The Daughter Chronicles

Monday, June 29, 2015

Turning the corner?

I haven't posted in two months because Mia's back surgery stuff has taken up so much of my time, and it's been dominating the news in our household, too, so it's just been hard to sit down and write when something new always comes up.
I've been updating a bit on Facebook, but now that she seems to be out of the woods at least a little, I thought it would be good to write a bit more in-depth here.

Her surgery was on 8 April, and all went well. It was far shorter than I thought it would be - the doctor told us it would be about four hours, but I didn't know if that was from when she disappeared to when she was finished or when he opened her up to when she was finished, because she went back with the anesthesiologist at 8 o'clock (in the morning) and the doctor didn't start until a little after 9, and he was done two hours later. He was pleased with the surgery, as he said he got her a lot straighter than he thought he would be able to get her - her back was curved so much that he said there was little chance of making it completely straight, but he wanted to get it within acceptable parameters, and I guess it was better than he thought. She had to spend a few days in the hospital, of course, but they're keen to get her out of there, so we were hoping it wouldn't be a long stay. She managed to get discharged the following Monday (the 13th), and she settled down in her hospital bed in her bedroom for a while.
The doctor told us to get her up as often as possible, so we tried to do that, too. I was hoping she could go back to school in May, because it was the last month of her time at her elementary school, and I knew everyone would want to see her before she moved on to junior high.

She was okay for a few weeks, but then she got a mild fever, which is always annoying. It never got too high, and it often came down, but it persisted. I took her to the ER on 30 April, because it rose that night and, of course, her pediatrician was unavailable. Krys noticed that along her spine, it seemed a bit spongy, too, which was probably not ideal. The night at the ER was pretty awful - we waited for almost three hours in the waiting room, and I told them I was going to leave because she could just as easily sleep at home and I could call the doctor in the morning. I don't know if that spurred them into action (the nurse I spoke to was very sympathetic, but she said they kept having higher priority emergencies come in, which, fair enough, but then I could just go home, right?), but soon after that, we got into a room. Mia slept fitfully through the night, but I was awake the entire time, and then took blood and ran tests and concluded that they had no idea what was causing the fever. They asked if I wanted to admit her, but I said I would just take her home, as she had an appointment with the surgeon the next week and if the fever got worse, I'd just bring her back to the ER. So that was that.

I did see the surgeon the next week, and he told me that she had some fluid build-up along the spine, which was not abnormal, and it usually caused a fever.
He took a look at her back, which seemed fine. It wasn't red, and when a bit of fluid oozed out of a small open wound, he noted that it was clear with a bit of red mixed in, which meant it was just the fluid with some blood in it. He said it would have been a lot darker had it been infected. He said that the fluid would seep out through the skin over the course of some days, but to keep an eye on it. That sounded good to me. I took her home and kept an eye on her. The following Saturday (the 9th), it started to leak out. Quite a lot, actually, getting all over her bed and shirt, so I put her in the bathtub to let the rest seep out and clean her off. Krys was off in Pennsylvania dealing with what turned out to be an overblown medical emergency with her mother, so dealing with Mia by myself was oodles of fun. I got her out of the bath and noticed that protruding through one of the open wounds in her back was what looked like a bubble of pus. Well, that was what I was supposed to be looking for, so off we went to the ER once again. After they ran tests, the determined that it wasn't exactly pus, but subcutaneous fat, which often sticks out through wounds. Had I known that, I probably wouldn't have taken her to the hospital, but it was good I did, because they also determined that she had a staph infection. Which meant ... more surgery!

They're still not sure how the staph infection got in her - it could have happened during the first surgery, even though they try hard to sterilize everything. They don't think it was very much, because it took so long to grow and wasn't even noticeable when the surgeon looked at her a few days earlier - in fact, she really didn't have any outward signs of it even that Saturday, except for the fever.
So I guess we caught it early, which was nice, but it still meant they had to open her up again. So on Saturday evening, they operated on her again, and this time, they left her back open. They put what I assume was a plastic sheath right beneath the skin and placed a vacuum beneath that to clean her out, but they still left the skin open, and it was one of the most horrible things I've ever seen. They left her open until Tuesday, when they closed her back up. She was able to leave the hospital on Friday, the 15th, and she hasn't had to go back since. Huzzah!

Her doctor put her on an aggressive antibiotic regimen, as she had a PICC line in her arm for six weeks, and we gave her antibiotics three times a day, waking her up every night between about 9.30 and 10.30 to do so (we didn't try to wake her, but she usually did). We had to make sure there wasn't any air in the saline we gave her, because, you know, that could kill her. Good times! She didn't love it, but she dealt with it. She also had to take an oral antibiotic - Rifampin - that we gave to her through her G-tube which came in capsule form, so I empty it into water and then put it through the tube. The powder in the capsule is red, and it stains everything. It's quite annoying. Her PICC line is out, though, and we've moved on to a different oral antibiotic, which we'll give her for at least six months. The doctor originally said six months, but the last time I spoke to him, he said a year, so I guess I'll find out in a few months when we go in for a follow appointment. And, because it's Mia, she got a yeast infection, presumably from the antibiotic.
We've been treating that for a few weeks and it looks much better, but we're hoping now that she's switched antibiotics, it will go away. We shall see.

She saw the doctor on the 11th of June, and he took her stitches out, and her back looks pretty good (I mean, she has a long scar up it, but the skin is closed and it's not red or inflamed at all). We're finally able to give her a good bath (we couldn't get the PICC line wet at all, so even though she had her stitches out, she was still wearing a garbage bag over her arm), and she seems perfectly fine with not being woken up in the middle of the night. She is sitting more often and longer every day, even though she's still not ready to sit all day. We're still keeping her fancy chair in her bedroom, because we have to transfer her back to her bed so often, but she's getting better. So that's nice.

She didn't get to go back to school because of the infection, but she was out of the hospital on the last day, so I took her to her "promotion" ceremony. She sat very well, and everyone was very happy to see her. She's been going to that school for five years, so a lot of people have gotten to know her well, and they were happy they got a chance to say goodbye. She's been well enough to go to her special needs summer camp, although they've had to give her lots of breaks in the bean bag because her back gets tired. Obviously, we're hoping that by mid-August, when school starts, she'll be recovered enough to sit most of the day. She finally started physical therapy again, as she hadn't been cleared for that, but now she is.
She wasn't able to go in the pool because of her PICC line, but I hope she can go in this week (the PT was getting her pool redone, but it should be finished). She really digs the pool.

Mia has been forced to be fairly tough throughout her life, unfortunately, and she's been pretty good through all this. Her hips hurt her, I think, probably because she's been lying down so much and hasn't had a chance to stretch them, but we hope that will change now that she's cleared for therapy. She doesn't really mind the hospital except for the people coming in at all hours of the night and prodding at her, and even that just makes her whine a little. She's still our happy girl, and I think the surgery will help her immensely, as she's already sitting so much straighter and we hope this will help with her standing. Her PT put her in a stander last week and she didn't have any problems with it. She still whines a lot, but, I mean, wouldn't you?

Here's the most recent photograph of her back - it looks really good:

And here are her X-rays from before her surgery and after. The first two are from before, and the next two are from after. The difference is pretty dramatic. Note in the last one, how much hardware is actually inside her. Yikes.

I was amazed when I saw how much better her spine looks. Technology, right?

So that's the latest update on Mia. We always keep our fingers crossed that she won't have to go back to the hospital, so we're doing it now!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Twelve of one, dozen of the other

It's 18 April, which you might recall is the anniversary of the car accident that caused Mia's traumatic brain injury, and so that means it's time to check in on her annual progress. It's been 12 (!!!) years since the accident, and yes, I'm as amazed by the passage of time as you are. I can't believe it's been that long sometime, but here we are.

If anyone doesn't know what Mia's deal is, I wrote about it back when I started this blog, ten years ago. Every year she makes progress, although occasionally it's very slow and haphazard, and this year was no exception. She has continued with her many therapies, but there have been some setbacks in that area. She's still doing well with her hippotherapist/swim therapist, and her speech therapy is going fine, too. Unfortunately, things aren't as great with her other therapy. Beginning around December/January, she began being somewhat unresponsive to her occupational therapist. She was trying to pinch her a lot, and she wasn't listening to instructions, and things were deteriorating a little. All of her behavioral problems, we think, can be traced to her back, but I'll get into that below. After a few months of this, her OT thought it might be better to take a few months off. So she hasn't seen her OT in a while, and we're looking for June or July as a time when she can come back.
Meanwhile, Mia lost her physical therapist in October, which is also a pain. He had a lot of new cases for kids 0-3 years old, which he was required by the state to take on, and they were all very far away. Mia was his last client anywhere near here, and he didn't have the extra time to come to see her. Mia's insurance for PT ran out a few years ago, so she was a private client, and state-mandated work takes precedence. It was her original PT, so he knew her very well and did a lot of great work with her, so when he left, we were pretty bummed. We contacted the business that provides her speech and OT and they put us on a list for PTs, but we still haven't heard anything. It's a bit of a bummer.

However, at school, her PT has gotten better. At the beginning of the school year, she had some issues with getting up in a gait trainer and walking - she was being very poorly behaved, and she had some personal issues with her aide. In December, she got a new aide, and she has clicked nicely with her, so her PT at school decided to try getting her up in her gait trainer again. It's been going well - she's been able to stand (awkwardly, but still) and move her legs to walk, even though she still needs to be strapped in and her left leg doesn't move as well as her right leg. Obviously, she's going to take a break from that for a while she recovers from her back surgery, but we're hoping that when she returns to school full-time in the fall, she'll be able to stand up straighter and move her legs better. Ever since 2011, when her muscles inexplicably got tighter, we've been working toward getting her upright again, and this past year she's made a lot of progress in that regard, which is nice. We got her a new splint for her arm, which has worked pretty well.
Her old splint was a dynamic one, which means it pushes back against her and forces her to work very hard to bend her wrist, which we didn't want - her wrist needs to be straight so the muscles don't contract too far. It worked pretty well, but her physiatrist thought a resting splint, which simply holds her wrist in one place and doesn't force her to work, might be better. She definitely likes it more, because it's not as much work, so she wears it a lot longer. I don't know if she'll ever need surgery on her wrist to fix the problem, but for now, her doctor is happy with the splint.

Her school life has gotten a bit better since she switched aides, as I mentioned. Early in the year, she had a new aide, as her aide from the previous two years got a better job with better benefits, and the new aide had to get a handle on Mia and her behavior. Unfortunately, she never really did - she liked Mia a lot, but I think she took Mia's pinching too personally, and it really upset her that Mia wasn't nicer to her. We told her repeatedly that it wasn't personal, but she just couldn't handle the violent way Mia reacts to things. There may have been other factors that we weren't privy to, but I know that was a big part of it. She got a new aide and things improved greatly. The new aide even says that Mia never pinches or tries to bite her, which is surprising to us. Mia likes her aide so much that the other teachers and aides at her school have a really difficult time with her when her main aide is gone, either when she's absent for the day or even just for thirty minutes for lunch. Mia is horrible to anyone else who tries to work with her, and we're not sure why. I mean, she's not very nice to us, but we're doing horrible things to her like changing her diaper or moving her around.
At school, she seems to take great pleasure in lashing out at anyone who comes within her "grabbing zone" whether they're doing anything to her or not ... except her aide. She's nice to her speech therapist, I guess, but again, she's not making her work physically, so maybe that's it. Her current aide is assigned to her, not the school, so we're hoping that she can move on to seventh grade with Mia in August. Mia is finishing her second year of sixth grade - we held her back because she would have been 11 when seventh grade started, and we didn't think there was any reason to rush. Now, we think she's ready. We've visited the middle school she'll be attending, and it seems like a nice place, and the teacher is very experienced. So we'll see how that goes.

Her behavioral issues don't seem to be linked to puberty. She'll be 13 in August, but the last time we went to the endocrinologist, he said her blood tests showed that her hormone levels are still low, so while she's showing signs of puberty, she's not in it yet. We're still planning on trying to manage it - apparently you can cut the hormones from the pituitary gland and introduce them artificially, which gets her the hormones she needs but also keeps her (theoretically) from having crazy mood swings. With the way she behaves now, the last thing we want is her to have crazy mood swings. Her weight is doing well, although she's gaining very slowly. We increased her feeding from about 750 ml of formula to 1000, with an extra 800-900 ml of water per day, and she's handling that perfectly fine. She weighs about 66 pounds now, which is about 10 pounds heavier than last year, so that's something. I don't know how much she's supposed to weigh, but she looks very healthy, so there's that. We still can never get a good height on her, but now that her back is straight maybe that will be a bit easier. Her gastroenterologist is still not completely happy with her bowel movements, but I refuse to give her Miralax or another powder laxative, because it doesn't cause her to go regularly and it turns her poop into mush, which is absolutely no fun to clean up. So we've been giving her suppositories as needed, and that seems to work fine. I know her gastroenterologist would rather her poop every day, but I'm much happier with her going once a week as long as the stool is nicely formed. If the doctor wants her to go every day, she can come over and bathe Mia every day when her poop gets everywhere.

So Mia is doing pretty well. Of course, dominating everything these days is her back surgery, which she had 10 days ago on 8 April. Her Cobb angle a week before the surgery was 85 degrees, which is pretty serious. We don't know what it is now (the surgeon won't take X-rays until the 7th of May), but he was very pleased with the surgery and she looks a lot better. I'm going to write more about her surgery in a few days, but it went very well and she's recuperating nicely. I hope to send her back to school on 4 May, at least for a few hours, but we'll see. Her straighter back will help relieve her constipation, we're sure, and we hope it will help her when she's in her gait trainer, as well. She has to get used to the new way her body is positioned, but she seems to making good progress in that regard.

As always, she's usually a very happy kid, despite her pinching and attempts at biting when we move her around. She's getting better at using sentences (even if she doesn't like to, because why use more than one word when she can use one?), and she always happy to see everyone. We don't know how much the improvement in her back will change her behavior, but we're hoping it does make her feel better, because it can't be fun bending to one side all the time. Her sense of humor continues to develop - she loves farting and burping and will laugh like crazy whenever she or anyone else does it - and she seems to be interacting with kids better these days, which is nice. When she goes to middle school, we hope that this will continue, because she'll be in contact with an even larger pool of children. She hasn't figured out how to move her new wheelchair yet, because the wheels are a bit farther back than on her older one, but she's getting there, and I'm sure she'll get it eventually.
Even with her behavior, her quality of life seems fine, and we're hoping it continues to improve. She deserves it!

I've been doing these annual updates for a while, as you might expect, and if you want to take a trip down memory lane, here are the links: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. As always, I'd like to thank everyone for reading - I was talking to someone the other day who was asking about Mia and said she didn't mean to pry, but we have no problem discussing her life, and we've gotten some wonderful feedback over the years. Mia, of course, makes everything worth it.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

(New) bed time for Mia

Ever since we found out that Mia needed back surgery, we've been talking about getting her a new bed. Even longer than that, we've been discussing what would happen when she got so big neither of us could pick her up comfortably. Krys has already reached that point, and she's getting bigger slowly but surely every day. So we knew we'd have to get a hospital bed that we could lower so that transitioning her from a chair to the bed would be easier than picking her up.

Krys found a hospital bed on-line, and so recently we bought one. They don't take insurance plans; we have a prescription for it, so we're going to try to get something back from the insurance company (I'll wait until you pick yourself up from the floor after laughing so hard you fell out of your chair). It cost less than $900, but we spent an extra $200 for someone to come out and assemble it. I wasn't taking any chances with it! A few weeks ago, it arrived, the dude put it together, and we were off! We decided to switch the kids' rooms, because Mia's old bed is built like a tank and it was much easier to disassemble Norah's bed and move her into Mia's bedroom. She likes her new bed; we put the box-spring and the mattress on the frame, and she's now sleeping about four feet off the ground. We told her we could take the box-spring off, but she loves being high up. She's wacky. Mia, meanwhile, doesn't care about where she sleeps, and she's adjusted to the new bed perfectly well. Krys bought her a television for her room, as when she gets out of the hospital after back surgery she's going to be bed-ridden for at least a week (and we hope not longer than that). She doesn't seem terribly impressed with the way the bed raises her head, but I bet she'll like it when she's trying to watch television!

We haven't needed to lower it to get her in it yet; she still doesn't weight all that much (66 pounds the last time we got her weighed) and I can carry her relatively easily. Still, it's good to have. It's nice and long (the mattress is 80 inches long), so she should fit in it for several years, and Krys bought some padding for it, as the mattress isn't exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. It will be interesting to see how she deals with it when she's recovering from surgery. Maybe it will make her life a little bit easier!

Here are some pictures of the assembly and Mia lying in the new bed. She is, of course, as cute as can be.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The saga of Mia's new wheelchair!

Mia got her first "real" wheelchair (she had a stroller that was kind of hybrid before it) in November 2011, so three years later, she had outgrown it by quite a bit. In December I took her to the wheelchair place to get her measured for a new one. The last time, it took two months from when she got measured to when she got it. Surely it wouldn't take as long this time, right?!?!?

When I got her measured, I mentioned to the dude that we were getting new insurance at the beginning of the year. He told me not to worry about it, because it would be covered under the insurance we had at the time. The saga of our insurance is wacky, too, but basically, we kept Obamacare (through Aetna) last year even after Krys got a job, because it was cheaper. Then her company got sold, and the new insurance was cheaper, so we were switching at the beginning of the year. That's crucial to remember.

So we hunkered down and waited. They have to make the wheelchair to her specifications, of course, and they have to send it through the insurance. That's always the fun part. So we waited. Around the end of January/beginning of February we received a letter stating that Aetna had approved the wheelchair, but the date on it was after the first of the year. We wondered if the company needed to send it through the new insurance even though the dude told me not to worry about it. I called the company - and didn't get through to the woman I needed to talk to, which is not surprising (it's the same company that made her chair three years ago, and I was dealing with the same people - the woman is very nice and fairly helpful, but she's dreadful at returning phone calls), but once I talked to her (she actually returned my call promptly, which would not last), I found out what happened. They had checked the eligibility of Aetna in January, and we were still active, so they submitted it under that. Here's where it starts to get annoying (it would get much more so): Aetna did not let us cancel our coverage. They told us that we couldn't just cancel it, like responsible people. They had to generate a bill, send it to us, and we had to not pay it. Then they would cancel us. If this sounds like the dumbest way to cancel something that you've ever heard, well, you're not wrong. We haven't paid a bill since December, and we just recently got a letter saying that they were going to cancel us by the end of March if we didn't pay. I mean, really. I'm very grateful for the ACA because we needed insurance when Krys was laid off at the beginning of last year, but that's just moronic. Anyway, I told the woman that we're covered under new insurance (you know, like I told the dude in December), and gave her all the relevant information, which I could have done, you know, early in January. She said she would submit it to the new insurance (United Health Care), and we were off!

The interesting thing about it all is that the woman told me the chair was already done and on its way to their showroom, and she told me she wouldn't make me wait for it until the new insurance signed off on it because that wouldn't be very nice. She told me that it would be 10 business days until it arrived. So we waited. And we waited. She told me this on a Friday, so two weeks later, I expected the chair to be there. I even waited until the following week to call her. So I called her. She didn't answer and never returned my call. The next week Mia's teacher called me. The bus driver didn't want to take Mia on the bus anymore because the brakes on her chair were pretty much shot (her size was the main reason she needed a new chair, but the worn-out brakes were a major consideration, as well). I called Transportation to see what the deal was, because the bus has straps to tie her down, after all, and her brakes aren't as necessary on the bus as they would be, say, when you just want her to sit still. The dude at Transportation told me that it wasn't about when the bus was in motion, but when the driver was loading her onto the bus and in the process of strapping her down. If her brakes were worn out, she could easily move the chair and bang the driver on the head while the driver was kneeling down strapping her in. Fair enough, thought I, but I did note that Mia has an aide with her, and she could hold the wheelchair still. The dude at Transportation told me, and I swear I'm not making this up, that the aide is not qualified. Not qualified to keep a wheelchair from moving for less than a minute while someone else straps it down. I didn't argue - the rules have been etched in stone, I'm sure, for centuries, and they're not going to bend them for me - but I did chuckle to myself a little. I got off the phone and immediately called the wheelchair place, and got ... no answer. So over the next week-and-a-half, I had to pick Mia up from school. Sigh.

I called the wheelchair place again - and got no answer again - before deciding I would start calling every hour, on the hour. The first time I tried that - on the Monday of the next week - I actually got through to the woman. She told me that she was still waiting for the insurance to come through, and that the chair was in their possession. So could I get it? She told me that they could deliver it that Friday - four weeks after she told me it would be 10 business days until it arrived - and that the dude would come out to our house late on Friday afternoon. Then, of course, he was about two hours late even for that, but her new chair had arrived! And yes, it took even longer than two months!

It's basically the same kind she had before - it's the same brand, the same color, and it has her name embroidered on the back and the front wheels light up when the turn (no extra charge for those two fun features). It's longer and wider than her previous one, which is nice going over small steps - our landing has a small step that always felt steeper when I was pushing the chair over it, but now we just zip over it - and across thresholds. On the last one, she had rubber knobs attached to the rims on the outside of the wheels to help her move it, but we got rid of those because she's good enough at propelling it without them, and that also allows those rims to be closer to the wheel. The back wheels are a bit farther back than previously, and I'm not sure how good at moving it she is, because she hasn't had many chances to do so. I keep forgetting to ask if she gets around in her classroom, because that's where she would try to move the most. It's also a tighter fit in the van, naturally, because the chair is bigger, but it still fits, so that's nice. Mia looks a lot more comfortable in it, naturally, because her feet aren't almost touching the ground.

Of course, I took pictures:

So that's the saga of Mia's new chair. Next: the saga of Mia's new bed!!!!! (Yes, Mia lives through many sagas. She's like a Valkyrie!)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I am ... Mia's impacted colon

As you might recall, Mia has had issues with constipation since her accident, because she doesn't walk, so her insides don't move things around as well as they should, and therefore things get blocked up. Recently, her issues have gotten worse, which is too bad. We took her to the gastroenterologist in late December just for a regular check-up, and the doctor was very concerned with her "impacted colon." Yeah, you never really want to hear that phrase in conjunction with anything, so it was a bit distressing. Her scoliosis is making her constipation worse, because her spine is bent so badly that it's crunching her colon a bit, so that solid waste moves through it even less easily than it used to, which is not a very good thing. So we had to take steps!

The first day, we gave Mia an enema. If I live to be 200 years old, I never want to give anyone an enema ever again. It wasn't even that awful, but it was very awkward and the entire concept of it was just terrible to comprehend. People actually give enemas for a living? That's cray-cray, I tells ya. Anyway, we gave her a lot of MiraLAX, a lot of suppositories, and we tried to clean her out. After that we tried to ease back on it a little, but enough to maintain her pooping. Her gastroenterologist, whom I have seen far too often over the past two months, wants her to poop every day, which is never going to happen, I'm afraid. So she wants us to be really aggressive about giving Mia various aids, and I'm not as comfortable with it. The problem is that for whatever reason, Mia will not poop for several days (even with MiraLAX and suppositories) and then over the course of a few days, she'll basically never stop. It's awful, and then the cycle begins again. With the MiraLAX, her stool was getting softer, and because of that, it wasn't as obvious when she had pooped, so the possibility that she would sit with it in her diaper for a while came up, and that leads to urinary tract infections and just general messiness. We've had to dump her in the bath tub quite a lot in the past two months because it's pointless to try to clean her up any other way. That's not a lot of fun when I'm home alone, let me tell you. I would love for her to poop every day, of course, but I'd rather it be every few days and be a fairly well-defined stool rather than every day of mushiness. I don't think the gastroenterologist agrees.

So we've been trying to find a balance. I go back to the doctor, she tells me to try this and that, I try this and that, and it works with varying degrees of timeliness. One problem is that Mia's new food, which isn't a milk-based or synthetic formula but blended food, seems a lot easier on her stomach, so she doesn't act as uncomfortably constipated as she used to. Back in the day, you could tell when she was struggling to poop, because her stool was fairly hard and she would strain a lot. These days she doesn't seem to mind being constipated, and I imagine her stool isn't causing as much difficulty even if her colon is impacted. That doesn't mean it's healthy, of course, but it does mean that we tend to forget that she's probably constipated - we have a lot on our minds, after all, and when she doesn't act like she's uncomfortable, we don't think about her constipation. It's Saturday morning, and she hasn't pooped since Tuesday, but she seems fine. We're still trying, of course, but it doesn't feel like it's as much of an issue.

The latest thing we're trying is oral suppositories, which I didn't know existed. She took her first one last night, so we'll see how that works (in conjunction with the MiraLAX, of course). One reason why her gastroenterologist is so obsessed with her constipation is because of her upcoming back surgery (about five weeks away, yay!). The pain meds she'll be on cause, you guessed it, constipation, so the anticipation is that her problems with only be exacerbated. I'm not so sure, though, because if her bent spine is partly causing the severe constipation, that presumably won't be a problem after the surgery, as her spine will be, you know, straight. So while the meds might cause constipation, if we remove one factor from what's causing it and add another, it should be a net sum of zero, right? So she'll still be constipated, but about as bad as she is now, which I don't think is as bad as the doctor thinks. But we shall see. We're crossing our fingers that the surgery will be a boon to more than her sitting position!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Parade day!

It's Civil Rights Day, and the principal at Norah's school arranged for a place in the Mesa parade celebrating civil rights. Norah, a veteran of more than one parades (thanks to Girl Scouts), was in it, and so was I. I'm pretty sure it was the first parade I've ever marched in. When I was young, I wasn't in stuff that was very "parade-friendly" - I wasn't in a marching band or Boy Scouts, for instance - so I'm pretty sure this was the first time. It wasn't a long route, and we had a grand old time. We had one dude dress as Benjamin Franklin (as Norah's school is named after him), a nifty banner, and some posters. The principal was hoping to advertise the school, which would be nice. One of the parents had some big ideas for next year, so we'll see if it becomes a tradition. For this first year, it was a small affair. The principal wanted to make sure things weren't too crazy the first year. The kids at Norah's school are generally well-behaved, so we'll see if next year we have a bigger contingent. It was a beautiful day - low 60s with a nice breeze, so even I wasn't too hot even though I was wearing pants. A good time was had by all! And, of course, I took pictures!

(This first one was taken by another parent. The kids were having fun wearing the Ben Franklin gear.)

Fun stuff in downtown Mesa!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Look! Up in the sky!

Early in November I took Mia to the Scottsdale airport for an event run by Sky Kids, a charity that takes special needs kids flying. Someone had told Krys about it, and we thought Mia might like it. Krys had to take Norah to something for Girl Scouts (kids are busy, man!), so she couldn't go, so it was just Mia and me.

The event was at an office building right next to the airport which had a hanger in the back that led onto the runway, and they had a lot of things going on to keep the kids occupied while we waited. None of which, of course, Mia was interested in. She doesn't do stuff with yo-yos, she doesn't eat much, and she's not terribly interested in coloring and other crafts (not that she can do those things very well). She did like, however, the hanger, because that meant she could zip around in her wheelchair. So we did that for a good 30-40 minutes - Mia zipping around, Daddy following her to make sure she didn't bother anyone too much or crash into anything.

After an hour, we finally got to go on the plane. They were small planes, obviously - I think they were all four-seaters. The biggest fear I had was that Mia would get sick, because you never know what's going to happen when you get her in someplace new. She was very happy to be going up, and while we waited on the runway (there were lots of planes landing that day), she was getting a bit hot because the window was closed. The pilot had to close it because it was so breezy, so I felt a bit bad for Mia. Then we were off! Once we got off the ground successfully, I kept worrying because such a small plane rattles all the time, and I was hoping that wouldn't upset her stomach. We flew north from Scottsdale toward Cave Creek, making a big loop somewhat in the shape of a "P." Mia seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, although I'm not sure how much she actually looked out the window at the ground. She was sitting on the left side of the plane, and as Mia tends to orient herself to the right, she was looking at me and the center of the plane a lot. I should have put her on the right side, because she probably would have looked out the window a bit more often. I kept telling her to look out the window, and she did, but I'm not sure if she was too keen about it. Beats me - Mia doesn't share her inner thoughts very much. She was smiling a lot, and she told me she had a very good time, so that's good enough for me!

I'm not sure if we'll do it again - Mia doesn't talk about things she really wants to do, obviously, and if I ask her if she wants to fly again, I'm sure she'd say yes but I'm also sure she wouldn't care if she never did. We'll see - I assume they do these kinds of things every so often, so I'm sure we'll hear about another one now that we're on their radar!

Of course, I took pictures!

Yeah, Arizona doesn't look any better from the air, does it? Well, at least the mountains are nice.

We like doing things with Mia. She often doesn't want to do much, but once we get her out of the house, she tends to enjoy herself, at least for a while. Everything should be within about five minutes of our house so that we can get there much more quickly!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Whenever Mia gets busy, it's never good news

Poor Mia. I decided to set up a bunch of doctor appointments in October for her, and she also had her parent-teacher conference. So she's been running around getting looked at, poked and prodded, having no fun whatsoever. Here's a run-down.

First, she went to see her neurologist. He didn't say much, but he did like that we have almost weaned her completely off of her bad seizure medication. The stuff she had been taking, valproic acid, was fine for her seizures but made her bones more brittle, so combining it with someone who doesn't walk and bear weight and all those other things that build up bone strength wasn't a good idea. Over the past six months or so, we've gotten her off the valproic acid and onto Lamictal, which seems to working perfectly fine. It's been months since she had a seizure, at least the seizures we used to see (at school, they claim she's had one or two, but the way they describe them makes them sound like they might be times when Mia is just spacing out a bit). So that was nice. I totally forgot to ask the neurologist about her latest tic - she twists her head to the side rather violently, and we're not sure if it's a new kind of seizure or not. It seems somewhat voluntary, or at least something she can control if she puts her mind to it, so I'm not that worried, but I'm still pissed that I forgot to mention it.

Then she had to get a molar pulled. Whenever Mia's teeth are loose, they rarely come out easily, because unlike other kids, Mia doesn't really bother them too much, so they take their sweet old time coming out. For the past few, we've actually taken her to the dentist to get them pulled because they were taking so long. She went to the dentist in September and he told me that it wasn't that big of a deal, but several weeks (not quite a month, but close) later, the teeth still weren't out. I took her in and he pulled one, but couldn't find the other one. Presumably it fell out, but we're not sure if she swallowed it. If she did, it didn't affect her at all. Anyway, those were the last two baby teeth she had, so now she doesn't have to worry about it anymore! Also, all four of her molars had fillings in them, but now her mouth is clean ... for a while. It's still hard to keep them clean, because flossing is a total pain in the butt.

Later in the month, we headed off to the orthopedic surgeon to discuss her back. As you might recall, Mia's scoliosis continues to get worse, and her doctor told us we really don't have any choice but surgery. Our only choice, really, is whether we want to do it right away or wait a few years, and he said there was absolutely no good reason to wait, because it would just get worse. Unfortunately, "right away" means at least April, as he's booked through March, but that works a little, because the recovery period is so long that we thought she'd have to miss a good chunk of school. If we get it done in May, she won't miss too much school or possibly none at all, if he thinks it's okay to wait until Memorial Day, which is when she gets out of school. We shall see. We're still nervous, of course, because it's surgery, but that's the way it is, I guess.

Finally, she went to see her physiatrist, who also didn't have too much to say. She's more worried about her wrist, as it's still bent too much and her splint isn't helping as much as we'd like. I put the splint on her almost every day (I know it should be every day, but sometimes I forget), but I only do it when she gets home, so she only wears it for a few hours. I used to have her wear it to school, but they would take it off sometimes and not put it back on, which defeats the purpose. I'm going to start again and hope it's better this time, because she really ought to wear it for six hours or so a day.

Her last appointment of the month was today, with a pulmonologist. The orthopedic surgeon sent her there as part of the preparation for her back surgery, as they need to figure out how much help she'll need breathing in the post-operative phase. Mia has always been healthy (with the exception, obviously, of brain-injury-related stuff), and her breathing is perfectly fine, so the doctor didn't think she's have any issues after the surgery. So she's cleared for surgery, and I'll have to contact the office to set up it up.

She also had her parent-teacher conference, which was ... okay, I guess. I noted the last time I posted (yes, two months ago - I apologize!) that Mia had been acting poorly at school, and it hasn't gotten much better. Her aide decided she was too much to handle, so they're now looking for a new aide. In the meantime, while they still have aides for her, she doesn't have an aide solely devoted to her, which means she hasn't really developed a relationship with any of the aides and is therefore perfectly willing to be mean to them. They finally decided to put on a mitt we bought - it's like a boxing glove, except far more comfortable, and it's designed to keep kids from pinching anyone. They didn't want to put it on her because state law doesn't want to "restrict" children, and they have to jump through some legal hoops to allow it. Yes, we bought it and told them it was okay to use, but that wasn't enough. They told me they had to amend her IEP, which is fine, but they didn't do it until after the parent-teacher conference. Now, I thought they would need more of the IEP team to sign off on it, but it was just her teacher and the principal (and me, of course), and in the end, I didn't even have to sign the amendment. So they waited two months or so when the teacher could have written up an amendment in five minutes. I love bureaucracies!

I'm not terribly sympathetic to the aides and teachers at her school anymore, though. I know it hurts when Mia grabs and pinches, but I've told them how to deal with her and gave them the tools to deal with her, but they're not listening. I suspect that they're ignoring her a bit too much - probably not for long, but enough that Mia gets pissed off. That's when she's meanest - she still gets upset if Mommy and Daddy aren't paying attention to her. If they don't have a one-on-one aide, the other aides have to deal with other kids as well, and Mia doesn't understand that, and she lashes out. She needs someone next to her all the time, because then that person can be right on her if she tries to be mean to anyone. I get that they're looking for a new aide, but that's not my problem. I'm a bit disappointed with her school this year, because they've been very good with Mia for several years now, and in this final year, they seem a bit more disorganized. The principal told me today that they offered the job to someone, and they're processing her paperwork (working at a school means there's a TON of paperwork), so maybe Mia will have a new aide soon. If she does, I'll have to talk to her before she begins dealing with Mia and let her know what's what. Mia isn't really that difficult to deal with, unless you're not paying attention to her. I know, shocking.

So that's her busy month. The gears grind slowly, but it's always nice to get some progress with her health and with her schooling. It would be nice if we didn't have to go through all of this, but that's the way it is. If she weren't a special needs kid, I'm sure we'd have to deal with other, more "normal" stuff!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Various August items

August is usually a busy month, as the kids go back to school, but it seems unusually busy this month, so whenever I want to sit down and write about the kids, something else comes up. But now it's the last day of the month, so I'm taking time to write about them!

Item! It's always fun to do bad news first, so of course Mia is having medical issues. Her scoliosis hasn't stabilized, and has in fact gotten a lot worse, since we started putting her in her brace. The surgeon warned us it might, but it's still discouraging. He left the state and we got a new surgeon, who saw her, took an X-ray, and immediately began making plans for surgery. I have no idea why it's progressing so rapidly - it took years to get to the point where the surgeon thought a back brace would be a good idea, and then about 6-7 months from there to SURGERY!!!! We have an appointment in October to sort out when we're going to do it, but it seems to be getting worse, so I'm going to call this week and ask them if they think she should come in for another X-ray. Surgery is awesome, especially back surgery where they have to work on the spinal column, so I'm sure this won't cause any anxiety in the house at all. Sheesh.

Item! Mia started sixth grade this year. Careful readers might note that she started sixth grade last year, and they'd be right. We're in no hurry with Mia, as her curriculum is largely dictated by an IEP, so we thought it might be a good idea to have her repeat sixth grade. She was 11 when this school year started (she turned 12 yesterday), and we thought that socially, that might be a bit young for seventh grade. Most kids turn 13 at some point in seventh grade, so we didn't think it would be a big deal. The cut-off date for school around here is 1 September, so Mia was always about as young as you could get in any particular grade. She doesn't care if she's in her school another year, and they were perfectly happy to have her back.

Item! Unfortunately, her aide from the past two years got a better job (meaning: better benefits), so she took off. Mia has a new aide, who of course has to learn how to handle Mia. Mia seems to be better behaved this year than the end of last year, but she's still being a jerk too often. A few weeks ago, the aide stopped paying attention to her and Mia tried to stab her hand with a pencil. I told her that if she stops paying attention to Mia, she needs to get away from her, because Mia likes all the attention! She thought Mia was angry at her specifically, but I disabused her of that notion - Mia might stab me with a pencil if I stopped paying attention to her. Since then, I think Mia has been better behaved, but that's still annoying. It's just so hard to punish her because she forgets what she does so quickly that she doesn't really know why she's being punished.

Item! Norah, naturally, is doing well in fourth grade. She's still trying to figure out her teacher - she moved up from second grade, so a lot of kids in Norah's grade had her two years ago and love her, but Norah didn't, so she's still trying to figure her out. Norah is ridiculously busy with extra-curricular activities, which we're trying to monitor closely so she doesn't get burned out. She really likes them, and we don't over-burden her, I don't think, but we're still trying to make sure she doesn't go crazy. On Monday, she has art class after school. She's been taking tennis on Mondays and Wednesdays, but I'm not sure if that's just a summer thing - I have to find out after this session ends, which should be in a week. She had Girl Scouts every first and third Tuesday of the month. She decided to join the school's orchestra, which practices before school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I thought it would be a good idea for her to learn a language, and we decided on Latin, so she's getting tutored in that on Fridays. On Saturdays she has karate. She ran for student council and didn't win, which I think might have been a good thing. So yeah, she's busy. One reason we don't mind her doing all this is because we're not making her compete in anything, which I know eats up time. She does these things for an hour or two a week, and that's it. The second reason we don't mind is that she doesn't have anyone in the neighborhood to play with - our neighbors either don't have children or they're fairly anti-social, and in Arizona, summertime is NOT a time to play outside - so she's making friends in all these activities, which is nice. I do keep telling her that she needs to let us know if she thinks it's too much to handle, but so far she's fine.

That's about it with the kids. Things are humming along, with some bumps along the way - Norah is still a bit too sensitive about things, although I'd rather she be sensitive than not - and we're hoping that Mia's health improves and that Norah continues to be awesome. I don't think we'll have to worry about either of them not being awesome, though!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Norah's art!

At Norah's summer program, they have two-week blocks during which they focus on certain areas. Right now it's science, but before that, it was art. They visited three different museums, which Norah liked, and they also created a bunch of art. I figured I would display it!

They had to do a "surreal" piece, so they cut pictures out of magazines and then, I assume, randomly placed them on the paper. Norah thought the image of a lady doing yoga getting menaced by a tiny lion was rather funny. I can't say I disagree!

This is on special paper that you can scratch with a paper clip or any sharp object and create a picture that way. It's much more tactile in real life, but you get the idea, I hope.

Norah dug pointillism, apparently, and almost as importantly, she remembered that it was called "pointillism." That impressed me, I'll tell you that much. Not as much as her doing this small piece in pointillist fashion, but still.

I'm not sure if this was an assignment, but the way she talked about it, I think it was. They were supposed to take something and put it "out of its comfort zone," so Norah drew Minnie Mouse buying a punk outfit. According to her, a "punk" outfit means spikes on the bow that Minnie wears (which I LOVE) and a shirt that reads "A Punk." Well, of course it does. I mentioned that Minnie scared the crap out of me, because the way she colored above her smile makes it look like Minnie has giant, sharp teeth, which she didn't see at all. When Krys got home, she thought the same thing I did. Norah forgot that Minnie has an area around her mouth and eyes that is colored white/tan, so we get Scary Minnie. I think it makes her look even more like a punk, so it fits!

This is her charcoal drawing, and it's my favorite. I know she didn't use a model for it, so the fact that she shades some of the face to indicate a light source is tremendous. She has good instincts, does Norah!

She's been doing some cool stuff with the science, too, but obviously that's less visually impressive (although she did build a cube and a pyramid out of dry spaghetti noodles and small marshmallows). I can't keep her away from learning!