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The Extra Chromosome

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. With Sam’s complex medical needs, this has only been another day to us. 

Sam has an extra chromosome.

Sam can’t eat anything by mouth. One hundred percent of his nutrition is via a feeding tube. He breathes through his neck. His current list of diagnoses is longer than I thought could be possible.

If I could take away all the pain and suffering he has gone through, I would.

There aren’t any easy days with Sam, but the beauty of his captivating personality and infectious smile make every day worth it.

I know without a shadow of a doubt, the part I would keep is the extra chromosome.

If you were to take away Sam’s extremely high medical needs, he is the most happy-go-lucky little guy. He smiles with his entire body, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, and lights up any room he enters.

There are no, “buts” on my love for Sam. I love him unconditionally. Period. End of sentence.

I would give anything to have a healthy little boy with an extra chromosome. Given the chance, I would not take that part away from him. 

He makes me better.

I believe people who have an extra chromosome give us the tiniest glimpse of God’s love for us. The love in my little boy’s heart makes my heart want to explode simply thinking about it.

Sam has an extra chromosome and I am grateful for it.

Today, like any other day, I celebrate Sam’s extra chromosome.

The 10th One

Sam spent his first seven months of his life in the hospital. Since then, he has spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of being a child with a trach (breathing tube). I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of gifts our family received while Sam was in the hospital, and still receive. The outpouring was and is overwhelming in the most heart warming way.

Of the many gifts you receive when you have a child in the hospital, the ones that are tailored to your child’s diagnosis or situation hit you in a way that goes deep into the heart. The gift says, “I have been in your shoes.” For a moment, you don’t feel completely isolated. Someone else has been there. This is a powerful thing.

Jack’s Basket and Fiona’s Hope were those gifts for me. Jack’s Basket is a nonprofit that gives baskets to families to celebrate a diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Enough said. Fiona’s Hope gives baskets to families who have had an extensive stay in a hospital with their child. Again, enough said. To find out more about these two incredible organizations, click on their names.

A long time ago, these two organizations sparked something in me. For over three years, I have been dreaming of giving a basket to families who will take their baby home from the hospital with a trach (breathing tube). A basket that says, “I have been in your shoes.” A basket that says, “You are not alone.” A basket that says, “Although our stories are uniquely different, we share this commonality.”

One year ago in March of 2020, just when Covid was starting to invade us, I delivered my first basket. My heart was overjoyed to be able to bless a family with items that clearly show, they are not the only ones on this journey.

Now, almost a year later, I recently delivered my eleventh basket!!! It’s crazy to think that many babies have gone home with a trach just in Minnesota this past year. The curve balls thrown at each of these families are unimaginable. Each story is unique, but share one common theme.

So, what’s the big deal about the tenth one, you ask? Well, I told myself, after I am able to deliver ten baskets, I have to put it out there. So, here I go. My hope is to be able to bless as many families as I can who have been dealt this difficult, but incredibly rewarding, hand of cards.

Each basket is filled with items that have been or are useful to us. Do you want to see what’s inside the basket?! Click here to see the new page I added to find out more about what’s in each basket.

If you would like to request a basket or donate items, click here to contact me.

If you would like to make a monetary donation, click here. At this time, the donation you make will not be tax deductible. I am in the process of starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and when that happens your donations will be tax deductible.

Although I feel nervous about “putting it out there”, I am extremely excited at the possibility of being able to brighten a day of more families whose lives have taken a turn down an uncertain road. Things have moved a lot faster than I anticipated!! This week, I will be reaching beyond Minnesota!!

Dilation #5 Update

I suppose no news is good news, right? For the most part, yes.

Sam’s dilation went very well. His esophagus was very narrow, but not as narrow as the last time he got dilated. Good news!

Again, we wait. If symptoms begin, we call surgery and they get Sam on the schedule. Generally, his symptoms consist of retching (throwing up), which start to become more frequent and violent as time goes on. Eventually, he’s not able to control his secretions, so he spits a lot too. Basically, he still creates secretions (spit), but if his esophagus is narrow enough or closed, there is no other place for the secretions to go except out his mouth. This makes for a very nauseous little boy. Poor guy.

After Sam’s dilation, his surgeon discussed WHEN Sam is able to go three months without a dilation, then he’ll plan to get Sam on the schedule to look at his esophagus. If things look good and open, we wait again. When Sam can go for at least six months without a dilation then his surgeon will feel good about us planning another trip to Cincinnati to hopefully get his airway fixed.

Sam also had a granuloma cauterized or how I like to make it more visual for you, the extra skin on the hole in his throat, sizzled off by a fire pen. This went well too. Although, it was a lot to look at after. For the next week or so, we cleaned gross puss and what looked like black soot around his trach site. Yuck and again, poor guy! Thankfully, it all healed very nicely.

The day after Sam’s dilation he seemed like he was recovering well. When he woke up the next morning, things went south very quickly. He ended up with a tracheitis. He had a couple of very rough days. We were able to catch this right away and treat the nasty, airway bacterial infection. Along with our hard work and the antibiotic nebs, like magic, Sam was back to his lively self in no time. Thank you for home care nurses!

Except for the spitting. No, not another thing, little buddy. His demeanor was back to his norm, but he wouldn’t swallow his secretions. Per Surgery we should bring him in to be evaluated in the next couple of days, unless things got worse, which for Sam means going to the ED (Emergency Department). Not the dreaded ED. Besides him not swallowing his secretions, he seems totally fine. Sometimes I wish they had another place for complex kids to go in these situations.

The next day, after talking with Sam’s Pulmonologist, she too thought he should be evaluated. Bummer.

We had planned to take him in early the next morning, knowing the less busy times of the ED. Sam had different plans. Good plans! When he woke up, the spitting had stopped!!! Thank you Lord!!!

Sam has been back to his spunky self, continuing to teach us what life is all about.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Dilation #5

Sam will have another dilation tomorrow. Yes, he’s had WAY more than five dilations, but I started the count over after his last major surgery. We are hoping and praying he won’t need as many as the first time around.

In the four plus years, Sam’s had a trach (breathing tube) and feeding tube, he hasn’t had to have a granuloma cauterized (burned off), which is pretty good. This is basically skin starting to grow where it shouldn’t. Before the dilation, he’ll have a tracheal granuloma cauterized. Typically, this can be done in the clinic, but Sam’s ENT thought it would be better for Sam under anesthesia, also knowing he could do it alongside one of Sam’s dilations. We were very thankful for this. Sam’s nurse and I were not looking forward to having to hold him down for that procedure!!

We are also thankful, Sam will get his feeding tube changed in surgery tomorrow. As I’ve said before, this is a procedure he gets done routinely every two to three months. It now takes three, sometimes four of us to hold Sam down. As soon as he sees an x-ray table now, his little body clenches me with fear. We have to literally peel him off of me, to get him on to the table. It’s a fairly quick procedure, but I’m sweating by the time it’s over. Sam’s one tough cookie, so when he’s sobbing hysterically throughout the procedure, we know it must be painful.

We are thankful to be able to knock out three procedures in one tomorrow!

We’ll take some extra prayers tomorrow for Sam’s Surgeon, ENT, and anesthesia team. Pray for a smooth and quick recovery.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

I do know.

I have been asked many times over the past four years, “How do you do it?!” My response is always, “I don’t know.” But, I do know.

Holy Moly! What a year! I think we could all agree we’re not sad to say goodbye to 2020. It’s been a very different year.

Yes, I said different, not difficult. Now, hold on a minute, before you get your undies all in a bundle, I’m talking about myself, not anyone else.

Covid has brought on so many big opinions, death, darkness, distance learning, and quarantining. For us though, having to quarantine is nothing new. We’ve been living a quarantine life the past four years.

We might be stuck at home, but in my house, we have food on the table every day, clean water to drink, a roof overhead, and a whole lot of love.

Others might disagree with me when I say this year has been different, not difficult. We ventured to Cincinnati to have them give us some not so uplifting news. Sam spent forty-five days in the hospital. I guess we have had some pretty scary moments, but none have had anything to do with Covid. We’ve definitely had our fair share of unfairness handed to us, and it’s not only Sam who gives us a hard time. Like I’ve mentioned before, he’s not our only hard kid. Someday I know, I’ll be able to share our other story, but for now that story will have to wait.

For now, I can tell you, Covid, distance learning, Sam, and the other story has been trying, but my joy, cannot, and has not been shaken.

This might sound cliche, but from my experience, when you fully choose to have Jesus on your side, your joy can’t be taken from you. I’m not saying you won’t have your moments. I believe Satan will try his very best, EVERY opportunity he gets to steal our joy, but he won’t be able to if we truly accept His love for us.

To me, this doesn’t mean going to church every Sunday, and it’s far from being perfect.

It’s a relationship, NOT a religion.

You get to save your Debbie Downer moments for Him. It’s a person you can cry heavy tears to as many times as you want, and you never have to feel you’re being a burden. With Him by your side, you can pick yourself up, and slap a smile on your face, even when you don’t feel like it.

He’s the one who whispers, you’ve got this. You are not alone. Keep going. Just put one foot in front of the other. One day at a time.

In the moments I don’t feel His peace, I lean on His handbook (the Bible) He gave us for wisdom, direction, and encouragement.

When I let Him fight my battles, my whole attitude and outlook on life changes. There’s hope, not despair. Love, not hate. Joy, not sorrow. Peace, not worry. Patience, not anxiety. Kindness, not meanness. Faithfulness, not unfaithfulness. Gentleness, not hardness. Having self-control, not feeling powerlessness.

It’s about a relationship, not just faith, but a true relationship. It’s letting Him be my confidant.

He gives us purpose for our pain. Those hard things we go through in life, when we allow them to, will strengthen our character, not leaving us feeling weak.

My goodness, if we can’t cling to hope, then what can we cling to?

One of my darkest moments in life has also turned out to be one of my most peace filled moments. I remember like it was yesterday.

I had been “living” in the hospital with Sam for almost three months. I woke up at something o’clock in the morning to the lights flipping on, and swift feet tapping hard on the floor. Before I could even react, the nurse was pushing the code blue button.

I had already experienced this two times before, with the second being less than twent-four hours prior. I jumped out of bed, threw on my flip flops, pushed back the curtain, and quickly stepped out of his room, knowing in a flash, there would be a flood of highly trained people rushing into Sam’s room.

I sat on a chair outside his room feeling numb, praying inside my head and thinking why is this happening again. I remember a nurse whispering to another nurse, “She doesn’t need to hear this.” They gently lead me outside the double doors of the unit and sat with me on the vinyl hospital couch in a small waiting area.

To this day, I couldn’t tell you what they were protecting me from because I didn’t hear a thing. It was as if everything around me fell completely silent. I remember the nurse who sat with me, hugged me, and told me, “Seconds feel like minutes, and minutes feel like hours.” She could not have been more accurate. I also remember begging God to keep my son alive, and telling Him in the same breath, no matter what happens, I will still serve you, but please, please keep my son alive.

The next thing I knew they were flying around the corner through the double doors with Sam, several people around his bed, and bagging him at the same time. I know I followed still praying he would be okay.

I would find out later, Sam had over ten minutes of chest compressions that night.

The craziest thing about that short story, is I still remember, I had this overwhelming peace come over me, even though I didn’t know the outcome.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I do know how I do it. I believe in a God whose plans are good for me, even when I can’t see. I know my God is with me in the deepest valley and on the highest mountaintop.

Maybe next time I get asked the question, I can answer honestly. Boy am I thankful for His grace, because I think I already know what my answer will be.

No News is Good News

Sam’s dilation went well. His esophagus was VERY strictured (narrow), almost shut again. The dilation was definitely needed.

As in the past, as soon as Sam gets dilated, his spitting and retching almost instantaneously stop. These are usually the tell tale signs he needs a dilation. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything else that can be done, except put him under anesthesia, and stretch his esophagus.

As of now, surgery will wait to hear from us. IF Sam gets symptoms, they will put him on the schedule as needed. With Sam’s thirty-five plus esophageal dilations, we’ve only been wrong once. There are many, but one great thing about Sam’s care team, is they trust our judgment. They listen, really listen to us. I call the surgery scheduler, who I’m on a first name basis with, and they get him on the surgery schedule ASAP.

We are going to believe Sam won’t need as many dilations as the first time, and even better, he won’t need anymore.

I’ll leave you with a moment from a day in the life of Superman Sam. You just can’t make this stuff up!

We were sitting in “school” with Sam. When Sam does distance learning, we prop his iPad on the kitchen island and he sits on one of the bar stools. I usually stand next to him. His nurse will stand or sit on the stool on the other side of him. All of the sudden, I thought I noticed something about Sam’s mouth. Does he have a missing tooth?!?! With Sam’s camera on, I didn’t want to disrupt school.

As soon as school was over, Sam’s nurse and I pried open his mouth. Yes, we had to do this. It’s the only way to be able to see inside his mouth. Yep, I saw it right the first time, a bottom, front, tooth, MIA! What?!?! Where did it go?!?! Did he swallow it?!?! Was it in his bedroom somewhere?!?! How did I not know he had a loose tooth?!?!

Mom guilt, setting in. And then, that good ole self talk. Stop it!! You have a lot more things to keep track of in the world of Sam, then a loose tooth!!! It’s not a big deal!! He’s clearly okay!!

Mom guilt. Raise your hand if you’re a mom and have had mom guilt recently. Okay, I’m feeling better already. It’s so silly. Why do we do this to ourselves? Because, we’re human.

Give yourself grace mama. To me, giving yourself grace is acknowledging the situation, doing what you can to rectify it, then moving on, and letting it go. It’s knowing, we are not perfect.

From the mama with typical children, to the mama with special needs children, to the mama of a prodigal, and everything in between, give yourself grace, because we all need it, every single day.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Dilation

We out!
I can’t wait to be home!

Sam was happy, but also nervous at times, when we left the hospital. He walked out with excitement, but would stop here and there, and clench my leg with with fear. I can’t imagine what was going through his head. That’s the thing about having a nonverbal child. I can read his emotions, but I also know there is so much more attached to those emotions and so much going on in that little brain of his. I would love to hear it all. Someday.

Overall, Sam has been doing well. His nights have been rough, but his days have been mostly good. Home care nurses, priceless. Both him and I are definitely happy to be home.

You couldn’t put a price tag on when Sam saw his Abby for the first time, in over six weeks. Let me remind you, Abby wanted nothing to do with having a little sister or brother five years ago. The bond they have now, is priceless.

Ahhh, home sweet home. My Elmo desk, and my spoons and forks.

Most of the time he’s happy with his spoons or forks at his favorite spot in the house, his Elmo desk. Or dancing in the living room to his toddler music.

Sam will have another esophageal dilation tomorrow. Unfortunately, for Sam, this is a routine procedure. We know the drill. I’m not saying the drill is easy, but we definitely have it down to a science. If you’ve ever had a child have surgery and remember the process, it’s quite the ordeal. When you’re asked to be on a committee to make the patient/family experience better, pre and post op (before and after surgery), you must be a be veteran. Yep, true story.

Pray everything goes well tomorrow. Pray for Sam’s surgeon, nursing staff, and anesthesiologist.

As always, Sam Strong and Faith Over Fear!

Happy Thanksgiving! Remember, you can always find something to be thankful for. Focus on what’s good in your life. I promise, there’s something.

We Out!

We are bustin’ this joint today!!!!! Forty-five unexpected days later and we get to go home!!!! I am overwhelmed with excitement. I cannot wait to see Sam’s reaction when we walk though the door.

A friend shared this with me today. God didn’t promise a storm free life, but he promises the storms won’t destroy us. I cannot agree more.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and prayers!

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

I’m ready to bust this joint!

A Solid Two Days

I’m happy to report, Sam’s had two great days in a row! Sam is back to swooning all who enter the room. The rough days were due to ANOTHER infection brewing. Ugh. Darn hospitals. Thankfully, we caught and treated it quickly.

The bleeding is less. Although there is still differing of opinions on where the blood might be coming from, it’s not a huge concern right now. They are watching his hemoglobin levels, which have been overall good. If the blood continues, he will be simultaneously scoped by Pulmonology, ENT, GI, and Surgery, which we can come back for.

They have been able to control his blood pressure, with meds we can go home on, and he has been pooping. Today, for the first time in almost six weeks, he did not have any retching episodes! All good things!

The Care Conference could not have gone any better. It’s a bit emotionally overwhelming to sit in a room with several people who have played a role in saving Sam’s life the past four years. We have a good, solid plan that everyone was able to agree on. The tears were unavoidable as they thanked me for the role we’ve played at home, in caring for Sam. When they say, it takes a village, that might be an understatement when it comes to Sam.

I decided to save the best news for last. Drum roll, please. If Sam “follows the rules”, we’ll be home this weekend without the PICC line! Hallelujah!

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!