Tag Archives: white patch

Why We’re Thankful for TSC

Day 17 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

By Guest blogger Catrina Jones  (Monroe, Louisiana)

Note from Mixed Up Mommy: This was originally a Facebook post in the TS Alliance forum. I asked if I could share it here because I think it’s such a great story.

Hannah in August 2012.
Hannah in August 2012.

My daughter Hannah Grace, now 11 years old, started having infantile spasms at 8 months old. After an EEG was performed, it was determined that she had idiopathic benign occipital epilepsy. We were then referred to a local neurologist a month or so later, who ordered MRI/Brain prior to our appointment. I will never forget the day I received the call with the MRI results from the neurologist’s office where the nurse told me over the phone (while I was at work) that it was suspected our daughter had tuberous sclerosis. She said I needed to pick up the film and report to bring with us to Hannah’s appointment, and the doctor would discuss this further. When I asked her what tuberous sclerosis was, she could not tell me and informed me that the doctor would have to give me that information. I was in such shock and dismay that I dropped the phone at work crying, and a co-worker had to finish the call with the nurse. This co-worker immediately went to the internet and pulled up a fact sheet about TS and began reading it to me. After I composed myself, I called my husband and the rest of our family with this news of our daughter having something we had never EVER heard of. I remember having this huge fear of the unknown. When we took Hannah Grace (who was 11 months old at this time) in to the appointment, the neurologist said that he wasn’t sure 100% she had TSC because of lack of other symptoms, but when he started naming off things associated with TSC, the white patches were present on Hannah Grace. He took the woods lamp and inspected Hannah Grace, and to our surprise, she had a LOT of them on her body. He then said he had to concur that she did have tuberous sclerosis. As for her infantile spasms, he ordered her phenobarbital. Later on, her IS started developing into partial seizures so Tegretol & Topamax was added to control those.

So, with the new diagnosis of TSC, began a life of yearly testing and doctors visits. Since Hannah Grace was so young when she was diagnosed, we were unsure of the severity of her TSC. Did she have a mild case or was hers more severe? She was meeting milestones at her regular pediatric checkups, so we were hoping that by controlling the IS, just maybe she would live normal life. She does have some mild developemental/learning/cognitive delays, but at 11 years old, she is pretty much living a normal life that TSC says she should not be living. She has been seizure free for eight years now, and we could not be happier with her progress and accomplishments . She has overcome so much in her life. But our story doesn’t stop there.

Where most of you hate/despise TSC, our family is THANKFUL for it. You see, it was because of Hannah Grace having TSC that we went to her yearly checkup with the neurologist this past July. Actually, it was a six-month checkup, because we had been weaning her off of Topamax, since she has been seizure free for so long. The neurologist always runs labs to check her medicine levels. Those labs that day came back to show Hannah Grace had extremely low white blood counts, and it was thought she was developing a virus. We were told to take her to her pediatrician for a followup to let them check her for mono or other viruses. We went into the office the next day, and they re-ran her labs to find that her counts had dropped even more. They tested for numerous viruses and all came back negative. We were sent home in hopes that she had some type of virus that she would rid itself over the next week, and were told to come back later for repeat labs. The following week, her counts were even lower than the week before. The pediatrician was baffled because Hannah Grace showed no signs of being sick, yet her counts continued to decline. We were sent home under strict isolation and told if she developed a fever to get her to the ER. That night brought the fever and an ER visit. She was admitted to the hospital where our new journey was just beginning.

For two weeks in the hospital, Hannah Grace fought extremely high fevers, developed a rash, and her chemistry levels began to fall. She eventually ended up in PICU, where the

A recent photo of Hannah Grace.
A recent photo of Hannah Grace.

MD told me she was critical and needed to go under a pediatric hematologist because her counts had bottomed out. It was determined that we would be transferred to a Baton Rouge Children’s Hospital under the care of a hematologist. When we got there, they believed she had an infectious disease, so tests were run for every infectious disease/fungus there was, and everything came back negative. After a week of this, a bone marrow aspirate was done August 7, 2012, and we were told on August 8, 2012 that Hannah Grace had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. OMG, for a second time in our lives, we were hit with devastating news. Our little girl has cancer. The last ten months of our lives have been spent at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital & Affiliate fighting leukemia. I would give anything in the world if I could go back in time to the days of her having to deal with just TSC. TSC we were managing and doing well. Hannah Grace is in remission, but she will have to be in treatment for the next 2 1/2 yrs to make sure she is completely cured of leukemia. This road has had many difficulties, but we are most THANKFUL that St. Jude has decided to help treat her TSC along with the leukemia. This week, we came back St. Jude because they started Hannah Grace on Rapamune (Sirolimus) to try to shrink the SEGA and other tumors she has throughout her body (mostly on her brain & kidneys). We are so THANKFUL to have this opportunity, where we probably wouldn’t have had it back home in our small town. God works in mysterious ways!

We invite you all to checkout our pages at:

https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaTuberousSclerosisPage

and https://www.facebook.com/HannahsHopeForHealing.

A Few White Spots

Day 10 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

By guest blogger Annaka Vimahi  (Utah)

I have wanted to be a mother as long as I can remember. You can imagine the heartache my husband and I experienced when we didn’t have our first child for almost 9 ½ years. I Baby Viliami 092felt so much joy when our son finally arrived, but I also felt a twinge of fear. I couldn’t explain it. I just didn’t feel that everything was all right. After Nami’s birth I was told both apgar scores were 9, and I tried to have that great news reassure me that we had a healthy boy. It didn’t. I just couldn’t shake the feeling inside me that something was wrong. I tried to convince myself that it was just because I wasn’t used to receiving good news, considering many challenges I’d had up to that point in my life. I tried to tell myself that I was being a pessimistic person and that I should enjoy my dream to be a mother finally coming true.

A couple of significant things happened in the hospital after Nami was born that didn’t seem quite so significant at the time. First, he basically came out arching his back. My mom questioned my dad (Nami’s pediatrician) about it. I could see my dad trying to keep an open mind and discussing many possibilities of why this was. One was that sometimes babies with neurological issues do that. Second, a CNA noticed a weird heart beat and notified the other staff. An EKG was ordered and the results came back as normal. We left the hospital being told we had a healthy baby boy.

I kind of succeeded in being able to relax for the first three weeks of Nami’s life, enjoying lots of cuddle time. When Nami was three weeks old, I took him to my parents’ for my DSC00515 (2)sister to take some pictures of him. Near the end of the photo shoot, I noticed two white spots on the back of Nami’s leg. I am embarrassed of my reaction now, but at the time I started freaking out. I started to cry and ask, “How could my beautiful child have to have such ugly spots on his leg? Are they birthmarks? Is it vitiligo? This is so unfair!”

I remember badgering my dad with questions about the marks. He remained calm like he always does when I’m frantic about something. I told him that I had had a dream about my son having vitiligo and I just knew that’s what it was. He told me not to get ahead of myself, but that he would call the dermatologist and see what he thought. I left that night feeling angry that my son’s physical appearance wasn’t perfect. I thought, “How could this happen to us after we endured so much before he arrived?”

Over the next couple of days I noticed more white spots appearing. (I now know that Nami was born with the white spots, but as his jaundice went down and the pigment of his skin appeared, the white spots started to appear.) We finally heard from the dermatologist who suggested using a cream to see if it was eczema and we could clear it up. I was a bit suspicious that my dad wasn’t telling me everything so I pressed him about what else these spots could mean. He said that sometimes spots like this could be ashleaf spots and are a sign of a very rare neurological disorder, but that he didn’t want me to have to worry about that until we ruled out eczema. I let the issue go, but I felt that my dad was trying to protect me from something he knew was a possibility…something that was really bad.

For the next couple weeks I put the cream on Nami religiously. I checked his spots multiple times a day and even convinced myself at one point that they were getting better. Then I checked the next day and they were still there, as clear as ever. We made an appointment to see the dermatologist. I continued to feel like my dad knew more details than he was telling me. I feel now that he was hoping that he was wrong in thinking that it was TSC and he wanted to get the dermatologist’s opinion before verifying the horrible news.

??????????????

While at the appointment, I could quickly see that we were not going to receive good news. The dermatologist tried to mask his sadness for us as he confirmed that the white spots were ashleaf spots and that he felt our son likely had Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). He printed off a couple of pages from one of his medical books to read over. I felt my body instantly go numb. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. That night I cried and cried and cried. I hugged Nami tight as my tears drenched his head. The dermatologist and my dad tried to keep reassuring me that there was so much variation within this disease and not to think of the worst. But, there that feeling was again. I knew something was horribly wrong. I felt my child would have it all.

It’s amazing to me how little I knew about TSC at the time considering the knowledge I’ve gained with my new obsession over the last four years. I recorded my thoughts in an email to my family the next day:

“So, what do I know?  This is most likely a genetic mutation that can cause many problems. The problems range from neurological problems such as Parkinson’s and seizures to a 50% chance of mental retardation. ADHD, autism and tumors on various organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys are all possibilities. Major skin problems, eye problems and teeth problems are also possibilities. It’s difficult for us to know what Nami will have to endure until he gets some testing and experiences things as he grows. Dad is a lot more familiar with correct side-effects than I am. My mind is not too sharp right now, so I don’t want to say something wrong. I know the biggest thing we need to do is some genetic testing. It seems that dad also told us of about 5 specialists we’d need to see right away. We’ll need to get an EKG and brain wave test, an MRI and eye testing as well as some other tests that I can’t remember. He will have to get an MRI and eye test yearly. Whew…this is overwhelming!

This summer will be very different than what I expected and it’s only the beginning. I kinda feel like I deserved more of a break than I received with struggles, but I guess that’s selfish. Salesi and I have been through so much and grown through it all. During our most difficult times I felt that we were being prepared for something else. Those thoughts SCARED me but I guess I was right. It seemed quite a pessimistic view on life, but I’ve learned to be very tentative with good news. I’ve learned to try not to get so excited because it seems like disappointment is always around the corner. Throughout Nami’s birth, I took all good news in stride but had a dull gnawing sense that I didn’t know everything. My thinking throughout his short life and in the past has been that our child would be autistic. I am wishing that was it. I am wishing that what was first a disappointing discovery of what I thought were birthmarks were just that. My perspective on life has changed in an instant. Now I can see that ALL the difficulties I’ve experienced in my life have prepared me to be ready to take care of this special child. I am not shocked at this news although I can’t express the heartbreak I feel. I think I was prepared to receive this news so that I would be able to stay sane and make the choices I need to that are in Nami’s best interest.”

0501011136So far it has been a really tough road for us. Nami didn’t get the easier road with TSC (I say that knowing that “easy” and “TSC” do NOT belong in the same sentence). We have been told he has hundreds of brain tumors (no one is able to count exactly how many because there are too many), both cortical tubers and numerous SENs. He has an eye tumor, dozens of heart tumors (including one on his mitral valve which makes his blood kind of backwash), kidney tumors and cysts, and he already has 3 skin manifestations of the disease. He started having infantile spasms when he was 4 months old and has endured seizures most days of his life. He is currently having anywhere between 100-300 seizures daily despite being on 4 anti-epileptic medicines. We have made numerous trips to the ER due to seizures we cannot stop. Most of the time he is admitted. Our son has stopped breathing twice and had to be intubated and life-flighted both times. Nami is autistic. He can only say a few words and most of the time he only says them with prompting. He has major behavioral issues and at times he lashes out and can be destructive. He does not have good sleeping patterns. I feel like Nami would be much worse off were it not for my dad, though, the best pediatrician in the world (no I am not biased =).

I think back on the day I first saw Nami’s white spots. Oh how I wish now that the marks had just been birthmarks. It’s Boys photos 2012 250amazing how perspectives change so quickly. In a few short weeks I went from being extremely vain to wishing for all my son to have is some simple marks on his skin. Despite all of Nami’s challenges, I would not change him for anything. He is the light of our lives. He endures so much yet he smiles and laughs a lot. He loves his little brother. He sees the world in a unique way and teaches us to take time to see things his way too. He brings light to everyone who comes in contact with him. He hugs people. He makes us want to be better people. Every accomplishment he makes is a HUGE celebration. He is a FIGHTER! We are so blessed to have him as our son.

Please check out Annaka’s blog at www.afteritsoaksin.com

Finding Family Through TSC

Day 8 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

By guest blogger Karren Nelson  (Brunswick, Ohio)

feb3_2011My son Joel was born on February 3, 2011. After struggling for a couple years with infertility, my husband and I felt extremely blessed when we were finally able to hold our precious miracle in our arms! Doctors did routine exams on Joel after he was born. They told us he was healthy, but they did notice a long white patch (almost looked like a blister) on his right arm. They had no idea what it was or what caused it, so we were sent to a dermatologist when he was around three months old. By the time we saw the dermatologist, the white patch on his arm had changed in appearance and texture. The dermatologist told us it was linear epidermal nevus–just a cosmetic thing and we had nothing to worry about. We went home that night feeling relieved.

Months later, when Joel was seven months old, he began doing a strange head nodding thing. He would slowly drop his head and then quickly jerk it back up. The first time he did it we weren’t sure what to think; we had never seen anything like it before. When it continued the following day we knew we needed to see a doctor. We quickly scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician, and we tried our best to video record the heading nodding episodes to show the doctor. The pediatrician watched the video but almost sent us home, telling us he didn’t think we had anything to worry about. I knew in my heart there was something wrong, so I spoke up and questioned whether it could be somehow related to the white patch on Joel’s right arm. He was honest and said he had no idea, but he would call the dermatologist to discuss it. The next april2013eegmorning the pediatrician called me and said we needed to see a neurologist because Joel needed to have an EEG as soon as possible.

An hour after Joel’s EEG we were able to see the neurologist to discuss the results. The neurologist walked in the room, sat down and said, “The EEG showed abnormal activity which we believe is seizures, mostly on the left side of his brain, so we would like to do further testing to rule out a condition known as tuberous sclerosis complex, which can cause tumors to grow on the brain.” We had no idea what she was talking about. We had never heard of TSC before that day. I honestly can’t even remember anything else that was discussed during that appointment… All I could hear was my baby might have tumors on his brain!

The next step was for Joel to have a sedated MRI. We were terrified. I couldn’t handle being in the room and seeing Joel be sedated so Jeremy stayed by his side. When he walked out with tears in his eyes, I lost it. He told me he never wanted me to see that. It was the hardest thing he ever had to do. The nurses told us to go have lunch while we waited. We walked to the cafeteria but we could barely eat anything. We kept looking at the clock, wishing time would speed up so we could see our baby again.

When we finally received the MRI results we were devastated. The MRI showed Joel has tubers on his brain. Further testing also revealed he has rhabdomyomas on his heart. The good news is we were able to control his seizures very quickly after trying only one medication.

teamjoel_seattlewalk2012The hardest part of this whole thing was that we were miles away from any sort of family support system. We were living in Washington state for my husband’s career with the Navy. Jeremy’s unit was supportive, but we still felt so alone. During our first Step Forward To Cure TSC walk we realized we were wrong–we did have a support system there. A group of military friends came out to walk with us so we wouldn’t have to walk alone. That meant more to us than any dollar we were able to raise! I still get emotional talking about it!!

These days Joel is doing well. We have to monitor his weight very closely though, because if he gains too much weight, he starts having staring spells and we have to increase his dosage of medication. We are also watching his developmental growth very closely because TS can cause delays. He is in a grey area, right on the border of having delays in certain areas, so I’m constantly fighting with early intervention services to get Joel the help he needs. It’s frustrates me that we have to wait until he is extremely delayed to get help. You would think it would make more sense to be proactive with speech and occupational therapies BEFORE he is too far behind!

We recently moved to Ohio to be near my husband’s family. Moving here has been great because we are able to see a TS specialist. It’s amazing to be able to talk to a doctor that actually understands the condition and everything that comes along with it!

In February I had the amazing opportunity to join the TS Alliance for March the Hill. A very special lady named Dee told me that every time the Alliance gets together it’s like a big family reunion… She couldn’t have been more right! Everyone was so welcoming and instantly supportive. I don’t know how to explain in words how it felt to be surrounded by people that understand what we’re dealing with. I’m counting the days until we can all get together again though–I can’t wait to see everyone at the next “family reunion!” 🙂

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Please check out Karren’s blog at http://www.nelsonfamily2008.blogspot.com