Tag Archives: special needs

Sleeping With Scorpions

It was a quiet, relaxing, long weekend in the North Georgia mountains minus the morning we  woke up with a couple of  surprise visitors in the room.

Chris was the first to drag himself out of bed and head to the bathroom. I heard him utter, “What is that?! Is that a scorpion?!” Haha. Chris is the boy who cried scorpion (and various other creepy crawlers) to scare me so I just said, “Yeah, right.” He continued to insist there was something in the bathtub, so I got up to look. I didn’t even make it to the door because right there in my path:

Okay, technically this is the one in the tub, but you get the idea.
Okay, technically this is the one in the tub, but you get the idea.

Yes, right in the exact precise path I had used three times in the nearly pitch dark to use the bathroom throughout the night (I blame wine and my 30s). Thank God for my $2 Target flip flops. Sometime during the night a couple of scorpions showed up to party. I don’t CARE that the Internet insists Georgia scorpions aren’t deadly. There are certain things that should never be in a bedroom and scorpions are on the list, right after porcelain dolls and Robert Pattinson (sorry, I just don’t see it). I ended up discovering a couple dead scorpions between my nightstand and bed as well. So began the panicked gathering of items — including one toddler — and move from the bottom floor (selected for misguided idea that Connor might go to bed first ) to the top/third floor.  A hefty climb for such creatures (I choose to believe). We then went through everything in our bags to ensure we had not picked up any stowaways. Chris, for perhaps the first time ever, had not completely repacked and closed his bag, something I always make fun of him for doing every night on any vacation anywhere in the world. He says he likes to be prepared for escape Jason Bourne-style. He claimed he skipped it this time because I always make fun of him, and now here he was checking for scorpions as a result of my ridicule.

But other than that little adventure with wildlife, it was a relaxing trip. I even managed to read an entire book in about a day and a half — something that I used to be able to do all the time, but can barely get through a chapter most of the time these days. I couldn’t believe how fast I tore through this book. I felt like my increasingly dysfunctional brain had woken up in the fresh mountain air. Okay, so it turned out at the end that I had downloaded a Young Adult novel. I knew it had won awards and was also being banned in several places, cementing my desire to read it. I just didn’t realize the places it was being banned were American school libraries. At any rate, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was pretty good.

I also discovered that Connor, who loves taking baths at home, isn’t down with large Jacuzzi-style tubs. He flipped out and refused to even let me set him down in it, so I had to bathe him in the sink as the regular tub was now hosting a scorpion.

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Connor has really been making great progress lately. Some of the awesome things we’ve seen lately:

He’s very quick to respond to requests more frequently, like “let’s go upstairs,” “time to eat” or “show me______.”

He was able to squat down perfectly, pick up book and stand back up without any support from furniture.

He watched me demonstrate his bowling set and immediately helped me set the pins back up after ONE DEMONSTRATION!

He had taken his bib and put it on the couch. When I told him to come eat, he actually stopped, picked up the bib and brought it with him!

We are still waiting to hear from GW about including him in the Epidiolex trial. Argh. It’s been a month since additional paperwork was submitted.

 

Side note: I’ve previously posted about Accredo Pharmacy (Express Scripts) issues. A couple readers have contacted me about their ongoing issues and have subsequently started an FB group and petition. Please check out those links if you are a dissatisfied patient. While I do believe there are some employees working to help the situation, it appears they are the minority and way too many people are still fighting for their prescriptions. The change isn’t coming fast enough for people who are very sick and depend on these meds. If you are experiencing issues, please e-mail Jennifer Luddy at ExpressRxHelp@express-scripts.com

 

Seizure Hunter — The Elusive Prey

Seizures are really obvious. I couldn’t possibly miss one. We’ve all seen them on television: the fall to the floor, the violent thrashing, maybe some foaming at the mouth. Therefore, it’s really easy to keep track of them for the neurologist and make decisions about which medication is the perfect match for your situation.

Hear that? That is the sound of the collective eye rolling of the epilepsy community. Just kidding, ya’ll!

It turns out that a seizure can look like damn near anything. Eye rolling, staring, wandering, confusion, a single limb jerking, lips puckering, a split second head drop, a split second loss of muscle tone that sends a person plummeting to the floor, jackknife motions of the body, going stiff as a board, a scream…or nothing. Nothing at all. All you know is that suddenly your child went from smiling and laughing to laying his head on the floor and going to sleep, or he’s suddenly so weak that his arms give out and he smacks his head on the floor resulting in two black eyes. It’s not just seizure freedom that can be elusive, but the seizures themselves.

Was that a seizure? Was that? And what about that? Do I count that if I’m not sure? Was that one seizure or two different ones back to back? And that one? That one looked like a weird combination of tonic clonic and complex partial, so which do I mark it as on my Seizure Tracker app? Our smart phones fill with videos of suspicious behavior we share with our online support groups and doctors trying to get answers. It takes an hour to do the dishes because I turn around and look at the baby every 30 seconds to see if anything is happening. Every stoplight I turn around and squint at the baby mirror. If he has actually managed to go a few days seizure free, when one happens, I play mind games with myself about putting it in the tracker. That was a small one. Am I sure it was really a seizure? Does it count if I don’t record it?

I think the first year was the worst. Babies are weird and do weird stuff. How do I differentiate normal weird from abnormal weird? Is he discovering his hands or is he seizing? Trying to roll over or seizing? It’s even worse if it is the first child and there is no one to compare him to. It’s a little easier with a toddler. Not easy. Just easier. It is easier for me to distinguish typical behavior from anomalies, or if a movement was intentional or not. Not all the time, but enough to do the dishes in a reasonable amount of time. Or settle for a quick glance in the rear view. Sometimes I even settle for logging the seizure type as “unknown .”

And choosing just the right medication? Yes, that was another collective eye roll. We experiment, and change doses, combine two, three, maybe even more seizure medications. We try one med with great anticipation because it made another kid seizure free, only to find that it makes our kid have more. And if we find one that works, eventually he insists on growing or something else changes, and the experiment continues.

I have to accept that there are limits to what I can fix and do the best I can.

Most importantly, I finally realized that it doesn’t make me a bad parent if I don’t always know. I WILL miss seizures. I won’t know what every movement is. There won’t always be answers. There will be good days and bad days. But they will be worth it.

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Thank you to joshprovides.org for granting Connor an Emfit seizure monitor.
Thank you to joshprovides.org for granting Connor an Emfit seizure monitor for his crib.

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Connor just walked his longest distance ever!

Tuesday Connor walked his longest distance ever independently. He’s been getting better and better at walking with the emotional support of holding a hand or even just a finger, and sometimes even just knowing our hands are hovering over his shoulders is enough. We were waiting for aquatic therapy to start and walking around the pool area for practice when he suddenly let go of my hand and went on his way. His previous record was eight steps in our house. This time he walked half the the length of the Olympic pool. The lifeguard clearly thought I was insane chasing after him, hands at the ready to catch him and whisper-shrieking “Oh my God, oh my God!” As we passed him by I gasped, “He’s never walked this far before!” So then the lifeguard got excited and when Connor finally did go down he joined me in clapping and offering congratulations.

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Chris did his part to add to the family excitement Tuesday, too. He mowed the front and back yard without incident, came in, showered, changed, sat on the couch to relax and THEN got stung by a bee. It must have gotten inside at some point during the mowing process as we went in and out. But his throbbing arm is simply the price that must be paid to lord over our neighbors.

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I have also been enjoying time in the great outdoors.

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My other exercise comes from picking up after Connor. He has always enjoyed starting his day by emptying his toy tubs and pulling all the books off the shelves, but lately he’s been a little too enthusiastic about chucking his belongings behind him. Once everything is in a pile behind him, he turns around and starts chucking everything in the other direction. He is highly amused and excited by this, so I think it’s a stimming behavior.

Which leads me to my plea. While I certainly lack the degree of cleanliness OCD my husband demonstrates, I do have an obsessive need for the house to be clean when people walk in (except for his at-home therapists–I blow their mind when I’m even actually dressed). I don’t care what it looks like five minutes later…but it must be clean when guests walk in. For that reason, you MUST be on time when you come over. The protocol typically calls for a mad rush of throwing all the toys in the correct baskets within the 10-minute window before expected arrival. Until you walk in the door, I must distract Connor from his need to rectify the disgusting clean I have made. It is not always pretty. But once guests have entered and caught a glimpse of the clean floor, I can unleash the kraken.

The weekend before last we went to a social event held by the Georgia early intervention program Babies Can’t Wait. It was a bit surreal as I heard my name and looked up to see someone I hadn’t seen since high school. I had this strange moment of trying to process that intersection of someone from my past crossing into the special needs department of my life. There were the normal “how are yous” and then the awkward trying to figure which questions were okay to ask. I was thinking, “I can ask, right? That’s not weird…is it?” Over and over. She was the first to break the ice and we discussed the two rare genetic disorders that had unexpectedly altered the course of our lives. But these are the things, along with Facebook support groups, that keep the bitterness and the feeling of being targeted by life at bay. Oh, the life paths you couldn’t fathom when you were walking the halls of high school…

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This year we celebrate 40 years of TS Alliance’s existence.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 32

by guest blogger Susan McBrine  (Oregon)

photo 1Tuberous Sclerosis.
Words a parent never wants to hear… Or expects to hear. Yet every day, all over the world, parents are still getting this diagnosis for their child, who may be experiencing seizures, developmental delay, autism, kidney and brain tumors and more .

I got this diagnosis  for my daughter over 40 years ago and I must say it changed my life forever. I  became an informed, determined, assertive researcher, educator and advocate for making sure that I knew and found all there was  to know and do to help her achieve  her potential. In the process I helped found Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and tried to help many other famiilies find hope for better treatments and a better life for their children with this disease .

This year we celebrate 40 years of TS Alliance’s existence. The organization has acomplished so much by advocating for and funding research, supporting families and much more. We celebrate, but I am  also saddened that many other young moms are also still going through what I did to get treatment and diagnosis. I am saddened that tuberous sclerosis exists. Yet, as a mom who has raised a child to adulthood and lost her  child to this disease, I am grateful for what tuberous sclerosis taught me about life, love and even her death.

Being a parent of a special needs child is life changing in so many ways, but in my case it changed my career and my perspective on life in general. It made me appreciate little things and focus on what is really important in life.

It also taught me valuable lessons on letting go of a child as she grew.  I learned to finally let go and let my disabled daughter have more of life of her own, despite her disabilities. It is very hard, when you miss those developmental milestones that non disabled kids have — when your child  goes to kindergarten,  off to college, work, marriage — to know when and how much to let go and encourage independence in a child who is basically totally or semi- dependent on you. The need to protect our vulnerable child is great and the tendency to overprotect always exists.

It was hard to step back and stop doing for her and let her do for herself. Dressing herself, going on the bus alone, spending the night away from me at a camp, having a boyfriend, and finally living in a group home with friends. All things other kids may do as they grow up, but for moms like us, whose child needs supervison and support in so many ways, it is  hard to let go even a little.

Letting go and teaching independence is important so that we don’t actually encourage dependence without realizing it.

Teaching age appropriate behavior to a 20-year old who would just as soon wear Mickey Mouse t-shirts and play with toys, that she is a young adult and must dress and be treated as a young adult is hard. I learned how, with help from many in her life, and from her.

I also was pleasantly surprised by how well she adapted to life in a group home at age 27. I thought she’d miss me so much I’d have to bring her home in a week. Nope! She flourished with her newfound independence and social life with her housemates — something I couldn’t give her at home with just the two of us. I also couldn’t continue to give her 24-hour care while I had to work and sleep. She got fresh caretakers every eight hours who weren’t tired, cranky or had other things to do.

What is hard for parents to admit as we get older (and we will) — the 24-hour care taking can be too hard without help. And the time will come when we can’t do it any more  due to our age or illness.

We have to really be realistic about helping our child find a place in the world as an adult without us while we are still around to help them transition. It’s harder if we die and they experience the grief of missing us and have to transition to a new home. That is the letting go and the transition we all worry about the most. We worry no one else will care for her or him as we do.

As a special education teacher of young adults 16 -22, I often heard parents say, “She can’t or won’t do that at home. How did you get her to do that?”  Some photo 2of my students had very low ability, but were able to work with some support and could learn to do things like cook, load dishwashers and do laundry for themselves. Things their parents didn’t let them do because they thought they couldn’t. It’s always amazing what they can do when we let go. I learned that my very  delayed and disabled daughter could do so much more than I ever thought or would have allowed her to do until I learned to let go some!

Every child is different and every state and family has different resources available, but it is something to think about for every parent.

Teaching independence and letting go is something to do gradually. After all, we all want all of our children to be happy, have a social life of some kind, to experience love and friendship, and to be able to support themselves in some way. They can’t do that if we dont teach independence  and responsibility to all our children.

Stacia taught me much in life. Tolerance, patience, unconditional love, selflessness and how to see the world through her eyes. Her life was a gift to me in so many ways, although battling her disease was also hell in so many ways.

I am grateful for the support the TS Alliance gives parents today, and for the hope that all our children with disabilities will have better lives to live and increased opportunities to do so in today’s world. We can all help them by increasing awareness of  not only TSC, but of all those with disabilities and their need for acceptance, employment, education and a place in society.

Please see Susan’s contribution from last year’s blogging event about the founding of the TS Alliance.

From Becky (Mixed Up Mommy): Thank you so much to everyone who contributed this year! It has been a pleasure to share your stories and read your personal or your child’s triumphs. I leave you with some artistic contributions from TSC warriors.

Chloe, age 5, Georgia
Chloe, age 5.
Bladen, 7.
Bladen, age 7.
Bladen, 7.
Bladen, 7.
Zander, age 7.
Zander, age 7.
Erica, age 19.
Erica, age 19.
Erica, age 19.
Erica, age 19.
Fiona, age 6.
Fiona, age 6.

A Parallel Universe

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 29

by guest blogger Sara Weathersby  (Decatur, Georgia) 

At a UGA football game circa 1999.
At a UGA football game 1998 or 1999.

Unlike many who have blogged about TSC, I am not diagnosed with it or caring for someone who has the diagnosis.  I became aware of TSC and the havoc it wreaks through my friends Becky and Chris and their son Connor.  Becky and I went to college together and remained friends in the following years.  We were delighted to find out we were pregnant at the same time.  Connor was due just a month before my second son, Malcolm.  My older son, Max, was a young toddler at the time, so I would share product recommendations and advice with Becky over the next several months.

One day, Becky told me that the doctors found something irregular with Connor’s heart on an ultrasound and were going to observe him more carefully and call in a specialist to examine him once he arrived.  I honestly, confidently believed with every fiber of my being that the doctors were being overly cautious.  If ever there’s a time for doctors to be so cautious, it is certainly when the health of a baby, particularly my friend’s baby, is at stake.  Neither of us were very worried as we talked about ponytail holders and chapstick going into the bags to go to the hospital.

When Connor was born, Becky and I texted back and forth.  The delivery went well and she and Chris were just waiting for the nurse to bring him back to them after some observation.  They waited to hold and cuddle their precious new son.  I waited for the obligatory pictures to pop on my phone.  They waited to gaze into his eyes and memorize every inch of his perfect face.  I waited to hear once and for all that everything was great.

Becky's wedding reception 2010.
Becky’s wedding reception 2010.

But it wasn’t great.  While in the nursery a nurse noticed Connor was having a seizure.  While Becky and Chris waited, the nurses and doctors were trying to figure out what was going on with Connor and how to treat him.  They diagnosed him with TSC and kept him hospitalized for a month.  They determined that he would need neurosurgery to remove a tuber from his brain to hopefully stop the seizures.  The doctors expected him to have developmental delays but didn’t have a clue what that would look like.

This is not the kind of thing that happens to me or my friends.  We work hard, pay taxes and make good choices.  How could this be happening?  How could someone that I know and love have to go home from the hospital without her baby?  What could I possibly say to Becky and Chris?  I certainly had no “been there, done that” mommy advice to offer.

Somehow, Becky and her family were absorbed into some kind of parallel universe where you don’t get to room in with your newborn and take him home to his new nursery in a day or two.  Instead, my friend stayed at the side of her baby’s incubator surrounded by tubes, wires and machines that allowed the doctors to best figure out a plan for his treatment.

Meanwhile, I’m waddling around, near the end of my own completely healthy pregnancy with my completely healthy son.  I wondered what in the world I had to offer this friendship while Becky was going through so much.  I felt a strange sense of guilt and sadness.  All the while I shared in Becky and Chris’s joy that their son was born.

Sara's wedding 2009.
Sara’s wedding 2009.

If I was feeling all these emotions, how much more intense it must have been for Becky and Chris!  I grieved for all the expectations, spoken and unspoken, I had for this new phase in my friendship with Becky. We were both moms now and our sons were supposed to play together.  But what now?  How was TSC going to change our friendship?  I determined that it was better to show up not knowing exactly what to say or do and risk putting my foot in my mouth than to do or say nothing.  Becky and Chris sat in that parallel new parent universe where nothing comes easy.  They were so sad that Connor was having seizures and had been diagnosed with TSC but yet overjoyed to have a son.  They were devastated that there son is not typical but hopeful that his growth and development will come along such that TSC will not put any limits on what he can do.

In the universe I’m accustomed to of course parenting is tough and an emotional roller coaster.  In the parallel universe where Becky is, it seems more intense.  There are more doctors and appointments to keep, more worry, more money to spend, more resources to find.  Everything is just more.  Meanwhile, my own little one made his way into the world and disrupted everything in just the way you expect.  How do I step into this strange place where Becky and Chris are without sounding trite or lacking compassion?

It actually turned out to be pretty easy to be maintain our friendship.  We just kept texting and talking about our boys.  Connor’s milestones look different

Connor in the cow costume, Malcolm as the monkey, Max as the big pirate, and their friend David the pirate.
Connor in the cow costume, Malcolm as the monkey, Max as the big pirate, and their friend David the pirate.

from Malcolm’s.  Connor has to work so much harder to get from milestone to milestone, but he’s doing it.  I was afraid Connor’s diagnosis would put awkwardness in my friendship with Becky because I just wouldn’t understand how different it is to parent a child with special needs.  When the boys play together (as much as they do as young toddlers) it’s clear that Becky and I have a lot more in common as moms of toddlers than there are differences in parenting a special needs child and a typical child.  The fact that Connor has special needs actually didn’t alter our friendship all that much.  Perhaps that’s because Becky and Chris love Connor so completely and have managed to accept that TSC is a part of their lives now.   They haven’t let TSC cast a shadow on their lives or rob them of the joy of parenting.  They have made it easy to ask questions about TSC and what it means for Connor.

As the months went by, I started to realize the idea of the parallel universe where families with special needs children live wasn’t really accurate.  We buy the same diapers, and clothes for our kids.

Malcolm doesn't mind crawling around with Connor, even though he can walk already.
Malcolm doesn’t mind crawling around with Connor, even though he can walk already.

We live with the same healthcare system.  Instead of thinking of families with special needs children living off and away somewhere doing mysterious special needs things they don’t want people like me bugging them about, they’re actually at the same Target store I go to.  We live in the same world but unless you know someone whose child is ill, you can keep going along in your own circles and never hear the stories of these families and their precious children.

In Georgia, we recently had an opportunity to legalize medical marijuana for children with seizure disorders.  Our state representatives failed miserably to pass the very popular bill.  This experience made it clear to me the importance of raising awareness of TSC and the reality faced by families with special needs children.  Just because a policy, or law or healthcare plan works for you or at least doesn’t hinder you doesn’t mean that you don’t have a voice in improving the lives of our most vulnerable children.  Those of us who are blessed with healthy children owe it to our friends, relatives and the people in our communities who are raising special needs kids to keep investing in those relationships even when, and especially when, a child is diagnosed with an illness or syndrome.  We can make our healthcare system work better and our government more responsive.  But first, we all have to be aware.

In the dorm -- Myers Hall at UGA -- in 1998.
In the dorm — Myers Hall at UGA — in 1998.
Both pregnant at Becky's baby shower 2012.
Both pregnant at Becky’s baby shower 2012.

 

I believe that the baby you have is the baby you are DESTINED to have.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 26

by guest blogger Samantha Wiemuth 

380706_3812061342327_1520302945_nZander was born June 25th, 2004.  He was 8 lbs 13 1/2 oz and 20 inches long.  He seemed healthy and happy.  We were so excited he was finally here since he made us wait an extra 10 days to arrive!  In the first week of being home, he was down to 8 lbs., and we had to feed him through a syringe and a dropper until he was strong enough to suck on his own. Within the next few days, Zander gained all his weight back and he was healthy again.  A few months later, Zander started dropping his head into his arms when he was in his johnny jump up. My sister and closest friend KNEW he was having seizures and told me to make a doctor appointment, I thought he was just playing, but we took him to the doctor just to be sure.  On November 30th, we met with a neurologist.  We told him about Zanders episodes and that my husband Jamison had a disorder called Tuberous Sclerosis. We were worried Zander could have this too.  The doctor told us to come back in the morning for more tests and a sleep study. 

That next day was one of the worst days of our lives. Zander was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis and infantile spasms.  My world came crashing down, but I believe that the baby you have is the baby you are DESTINED to have. Zander was meant to be my child, and I was meant to be his mom. Over the next few days, we learned Zander had been born with Tuberous Sclerosis.  He had tumors on his brain and heart, lesions on his eyes and kidneys, angiofibromas on his face and ash leaf spots on his body. This rare disorder happens in only 1 of 6,000 live births. I was devastated thinking I did this to my baby! 

The medicine we needed to treat Zander was NOT FDA-approved in the United States yet, so we had to order it from Canada.  As Zander grew, so did his 390033_2967906558985_1857922567_nseizures.  They became harder to control and more aggressive.  The damage from the infantile spasms and seizures caused delays in Zander’s development.  Despite all of this, Zander had this amazing spirit, and we celebrated everything he was able to accomplish.  He said his first word at 11 months old.  He started walking at 2 1/2, just in time to go trick-or-treating with me, hand-in-hand!!!! He started school at age three, and by this time he was having 5 to 10 seizures each day.  He was on three seizure medicines and one emergency medicine.  After one especially hard day, I called a friend for support, and she suggested that I take Z to see a chiropractor.  She knew of a great lady with a gentle touch, and that I should just give her a try and see what I thought. I had been so worried about taking him to the chiropractor since he was so little but I was desperate and didn’t want him to get worse. I was ready to try anything! Zander started going to the chiropractor three times a week for a whole month of September 2008 straight. At the end of that month, Z had a huge seizure. When I called the doctor they said he was toxic (He was toxic because the adjustments got his body aligned and his blood flowing correctly to the brain). It was too much medicine flowing through his body) and we needed to take him off two medicines all together and reduced the other one by half!!!! It was AMAZING! I couldn’t BELIEVE we were taking him OFF medicines and not adding more!! Zander then was seizure-free from Oct 2008 until June 2010. 

20140521_201450In June 2010 my husbands job transferred us from Wisconsin to Texas. I was lucky enough to find the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital right away a few months before we moved here. The TSC clinic has been such a blessing to our family. We had to find a new chiropractor though, and we were lucky enough to find the perfect one on the second attempt. After we found Dr. Eric Alvarado in Arlington, Z started to be seizure free again about January 2011!!! He has only had about 15 seizures in the last 4 years. He is only having them when he is overheated or when we travel more than ten hours straight. As he continues to grow, we are reminded every day what a strong and amazing young man he is and what a blessing he has been in our lives.  Zander still struggles everyday with controlling his behavior, physical activity and academics. 

So, when he turned 7 (2011), we decided to submit him to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  We were hoping for some relief and to be able to do something fun! Zander was so excited he picked out two wishes just in case they weren’t able to grant the first one! He wished to be a Zookeeper and his second wish was to be paleontologist!!! When his wish granters came over, they made an instant friend when they gave him a huge dinosaur and cupcakes!  They were so great and kind with him.  Since Zander 462600_4011267802364_170064335_ohad been approved to receive a wish, Make-A-Wish has included Zander in every activity they have for his age group. We stopped by the Fort Worth office and Zander received a huge warm welcome and even more gifts. We went to Brooks Brothers to get fitted for suits for the Make-a-Wish Gala event and he received even more gifts and treats. They were all so sweet and accommodating to our family. Zander has truly been treated like a king and I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone at the North Texas chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation!!! Then May 26th 2012 was Wish Day!!!! They Took
him on an AMAZING scavenger hunt and then topped the rest of the day off at the Dallas Zoo!!


After his Wish things went back to normal for a while. He was doing well, no seizures, behavior wasn’t too bad, and life was good. Then March 24, 2013 our world was turned upside down. My mother passed away unexpectedly. This was horrible for Z; he was very close to my mom. He stopped sleeping, stopped eating, started have bad behaviors. I did everything I could think of to help him: therapy, let him sleep with me with out arguing, went to two hospitals. Then we got him on new behavior medicine which ended up with him being suicidal. It was the worst year ever. Finally we got him off those medicines and into more therapy and with some healing he is doing better. His seizures are controlled with weekly chiropractic adjustments and seizure meds. I am thankful my son is alive and well today!! 

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I never thought I would be writing this story. I never thought we would be living it.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 25

by guest blogger Becky Ruppe  (Cumming, Georgia)


photoI will start off by saying how hard it is to sum up our journey as it is a never-ending battle and the past seven months seem like years. Our story with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 begins with twins, after many times trying to start a family and after trying everything; as soon as we stopped trying, we were blessed with twins. We were so happy, but we would soon find out; everything was not as it seemed. As time progressed in the pregnancy, his twin sister passed in the womb from another rare disorder, Trisomy 13. Not long after all that, on ultrasound, the doctors found tumors in our son Ben’s heart. We were devastated by this news and still recovering the loss of his sister.  That day was tough and the first time we had ever heard the words Tuberous Sclerosis. I remember thinking there is no way we could have two rare things, but as time progressed more tumors popped up on ultrasound and we were told our son Ben had an 80% chance of having TSC. He had more than seven tumors in his heart and one that should have been blocking his outflow; it kept growing and growing. It was honestly a miracle that he was surviving, as the one blocking his flow was so large. We found every day was a challenge emotionally and we had nothing left to do but to pray for a miracle that we wouldn’t have to do an emergency c-section to try to save his life with open heart surgery to remove it.

We had fetal MRIs to look for tumors in his brain, but nothing showed up. Finally on October 23 we gave birth by c-section to our son James Benjamin Ken Ruppe, he went straight to the Nicu when born, he was not eating and was given a feeding tube and was given medicine to keep his blood flowing through his backup channel in his heart. We stayed hopeful, but by day three they did an MRI and we were walked into this tiny room and given the findings of his MRI. I remember that walk like it was yesterday, I had tears before we even made it to the door. They found multiple tubers and nodules in his brain and was given the actual diagnosis of TSC. It was heart wrenching, the hospital made it seem as though it was a death sentence, we had him baptized that night. We were clueless what was going to happen, would he need heart or brain surgery, would the medicine continue working, would he start having seizures, so many questions not one doctor could answer. Then two days later; our son Ben was able to come home. We followed up with three doctors the week we came home. It was overwhelming, scary and honestly I don’t know how we made it through all that.

Since giving birth, most of his tumors have reduced in size in his heart and he is currently in therapy once a week for muscle loss due to his TSC. He started photo-1having seizures New Year’s Eve and ironically those seizures did not show up on his EEG. He has had several EEGs,  and the seizures have become more frequent. About two months ago we were told his EEG reflected localization epilepsy with focal onset seizures. It has been really horrible to watch him go through all this. Every EEG brings tears for our son.

Thankfully, when we found out about the possible diagnosis of TSC, I reached out to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and have met a really great support group. We also enrolled our Ben into two studies that we travel to Boston for.

Most recently we noticed Ben started to drop his head and we called his neurologist and went into the hospital for a VEEG.  Within an hour and half of him being hooked up, the doctor came in to tell us he was in fact having infantile spasms. The funny thing was that they give you this button to push every time he has an episode. I pushed the button twice during that hour and half. What I found out later, was that he had multiple spasms and clusters and other seizures that I did not even recognize. I will say it was very frustrating that nobody came in and showed me on the video — this is a spasm, this is a seizure. I was told by the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta that they do not have the medication Sabril, which I understand is the best med of choice to treat Infantile Spasms. This to me was a load of crap. How can you not have this medicine and why did we have to wait to get our son the best treatment when from day one we were told that Infantile Spasms can be deadly?

They said I had to wait and get it from his doctor’s office and they sent me home with Klonopin. He was already taking Keppra for complex partial seizures.  Thankfully, his local neurologist Dr. Flamini got us the meds in two days, but in my mind it was still unacceptable to be sent home without the best meds for his treatment.

Since coming home from the hospital Ben is having probably close to 70 + seizures a day.

We have increased some and lowered others of the meds he is taking. We are currently on day 4 and waiting for a change. His spasms have changed into something completely different, with the occasional head drop.  Now looking back, when Ben was 8 weeks old, he was extremely colicky. We took multiple videos and were always told it was nothing and that he was fine, but I know now, judging from his current colicky status (Infantile Spasms) that he was in fact having IS and or some seizure activity as a baby and because his EEG was not showing it and based on opinions of doctors, we delayed treatment. I also know that his infantile spasms are not the normal spasms you would see. They are not as defined and often rotate from one side to the other.  We also were told recently that he has multiregional epilepsy and that he is not the best candidate for surgery.

If I could go back, I would have started medication sooner, because who can help but wonder what damage has been done.  In five days, my son went from having excellent head control to having very little and he also went from being able to stand and put weight on both his legs to not being able to do that for more than a second.

This past Saturday we called 911, as Ben had a seizure that lasted over 20 minutes. The EMS came and they said his heartbeat was fast, but everything else was good and we just continued to watch him per his local doctor.  I am not sure how everyone else feels about giving your baby medications, but giving my Ben three medications twice a day is a struggle. It is hard… every time I have to mix it, I have to take a deep breath to get through it.

I will never give up on my Ben. My husband and I are in a constant struggle with acceptance, and no matter what people say, it is sad and it is hard. There is nothing that can describe watching your son, your sweet innocent baby boy, have seizure after seizure and all we can do is sit back, love him and watch. TSC is the worst pain in the world to us. We aren’t giving up, but we are giving in to the emotion that we are allowed to feel pure anger and a little helpless at times, as there are limits to what we can do for him — the rest is up to somebody else. I hate every second of every day that I have to watch him suffer.  Many will say that is not a way to live — nope, it is not — but it is our truth. We still check him to make sure he is breathing and we are still living and fighting and find massive amounts of joy in everything else our sweet Ben does — when he smiles and when he loves. Our relationship with TSC is completely unavoidable and that is what makes it suck and it is what it is.

Each day we face TSC, we face many challenges emotionally and financially and many sleepless nights. We want a cure so bad it hurts. You are never prepared for the what ifs. I never thought I would be writing this story. I never thought we would be living it. I never thought I would be giving our son three medications that make him totally not himself. I never thought I would be learning a whole new language. I thought I would be going somewhere completely different. I thought a lot of things. I have wanted to be a nurse my whole life, and I have wanted to be a mother my whole life. I thought so many times I would go to nursing school. I know now that that feeling of wanting all those things is now my reality, I got what I want and wouldn’t trade it for anything,  I am right where I am supposed to be. I thought having a child would be so different and that we would play normal people, but turns out we are, it’s just our normal day to day is just a little different than others.

I love every minute I have with my precious Ben, I love that I have been able to jump right in and take care of him. I love that I can make him smile. I love that my husband is such a great father and husband to me. I know that TSC affects us, but it also affects our friends and family, as they are constantly in this battle with us. We are thankful for all the support we have been given, by the TSC Alliance, the TS Mommy site, Dr. Flamini and all the doctors he sees.

photo-2We don’t know how the next year is going to go, we don’t know if he will stop breathing tomorrow from a seizure or if the next seizure will be the one that slows his development even more. Will he need brain surgery? Will his kidneys be affected? Will he be able to have children? Will he learn to walk and throw the ball? All the simple things in life; we are left wondering and hoping. We don’t know what kind of life he is going to lead yet. Will we as parents be able to afford the best treatment for him? Watching our son have seizures is something you can’t describe, there are no words. I do know that my son saved my life. If it was not for him, I am not sure I could have made it through the loss of his sister. So, now my husband and I are giving our life to him. I know now that his sister is in Heaven watching over Ben and our family and not a day goes by that I don’t think about how our life would be if we still had her with Ben, but I know now that that happened for a reason. Ben needed his extra Angel and she will take care of us and watch over our family.

We find great comfort with every second we have with him and every morning we wake up to his smile. The light at the end of our tunnel is holding onto hope that research in finding a cure for TSC 2 is continued and that one day there will be more options for treatment for our son and maybe soon medical Cannabis Oil will be legal in the state of Georgia, because after giving my son all of these  harsh medications, I have no doubt that I would choose that first before any of this stuff he is on currently.

My family is the best family in the world. We will never give up and we will fight every day.

Our story with TSC 2 will continue  and one day I hope we can look back on all these hard days and say, We showed you TSC… We showed you…