Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hope. It's in our genes!



Today is February 28th - RARE DISEASE DAY ...

We don't need to just wait and share our stories that "one day a year" ... we should all be sharing our stories all the time, and that's what I really try to do with the boys and their stories. (If you are going to read this - PLEASE PLEASE read all the way to the end.)

When a mom (and dad) find out they're pregnant, never in a million years do you think that you are going to be one of "those" people who have a child with medical issues. You don't expect to have complication, or premature births, genetic tests, life changing news .... words that no parent should ever have to hear and that just changes your whole world. All of it.

I fought a long heartbreaking battle to have the four boys I gave birth to. I was a teenage parent - I got pregnant with Calahan, but I immediately suffered a miscarriage, only finding out several weeks later I was still pregnant and it had been twins. After Calahan was born I had four more miscarriages, and I didn't have a pregnancy that stuck until he was five years old. This was Noah, but it was very clear that the pregnancy was not going as it should be very early on. Through an amnio we discovered that Noah has a very very rare genetic disorder called Mosaic Trisomy 16. If it had been full trisomy, he wouldn't be here, however; I was told repeatedly that he would not live regardless. He was born weighing only 1lb 12.2 oz and was 13 3/4 inches long. He proved them wrong and he thrived. After Noah I had seven more miscarriages before getting pregnant with Nathan. I had gotten a divorce from Noah's biological donor and met Dennis. Surely odds wouldn't be that I'd end up with another medically rare child. But that's exactly what happened. Nathan's pregnancy mimicked Noah's in so many ways, but was also pretty different. The amnio came back "clean" and unable to detect any sort of genetic issues. Though we found out he had a 2-vessel cord and something called "Dandy Walker" ... Nathan was born weighing 3lbs 4oz and was 15 3/4 inches long. He was born with a cleft palate and various other things. Regardless... what are the odds of having two significantly rare medically challenged children with two different dads? (I had one miscarriage after Nathan before I got pregnant wtih Kaedyn, and then three more after. 16 miscarriages, four biological boys, and the boy we adopted <3 - and DB's daughter whom we hope will come into our lives-)
Both boys have a long list of medical issues.....

NOAH'S MEDICAL ISSUES: 
Medical Issues we have dealt with that may not be a big concern at the moment: severe asymmetrical IUGR, low fluid, small poorly functioning placenta, heart deceleration, bilirubin in amniotic fluid, Low Micro-Preemie Birth Weight, On Vent for 40 hours, Brachycephaly craniosynostosis, enlarged right kidney, ASD & VSD (3 holes in his heart all together), eye pupils shaped like footballs, Hypospadious (fixed surgically at 1 year), Natural Circumcision, Hyperbilirubinemia, he had both Apnea and Bradycardia (Brady’s he had, Apnea he didn’t start until a few weeks before his due date)... Brain scan at one point showed some fluid on his brain that was later declared a "variation of normal", umbilical & double groin hernias (fixed surgically at 6 months), C-DIFF bacterial infection from antibiotics and started to go into Kidney Failure, Broken Nose, Gastro issues (vomiting same time every day for years) .... He has had surgeries to repair his hypospadious, hernias, and to put in ear tubes, also dental surgery... and he has been put in the hospital/put under for countless tests.
Medical Issues we are currently dealing with: Mosaic Trisomy 16, Glomerulonephritis & Hematuria (both kidney issues), Hearing Loss (in his left ear, he has a hearing aid). Ocular Hypertension (high pressure in his eyes). Fine Motor Delay, Mixed Receptive-Expressive Language Disorder, Anxiety, ADD, Dyslexia & Dysgraphia. He is on the spectrum (ASD) in the "Aspergers" range.... oral sensitivity issues (taste & texture)... sound sensitively issues... speech delays....low muscle tone, tone issues from his hips to his toes & Supinated feet, Sensory Processing Disorder, environmental allergies, braces (for both his teeth and his feet!), skin growths/moles that are being "watched," he has ongoing Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapies .... he homeschools due to having a poor immune system and catching everything he's around, missing more school than being there. Pre-Hypertension. Glaucoma.

NATHAN'S MEDICAL ISSUES: 
Medical Issues that we have dealt with and that we are currently dealing with: He is 7 years old (2014) and 28-30 lbs (depending on the scale) and 3 foot 4 inches (103 cm/40.6 in)…..In Nathan’s short little life, he had been diagnosed with the following: 2 Vessel Umbilical Cord, Low Birth Weight, Hypospadious, Natural Circumcision, Hyperbilirubinemia, Soft Cleft Palate/High Palate, Aortic Septal Defect (healed itself), Feeding Issues, Torticollis, Webbing of the fingers, Hydrocephalus, Bifid Uvula, Dandy Walker Variant (Missing Vermis in his cerebellum), Polymicrogyria (another brain malformation, meaning many folds, DR says the front of his brain looks like a bunch of grapes on MRI), Flat Feet, Tone Issues, Undescended Testicles, Russell-Silver Syndrome (a type of Primordial Dwarfism/growth disorder), Human Growth Hormone Deficiency, Scoliosis, Failure to Thrive, Apraxia of Speech, Non-Verbal, Seizures (when sick), Mild Hearing Loss, Velopharyngeal Insufficiency (VPI), Migraines, Asthma, Allergies and Autism. Broken Nose (2013)

In 2016 Nathan's diagnosis of Russell Silver Syndrome was taken away. He is currently and ongoingly going through extensive chromosome and genetic testing in hopes to give us a solid diagnosis. We have no "umbrella" diagnosis now but his Genetics doc is certain there is some sort of chromosome abnormality.

Age 9: weight is 45-47 lbs & 3 ft. 9 inches.
Things get added to the list, sometimes they change...... but this is a fact... something you only understand if you become one of these parents who are in this special community of other parents who "get it" because they've been through it themselves...

These children who have to live their lives knowing absolutely nothing more than the hand they were dealt, this isn't a "normal" but it is THEIR normal because it is all they know........ THESE KIDS teach us more than we could ever teach them, they bring MORE JOY into our lives then all the heart ache and worry ... It is a blessing to know these kids, to be their parents, to watch them grow, to have the honor of living their lives with them. It is an ABSOLUTE amazing thing to witness the MIRACLES that my children are and have been. The amount of PRIDE I couldn't even begin to express because I have watched these boys tackle things that adults can't handle and to step forward with fright hidden behind bravery ....

I wouldn't change them for anything - I wouldn't change one hair on their head - BUT not wanting to change who they are doesn't mean that as a parent of a special needs child you can't wish that things were different for them too. I don't like seeing my kids in pain - all the time, I want to scream every time I have to talk my child into allowing someone to do something to them that they are terrified of or that I know will hurt them, I would rather choke on begging them to be brave and watching the pleading in their eyes as waves of pain envelopes them. If I could *fix* those things that cause them pain and threaten their lives without changing anything about who they are as a person - I WOULD IN A HEARTBEAT.

I don't think people realize just how hard it is on a family to have to watch your children (sibling, grandchild, nephew/niece, etc) go through things like this - to live with the constant fear and worry that we go through. Sometimes it's hard to sit there and think "must be nice" to have such a "normal" life and not have to plan out every "what if" scenario that might happen when you leave the house just so you can be prepared.. just in case.

I have been accused of doing things like abusing my kids - making them sick on purpose (munchausen by proxy) - having people call CPS on us because they feel as if - not living in our house/living our lives - they know that our children need to be taken away because we are somehow causing their medical issues. I've had friends turn on me, family ignore me, and people just stop "caring" ... People start to complain about my being "too negative" because they don't like HEARING or READING about the boys medical issues. They feel I should focus on the positive things in our lives, and trust me - when I say - WE DO. Here is the difference. Because of our kids medical issues, our lives literally REVOLVE around the medical issues going on with our boys (and our family in general.) We don't CHOOSE to be negative - we are just expressing our everyday lives. You don't like it ....... imagine LIVING IT. This is OUR LIFE! So don't shame us, have little compassion and have some understanding. Sometimes - though - we need to vent about our day, our fears, all these things that worry us and the trials and hard things we go through on a daily basis.

I'm not saying we don't enjoy our lives, because we do. Even though our lives revolve a lot around medical stuff, I will take every day with doctors over not having my kids. We couldn't love our kids anymore than we do. It doesn't make our fears any less real. But every day is a blessing with these kids - because unlike most parents, they don't live by the motto ......

ENJOY EVERY SINGLE DAY BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE THE LAST .....

We do....and actually have it be a reality. #theBoyWhoLIved and #SuperNathan

(Thanks for reading.)











Saturday, January 28, 2017

It's that time of year....


I am entering the time period that I do, every year, where it's getting closer to Noah's birthday and I experience some ... I don't know how to explain it other than to say PTSD, because that's basically what it is. And I reflect. It never fails, it is always around now.

I think any parent, especially mother, who has had a difficult pregnancy, birth and watching their child with medical issues struggle, having to basically force and offer up your child to experience pain for their better good, it's hard. It's really really hard to have to hand your child off to someone and put your child's life in someone else's hands, it's terrifying.

As a mom, I don't fit in a box. Noah has a very strong certain diagnosis and Nathan does not. Nathan - who struggles with medical issues a lot more than Noah - has no box, he no longer fits in a group, and we just float around knowing there is some chromosome issue but not knowing what it is because it has not been found yet. But I don't have a group of mom's I can go to - to give and/or lend support. It's scary.

This time of year I always think of Noah, and reflect on my pregnancy and his birth.... which always leads into Nathan's pregnancy and birth too.

My pregnancy with Noah was really stressful for me. I had a five year old Calahan (who turned 6 right before Noah was born) and struggled through five years of secondary infertility, and at that point I had a total of five miscarriages. I found out that I was pregnant with Noah and a moment in my life where I wanted to leave my ex husband. My marriage was over that summer, but I spent several more years trying to "make it work."

Very early on, we realized things were not "right" with the pregnancy. By 16 weeks things had escalated to the point where it was highly suggested that I have an amnio to find out for sure what was wrong. Because something WAS wrong.

The day before Halloween that year, I was sitting in my doctor's little exam room with my ex husband, my mom, and my five year old son. In that moment, my life would change forever. I had no idea just how much my life would change.

And then my beloved doctor said the words.. "Well, the baby doesn't have Down's Syndrome or Spinia Bifida ... but he has something called Mosaic Trisomy 16."

Everything else literally fell on deaf ears. It was like, there was a buzz in my ears, in my brain, drowning out all the words ... all I could think was, there is something wrong with my baby, there is something wrong and I don't care. I am going to love this baby no matter what.
And then he said "Oh and by the way, it's a boy!" and I heard that.

A few short days later we met with another doctor at the hospital where Noah would end up being born, two hours away from home. He met with us in a larger room where meetings would likely take place. He sat us down ... me, my ex husband, my mother and my five year old son ... and he said things like "no quality of life" ... and .. "mentally and physically delayed" ... and ... "stillborn" ... "no chance of life" ... "possible 24 to 48 hours of life" ... and then he said, "I highly suggest that you interrupt your pregnancy."

Eight words. I thought, I can't interrupt my pregnancy... I'm only 19 weeks pregnant, I can't have him now because if I do, then he'll ... die.... and I realized what he was saying in that second. I realized he was telling me to kill my baby. He was suggesting I abort my child. The child I spent five years trying to have, the one I fought for, loved, cared for, desperately wanted... he was suggesting I don't even give him a chance.

I said .... "that isn't an option." It wasn't.

This doctor turned and looked at my (then) husband and said "And how do you feel about it."
In the half of a second it took me to think - I thought, it doesn't matter what he thinks, it's not his body.... and he said "I agree with her."

And I thought "wow" .... maybe he wasn't all bad...

The rest of my pregnancy I was told he would die. If he didn't die before he was born, he would die shortly after birth. If THAT didn't happen, he would die with in the first 24 to 48 hours. And if by some MIRACLE he did come home, he would be so mentally and physically delayed it wouldn't be worth it.

That was the speech I was given. The words burned into my brain.

"It wouldn't be worth it......"

I would go shopping, and I would find myself in the baby section looking at tiny little baby boy clothes, little boy stuff, toys, everything ... I was looking and I would pick something up and think or say, "I'm gonna buy this" and then my heart would sink, and I'd say ... no, not yet. I would put it back. I knew emotionally if that doctor was right, I would go home and see stuff, and I couldn't. I couldn't go home and be reminded ... I couldn't go home and have to deal with all the baby stuff. I just couldn't do it. So I didn't buy anything. My friend gave me a changing table. My mom got a bassinet, and a car seat/stroller combo... that was all we had basically. Most of the stuff I did have I got at Goodwill or garage sales ... but I couldn't see buying anything new.. .and I didn't buy much. I did get a diaper bag, that was pretty much it.

It broke my heart! I wanted so badly to be excited and experience the pregnancy that I deserved. It wasn't that kind of pregnancy though. It was filled with questions that couldn't be answered, a sense of being numb - protecting myself - and sadness. I had hope, I always had hope that he would beat the odds. My heart screamed he had to be okay, but my head said ... it could go either way.

My OB - the one I loved - never say one negative word about the baby. He never made me feel like he was going to die, or have issues... we made a birth plan, took birthing classes (again) and when the instructor said "Statistics say that every one in four women end up having a c-section, look around, who do you think in this room is going to end up having a c-section...." I stupidly raised my hand and said something like, "with my luck, it'll be me."

I made my doctor promise me, PROMISE ME, that if he thought Noah was going to die, that he deliver him. I wanted one thing - just one thing.... I wanted to hold him just once, breathing .... I would take whatever time I was blessed with - but I just needed to hold him once with breath and life in him.

So at 33 weeks, I was having contractions, I developed Pre-Eclampsia, Noah was having heart declarations, and things weren't seeming well inside my womb. I had told my Mom not to worry that Monday after my doctors appointment. But then the very next day I had to call her from my doctors office (they let me call long distance) and I was crying hard.... I said "Mom, you can worry now." They gave me the first of three shots in the office - to help his lungs mature - before telling me to go straight to the hospital. Don't pass go, don't collect 200 dollars, just go to the hospital.

A few days later Doc said it was time to go get him born, and he had to send me off to the hospital two hours away that could handle a baby that had medical issues and handle a small baby. So after a few days in the hospital - I got transported in an ambulance in a snow storm, two hours from home. I was thinking he would be about 4 lbs.

He said I would have him the following day, 2-2-02 .. the most awesome birthday ever, and he would share his birthday with my Mom. He was going to be her birthday gift.

But I got to the hospital and they did their own tests, and their tests showed things that were not good. His smaller than normal placenta was failing, and they weren't sure he would survive to the following day. I got to the hospital around noon, and at 3:45 PM ... Noah Alexander was born into the world.
I have major PTSD about his birth. The operating room was silent. You could hear a pin drop silent. They were preforming an emergency c-section and the doctor would make comments. But then the anesthesiologist started saying "3:45" over and over again, so I said "What is 3:45?" and he looks at me... and says, "That's when your baby was born."

There had been no cry, no sound, no announcement of "It's A Boy!" They didn't say anything, I didn't see him, I had NO IDEA that my baby boy had even been born. THERE WAS NOTHING.

I started crying uncontrollably ... I was trying so hard not to sob ... they were still inside my belly. They had taken my baby to a room, on the side of the operating room, the door was closed and I could see several people around what I could only assume was my son...

My baby was outside of my body, because my body was failing him, and I just wanted to see him, touch him, hold him - one time - just once - before he died. They were taking that from me! They were not going to respect my wishes. I wanted my baby and I couldn't even see him.

They closed me up, and took me to recovery. I laid in the bed, numb, and there were people who would come in and say things like.... "He is so cute!" ... "He's so handsome!" ... "He's looking around wondering what everyone is doing, taking in everything." ... "He's doing well" ... they listed off some issues with him, and it seemed like forever before I was given a weight.... he was 1lb 12.2oz and 13 3/4 inches long.

He was born at 3:45pm ... my Mom, ex-husband, and his mom got to all see him around 7pm (because they weren't numb from the chest down. I didn't get to see him until 9pm that night. Six hours later.

He was so tiny. I couldn't believe how tiny his little hands were, his toes ... he had the cutest button nose, and a little bit of blonde hair... I could hold him in one hand... he wouldn't all fit in my hand, but he was so tiny. He was hooked up to this and that, he was on a ventilator, and at first he had an IV in his head. But he was so tiny.

And you know what? He didn't die. 40 hours after his birth, his breathing tube was removed because he was doing it all on his own. 1lb 11oz at that point in time and he was breathing 100% on his own with no assistance. My little boy was kick ass stubborn.... nursed and doctors would go by and say "Why is this baby off the vent?" ... it's not often you see a 1 to 2 pound baby without a breathing tube.
He was quickly labeled a "feeder grower" meaning the only reasons he was in the NICU was to prove he could eat and to grow and gain weight. There were a few bumps in our NICU stay, but he came home the day after his St. Patricks Day due date.

Life has been bumpy, he has been in and out of the hospital - not very often though - and countless tests. We had to live by the motto that "anything can happen at any time and we could lose him" ... but recently I was told that we could breath with that - Noah's good. He has his health issues, but he didn't feel we needed to live by that motto anymore.

I call him "The Boy Who Lived" ... he is my first little miracle and not many people can say that they have met or seen a miracle. There are a ton of miracles out there ... preemies that beat the odds, kids with crazy scary medical issues that beat the odd... and even the ones who lost their fights - doesn't make them any less a miracle.

Noah beat his odds. He is amazing and I am so blessed. Not a day goes by where I don't think how lucky I am to have my four amazing boys, to be able to love and guide our two boys with medical issues. Regardless of the death scares and everything else.... we are lucky to have these boys in our lives. They teach us so much more than we could ever teach them.

If you read this far, you deserve a gold star for the day.