Friday, December 5, 2014

Messy Miracles in the Making. . .: Quality versus Quantity

Messy Miracles in the Making. . .: Quality versus Quantity: Quality versus quantity. . . what a complex and sticky little concept.  It’s so different from case to case.  We’re currently faced with ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quality versus Quantity

Quality versus quantity. . . what a complex and sticky little concept.  It’s so different from case to case.  We’re currently faced with this issue for two of our children.  It’s not the first time we’ve faced it, nor the last, but is never easy.   Sergio has many things going on that constantly cause us to stop, rethink, and determine if what needs to be done is worth the degradation of his quality of life.  Most times it is, sometimes, it’s not.  As such, the hospital has been wonderful in coming up with new protocols never tried before just to save us from so many hospitalizations.  From drawing cultures and labs at home, to starting emergency interventions and key antibiotic therapy without the need for a trip to the ER and admission to the hospital (provided he is stable and “ok”).  We are also looking at Quality v. Quantity issues for Joshua as well.  His port has stopped working, he needs a new one.  He is developmentally not able to do it while awake.  We were incredibly blessed to have our wonderful oncologist go down to interventional radiology and “make a case” for him to get his port in IR under general anesthesia.  We’re just awaiting a date.  With the new port, we have decided to move his IVIG infusions back home.  He wants to try it.  This results in some significant changes in who and how he has his port accessed.  It also opens the door to trying new interventions for his neurological issues that affect his bladder.  This may allow us to circumvent the need for more traditional approaches but will significantly impact quality versus quantity. 
Well, we made it through the holiday without an admission.  That’s not to say we made it without an infection, just that our new protocol that allows me to begin the same treatment and lab work the ER and hospital do; at home, worked.  This prevented another 4 day admission when he began running a fever the day after Thanksgiving. 
Sadly we’ve made several more changes to accommodate our young son’s ever changing, and failing organs.  Lately it’s his kidneys.  I’ve been watching his kidney numbers go up more and more.  His BP likewise has begun a steady upward climb.  The little boy who had low blood pressure his whole life, now has high blood pressure.  We know his kidneys are at fault, but don’t know how or why. . . just like every other thing that goes wrong with him.  There are no books that you can read, no websites that condenses his particular constellation of issues into a nice neat article and then delves into the treatment for those issues.  Nope, not Sergio. 
He is now tethered full time to both hydration and TPN, this means he’s lugging around 6 pounds of pumps, tubing and bags of life sustaining medications.  We had to move him from a backpack to a rolling bag (and if you know Sergio, this is not an easy feat!).  Last night he had to have repeat doses of morphine because his bottom was so sorry he wouldn’t sit down.  It is a side effect of the severe diarrhea that comes with the antibiotic he has to have.  So we augment his treatment with pain meds, acid reducing pastes on his poor bottom and we blow dry the skin with a blow dryer.  It’s a sight to behold.  It’s sad, it’s frustrating and it’s reality.  Yet, my baby has NO IDEA that this is bad.  He has never known anything else and when It’s over, it’s over.  He returns to his potato head stealing, microwave waving, water drenching activities as if he hasn’t a care in the world.  He is in the terrible “twos” or “threes” phase right now.  Complete with foot stomping, evil eyes, yelling at and door slamming.  It’s such a spectacle you can’t help but laugh, which makes him madder if it results in me quarantining him to his bedroom (mind you, this is the worst place in the world for him, as it’s off of the kitchen and bathrrom . . . aka, microwave, tub, sink, dog bowl heaven.  And no, morphine does NOT make him sleepy and all dopey, it just makes him feel well enough to act just like himself.  J
Joshua has a neurogenic bladder and bowel.  This is a result of the first surgery to remove his brain tumor.  It was significantly worsened by the epilepsy surgery that further disturbed the areas that have the nerves that control the neurological aspects of bladder and bowel control.  As such, he feels like he HAS to go all the time.  I mean 20+ times a day.  Sometimes, he actually goes.  Most times, he can’t.  I get frustrated.  He gets frustrated with me and doesn’t understand why I get upset.  You see, he seizes the most in the bathroom.  It’s the least safest place in the house for him, yet it’s where he has to stand the most.  I has broken doors, showers, and even a faucet.  He has had the shower bar fall on his head causing more issues and he has torn up his side and back up falling against the door jamb and shower door latches.  There are treatments but it necessitates having to undergo invasive and very uncomfortable testing which he does not want to go through again. It hurts and it’s always very abnormal.  The permanent solution is a stoma in his abdomen that he can use to catheterize himself so he empties his bladder completely, thus eliminating the never ending sense of needing to go.  This is where the quality versus quantity comes in.  We have opted instead to pursue adding hydration via his port each week to improve actual bladder function.  Joshua is not happy about having to have his port accessed for days at a time, but he also agreed it’s better than the testing and if it works, then great.  If it doesn’t, then we’ll revisit our options.  His original diagnosis of brain tumor and subsequent treatments have taken a terrible toll on his body.  He has unrelenting seizures, neurogenic bladder and bowel, cataracts, severe developmental delays, severe hearing loss, osteoporosis, and ADHD.  Yet, he happily sits by the fire every night and watches the same re-runs of Disney shows over and over.  He is Peter’s shadow and never far from daddy when he’s home.  Loves having his finger and toe nails cut.  Manages to make it so his hearing aids “don’t work” an awful low despite reassurances from the hearing aid store that they do, in fact, work well. 
      The rest are doing well.  Tray blew away his transplant team when they saw how tall he had gotten.  He is now 5’10”.  He’s officially taller than me.  He is still growing and will be in a size 13 sneaker by winters end.  He has been having high blood pressure for a while now and finally the agreed It was time to address it.  So he’s started a blood pressure med, though it doesn’t seem to really be a high enough dose, as his pressures are still too high.  Will tweak the dose this week.  Overall, he looks amazing and feels even better. 
       Nettie has many aches and pains.  Her severe knee infection 2 years ago, set her back almost 10 years in terms of physical abilities.  In an effort to lose weight and get back some of the function she has lost, she injured her elbow, causing severe tennis elbow.  It’s very painful and though she had instant relief from a cortisone shot, she did not follow instructions to rest the elbow for at least 2 weeks.  Instead, because it felt good, she jumped into more exercise than ever.  Now she’s hurting badly again.  Not sure what else there is to do to help her.  L
       Cody is doing great, other than taking a very hard fall down our hard wood stairs today.  Pretty bad back contusions and elbow bruise, but he’s running around with my rain coat on and my hair dryer (a new and better zombie killing gun says he).  He’ll live. 
        Marriela is in heaven as her Elf on the Shelf, Dennis has returned.  For me, that means leaning heavily upon my night nurse to remember to move that dang little guy around.  Today I was truly impressed, Dennis was in a hammock, hanging from my dining room light. . . such ingenuity! 
     Peter and I are tying up this semester of school.  I am only 18 credits from my advance certificate of Ed.S (Education Specialist).  Sergio is making it very hard for me to contemplate what to do with my new found skills and education, but we’ll work something out.  Peter will be starting his internship with Vera House, an organization that works with abused women and children.  He will be full time in the spring and upon completion will be ready to work as a Mental Health Counselor.  So exciting!!
       On December 16th, I will be having surgery on my rotator cuff.  I have done the cortisone shots, PT, ice, and heat to no avail.  I’m in pain all the time and MY quality of life is severely impacted which then impacts my children and that is not ok.  As such, I will have an impingement release, tendon repair and a bone spur removal.  I can’t wait!!  How said is that!!  So Christmas should be fun.  Working hard to have the buying and wrapping well underway by that point!
Well, that’s it for now.  Merry Christmas to all and a Blessed New Year. 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

And summer is gone. . .

Time just keeps on moving along.  So much to say, literally.  Yet trying to identify those aspects of summer that really need to be shared (well, I find it necessary to share; I suspect most could care less. . . that's ok. hehehe) is hard.

The kids are back in school.  Joshua is "back" in 11th grade, eventually he'll catch on that he should be out of school at some point,thus far, he's content to just keep on keeping on.  Tray is sort of "back" in 9th grade.  He is in 10th grade BOCES but, because he goes for a half day, he could only fit in one 9th grade regents course, necessitating him to stay at the 9th grade building for his Global History and English courses.  So he is, on paper, a 9th grader but don't let him know that!!  LOL  Marriela is now in 7th grade and thus in the middle school.  She is doing superbly thus far! I'm incredibly grateful that the transition has been smooth thus far.  Home, that's another whole story.  Cody is in 4th grade and just started an instrument.  He wanted the tuba, but he wasn't granted the genetics for large lips and thus couldn't use the mouth piece, therefore, he was moved to the baritone (a smaller version of a tuba).  He loves it and is very good if I say so myself. Although the only notes I can discern are all made using a variety of key combinations that aren't on his actual practice sheet, but hey, sounds good to me!  He also went out for Student Council.  Really??  Where did this overachiever nonsense come from?  When asked what he would do to promote school spirit, character education and community service; he offered that every class that raises $20 towards a charity of their choice can have a pajama day. Now, for me, wearing my pj's to school was nightmare level stuff, but today kids think its awesome!  He then went on to say, if they raise $40 they can also have a Pokemon Day. I'm pretty sure we departed from school spirit there to Cody spirit, but he was thrilled with his suggestions and wrote them down with pride. Sergio is "back" in 1st grade.  By time he leaves elementary school he'll have mouton chops and a mustache and maybe 4 feet tall.  He'll be a bad ass "little person" who eventually will use some sort of device to swear at me.  I'm confident of that.  And Nettie, well, she called to say "HaHa" to them all on the first day of school like any respectable big sister would.

Thus summer was also the tale of several not-so-fun hospital stays followed by an incredible Make A Wish trip.  I'm going to do a whole update on the trip someday, it really deserves it's own dedicated posting.  But suffice to say, it was AWESOME!!

I graduated from St. John's University with my M.Ed. in Education Administration.  I was also successful in completing the bazillion requirements to be re-instated as a certified teacher of students with speech and language disabilities.  I have since enrolled back in school at Liberty University in their doctoral program.  I am looking forward to a day when I'm no longer in school, but also realize that I may as well use this time, when Sergio is not stable, to achieve things that will lead to bigger and better things in the future once he is stable.  Peter will be finishing his MS in Mental Health Counseling this spring!  What an accomplishment for him and he will pursue work immediately.

Yeah, there is so much more.  I just can't think of it all now. . . really, the couch about 3 feet from me is literally calling my name, I swear I can hear it whispering "come lay down and take a nice nap before you finish reading Socrates. . .shhhhhhhh."  That dang couch it's a terrible distraction.  Sigh, I am going to resign to its calling.

Till next time!
Take Care and God Bless,

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Hail Mary's. . .

We've all seen them.  The dramatic end of the game play that makes it or breaks it for the team.  A desperate attempt to make the impossible possible and pull away a winner rather than a loser.

Well, we've been doing that for 20 years now with our kids.  Throwing up those Hail  Mary's and then praying.  Praying we land the basket, hit the infield or make the net.  Tomorrow is another Hail Mary.

Truth be told, I'm positive there is a God.  You know why, because the majority of our Hail Mary's have worked!  We've been faced with two impossible choices and after making one, praying it was the right one.  Whether it was leaving a DNR in place for Nettie or choosing to revoke it and push her through another life crushing infection.  Or choosing between a life taking cancer or a life taking treatment for Joshua.  Or putting our newly adopted son, Trayvon through another open heart surgery only to know transplant was not possible if it failed at that time.  And even the impossible decisions of quality now v. quality later in life.  We've had to decide whether or not to use medications in our daughter that cause neurological issues in people the longer they are on them.  Doing so would give her the chance to see life in a more stable and rage free manner but may result in life changing complications in her future.  Not doing so meant holding my daughter daily as she raged for two or more hours.  What kind of life is that.  What kind of choices are these??  Shitty vs. shittier.  That's what they are, plan and simple.  But you must make a choice and so chose we did.

Today we had to chose again.  We chose to wait for a single blood culture tomorrow morning.  The result, positive or negative, comes with risks and concerns for either outcome.  We, as a team, decided a positive means Sergio will need a new line.  That means removing this one and leaving him without one for 3 days and then praying hard we can put a new one in.  A negative means we get to go home.  But, knowing that when we turn off the antibiotics, we may be facing another life threatening infection like the one we just went through.  Both choices are crappy choices.

I know there's a God, because he's held me up as I've stood an listened to the doom and gloom of doctors for one child after another.  I know my sweet daughter that was to be is smiling down from Heaven, happy and whole.  I know God has my back and though bad things happen, I also know he's not making them happen.  He's pulling us through the shortcomings of this life.  He loves Sergio and doesn't want him to suffer but that's the world we live in, the answers just aren't here yet.  So he'll hold me up as we make choices to give my precious boy both quality and quantity and wait for the "answers" to come.

Nettie has proven that we've made some good choices.  I signed two DNR's (Do Not Resuscitate) orders for my baby girl.  Each time they were to be activated, I look at her and just knew it wasn't the right time.  She'd give us the signal she's ready to go, it wasn't my call to make.  The same for Joshua.  Despite the grim statistics and the side effects of the meds, and the life long disabilities that may occur or the chance he may need to battle another cancer caused by the treatment of the first. . . once the info was shared, we told the Dr. we'd only accept positive reports from that day forward.  We were going to live like it was all going to work and he was going to survive.  If we had to face another potential outcome, we'd cross that bridge when it appeared.   And Trayvon, we decided it was the wrong time to move to transplant, despite the misgivings of the transplant team.  We had hard decisions to make, and harder ones to live with if we were wrong.  In all of these cases we were right.

Our luck, time, whatever will run out one day.  We'll be faced with such an impossible Hail Mary it won't be realistic to hope for success.   Until then though, I think we'll just keep throwing them up and praying they're going where they need to be to make us a winner and not a loser.  I just hope God isn't keeping score.  :-)

With love,


Monday, August 11, 2014

How Hot Can You Get???

Even at 106.1 he was trying to smile in the ER.
That was the question Sergio decided he was going to try and answer for us Friday evening.  Now, this child has gotten "hot" before, up to 106.5 and I don't really even bat an eyelash, as long as he's getting the medical intervention he needs. . . but, Friday was a different story. We landed in the ER at 3:00 am due to a fever that was moving rapidly and he was looking very sick, very fast.  It earned him a trip to the PICU.  During the day the docs and nurses kept saying how good he looked, despite the fact that I kept saying it was highly abnormal for him to sleep all day and his heart rate was very high for him.  At 7:10 pm he decided to see how hot he could get. 

He had just reached 107.3
107.3.  That's how hot he can get.  I pray that's the hottest he ever gets again.  It was the highest temp of the new PICU, where we were thank God when he pulled this little stunt, but not the highest of the hospital.  The record was 108.1 for a little girl with a massive abscess in her abdomen.  They drained it and immediately she recovered and was on her way.  That's impressive.  Sergio's wasn't so easy. He shook harder than any seizure I've witnessed.  He cried out in agony as his body was violently put through a temperature change of over 8 degrees in less than 15 minutes.  He turned purple as the blood vessels clamped down to preserve his organs and his heart rate sky rocketed to over 200 beats a minute.  Yea, he spooked a few diehards in the PICU Friday; including me.

 It's the line again.  That damn, lifesaving, life giving, and potentially life taking line; the one that feeds him because his gut just refuses to work for some unknown reason.  The line that keeps him growing, thriving, hydrated, and fed.  Pair that line with a gut that is full of bacteria, as we all are, and a gut that likes to just share those bacteria with his blood stream, again for some unknown reason, and you have disaster.  These disasters happen about once a month again.  We do get breaks (the longest one was 18 months!) where he stays infection free, and then bam!!  We get stuck in this vicious cycle that is trying the best of the docs here. . . and me.  

I consider myself a pretty good problem solver.  I like murder mysteries and often solve the "mystery" of a movie before the end. I like games like Words with Friends, because they make me think and I love my medical apps that give me a case and I have to solve it (I've gotten pretty good too LOL - thinking of charging $20 for advice at this point!).  But I've lived with a walking, breathing, strong headed medical mystery now for over 6 years and I can't figure the answers out.  That's a kick in the gut. I can solve random crap but not the one that really counts.  

Sergio can't talk.  But he can communicate beautifully.  Sergio is smart, but he'll make you think otherwise if it means you'll ask him to do less. He'll play smart if it benefits him to do so.  Sergio can read (not at grade level, but can read words), he can spell, he can count he can problem solve and is incredibly resourceful in devising ways of getting to his water sources.  He is sly and creative and is his own favorite comedian (he literally will sit in his bed and crack himself up with evil little thoughts! LOL)  He is an integral part of our family.  The nurses that care for him in our home, love him like he was one of their own. 
Two days after his little fever fest.
The nurses in the hospital argue over who will have him to care for.  Why do I say all this. . . because he’s worth the fight.  He’s worth the time, energy and mental anguish to pull him through these awful infections again and again.  I often look at Sergio and think; “Do the doctors see what I see, and do they think we should fight as hard as we do?”  I never let my mind think the unthinkable, that maybe just maybe, this disabled little boy isn't work the money or time.  But, their actions speak louder than my worries.  They fight like hell to keep him going as I fight like hell right along with them.  The doctors have pained looks on their face each time we have to talk about replacing a line, or what to do with this severe infection or how do we keep this from happening.  They just don’t know either.

So in the end, the mystery stays just that, a mystery.  My little spit fire who loves his naked, backless potato heads (preferably in water).  My naughty little man who sticks his tongue out at everyone now because he knows it gets a rise out of virtually anyone that works with him.  My mystery man who has mastered the best primal growl you’ll ever hear from a human when he doesn't like the outcome of a plan he had devised.  And as everyone knows, a mystery is just waiting to be solved and so I will. . . hopefully it will be in time.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Days of Summer....

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

― Washington Irving

            It’s pouring out and the house is quiet. . . the two noisy ones are at summer school.  Thought it was  a good time to put some words to “paper”.  Marriela has advocated that I take up Vlogging.  I think not.  There aren’t a lot of pics of me out there and there sure as heck not going to be videos floating around the world of my mug talking with my irritating nasal voice.  Oh my.   So I’ll stick with the Blogging, which she completely disagrees with.  Sigh, sorry to disappoint sweet girl!

This was supposed to be the update following our incredible Make-A-Wish trip to the indoor water park.   Sergio became very sick and spent 8 days
Sick little man.
in the hospital instead.  But he defies the odds and the antibiotics, despite not
Sprinkler time!
working for many days, have successfully cleared the infection once again.  I asked his doctor the odds of saving his line, he said it was 50/50, but Sergio has won the 50/50 coin toss over 80% of the time, so he would never bet against him. 
J  That’s my boy!! If only we could put that good luck into something far more productive than saving central lines! 

Anyway, back to topic at hand.  We didn’t get to go on the trip.  We are looking at trying again the last week of August.  We started a new method of giving his Immunoglobulin treatment and so far it is going very well.  He is now getting it via little needles in his tummy and a pump pushes the IG into his tissues where it absorbed over the next week.  We repeat this weekly rather than going for one big dose IV each month. The IV method was causing severe reactions that were also resulting in hospitalizations so I didn’t think quality of life was being met the way it should be.  Praying this helps with infections AND decrease the reactions so we get all the positives and none of the negatives. 

The first fireworks the boys have seen.
The rest of the kids took the news of a delayed trip better than we anticipated, especially a certain little brown girl who doesn't handle change well at all!  I did cushion the blow by scheduling her Hawaiian themed birthday party for the local public pool.  This was a nice distraction and now we’ve been researching Luau themed birthday supplies on every site we can find.  Summer school, and the anticipation of several other fun things have helped create the distraction we needed. 

Thinking of making one of these for home!
Enjoying our turkey legs!
This past week we took four of the kids to the Renaissance Festival.  Tray, Cody and Marriela really loved it!!  Marriela got so much more from the shows than we anticipated.  Cody and Tray loved all the armor and other crazy outfits people looked just a tad too comfortable walking around in.  Joshua went to Casey’s Place Medical Respite where he decided he should keep them on their toes and started seizing badly at the park.  But they gave him his rescue meds and he pulled though and stayed the rest of the weekend.  He LOVES that place and it’s the only place he can go safely.  Sigh. 

This week we are leaving for four days to the Brian Bisgrove Home of Courage in Owasco, NY.  What an incredible gift for our family.  I’ve talked of this incredible place before, but please know this is really is the closest thing we’ve had to a relaxing family vacation in six years.  We did go for four days
Last fall at the Home of Courage
last summer to Lake George and had a great time!  But, it was intense, I was running 2 antibiotics for Nettie’s severe knee infection, 2 antibiotics for Sergio’s recent line infection and all of the other meds and IV stuff that is routine.  The Home of Courage is just relaxing.  There is no pressure to “go” anywhere.  Just hangout, fish, shoot bb guns, put together puzzles, cook out and get as close to “camping” as we can without risking the kids.  I am looking forward to it!!!

The week after that, Cody is going to a Ninjago Lego camp, then Tray leaves for a week for his Camp Hope with Heart near NYC and the week after, Joshua goes to his Camp Hole in the Woods camp for 4 days near Lake George.  THEN we hope to take the kids on the Make-A-Wish trip as Sergio will be suffering from severe cabin fever by that point!! 

Tray and Cody are very into “Zombies” and how to survive an apocalypse. I asked them to research the CDC site and find a list of 20 items they would need to take in an emergency to survive.  A few of their answers. . . brace yourself for the well thought out ideas. . . don’t be shocked if you didn’t think of some of these. . . ready??  A teddy bear, Bo and Mazzy (our dogs), a “blunt object”, toilet paper, a note to say good-bye to the family, food, a bandaid (just one apparently is all you need for a zombie bite), layers of clothes, a book to read, and the best. . . berries.  I’m pretty sure they both spelled batteries wrong,
A day at the park.
at least I’ll just hope that was their thinking.  Clearly they will not be surviving well for too long in the event we
need to really leave in an emergency.  There were some good answers (with some prodding) like their meds, a knife, some water, etc.  LOL  Marriela just said not to worry ‘cause we’re going to Heaven soon anyways. . . this is a running theme with her, should I be worried??  She has plans for my pictures, our house and my ashes!  LOL 

The kids are all doing well.  Tray is so healthy and strong and his last biopsy in June was perfect.  Cody has had almost no issues with his asthma and he is excelling at his Jui Jitsu.  Joshua has actually been doing very well relatively speaking.  He has about 3 seizures a day, mostly when he first falls asleep or early in the morning hours, or during naps.  But he is happy and well otherwise.  Nettie is doing very well and is always busy.  She comes over every other Sunday and next week is going to restart attending Church with her new worker (at her request).  I love her so much!  She will be going with us on the Make-A-Wish trip and she is very excited about that!  Marriela is doing well.  She is growing, healthy and mostly happy.  Recently however, we are dealing
Loving the pool!
with a lot of “anxiety issues” and an over focusing on recurrent worries.  Starting a very mild med to see if we can reign some of this in for her, as it really upsets her when she can’t “turn her brain off” on a worry.  She has to talk about it, share it and just overall obsess and it is very upsetting.  This results in tears and anger at her “brain” and the panic like symptoms she develops as she becomes upset, such a difficult cycle to break, and it hurts my heart to see her struggle with it so much.  But overall, her summer school has been great and she is so excited about her birthday party!  Trying to keep her focused on the things to come.  Sergio is
First days of summer
doing well.  When he’s not sick, he’s well.  He is going to summer school, and the gets a little water play in every day (more than he should, but he’s very resourceful!) 
Well, this is long enough for today.  Sending love and peace for a wonderful summer everyone. 


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Messy Miracles in the Making. . .: Just a little update

Messy Miracles in the Making. . .: Just a little update: So much happens in such a short time, it's hard to keep up with it all via this blog.  I guess I should do it more often.  So here'...

Just a little update

So much happens in such a short time, it's hard to keep up with it all via this blog.  I guess I should do it more often.  So here's a synopsis of where the CurkGang is right now. . . knowing this may all change by tonight.  LOL

Today I have Cody and Marriela home.  Marriela is highly agitated that she was "given" a cold and that I should be able to "take" it away as easily as it was given.  Not sure how to explain the epidemiology and transmission of viruses to my daughter, and if it doesn't end with "sit down and I'll take the stuffy nose away" it's all for naught anyways.   So I conceded that she's not a "fun" sick person.  Cody on the other hand, as long as his fever is down, is very fun.  Already beat him at a game of Battleship and now he's dueling it out with a virtual friend on Call of Duty while his antibiotics go to work.  Other than the continuing noisy wheezing you can hear from a room away, he seems just fine now.

Peter is on his way to Elmira.  They have created an end of the year award for athletes: The Peter Curkendall Male Athlete of the Year Award.  How cool is that?  This is the awards first year so he's going down to present it.  His dad is also in the ER again, second time in 2 days, and only 3 days out of rehab for 5 weeks.  It's very hard to watch our parents age and see them struggle with things.  It occurred to me that I am now the same age as my mom was when I married Peter.  How amazing is that?   It's wonderful and scary.  So please pray that we can find the means and way for Peter's dad to be independent AND safe.

The rest of the gang is well.  Trayvon is growing like a weed.  Size 14 feet (Lord I hope he doesn't grow into those feet!!) and officially "almost" as tall as I am (5'9") he just keeps looking more and more like a man every day. My sweet little boy who struggled to grow at all from 2 - 5 years old is now a growing machine (and an eating one).  Joshua, though done growing up, seems to still have room to grow "out".  We gave a trial off of his Adderall.  Due to his seizures and the inability to just "go out" anytime he would like, physical activity is difficult.  In addition, his Traumatic Brain Injury creates a chronic fatigue that the Adderall clearly was helping with.  Off of it, he is always hungry and slept all the time.  So he's back on it and as of today he was happy with only one bowl of cereal!  LOL  That was a learning curve I'm happy we've jumped off of!  Seizure wise, it seems he's having another increase.  He's needing his ativan about once a week or so.  But, this tends to cycle, so we'll see how it goes.

Sergio is holding his own.  The IV medication that has helped him stay free of ear and lung infections, may be the culprit in his monthly admissions. It seems that after every infusion he has a severe inflammatory response that results in fever and admission.  We are withholding this month's dose to see if our suspicions play out.  If they do, we're going to try a "sub Q" version, in which we place several small infusion needles in his tummy and infuse a smaller amount over a few hours weekly, rather than the one large dose monthly in his IV.  There seems to be a history of fewer reactions to this method so we pray that holds true for Sergio as well.

Nettie is doing well.  She has unfortunately begun to experience a "treatment failure" in that she is having side effects of her HIV medications as well as  small bump in the amount of virus found in her blood.  Because of the two issues, she has now been changed to a whole new medication regime. The first change in over 13 years!!  That's unheard of, so I guess I can't really complain.  It's amazingly wonderful that we actually have all new meds for her to go on because, only 5 years ago, she had taken them all at one point or another so if this had happened then, there were few choices to work with.  Today that is not true.  Even MORE amazing is that the three new meds are combined into one pill she only has to take one time daily!!  That means she goes from taking 9 pills a day to only one! She loves that.  The side effect she was having from her old meds is neuropathy of her feet.  Her toes are burning and painful, which is compounded by her need to wear foot/leg braces and use a walker. She has said that the burning isn't as bad since changing the meds so we are praying it's all reversible.  Otherwise, she is doing fantastic!

Peter and I are chugging along with school.  I have actually graduated with my M.Ed. in Education Administration.  Once I take my exams I'll be certified as a school building leader (principal).  Peter is within a semester of starting his 3000 hours of internship and is researching local options.  We are so close to finishing!  I am just going a bit longer to get my School District Leader Certificate so I can work as a Special Ed director or other district leadership position.  These credits will apply to my doctoral degree, eventually I will complete that as well in the future.

That's us in a nutshell.  Have a wonderful day.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Motherhood. . .

Mother’s Day. . .  well, actually, every day is mother’s day.  I am blessed daily to be mom to wonderful children.  I am blessed daily to do all the things a “mom” just does and I’m even blessed to do the things moms don’t want to do (like clean the toilets. . . God really should have focused on the aiming capacity of boys or we need to invent wider bowls, but that’s another blog).  I am the mother of my children in both the “traditional”, home-grown way, and the non-traditional “adoption” way.  I have held two children as they entered this world and I held a child as she left this world.  I have grieved over a child that was not to be due to an ectopic pregnancy.  I have grown close to foster moms who gave an incredible piece of their hearts to their little packages and then turned them over to another family to adopt.  I've watched the pain of biologic parents as they grieve and celebrate their child’s life from afar.  I sooth my children who so wish they knew who their “real” moms were, if only to say, “see, I’m doing ok and thank you for letting me get adopted.”  I hold the hands of my children as they endure the tortures of modern medicine in an effort to improve, increase, and enhance their lives.  I've watched as modern medicine failed to give us the answers and treatments needed to continue any further. 
Being a mother is a responsibility, a job, a need, a requirement and an honor.  Some days I wish I could turn off the ability for my children to yell “Mom!” for even a few hours.  But, then, when it’s quiet or one of my children isn't home, I long deeply to hear that same word.  My eldest moved out almost two years ago and I still ache to hear her in the room next door, asking me if I’m scared of the thunder, knowing she’s all alone at her own home now. . . terrified of the thunder.  When I hear my name screamed in “that tone”, the one that signifies a major ordeal or trauma my heart skips and my adrenaline goes into full force.  And once that trauma or ordeal has passed, I get to hold my child and wait for the internal panic to settle and move on while soothing a human being I, incredibly, have been allowed to be responsible for.   
I have known since I was a child I’d have a “different” kind of family.  I don’t know how I even knew about adoption; I didn't know anyone who was adopted.  I just knew that I was going to be mom to someone else’s children as well as experience motherhood from my own perspective.  I did not expect however, that adoption would have been the first step!  I did not anticipate that after my ectopic pregnancy, having a child would elude us.  Nor did I anticipate the incredible loving bond I formed with my student, Annette.  God knew all along though and allowed me to gather the courage to approach motherhood at the age of 23 from a very different avenue than I had envisioned.  Living with my child in a hospital for almost two years never crossed my mind when I thought of my family planning. . . now, it seems like it was always a stepping stone for some other new challenge that lay ahead. 
I am deeply honored, blessed, grateful and humbled in my role as a mother.  I can’t imagine a greater responsibility in life, nor could I imagine doing it without the man I knew would be the one and only man who would join me on this crazy journey.  Again, God knew, and the path was set with or without my input. 
Happy Mother’s Day to each and every mother.  To those whose children have grown and left the nest, to those who struggle with health needs and the need to be a mother – what an incredibly difficult and amazing ability to juggle all that is needed, to those who birthed but do not raise their children – without your sacrifice (willing or not) I would not have been blessed with 5 amazing children to call my sons and daughters, and to those mothers who have angels on high – the hole left with the passing of a child is beyond words, the sheer ability to carry on to continue caring for others and yourself is nothing short of a miracle.  I know some truly amazing women in my life and each and every mother I've ever met has helped me learn how to be an even better mom.  Thank you.
To my own mom: though we did not see eye to eye on most things earlier in our relationship, I can’t imagine how life would have been had I not had you as my role model.  To my sisters: we each went in different ways and we have each worked hard to do the best we can in every crazy circumstance we found ourselves.  I love you both.  To my sister-in-laws:  you are like sisters to me, each of you (Brenda, Tammy, and Millie).  I may not talk to each of you anywhere as often as I should or could, know that I love you. 

Happy Mother’s Day my friends.   

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Breath in, breath out, repeat. . .

Honestly, sometimes I'm so tired this is enough to make me exhausted.  With full time school, full time family, part time internship, and musical beds most nights, it's hard to really catch up.  I know for a fact, we are not alone in this dilemma.  I realize that parenthood in general is exhausting, but sometimes, even once, I'd like to FEEL rested even if I'm not really.

With that said and the little rant over, things are good.  Really good.  I have officially finished my internship and at the close of this semester I graduate with my Ms.ed in Education Administration.  In addition to that, I went through the many, many hoops NYS has created to re-apply for my teaching certification as a Teacher of the Speech and Language Disabled.  I took two exams for state credentialing, had to take an exam for credit (6 graduate level credits!), I I had to complete 3 workshops and have my fingerprints done once again.  Now I pray, hard, that the deem my past transcripts as successful in meeting all of their requirements. If they do not approve it, I essentially would have to go back and do a BS degree all over.  On 5/1/14 NYS changed ALL of their requirements and have all new exams.  My past degree is, in essence, erased.  Sigh. Like I said, I'm praying!!

Sergio has just celebrated his 8th birthday.  At four I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the health changes he was undergoing.  Thinking TPN was going to be a temporary 6 month or less endeavor, until his gut started working again.  At 5 the start to of the never ending hospitalizations for weeks at a time.  At 6 being given no hope that he could beat a fungus infection that had overtaken his entire body and we were sent home on a regime of drugs that no one can even find in any medical literature.  To the amazingly wonderful 18 months of absolute stable health and no hospital admissions.  To 7 when the vicious cycle
started all over again.  Here we are today, incredibly blessed to be outpatient now for over 2 months!  He's happy, healthy (in a very relative term) and still keeping us on our toes day and night.  His Make-A-Wish trip is now in the planning stage with the organization and we were blessed again with a wonderful duo of experienced wish planners.  They are kind, compassionate and appear to understand the level of needs each of the kids present when planning a trip for a particular child. We'll give more details when things are more solidified. :-)

School is almost over for the kids.  I'm so proud of all of them.  Granted, Tray has given us a few extra gray hairs, but that's what a healthy child should be doing!!  He is feeling strong, invincible and adventurous.  He's also now feeling grounded, phone-less and for some time he was x-box-less.  But we've given back some things and he has held up his end and is keeping his nose to the grindstone and out of trouble. We were REALLY close to going to homeschooling and then I thought. . . . who am I kidding!!??  I've always said I could NEVER homeschool, I'd kill them all. LOL  So after talking, yelling, withholding and loving, he is moving in the right direction again.  I'm happy. :-)  That was a close one!

Marriela, Cody and Joshua have all had good years.  Joshua is officially a senior next year, but hopefully we can talk him into staying until he's 21.  We'll see.  If not, we'll find him a program to get him into a home based business like Nettie.  Speaking of Nettie, she recently had 2 very large orders and now has enough to buy a laptop!!  We are so very proud of her and in a month we'll be looking to hire her own personal business assistant to help with all of the card making, paperwork, and businessy stuff.  Here's her website again if you haven't had a chance to visit.

Peter is getting very close to the end of his schooling as well and will be looking at his internship (3000 hours!) by the fall.  It seems like just yesterday we were signing up on-line and laughing that we'd never get accepted!  Who knew??

Well, that's it for now.  Just felt like it was time for a bit of an update.  Hope this finds you all happy, healthy and in company of loving family.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Time To Make A Wish. . .

After a several scary episodes, after several years of unpredictable trips to the hospital, after 3.5 years of hoping the TPN will only be temporary, after attempt after attempt to use a GI tract that is defies logic. . . we are asking for a referral to Make-A-Wish.  I knew "one day" Sergio would get a wish.  I had only hoped it would be when he was much older so he could be more communicative on what he would like.  Not knowing the future or how the unpredictability of his many issues will play out, we feel now is as good a time as any. 
One of our scariest stays yet.

So, what do you say to the wish granters who want to help "build" a dream come true for a child that can't speak.  Anyone that knows Sergio, knows he can most certainly "communicate" and does so all day long - from yelling at you when you tell him to get out of the sink, come down from the top of the stairs, get out of the toilet, etc, etc.  To when he asks for his brother, Cody, to get into bed with him and play monkey.  To when he requests very specific things for YouTube (Spider-man Potato Head, pumpkins, babies, etc).  Yet, how can he tell the wish granters what we KNOW he'd want to if he could. 

Peter and I talked a long time and we realized that Sergio's wish isn't something concrete.  It isn't a specific trip (he loves Potato heads - but only in so far as he can bounce them, not actually dress them and such).  It isn't meeting someone.  Those are the categories listed on their site.  After a great deal of thought, throwing ideas into the hat and dismissing them almost as fast, we realized Sergio has shown us what he would love.  A VACATION!  One of the happiest times we've ever seen Sergio was last summer on our trip to Lake George.   He had never been on a trip with us up until that point.  He LOVED the hotel.  He slept in bed with me every night.  He LOVED the boat ride.  He LOVED the many different places we went.  He LOVED being away.  We had the best vacation ever and it was only 3 short days long.  Every one of our child loved the experience and we feel this is what Sergio would like and want if he could ask. 
Sergio LOVING the boat ride!

He can't fly, he can't go in water, he can't withstand heat, or cold, he can't be far from hospitals and he has to have the ability to get out and move regularly.  We have to travel with 3 wheelchairs, need a refrigerator for TPN and meds and storage for monitors, medical supplies for all of the children, and car seats for two kids.  Sounds like a road trip to me!  A larger RV type vehicle that can fit all of us and our equipment with plans to stop along the way to stay at hotels and maybe even an amusement park during the time of day Sergio is most inclined to enjoy it. . . is perfect. 

I couldn't talk about it without tears when we first broached this subject.  I found myself seeing it as yet another leg of "finality" in his overall journey.  Now, I feel very different.  I know this is something Sergio will truly love, as will the rest of the family, as we make amazing memories together.  He will be a part of something we would never be able to do on our own and our family will be whole, happy, and free to be so. 

I pray hard that the wish granters will see what we see when we look at those pictures of last summer.  I pray they will listen to Sergio and his sweetness and look at the complexity of his needs and realize that there isn't a "package" that he can be a part of.  I pray that they understand the number of factors that complicate his ability to participate in so many of life's activities. 
A little sister and Sergio time in the bed at the hotel.  

The referral will go in this week.  I am now excited and see this as the amazing opportunity it is.  I have faith that all will work out and that Sergio will make memories, have fun, live a full experience that he would otherwise not be able to participate without the help of Make A Wish.  To me, that is the very nature of their mission. 

With Love,

Friday, January 10, 2014

Revelation. . .

* I was prepared to post this a couple of days ago, since then, we've had a nice meeting with many of the key players.  The battle is harder, the weapons are fewer, the warrior is frailer.  However, the battle continues and we will fight. Sergio has shown no interest in giving up.  He is happy and loving life while healthy and when he's sick, we'll work hard to get him through.  In the mean time, we are looking at more options in how to assess his GI tract to trace where there may be areas of concern or remediation.  We will re-assess his vascular system and see if there are other places to put new lines as they become infected.  We will analyze his previous antibiotic experience and look for other options.  So, I had another day of revelations.  Revelations of hope to counter the ones of fear.  And so the story continues.  


Today was a revelation kinda day.  We've all had them, maybe you realize a relationship needs to end, a job needs to change or your hair needs a new color.  Whatever it is, we all have them.  Today was a revelation day for me.  Sadly, it was a revelation I've been banking wouldn't come anytime soon. 

Today I heard the words that stirred the revelation to a new high.  Gram pos. cocci and gram neg. anaerobic.  I've heard those words hundred of times between all of my kids.  What makes it different, is that this time, these two bacteria are failing to respond to the antibiotics we've been steadily pumping into my youngest son.  This time, they are growing together and are refusing to remit to what is suppose to be their cryptonite.   My sweet boy, Sergio, has no idea there is a war of all wars going on inside of his little body, right at this very moment.  He is busy playing at school.  He is busy being bad, being good, being funny, being mischievous, being Sergio.  He is living and so is the bacteria. . . the question now, is who will win.

We are in for the fight, but we are fighting against an enemy we do not understand, nor do we have the ability to stop it from coming at us again, and again and again.  His gut stopped working for all beneficial purposes, but has now turned on my sweet baby and poisons him monthly.  In turn, infecting his life line to nutrition and hydration, his central line.  Without a central line, there is no Sergio.  With the central line, the bacteria have a party central to hang out and make him incredibly sick.  There is no win, win here.

 Sitting in the car I found myself having some very strange thoughts attached to this revelation.  I realized my hair needs to be colored, I don't want to make big decisions with gray hairs showing.  I realized my basement needs to be cleaned, I don't want to make big decisions with a messy house.  I realized I need to get some good freezer meals made so there are things to eat. . . yeah, that one is always a need regardless of the days revelation's.   Is this what other mothers thought when they were faced with the realization that life is changing dramatically for their child? 
So we march on, and fight as hard as we can while maintaining as much neutrality and home bound time as physically and medically possible.