Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reporting from the front lines

Well I've been here 24 hours and all I can say is... I don't even know how to put it into words. This gig is nonstop. Laura wasn't kidding when she said there is hardly 2 hours between anything. It's a marathon.

Simon is right on schedule with the vicious pushback.  They said the end of week one is where the rubber meets the road and kids start to "show resistance". They weren't kidding.

Like Laura comes out of a session covered in food or there are fork scratch marks on the wall or I can hear him growling like a wild beast all the way in the hallway where I wait for them.   It basically looks like Simon is saying " Are you f-ING kidding me?  I've been a good trained monkey for a whole week. You want me to keep this crap up? Bite me!"  And then he has a last snack where he takes in twice the volume asked of him. Classic Simon.

 It doesn't help that she's on her own on the weekends in terms of doing feeding sessions. 3 of the 6 meals a day are done with a therapist during the week. Weekends are all her. It's...kind of intense.

The hospital is beautiful and sparkling clean and everyone is super friendly. And it's still a hospital. There are little babies being wheeled by hooked up to oxygen and kids cruising with IV poles and security guards who very gently ask me not to nap on couches in the cardiac waiting room because they can't tell in security cameras if I'm asleep or or had a heart attack. Seriously.

My dear friend Christopher brought food by and stayed for a short visit between meals. Will try another similarly timed visit tomorrow with a mom and her daughter about Simon's age who also has cardiomyopathy (know them from our Listserv).  I think no visits during the week though. Too intense.

Tomorrow night I get on a plane and leave Laura to do this mishegas on her own for another week. Then I get in the ring.

She's a freaking rockstar you guys. It's a lot like when she was in labor. It was really hard and really intense but it was finite and I knew she had it in her. She has the same look in her eye. I'm not worried.  When she comes out of a feeding session and says "god that sucked. This is really hard" I just say " yep. I'm sure it did. Tell me all about it". Like she just made it through a wicked contraction. There is a point to this stress and exhaustion and extra laundry. We might actually get this kid off the tube. For good. It's possible that that last batch of blended food Laura made over a week ago was our last. Not guaranteed but totally possible. That's kind of like a baby in my book!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Normal doesn't mean easy

We had our Friday all team conference today. Simon is ahead of he curve. He's taking in more calories than expected. He's right on target for self feeding. He's learning and meeting his goals with leaps and bounds. It amazing to hear that they are projecting us meeting all of our goals by the end of week three. I was told to come up with four goals and really only plan on working on the first two. It's incredibly inspiring. Jaime cried (it's amazing that she gets to teleconference in on some of his sessions and our Friday meetings). She posted on Facebook and the response has been overwhelming. So many "Go Simon! Your killing it! Yay Team Shimmy" and more of the like. It's really emotional to feel so many of you pulling for us.

At least I can imagine it is. Here on the ground it doesn't quite feel real because, as one clinician said, he's about to really start pushing back. Week 2 is all about the denoumont and it's totally normal. True to fashion, Simon chose his own timing for it. We started a little early, which when you have a finite amount of time, is, I guess better than late. There have been times in the last 12 hours that I have heard more guttural noises coming from my child than I have in my all my years playing college rugby....and that's a lot. I have been scratched and punched and am currently wearing more food than I got to eat tonight.

"It's normal" she said. I hate our normal sometimes. Our 'normal' has meant so many things that I would have never put under any umbrella labeled normal. It's kind of hysterical. If you think if hysterical as being rooted in hysteria (in its colloquial use, describing unmanageable emotional excesses.)
Yup, that.

Jaime arrives in a few hours and I can't wait and am more than a little nervous. I feel like I haven't seen her in weeks, very very full weeks. It's only been 5 days but each day has felt like weeks and I don't have any idea how to download what's been going on. I'm so excited to get a break and don't wan to miss a moment of the two days that we have together. I need to do laundry at the Ronald McDonald House and get some fresh air and hold her as close to me as possible at the same time.
What kind of normal is that?

Still, Simon and I lit the Shabbat candles tonight and said the blessings. We marked the end of one week and will have some time in between the start of the next. I'm hoping that the time 'in between' includes some respite (even while keeping the same schedule in terms of meals and snacks with just me doing them).  Again, what is this new normal?

Hysterical isn't it?


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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Whump there it is

Simon was going to sleep tonight, it was later than usual and we were both feeling spent from the day. I feel him finally begin to settle with the big twitches transitioning to little twitches and finally he moves his body one last time before the deep breathing begins.

I slowly begin to prepare to leave the twin hospital bed that we share for the going to bed ritual when I see in the dimly lit room that he is in the position. I feel a wave of images and terror wash over me. He's lying there with both his arms raised over his head, breathing deeply, rib cage exposed. Because of the position,  he looks almost like an infant again. Like he did before he was diagnosed.  All I can think of is that time in the hospital when we went in thinking it was pneumonia, got the news that it was his heart and waited for what was coming next. An unimaginable next.

Aaah, the real bits of PTSD. I have pain between my eyes. My shoulders feel itchy from the inside. I want to cry and vomit all at once and my instinct is to lie spooning him as tightly as I can.

Instead I'll type on this stupid iPad keyboard and tell you how our day went and pray that some sort of sleep comes tonight so I can get through tomorrow until Jaime comes for the weekend.

The bummer is that I think we can't have visitors. The clinicians gave me the go ahead to try it out but warned me that it might be more difficult for Simon than not and could be detrimental to his three week stay. We had a visitor Tuesday and I didn't think much of it when the late night snack and bedtime seemed difficult. It was only the second night, and surely things were still so new, that it made sense.

Tonight when my sister and family arrived, I thought I had planned it out so well terms of timing. We could have a little visit, all go to Turtle Time, split up for dinner and then have some playtime before bed. No problem.

*imagine me shooting myself in the head here with my  middle finger*

We had the hardest dinner, even more difficult last snack and most challenging bedtime we've had in years.

So, I think no more visitors for a while. We might be able to try again during week three. I don't think I can handle the disruption and I don't think it's worth it for folks to come for the 20 to 30 minutes that would be our limit.

How the fuck do you do this?

I miss people. I miss Jaime. I miss shared meals and fresh air and the outside world. I know it's three weeks and have no doubt that I can do this, that Simon and I can do this. Holy hell it's hard.

I actually think that the team might know best when they say that it's preferable to just kind hunker down, nose to  grindstone, and bring it in to a keyhole focus.

I want to talk about Nelson Mandela and who he was and is for me in the world. I wanted to talk with my sister in real and deep ways. I wanted to connect with my niece and nephew that I don't see enough. I want to invite local peeps to come again and again. I want to take folks up on their offers to help/support/give respite.

It's too disruptive. It sets both Simon and I up for something that's two and a half weeks away. It takes our focus off the task at hand.

The truth is that we are up to the task. We are working this program hard and learning so much from session to session. It's not that long either. It's already Thursday night and Jaime is coming tomorrow evening for the weekend.

Simon is changing from meal to meal and has started to gain back some of the weight that he lost in the first couple of days. He is eating foods that were previously to difficult for him and taking more and more spoonfuls and forkfuls by himself every meal.

His connections to individual team members are amazing to watch and as much as I struggle with him struggling, there are more successes in each moment than not. Each day feels like a week but then I can also see the growth in those days is also equal to a weeks worth of work.

Ok, getting punchy and I think the Advil PM is starting to work its magic.

"Everybody's working for the weekend" is starting to play in my head.

Here's to one more day before a break.

Where's Simon?

There he is!

See, it's like THIS, Minnie

May I have this dance? 

And promenade...

Thank you dahling.  You're mahvelous!

Help me!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Heart? What heart?

In five and half years, I have never forgotten Simon's heart meds. Not once.
This morning in the hospital the boy blessed me with a 6:40 wake up; so much more civilized than yesterday's 5am wake up. We snuggled in bed for almost 20 minutes, played with the talking Hulk doll that he now can do a great imitation of  (Hulk smash! You want more? Hulk smash more!!!) and then got dressed in a leisurely fashion before heading down the hall for our first feeding session.

It wasn't until we came back from our post feeding session gym time that I realized that the child had not gotten his meds.  I only realized because the nurse came by to apologize for not bringing them before 8:00 like she's supposed to.

I couldn't believe it. I had completely forgotten his meds. This is the kind of shit that I am usually on top of. It's ingrained in my brain like knowing to put on clothes before walking out the door. It's been so automatic for the last five years that even when Jaime is on Simon for meals and meds I can't help but ask her if she's  given certain things at certain times because it's just part of my body clock now.

Today however, not only can't I tell you what day of the week it is but I didn't even notice that the nurse hadn't brought Simon's medications to him for over an hour and a half after she was supposed to.  I can't tell you the date except that I know there was a Disney sponsored holiday party from 5-7 and while it was happening where Turtle Talk usually happens, Crush would still be showing up to talk to Surfin' Simon without fail.

We have feeding sessions, we have playroom time. We have meltdowns and upswings and food scavenged off post therapy trays. Simon is amazing. He is testing and surprising and strong willed and willing to learn. He is attentive and takes breaks and loves his 'team'. His imagination is so rich and travels us to lands and adventures that simply make me smile- except when I have to be Captain America to his Hulk and really focus on the bad guys.

I feel more than a little exhausted but got some fresh air today as Simon and I walked the perimeter of the hospital campus searching for the green space that someone told us about. We couldn't find it but the quest was worth it for the vitamin D and non-recycled air.

Onward and inward (cuz that's where the food needs to go)

...and scene.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

And the Fan has been hit

Here we are at the end of week one and it's amazing how much you can pack into one week. Err, I mean day. Holy heck friends. This is intense.

Our first session this morning went relatively smoothly with Simon eating mostly the way he does with me at home. Just a little pushback for therapist #1. No biggie.

Simon and I had a relatively simple snack an hour later and spent some nice play time in our room and the community room down the hall. Lunch time brought a new level of resistance with therapist #2 that I haven't seen in Simon for years around food and then by the afternoon snack, the child was almost unrecognizable in his resistance to therapist #3.  This boy likes to test and he does not like his routine changed (or his primary feeding buddy changed, or his sleeping arrangements, or his social life, etc etc). Where does he get these wild ideas about stability and getting into a groove that one should never ever get out of? This Taurus (Chinese zodiac Ox) couldn't tell you a thing about that. Nope, not gonna do it.

We have an hour here and an hour and a half there and volumes to record and turtles to talk to and nurses to charm and melt downs to have.

I grab handfuls of trail mix on the go and Simon snuggles a lot more when we stop for a moment. We walk the halls with kids on Chemo drips and colostomy bags.  We get handed knick knacks wherever we go by nurses and child life specialists.
Oh yeah and it's DAY ONE!!!

Rachel, the other kid's mom and I wave to each other as we head off at the same time for our respective eating sessions. Hers are downstairs while ours are just down the hall, our two Littles sitting regally in their red wagons as they get pulled from one moment to the next. We are on a tight schedule.  We are living in tight spaces with tight expectations. Even the language feels tight. No yes or no questions. Only two choices. Do you want to eat three more bites of watermelon or drink two big sips of milk? Do you want to go to Turtle Talk or the playroom? Do you want to ride in the wagon or walk? (sometimes there's a fire truck option as well)

It was really hard to watch Simon resist so much by the time we got to afternoon snack with the third therapist of the day. I knew that I could step in and comfort him and get him to eat more. But that's not my role right now and it's ok that he only ate 1/4 of a sandwich and not much else. They need to see where he's at and then meet him there to bring him the rest of the way. They are so supportive and so good about redirecting and keeping their cool. He leaves each session laughing with a clear and affectionate "bye Erin, bye Hemma, bye Grace." I know that he is taking it all in even if throughout a good part of the session he showing them the proverbial finger in his special five year old way.

Wait, have I mentioned that it's DAY ONE?!

There are more therapist to meet, more food to order, 5-7 components for each meal and snack, and more exploring to do (waiting areas are very cool here in this hospital).
There's really no poop hitting any fans. It's just wicked intense. I'm ok.
I even ate a salad tonight.  It's all good. 17 more days to go.

Monday, December 2, 2013

And it's a ......Hospital

There is a clock that ticks loudly (and is an hour off). The fluorescent lights in the hallway never go off and it's important that the window in the door to our room not get blocked for security reasons. The curtains are sheer and even though Simon and I don't have any lines attached to us there are still lights and monitors that don't stop blinking and can't get turned off. One of Simon's shirts and a pair of his underwear are hanging over them right now as I try to get the room to some shade of dark. There aren't that many, but I can still hear the "trauma stat" announcements over the PA every once in a while as well as the occasional sound from a child who has reason to be unhappy. All of this to say that this is an incredible place and I know some magic is gonna happen this hospital.

I am re stimulated. I know these light blue wafer thin blankets. I know these curtains that run on rails in the ceiling. I know and love these nurses that learn my child's name in an instant but refer to me only as 'mom'. I know this food, these smells, these lights and sounds.

I know exactly where I am and in one instant it is so familiar and then in the next so discordant with the child running next to me along the hall in his new monster slippers and street clothes.

I have my very own binder, blank food log reports, and hospital bracelet. Simon has toys already borrowed from the playroom and made his own, a new love for Turtle Talk (time twice a day to have real time conversation with Crush, the turtle from Finding Nemo), and an understanding that we are now part of an 'eating team'.

He will no longer have anything put through his g-tube during waking hours and has had his last tube feeding as of 11:30 this morning (maybe for good?)

His first supervised snack was at 3:00 and it was more a chance for the feeding therapist to watch and record a typical 'feed' with Simon and I so she could get a sense of where he (and I) were at.  I was half expecting a grade at the end or at least a little bit of feedback like one gets after performing on So You Think You Can Dance. Will America call in and vote for Simon & me?  Because, while  I think this afternoons performance has room for improvement, we could very easily become Americas best eaters.

I'm tired and wired and can't believe we have 18 more days of this. We haven't even had a full day yet and I'm overwhelmed with everything that needed to get done. And that was just an 8 hour day.

Simon is a trooper though. He is just amazing and once again is the greatest teacher in being present for each moment, moving through the hard ones and savoring the sweet ones. His laugh and smile are of course already the talk of 3North.

Tomorrow begins with a 7:30am weigh in and then we head down the hall in our very own red wagon for our first real feeding therapy session.

All of the love and support coming our way is amazing.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  It's lonely here in the hospital but it makes all the difference to check the interwebs sporadically through the day and feel the love. It's quite amazing really.
Please forgive me for not responding directly to each one of you since that would be my dream. Instead just know that I am eternally grateful but am busy counting spoonfuls of yogurt.

So much love

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First night and Ronald is not delivering

The makeup is a little creepy to begin with so it's not like I was
expecting him to be delivering the warmest of welcomes to Orange
County.  Still, we are here and Simon is sleeping soundly next to me.

I don't think I've felt this lonely or scared since I was nine years
old and heading off to summer camp for the very first time.
Since that turned out ok (or technically speaking amaze-balls!!!) I am
trying to have faith that this experience could be just as life
changing and transformative.

But, here we at the Ronald McDonald house, a place no parent ever
expects to visit, surrounded by other parents and kids practicing a
different kind of childhood and parenting, getting ready to spend 3
weeks in the hospital working on getting Simon to eat all of his food
via his mouth instead of a surgically placed plastic tube.

Sounds nucking futz when I read it back but the again it's all he and
I have really known.

I'm scared. I'm hopeful. I have no idea what's coming.

We are in a strange place getting ready to do what seems like such a
strange thing with very friendly but very real strangers to us.
And, lying down in the strange bed with Simon, getting nose to nose,
is about just as familiar to me as breathing.

He brings it all home.
I am his anchor.

It was clear to me as he easily slipped into bedtime mode with
familiar requests for getting under the sheets and making a fort, make
believe check-ups and singing along with favorite songs played quietly
on the itouch.

I realized that if I am his anchor, I need to get my crap
together and feel grounded. It's interesting though, the duality of
feeling grounded and present (for Simon) and at the same time feeling
alone, lost, and wondering.

What's coming? How will he respond? How will I? When will we laugh?
When will I pee? Who will be the people that we say Hi to as we make
our way around the hospital?

Who knows?

I guess I'll know a little more tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

T-1 Day And Counting

It's Sunday morning but I've been awake since 5 am.  I just keep spinning about what is going to happen in the next month.

This afternoon I will put Simon and Laura on an airplane to Orange County. They will live at Children's Hospital Orange County for *3* weeks while Simon does his intensive feeding therapy program.  I can't quite imagine what life is going to be like for them or for me. Those guys are going to live in a hospital 24/7 and I'm going to go to work M-F, coming home to a construction zone, and then going to Orange County for the weekends.  I'm going to stay for the 3rd week and learn the program too so both of us will be "trained" on how to get Simon to eat 100% by mouth.It's already been insane for the last 2 months as we've been in and out of our house that's under construction. This just feels like more of the same but also...HUGE.  Simon could get off the feeding tube.  And we will have to be working a "program" with him every time he eats without the safety net of the tube to make up for things (leaving the g-tube in for a while but the goal is to not use it).

The last few months have been incredibly intense. We moved into a sublet the first week in October, went on a week long trip, came back to the sublet for another week, moved in with my cousin and her 2 kids for 3 week and have been in our house while it's been under construction for the last month. (For the record, bean bag chairs are not as comfy as they look and it's really hard to eat dinner every night half-reclined and mostly sprawled on the floor.)
Where we spend 90% of our time at home

So it's been total chaos for the last 2-3 months, we go to a hospital for 3 weeks and then two days after we get back,  *BAM*, this new chapter of our life will start.  We will move all our stuff back into our apartment, Laura and I will have our own bedroom and perhaps have a kid who doesn't use a feeding tube. When school starts again,Simon will be in a new class (a special day class) for Kindergarten.  We're really excited as his class will go from 27 kids and 3 adults to 10 kids and 3 adults. Hopefully he will be able to thrive here instead of just feeling overwhelmed all the time.  That said, he's totally starting to read. More sight words than we can count and sounding out words everywhere we go.

That's what has been going on. Ya know.  No biggie.

What's about to happen is amazing. I keep saying the chaos and stress and disruption is "immediate but temporary".  I think that's how the next 3 weeks are going to be too.  I think Laura and Simon are going to get their ASSES kicked by this program and I think it's going to be worth it. We are in the home stretch to...something.  I keep wanting to say "an easier life" but I think it's more like "a new set of challenges to work with". My only hope is that it will hold more sleep and dinner parties and a kid who likes school...

The Wicked Witch!

Two fisted eating


Little Drummer Boy