Monday, July 22, 2013

What I Did This Summer

Sadie working on an art project
during school.
It's been a while since my last blog post - and a lot has happened in that short time. At the end of the last post, Sadie was being treated for pneumonia in the PICU at Lurie Children's Hospital. She was able to come home in mid-May after about a week in the hospital. She went back to school a few days later. Her regular school year ended in late May, and Sadie started her ESY program (or Extended School Year) in early June. ESY is essentially the same thing as school - same hours, days, etc., but it runs only through the end of June.

In early July, we took a short family vacation to a lovely beach house on the east side of Lake Michigan. The weather was great - "Sadie weather," as we call it - mid-70's with a nice breeze. Because Sadie has a hard time regulating her temperature, we try not to take her outside if it is too warm.  Sadie got to enjoy the beach for the first time and put her little toes in the sand. She also enjoyed laying on her towel in the shade - a regular bathing beauty!

The following week, we were preparing Sadie for surgery. For some time now, we had been speaking to her neurosurgeon and epilepsy doctor about placing a VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulator). I mentioned the device and how it works in a previous blog post. Essentially, it helps to control erratic brain waves through a series of pulses to the vagus nerve. The device also comes with a magnet that can be "swiped" at the onset of a seizure - and has the potential to stop or decrease the severity of a seizure.

Staying cool at the beach.
However, in typical Sadie fashion, a curveball was thrown at the last minute - and the VNS surgery was changed to a shunt revision procedure. You see, in addition to speaking to the doctors about the VNS, they had also been monitoring her shunt function. Despite multiple shunt taps and MRIs, Sadie's team of doctors wasn't convinced that her shunt was working properly. The MRI continued to show enlarged ventricles - which is an indication of excess fluid in the brain. So, two days prior to her scheduled VNS surgery, the procedure was changed and Sadie underwent a shunt revision.

During a shunt revision, the doctor checks all the components of the shunt - the catheters into the brain and down into the belly, as well as the valve function. The doctor explained that he knew there was an issue as soon as they opened up the incision, as fluid was pooling around the shunt. This is an indication that the valve was not working the way it should. The shunt valve - which was a fixed valve - was replaced with a programmable valve. With this new valve, the rate of flow can be adjusted if necessary.

The procedure itself took about 2 hours, and Sadie did great in recovery and was out of the hospital the next day. An MRI is scheduled for this week to see if this new valve is set to the correct setting. But, we are hopeful that this procedure corrected the issue with her shunt once and for all!

We are anxious to proceed with the VNS surgery. Sadie's seizures are still quite difficult to control. She has now tried 15 different treatments - a variety of medications, ketogenic diet, surgery - and she is still having seizures daily - sometimes more than 20 per day. We are hopeful that the VNS will help control at least some of these seizures. Another Aicardi mom conducted an informal poll of parents, and of the 20 parents who responded to her survey - 50% saw a reduction in seizures by half or greater. Pretty good odds, in my opinion.
How a VNS works

While we wait to schedule her VNS surgery, Sadie will again be enrolled in RIC's (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) Day Rehab program where she will receive intensive therapy until school starts back up. Three days a week, two hours a day. I heard her give an exasperated sigh as the doctor and I discussed this therapy schedule. However, she progressed so well when she did this therapy post-brain surgery last Spring, I can only hope that it will help her just as much this time around.

Hope. It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. As I mentioned, Sadie's seizures are still terrible. I'd be lying if I said there aren't many days when I feel hopeless - as if there is nothing else we can do for her. I do understand that there is the possibility that VNS therapy will not work for her. But, all we can do is HOPE.

It's this hope that keeps me from staring at the bottom of a bowl of brownie sundae daily. On the contrary, we've been doing our best to stay healthy - (trying to) eat right, getting to the gym, etc. - attempting to stay healthy for HER. But that's a topic for another blog post. For now, we are hanging by our fingernails to those strands of hope.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the update, dear friends. Always thinking about you.

    With Love and HOPE,