Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mixed Feelings

Sadie on her first visit to
the new Lurie Children's Hospital
Last week was the two year anniversary of Sadie's Aicardi Syndrome diagnosis. Last year, I wrote a blog post about what happened that day and our feelings after we heard the diagnosis. This year, as the anniversary came and went, I found myself having many mixed feelings.

I feel sad as I think about her diagnosis day, but grateful that her diagnosis has taught us what is really important in life.

Anxious about her upcoming swallow study. (As mentioned in a previous post, her May study showed that she aspirated liquid. Since then, she has received all liquid feedings through her NG tube. Sadie will repeat the study in August and based on the results, she may need to get a G-Tube.)

Scared that she might fail this swallow study. Scared that she might pass this swallow study.

Upset as she has been having really intense seizures lately that scare her and cause her to cry. Disheartened that Sadie's current seizure medicines aren't working as well as we'd like.

Hopeful as we start a new seizure medicine this week. (On Thursday, we will start a new medicine called Zonisimide (Zonegran). This medicine has been recommended by a few doctors who have evaluated Sadie. Additionally, it seems to have yielded positive results with other Aicardi girls.)

Sad as dear friends, a fellow Aicardi family, relocate from Chicago to New York at the end of the month. Grateful that this diagnosis has brought them into our lives.

Pi**ed as I flip the TV channels and hear the announcer on TLC's "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" say, "...even without any prenatal care, the baby came out completely healthy." (I resist the urge to throw a shoe at the TV.)

Sad (again) as I hear of another Chicago-area family who recently received an Aicardi Syndrome diagnosis for their newborn daughter.

Happy, thankful and amazed at the generous, kindhearted people we continue to meet through our new church community.

Envious of the old colleague I met for lunch last week who has a fabulous new job. Yearning to be back in the career field. At the same time, grateful not to have the stresses that go along with juggling work responsibilities.

Blessed and thankful that I am able to stay at home to care for Sadie.

Amazed at how much equipment costs, especially when you put the words "special needs" in front of the description - as we finalize our purchase of Sadie's special needs swing for our backyard and a special needs jogging stroller.

And finally...HOPE that things WILL eventually get better.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Life Expectancy and Thoughts About More Children

Life expectancy isn't something most of us sit around thinking about. However, it's been occupying my thoughts recently as I read an e-mail about one of Sadie's Aicardi sisters passing away. In the past six months, at least seven girls with Aicardi Syndrome have passed away. Some older (generally-speaking, 30 years +) and some younger. Most recently, we lost little Ava who was 5 years old. Her mother wrote a very moving and poignant blog post about Ava's final days. (WARNING - have tissues handy.)

As hard as it is for us to grasp, we know Sadie will have a shortened life expectancy. Meaning both Adin and I will likely outlive our daughter. I believe the most recent data shows that the average life span for girls with Aicardi Syndrome as 10 years, median of 18 years. This got me thinking - how do you prepare for such grief? Some parents write bucket lists, others pray for miracles, some just try to put it out of their minds. Honestly, we don't spend a lot of time dwelling on Sadie's life span, because quite simply, it makes us both too sad.

Reading these emails about Aicardi girls who have passed is always an emotional blow. Something you've worked so hard to put in the back of your head and ignore, again comes to the forefront.

Many parents of medically fragile children are all too familiar with calling 911 or visiting an emergency room. Luckily, we've only had to call 911 for Sadie once in her life. Paramedics rushing through the house at 2 am is quite scary. Sadie has been in the ER a number of times in her short life - at one point in time, Sadie was a frequent visitor to the ER at Children's Memorial Hospital. Luckily (or unluckily) some of the ER nurses and doctors even know her there. But, taking her to another ER frightens me quite a bit, especially after reading this article.

Along those same lines, we get asked occasionally about our thoughts on having more children. Now, we expect and understand when those questions come from well-meaning family members, but it always takes me aback a little when it comes from someone with whom we are less familiar- like the dental hygienist.

Although I do understand people's interest in wanting to know our here it is.

Before Sadie was born, we always imagined that we'd have more than one child.  After Sadie's birth - even before her diagnosis - I wasn't so sure. Parenting is difficult. Parenting a child with a severe neurological condition and special needs is particularly difficult. The amount of time spent in caring for Sadie is extremely high, so involved that I simply cannot imagine having to care for a second or third child. Additionally, Adin and I often speak about how we want to have time to share with eachother as well (after all, we married eachother for a reason). So, Sadie will likely be our only child.

I know many who may disagree with this decision, but it is an intensely personal one, and one that we make alone. And after all, God may have a different plan, right? And yes, there is a bit of grief that we experience knowing that we may never have a typically-developing child. But, we consider ourselves blessed that we have Sadie.

As the parent who wrote the bucket list for her daughter said, "We could go around and cry all day long or we can enjoy the time we have with her." We choose the latter.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Sadie weight-bearing in the LiteGait.
Sadie is going into her third month of the Day Rehab program at RIC (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.) She has been attending RIC for three days a week/two hours a day. During this time, she gets physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. While it has been an intensely busy few months, we couldn't be more pleased with her progress.

Her head and trunk control have improved significantly - and she can even sit with very little assistance. During speech therapy, she is working on communication by using the switch - shown in the photo to the right. Knowing her preference for pop music a la Beyonce and Katy Perry, her sweet speech therapist put a photo of Katy Perry on her switch. Each time Sadie presses the switch, we play music and have a dance party.

Sadie's switch with Katy's photo

Unfortunately, there are a few skills which Sadie used to practice, that she has since lost - like reaching for and grabbing a toy, bringing her hands to midline, and rolling over. Even before her surgery, she stopped demonstrating these skills. We are hopeful that with the help of her therapists that she will be able to regain these abilities.

In addition to her therapies at RIC, we are still working with her home therapists through the Early Intervention (EI) program. We recently visited our neighborhood park with Sadie's home PT, where Sadie experienced sitting on a swing and sliding down a slide - with the help of Mommy and Karen, her PT.

Sadie exploring the neighborhood park
While she is making great strides with her therapy, Sadie continues to struggle with daily seizures. As I've mentioned, we have seen some improvement post-surgery- particularly with the duration and severity of her seizures. Unfortunately, she's still having about the same number of seizures per day.

So, we are again in discussions with her doctor about switching up seizure meds. Our first order of business is to try to wean her off a few of these meds (she is currently on five - Vigabatrin, Keppra, Dilantin, Clonazapam, and Neurontin) - not to mention her Ketogenic Diet. Weaning the meds that aren't working will allow us greater flexibility to try new things. The challenge is figuring out what IS and IS NOT working.

Snoozing at the Zoo
Her blood draw a few weeks ago showed that her Dilantin level was a bit low. So, upon her doctor's recommendation, we are going to try weaning that first. If we can get her off Dilantin without upsetting the apple cart, then we are going to try a new medicine called Zonisimide (Zonegran). Zonisimide has been recommended for Sadie by a few doctors. So, we're hoping that it will work well for her. But first...a five-week wean off Dilantin. I never said things happened quickly.

In the meantime, Sadie experienced her first visit to the Zoo while visiting friends in Milwaukee. Of course, she spent most of the trip napping, but she did see a few of the animals. Mr. Cheetah made an appearance right in front of the window where Sadie was looking - and I think he caught her eye!

So, as Sadie's therapy sessions at RIC begin to wind down this month, we'll have a bit more free time to enjoy the warm summer weather, and to get her outside practicing some of her new skills!