Sam. Conqueror. Overcomer.

On the 15th May 2009, Samuel Christian made his way into this world...two month's premature and in severe respiratory distress. Within hours, Sam was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome - a very rare congenital disorder, of which little was known. The diagnosis together with the immediate challenges Sam faced to thrive became our core focus and it was with joy and thankfulness that we eventually brought Sam home, after nine weeks in the NICU.

As time pressed on, it became obvious that Sam's development was falling behind that of his RTS peers. Shortly before his 5th birthday Sam underwent a brain scan and it was confirmed by a paediatric neurologist that in addition to Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, Sam also has Cerebral Palsy related to his premature birth, as well as Autism.

This blog chronicles our journey through these challenges...
SAMUEL - COMPLETE IN GOD
Our world has crashed, been blown apart.
This can't be happening....why us? Why now?
Your fragile life shaken before it could barely start,
How do we get through this...please, Lord, tell us how?

Drowning in our sorrow, waiting for answers that just don't come.
Our baby "special needs"? It simply can't be true!
The heartache overwhelms us, we're left feeling cold and numb.
The diagnosis tells us little - these children are so few.

But then we finallyget to touch you, to see your precious face
And all the heartache and questions fade, replaced with love and pride.
It's obvious from the very start you're showered in God's grace,
And with His love and guidance, we'll take this challenge in stride.

When once we couldn't pronounce it, Rubinstein-Taybi's become our norm.
When once the future seemed dark, we now welcome the journey as having an RTS angel brings lessons in unexpected form.

Our world has crashed, been blown apart!
This IS happening....to us.....right now!
We've been blessed with a gift, so precious from the very start. How do we get through this? Here's how.....
By believing in a God, so merciful and great,
By trusting that He's right beside us as we journey through the narrow gate.
By believing His love for us is not determined by a human frame,
By trusting that we draw Him near by merely calling His name. This precious baby we asked God for,
Prayed he'd be perfect and complete.
And, as Samuel means "God hears", He's laid His answer at our feet.

(Nicky de Beer : 27/05/2010)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

You know that point you get to...

...where you know you've FINALLY mastered this special needs parenting thing?

Nope? Well, me neither! In fact, I think I'm moving further and further AWAY from THAT point...like it occasionally flits a little closer to taunt me and I shakily breathe a 'we've-got-this' sigh of relief and then next thing it hightails away from me and I'm left reeling in a whirlwind aftermath of W.T.F's!

It's been a rather busy 3 months...magazine articles, 1 year schooliversary, meds fail, testis hunt, die-hard viral URTI's, flourishing receptive communication and and...

Sam's story is featured this month in a very popular local magazine, although the shoot for the article was done in July already.


The actual shoot was loads of fun, complete with hair and make-up and Sam, who just loves the camera, did really well. The only downside of the morning was Sam's ever-increasing fear of being in a car, as we travelled 45mins to the venue...and then back again. It's something you really have to see to completely comprehend but because holding my phone while Sam is frantically grasping at my neck/hair/face/clothes/arms as if I am about to ease him over the edge of Nanga Parbat's Rupal Face as opposed to over the annoying arm of his booster seat, catching it on video has proven a little tricky. So you will just have to take my word that the lil flappy dude does not do great with cars...eight years on, sometimes up to six or even eight into's and out of's a day and yet each time I open that car door, panic hits him like it's the very first time.

It's this very irrational anxiety which led us to probably one of our worst medication epic fails. With Sam's anxiety levels really affecting his quality of life and with him having been on his current anxiety meds since he was 2 years old, we decided to replace his Faverin with Serdep which, on paper, looked like a better fit (Sam's absent seizures have also increased and the risk of seizures is statistically higher with Faverin), plus the longterm use of the Faverin might have made Sam's system too accustomed to the Fluvoxamine so a change in med seemed like a good idea...until we did it. Said system was not as impressed with the change as we'd hoped and Sam's days became just one emotional turmoil after the other. At the same time, an EEG confirmed that we needed to increase Sam's epilepsy meds AND, for good measure, Sam suddenly sprouted some very adult-looking hair in his nether region indicating that a certain little testis we had presumed lost (and inactive) to the flappy dude's innards was, in fact, not all that inactive after all #gasp!!!

I make light of the situation, but I can assure you that almost every morning for two months I stood clinging to the gate of Sam's school in very-near despair, listening to the amazing team of ladies at Edu-Play Early Learning Centre reassure me that they would cope with Sam's completely over-the-top emotional state and accommodate what behaviours they needed to at that time...and those reassurances and encouragements were, without a doubt, both mine and Sam's saving grace!

I say "were" because Sam is once again back to his version of a "happy place" and our days are no longer filled with unpredictable bouts of emotion, aggression and insanely-pitched  screeching. We switched Sam back to the Faverin after 2 weeks of giving the Serdep fair chance and Sam's system has also now adjusted to the increased dose of Epilum. That darn little testis though...that's a whole other issue (and venting-full post on it's own), but in short, we have to try bring it down again which is not great news as, above spinal cord surgery and thumb reconstruction surgery, Sam's testicle surgeries (this will be the third) always seem to knock him the most. The fact that the little bugger has been hiding out in the inguinal canal for a good 4 or 5 years already means that we aren't doing any more considerable damage by waiting till the beginning of December to do the surgery so that a) Sam has at least had a couple of months to enjoy some (relative) calm before we slap him with another round of trauma and b) he gets to enjoy his Christmas concert and the festivities of the end of the school year.

Thankfully, through all the issues
over the past few months, Sam's
love for school has not been
affected. The fact that some of his
favourite people are there sure
helps. It's crazy to believe that on
18 July he'd been at Edu-Play for 
a full year already!


To close off, there has been a sudden flourish of receptive communication on Sam's part. His receptive language has always been good and we've even noticed him picking up on some Afrikaans words...but more than once now he has reacted to something that was said in a conversation in his presence, but not directed at him. It's been really quite amusing, with a flappy conqueror's twist of course, eg...a few nights ago Sam whacked his head a startling shot on the wooden headboard. Sam has an incredibly high pain tolerance, but still feels the initial pain completely, in other words, he feels the pain...reacts, but then has so (almost sadly) become accustomed to pain that he will continue functioning despite (I believe this is very much an RTS thing). Anyway, he knocked his head but instead of crying momentarily and then moving on as usual, he sobbed for over half-an-hour afterwards and was extremely heartsore. My neurotic, mama-brain went into overdrive of course and imagined all sorts of devastating consequences which might have made this head knocking different to the hundred others #eyeroll. About two days later Sam was rubbing his left eye and I mentioned to his dad (while Sam seemed preoccupied with his iPad) that his eye seemed to have been troubling him ever since he'd knocked his head. Sam (who was on the bed again at the time) calmly put the iPad down and, albeit it very cautiously and in super slow mode, replayed him falling and knocking his head. It was the cutest thing ever because, of course, it came complete with fake tears and the need for more of the same hugs and cuddles as well  πŸ’œ

  




Sunday, June 18, 2017

As the parent of a differently-abled child...

...how hard should you push? How sure can you be that you're allowing enough consideration for health, physiological and emotional wellbeing. How sure can you be that you're not allowing too much consideration? And on which one of those would you most prefer to err?

A few years ago (and by "few" I mean ten or so...and that's where I'm leaving it), I travelled a fair distance to work each morning making my way into the CBD via either bus or train. Because I cannot pinpoint the exact year, I cannot remember exactly which mode of transport is relevant to this story but as I am leaning towards 1996/1997 (yes, okay...so a little more than ten years maybe) I am inclined to believe it is the bus. Travelling what seemed to be the same route a few times, was a young man who appeared to be roughly the same age and whose constant companion was his remarkable guide dog. So many times I watched the intriguing pair navigate the busy streets along Cape Town's Foreshore and brave the city's public transport (which was a courageous enough task for even the sighted) and could not help but stare intensely at the young man, hoping for the slightest sign of sight because my heart broke a little each time I saw him, at the thought of his having to encounter such formidable challenges each and every day...alone.  While my memory is a little sketchy about the minor details (like whether we were travelling by bus or train, what with them being so similar and all) after all my "intense staring", it would be fair to say that I'd have recognised his face anywhere!

A week ago our NPO held a fundraising event and the guest speaker was a gentleman by the name of Hein Wagner - A blind man with vision. Hein, who now lives predominantly in Sweden with his lovely wife and daughter, hails from South Africa and had travelled to his country of birth alone to speak at our function. I had read his biography a hundred times by then, had copied it into several media documents...but had never thought to look at any pictures. Hein's lifetime accomplishments read like something out of an incredible feel-good movie. Few sighted men could achieve all that he has, so to say I was excited and very nearly intimidated to meet him would be fair. Hein entered the venue on the arm of a colleague and my heart stopped. Yes it had been about...ahem...ten years (give or take another ten) but that face was all too familiar. His presentation was profound! Amongst other things, Hein spoke about how grateful he was to his parents for insisting he learn to become independent, placing him in a boarding school for visually-impaired students 100km away at just five years old! While I have no plans to ship Sam off to boarding school (although this is a traditional punishment I have threatened all of my children with), Hein's message inspired me to rethink the way in which I approach Sam's challenges and, in turn, the attitude I instil within him to approach those challenges.

Having done several rounds with many of the obstacles Sam struggles with the most already, I thought it was worthwhile revisiting the more fundamental tasks which, although perhaps appearing "basic" to many, would make a significant difference to our daily lives. So first up was independent feeding - with the complex puzzle which makes up the lil flappy dude's brain, one of his trickiest challenges is fine and gross motor planning leaving eating independently as something we have not yet been able to master. This weekend seemed as good a time as any to try again...

Sam's movements lately seem to be hindered by an increasing amount of tremors and shakiness, but after a few more tries he really seemed to get the hang of manipulating the spoon which also seemed to ease the flow of his movements a little. A change in utensils (I foresee mountains of dirty dishes in my future while we figure this out) and Sam was not only more comfortable with the process, but was even scooping up stray food from his chin!

We will of course spend some time on this new goal before we move on to something else (and right now I can't even imagine what that something else would be) but, as with any form of progress for a child with specific needs, the joy of seeing how impressed Sam was with himself and the encouragement of what a little perseverance and motivation can do, was pretty darn awesome!

And so...did I ever find out if Hein is in fact the young man who I witnessed so many years ago? I'll never know!! My lacking self-confidence and social awkwardness prevented me from asking him outright, despite him being very friendly and approachable. I have considered indulging in some Facebook creeping (because once you've been an intense starer there's little else more inappropriate) to see if I might come across a photo of him at around twenty years of age but the thought of finding him with a short, trendy hairstyle then like he wears now as opposed to the long, almost shoulder-length bob I remember the young man having then, would be strangely disappointing. So, for now, I fancy the idea that Hein Wagner is in fact the blind, young man upon whom my senseless sorrow was wasted as while I thought he was out feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable, he was in fact out conquering and overcoming πŸ’œ



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Does he know...

...that he is different? I've wondered about this often before but could never really come to a solid conclusion and, honestly, wasn't sure it mattered much. About a month ago we sat in the ENT's office...I say "sat" but mean "flapped, whinged and occasionally shrieked"...with Sam becoming increasingly agitated as our wait ticked past an hour. The younger, more mobile patients (all 'typical') provided Sam with a momentary distraction as they played on the mat, hopped around, etc. but once that moment had gone (all 5 seconds of it) Sam resorted to taking occasional swipes at them, especially whenever one sprightly young kiddo entered his personal space...which personal space, with about 4x4m² being shared by four other children, had had to become remarkably conservative!

The doorbell rang and I cringed inwardly at the thought of having to tap into even more adept ninja moves, intercepting Sam's frustrated swipes at now FIVE moving (and thankfully, blissfully unaware) targets. A youngster of about 12 quietly entered the room with his adult companion. With my back being to the door and my neck currently alternating between despairing states of immobility or excruciating pain (but Yay! for still half-gracefully being able to carry 30kg's of flappy dude around right?) I had a limited view and decided a not-too-welcomed bear hug was needed by Sam at the very moment the newly-arrived patient had to brush by our chair into the room.

Surprisingly, no swipe...no smack...just the most magnificent smile as Sam watched the boy take a seat in the corner and pick up a magazine. As he settled quietly into his chair and I was able to glance more easily at the newcomer, I found myself suddenly fighting back overwhelming emotion as I instantly recognised his Down Syndrome characteristics. For the rest of our time in the waiting room Sam smiled, happy-flapped and ooooo'd admiringly at the very reserved youngster, the other energetic and now also agitated kiddies having suddenly become invisible. Sam has always shown recognition of other physically differently-abled children, for instance, when walking in a busy shopping mall he will quickly point out a child in a wheelchair, but this was more than simple recognition...it was a resonating of shared journeys and an instinctive knowledge that Sam and this boy were the same kind of different! Understanding this 'recognition' when the object of Sam's attention is in a wheelchair or walker or similar means of support is pretty easy, but his intrigue this time round would not have been triggered by any outward 'hints' and although incredibly heart-warming, has left me somewhat unsettled. 

Because of having Sam's learning potential constantly undermined due to his physical challenges, finding a school which focuses on his cognitive abilities rather than the physical has been life-changing. With Sam suddenly seeming so perceptive to those around him though, I can't help but wonder what the effects will be of his being the only physically-disabled lil flappy dude in his school. I do see occasional inklings of frustration emerging (okay...maybe "occasional inklings" is a little conservative #eyeroll) but because in my heart I know that he would not thrive anywhere else, hope that I can find a way to instil upon Sam's heart the very thing I spend a decent amount of my time advocating for...that being "different" is not only okay, it can be a pretty profound state of being. Wish me luck xxx


Mother's Day this year was one for the books (or blog in this case) as it came complete with a school-made Mother's Day card from the lil flappy dude. Although I am pretty sure that Sam's not particularly invested in the sentiments of Mother's Day as, of course, every day is in fact Sam's Day (just kidding) he sure did seem super-chuffed with his card!


And immediately after Mother's Day the lil flappy dude went and turned EIGHT! With his birthday falling on a Monday, he had  a small celebration with his classmates, which he was just as super-chuffed about...especially because there were balloons involved, the object of Sam's most passionate love-hate fascination.



And immediately after his birthday (like literally the next day) Sam went into theatre for his umpteenth number of grommets and for us to finally have an opportunity to intervene and hopefully provide some relief from the nasty issues those talon cusps have been causing. 

The grommets were a breeze, as always! The talon cusps were filed down so that they now lie flush with the gum/palate and then a little of the surrounding gum was cut away to make room for the bulk of the cusp which has yet to grow out. Sam had also made light work of grinding another two teeth down into the gum. Luckily these were both still milk teeth which could be extracted to make way for the yet-to-make-an-appearance adult teeth. The work on the talon cusps proved a bit of a bloody affair and Sam was not entirely impressed with the generous mouthful of blood he woke up from anaesthetic with (apologies for the graphic details). Since the procedure, now three weeks ago, we have had a rather challenging time getting Sam to drink fluids. Follow up consultations have reassured that his mouth, throat and ears are all looking really good so it has been a little exhausting trying to figure out what the issue is, which issue is now causing some very unwanted bladder problems. For a host of reasons (which I am not going to go into now) Sam still drinks mostly from a bottle. Knowing his complicated sensory system, the chances are that the first few bottles after the procedure caused a significant amount of discomfort (we were warned this would be the case) and so Sam has now developed a negative association with a bottle. With another kid this could perhaps have been a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to animatedly introduce an alternate, way more fun drinking apparatus! This is, however, Sam...so I'm pretty much doing WWF-style moves while squirting small amounts of liquid down his throat. Could it possibly have gone any other way πŸ˜‰  

And, in closing, some recent school pics...just because πŸ’œ




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Layered

When you hold your breath while signing in, for fear of being asked for a password you know you can't remember, then you know it's been too long. Almost a cool FIVE months. Wow! When opening Sam's blog I attempted a mental timeline of all that has happened over the last five months but, truth be told, I couldn't put together an accurate timeline of the last five MINUTES! You chuckle good-naturedly but, oh, I kid you not. So here's my Plan B...I've gathered what pictures I have left of the lil flappy dude (after my SD card threw me to the curve and dumped my almost 1000 pics and videos into some never-to-be recovered black hole) which I will post together with whatever details and emotions I can remember of that event. For the sake of deeming this post at least somewhat readable, we shall start with the most recent pictures first. If, after the sixth picture, the content reads along the lines of "And here is the lil flappy dude at a place where he was doing some stuff and I was feeling bleh" then feel free to simply ignore the words and scroll through the pictures!





Car trips have always been a little tricky with Sam, with the only car in which he feels reasonably safe in being my car. I often joke that even if I had to win a whopper of a Lotto, I'd still be driving around in my little red Clio because the alternative would be Sam never leaving the house. Very occasionally though we need to leave the house as a family and little Clio's do not make for fabulously spacious vehicles, so a trip in Dad's car becomes necessary. After a short time (about 30 minutes or so) Sam will eventually relax enough to breathe and perhaps even allow some circulation to return to the arms clutching so frantically to his seat. This will, however, only happen if the backseat has been reserved for Sam and I alone. Try as we might, fitting a 6.3ft man and two teenage girls into the front of a Hyundai has not yet been successfully achieved though so there have been odd moments when Sam has been required to share "his" backseat with someone else. These trips do not go well and usually find us aborting our outing because no social activity has yet proven worthy of the unbearable screeching we need to endure en route. In desperation one afternoon (and because my traumatised brain had convinced itself that Sam had sucked all the quality oxygen into his lungs in order to maintain such an impressive tone of screech), I opened the window. Hallelujah! The kid went from crappy to flappy in 0.03 seconds. Our relief will be short-lived for sure as we are tentatively stepping into Autumn and the joy of driving with an open window might be a little less attractive in Winter. I say that but instantly hear the flappy dude's spirit mutter "Winter Schminter!"



At the end of last month, Sam went on his very first school outing. After almost ten months, I'm still sort of getting used to the kid being in school so his first school outing was pretty huge! Outings remain an unpredictable phenomenon in Smurfville. The ones you expect to result in chaos don't and those you feel are "safe" have you searching for a hammer and nails with which to board yourself and the flappy dude up inside the house for months thereafter. With my woodwork skills somewhat lacking, I decided to prepare for a, hopefully, hammer-free ending and arrived at Butterfly World a little earlier in order to figure out how Sam-friendly the place was, as well as to mark out possible exit routes. Well, the kid blew me away! We could have been going on a tour of the local butchery for all Sam cared. All that mattered was that his friends were there, along with his beloved teachers and Sam spent the morning in flappy blissfulness! He was even keen to touch (most) of the creatures during the reptile show...a little more keen than mom I dare say!





My first-ever, school-made Valentine's Day card from my warrior! Well, my first-ever Valentine's Day card from him at all for that matter. But this kid...at school...holding a paintbrush! It might seem a little blasΓ© for some, but you need to have felt the hopelessness of having your child's potential repeatedly overlooked...the guilt of not being able to provide him with the guidance and expertise he desperately needs to thrive...the fear of him never knowing the joy and excitement of friendship, to be able to fully appreciate the profound hope Edu-Play and seemingly insignificant treasures, like a precious little painted heart, ignite within you. 


This one's a bit of a toughie...meaning, I am not yet in a good space with it all. On 3rd February Sam had an MRI and EEG after having experienced a change in both nature and duration of the, till then, very erratic seizures we were used to. We had tried to do an EEG before but when the lil flappy dude started resembling the Tasmanian Devil in his attempt to escape the sensory-overload of the electrodes, we surrendered after just 17 minutes with absolutely nothing worthwhile having been recorded. I had little hope for this EEG being any more successful. Surprisingly, Sam tolerated a full 20 minutes. No, not much longer than the previous EEG, except that this time there were enough "spikes" recorded during those 20 minutes to warrant an additional diagnosis of Epilepsy to our existing Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Autism diagnoses. Sam struggled a little with the two hour anaesthetic needed for the MRI, which was to scan both his brain (for possible causes of the sudden change in seizure activity) and his spinal cord (to rule out re-tethering) but thankfully after about an hour-and-a-half his oxygen levels and blood pressure returned to normal. 

The MRI confirmed the previous MRI's reports of Periventricular cysts and the RTS-related partial absence of the Corpus Collosum. However, this most recent report specified something new...static encephalopathy. It is effectively another form of Cerebral Palsy to add to the Periventricular Leukomalacia, but it is too an additional form of brain damage which was not there three years ago...and that's the part which has me unsettled. Sam's paediatrician reassured me that it is a non-regressive disease but does mean that developmental milestones not yet acquired, will most likely remain so...unacquired. For Sam, those developmental milestones include things like walking, effectively manipulating a spoon, etc. 

While thankful that my Sam does not deal with heartbreaking medical issues like many of our friends do, there is still a sadness that comes with placing yet another obstacle (or two for that matter) on his path. There is also an underlying feeling of guilt which I cannot shake, despite knowing that it is something many mothers of differently-abled children deal with. Both the PVL and the encephalopathy are caused by oxygen-deprivation in utero and/or during birth...it is incredibly difficult not to dwell on decisions which were made by both my gynae and I during the last few weeks of my pregnancy...decisions which were undoubtedly instrumental in the difficulties Sam now faces. It does not end there...there is an irrational but incessant need to go back to where I was eight years ago, devoting every waking hour to Sam and ensuring I was doing everything within my power towards helping him progress...and on top of that a final layer of guilt that I am not doing that now. 

You get my eluded "good space" now? 

I can tell you one thing, with his RTS diagnosis at birth in 2009, Sensory Processing Disorder added in 2011, CP and Autism added in 2014 and Epilepsy and Encephalopathy added now in 2017...there is not a damn you're getting the flappy dude near a radiology department in 2020!! Lol! 

But, in true warrior style, we keep on keeping on and will find our way back to that good space. Till then...

Sam celebrating his friend, Ethan's,
birthday at school.


Happy to do tasks he refused
to do at home. Go figure!


Sam and Leeanne, his dedicated and
ever-patient carer.


Again...a puzzle I donated to the school
cos Sam refused to do it at home. Cheeky
monkey! Lol!





Saturday, December 3, 2016

TEETH, FEET AND A FIRST EVER SCHOOL CONCERT GONE SMURF-SHAPED

Woo Hoo! A blog post! This is like, what...my sixth one for the year! Really quite pitiful, if I do say so myself, especially as there are so very many things going on in the Lil Flappy Dude's life that I could probably easily blog every day. 

Where should we start....let's start with some of the not-so-fabulous stuff and, as always, end off with the good stuff. 

Teeth! Teeth? Yes, really...teeth. Of all the issues we'd prepared to deal with when Sam was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome I not once expected TEETH to be such an issue.  What the doc should have said when giving us the low-down on RTS was "Child will have walking issues, feeding issues, breathing issues, sensory issues, spinal cord issues, testicle issues, speech issues, orthopaedic issues, digestive issues BUT out of ALL OF THOSE issues....the one which will challenge you the most is TEETH!!" Okay, I'm being a little melodramatic...which is completely out of character...but still.  So we were nearing the end of the three months we had to wait to see what that little talon cusp was going to do and were thankful that the area around the talon cusp had seemed to settle (after lots of infection and inflammation) when a couple of weeks ago Sam started refusing to eat and drink again.  I thought it was just another round of irritation so had a look inside Sam's mouth and was not too happy to see another talon cusp coming through.  Another three-month wait here we come.  With (I think) most of the Rubinstein-Taybi kiddos having developed talon cusps, the issue itself is not anywhere close to being considered medically "serious" or anything like that, but it's all the spin-offs from this "small" issue which are really quite frustrating. 

As always, Sam's first line of defence is to throw some hectic oral sensory aversion at me and refuse to eat or drink...a little annoying but, oh, we've done our time with this stunt and it eventually comes right.  The more worrying problem is that he steps his teeth-grinding up a level or ten.  We've already had to cut the remains of one ground-down tooth out of his gum which caused the subsequent adult tooth to come out sort of in the front of the gum as opposed to out the bottom of the gum because it could not break through the area which had been stitched closed after the procedure.  Now, with there being more irritation in his mouth, Sam has managed to completely grind down yet another tooth into the gum and has another two, mere days away from going the same way.  I get that Sam's REALLY into doing things a little different (because after all DIFFERENT IS COOL!) and I'm really into embracing all that funky difference. But every now and again maybe doing one or two things in the normal way...like just having your teeth come through the right spot in the gum...would be quite fab. 

Funny story though...when we were done with our most recent sensory-instigated fast, the lil dude decided that he was done with pureed foods. Yay!! Of course, we've been here before, but this time it really is looking promising.  We last had pureed food a little more than a week ago ("we"?...because I make a habit of eating pureed food?) and have done really great with sliced beef and chicken, just the minced meat remains a very expressive no-no.  So the meat might have been cut up really small. Like REALLY small...like to about what I'd imagine an ant's portion would be. But still, progress is progress so it most definitely counts.  Only time will tell how long we will be doing ant portions of food though because Sam's sensory issues and digestive issues are not usually keen on parallel progress...but here's hoping!

Random funny story...Sam watches a bit of tv in the morning when he wakes up so that I can try get all the morning tasks seen to.  If Sam has not woken up by a certain time, I usually put a movie on (always Teletubbies Bedtime where Alex sings "Wake up sleepy head"...pretty cute hey?) quite loudly, but on the odd occasion that Sam wakes up before that, he sticks his hands out from under the blanket and before even opening his eyes will sign whichever movie he wants to watch...and it's never Teletubbies Bedtime. You sort of have to see it to appreciate it, but basically he'll be lying dead still (which generally only happens from about 5am onwards) and all of a sudden two little hands will frantically pop up and sign the desired dvd in an exaggerated and very cheeky way...which is so odd, because our lil flappy dude is NEVER cheeky (*exaggerated eyeroll).

Seeing as we're currently into all things -free (puree-free...sleep-free) we decided to have another shot at nappy-free...or as close to that as we can get.  WARNING : POTTY-TALK TO FOLLOW! Previous attempts have been a bit tricky.  While you can get Sam to pee on demand, he doesn't quite seem to grasp the concept of telling you when he has the need to go (there had been a degree of damage to his bladder prior to the spinal cord surgery but there was almost a remarkable improvement after the surgery which in my layman's mind would say that Sam should recognise the "urge" to pee, but specialists' opinions seem unclear).  This might not seem terribly problematic but when attempting to potty train the last time, we found ourselves in a situation where Sam would only urinate when I took him to the toilet, he just refused to pee in a nappy.  The challenge with this is that he freaks out when sitting on the toilet, so he needs to stand...which would ordinarily not be an issue...except that the lil dude obviously cannot stand unassisted.  So I land up supporting him, which leaves those little funky hands free to roam the toilet. Eeeeek! At home this is thankfully a little less of an Eeeeek! but this method of peeing means that Sam using a public toilet is not an option.  The tricky part comes in when you're doing a four-hour trip to Stilbaai and the dude won't pee in his nappy and cannot use a public toilet. You see? Tricky indeed.  Luckily I spotted this nifty little item on Facebook recently...

...and we're giving it a go...and a rather successful go at that.  We've gone days where Sam has only used one nappy the entire day and he seems to have gotten over the idea that he cannot alternate between nappy and toilet (even though it was actually pretty awesome that that was his mindset).  The only minor obstacle here is that I haven't quite yet figured out how I'm going to go about sticking little green, froggy urinals in every public bathroom we might ever need to visit in the greater Cape Town area.  It's a little all over the place for now but it's a start (again)...an awfully tricky start...but a start nevertheless.

And we're almost on to the really good stuff (nay...awesome stuff).  Last bit of trickiness comes in with those funky little feet.  After acquiring some rather entertaining physical issues (a hip which keeps clicking out...a knobbly-thingy protruding from my neck...and and) I thought it might be best to stop carrying our 25kg's of smurfiness around.  Understandably the lil dude was not too excited about having to abandon his go-to mode of transport, being mom's hip, but now seems quite keen to walk into school (assisted of course) in the mornings...unless we are late (which, ahem, almost NEVER happens) then hip it remains.  So, lil dude is keen to 'walk' and mom is keen to have something vaguely resembling an aligned body back at some stage - it all sounds pretty peachy.  Which it is.  Except for these uniquely-designed little feet :



While it's pretty awesome to see how steadily more confident Sam is becoming on his feet, it's a little worrying that these little feet seem to get more funky by the day.  Sam is not very keen on walking with his AFO's on, but walking without them seems to be worsening both the Hallux Varus in the left foot and the over-pronation in the right foot. So, the problem - Sam needs to walk.  Sam does not want to walk with AFO's. Sam's feet are thus becoming more funky.  The solution? I am clueless. For now. 

And on that terribly constructive note...here's the AWESOME!

My precious little, triple-diagnosed, previously deemed "ineducable" and only worthy of "a place to put him so I could go on with my life" flappy dude took part in his FIRST EVER school concert.  This mama's heart near exploded with pride and awe as I watched him...what an incredible kid! What an incredible inspiration! What an incredible school for being able to recognise the potential which lay hidden in the non-verbal, sensory-dominated labyrinth in which Sam waited to be discovered.  Thankfully though, before I could embarrass myself by turning into a blobbering mushy mess, my not-so-little-anymore very flappy and terribly cheeky dude decided to throw a Sam-spin on things...see for yourself xxx



Sunday, October 30, 2016

An abundance of FIRSTS!

Sam's very first school term (semester) has come and gone..hard to believe that it's been more than three months since I sent Sam's tutor dismal messages about not being able to find the 'right' carer for Sam, which would prevent him from starting the term with every one else just five days later.  Yet here we are several classwork activities, one progress report and a very-first parent/teacher meeting later. I still find myself occasionally bordering on disbelief at the unexpectedly painless transition from homeschooled to classroom for Sam...if I've said it once, I've said it a million times...this is just not how I expected things to go. But, have no doubt, there are no complaints about avoiding the resistance I anticipated.

It was incredibly emotional opening Sam's bag up at the end of the term to his report and classwork books, sent home for review.  Sam thoroughly enjoyed going through his school books with me and pointing out the activities which were obvious favourites :

As was expected I guess, Sam's immune system did take a bit of a knock and we had a bit more of a troublesome Winter this time round (bar our fab run in with Rotovirus last year).  Thankfully we've stuck mainly to URTI's and a coupla bouts of croup (although pretty resistant bouts) which is hardly anything to really complain about.  

There have been some other unrelated 'bumps' as far as health goes...a few petit mal seizures (which were accompanied by an uncharacteristically sleepy Sam), the hallux varus in Sam's left foot seems to be worsening at an alarming rate and, just to make sure we're covering as many areas as possible, Sam has two fabulous talon cusps sprouting in that already-funky little jaw of his.

The petit mal seizures seemed to have righted themselves and the.most.painless.blood tests.EVER confirmed that Sam's Epilum levels are spot on. And yes, I can say that Sam having his blood drawn was painless on his behalf because we went into the pathologists late one evening (which should only have made the process more traumatic with Sam not liking his evening routine disrupted), wrapped Sam up tight in a blanket to help get a grip on his (usually) pretty powerful struggling and mentally prepared ourselves for the auditory onslaught which would undoubtedly be assaulting our ears.  And yet, although the lil flappy dude was shaking with fear, the needle went in with ease (after a few iffy attempts at locating a vein which is almost always impossible and something we seldom do without anaesthesia) and almost instantly the blood flowed into the tube. And that was that...not a peep, not a tear.  The sleepiness largely seems to have righted itself as well, with the exception of one or two random incidents last week.  Sam's iron levels came back a little high (just over double what they should be) which was a little unexpected for a kid whose diet consists mainly of gluten-free pasta and he seems to be struggling to regulate his body temperature more than ever before, particularly at night and in the mornings despite usually having on a least one extra layer of clothing than what everyone else has. We eagerly await the new 'medical' year so that we can run a few tests to make sure that there is nothing ominous going on with Sam's pituitary gland.

With 'firsts' being the order of the day...month for that matter...there have been a few more surprises. After struggling to get Sam to tolerate any other liquid other than warm Pediasure, Sam now manages about 100ml of juice from a squeeze bottle when at school! (And, yes, he of course refuses it at home).  About a week ago while sitting on the couch reading with him one afternoon, Sam asked me to put his specs on. Sam ASKED to have his specs on!! The very same specs which over the last 7/8 months get flung violently across the room the second they come within arm's reach. So last week I sent the specs to school with Sam's carer, Leeanne, and asked her to just try and put them on for short periods of time...by Friday not only had Sam asked for them again, but had kept them on practically the whole day.  While I am a little worried that Sam's eyesight possibly deteriorating may be the cause of his sudden eagerness to wear the specs, on a positive note (other than the obvious YAY for wearing them) it makes me think that Sam is so keen to soak up as much as what he can from his activities at school that he's prepared to do the necessary in order to learn more, which in turn means that he was able to quite effectively REASON through the situation. Not too shabby for an ineducable lil flappy dude hey? 

Amongst an overwhelming number of things to be thankful for during this unexpected, yet very welcome, twist to Sam's journey comes one 'tiny' regression and that being that Sam has effectively decided that life from here on forward shall consist solely of home and school!  There shall be zero tolerance for any deviation from the, now, extremely limited scope of accepted social activities. There was a short, one-week school break a few weeks ago and already on the Saturday after school closed (on the Friday) Sam was signing "school". By the Thursday I was about ready to go deposit him outside the school gate in anticipation of the Monday's return to 'normal'.  The fact that we live 3 minutes away and drive passed the school regularly, does not help at all...LOL! So yeah, the lil flappy dude is not currently in the running for social butterfly of the year but it's an extremely small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that he's exactly where he's meant to be.

One of Sam's Spring class activities

And a fabulous looking snowman indeed

Another 'first'...yes, that's shaving cream!




Thursday, September 1, 2016

Are We There Yet?

Where?
 
Okay....are we okay yet?
 
The first five years are the most challenging...after that, everything seems to settle and you'll be okay...one of the most regularly-shared reassurances we were offered during those first years.  Gosh...Year 5 became my desperately sought-after utopia, if only we could make it to that benchmark, then we'd be OKAY!
 
Except...we didn't get okay! Instead we got Belgium and Belgium was pretty sucky as it came in the form of an additional diagnosis, Cerebral Palsy. That is just so not how it was supposed to go.  Initial diagnosis at birth - Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. Great, got it...no speaking, feeding issues, ineducable...blah blah blah. Or so according to Sam's (then) paediatrician.  So, shatter all dreams for your littlie and try and just get through each day at a time...and literally at that stage because the little dude wasn't quite sure he wanted to do this whole ventilation-less breathing thing or leave his entertaining game of musical incubators in the NICU so for the first few weeks, each time entering the NICU was accompanied by crushing waves of nausea and fear about whether Sam had managed to make it through the night without slipping back to High Care.  But then we linked up with other parents of RTS kiddos...parents who were a more accurate and encouraging source of information and support than any medical journal and/or individual divulging said information...and we discovered okay, where children with RTS DID in fact thrive and learn and communicate (perhaps not verbally) and went to school and were so very educable.  So...kept the eyes focused on that five year mark and bulldozed ahead through therapies and surgeries and doctors' appointments and regressions and illness and and and...because at the end of all those draining challenges was our okay.  Except, literally days before our five year mark, our okay got ever-so-slightly crushed with the results of an MRI which explained why Sam was not yet quite achieving milestones other RTS peers had by his age. 
 
I think I kind of gave up on okay.  I certainly was not going to go setting new benchmarks because the tricky combination of Sam's diagnoses (Yeah, we got to officially throw Autism in there as well) meant we no longer had a clear guide as to what to expect when, with no similarly effected children to draw measure from.  So, benchmarks are just not our thing it seems.  I felt kind of lost.  Actually, I felt very lost.  There was no longer a plan with a somewhat defined goal.  We were goal-less.  Goal-less is not great I tell you, it can suck the motivation and spirit to keep going right out of you.  So we threw goals out the window and just went with whatever was working for Sam at that moment.  And, at that stage, it was one-on-one tutoring with as little social interaction or change of routine as possible.  And that worked really well, for a while. 
 
But by mid-way through last year things changed.  With no experience in teaching and/or educational guidance whatsoever, I ran out of stimulating things to challenge Sam with...and he became extremely bored with the work I was doing with him.  Aggravating the situation more was the disruption of our every day routine after I joined the Danniel and Friends Fund and while I was revelling in having something so exciting to throw myself into, Sam was doing just the opposite.  Still, there were no schools which I felt were adequately able to withdraw the immense potential lurking beneath the lil flappy dude's packaging and so homeschooling it stayed. 
 
And then 2016 happened :
Where Sam finally overcame his fear of sitting on unfamiliar objects
and ventured onto a (for all intents and purposes) "Mickey Mouse"
one Sunday morning...granted after much coaxing from Dad.

And the newfound courage to try new things lingered a little longer.
 
And we added a member to our family - Chipolata aka "Chippy"
who first caused incredible disruption in our home as Sam battled
with the idea of having his place of comfort so vigorously invaded
by this not-so-welcome addition.  But before long, the two had bonded
and now every day upon arriving home from school, Sam first spends
a few mins with Chippy (who, if he was human, would most definitely
be just as flappy a dude as Sam) offering his hand to Chippy for some
crazy-affectionate licking and nibbling.  
 
Um...did you spot it...THAT word...school!
 
At the beginning of the year Sam and I started attending one-on-tutoring sessions at a newly opened school closeby, Edu-Play.  The sessions went extremely well. Sam completely soaked up what was being shared with him as the activities were being tailored specifically to Sam's style of learning and the patient, accepting and genuinely caring atmosphere of the facility made Sam feel comfortable and safe.  At the end of the second term, Sam's tutor, Carlyn, suggested finding a carer/facilitator for Sam and enrolling Sam in fulltime classes.  Neither my mind nor my heart could work my way around the idea.  I'd given up on the idea that Sam would ever do something as "normal" as go to school, especially here in South Africa where not only are schools for differently-abled children limited, but schools which can cater for as unique a combination of diagnoses as Sam's are very nearly non-existent. Even as I started the process of trying to find the right carer for Sam, I don't think I ever really considered it becoming a reality.  And it almost didn't.  Finding a carer for Sam proved more tricky than I'd anticipated and it was literally two school days before Sam was meant to start that Leeanne happened upon our little flappy dude. 
 
So, on the 18th July 2016 I drove Sam and Leeanne to school for the very first time.  To be able to indulge in an activity so normal and taken for granted by so many others, is without words.  Sam's unexpectedly comfortable transition into his new routine still has me a little surprised, but reassured that he is happy.  As Sam nears the end of his seventh week in school, the novelty of each trip to and from school remains.  Over the passed couple of weeks Sam has been trying desperately to communicate more, becoming extremely frustrated when I am not able to fathom the signs he has resigned to making up himself when I do not grasp what he is trying to say.  It is a frustrating process, but also an encouraging one which I am sure can be built on to try and shape a way forward for some form of effective communication medium for Sam.  Being the only child in the school who is not able to walk, Sam has also started taking one or two steps on his own, although he is still extremely fearful and cautious.  On several occasions now he has stood completely independently to be able to use both hands to sign to me.  There was a nasty fall that happened a few weeks ago with one such incident, but the anticipated regression which would usually come with such a fall was short-lived and seemingly quickly forgotten.  The extent of Sam's progress over the last month-and-a-half is something I would simply not have imagined and without a doubt I know that Sam is where he is supposed to be right now, tapping into yet-to-be-discovered potential.  It makes my mama heart burst with pride.  And as I read the daily reports about what Sam has done at school, look at pictures of his daily activities and still occasionally glance over Sam's very first Playball report, unpack his lunchbox and prep his schoolbag for the next day I sigh and dare for a moment to entertain the idea that I think we have finally made it to okay.  







 



 


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Shame, Superheroes and Acceptance

Wow! Just over two months since I last blogged! Hangs head in shame.
 
What's been happening here in Smurfville? I think I would need to be able to make some sort of sense of it all myself to be able to communicate it in a way that would in turn have it make sense to someone else. But I don't. So I can't.
 
Again, no major life-threatening matters clouding our skies nor anything which most would consider detrimental to one's quality of life, but yet they are issues which are just that...
Sam's eating issues are still erratic and perplexing, yet thankfully there has been some improvement this week.  For a long while he became so resistant to food that not only would he refuse eating it himself but would act out against anyone who was eating near him. This week, for the first time in months he asked for what used to be one of his favourite snacks - mini Marie biscuits. He did throw the bowl, contents and all, after two biscuits but it was a start. The next day Sam ate almost half of my toasted sarmie and seems to be back on track with eating again, which would've been great if we hadn't simply traded eating issues with drinking issues.
 
As those who know Sam personally are aware, he has a major sensory aversion to moving liquid of any kind...a water-hose running, water moving/splashing behind him in the bath and, always most entertaining, liquid in a bottle. Yes, at almost 7 years of age, Sam still drinks from a bottle...for two reasons :
Firstly, his oral defensiveness is so severe that trying to manoeuvre anything else besides his Avent teat passed his lips is a no-go. Also, he never closes his mouth around anything besides the teat...be it a straw, pump bottle, cup...whatever.
Secondly, Sam never had and still doesn't seem seem to have a natural swallow reflex, so even if you did manage to get him to close his mouth around a spout or whatever, he would more than likely choke on whatever liquid I'd managed to get into his mouth. Even after 6+ years on a bottle, he still sometimes chokes or somehow manages to get the milk up his nose, especially when I've tried to thin the Pediasure a little to try dilute some of those calories.
 
So warm Pediasure from a bottle has been his only form of hydration for many years. And still, Sam has never been 100% comfortable with even the bottle. A minimum of 5 bottles a day, every day, for the last almost-three years (because it took him 4 years to conquer enough sensory issues to simply touch the bottle) was met with the same process...the bottle would be handed to Sam (always at the precise temperature) and Sam would hold the bottle to his mouth and mentally prepare himself for having the liquid in his mouth. You think I'm exaggerating...being a little melodramatic perhaps? Close friends and family know the process well and have even joked good-naturedly that it looks as if Sam is first praying for his milk.
 
Despite there being some regression with the whole drinking thing, it has brought with it an unexpected benefit. While I can live with the refusal to eat, with Pediasure providing more than ample nutrition for it not to be anything more than a little disappointment at another step back, not drinking as well had me worried to the point of desperation. When pouring Pediasure into the lil dude's mouth from a cup/bottle lid resulted in such bad chokes that the milk would eventually spew from his nose, not to mention the amount of Pediasure which was being wasted as it poured from his never-closing mouth, it was time for some tough love...in the way of a Winnie The Pooh squeeze bottle. Granted there is no contact between lil dude lips and the bottle, but squeezing the milk in sure is a whole lot less messy and after a nasty choke or two, Sam seems to accept the squeeze bottle as a means of drinking and even seems less fussy about the temperature of the milk so big YEAH for not having to carry flasks of boiling water and a jug everywhere with us.
 
As it turns out, Sam's teeth seem to have been the problem with the drinking issue. His adult teeth push through before the baby ones fall out so in two separate places there were two teeth in one socket and I could actually hear the teeth grinding against each other when he drank, causing (I'm sure) the most horrific sensory repulsion. Since the one tooth has now fallen out (and escaped into the Bermuda Triangle that be the lil dude's digestive system...pretty much like every other tooth he's lost naturally) and the second loose tooth is slanting at an odd angle, drinking over the last 24hrs has been almost back to normal except that Sam will not place the bottle in his mouth himself...almost as if he doesn't trust himself to do it without creating that awful grinding again.
 
A re-visited challenge we're finding probably the most difficult is travelling. Sam has always been terrified of being in a car, but was least anxious when in my car with the most challenging part having been getting him into the car. Often there were frantic handfuls of hair grasped...little nails tearing at arms and neck when the 2 second manoeuvre to settle him into his carseat would require an ever-so-slight backwards tilting. But once strapped in, he would settle down quickly and that was the end of the panic. Recently though, when we've needed to travel as a group to a meeting or the like, I've had to put his carseat into a friend's car...which of course would not only result in the most aggressive car transitioning but a lil dude so panicked that his white-knuckled hands would not let go of the arms of his carseat, back arched in super-defensive extension and breathing happening in short, shaky gasps...even though I was sitting next to him providing deep-pressure comfort across his torso. Obviously I did this once too often because gone is the comfort he found only in my car and instead each and every trip we've made over the last couple of weeks has been reacted to as if in a strange car. It's fairly exhausting and any effort in the way of tidy hairdo's is destroyed within seconds of trying to get Sam into my car, replaced instead with what leaves me looking like I've been involved in the most heated of cat fights, with random loops of hair gone astray from my once-tidy ponytail and scrawly scratches for extra affect. Of course there's an upside...I've often joked that even if I won the lottery and could afford the most extravagant of vehicles, my little red tjok-tjorrie would still have to make do...but hey, now that the comfort once associated with that little red tjok-tjorrie is gone, there could be no more perfect time for an extravagant vehicle. Now to see about that lottery ticket....LOL!
It's too easy to become frustrated, impatient and despondent when facing some of Sam's challenges.  But can you imagine spending 90% of your life captive to one fear or another? Simply trying to create an idea of what it might be like lends me the confidence to say that I would not have managed to overcome many of the issues Sam has....so whether we're screeching like a loon in the middle of a shop,  nearly suffocating ourselves with the fear that goes with being in a car lately or diving face-first into a bath full of water because a ripple of water moved behind us...Sam remains my SUPERHERO!
 
April is Autism Awareness month and while Autism is just one of Sam's three diagnoses (together with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy-Periventricular Leukomalacia) it has, for some time, been the condition we struggle with the most as it is predominantly responsible for creating the challenges we battle when dealing with what should otherwise be simple day-to-day tasks...and so we are as passionate about raising awareness for Autism, as for the other two conditions.  Having said that, Sam's t-shirt sort of sums it up...
 
AUTISM AWARENESS IS SO LAST YEAR...IT'S TIME FOR ACCEPTANCE!
 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

MAKING SURE WE'RE HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Gone, thankfully, are the days of hauling out cryptic map books when searching for never-been-there-before locations. Nowadays we jam on our GPS of choice or, if you're like me, Google Map every place before the time, preferably with a streetview, so that you can memorise all surrounding street names (just in case) and even a "landmark" or two. While I've not yet needed to purchase a GPS of the conventional kind, I am privileged to be accompanied on each trip by a location-finder of sorts anyway. Fabulously impressed that my particular GPS is spared the usual mechanical, insufferably-monotoned verbal directions, opting instead for charming grunts, excited gestures and warning screeches when necessary, the only snag is the rather limited choice of destinations (exactly two in total) and just as limited routes thereto. The you're-heading-in-the-incorrect-direction alarm could also benefit from a volume button or, even better, simply a MUTE button, particularly when attempting to make which is nothing more than a 200 metre detour in order to take care of the concerning petrol light results in such extreme protesting that you look worriedly passed the light, take a breath and hope that there are sufficient fumes to carry you and said screeching GPS home.

This little dude...always an enigma with his odd Sammerisms. Almost as enigmatic is his exceptionally accurate knack for remembering the makes of cars and who drives what. Every car trip, even while ensuring we are travelling his preferred route, is spent scanning the roads and pointing out every make of car he recognises. Different colours don't confuse him, so its the model of the car Sam's actualling taking note of and then excitedly gesturing whether it's Daddy's car, Nina or Lisa's car, etc. With mind-boggling perception Sam will notice a car whisk briefly across the road, even from a surprising distance. It's really quite intriguing.

Unfortunately we received some not-so intriguing news on Monday regarding Sam's vision. With Juvenile Glaucoma being linked to Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, for the first few years of life Sam underwent six-monthly Glaucoma examinations under anaesthetic, as the Opthalmologist we were seeing felt that Sam tolerating the examination simply in his consulting rooms was highly unlikely. Luckily (?) as Sam was having surgeries almost every six months at that stage, finding theatre time to couple the examination with was never a problem as having Sam undergo anaesthetic simply for a 5 minute exam was also not ideal.  However, the only surgery Sam has had over the last two-and-a-half years was done with less than 24-hrs notice which was just not enough time to bring an Opthalmologist on board.

Concern growing with each passed examination-less month and Sam seeming to have lost interest in reading flashcards and books like he used to and even becoming a little agitated when I tried, I decided to make an appointment with a local Opthalmologist to discuss going ahead with the examination in theatre, even if it had to be a 'wasted' anaesthetic. When we arrived at the rooms, the receptionist asked what we were needing to be done and when I replied that I was wanting to make arrangements for the Glaucoma examination, she walked over with some eyedrops to dilate Sam's pupils. I laughed and told her not to worry as there was no way Sam was going to sit calmly through it. She suggested we try some drops just in case...and what a worthwhile suggestion it was. Sam did awesome through the examination, scan of the optic nerve and the tonometer. The great news is that there are no signs of glaucoma. The not-so-great news is that Sam is considerably visually impaired and should have been wearing specs years ago already to make the most of the limited time during which your eyesight develops. With vision teaching optimum development around 8/9 years of age, Sam's been robbed of some much-needed time. So specs have been fitted and once the apparently fairly thick lenses have been fitted, we'll dash down to collect so that not a second more is wasted.

Besides helping with his vision, Sam's physiotherapist is hopeful that being able to see better will increase Sam's potential to walk unassisted as he'll be able to more accurately judge the distance between himself and, for example, furniture.

A sneak preview...Sam quite happily tolerated the specs but there's quite a difference between keeping them on for 10 minutes compared to 10 hours.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Celebrations Re-visited

Six days into 2016 already! Wow! I so planned an end-of-year, this-is-where-we're-at post. Guess we're doing a beginning-of-new-year, this-is-where-we're-at post instead.

Festive-Season plans were kept on the subdued side this year as Sam was scheduled for a Tonsillectomy on the 15th and the ENT doc had told us to prepare for a pretty hellish two weeks of recovery. And what would Christmas be without a surgery/illness anyway, right? Christmas 2010 we did Spinal Cord surgery on the 20th December and since then some-or-other bug each and every year.

On the 14th December (having finally made peace that removing Sam's tonsils was the only way to go and keen to just get it over and done with) we had a consult with Doc ENT, who had last seen Sam in October, to a) run through the final details for the following day's surgery and b) check that Sam was good to go for theatre and, more importantly, anaesthesia. After an extremely thorough examination Doc ENT concluded that he could not be certain that Sam's tonsils were the cause of us not having had a decent night's sleep in the last six week. Yes, he reasoned, the tonsils are enlarged but not barely close to what is referred to as "kissing tonsils" which is when the tonsils are so large that they actually touch (can you imagine?). Sam's greatest breathing issues come from having an extremely deviated septum in the right nostril which is almost completely obstructed (so much so that when I spray Sam's nose he has to lie on his back to allow the little pool of liquid to slowly drip passed the septum) and the common RTS floppy airway. Doc ENT advised that there are usually only two reasons why tonsils should be removed...significant airway obstruction and repeated tonsillitis (more than twice in a twelve month period). Already confident that removing the tonsils was not going to make a worthy difference to Sam's quality of sleep (which was our main objective) and with Sam last having had tonsillitis about 4 years ago, he was not 100% comfortable with going ahead with the Tonsillectomy and presented it in a pretty convincing argument, saying that should there be any complications and he was to land up in a Court with questionable motivation for having performed the procedure, there would not be sufficient medical background to substantiate his decision.

So...surgery scrapped for now!

Doc ENT did refer me to a dietician as he feels we are not managing Sam's reflux as efficiently as possible and this is in fact what is causing the constant irritation in Sam's throat. He suggested trying to get Sam off pureed foods completely and as quickly as possible as the absence of chewing (which stimulates the production of digestive enzymes) aggravates reflux and also suggested a completely dairy-free diet. Yikes! A tall order for a kid with extreme sensory challenges whose diet consists purely of pureed meat and veg, cheese, yoghurt and the occasional mushy mac and cheese. Oh well...what were we to do but give it a go. Doc ENT feels that with an adequate lifestyle-change regarding Sam's eating habits, his reflux should be so efficiently managed that medication should no longer be necessary.

For 13 consecutive days (starting immediately on the 14th)  the Lil Smurfy Dude ate all things un-pureed...WHOOP! WHOOP! Chicken and even beef finely cut up and mixed with veggies and couscous was a HUGE thumbs-up. And then? He stopped as quickly as he'd started and we were back to pureed foods. Well, actually at this point, we're back to NO food as its been almost a week of him refusing to eat anything at all! Talk about from one extreme to the next...special needs parenting is most certainly just that...EXTREME!

Sam's adult front tooth (the baby one which he ground down into the gum which then had to be cut out in theatre) has been struggling to come through for some time now, you can see it sitting there in all its toothy glory just under the gum. It just can't seem to break through the gum, possibly because that section of gum was sutured up as opposed to having a "gap" where ordinarily the baby tooth would have fallen out. So that could quite possibly be the cause of his not wanting to eat. Sam does also have a bit of a crampy tummy-thing going on so perhaps even a bug in the brew...who knows? But even if it is a bug, the 6th of January is most definitely not considered "Christmas-time" still (just smile and nod, okay) so...YEAH!!! for our first illness/surgery-free Christmas in five years. Ah, as they say, celebrate the small things!

Aaaaand...another hidden blessing of special needs parenting...some time in the future we are going to get to celebrate Sam tolerating un-pureed food again (this was like the third time already LOL!) Just like we are going to get to celebrate him taking one or two unassisted steps again. What could be sweeter than living those precious moments more than once? And each time is as awesome as the first :)

Ooooooh...talking about celebrating...we have finally managed one other liquid other than warm Pediasure out of a bottle (right through the sweltering heat of Summer usually) and it be litchi juice out of a juice box! Fair enough Sam isn't so much sucking on the straw (or even closing his mouth on it) as what I am squeeezing the juice into his mouth, but hey...it's juice...out of something other than a bottle...it counts (again...smile and nod).

Happy New Year everyone...may it be a Blessed and prosperous one for us all xxx