to know what was so different about a TS clinic?  Can they really help him?  If he had already tried every medication and failed the ketogenic diet, what else could they do?  A very special lady reached out to me and convinced me to get him to Cincinnati right away.  How was I going to do this?  I have been fighting my insurance over a referral for weeks now!  She put in a call for me and within 24 hours, I received the call from Cincinnati.  I could not believe what I was hearing when they told me “Just get him out here and we can handle the referral from here.”   I started a fundraiser and within 24 hours, we raised enough money to cover the very expensive last minute flights.  It could not have happened at a better time because two days later, Carter’s condition took a turn for the worse.  We changed our flights right away and the next day, we were on a plane heading to get my baby the help he needed.  When we arrived, Carter had his first 24 hour VEEG and his medications were changed immediately.  Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, we were informed that Carter did in fact have Infantile Spasms.  Being a new TSC mom and having someone keep telling me that it’s not, I eventually started to believe it.  Well at least a part of me did, but my mommy instincts still said that something was not right.  I suddenly felt relieved that someone had an answer and we were finally in the right hands.  All of my hard work, photo-2-1along with the help of some pretty amazing people, had finally paid off.   It has only been two weeks since all of this happened and his seizures are still not fully controlled.  He still has his good days and bad days, but we work together everyday by phone to coordinate his care.  Since being home from Cincinnati,  he has started to smile again and for that alone, we are very thankful.  The point of my story is, sometimes you have to fight for what you believe and stand up for these innocent babies who can’t defend themselves.  Always trust your mommy instincts and follow your heart.  If you feel that something isn’t right with your baby, it probably isn’t.  Through this journey, I have learned that we are not alone and there are still some pretty amazing people in this world willing to help.  Without the support of my friends and family, I would have fallen apart by now.  I have also gained an entire new family over the past six weeks, my TS family, and their encouragement and inspiration is what helps me through the bad days.  It takes 100% of a person’s time to care for these unique babies, but somehow everyone manages to still help each other.

Not knowing what the future will hold for my baby is probably the hardest part of this journey.  I walk on egg shells each day just waiting for the next catastrophe to come along.  Of course, I hope and pray every single day that my Carter will stay strong and fight his way through this.  But there is one thing that I do know, no matter what happens, I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I did everything that I could to help him.  I gave up everything just to spend every moment with him, I struggled to get him the best care available and most of all, I make sure that he knows just how much I love him!