Friday, August 1, 2014

Vacation in June and an Update

So long without a post!  Ugh!  Our life is full and busy, which is good I suppose.  But, to be honest, blogging about it hasn't been appealing to me for a long time.  I have been in a crummy place for a while now.  And time.  Time is such an issue.  My office has been taken over by Harlie's schooling and the kids watching Minecraft videos.  What in the hell is up with that?  I just do NOT understand that game.  And between my part-time job (granted, very part-time) and it being summer with the kids home, it's extremely difficult to get in front of the computer.

Anyway, I'll just start talking and see where it takes me...

Vacation, June 14-21

We went on vacation to Lake Anna with my family the week after school let out.  Tom had to work most of the week, so he wasn't there much.  Luckily, since it's only about an hour away, I had nursing for the week.

It was so great to spend time with siblings and my nieces and nephews.  They are such a fun group of kids and we just don't get to see each other as much as I would like.  So, that part was great.  The part that wasn't so great was how little Harlie was around us.

When we got there (it was a big house on the lake, with a really nice boat house) we found this float? tube? not sure exactly what it is intended for, but it was perfect for Harlie.  It had a mesh bottom, so it basically became a kiddie pool in the lake for her.


In that picture she wanted to sit in an additional float, just for fun, I guess.  Anyway, this was a perfect solution to keep her cool on hot days.  Although, to be honest, it's hard to relax around water with Harlie.  It's never far from my mind that everything could change in an instant.  Especially in lake water!  Oh, and someone told me after that week that kids with g-tubes shouldn't be in lake water because of the risk of parasites or something.  Awesome.  Luckily, there were no issues.  But, sheesh!  What's a girl with a trach and g-tube supposed to do for fun?!?!

Anyway, we got there on Saturday and she only spent some of Saturday and Sunday in the float.  After that it got too hot for her.  And some dragon flies came out, and she was done after that.  The girl does not like bugs of any kind.  The rest of the week she spent in the house with her nurse.  In the room where she was sleeping there was a TV with a DVD player.  She thought it was pretty cool to lay in bed and watch movies all day.  While that KILLS me, I try really hard to look at it from her perspective, and if she doesn't get to do that at home, I suppose that's what vacation is all about.

The other thing was that the house was not very close to the water.

Here's the view of the house from the dock.


And here's a view of the house and boat house from the water.


We took a wagon to help get Harlie and her stuff from the house to the dock.  But, with the oxygen concentrator, suction machine, etc., it was labor intensive to get her there and back.  And it was a hot week.  And Harlie just can't handle the heat.  Even when she goes into the water, she can't get her head wet.  So, it doesn't have the same cooling affect like it does for us when we can just jump in.  Anyway, it made me sad that she couldn't be with us, enjoying the same things we were enjoying.  And then I felt guilty for spending so much time away from her.

I know she still had fun.  She is always happy, that's for sure.  And I had a great time, too.  I got plenty of down time, and quality time with my family (minus my husband, unfortunately).  And I even got in all of my training runs!  Which I think is pretty impressive considering it was super hot, not good running terrain and I had my fair share of coconut mojitos.

Harlie got to fish, which was pretty much all she wanted to do.

Harlie's first fish!  And the only bass caught that week!



This girl cracks me up.

Dawn and Harlie

Cooper got in on the action, too!
My Mom and Dad got to ride jet skis...

My Mom (taking time off from chemo) and brother, Bruce.
It was awesome to see her have fun!

My Dad.

My Dad and Tom.
We went tubing.  Which is crazy.  Because I am just too old for that crap.


I am way too afraid of hurting myself.  I'm just not into that.  I thought that since I was on the tube with the FIVE year old, I was safe.  Apparently I was wrong.


I mean, look at this!  Poor Murphy!


Okay, maybe he thought that was fun.



Now, here's where it got real.  My new, and only pair of "nice" sunglasses that I've ever owned (that Tom got me for Mother's Day), flew off my head, never to be seen again!  I have included this picture for your enjoyment only.  Not mine.  Just look at the agony/fear on my face!!!


Yes, they told me not to wear them.  Did I listen?  No.  I repeat, I was on the tube with the FIVE year old, I thought it was going to be a nice, leisurely ride.  Clearly, I thought wrong.  


Apparently, while I may be tough on the inside - I'm a wimp when it comes to water sports.  And now I'm back to wearing cheap Target sunglasses.  Oh, the agony!!!

We sat on the dock and watched a storm come in.  We waited till the last second and then ran for the house.


One night for dinner we went via boat/jet ski to a restaurant on the water.  It was a night when Tom wasn't there and I didn't have a nurse.  The boys went on the fast boat, and Harlie and I went on the pontoon boat.  She loved it.



My niece, Jordan, just because I thought
this was such a good picture of her. 

Bruce and Nancy on the jet ski next to us.
When we docked at the restaurant, I realized we didn't have Harlie's chair.  So, she tried to walk.  But it was far.  So, everyone helped me by carrying something (her suction machine, my bag, her oxygen tank) so I could carry her.  It really wasn't that far.  But, it was to her.  And it makes me so sad to see how little endurance she has.  Any exertion at all is taxing on her and she just can't do it.  One second you feel great, enjoying a boat ride, and the next you get a slap in the face at the gravity of your daughter's heart and lung crappiness.  Sometimes it just sucks more than others.

Our last day was Friday.  Tom had to work and could only come out for half the day.  He brought Rooney with him.  So, he got to spend some time on the lake.

Not too far out in the water there was a table and volley ball net.  So, we played a game of beer pong.  Or two.  The under-aged kids just watched, of course.


Me and my beautiful nieces, Kelly, Maggie and Jordan.
Cooper with Poppy (my Dad).

Tom and I with the boys and Rooney.

Doesn't Murphy look so old in this picture?
Skinny.  But, old.

And Rooney liked it, too.

As did Harlie, of course.

I could so do lake living.



When Tom first got there around lunch time on Friday, he pulled into the driveway and him and Rooney came straight to the dock.  Harlie was inside with Dawn.  I was so excited to see if Rooney could swim that we put him immediately in the water to see what he could do.  He can swim, I just don't think he really enjoyed it that much.  So, I took a very short video on my cell phone and we didn't make him do it again.  Then Tom went up and got Harlie and brought her down, so she could see Rooney.

Hours later, we played and packed up and left.  Harlie and Rooney were in my car and the boys were in Tom's truck.  Harlie wanted to see the pictures on my phone (something she likes to do) so I gave it to her as we were leaving the house.  She came across the video of Rooney swimming and started to cry.  Like a legit, "I'm so sad and disappointed" kind of cry.  I turned to look at her and she said/signed, "Mama, I want to see."  She missed it.  She was in the house when Rooney was in the lake.  And she missed it.  And she knew it.  It's moments like these that kill me.  If her body were stronger - she would have been playing outside with the rest of us and she would have been right there.  With little to no effort.  Instead, just playing outside can be too much for her.  UGH!!!  How did this happen?!  Why?!???  Such futile questions.  It just sucks.  Plain and simple.

There's a bunch of other stuff I want to tell you about, but this is already pretty long, so I'll finish with a "quick" update on Harlie, medically speaking.

I can't remember if I already told you about Harlie's decreasing heart rate.  But, just in case, we realized in May that her heart rate was slower than it used to be.  And hanging out around 60 bpm during the day.  Seemed pretty low to me.  Her pacemaker was set to fire if her heart rate dipped to 50 while she slept, and 60 during the day.  If her heart rate was hanging around 60, that meant it was because her pacemaker was doing the work.

So, on June 25th, we went in to see her cardiologist.  He read her pacemaker and agreed, it was too low.  Basically, due to her heart disease, they expected that her heart would need the pacemaker full-time eventually.  Which, is where she is now.  He said that her heart was working on it's own only 12-14% of the time.  I think since she's now at a place where the pacemaker is taking over, he has more room to control it.  They've always wanted her heart to do what it could on it's own, then be assisted by the pacemaker.  It has been a struggle since her heart initiates a beat from all over her heart, at random paces.  So, the pacemaker couldn't predict what her heart was going to do.  Now, I think he can just set her pacemaker to do what is best, and it's pretty much taken over full function.

After making some adjustments, he said to make her walk up and down the hallway a few times so he could see what happens.  Brandy took her so I could chat with him without Harlie being able to hear us.

I want to know how long we have before things get bad.  But, he can't tell me that, of course.  I asked him what I should be doing and he said there's nothing I can do to change the way her lungs are.  Maybe her left lung will be strong enough to support her one day.  Who knows?  But, eventually, we will be at a place where our only hope/option will be a heart and lung transplant.  If only he could tell me when.  He said he would want us to think long and hard before going down that road.  It's a hard road, with a lot of pain for her, and not good outcomes.

I told him I can usually stay positive, but this latest info is kicking my ass.  I guess her doctors could tell that I had so many hopes and dreams for her.  I really thought she - we - were going to conquer all her challenges and one day, live a normal life.  I suppose from a medical professional perspective (who has seen way more than I ever have) they could see that I was living in la-la land.  The odds are just so against her.  There are too many challenges with too many of her body parts.  All it takes is one to go the wrong way...

I have never thought of her conditions as being "terminal."  Except when I was pregnant with her.  I knew the odds were stacked against her then, for sure.  But, it really seemed like after that, she could beat it.  We've never done anything crazy to keep her alive.  Just a whole bunch of surgeries.  None of them insane.  Sure, her leg bone is in her face.  But, even that's just another surgery day at Boston Children's Hospital.

But this?  When we get to the point where we really need to make a decision about this heart and lung transplant.... that seems insane.

And all my hopes up until now were fixable things.  Like, maybe another, different, jaw surgery will be the ticket to a better airway.  After this heart surgery, her heart will be better.  After spinal fusion surgery, her back will be better.  But, now, I have to hope that her left lung will just be able to handle the workload?  Even though right now, it can't.  At 7, and 46 pounds, it needs help.  But, maybe that will change.  Maybe there will be more medical advancements made in time to help her.

That's ridiculous.  How am I supposed to work with that?

So, that's where I am right now.  I need to find hope again.  And I need to figure out what I'm supposed to do when I hear someone say, "maybe she'll be a _____ when she grows up."  How do you live when you don't know how long you'll have your child?  Will she drive a car?  Get a job? Go to college?  I don't think about any of those things when it comes to the boys.  I just assume, that aside from some tragedy, that they will get to experience all of those things.

And for now, we have no focus.  We're not working towards getting the trach out.  We're not working on eating by mouth.  We're not working on ... anything, really.  For seven years, we've been working on things.  And now, we've stopped.  And I feel lost.  I don't know what to do.

When I was young, I worked at a small, family owned restaurant.  I was a waitress.  And if you ever did that, you might know what I'm talking about.  When the restaurant is really busy, you're on.  You have energy, you can remember stuff, you're working hard and feeling good about it.  But, after the rush, when the restaurant is empty and you only have a few tables, you suck.  You forget to check on them.  You forget their drinks.  You have enough down time that you can sit down for a second and then you realize how much your feet hurt.  Getting up again is that much harder.

That's kind of how I feel.  We've been so busy for so long.  And it slowed and I sat down.  And my feet hurt.  And I'm really freaking tired.  And now rescheduling that appointment with nutrition that we missed a few weeks ago seems an impossible task, that has been on my to-do list for weeks.  Going anywhere takes an exorbitant amount of energy.  And that layer of grief that is always just below the surface, is harder to rise above.

I know I have to figure this out.  Living with this sadness, I mean.  Maybe once school starts, it will be better.  We'll see.

Anyway, back to the pacemaker appointment... Harlie and Brandy returned from their walk and Harlie was definitely breathing heavy.  But, her sats were 84 and her heart rate was 120!  To put it in perspective, when we went to her cardiology appointment in February/March, we were in the waiting room and her sats were 90, on one liter of oxygen.  While in the waiting room at the end of June, her sats were 86, on two liters of oxygen.  After walking, her sats were 84 on two liters (but this was after physically exerting herself).  So, that's huge!

Now, a month later, on July 31st, she rode her bike around the block for the first time EVER.


What a wonderful change!  Granted, with training wheels and she went really slow.  We took the jogger stroller just in case she couldn't make it all the way around.  And we put the oxygen tank and suction machine in that and walked beside her the whole way.  I had to push on her back a little to give her a little help when the road was flat or inclined.  When she went down hill she would go two inches, and then apply the brakes.  It took us about 40 minutes to make it around.  But, she did it!  And she never once asked to get in the stroller, so that's awesome!

Happy Birthday Brandy!
I'm thinking that pacemaker adjustment was life changing.  She's had more energy in the past several weeks than she has had in years.  She actually sits and plays with toys instead of watching TV all the time.  I think she had no energy before - so it was easiest to just sit on the couch and watch TV.  Now she plays!  A few weeks ago, the bike got out.  I don't know how.  We got it for her years ago, and it had never seen the street.  But, she rode it around the house.


What?  Your kid doesn't ride her bike in the house while wearing a cat costume?  In July?

Okay, this has been long enough.  I have so much more I could share, but I am running 14 miles in the morning.  So, I have to get to bed.

Thanks for reading!  And thank you, as always, for your support.  Without my friends and family, I would be a mess!

Much love,
Christy xo


3 comments:

Ann said...

My friend, so much of what you wrote about hope, direction, purpose, where to go from here - I have felt and written about those same thoughts. It is so hard when you've been driven for so long to GO, DO and CHALLENGE. But, eventually, we have no choice but to take our cues from our child. That's where you are now. It feels like defeat, but it's not. I promise you, it's not. It now becomes about just loving and enjoying the moment. Thing is, no one is guaranteed tomorrow, and if we look at it that way, we should be slowing down and just loving and enjoying the moment with all our kids and all the special people in our lives. I know that's so much easier said than done. It takes practice, but, you will get there and, to be honest, the just BEING IN THE MOMENT - while sad and painful at times, can be very "freeing". Love you friend.

Susan said...

Hugs Christy. I see so much joy and happiness in your pictures and life with Harlie. It far outshines the sadness even at this time when things are harder in their own way than in all the previous, still not so easy, times. She's living a good life even if it's not perfect. I love seeing her playing in the lake, fishing and riding a bike! Awesome! It would seem that the pace maker change had a good effect. I hope that proves true into the future. I know this time is harder on you than her. It's not easy for us mamas. We love our kids so. But I hope you can set aside your worry about the future so that you aren't robbed of enjoying your sweet girl in the present. I understand your waitress analogy. Some of us function best under pressure. It give a clear single focus. Hang in there and remember we can do hard things (even when we don't want to). XOXO.

Robin said...

Christy, wish I had something helpful to say. I hope with school coming up that you do get a chance to relax. I like Ann's comment about giving yourself a break from always being focused on the next thing.
Love the pictures of Harlie riding her bike and her great smile!!
Robin