As Promised

I have been writing this post off and on since July. Where did the summer go?! And now we’ve already been in school a few months?!

Since our last hospital stay WAY back in May, life was overall good for Sam until August hit. He was mostly healthy and doing all the things. And when I say, all the things, I mean ALL the things. That being said, I will update on the not so great stuff and end with the great things we did this past summer.

I think the reason I have been struggling to continue writing this post is because I was so excited to have only good news. I’ll try be a bit brief with the not so great stuff so we can focus on the super fun summer we had with Sam.

We’ve known since Sam was a baby, he “might” need an eye surgery to correct his lazy eyes. Yes, that’s plural for Sam. We have tried patching off and on over the years. His ophthalmologist let us know at his last appointment, Sam will need the eye surgery. We plan to schedule this after Christmas.

One of Sam’s many specialists is immunology. He only has this appointment once a year now. To make a long story short, one of his labs was very off at his last appointment. Both his immunologist and pediatrician thought the off labs might be the “c” word. Thank you Lord, after oncology looked over his labs, they were reassured cancer was not the case. This left everyone scratching their heads on which specialist we should see. It was narrowed down to nephrology. Thankfully, this is already a specialty Sam sees because of his hypertension (high blood) issues.

We had our appointment with nephrology and did lots of other testing to hopefully rule out chronic kidney disease (CKD). At this appointment, his nephrologist said, either way they would have to treat the way off lab results as they are at “too dangerously of a high level”. Unfortunately, we did recently find out Sam has CKD. The CKD is in the early stage so that is a bonus. We will have to see nephrology more often now so they can keep a close eye on his kidneys.

In the past month, Sam has also had a few seizure like episodes. He saw a neurologist for this and confirmed the episodes were likely seizures. He prescribed Sam a rescue med for if the seizures last more than five minutes. He will have an MRI and EEG done soon to rule anything serious. We are confident and praying there is nothing serious.

Sam will have endoscopy to check on his esophagus and tummy. We will be able to coordinate his MRI with the endoscopy. I try very hard to coordinate sedation procedures/surgeries when I can with this complicated little man! Just call me the CEO of Sam Inc.!

Sam gets poked a lot as is, but the past few months have been more than normal. He was pretty sick for a week in October so this made for even more poking. Thankfully we were able to schedule an appointment rather than having to take him to the emergency room like normal. After all the testing, he ended up being super constipated and had tracheitis. He was pretty miserable for about a week, BUT we stayed out of the hospital!

We will shoot for the Spring to go to Cincinnati again and hopefully get the hole in Sam’s airway fixed. Sam’s pulmonologist suggested we wait till after winter to go. Cincinnati thought that was a good idea too.

Now, let’s move on from the cruddy stuff and into the good stuff! My mama heart was full with the many firsts Sam had this summer.

Fun at Como Zoo.

He was finally cleared by his doctors to go back to school. He started summer school two days a week and loved it.

Sam had only been into a store one time in his life and it was brief. We decided to go big or go home for his first real trip to a store. Yep, the Mall of America. He was mostly in awe of the lights and high ceilings. We went to a dinosaur exhibit next to the mall. Let’s just say the mall was much more interesting.

We celebrated Sam’s fifth birthday! Swimming isn’t the best birthday activity for Sam, but he loves the water so much! If he didn’t have a trach, I’m pretty sure he would be in fish in the water. Some day!

Before Sam was born, we spent A LOT of time at our family cabin. Since he’s been born, we have brought him on a day trip once, there and back. Traveling with a medically complex child is no joke. Being on a lake with a child with a trach, again, no joke. It always feels a little odd when someone asks what would happen if Sam fell in the water and our response is, “He would most likely die.” We were also able to go to a friend’s cabin twice.

Thank you to all of you who have collected pop tabs for us! We didn’t turn them in last year because of Covid, but had a lot to throw in the bin at the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Sam thought it was pretty fun to throw the pop tabs in the big bin. Although, they probably wouldn’t admit it, I think Will and Abby thought so too.

We took a spontaneous trip to Duluth. This was a really big deal for us and we were so glad we did. We had a blast!

Sam’s first day of Kindergarten! No words from this mama for this emotional day.

Another spontaneous thing we did was go to a Gopher Football Game. Sam didn’t like when anyone scored a touchdown. He got pretty scared with all the yelling, but overall had a great time.

He, of course, loved the apple orchard.

Sam’s first time EVER in a grocery store! I wondered what people were thinking when I was overly excited to put him in the cart. It’s funny what we take for granted sometimes. I remember when my other kids were little I was happy to leave them at home when it came to grocery shopping.

I can’t imagine what people were thinking when we taking all the pictures.

We were hoping Sam would be over his sickness before Halloween. He was back to himself the day of Halloween! He has been out on Halloween, but hasn’t been trick-or-treating before, partly because of being immunocompromised and partly because he can’t eat the candy anyway. I thought he would get a kick of people putting something into his bucket. I was wrong. The first house we brought him to, he tried to go inside. He got pretty sad when he realized we couldn’t go inside. This is where it’s okay to laugh. We did. We’ll try again next year! We had one neighbor who had bubbles and something else for Sam knowing he can’t eat the candy. That little gesture made my heart flutter.

We all have stuff, stuff that makes life hard. We can make a choice to see the beauty or focus on the pain. The enemy likes us to focus our time and energy on the pain. I believe when we see His beauty in the pain, our strength gets stronger and our hearts get happier.

Sam Strong and Faith Over Fear!

HOME!

After seven days, Sam was able to come home! We are very thankful he is feeling better and it was a short stay, in our world.

If I added correctly, Sam has spent ten plus months of his life in the hospital and he’s only four. That also means he’s spent much more of his life at home. I’m not discounting the time in the hospital. I’m also not saying tears aren’t shed from exhaustion and other things on my part and pain and exhaustion on his. I’m not saying this isn’t REALLY, REALLY hard. I’m not saying to ignore the bad, but in my experience when we focus on the good instead of the bad, it’s harder for the negative to steal your joy.

FaceTime allowed me to stay on the phone with my daughter, off and on, for over three hours to “help” her bake a cake. She had some bumps along the way, but she didn’t give up. It was still pretty good four days later, when I was home to try it. I was a proud mama.

Every time we’re here, most of my family adapts with ease.

Every time we’re here, we meet more great nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, etc.

Every time we’re here, I learn new tricks to help Sam and I adapt to living in a hospital.

Every time we’re here, Sam steals more hearts.

With an IV in, Sam can only use one hand. I get mesmerized by how he uses his one hand to play when he starts feeling better. The smarty pants even uses his mouth to push toys and objects in place.

This is the life of Sam. We didn’t choose it, but we have learned to adapt, be flexible, and make lemonade out of lemons. And this guy is SO worth it all.

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.

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!

Second by Second

Sam’s day has been quite rough. Man, what a roller coaster. Just when we all think he’s turning the corner, things take a sharp turn in the wrong direction.

Some symptoms are new and others have been off and on since he’s been here. This is nothing. It’s just a fluke. He will get through this.

Please pray for my little fighter. Pray his blood pressure can be controlled. Pray for no more red blood coming from his trach (breathing tube). Pray for less secretions. Pray his lungs are clear on the x-ray results. Pray for no more throwing up. Pray for his heart rate to come down. Pray for his medical team. Pray for his momma, daddy, sister, and brothers too. Pray they can get things figured out and we can go home. Pray for no more sharp turns.

Another Test

Today at 2:00, Sam will go down to surgery to have another test. They will do an endoscopy with contrast into his esophagus and GJ-tube (feeding tube). They are basically taking moving pictures of where things are going when he is being fed. They are mainly checking for an obstruction.

Here’s the thing, we don’t want them to find anything, but if they do and it’s an easy fix, that would be the best case scenario. Otherwise, we’re back to square one, the guessing game.

I’m not even sure what to ask you to pray for. For now, pray we can figure out what’s going on and it will be an easy fix.

Faith Over Fear!

Sam Strong!

CT Scan

The Intensivist said, “His (Sam’s) CT scan was reassuring and disappointing, at the same time. Reassuring, because the CT scan didn’t show any emergencies. We were checking to see if his bowels had twisted. Disappointing, because it didn’t tell us what is going on.”

Long story, short, Sam started throwing up earlier and didn’t stop. It became more violent and frequent as time went on.

They have him sedated again and he will stay off his feeds for tonight. Surgery will put their heads together in the morning and discuss the next best steps.

This was Sam earlier today when things were going well. He’s wasn’t quite able to walk yet, but with his determination, it won’t take long.

Trying to walk again.

This will just be a little bump. Please Lord, let this be a tiny bump.

Thank you for your continued encouragement, prayers, and support. It would make this journey a lot harder without it.