Tag Archives: TS Alliance of Atlanta/North Georgia

Hitting Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

So much excitement over the last couple weeks. Where to begin…

HB885 passed the House vote 171 to 4. It now awaits a hearing in the Senate. If you haven’t yet contacted your Georgia state senator, please do so right away. If you aren’t sure who it is, check here.

Chris and I flew up to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with our representatives about the continuation of funding for the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Research Program (TSCRP) which is part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) in the Department of Defense (DOD). Yes, I am drowning in a sea of acronyms. Quick quiz: how many of these acronyms do you know?

AML, TSC, SEGA, LAM, SEN, CBD, CW, FDA, THC, DEA, RoC, VNS, CPS, TC, GW, IND, LGS, HIPP, KB, CHOA, PT, SLP, MT-BC, MAD

(Answers: angiomyolipoma, tuberous sclerosis complex, subependymal giant cell astrocytoma, lymphangioleiomyomatosis, subependymal nodules, cannabidiol, Charlotte’s Webb, Food and Drug Administration, Tetrahydrocannabinol, Drug Enforcement Agency, Realm of Caring, vagus nerve stimulator, complex-partial seizures, tonic-clonics, this is the name of a pharma company (I actually have no idea what GW stands for), investigational new drug, lennox-gastaut syndrome, Health Insurance Premium Payment Program, Katie Beckett, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, physical therapy, speech-language pathologist, music therapist-board certified, modified Atkins diet).

That fact that I know those in no way makes me smart. It just means I can do even less math than before because I’ve had to drop everything number-related dating back to second grade to make room for it all. To be honest, that only equates to a couple of years. It was all downhill from fourth. Also, don’t ask me to pronounce most of them.

Now back to DC…(see how I did that?) Volunteers flew in from all over the country and we swarmed the Hill in our sexy blue jackets. There aren’t words for how excited I was to discover these had thumb holes. I love thumb holes.

Fellow TSC mom Reiko and my hubby Chris helped me hit all the Georgia congressional offices.
Fellow TSC mom Reiko and my hubby Chris helped me hit all the Georgia congressional offices.

We secured promises of support from the offices of John Lewis, Hank Johnson and David Scott. The meeting with David Scott was my favorite as I had no expectation that we’d be promised support on the spot like that, and the staff member we met with immediately began asking questions about what was going on back in Georgia with HB885 when we mentioned TSC’s link to seizures. It was awesome to know they were talking up there. Don’t worry, fearless trainers from the previous evening’s dinner, Reiko got us right back on topic 🙂

Chris and I even got some time the first day to explore so we went to Ford’s Theatre and the house where Lincoln died. His blood-stained pillow and the tiny gun that killed him are on display. The balcony is preserved as it was, and I was actually surprised to learn that it is a working theater. We did some more walking around including a photo op at the White House where our phones died simultaneously only letting us each get one shot. I don’t want one more stupid iPhone model coming out until they can make a battery that lasts more than five minutes.

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The last night we were there was the Volunteer Recognition Dinner. Four people were awarded a Franny, the volunteer of the year award for 2013. Chris had broken down and told me he nominated me a couple weeks prior — so very sweet — but that did nothing for my slow processing as one of the winners was described as having a son Connor’s age, a blog with the same amount of hits and followers as mine and involved in similar activities. I thought, man, who is this person leading such a similar life? Oh it was ME! ME!

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Then, like a jerk, I forgot to thank Chris a la Hilary Swank and Sean Penn who ended up divorced after their Oscar acceptance speech snubs of their significant others. He swears it doesn’t matter, but just in case: THANK YOU, MY AWESOME HUSBAND!

All the winners.

Well, if you haven’t read it yet, check out my post from Sunday here. It is now my most read and shared post of all time. I’m thrilled to help get the message out on the potential benefits of medical cannabis. Though I can’t help but wonder why you all aren’t as intrigued when I blog about my repetitive dreams of my teeth falling out or weight loss powder shakes…

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With Chris Hawkey.
With Chris Hawkey.
With CEO and President of the TS Alliance Kari Rosbeck.
With CEO and President of the TS Alliance Kari Rosbeck.
Grandma and Grandpa took Connor to aquatic therapy while we were gone.
Grandma and Grandpa took Connor to aquatic therapy while we were gone. We did it! Four whole nights away! Guess we’re ready for the islands…

Please check out my latest post at Mommy Hot Spot.

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Relieved after talking to the neurologist.

Feeling much better this morning after an appointment with Connor’s neurologist. We were dismayed to hear about changes on the ERG, but I really freaked out yesterday when his medical assistant mentioned in an e-mail that he wanted to discuss the ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet is no joke–read here–it involves hospitalization to start it, measuring everything he eats and it’s more extreme than Atkins. I have never wanted to do the keto diet and have always hoped it would never even be a consideration.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not off the table and I understand why people do it, and some have great success, but it just seems like a nightmare to me. I hope to find seizure control another way.

I was really freaked thinking we were going to be told Connor MUST come off the vigabatrin immediately and that the keto diet would be on the immediate horizon. Thankfully, not the case. While a change on the ERG is reason for concern and close monitoring, our doctor said to also take it with a grain of salt. Many parts of the country, people aren’t even doing these because it’s somewhat unreliable at this age. It can’t tell you how much vision is being affected, if at all, only that the retina isn’t responding quite the same way with one of the wavelengths or something–honestly I don’t understand it well enough to explain it. Sometimes, later tests go back to normal and it was just an anomaly, and yes, sometimes the peripheral vision is affected, but the positives of the meds outweigh the negatives. In his experience, most of the time a kid has gone off due to changes on the ERG, they ended up back on it because it was simply the most effective med for them. Unfortunately, keeping the seizures at bay must take precedence over perfect vision. If it was an issue of blindness, I’d be much for freaked out, but hopefully, if he does suffer any loss to peripheral vision, he will learn to compensate.

We do have to decide if we go back for another ERG in a month, or wait the standard three months. He didn’t seem to think it was worth the sedation to go back in a month, though. Obviously, we could have to face decisions over again if we continue to see changes, but hopefully that won’t be the case.

As far as the keto diet goes, he brought that up more as a possibility, and he felt the modified Atkins diet was equally good (and less insane–my words, not his). We will revisit that in a few weeks after we see what happens with the increases in Onfi. We are also finally weaning Keppra- the drug that has been the unchanging constant through all this. We’re not sure it’s really doing anything, so we’ll monitor and see what happens.

He also said down the road, there are other drugs we haven’t tried, though he can’t vouch for them when so many have failed. And we can also revisit surgical options as well as VNS. VNS doesn’t thrill me, as I haven’t seen as much success with that online as I would like for such a major surgical/implant intervention. What is VNS? Read here. That being said, like any treatment, one person’s fail is another’s miracle.

Please cross your fingers for the vigabatrin/Onfi combo and no further change on the ERG!

Last night, we attended a meeting with a Met Life rep regarding financial planning for special needs. The truth is, we don’t know where TSC will have Connor as an adult. Maybe he’ll be doing great and self-supporting, but we just don’t know at this point. So it was time to look into how to plan for the possibility that he may not live entirely independently, possibly because of cognitive issues, or maybe because of health/epilepsy issues. Thank goodness, we did! It’s pretty easy to complicate your child’s situation and have no idea you are doing so. If you have a child receiving any government benefits, such as Katie Beckett or if they are over 18 on SSI, if they inherit anything adding up to over $2,000 they can lose their benefits! Who came up with that number as a cutoff? Seriously? And can so easily happen by accident–savings bonds purchased for them by a relative, naming them directly on a will, putting them as your life insurance beneficiary, or just not having a will and they automatically inherit. Once those assets are spent, they can reapply, but those of us who have applied for such things know how nightmarish it can be. And losing them even temporarily can wreak havoc. The presenter shared a story of a woman in her 50s or 60s living in a group home supported by Medicaid. She had been there for a long time. When her parents passed, they had no will and she inherited what they had, which wasn’t much. She had to move out of the home, and within a few months the assets were spent. She could then reapply, but her spot had been taken. She lost her parents and her home.

We will have to have a special needs lawyer help us with a special needs trust that will protect him from anything like that. Anything that he inherits must go to the trust. That way, if he’s receiving any benefits they won’t be affected. Don’t worry, the government gets theirs. This kind of trust is taxed at one of the highest rates, in case you were worried they’d run out of barricades for our national monuments.

 

 

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Join us for a meeting with new Atlanta TSC clinic director, Dr. Wolf!
Sunday, November 10, 2013
2 – 4 p.m.
Mount Vernon Baptist Church
850 Mt. Vernon Hwy NW
Sandy Springs, GA 30327

Dr. David Wolf will be spending his afternoon meeting the local TSC individuals and families of the TS Alliance of Atlanta/North Georgia. Join us for this valuable opportunity to meet both Dr. Wolf and other local TSC individuals and families!
There will be light refreshments available.

RSVP to Becky pin.the.map@gmail.com

“You’ll feel more rested if you get up at the same time every day.” LIES!

I’m having a terrible time keeping up with the blog now that I’m doing some other writing for meager pay to support my eBay habit. I’m trying, I swear! If I could just become a morning person, I could get so much more done. But almost 17 months of consistently getting up at 8 a.m. and I still can’t function properly until 10. Grover taunts me every morning with his chipper, go-getter attitude.

The big news is that Connor just started crawling the other day while we were in Blowing Rock, NC with my parents. He’s not doing it consistently, still doing a lot of commando crawling, but at least we know he can do it now. We are very excited. The cats are not. He’s also now demanding far too much attention after having Chris’ parents stay with us for the half a week leading up to the trip, and then another half week with my parents.

I think Connor would really enjoy having pet ducks in our backyard. Chris disagrees.
I think Connor would really enjoy having pet ducks from Blowing Rock in our backyard. Chris disagrees.
Swinging with Grandpa in Blowing Rock.
Swinging with Grandpa in Blowing Rock.
Meeting the giant doggie at Mast General Store in Boone, NC.
Meeting the giant doggie at Mast General Store in Boone, NC.
The dog makes a great rug.
The dog makes a great rug.

He also just added aquatic therapy to his regimen.

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We are so loving how attentive he is to what is going on around him these days. He had a delightful meeting with the Chick-fil-A cow recently, and also cheered up some not-so-enthusiastic waitstaff at Texas Roadhouse during their obligatory hourly line dance. His clapping and enthusiasm had the embarrassed, Man-I-really-need-the-money staff smiling.

I like ladies. I like music. This is some sweet line dancing.
I like ladies. I like music. This is some sweet line dancing.

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We had an appointment with his neurologist this morning and I requested we try name brand seizure meds (Trileptal and Keppra), in place of the generics since we continue to have breakthrough seizures. Many people swear by them as generics can vary in potency so much, so I’m hoping it makes the difference. I’m sure insurance will be delighted. But after they just sent me the private info of three people by accident…well, let’s just approve it, seeee (in gangster voice).

In other awesome news, as Connor was approved for the Katie Beckett Medicaid Deeming Waiver, we were then also able to apply for HIPP. which is a Medicaid program that helps pay your private insurance premiums in cases of serious health issues, as it is in their better interest to make sure you keep you private insurance, than lose it and resort to full Medicaid. We were approved, and this allows us a lot more income to put towards any other needs we want to meet for him. And my wine. I’m so thankful that Connor’s Early Intervention program people have been so good at making us aware of these programs. So if you have a kid in EI, make sure you have applied for Katie Beckett, and if you have done that, make sure you apply for HIPP (I don’t know what the variation is from state-to-state. I know we are lucky that such services are easily attainable here in Ga compared to what I hear about some other states, particularly in the midwest).

As for the house, I kid you not, we told our realtor toward the end of the month that we were taking it off the market July 31. We finally got an offer on July 27. So this house is under contract and we are under contract on our new house, as well. We will finally have a room we can dedicate to Connor’s mess–I mean, toys.

Don't feel bad! You've been a good house.
Don’t feel bad! You’ve been a good house.

I swear this has been the most humid Georgia summer of all time, but others have told me I’m insane and it’s always this bad. At any rate, I’m ready for fall and to wear my new scarf that my sister-in-law Donna made for me from Chris’ old shirts.

The King of Izod has some extra space in his closet now.
The King of Izod has some extra space in his closet now.

Also, two events I want to make sure TSC families are aware of in the area:

298465_187704037963818_1579148_nOn Saturday September 8, we are having a family bowling event. Cost is $10 per person, which includes shoes and unlimited bowling. Food will be provided. Details here.

On Thursday October 10, we are having an educational meeting on financial planning for your children with special needs. Details here.

 

Walking for a Cure and Trying to Employ My 14-Month-Old

I’m still here, even in the midst of all the awesome guest bloggers I’ve had so far this month for TSC Awareness (still accepting guest posts). You might remember me from such posts as Bite Me, United Healthcare or Bite Me, Medical Billing Department That Won’t Call Me Back.

The last week has been really busy. I’ve been doing some freelance writing, which has been immensely rewarding in all ways but financial. But if I keep it up, I’ll have that Italian villa by the time I’m 127. I write for the parenting and education divisions of an online media company. No seriously, I write about parenting in, not one, but two locations. Makes you rethink your Google searches, huh?

The Georgia Step Forward For a Cure took place on Saturday May 18 at Marietta Square. So far it has raised $70,000 and counting–thank you Dee and Reiko for organizing this year after year. I was also named as the new chair for the Atlanta/North Georgia TS Alliance, which I’m pretty excited about. Sarah, a reader who has been following along with the guest bloggers, asked me if I would be there. I told her to look for the obnoxious yellow shirts. She found me.

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Connor is doing well; he’s still progressing, although it can never be fast enough when your kid is delayed. We just hit 14 months, and we’re hoping he’ll crawl soon. He can hold the position if we put him in it, it’s the moving part that is the problem. He can move backwards when he’s on his stomach. The problem is, he doesn’t ever want to be on his stomach. He will expend more energy trying to flip himself over when I have him wedged in on both sides, than he will to move a couple feet. He can also stand with minor support, but again, we have to put him in the position. He doesn’t pull himself up yet. I’m also desperately hoping to hear some consonants soon. He has mastered uh, and quite frankly, at this point he can add a ffff and a kkk and I’ll be the one parent that’s thrilled.

We recently increased his meds when it seemed some sort of seizure activity was breaking through again. It helped, but I still occasionally see his eyes go up and linger a few seconds, or he’ll stare off to the side with tightly pursed lips. They don’t seem to have a lingering effect like previous seizures though.

His delays do seem to have created the very player of son I swore I wouldn’t ever raise. I’ve never formally announced his health issues in music class, although I also don’t hide it. Some people have become aware as the music teacher is also his music therapist, and they have overheard us talking. I also wear my TSC shirts to class. But some may actually believe that I am such an incredible disciplinarian, that I have actually trained him to never leave my side (easy to believe when you’ve never seen him try to empty his entire bottle into his belly button). So there he sits, very cool, very “you come to me, I don’t come to you.” And the girls, oh yes, they crawl right over. They can’t help themselves. He’s so James Dean, if James Dean traded his cigarettes for music sticks.

I’ve also been looking into just how young kids can start gymnastics because it would be a shame for Connor to ever lose the ability to do this:

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We might be looking at a career gymnast. Of course, he has also shown an interest in dentistry.

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And Salvador Dali impersonation.

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