The tapestry of the life of a medically complex family

Archive for the ‘Environmental Challenges’ Category

Memorial Day Modified

Often families of a child with special healthcare needs will celebrate holidays or family events in ways that are different from others. My family has 2 children with trachs, one on full-time oxygen, & another who has severe asthma & heat & exercise intolerance. These health characteristics change the way we celebrate but do not lessen participation- different, not less.

For Memorial Day, we spent most of the day indoors, away from the heat & smoke from our neighbors’ fire pits. We grilled steak on the Foreman & made salad & veggies on the stovetop. We paused during our day to learn about the purpose of the day & talked about our family veterans to honor their memories.

It was a fun day, with many of the features of traditional celebrations throughout the USA. Just as your celebrations differ from the neighbors, we did it our own way.

Hoping your Memorial Day was a fun, family event. Thank you to the Veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom.

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Write

There are reasons I haven’t written -
None of them good.
Each of them valid
In their own esteem.

Not sure WHEN -
Or if I’ll return -
HOW?

I have been thinking.
I have been introspective.
My journey continues.

The challenge. The joy.
The angst.

We are near healthy,
Never well.
But whole & safe.

Homeschool Choice

To the doctors and others who judge my decision to homeschool:

It has come to my attention that there is some confusion about the reasons I homeschool my children. You are familiar with the medical reasons (trachs, illness susceptibility) but may not be aware that my choice is also based on the “whole child” needs of each of my children. In addition, it is in part supported by my knowledge of and experience with the US public school system’s structure & variability. For the purpose of this note, I will focus on what is right about homeschooling for my children.

Homeschooling allows for individualization of curriculum and instruction for each of my children. It allows my gifted & talented learner to stretch her abilities at her own pace, my middle ability learner to make age & grade level progress, and my challenged learner to receive appropriate instruction to move skills forward more rapidly than would be possible in a large group setting. It allows me to address developmentally & academically (MA Curriculum Frameworks) appropriate activities within a topic that captivates interest & keeps my kids motivated to keep moving forward in all curricular areas. Each of my children is learning at a good pace, demonstrating the success of their homeschool program.

With regard to social skills, my 3 children span less than 2 academic years in age. Unlike peers enrolled in traditional schooling who spend close to 5 hours a day listening to an adult or completing individual tasks at their desks, my children spend much of each day discussing interesting topics, playing interactively & encouraging each other’s learning. Although they are ‘familiar’ play partners, there is little predictable about their daily play choices & interactions. My child with an autism spectrum diagnosis is encouraged, challenged, instructed and drawn in to dynamic, sustained social interactions daily. Because they are supervised by both nurses & myself, they are regularly exposed to different levels of structure & independence, across different activities. In addition, local cousins (there are 4) visit regularly to participate in play as health allows.

Every day of the week, each child has structured & adult-directed learning activities, individually & in a group. Each completes familiar learning tasks independently, with new curriculum, on multiple days a week. They are read to, read silently & read to each other nearly every day. They do yoga, play ball games, swing, slide & run about daily. Because of their heat intolerance & health, they do tend to spend more time inside than out but have balance beams, an indoor swing & a loft slide for active indoor play as well. Homeschooling allows for spontaneous “field trips” to the beach, historical sites, birdwatching, the aquarium & movies.

As their health improves, medical status changes &/or I return to paid employment outside the home, I will continue to homeschool. I have the skills & intention to homeschool through high school or until such time as one of my children makes a valid case for their individual transition to a private or more traditional school environment that we can afford. Homeschooling is a family value that far exceeds any medical reason to do so.

Blueberries 2013

Although it’s rarely easy, I work to give my kids age appropriate experiences. Today we packed up oxygen, suction, cooling vests and the wagon to head off to the blueberry patch. Trachboy picked nearly a half hour before needing the cooling vest & to sit in the wagon. The girls fared better, Youngest sat to pick but moved between rows pretty well considering. Trachgirl even handled being buzzed by a bee.
Trachboy needed suction a few times and an oxygen increase to 1.5Lpm to keep going (seated) but he ate more than the girls while there in the bushes. Lunch was delicious with the fresh blueberries in our homemade yogurt. Enjoy the photos.

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Monotony

I live an invariable life.

While others lament the “heat waves” that ebb & flow through New England summer, I hunt my lamb’s wool slippers every mid-day to tame the chill set by the AC. Heat intolerance is severe with the wee ones who seem to generate their own as a by-product of their metabolic condition. 65 is their ideal. We have all grown so used to it that I am able to detect the rising humidity, the point at which the temperature rises to 70.

The walls of the playroom and kitchen house our day. There are those fleeting moments when I open a door to put out the dog or receive an oxygen delivery. I am shocked by the heat that blasts through the opening. We read, play, climb, swing & slide indoors until the relief of fall arrives. Our only escapes: clinic visits, surgeries, medical tests- each with a cost: fatigue, regression, declining respiratory status.

Monotony. Invariability.

Safety. “Health”.

Tally

After another full week without a nurse shift, I feel run down and ‘finished’ but ‘unaccomplished’. As with parenting in general, being a parent of children with complex medical needs is a never-ending “To-Do List” with medical treatments & status assessments tacked on to the page. Sometimes it helps me to glance into the rear-view mirror at the end of a long week so I can truly appreciate that I did get some things done.

This week without nursing I have ensured that 3 complex kiddos have received every dose of their medications & supplements. These doses include: 6 doses each of Xoponex & Duoneb via nebulizer; 6 doses of Nexium; 12 doses of Dulcolax & Singulair;14 doses of Albuterol via nebulizer; 16 doses of Hypertonic Saline via nebulizer; 17 doses of Prevacid; 18 doses of Miralax, iron, multi-vitamins & Vitamin D; 36 doses of Pulmicort via nebulizer; and probably 40 saline nebs since last Thursday… I have done 36 Vest PT treatments of 20 minutes each and listened to lung sounds at least twice daily per kid for the last 6 days (36 times). I have only taken temps on a couple of the days the kids seemed to be “brewing” something- maybe 3-4x per kid so 10-12 times.

I have prepared 3 homemade meals & snacks every day & calculated calories to be sure to make individual daily totals. I have made homemade peanut butter formula each day and calculated individual volumes to be sure each child gets their minimum formula calories, as well as other fluids to meet daily needs. I have set-up a GTube feeding each night, flushing my son’s GTube before & after each start & stop of the feed. I have gotten up to toilet my Tubie 2x per night, every night, as I am sure will continue tonight. Toileting involves: awakening, shutting off & removing the oximeter, shutting off the feed pump, clamping the line, extension & Ferrell bag & flushing the extension, removing the extension, removing mist & attaching an HME to the trach, then FINALLY taking him out of the crib to go toilet. Returning to the crib requires the reversal of the complicated process. Most often my 45lbs son wants to be carried back&forth to the bathroom at the back of the house because he prefers to stay half-asleep during this process. On a rare occasion, my daughter with a trach has also needed to be up for toileting- at least with her there’s no GTube feed.

The overnights this week have not been uneventful. My daughter’s oximeter plug became loose and alarmed when the battery ran low. Her oximeter probe died one night, needing to be changed around 1:30am- of course. :) My son has required supplemental oxygen on 3 of the last 5 nights- hmm, maybe something IS brewing… He has the 3/4L he wears every day, all day, but has required 1-2 Liters per minute on those 3 evenings, including last night. I have changed over the regulator onto full tanks for the 5 tanks we went through this week “living life”.

I have done almost no laundry except the one emergency load of pajamas that was unavoidable. I really hope we can raise the funds we need to move the Washer/Dryer upstairs & fix the electric. It’d be great to gave thrown in a load or two during other days.

I have gone to 3 appointments. I followed up with 3 clinics on medications and changes for 2 of my children per clinic. I have addressed acute issues for 2 of my kids with their GI & pediatrician. I have fought with our DME over their need to deliver the trachs we ordered at the end of February. I have dealt with the fridge repairmen for nearly an hour on the phone- and am faced with another delay.

We have completed homeschooling tasks, played games, made beds every day and had dance parties or done stretches. We have played outside on the deck and adventured out in the car to drive along the coast on a brisk New England Sunday. My kids saw their first lighthouse, Coast Guard station and surfers. I have shoveled a foot of snow off steps & the deck. We visited one of our former nurses and her beautiful new baby.

Whew! No wonder I feel tired! It’s been a full week for 1 Momma, 2 twins with 2 trachs, 1 GTube & 1 5yr old. There is still more to do before the nurse arrives tomorrow morning. On to lunch!

Don’t Look Away

I know you see & want to look away. I know we all struggle. I know asking for help is looked down upon. I also know you rarely get what you don’t ask for.

So I am asking. I am not asking you to sacrifice your children’s college fund, grocery money, bus fare to get to work. I am asking for what you can help with- donate the amount of a cup of coffee ($1 @ McDonald’s, $2.25 @ Starbucks). Would you give up a cup of coffee for them?

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I added to my family through adoption. Yes, the twins had trachs. Yes, they were all preemies. But they were supposed to be trach-free & essentially healthy by the end of preschool. Just as you parents entered parenthood with a set of expectations, I took on the care of my twins, then youngest, as any parent might.

As with all well-laid plans, things failed to go as planned. We celebrated birthday #7 with 2 trachs still in place. My “Christmas present” this year was that doctors were closing in on the diagnosis which would tie together the ongoing complex medical needs of 2 of my 3 younger kids: 1 of 2 life-limiting, degenerative genetic conditions affects them- but not the other child. She will likely continue to grow more and more healthy as she sits beside me watching her sister and brother struggle more and more.
These life events are par-for-the-course. But I need help to make our life more livable as we continue this complex medical journey. Repairing the aged electrical that inadequately meets the needs of my kids’ life supporting medical equipment is imperative & well beyond reach. Moving the washer-dryer upstairs so that it is accessible on the 4-6 days/week when I do the 20+ nebulized medication treatments of the day on my own. These are the things which would CHANGE MY FAMILY’s LIFE. Do you have spare change to change my kids’ lives?

http://www.gofundme.com/complexfamily

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