Rubber Ball Life

If I have learned one thing in my short but dramatic life, it’s that life really does work like a rubber ball – it bounces up and down between happy things and sad things before you can even realize what’s going on.  I know the mom’s are wishing lately that there would either be a few more happy things or even just that the sad things would be spaced out a little more so they could at least take a breath in between bounces.

I had a new dog.  His name was Otis and he was tiny like me, and funny like me and almost as adorable as me.  Mama C was really sad about Ellie not being around anymore so Mommy decided to surprise her and found a new puppy for us.  Otis came home to us on the Friday night after Ellie went away and we had a really good weekend.  But then by Monday he was really sick and the veterinarian told the mom’s that he had something called Parvo, which is very contagious in puppies and means that they can’t live anymore.  So, the mom’s had to put him down like Ellie, because by the end he was too sick to even move.  The mom’s were surprised at how fast it happened and felt really bad that they weren’t able to do anything else, but knew that it was for the best.  Either way, I miss my friend Otis.  I actually really liked him – he was very gentle with me (after the first day when he used my foot as a chew toy) and he just scampered around the house making everyone laugh.  Poor Otis.

So, that was the sad thing.  The problem was it was just one more sad thing on top of a whole lot of other sad things in a short period.  Between Grandma dying, me having seizures, Ellie dying and then Otis dying, it has been a hard 6 weeks for the mom’s.  Mama C decided that it was time for a little reality break so she’s off on vacation for the next two whole weeks! We’re just waiting for my new cousin, Baby Ollie to be born and then we’ll go to Grandpa’s house in Frankford and spend some downtime just hanging out in his nice house by the water.

But there have been good things happening too! The smiley happy me that made an appearance two weeks ago seems to be sticking around.  All day long I’m just happy to just sit, bounce my feet all around and smile these big huge smiles.  I’m giggling more and now I can’t stop talking.  A lot of the times I’m just playing with different noises but the mom’s have caught me babbling a little bit too.  Everyone who comes over: Janet (my vision worker), my OT Kristin and Kathy and Barb from Surrey Place (Infant Development and Speech and Language) say that it’s like being around an entirely new kid.  They’re amazed at how much I’ve changed in just a few short weeks and they’re so happy that I’m learning new things all of the time.  And I LOVE seeing people.  I’m not even shy a little bit.  This weekend my cousin Alex and her boyfriend Aaron came to visit and I was so happy to just play and smile with them, but it doesn’t seem to matter who’s looking at me, I just want to show them how happy I am.  I don’t really care about toys or stuff, but I love the people in my life so very much.

And it seems to all be because the new medication the doctor’s put me on for my seizures seems to be working so very very well.  I haven’t had a single seizure in almost 3 weeks and my brain is definitly not feeling as fuzzy as it was before.  You can tell just by looking at me that I’m feeling so much better.  The doctor’s were really happy at how well I responded to the medication and were happy that I didn’t have to go onto the other one.  They were even able to give the mom’s a baseline for my development, which made them happy because a) it’s been a long time since anyone has been able to do that and b) they weren’t too far off the mark themselves.  The neurologist says that I’ve developed to about a 4 – 6 month old baby, which at first seems not so good (seeing as I’m 14 months), but is actually pretty amazing, seeing as my brain was pretty much re-set in July.  It’s almost like I have 2 birthday’s to count from.  I have my December birthday which is my actual age, but then I have my brain birthday which is July and would make me 7 months old.  So the mom’s are really really happy with how far I’ve come since I was that little baby in the PICU that wasn’t moving at all, couldn’t see light and couldn’t breathe on her own.  When you put it that way, I’m pretty amazed myself.

 

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Introducing….

Today the mom’s decided that there had been enough being not so happy about all this seizure stuff going on.  I have to admit that it wasn’t a great weekend.  The medication has been making me very tired (which the mom’s don’t seem to mind sooo much because apparently I’m into a good “routine”).  But I’ve stopped smiling at them and sometimes get a little lost in my own thoughts and I forget to look up at them.  But, they have noticed that I’ve been looking at lots of bright and shiny things, so they decided to help me in their own unique way…

They bought me a fish!! He’s very pretty and bright blue and just swims around making bubbles and splashing the water like I do in the bath (but I don’t hear the mom’s telling HIM that he has to splash with both arms, uh, fins).  We actually went to the pet store yesterday to get him, but apparently all the fish at that store had died because they were displayed too close to the front door and they got too cold (they should have talked to me, I could have told them how to make a come back).  So, while we got the stuff to make his house all nice yesterday, we finally went and picked him up from a different store today.

He’s very pretty, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I would have preferred a guinea pig.  While we were at the pet store today I was a little whiny so Mama C took me over to look at the birds and the reptiles and the hamsters, but as soon and she kneeled down so that I could look at the guinea pigs, I just stopped whining and sat watching them.  They are almost as cute as I am.  Someone walking by warned Mama C that they make a lot of noise, but she just laughed and said that they would just fit right in.  I think I heard her trying to convince Mommy that I should have one of those too, but I’m not sure who won that battle because I fell asleep.

So, now the fishy is at home in his new house, which we made all pretty with some rocks and a plant, but the very best part is that the mom’s let me name him all by myself!  This is what I picked….

 

The mom’s say that we will have to  spell it phonetically (whatever that means), so I hope you’ll all be as nice to Aaahrah as you are to me!

Silly brain

I’ve had a very eventful time lately.  The mom’s asked me not to talk about it until now because we didn’t really know for sure what was going on, but now that we have a better idea I can tell you all about it.

A few weeks ago, the mom’s started noticing that I was having these little muscle spasms.  It would mostly happen just after I had woken up and was just playing on my mat.  They were always very quick (only about a second or two) and it seemed to happen when I was grabbing my feet, so at first the mom’s thought it was just me losing balance a little bit.  But over time (and especially when my sleeping got all messed up over the Christmas break) it started happening a little more often.  Sometimes it would just be one or two spasms, but other times it would be 7 or 8 in a row and they would get a little bigger.  The mom’s made a big effort to get my sleeping routine back in order and the spasms seemed to go away a little bit but they were definitely still happening.

Finally, last week my lovely pediatrician was able to get us in for a visit to Sick Kids for an EEG.  It was on Thursday morning and I had to wake up at 5am and then stay awake until the test at 8:30am because I had to be tired.   An EEG is a test where a nice technician measured my head, drew all over it with crayons and then put all these little stickers on my scalp that were attached to pretty coloured wires.  The wires were able to send pictures of my brain activity to the technicians computer.  The test lasted about 1 hour and I had to be sleeping, and then slightly awake, then awake enough to look at flashing lights and then asleep again.  Luckily Mama C was holding me the entire time so I was pretty comfortable and only cried at the end when she and the technician were pulling all of the stickers out of my hair.  After that we waited around until we finally got to see the neurologist who was able to explain to the mom’s what’s been going on.

It turns out that I’m having something called Infantile Spasms (or West syndrome), which are a type of epilepsy/seizure disorder.  Kids with Down Syndrome are more likely to have these issues then typical kids, but also kids who have had an Hypoxic-Ischemic brain injury are also more likely to have these as well, so it shouldn’t really be a huge surprise that I’m having issues with them, but it was.  The difference between Infantile Spasms and other seizures though is that my brain activity between the physical seizures is all still all wonky (as opposed to only being wonky when I’m actual having the spasms), which means that it can cause problems with my development. (The mom’s found a really good article to help explain it to them, so if you want to understand it better you can read it too: http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/ConditionsandDiseases/BrainandNervousSystemDisorders/Pages/Infantile-Spasms.aspx

All of this means that the doctors have to treat it very quickly and very aggresively so that we can stop the spasms and the wonky brain activity before it causes too much damage.  Luckily I have Down Syndrome though, and even though it’s more likely that we will get West syndrome, it’s all less likely that it will affect us as badly as typical kids so it’s actually really good that I have this extra chromosome (now it’s not just my cute chromosome but it’s my protective one too).   They’ve started by putting me on a new drug called Vigabatrin and they’ll check in two weeks to see if it’s working.  If it’s not then I’ll have to start a different drug that’s given to me everyday with a needle, so I’m really hoping the Vigabatrin works.  It comes with a lot of not so nice side effects though, so until my body gets used to it, I may be having a couple of not so great weeks.  It’s supposed to make me very drowsy and tired, but will also keep me awake at night.  It may cause me to gain weight (which actually made the mom’s happy) but may also make it harder for me to poop.  The big thing that made the mom’s unhappy was that it will probably cause me to loose the muscle tone that I’ve worked so hard to build up.  So, things that I’ve been working so hard on, rolling over, sitting up may get a lot harder in the next little while.  It also means that I’ll have to just be g-tube fed for a while too because I’m going to lose the muscle tone that helps me suck and I’ll also be very drowsy, so it would be dangerous for me to try and eat because I’m so good at aspirating when I’m not at my best.

So, it was a big week and we don’t really know what it means for the future.  I’ll have to be on the medicine (whichever ones works) for at least 7 – 8 months and hopefully by that time I will have grown out of these seizures.  But the doctor’s did say that it’s probably pretty likely that I’ll have a different kind later on.  So, like my veins and my sight, we’ll just add this to the list of things that I’ll just have to figure out as we go along.

Quick Catch Up

After I’ve been sick, the mom’s get really happier when I start to feel better.  Not just because I’m feeling better and they don’t like to see me sick and hurting, but mostly because I jump from zero to 60 in a matter of hours.  I go from being clingy and cranky to kicking my feet, rocking all around and smiling from ear to ear before they even know what’s going on.

I had been feeling really sick over the Christmas break.  I had a cold that just didn’t want to go away.  I was coughing and stuffy and feverish and I just didn’t want to be put down at all.  It didn’t matter who was holding me (which was kind of nice for the mom’s because at least they could pass me off when they had to do things), but I was only happy when I was snuggled into someone’s chest.  The mom’s were sick too and we just kept making each other miserable, especially at nights when we were staying at Grandpa’s – we were all sharing one bedroom and so when the mom’s would cough, I would wake up and cry and then I would only sleep if they were holding me, so then they ended up staying up all night with me, which made it harder for them to get better.  It was a very bad cycle.  But then we finally got home and after another couple days of good rest (and just in time for Mama C to go back to work), I started to feel better all around.

It wasn’t really so bad, except for the night that we finally got to have our Christmas dinner with Gramma and Pa, and Auntie CC, Uncle Rico, Thor and my almost-here cousin.  I was miserable that night, even though I got some very cool presents, including the biggest Slinky I have ever seen!!  While I couldn’t really appreciate it that night, now I love it so so much!

Beyond actually being sick, I’m doing really well.  I really think that my vision is getting better in leaps and bounds.  Lately I’ve been looking up more and making a lot more eye contact.  I love rolling over and seeing the mom’s in the morning and smiling when I see their faces.  Sometimes I still need to be encouraged to look up and see what’s happening around me, but we can definitely see an improvement and so we’re all pretty happy!  I didn’t gain a lot of weight between December and January, so we need to work a little bit harder on making me grow faster, but hopefully before we know it, I’ll be breaking 20 pounds.  As long as I get there before my soon-to-be-here cousin, then I’ll be happy with how I’m doing.

Come closer, I have a secret….

I wasn’t always this big you know? I started out pretty tiny – 1.78kg to be exact (that’s 3.9 pounds).  But over the last year, I have grown bigger and stronger with every day and every week and every month.  And now, today is my first birthday and even though there were some sad times and scary times, I think that my life is pretty amazing and I’m happy to be sharing my first birthday with all of you.

 

A Day in the Life

Today marks my 60th day in the hospital.  I’ve come to realize that this is a really long time because even my favourite nurse, Shelly (who comes to visit and play with me whenever she’s working, even when she’s not my nurse) has told me that I really need to go home and not come back for a long time.  She says that I can visit whenever I want when I come to clinic, but that I should really get a life outside of the atrium walls.

But the thing is, my life here, minus all the poking and prodding, isn’t really so bad.  I know, in all my rambling, that it can seem like we’re not having a lot of fun and sometimes that true, but most days I’m actually feeling really well and we try and keep me as entertained as possible.

Most mornings I like to wake up around 6:30am.  I like this the best because it’s just before the nurse changeover happens, so unless something is wrong, a nurse won’t come in and bug me until at least 8am and probably closer to 8:30am.  This means that I get some serious snuggle time with the mom who has spent the night with me.  We like to sit in the rocking chair, hook up my Ng tube for some breakfast and watch tv together.  Since it takes me an hour and a half to eat, it’s a really nice way to spend the first part of my morning.  If it’s Mama C who’s stayed with me, right after breakfast means that it’s time to clean up before the day nurse comes to check my vitals.  We either have a quick bath or just a wash down before the dreaded hair time begins.  My hair has gotten very very long and since I’ve decided to take up permanent residence here, the mom’s haven’t been able to get it cut.  It also gets tangled very easily if we leave it down, so while I scream and scream, Mama C works out the tangles and then puts it my pigtails.  They’re very cute (I’ve seen the pictures) but I’ll be happy when the bottom layer is a little longer so that we can do something else.  Then the day nurse comes in, fawns over me for a bit (if I’m feeling happy, I’ll totally throw them some smiles so that they think I’m extra cute) and then I get weighed and all checked out.  By that time, I’m totally exhausted and I usually settle down for a bit of a catnap.  Mama C says that I sleep much MUCH better at home, but because I spend so much time in my bed here, short ones are okay.

When I wake up, the doctors are usually coming around to tell the mom’s and dad’s how their kids are doing.  This is Mama C’s favourite part of the day.  She says that sometimes the doctors use bigger words with each other then when they’re explaining stuff to the mom’s one on one, so she listens carefully to understand what’s really going on (and not the dumbed down version).   This is the part of the day that goes by the fastest, because the doctor’s all come back again after rounds to actually check on how I’m doing and make plans for what they’re going to do with me next.   At some point in all of this madness, the mom’s get out my seat and we work on drinking from the bottle so that my tummy can be nice and empty before my OT Lisa comes in the afternoon.  Spending time with Lisa is my absolute favourite time of the day.  She gets out the big mat and spreads my toys all around and we just get to play! She brings toys that light up and toys that make noise and she puts on music and we sing and bounce.  I’m so tired when we’re done that sometimes I fall asleep right in the middle of the exercises and Lisa and the mom’s laugh at me.  I think when we leave here, I’m going to miss her the most.

The rest of the day is a little quieter.  The mom’s and I spend some time cuddling and playing.  Today Mommy had me playing with her on the mat and we both ended up falling asleep right on the floor! Mama C was already having a nap on the bed, so we had a nice family sleep all together.  When the one mom goes home for the night, then we start to settle down.  We eat dinner and play quietly until I start to drift off.  Sadly, the night nurse always seems to come in to her check on me just as I’m about to fall asleep or just as I drifted off, so normally I wake back up again for a little bit.  Mostly the mom’s leave me alone at that point, because if they hang out at my bedside, I think that it’s time to play again and I start smiling at them and they can’t help but get sucked back in.

Another Week End, Another Surgical Adventure Begins…

The general consensus seems to be that I look really really good for someone who has so many things wrong with me.  I’ve been eating like a champ this week and more importantly, eating like a champ from a bottle.  My OT Lisa, says that it’s safe for me to try 3 meals a day from a bottle and at each of them I’m getting more and more confident about how I eat and I’m taking around 60mL each time.  Impressive, if I do say so myself, for a girl who couldn’t even suck a few weeks ago.

The rest of my OT exercise is coming along really well too! Lisa is very impressed with how strong my neck muscles are getting again and how strong my right arm is now, especially since it was just last week that it was laying limp beside me.  It seems that at some point this week, I not only remembered that it was there, I decided to start using it all of the time! I’m sucking my thumb again and grasping things (like the mom’s hands) and I’m even holding on to a set of jingle bells and moving them all around so they make beautiful music.  We won’t talk about how I often hit myself in the face with the jingle bells because, well, that’s just embarrassing.  My legs still need some work – I move them a lot when I’m angry or frustrated, but they don’t move around a lot more than that.  I also need to work more on my tummy time, because I really really hate it, but it seems that no one is doing anything to really make me cry these days.

On Monday, I had another Echo done so that the doctors could look at my heart and see how the blood clot was doing.  About an hour after I got back to my room, my cardiologist came upstairs to “see me with her own eyes” (her wording, not mine).  It seems that after all of that worrying we had done since Friday, the Echo showed that my blood clot was gone.  They didn’t know for sure where it seemed to be – either it had been broken down by the Heparin that they started or it had dislodged and passed into my lungs but in small enough pieces that it didn’t cause any problems.  My cardiologist was shocked and said that while this was the absolute best case scenario, she wasn’t expecting it at all because the clot was quite big in the pictures and they were pretty certain that it was going to cause way more problems.  She told the mom’s that they were still going to do the MRI that they had scheduled for Tuesday, just so they could see if it was in my lungs and to look at my brain to make sure there wasn’t any bleeding (because of my brain injury, Heparin can make bleeding in my brain more likely).

I had the MRI on Tuesday and that was a long day.  After it was all done, I really didn’t want to sleep and so I stayed up really late and even pulled out my Ng tube (I told you my hands were getting better!) just so that I could stay up late with Mama C.  The mom’s didn’t hear anything about the MRI results though until Wednesday morning.  That’s when my cardiologist came upstairs very quickly to let the mom’s know that they had decided to move me back down to the cardiac floor (my home!).  During the MRI, they were able to see my pulmonary veins (the one’s I talk about here…. http://gigglesandhugs.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/you-take-the-good-you-take-the-bad/).  It turns out that my surgeon tried to open up the veins a bit during my AVSD repair and they were hoping that this would buy me 6 months of time before it became an issue again.  In the end, that work only bought them 6 weeks of time.  On my left side, the lower pulmonary vein is completely dead and the upper one only has a tiny bit of blood flowing through it (about 10% of all the blood – my right side is filtering through the other 90%!  This isn’t fair to ask my right lung, especially without a lot of notice, so the hope is that they can fix my veins for a long enough time to allow my right lung to learn how to deal with all of that blood working it’s way through.

So, tomorrow morning at 9am, they’re going to come and take me to the catheter lab, where they will insert a catheter which will snake it’s way down to my vein and use a balloon and a stent to open it back up.  They don’t know how long this will last and they can’t even say what they would do for a “typical” child – because apparently this is incredibly incredibly rare (2 in every 10 thousand!) and so they take each case at with their own set of challenges.  The plan is to avoid a heart-lung transplant, which could be an option but only in a worst-case scenario.  Apparently the survival rate for infants/babies and transplants is pretty low, so we want to make sure, that if we get to the point where the doctor’s think a heart-lung transplant is my only option, I’m as big and strong and healthy as I can possibly be!