Friday, February 6, 2015

Heart Cath #8

Hi!  Harlie and I drove up to DC today for Harlie's heart cath.  I think this is number eight for her.

It was a crazy morning, as usual.  I don't know why I tell you so much about my life that might not be pretty (or outright embarrassing).  

Anyway, Tom loaded my car this morning and made me an egg sandwich to go.  So, I loaded Harlie up and we left right after Tom and the boys left to walk to school.  Before I got out of the neighborhood, I realized I forgot to leave some money for Kelly (my niece).  She is helping with the boys and the dog since I am away (and helps me throughout the week, too).  So, I turned the car around and headed back home.  But, I happened to see Tom with the dog headed back towards the house on a different road.  So, I thought I'll give him the money so I don't have to get out of the car.  So, I turned around again to get to him.

Then I headed out again.  After a few minutes I started to eat my egg sandwich.  And the yolk spilled out on my sweater.  Of course I didn't have any napkins.  As I'm driving, I feel around my console and find a glove.  So, I tried to use that.  So not pretty!  I took the next exit and went through a drive through for some napkins.  After rubbing some napkins on my sweater, the napkin fell apart and left a bunch of white fibers on my sweater.  It looked worse!  After leaving that parking lot, I turned right when I should have turned left.  Ugh!  I just could not get myself straight!!!  

While I was waiting to make a u-turn, it hit me that I didn't put the suction machine in the car.  Oh heavens.  So, I called Tom and asked him if he put it in the car.  No.  Unfortunately not.

This day was not off to a good start.  I think it's safe to say that I am officially out of practice of trotting off to the hospital.  Overall, not a bad thing.

After sitting at the red light for a minute I reasoned with myself that we hardly ever actually use the suction machine anymore.  Now that she's capped so much during the day, we go days without needing it.  So, I just had to get to the hospital, and then I'll just have to make it home.  Should only be a few hours total without it.

On the way up, I talked to my friend Mike about the HOV (it's now a toll road, and I didn't know how that worked).  So, he gave me the details and I told him about my morning.  He told me I should just stop at Target and grab a sweater.  Exit 143, he said.  So I did.  I ran in, grabbed a sweater and ran out.  Quickest (and cheapest) Target trip I've EVER had.  

Made it to the hospital and checked in.  All's well.  Then I take Harlie to the restroom and I look in the mirror.  I have egg in my hair!  I ran through Target, with egg in my hair!!  I checked in, with egg in my hair!!  Geez.  I'm a mess.  Sometimes, I don't know how I do so well by Harlie.  She's where all my good stuff goes.  Then Tom and the boys.  I get the crap that's left over.  Which leaves me with freaking egg in my hair.  Maybe it's time for a hair cut.

So, we got all settled and waited for them to take us back.  Heather, our social worker, came by and brought Harlie a TMNT blanket.  She said she's been saving it just for her!  Isn't that so sweet?!



Oh, and we had another first today.  During the drive up, Harlie told me she was hungry.  This is the first time she's ever told me she's hungry before a surgery.  I was thinking it might happen.  So, I set my alarm for 3am so I could tube her a can of food before the cut off time of 4am.  I am so glad I did that now.  Maybe that helped a bit.

They had an emergency, so we were delayed getting taken back.  We were supposed to go at 11am, but didn't go until 2pm.  All that time and Harlie was SO good and SO patient!  Other than telling me she was hungry a few times, she didn't complain.  But I was STARVING.  I thought I was going to pass out or kill someone.  I struggled, for sure.  At one point she pointed to her heart and said, "heart." So I said, "Yes, you're having a heart procedure." And then she said, "Where's the doctor?"  I had to chuckle.  She was ready to get the show on the road.  I am totally loving this more mature Harlie-girl.  She is really growing up.  

They let me go back with her.  And I stayed until she fell asleep.  She was amazing!  Didn't cry, complain or fuss.  She climbed over from the stretcher to their table.  And was totally comfortable doing so.  My how things have changed.


After a few hours, her doctor came out and gave me a report.  Last year her pressures measured 24 (which is on the high side).  This year, her pressures measured 17!!!  Woohoo!  What a great improvement.  We'd love for her to be under 15, but I'm totally happy with 17, all things considered.  He will give me a detailed report in a week or so.  But, I think he said that her lung numbers were the same as last year.  But, overall, her sats were higher today than last year.  Which totally makes sense considering she was on oxygen last year, and she's not now.

Yesterday I took her to her pre op appointment with her pediatrician.  He said she looked the best he has ever seen her.  Her social worker and doctor said the same thing today.  She really is doing fantastic.  She's energetic, playful, and engaging.  She's a completely different kid than she was last year at this time.

As hard as it was to make the decision, and accept that she shouldn't attend school, I think it paid off.  She's the healthiest she's ever been.  I can't help but think that everything is related.  Now I am so glad we did it.  I still wish we could have it all - health and school.  But, when forced to choose between the two, I'd choose health every time.

So, a great report!  I'm happy.  And, even though she's not allowed to bend at the waist (for six hours following the heart cath), Harlie's happy, too.


Her nurse bandaged up Mikey just like her.  So cute!  She's asking for water and TV.  So, all's well!  We will stay overnight and head home sometime tomorrow.

And Kelly shared this pic of Murphy from today...


I didn't even know he had a loose tooth!  Murphy and I went to his future middle school last night for a curriculum fair.  He has an elective and can choose between a few things.  So, he talked to some girls who are in chorus now.  They were so darn cute!  And very excited about chorus!  One girl said, "You get to go on field trips to Kings Dominion!"  He said, "I like what I'm hearing." He cracks me up.  He also listened to a girl from strings, and the band teacher.  He said "no way" to foreign language.  I think he's leaning towards band.  I can't believe he's going to be in sixth grade next year!
Anyway, that's it for tonight.  Thank you for all the love today!

Much love,
~Christy xo

Sunday, February 1, 2015

My dream.

I had a dream last night.  It's been on my mind all day.

I was in a children's hospital.  I don't know which one (we've been in four).  But, in the dream, somehow I got separated from Tom and Harlie.  And I didn't have my cell phone with me.  So I couldn't call Tom.  And I couldn't remember why we were there or who we were seeing.

Was it her heart?  Her lungs?  Her back?  Her GI system?  ENT? Craniofacial?  Infectious Diseases?

So many departments!  How was I ever going to find them?

I was just walking around the hospital, feeling so overwhelmed.  And LOST.

And then I walked into a waiting room (I have no idea which one) and I saw my dear friend Susan, her husband Steve, and their daughter, Ainsley.  They live in Washingston (the state) and if we were to ever be in the same area, I hope we would know about it and we would see each other.  So, the likelihood of us just running into each other is highly unlikely!

The next thing I know I am waking up from a nap in a hospital chair, thinking, "Why am I sleeping?  I need to be finding Harlie and Tom!  But, I'm SO sleepy!"  The chair.  The hospital blankets.  So incredibly familiar.

Then I woke up.

At first, I thought it was funny.  But, after just a few minutes, I realized it made me sad.  It's sad that there are SO many departments that we have to deal with.  It's sad that there are so many doctors, so many hospitals, so much history.  IN. JUST. EIGHT. YEARS.

I wonder if having this dream has anything to do with the fact that on Friday, I got her date for her heart cath (scheduled for next Friday, Feb. the 6th).  It will be in DC.  As much as I want to be able to stay here for as much as we can, I just don't think I'm ready.  I'm afraid to make a change where a change isn't absolutely necessary.  It's kinda brainless going to DC.  I know it.  I know where she'll go after the cath (the heart and kidney unit).  It's "the floor" for cardiac kids.  It's where she'll go if she doesn't have problems and doesn't need the ICU.  I know the rooms have a TV, with movies and a remote control.  And they have a bathroom with a shower in the room.  It's comfortable for her AND for me.  There's also a playroom right down the hall for your kid to get toys, games and books to play with while they're in the hospital.

These are not things we would get if we stayed here.  There is no heart and kidney unit.  There is no "floor" for Harlie.  If she's not in the ICU, she would be in the Progressive Care Unit, which is one big open room with patient beds separated by curtains - and it's horrible.  It really is.  I mentioned the remote control earlier because you are lucky if you get one when you're there.  And you still have to hear the television in the spot next to you, just inches away, separated by a curtain.  I swear one time, the parent next to us was watching Jerry freaking Springer at 11pm.  I wanted to kill myself.  I've heard other parents burp and fart.  All while hearing children cry, cough, throw up - and every beep on every monitor or piece of equipment in the entire unit.  It's enough to make a mom go crazy.

Please know I'm not talking about the care you get while there.  I love our local hospital and our doctors.  But, that particular unit's environment is horrible.

So, I stay when I can, and I go when I have to.  And that leaves us without a "home" hospital.  Which kind of explains part of my dream.  Sometimes, it hits me hard just how many challenges Harlie has to live with.  Even while I'm sleeping.

Much love,
Christy xo


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Disney World. Day 1.

Day 1 - Saturday, December 6th

Our flight left at 8am from Richmond to Orlando, direct.  Our friend Chris was nice enough to get up super early in the morning and drive us to the airport so we wouldn't have to pay for parking.  So nice!  Thanks Chris!

We flew Southwest and it was, by far, the absolute best flight EVER.  First of all, we were beginning our Disney vacation.  So, it was probably going to be the best anyway.  But, Southwest took it up a bunch of notches by entertaining us the whole way down.

Here are some examples:

1.  During the safety briefing, when they discuss the life vest, the guy said, "and in the event of a water landing... gooooood luck."  Followed by, "Swim to the nearest land and we'll be right behind you with the beer and liquor."

2.  At one point he was talking about traveling with kids, and he said something like, "If you're traveling with one child"...something or other (I don't remember) and he went on to say, "If you're traveling with more than two children... what were you thinking?"

3.  Out of the blue (after there had been some minutes of silence) he announces, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I just saved 15% by switching to Geico."

4. "We will be turning the lights down so hopefully you will rest and not bother us."

5.  During takeoff, he broke out into song, singing, "Rolling...  Rolling down the runway."  Everyone started clapping and singing "rolling" when it was our turn.  It was hysterical.

6.  When we landed, they said, "Whoa, Nellie!" and played a sound effect of a horse clopping.  It was really funny.

The entire flight was entertaining from start to finish and these are just a few I can remember right now.








We traveled there with our friends Mike and Marcy and their son Kaden.  Maggie (my niece) was supposed to go with us, but her grandmother passed away a few days prior, so she couldn't leave then.  It felt so weird to be so excited about this trip when Maggie and her mom's family were feeling something entirely different.  Maggie's grandmother was a wonderful, kind and fun loving woman.  She will be very missed.

Once we landed in Orlando, I took Harlie to the bathroom.  When we were leaving the bathroom, a girl was coming in and looked at Harlie and said, "Oh hi Harlie!"  I was so surprised!  I didn't know her, so it was crazy that she knew who Harlie was.  Can you imagine?  She went on to introduce herself to me and she said that she went to high school with Tom.  Small world!

Then, we called our friends Mike and Laura (and their girls Vivian and Chelsea).  They flew down from Pittsburgh the night before and were there waiting for us.  So, we all met up, went and picked up our two rental vans and headed to lunch.

We went to lunch at a restaurant called Columbia.  It was really good.  They made a pitcher of sangria at the table and it was delicious and the perfect way to start a vacation.



Then we walked down the street and found a fountain.  The kids were not dressed appropriately to play in a water fountain.  But, that did not stop them.  My boys were in jeans and tennis shoes and they got soaking wet.  We let it go because, well, we were on vacation.  As my friend Jenny said about her recent Disney vacation, "It was a week of yes's."  And we started then.  They had a blast, and we had fun just watching.




Then we headed to check in at the house.  And oh, what a house!  This place was amazing!





















Renting this house was awesome.  It insured that no matter where we were (at a Disney park - or at "home") we were guaranteed to have fun.  Best. Vacation. Ever.

I set up an oxygen tank delivery with an Orlando medical equipment company.  It was a little confusing because I gave the rental company the wrong address.  After a stressful conversation with the delivery driver (not his fault since I had no idea where he was or it's relation to the house we rented) we got it straight and all was well.  I did panic there for a second since it was Friday and delivery had to happen that day.  It all got worked out though.  Whew!

So, when we arrived at the house, the oxygen and other equipment I rented was already there and ready to go.  So nice!

The rest of Saturday, we hung out in the house and let the kids explore and play and swim, of course.



Harlie was ecstatic about the movie room.  Seriously, she loves her movies.  And the guys went shopping to stock up for the week.  It actually makes me sad to think about it.  I so wish I could be back there during that time.  You know, when the rest of the week is ahead of you.  Best. Vacation. Ever.

Day 2, coming soon!

Much love,
Christy xo

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A little of a lot.

Since it's been so long since I've updated you on Harlie, I'll start there.

Her heart

It has been over a year since her last heart cath (it was in December 2013).  I feel like a lot has changed since then, which is good. She had her pacemaker adjusted and she's been able to spend some good time on room air. I'm hoping that means good things for how her lungs are doing.

So, right now I'm working on getting a date for a heart cath soon. I didn't want to have to worry about it with our Disney trip in December. I thought it wasn't smart to get it done before - what if something happened during the cath that would've prevented her from going or what if we got bad news?  So, we decided to wait until after the holidays.

It's interesting to look back at my decisions sometimes. In 2013, I wanted her to have the heart cath, despite the fact that it was done on December 13th. I could have thought it was too risky to go into the hospital so soon before Christmas - what if something happened during the cath that would've prevented her from being home for Christmas or what if we got bad news? Instead, I had hope and thought, what if they can do something that could get her off the oxygen before Christmas?

I think I'll always have a glimmer of hope.  But, I also think after eight years of reality slapping me in the face, I can't deny that things don't always work out the way I want them to.  Let's just say that I've gotten a lot of practice in learning to live with disappointment.

Her back

Anyway, another area I need to work on is her back.  The last time we saw her orthopedic surgeon (a year or two ago, I can't remember) she said that when Harlie complains about back pain regularly, we need to do something. She really did not want to do another surgery.  She would rather wait until she grows more (like when she turns 12 or so). But, if Harlie is in constant pain, waiting wouldn't really be an option.  The pain is most likely due to the area in her spinal fusion that became infected. The infection forced her surgeon to remove the bone graft and didn't allow for optimal healing.  Doesn't this just look like it could be painful?


It's so gnarly because after it got infected, they had to put a wound vac in it for several days.  And she had to go into the OR several times for debridement.  It was a horrible time.

Anyway, at this point, she complains about back pain almost every single day.  Some days are really bad and she might tell me that her back hurts ten times. For a while I asked her if we needed to go to the doctor and she would say no. Until one day, she said yes. That means she's pretty serious.

Then, when we were in Disney, I noticed that she would sit in her wheelchair while leaning to her left.  And, about six months or so ago, she stopped using alternating steps while going up or down the stairs.  We worked really hard in physical therapy and at home to remind her to take alternating steps.  And for a while, she would point out to me when she was doing it without being asked (so she was proud of herself).  But then it just stopped.  And she absolutely refuses to do it.  Period.

So, something is up. Darn it.  So, I'm working on getting that appointment scheduled, too.

Sleep Study

Another thing I need to think about is getting a sleep study date.  We've been toying with doing this for years and have yet to accomplish it. I'm pretty sure that my reasons for/against a sleep study are more complicated than I would like them to be.

We've been able to cap her some lately, which is nice. And the other night she asked to sleep with her trach mask around her nose and mouth instead of it being around her neck. I took advantage, and switched the trach mask for a face mask and capped her.  That way she would get what she wanted, and oxygen, too.  She fell asleep like that just fine and maintained good sats for a while.  But, I had a hard time sleeping knowing that she was capped without proper monitoring. So, around 1am I got up and took the cap off and returned her to a trach mask. She was making some noise (almost like snoring - definitely some obstruction noise), but her sats were at 84 instead of 91. Not sure if that means anything really. I just don't know.  I suppose we should do it, just to get some sort of data, if nothing else. But, I'm just not excited about anything having to do with it.  And decannulation (getting the trach out) isn't that simple. She has so many other issues.  I'm just afraid (among other things) that it might complicate another thing or that it will be temporary.  Anyway, far too deep of a discussion for today. So, as usual, I put off the decision for another day.

Hearing Aid

We finally got in to see her audiologist a few weeks ago.  We haven't seen her in far too long. But, as it turns out, it's been FIVE years since she got her very first hearing aid.  I can't believe it.  It almost feels like it happened yesterday. Anyway, she's due for a replacement.  Apparently they don't last much longer than that.  So, she got a mold of her ear and got to pick out another aid.


She puts this foamy stuff in her ear and lets it harden.  Then pulls it out to send it to the company to have the ear piece made.


She picked out a pink hearing aid (the one she has now is purple).  It should come in soon.  Oh, the things we find exciting!

Nursing

Another new thing for us is our nurse, Terri is back.  Harlie was happy to see her.  Terri hasn't worked here in a little over a year.  We missed her. We also made another change and let the nurse that was sharing the week with Brandy, go. I can't go into details, but I just felt like I had no other choice.  We've been so incredibly lucky with our home health nurses that I've never really felt like complaining about having nurses that much.  I mean, the requirement of needing them totally sucks and I don't know a soul that would argue with me there.  But, we've had such wonderful people that I've always felt good about it. They allow me to live as normal of a life as possible and I am eternally grateful for that.

But, home health nursing is a weird arrangement. The nurse is employed by a company. But they work in a patient's home. So, as a patient's mother, I am not their boss.  But, I have a say in what they do with my daughter. It is such a gray area. And when you want to make a change in nursing staff, you tell the agency, who then tells them.  There is no notice given to the nurse.  Which stinks for them. I shouldn't have to explain that it's just not smart to give a nurse notice. It puts the patient and patient's family in a vulnerable position.  But, typically in this business, there usually is another family who needs help.  It always seems like there are more patients than there are nurses.

So, making this change back to Terri wasn't as well received by one nurse.  And she sent me a horribly ugly message a couple of weeks later.  It was upsetting to read. It's clear she didn't like me and judged me poorly in a number of ways.

Think about that for a minute.

Someone was in my HOME for over a year, and was a caregiver to my child with limited communication abilities (whom I love more than words could convey) - and didn't like me.  Judged me.  Doesn't that sound horrible?  One should never have to have someone like that in their home.  I feel so violated.  Can you imagine having someone in your home watching you parent?  And judging how you live your life?  Ugh!  It's an awful thought! As if our life isn't painful enough anyway.  I keep thinking about some of the things she said and how we never asked for any of this. I wish we never needed a nurse. I love our nurses, but I would have been perfectly happy having three healthy children and never meeting them in the first place.

So, for now, I am done with strangers.  I would rather go without than having to start over with someone new right now.

Independence

On Monday, the kids didn't have school.  And we didn't have a nurse scheduled.  So, after Harlie's teacher came in the morning, I took all three kids - all by myself - to the mall.  I've never done that before. Harlie got a Build a Bear gift card for Christmas and all three had some Christmas money to spend.  So, we went and Harlie picked out Mikey, the TMNT, of course.


And Cooper picked out Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon.



Then, we went to Toys R Us and let them spend the rest of their money.  Murphy picked out two Disney Infinity characters, Cooper picked out some Trash Pack things with what he had left over after getting Toothless, and Harlie picked out a Baby Alive baby with a toothbrush and toothpaste.  They were all very happy.  Then we went home.  Success!  It's times like these - just being a regular mom, and not a special needs mom - that I've lost.  I'm ready to do more of that, and less medical stuff.

Feeding

Oh, and I almost forgot... another milestone for Harlie! I think I can officially say, that after eight years, Harlie finally knows what hunger is.  Wow!  She will tell me that she's hungry and will let me feed her.  YAY!  It doesn't happen every feeding, of course.  But, I will take it!  I'm very happy about this development.

My nephew

I've been able to spend some good quality time with this little guy lately...


His name is Chase, and he is my younger brother and his fiancee's baby.  He's about to be six months old. He's super cute.  And I've been keeping him a couple of days a week for the last few weeks.


Harlie took this picture.
She cracks me up.
Harlie loves him and helps me throughout the day.  She gets me his clothes and diapers and wipes.  And always makes sure he has a toy within reach. Last night, I wanted to get a pic of the two of them together.


And she decided she needed her eye patch.


And he clearly thought she was crazy.


Rooney might be a little jealous.


Or he saw that my arm had no support, so he came to my rescue.  Either way, he's such a good dog and is so tolerant.  Chase likes to grab his hair, and he just takes it.  Just another reason why Pugs are so great.  Man, I love that dog!

Okay, I think that's all I can do today.  Chase will wake up from his nap anytime now.  I have another post already started.  I am trying really hard to work this blogging thing back into my life.  I missed it!

Thank you for reading!
~Christy xo

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Disney World. Thank You.

Ahhh, Disney World.  Where do I begin?

First, I want to say thank you.  I have struggled for weeks thinking about what I was going to say in this post.  I mean, how do you begin to thank people for this kind of generosity!?

I do not think I will ever be able to convey how great of a gift this was for our family. To all who supported this trip and helped make it happen in any way, we will remain eternally grateful for your love and generosity.  We had an absolute fantastic time and we have a boat load of wonderful memories to keep forever. It was a wonderful week on so many levels.  Harlie did great, and only needed oxygen now and then versus all the time.  And, I suppose we have the Disney magic to thank for this, but she had NO accidents the entire time we were there!  It was a Disney miracle!

I am excited to share more details.  But, that will be a longer post for sure.  So, I'll start with this message of gratitude and just a few pictures.  I am going to try very hard to post more often now, with shorter posts.  It's my new year's resolution.  And today's the 14th.  Not a great start.  But, it IS a start.  And sometimes that's the hardest step.

Here we are at the castle at Magic Kingdom.  This was taken on Friday, our last day.  The first day we went to Magic Kingdom was Monday, but it was very rainy that day.  So, no pics.  But, despite the cold temperatures and the rain, we still had a wonderful time.


This is our entire group.  What a fun bunch!  Everyone was so helpful with each other and with Harlie.    


This was later on that evening.  The lights were on, and it was beautiful.  Later on, Queen Elsa "froze" the castle and it was awesome.  I'll share those pics later.


This was a magical moment - Harlie meeting Princess Tiana.  She is the princess from The Princess and the Frog.  She was the only person (or character) that Harlie wanted to meet.  Period.  We got so lucky and arrived at her spot right after she stopped for a break.  The cast member manning the line told us we had to wait an hour till she came back.  Then Laura said, "Well, my girls don't need to meet her, but Harlie really wants to."  And then she stepped aside and let him see Harlie.  He looked down at Harlie in her cute little wheelchair and paused.  Then he said, "Okay, go to the exit and you can meet her."  Yay!  So, we were the only ones there and she took her time with us.  I just can't say enough wonderful things about that woman.  She was so warm and caring towards Harlie.  I had to hold back tears the entire time we were with her.  Just look at this picture!  Harlie is making eye contact with her - with no instruction to do so.  It was so incredibly amazing.



Isn't she beautiful?!
When we were leaving her, I tried to get Harlie to sign "Nice to meet you."  So, Princess Tiana got down on Harlie's level and finger spelled it back to her.  That's over Harlie's head (for now) but she saw that she was signing and we were blown away.  It was a wonderful, wonderful moment.  I give Laura all the credit for making this happen.  Harlie was saying "no" to meeting everyone until Laura asked her and then made it happen.  She was a master at navigating Disney.  I gave Laura a list of what I thought Harlie would enjoy and she made it happen!  Thank you, Laura!

I have so many more photos and stories I want to share.  But, I will stop for now.  And I will try super hard to post again tomorrow.

Much Love,
Christy xo