Best Christmas E…v…er!

Well, I’m overwhelmed again and it’s not because things aren’t going well. Again, it’s the opposite.

We were shocked and surprised when our friends showed up at our door the week before Christmas with gifts…so…many…gifts. I tried to ask what was going on and everyone just ignored me. Then, strangers started to follow with even more wrapped presents! The presents kept coming and everyone kept ignoring me! After the gifts were literally overflowing in our living room one of the strangers with the sweetest, kindest smile began to talk. I don’t remember much of what she said. I remember hearing, We are here with the Vikings and the Best Christmas Ever and your friends nominated you...

I don’t know if I was sobbing before or after that, I just know the tears were flowing off and on A LOT that night.

The sweet gal from the Vikings had our friend read what she wrote to nominate our family for the Best Christmas Ever. You know when the tears are falling so fast down your cheeks, you can barely catch the next one? Yeah, that was me during that little reading. I just kept thinking, we do not deserve all of this. Yeah, I still feel that way, especially after all we’ve been blessed with in the last few months.

We were given SO MUCH stuff, from a trip for our family to anywhere warm to Sesame Street pjs for Sam. Things we could easily do without, but those things put some pretty big, heart felt smiles on my kids faces. Okay, okay ours too. I got a KitchenAid mixer, something I’ve always wanted, but either couldn’t or just didn’t feel right about buying in the past.

We have been beyond blessed by our family, friends, and strangers the past three years, but this year has been over the top.

Honestly, I’m still in shock and it all feels so undeserving. I get a lump in my throat each time I think about the whole thing. Why us?

I guess I tell myself it wasn’t for me, or Sean, or Sam. The Best Christmas Ever was for Ryan, Will, and Abby. You see, when you have a complex child, everything revolves around that child. If you haven’t seen the movie Wonder, I would highly recommend it. The way it depicts each member of the family with a complex child is spot on. The sister of the boy who is medically complex in the movie says, “August is the Sun. Me and Mom and Dad are the planets orbiting the Sun.” Although she deeply loves her brother, she feels left out sometimes. I could write a book about the mom guilt feelings I have with my other three kids since Sam has been born.

It really is incredible what can happen when people use their pain to help others. Click here to learn more about the Best Christmas Ever and read the story about this amazing dad who decided to pay it forward year after year to families who have been dealt a tough hand at no fault of their own. We were blessed this Christmas because one person tried. And we weren’t the only ones blessed, all that partook were uplifted. We can’t thank all involved enough. Sometimes, thank you doesn’t do justice. At the end of the day, it’s my hope, my kids will see His work in all of this.

Overwhelmed

This past week was incredibly overwhelming and it wasn’t because things were bad. It was the exact opposite.

Our family and friends have had two benefits to raise money for our travel expenses to and from Cincinnati. People we don’t even know donated silent auction items or gave money to our family. Wow. I didn’t know that many people liked us. Lol.

I knew these events were happening, but I kept pretending they wouldn’t come to pass. They did. I even tried to say, “Thank you, but no thank you.” All I could think is, we don’t deserve this. There might be a lot of crud going on in our world, but I continue to be amazed at the good in people, not only now, but the past three years. I still don’t feel like we deserve any of this, but can tell you, a heavy financial weight has been definitely lifted off of our shoulders. Now, we can focus on how we will get Sam to Cincinnati logistically, not financially.

The other day, I made a huge deposit into an account I set up in Sam’s name. I stood there while the bank teller counted the money and fought back tears. I bit my bottom lip, a subconscious thing I do when I am trying to get my mind on something else. When the teller got to the checks, I did my best to wipe the tears away without anyone noticing. This is silly, I told myself, pull yourself together. Per policy, another bank teller came over to double check the checks. It was all over after that. The floodgates came. I literally sobbed like a baby. So embarrassing. My heart was so overwhelmed, I couldn’t control the tears no matter how much I tried. The teller was so sweet, sincerely asking if I was okay. I reassured her, my tears were happy tears.

If you had any part of any of these events, thank you. Our hearts are so overwhelmed with gratitude, we can barely contain it.

Sean and I came home and both agreed, the two days felt like a surgery day, which means complete exhaustion. It felt like the thoughts that linger after your wedding day. Did we acknowledge and thank everyone who came? Oh, no I didn’t even know that person was there?! Off and on, I keep having to stop the tears from coming, but again, they are happy tears.

Especially now, in a world where we are always “busy”, giving your time is a gift that doesn’t go unnoticed by the receiver. In my opinion, time is the greatest gift you can give someone. I know the time and planning that went into each of the two events on behalf of Sam was a lot. Something like that doesn’t just happen. The monetary gifts given to our family the past couple of weeks would not have been made if people did not give their time. At the end of the day, people gave their gift of time and that is worth just as much.

THANK YOU to anyone who helped in any way whether with your time or your financial contribution. Words truly cannot express our gratitude.

We found out our first travel dates to Cincinnati! We will be going at the end of February!

Sam Strong!

Cincinnati here we come!

Cincinnati?!?!?!

Bam! Pow! Zap! That’s how the appointment felt. I know things could be so much worse, but it felt like a sucker punch right in the gut. I have no idea what a sucker punch to the gut feels like, but at that moment, I think I did. She could not have given the news in a more kind, respectful way, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was evident by her demeanor from the time she walked into the room she was was uncomfortable. It wasn’t long before it was clear why she was uncomfortable. She was the one picked to share the not so great news. She asked what my goals were for Sam. In every other word, I told her I wanted to get rid of the trach. It feels a bit foggy after that. All I know is she said they were all scratching at the edge of their boxes. They (Sam’s care team) have some things they could try, but they are very risky, and wouldn’t want something to happen to Sam and then regret they hadn’t referred him to Cincinnati. Collectively, all of Sam’s doctors have decided because of his continued complexity, they are not what’s best for him. They referred him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Areodigestive & Esophageal Center.

Although it felt like a shock, it shouldn’t have been. It’s a subject that’s been danced around since Sam was two and a half months old. And since March, it’s been really danced around. I think we were just in denial. We have so much faith and trust in his doctors here.

Here is a post I started writing before summer started, but didn’t finish…

Sophisticated can be defined as complex or intricate, as a system, process, piece of machinery,  or the like. Quite fitting for Sam. It’s not the first time, doctors have no clue or haven’t heard of some of Sam’s diagnoses. It is the first time though his doctors are not quite sure what to do.

After discussing with gastroenterologists and surgeons nationally, Sam’s docs have come up with a plan. And thankfully, after some discussions, it doesn’t involve going to a hospital out of state. Let’s just say Sam is a rare case. In all reality he has been since the the beginning. He continues to be quite medically complex, but despite his complexities, for the most part, he’s thriving!

Sam had his 23nd and 24th, if I’ve counted correctly, esophageal dilations in the last couple of months. Once again, he made general anesthesia look easy and recovered very quickly both times. It was a little easier to hand him over to surgery the past two times as he got something to help him feel relaxed and sleepy before they poked and prodded at him. Like I said before, as Sam gets older things get harder for him and, in turn, us. He’s starting to remember what happens to him when we go certain parts of the hospital.

Here’s a short story on him getting smarter…

Because Sam doesn’t eat or drink anything by mouth, there’s a bit of a rush to get a new feeding tube in if it comes out unexpectedly. He’s a very busy boy and despite our efforts to to rig ways to keep the tube in, inevitably it gets pulled out once in a while. It doesn’t help he eats fourteen of the twenty-four hours in a day. Backstory…he goes to radiology to get his feeding tube changed every two to three months. He’s had this type of feeding tube for almost two years and it’s always gone fairly smooth when we get it changed. As soon as we walked into the radiology room, Sam instantly became agitated. One thing we’ve all learned about Sam is unless something is really wrong, he doesn’t get upset. It wasn’t long before we figured out what the problem was. He knew exactly what was about to happen to him. I can’t imagine a six inch tube pushed into your stomach and then through your small intestines feels real hot. Poor buddy. Every procedure gets a little tougher as he gets older, but overall, he’s a trooper.

We will be taking a little trip to Mayo where Sam will have a special test (esophageal manometry) done to determine how well his esophagus works. Pediatric esophageal manometries are not done very many places and it’s a relatively new test done at Mayo for a pediatric patient who doesn’t eat or drink by mouth. We are just happy to be able to stay in Minnesota. Depending on the motility of Sam’s esophagus, will determine which surgery will be best for Sam. Either way, something needs to be done as they cannot continue to stretch his esophagus every month. This creates retching and retching means the trach can’t come out. In short, in order for Sam to get rid of his trach, which we all thought would be long gone by now, all of his tummy stuff needs to be fixed first. As Sam’s doctors would say, Sam is complex. He’s never been an easy fix, but they continue to search for answers and we couldn’t ask for a better, more dedicated team.

Sam will have another dilation in July. Continue to keep him and the rest of us in your prayers.

Again, although Sam is a full-time job and then some, he’s doing very well. He’s making some sounds and knows about 15-20 signs. His newest sign is “outside”. Before, he would grab my hand, pull me to the gate, and want me to hold him. I’d pick him up and then he would wiggle his little body to motion me more towards the gate while also getting mad. Or he would just keep pushing me into the gate. We’ve been working on the sign for outside. The other day, he did his thing where he pulls me to the gate, but this time, signed “outside”! We were pretty excited! I wasn’t going to take him outside, but who could resist that?!

To make a VERY long story short, since March, Sam has had four more esophageal dilations, which I think makes twenty-five. As always, he recovered beautifully from all of them. He also took a trip to the Mayo Clinic. He did not end up having the esophageal manometry done there. Although Mayo is an amazing place, it’s not the best place for Sam. He’s a rare case and his doctors want to him to see the best of the best, which for him, is Cincinnati Children’s.

Since the news about a month ago now, I’ve been able to change my thinking from, we HAVE to go to Cincinnati to we GET to go to Cincinnati. Let me tell you, A LOT of negative thoughts were running through my head when I was hashing it out to the big man upstairs. How in the world are we going to get him there?! We’ve never been overnight with him unless it’s the hospital. What if we have to be there for a long time? I don’t want to split my family up again. How is this going to work financially?! Had I of known, I would have saved the money we used to build a deck and used it for Cincinnati instead. What if we go all the way there and they can’t fix him? 

These are all legitimate concerns I still have and there are many more, but since I’ve changed my thinking from we HAVE to go, to we GET to go, and let go and let God, I’m much more at peace with it. My plans are not His and although that can be hard sometimes, my life is a lot less stressful when I can truly accept that. I will always bank on that, although Sam is complicated, he is here.

We have started the process with Cincinnati, but don’t have any details. Again, we will wait, which according to Dr. Seuss is the most useless place. Yes, I agree, waiting is useless so that’s why I choose not to dwell on it. I choose not to wait, but to enjoy the moments I am in right now, like…

…Sam’s doctors okaying him to start school next week.

…being home and able to send my kids off to their first day of school.

…getting rained on the entire kayaking trip we took for the first time.

…going to the great MN get together.

…taking Sam swimming. Shhhhh, don’t tell his docs.

…having a lemonade stand to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.Lemonade Stand

…going strawberry picking.

…being a part of my sister-in-law’s beautiful wedding.

That is what life is all about.

 

 

 

Grateful

My heart could not be more full. We walked to raise money for a charity who gives families a home-away-from-home when their child is experiencing a serious illness.

Put yourself in these shoes. You’re watching your child fight for his/her life. It doesn’t matter what is it or how they’re fighting. Bottom line…they are fighting to stay alive and it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.

During that time, someone comes in and gives you the simple things in life, like a homemade dinner, a hot shower, or a place to step away without feeling like you’re in a hospital. When you’re watching your child fight for their life and you are able to access these things that seem so simple, but really are not, it means the world to you. I speak from experience.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the Ronald McDonald House Charities and how thankful I am to be able to give back to them.

Our team, Sam Strong raised $2,285 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities – Upper Midwest! Thank you to all who donated!

2019 RBC Race for the Kids Family Walk
Team Sam Strong
2019 RBC Race for the Kids Family Walk
Award for the largest team! Go team Sam Strong!

We also won an award for being the largest team! I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Winning this award is evidence of the amazing support system we have. I feel so blessed. Thank you to everyone who gave up a their Saturday and endured the humidity for Sam, our family, and this incredible organization.

Happy Birthday!!!

Happy 3rd birthday to my sweet, miracle boy! Many didn’t think you would make it home. Although you are still very medical, you are thriving. Hospital staff continue to be amazed at your progress. Thank you for the joy you bring into my life and so many others. Thank you for reminding me daily how precious life is. Thank you for being so strong for all your little body has endured. Thank you for inspiring me to do better every day.

To the medical professionals who didn’t think Sam would make it home from the hospital. Thank you for doing everything you could to keep him alive. Thank you for losing sleep over my little boy. Thank you for talking with us, not at us. Thank you for looking at Sam as an individual and not just a little boy with Down Syndrome.

To the family and friends who continue to stick by us. We couldn’t do this journey without you. Your prayers and continued direct support are a constant reminder of the good in a chaotic world. We are where we are mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally because of people like you.

To our Heavenly Father. It’s because of your love I make it through each day with a smile on my face, even when it’s hard. Thank you for promising to stay with me in the storm. Thank you for giving me a heart of gratitude or a glass half full mentality, no matter the situation, even though I know it sometimes annoys people a little. Thank you for your grace and mercy.

I joke my life seems to have a timeline, BS (Before Sam) and AS (After Sam). Ironic, I know. My friends and I have had some good laughs over that one. It’s weird how life can seem to stand still and fly by at the same time. These last three years have been the longest, shortest years of my life, if that makes any sense at all. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how we deal with the cards we are dealt. Shortly before we knew Sam would come into our life, I bought this sign for our house. When Life Gives You Lemons Make LemonadeI’d be lying if I told you I haven’t had tears streaming down my face, while looking up at that small decor in our home. That silly little sign has given me hope on days that felt hopeless. No matter what you are going through, I hope you can make some lemonade out of lemons. All you need is a little sugar.