About two weeks ago, I did my usual run to the pharmacy to pick up Sam’s meds. We had been running low on hand sanitizer, which is a staple in our house so I figured I would pick some up.
I ventured over to the aisle where I knew I would find the hand sanitizer. As I turned the corner, I noticed empty shelves. You guessed it. There was absolutely no hand sanitizer. That’s silly, I thought to myself, I guess I’ll get it at Walmart. The shelves were completely empty there too. For real?! This can’t be a result of people freaking out about the Coronavirus?! I’ll try Amazon. Nope. I’m not paying that kind of money for a six fluid ounce bottle!!
This is a true story. It’s hard for me to understand. As you are probably aware, there are many other things flying off the shelves besides hand sanitizer. Being precautionary is one thing, but wiping out stores tells me fear and panic are involved.
We are now on our last bottle of hand sanitizer and I still haven’t been able to find any. I’m not going to bend over backwards to find it and I’m not going to pay a pretty penny for it. We have kind people in our life who know how important hand sanitizer is in our house and have bought some for us.
People are living in fear. Fear of what might or could or might not happen. Being precautionary is one thing, panic is another.
We have a medically fragile son. How many are feeling and reacting to the Coronavirus, we could feel and react the same way each and every day. This is the reality of anyone who has a medically complex child. Every single day, germs are very BIG deal in our house.
We choose not to live in fear. We do our best, but that’s all we have. We take precautions, but don’t let the weight of what the germs “could” do to Sam consume our minds. We continue to wash our hands and say our prayers because Jesus and germs are everywhere. I try focus more on the Jesus side of things because I believe His plan is bigger.
Worry is a thief of joy. The more you dwell on your worry, the more and more tangible it becomes. A worry can’t change anything. It is just that, a worry. It’s our mind dwelling on the maybe. I have two things in my life right now that are legit things I could worry about. If I sat and thought about, continually talked about, read about, and listen to all the terrible things that “could” happen, I would likely drive myself nuts. We have to choose to make technology a blessing and not a cursing because unfortunately if we aren’t careful, fear and panic can easily set in.
Try not to let the fear of the Coronavirus consume you. Keep living the life you are hopefully already doing by good hand washing and staying home if you are sick.
Every time I go to Target alone, I get super emotional. There are moments my body seems to freeze up and time feels as though it is standing still. I walk by the sweet mamas talking to their sweet babies while their cute little legs are dangling out of the cart. My heart is happy for them and hurts at the same time. I think about how grateful I am I was able to take my first three sweet babies to Target. Sam has never been to Target or in any store for that matter. Or I go to the baby food section and the only thing I buy is green beans. I don’t buy anything else because the only thing, besides formula, we pump into Sam’s gj-tube (feeding tube) is green beans. For a moment, I envy the other mamas who are buying other baby food flavors. Stupid, I know. Then I tell myself to buck up and feel grateful for nurses and feeding tubes and life.
Suddenly, it hits me.
I figured it out.
PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder.
Yep, kind of weird, I know, but it’s a thing and it can happen to anyone who’s been through a trauma.
When Sam was “living” in the hospital, I basically lived there too. On the rare occasion I did leave, it was to be with my family or quickly pick-up some toiletries. We lived in twelve different rooms in the seven months Sam was there so I learned to live very sparingly. Guess what store I went to on my rare trips out of the hospital? Yep…you guessed it…Target.
I vividly remember standing in the checkout line at the Target closest to the hospital during an extremely grim time for Sam. I felt like I was the scene in a movie. I looked at the person in front of me, behind me, and everywhere around me wondering what their story was. An overarching question constantly on my mind still to this day…“What’s their story?” I remember failing to fight back tears as I stood in line. I quickly wiped away the small tears as I came closer to the checkout. It didn’t help there was a proud daddy with his little boy who couldn’t have been more than a year old in front of me.
It’s crazy how sounds, smells, and/or certain places can bring back vivid moments in your life. Whether they were moments of peace or fear, they were real to you. It’s those moments of fear that seem to hit us the hardest. Fear can wrap around you so tightly, it can almost feel hard to breath. It can happen even if you haven’t experienced a trauma. I’m guessing we have all had moments like this. When you can stand in faith and know fear is a liar, your happiness can’t be taken. That grip of fear slowly releases and a peace that passes all understanding sets in.
Still almost three years later, I have to fight with myself anytime I step foot in a Target alone. Some days there is more fighting than others, but every time I walk out those sliding glass doors, I choose to smile, remind myself, it could be so much worse, and ponder the MANY things I am grateful for.
Where do I begin?! Ya know that whole mentally preparing myself thing I’ve talk about? I don’t think I did enough of that this time. Or maybe we just got a lot of overwhelming information. Or maybe it gets harder and harder to send Sam off to surgery as he gets older and more aware of what’s going on. Or maybe it’s a combination of both. Or maybe sometimes I have my moments.
Sam is definitely starting to figure things out. He does just fine until everyone starts coming in to go over things. This time his anesthesiologist said he was pretty feisty when they brought him back to the operating room. Poor buddy. After looking at Sam’s history, the anesthesiologist said “Wow, he’s got quite the history. It’s v.e.r.y rare a kid makes it to three pages.” We all joked saying Sam should get a medal or trophy or something. I could have laughed or cried. I laughed. Laughing is much better for the soul.
Trying to explain everything and making it make sense to the general public is tough. I’ll do my best.
Because of the GI findings, Sam’s ENT has decided to stay in the background for quite a while. He wanted us to talk to Sam’s pulmonologist as he said Sam’s airway is really red and inflamed. This is likely due to Sam’s most recent illness, which is a whole other story. Thankfully, after looking at the pics, Sam’s pulmonologist wasn’t worried. The good news…the small part of Sam’s airway he fixed last month was successful!
We got answers, but not the greatest news. It’s a lot of info, but in short, his GI surgeon is going to talk to docs from Boston as they are stumped and not sure what to do next. After looking, they discovered his tummy surgery came undone or unwrapped. The surgery, last done in November of 2017, that’s failed three times now. It’s likely, the unsuccessful surgery is due to Sam’s violent retching episodes, which in turn wreak havoc on his already stressed esophagus. Either way he’ll have another open surgery sometime this summer. Open surgery…yuck. They will do some more tests and dilate his esophagus again in four weeks. The good news…he once again recovered beautifully!
Once again, we wait…patiently.
We are use to getting bad news and the unknown. Hope is hope, just that, and it’s a phenomenal thing. We cling to hope.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
(2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV)
Sam will go to surgery again tomorrow (Monday). His GI surgeon and a GI doctor will stretch his esophagus again for the twenti somethingth time. His ENT will look to see if the sutures stayed intact on the bottom part of his Laryngeal Cleft, or the hole in his airway. His ENT has decided only to look and see if the surgery he did last month worked or not. Both Sam’s ENT and GI surgeons are going into this, hoping to formulate a plan based on their findings.
There are SO MANY things I could worry about with Sam. Of course, I travel down that path sometimes, but it gets me nowhere except stressed and fearful. There is SO little we can control. I know we are doing everything in our control, the rest is out of our hands. We choose to let go, and let God. When that truly happens, I can tell you from experience, the stress and fear factor quickly go away.
Pray the surgery done last month on Sam’s airway was successful. Pray for Sam’s surgeons, anesthesiologist, and anyone else caring for him. Pray Sam will recover quickly, his docs will be able to formulate a good plan, and we will get some answers. Pray for the rest of us too. I joke, Sam recovers faster than I do when he has surgery. As you can imagine, surgery days are pretty mentally and emotionally exhausting. As always, thank you for keeping us and our Superman Sam in your prayers.
Well, it’s been a bit since my last post. If you can imagine, life gets a little busy juggling a complex child and three other kids. Not too long ago, someone bought me a journal. The cover reads, “There are no ordinary days.” So true, for all of us, really. Although, if I’m being completely honest, I can think of countless ordinary days before Sam. When I talk about my ordinary days to my close people, they would tell you my days are not so ordinary. I’m okay with that. We usually laugh and I say, “You can’t make this stuff up!” Laughter, for sure, is the best medicine. Thank you to my besties for listening about my not so ordinary days. I couldn’t do this journey without you.
We did end up having to spend Sam’s anniversary in the hospital, but thankfully we did not get admitted. It couldn’t have been more than an hour after I posted my last post, we were instructed to take Sam in. Bummer. He was a pretty sick little guy. Poor buddy. Although, it was the fastest trip to the Children’s ER we’ve ever had. Like any of our ER visits, they did blood work, a trach culture, and x-rays. Round trip, it was only five hours. That’s record time! The nurse in the ER congratulated Sam on his anniversary. We all laughed, agreeing he had to pay a visit to his alma mater for his anniversary. Laughter, the best medicine.
Okay, so how many of you Googled that one? Pseudomonas? It is the type of infection or type of tracheitis Sam had growing on his trach culture. It’s not the first time Sam’s had it. It’s a scary one and we do everything on our part to keep it away from Sam, but unfortunately there’s only so much we can do. It’s not something us normal people have to worry about. You’d have to have an artificial airway, like Sam, or an open burn wound, or be in a hospital hooked up to a bunch of stuff. Thankfully, we were able to treat it this time and once we knew what it was, we were able to treat it quickly.
I’d like to say things have been going really well for Sam since then. Let’s just say, we’ve had an eventful February. Sam’s has some GI stuff going on. Pray we can get it figured out and get him back on track, or at least back on “his” track.
There’s no doubt, this kid keeps all of us on our toes!
Why is getting sick such a big deal for the complex child? Why does the fear of getting a simple cold bring slight panic into the hearts of families and caretakers of a complex child? When Sam gets sick, he gets so much more sick than a healthy child. A little cold makes for several more added nebulizers throughout the day, which is on top of the daily nebulizers he already takes. A cold can easily turn into pneumonia. A cold can quickly turn into another hospital stay. Don’t even get me started on the flu. Ugh. That opens a whole different can of scary worms in our world.
Why do doctors want their complex patients basically quarantined at home especially during cold and flu season? They are well aware of the repercussions.
Why do the little germs, we barely gave a second thought about with my three other kids, seem SO MUCH BIGGER to us now? In a sense, they are much bigger for Sam, not literally, but figuratively. When my other kids got/get sick we might go to the clinic. Sam skips the clinic or urgent care and goes straight to the hospital. There are no in between spots for him.
Around the holidays, why are there more complex kiddos in the hospital? We get more brave during the holidays. We want to feel like a normal family.
Although it looks like I’m a complete freak in my writing. I am actually able to keep my anxious thoughts fairly under control. There is so little we can control. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. We do what we can and follow our doctors orders. I trust in a God who’s purpose is only good, and I believe in a God who wants me to give Him all my worries and concerns. I try my darndest to do just that.
I am also incredibly thankful for a family and friends who are understanding of Sam and his complexities. I’ve started to meet people who live in our world and many can’t say the same. Our family and friends stay away when they are feeling under the weather and sanitize and/or wash their hands before they touch Sam. Again, there’s only so much we can control. It’s important for Sam to be around his family and friends. I know we all cherish these few and far between times. Sam loves to be around people. He’s become a little show off and loves when everyone has their eyes on him.
We made it through the holidays without Sam getting sick, which is just short of a miracle with how brave we were. We spent Christmas with family, and we had lots of family staying at our house from out of town. I’m pretty sure they would tell you I did a good job at keeping my anxious thoughts under control. Those of you who know me, know I am far from a Nervous Nelly, but man, Sam has really made this Nelly character come out in me once in a while. I’m human, right?! Sam is healthy right now and has been for over a month. That’s what we choose to keep our thoughts on. And he’s going to stay that way!
Yes, Sam has Down Syndrome. It always throws me a little off guard when people think it is a thing for us. I don’t know, maybe, if it was Sam’s only diagnosis, it would have been. It is not Sam’s only diagnosis. Sam is what the medical world calls a medically complex child. When your child fights for their life, a diagnosis like Down Syndrome is not what you think about. When your child is in a medically induced coma for 34 days, you don’t care about Down Syndrome. When you spend months in the hospital, Down Syndrome is no big deal. When your child has multiple surgeries, Down Syndrome is not a concern. When you bring your very medically complex child home for the first time, you are not thinking about Down Syndrome. When your child is put under one to two times a month to get his esophagus stretched, Down Syndrome is not important. When you make weekly, sometimes more, trips to the hospital, it’s still not a thing. Yes, maybe it was initially, for a split second, but I don’t really remember that part very much at all. I just wanted and still want my baby alive and healthy. When you have a medically complex child, that is your focus one hundred percent of the time. Down the road, when hospital stays, surgeries, the fear of Sam getting a cold, etc. are a thing of the past, I’m guessing then, Down Syndrome might be a thing for us, but maybe not, I don’t know. Until then, and always, he is just just our baby who needs to be loved and kept as healthy as possible.
If you are someone who thought Down Syndrome was a thing for us and you feel bad about it, please don’t! It has weighed on my heart, and I want people to be aware. It makes sense to me. Down Syndrome is something more people can relate to. Not many people have heard of Long Gap Esophageal Atresia and even less have heard of a Type II Laryngeal Cleft. When you have a medically complex child, Down Syndrome is not your focus. This doesn’t mean we want to pretend Sam does not have Down Syndrome, quite the contrary. This also doesn’t mean people can’t ask questions or can’t talk about it with us. It’s only a glimpse into the heart of a mama with a medically complex child, who’s sharing how Down Syndrome is not on her radar right now.
A new, sweet friend of mine, recently posted a blog related to a mission she is not only trying to, but is beginning to make waves in a sadly still biased world. In order for you to understand my feelings, you have to take a minute and read her post first…
I honestly do not remember much about Sam’s Down Syndrome diagnosis. After reading Carissa’s post, I drilled Sean with many questions, about what he remembers, while also trying to piece together what I remember.
What Sean remembers…
…when the ambulance came to take him and Sam, not long after Sam was born, the Nurse Practitioner from Children’s told him not to worry and that this baby would be the light of his life. She told him about her daughter who had Down Syndrome and how she was the joy of her life and so many others.
Message…Sam’s life is a gift.
What I remember…
…a neonatologist from Children’s calling me at Mercy Hospital the day after Sam was born. He told me what, at the time, they thought was wrong with Sam. He also said, “All the nurses are telling me he has Down Syndrome. I don’t see it, but the nurses are always right. We will do the blood test and we will see.”
Message…Sam may have Down Syndrome, which is neither good, nor bad, just fact.
What we both remember…
…after Sam’s dramatic first time appearance into the real world, someone asking if we knew he had Down Syndrome.
Message…Sam may have a diagnosis the family is not aware of. Again, neither good, nor bad, just fact.
…when we first received Sam’s blood work confirming his diagnosis of Down Syndrome. Although, neither of us needed blood work to confirm it. This was really hard for both of us to remember. We think we pieced together the neonatologist who delivered the news. That’s about all we can remember. I can tell you, I know, this same neonatologist views Sam’s life as a gift, as she chose to feature him on the MN Neonatal Foundation’s (Click here) website.
Message…Sam’s life is a gift.
Not once did any medical personnel make us feel Sam’s diagnosis of Down Syndrome was a hopeless or bad thing. Some of what we remember was neither good, nor bad, just fact. Never did we feel we had to convince anyone Sam’s life is a gift.
I’m sorry all your hopes and dreams are over for your child. What if we would have heard these same words during Sam’s often hopeless looking situation? Would we have the same feelings as we did when I wrote about Sam having Down Syndrome so long ago? I think so, but they probably would have been stronger and/or more intense. Would it have made our already hard journey feel heavier? I believe so. If we felt we had to prove Sam’s life is a gift, would Down Syndrome have more of a focus for us? I don’t know, but maybe. I can’t imagine going through what we have with Sam, while also feeling like we had to convince people Sam’s life is a gift. My heart hurts just thinking about it.
I am so thankful we had the experience we did, but my heart aches for those who will receive a message that says their child’s life is not a gift. Can you imagine how you would feel if someone made you think your child’s life was not worth living?
It’s 2…0…1…8! The fact that Down Syndrome is still presented in a bias and hopeless way, boggles my mind. I have yet to meet a family who loves their child less because of his/her diagnosis. If anything, that child has taught them to love deeper and more passionately than they ever have before.
I tear up when I think of how many lives have already been touched by Sam. And he’s only two! All of my hopes and dreams are not over for my child. They are just beginning. Every tiny hurdle he makes is a hope and dream we have for him that has been fulfilled. In all reality, he has already surpassed any hope and dream we ever had for him. He brings so much joy into our life and so many others. One smile from Sam and your heart is full. Our Sam has inspired me to do things I never imagined I would. All of our hearts are bigger because of him.