Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Seizure Control Options

Kerstin is back to seeing her neurologist every few months.  We had gotten up to annual appointments but with an increase in activity some time back, we had to see him more often.  The most recent follow up was last month, May.  As with all of her appointments and more specifically the neuro ones, we are equipped with notes as to what kind of seizures she has endured in between appointments.  The doctor and staff already knew about some of these episodes because they had been contacted to make them aware of the seriousness of her seizures. 

The May appointment lasted a bit longer than most.  There is no complaining about that fact because I would really be a little upset if he rushed in and out of the exam room.  We talked over things as they relate to Kerstin, seizure activity, weight gain, possible increase in medicines and even a possible new treatment or new med to add to regimen.  The treatment would be to maybe consider Vagus Nerve Stimulation therapy (VNS therapy).   What is VNS therapy?  "Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy is a medical device proven to treat difficult-to-control seizures, also known as drug-resistant epilepsy. The device sends mild pulses through the vagus nerve to areas of the brain known to be associated with seizures" (VNS Therapy Overview)."

Until this appointment, I had never heard of VNS therapy an was unaware of the process of placement or the potential benefits. In the meantime, her neurologist wanted to add a new medicine to hopefully help with Kerstin's nocturnal and catamenial seizure activity. The new med, phenobarbital, to be given once daily at night/bedtime. The first thing noticed was that Kerstin was immediately sleeping better and through the night. She even started to sleep later into the next morning but one day when I was not home with her Kerstin slept well into the day, 11:30 a.m. and went to sleep again around 2:30 p.m. This scared me and my sister, who was keeping her for me that day. I called the neurologist and told the intake what was going on and the nurse immediately called back to calm my nerves some. There is an adjustment period to this medicine and it can cause a lot of drowsiness. I was told to watch her over that weekend but if she slept like that again to call immediately.

Over that weekend, I reached out to a friend to see whether her daughter was on this new med, if she knew someone who was and if she new any families who has VNS therapy. Her daughter is on a different med, one that Kerstin had been taken off of, she knew friends on phenobarbital and said at first they were completely drowsy and she knew friends on VNS and loved it. Now, back to the phenobarbital, Kerstin has continued taking it at night, the drowsiness comes and goes, for the most part she has been sleeping really well at night with very few exceptions.

Last month, I was able to get in on a caregiver chat with families that are using VNS therapy and those that have been given this option as an epilepsy treatment. There is another coming up soon, that I may attend. I have also been added to a Facebook caregivers, users and professionals group. VNS is a being highly praised as a way to treat seizures/epilepsy without the use of so many meds or high dosages of anti-epileptic medications and their long term side-effects.

So, where will this journey take us? I'm not even sure. I do know that there is a follow up with her neurologist in a few months and a possibility of a consultation with a neurosurgeon around the same time.

More to come...

VNS Therapy

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Weight, what?!?

     The latter part of 2017 proved to be very busy for us.  In October, Kerstin had her g-tube changed to a gj-tube.  That was followed by a very unexpected stay in Children's Hospital.  However, since October and the continuous feedings she has been on a constant climb in pounds.  For the longest after getting the feeding tube Kerstin's weight had been fluctuating between 75 and 80 pounds.  She was healthy and her nutritionist was pleased with her progress.   

     Things were going well until they were not so good.  Kerstin started to have these smacking instances along with vomiting which would lead to gastro issues and her aspirating leading to aspiration pneumonia.  All of that lead to a few illnesses and hospital stays last year.  For the most part, and thankfully so, Kerstin has been pretty healthy with no major issues, just allergies lately.  

     The past few months, at various follow up appointments, whenever she has been weighed, Kerstin is no longer in a fluctuating phase on this feeding tube journey, she has been on a steady incline.  well over 90+ pounds.  Normally this may not be thought of as an issue but when you are immobile and assistance is needed for everything, that kind of sudden weight gain can be a bit much.  So, simple changes have been to her continuous volumes made with the hopes of keeping Kerstin in her range of 80-85 pounds. 

     We will see where these changes take us...

More water intake!  Drink up.

More to come...

It's happening so quickly!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Epidermal Nevus

     This year, has been going fairly well however, I have been really bad about updating things here.  I have been updating Kerstin's Instagram a lot more.  Be sure to following Growing With Kerstin there.  
     Now, I will take us back to August 2016, when I noticed this little spot behind Kerstin's left ear.  At first I was thinking maybe her earring had scratched her or the post had stuck her and I immediately started applying an antibiotic ointment to it.  It seemed to smooth out some but, later it came back and appeared bigger and no matter what I applied it seemed to keep growing.  All while growing, it become more irritating to Kerstin,  she did not want it touched in any way, not to have the area cleaned while bathing, not to mistakenly touch it while dressing or anything. 

continuing to grow

     In October of that year, Kerstin had an appointment with a dermatologist that I walked away from still unsettled and wanting more answers.  The appointment just did not seem thorough or complete.  There had been cultures (cultivation of microorganisms) done on this area only to come back negative for any types of fungi.  So, back in December of 2017 a new medical doctor was added to Kerstin's team and the center of her medical home, a female!  Yes, we were enthusiastic about it and she went right to work with us.  On a thorough exam of missy, she determined that she would refer her out to another dermatologist. 

     February 2018, Kerstin had a new appointment with dermatology and it was determined that a biopsy needed to be performed in ordered to know how to properly treat this spot, whatever it may be.  Scary thought of this in office procedure where a small plug of her skin would be cut so that it could be properly tested. We have to do things that are oftentimes scary in order to take care of our children.  The process included a numbing applicant, that would be in place for 30 to 45 minutes before the cut.  Then, post cut, we had to wait another 30 minutes to ensure that the bleeding had stopped before she could leave.  

The wait!  It is so hard to be patient and wait on the results of a skin growth on your child.  Then the call comes and the nurse says she is calling from dermatology with biopsy results.  Take a deep breath and listen, "epidermal nevus".  What?  A very irritating and itchy skin mole.  It may come back but she has been prescribed a skin topical and now she needs to bath with have her hair washed with products that contain ketoconazole as an ingredient.  Since February, that nevus has inflamed twice, the cream is applied and it goes away again.  Another step on this journey. 

More to come...

Epidermal nevus.  NIH U.S. National Library of Medicine https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/epidermal-nevus

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Harsh Reminder!

      Reminder(s) is defined as "a person or thing that serves to remind", according to dictionary.com.  Then what is remind?  The same site tells us that remind is to "cause a person to remember".  Life does not give us options on how we will be reminded of something, nor do we know when it will happen or whether the reminder is subtle and nice or just harsh!  Well, on Wednesday morning we got a not so subtle reminder that Epilepsy/seizure disorder is still a very prevalent part of Kerstin's journey!

     The thing about seizures is that they have no time frame, they can suck the joy out of any moment.  They can happen in the middle of the day, during a ride from a doctor's appointment, in the middle of the night or even early in the morning, marking the end of a good night's rest.  Which is what happened yesterday.  Kerstin was suddenly awake at 5:40 a.m. and thrust into seizure activity.  With two episodes of cluster seizure, I am so thankful that she did not require medicinal intervention to stop the seizures. 

     So, what are these cluster seizures/seizure clusters?  Clusters are when seizures start and stop.  The Epilepsy Foundation states that, "Seizure clusters are also known as repetitive or serial seizures, with return to baseline between events".  How can one truly prepare for that?  There really is no comparison for a parent or caregiver tending to a child with special health care needs that cannot tell you that they may be sensing that one is coming (an aura) nor can you truly know what it is like when you have not had a seizure yourself.  As recommended, it is good to make notes of the seizure activity:  how long it lasts, how many clusters, how long it took to return to usual activity, etc...

     To those clusters, in the dark coldness on January 3, 2018; thanks for the harsh reminder.  I am reminded to always know what to look for and to continue learning and growing on this journey of Growing With Kerstin. 

More to come...

Epilepsy Foundation:  Seizure Clusters 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Reflections: An Interesting Year

     2017 has come to an end.  This New Year's Day 2018 is a day of reflection on what has been in the past year and looking forward to what is to come in the new.  We never know what a year will hold for us but, we are always hopeful that it is always filled with many blessings, good tidings and great joys.  January 1, 2017, I never would have thought that after a few good years of no hospital stays, and little to no illnesses, that Kerstin would have a year with several stays and a procedure.  Yet, we ended the year partying and celebrating 16 years of a blessed life of growth and more growing to come. 

     I have in the past, commented that "it is always good to go to Children's and leave on the same day", we have and continue to have our share of those days.  Thankfully, most of them have been in and out days.  However, in July and again in November, we did not.  The year was well, appointments were also going well.  Kerstin had a good year.  Then there was July, Kerstin got really sick with a summer cold that just would not seem to break.  She was taken to her pediatrician to start the usual rounds of meds and even a chest xray to only saw what was feared...pneumonia.  So, an antibiotic was started.  Though, a week later Kerstin still was not better we went back to her doctor and on examining her, he determined that her lungs sounded worse than the week before.  He thought it would be best if he called her pulmonologist.  We sat and waited for a while for the doctors to consultant to be told that they had a room for Kerstin already at Children's and that her doctors there thought it would be best to get her started on a rapid rounds of intravenous medicines.  We ended up there for a few days.

     Backing up to September, a new specialist was added to Kerstin's medical team, a new gastroenterologist.  This would bring changes to meds as well and talks of how to get missy's gut stable and rumination under some sort of control.  Things moved quickly and at times it seemed to quickly for me;  the constant consults with the GI specialist and surgeon turned to placing a GJ tube in place of the Gtube.  The procedure was scheduled and the tube was placed.  Kerstin now has a feeding pump again this time there will be no boluses, just continuous feedings.  

First visit with new team member. 

Checked in at IR

Post GJ placement

Hours later, all smiles and ready for the new journey.

     Sweet November...and what a story it has for us.  I am not fond of Novembers at Children's of Alabama.  Yet, this is where we found ourselves and the week before Thanksgiving.  Kerstin had gone to therapy the Wednesday before and the day just seemed to go downhill quickly.  She started having issues with her feedings and was actually vomiting food, which should not happen with jejunum feedings.  After calling to GI, they stated that she needed to be seen in the emergency room there at Children's!! After spending a few hours there, I was hopeful that we could go home but felt like it would be the case.  In fact, we would spend a week there.  More pneumonia, seizure activity as well as the stomach issues. 
Back at Children's

Resting after a very long day. 

Comfort aids

A mother's saving grace(s)

     In spite of all of those before mentioned instances, the year was well and I am certain 2018 will be be even better!  

Looking forward to what's to come.
What will happen if we don't give up?  Endless possibilities!

More to come in the New Year!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's happening so quickly!

     "It's happening so quickly!"  That was my response after receiving a call from a radiology nurse at Children's Hospital on last Monday, October 2nd.  With a very calming tone, she wanted to speak with the parent or guardian of Kerstin.  After pleasantries were exchanged, she told me that she was in fact calling to schedule Kerstin's appointment to have her G-J tube placed.  I must admit that I was caught a bit off-guard by the quick turnaround. I was even more surprised when she stated that the procedure could be done this Friday the 6th or Wednesday or Friday of next week.  I said, "This Friday? It's happening so quickly!"  I paused, I guess she thought I had hung up or something.  I grabbed my datebook because another one of Kerstin's appointments had been rescheduled to this week, I told her that Friday would not work for us. 

     Believe it or not, the Sunday before, I had mentioned to my family that I felt like there would be a call from either the doctor or the hospital about scheduling the procedure.  So I was mentally preparing myself for this by writing down possible dates.  This did not become real until Jenna (nurse from radiology) called.  Real did not become so emotional until the call.  The tears came...it is real, again.  No matter how minor it may be said to be, it does something to the emotions because, Kerstin is my child!  My girl child!
Dates of possibility.

     So, on today, Kerstin will be having the procedure to replace her g-tube with a g-j-tube.  Kerstin is strong.  This new feeding tube will only help her even more.  Having to have the g-tube became touching but it was for her good and this g-j-tube will also be for her good.  

More to come...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"One Small Ripple"


     One small ripple...ripples in a pond.  We have heard the expression that we are all connected in some way; our connections are intertwined in ways we may not even be aware.  Also, the ripple effect is often considered when we think of how one action can flow out to other areas and people around us.  Those actions can be negative or positive.  Well, I like to think of my daughter, Miss Kerstin as a ripple.  She is a ripple in a pond of so much love!

One Small Ripple

     While watching one of her favorite PBS Kids shows, "Splash and Bubbles" with her, I heard the sweetest little song about making a difference.  "One Small Ripple", the lyrics of the song:

"I'm gonna make one small ripple.
Yeah, I believe a little thing like that 
can turn into a big ol' wave.
I'm gonna make one small ripple.
Can you imagine what a difference 
a lot of little ripples could make?
The tiny things we do today, 
make a world of difference half a world away.
So, if I had the chance I should make my ripple
something good.
You'll be amazed, I know it's true. 
I hope you get inspired too. 
With one small ripple coming from me and you.
And see what my small ripple can do."

     The song made me further think about how I have been told numerous times how Kerstin has touched so many with her smile, her will, her strength.  You see, this child of mine has been through so much but she still manages to smile and inspire others, not just locally but across the state country and around the world!  She is my light, my life and I truly hope that her ripple is making a difference.  It has for me, and I don't mind sharing this journey of "Growing With Kerstin" with you all! 

More to come...