What’s a Warrior Mom or Dad Anyway?

b88c4ff1ba453f745e54a61d222cc76f I am sure that there are a lot of various opinions of what it means to be a Warrior Mom or Warrior Dad. The past week has brought many different emotions for me, all familiar for any parent who has a child with special needs. FRUSTRATION/ANGER: Angry that I cannot get the right treatments for Brett concerning his ankles, legs and pain problems. Angry that we yet again have landed in a place that does not have more than one neurologist close by who is willing to see Brynn and Brett because “They have complex care needs.” Angry that I have to make all these phone calls just to get the prescriptions every month, it’s not supposed to be this complicated.  The list goes on, but you get the point. SADNESS/GRIEF: Going through facebook photos looking at how great Brett looks compared to a few years ago, I saw artwork he had done back in 2012. Paintings that he is not capable of today. It’s a painful sting to the heart, to remember my beautiful little boy that was to be, that is not anymore. When your child regresses and looses skills, years of development, there is a grieving process that you must go through. At some point, you realize what the physicians are not telling you, that your child will never become the child that he/she was born to be. This monster has stolen that child and now, the child that you are left with is and will be only a shell of that child. Ultimate sadness yet again as I read that another precious child was taken by seizures. No matter how many times we read those statistics, or hear about SUDEP or even tell others about the risk of death that seizures bring, it will never change the sadness that our community feels when we loose another precious child, mother, father, sister, brother, anyone to epilepsy. One seizure is all it takes, ONE. 

 So, what is a Warrior Mom/Dad to me? A Warrior Mom or Dad to me is a Parent who becomes involved in their child’s epilepsy journey to such a degree that they don’t often have time for pity parties. They don’t post on social media every time they get sick, have a seizure, visit a doctor, get new glasses or go to the park. They would rather spend that time advocating for epilepsy awareness, researching treatments and options for their own child and as many others as possible, helping support the overall epilepsy community as well as other epilepsy families and especially those newly diagnosed.
 I’m going to say this in the nicest way possible, and I do mean this in love. If you have a child who has been diagnosed with epilepsy for 5+ years and you cannot answer these basic questions you need to learn the answers to begin advocating for your child effectively. 
1. What type/types of seizures does he/she have? 2. Are they Partial or Generalized?  3. What medications is he/she currently taking? 4. Has Genetic test been done? If so was a gene identified? Which one/ones? 5. What part/parts of the brain are the seizures coming from? 6. Does he/she have a VNS? Why/Why not? 7. What’s the longest period of time since diagnoses that he/she has been seizure free? 8. How many seizures per week or month that you see on average? 9. When was the last EEG and what were the results?  10. What is your child’s seizure plan for a seizure over 3 minutes, 5 minutes? Do you have medication at home to use in the vent of a seizure that goes over the time that is safe? Why/why not?

 Frankly speaking, I see so many parents in the epilepsy community and I worry about so many of you. Especially when it’s been in that 5-10 year since diagnosis range and your still there, posting the same things or worse just like a diary of your child’s life in a support group but you never seem to mature in your journey to the level of advocate that you begin to reach out and help others the same way that you were helped. THAT is what makes a WARRIOR MOM/DAD so great. I mean who else can, right? 

~Denise

Check out my Etsy shoop for VNS Bracelets, Bands and Clips. Awareness decals, and other Special Needs items! http://etsy.com/shop/EWB2

c9b9f94ad5c117778e0df94ef083466d--warrior-tattoo-female-warrior-girl

Spinning Wheels

IMG_6778We have been in AL for almost two years now. Frightening thought, considering that I had anticipated better care for the boys here and ended up with less than they had before. To date, they have seen 4 Pediatric Neurologist, 1 Geneticist and still just spinning our wheels as far as the “why.” Currently, we are traveling longer than we were from MS to New Orleans just to see a Pediatric Neurologist who at least seems to  have the ability to think outside the box. I still would never leave MS given the chance to do that over!
I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this journey with Brett, even Brynn’s journey was so different, looking back seems less stressful and complicated in comparison. IMG_6885
Tonight, Brett had a mild seizure as he walked down the hall towards his room for bed. I stood there talking to him and when he was ready we proceeded to his room. I read their Warrior Devotional, said our prayers, kissed both my warrior boys on the cheek and headed out the room. Brett’s headphones are broken, so he wanted to listen to his music on his iPod dock. Simple, but unacceptable to Brynn who had to take an Ativan minutes before because he was slurring speech, racing thoughts just spouting out and his left arm was jerking in those familiar myoclonic twitches, all signs it was not going to be a good night. So argue they did and Brynn took the iPod from Brett and slung it to the bottom of the bed. Abigail calls out “Brett’s having a seizure.” Indeed, he is, so I get the magnet and swipe.
He IMG_6721seems to come around and I assume that’s all. I explain to Brynn that his headphones are broken and it would be nice if he could listen to K-Love to go to sleep. I find K-Love, wait for the play button and for it to load and ahhh, a lovely song is playing. All this time Brett has been tummy down on his bed with his chin on his arm on top the wood low headboard. I say “Brett, scoot down and lay right.” To which he answers, “Who’s Brett?” I ask him if he is okay and he looks at me, and I know by the look he has no clue who I am. So I find myself standing there thinking, how wrong it is that this is “normal” in my world. Nothing could have prepared me for the heart-shattering pain and fear I felt the first time I heard those words, yet here I am staring at my precious blue-eyed baby boy who just said them and I didn’t feel panic. As with any other part of our IMG_6648Epilepsy journey, and many others like us, I was not informed or prepared to ever hear those words. So many things that have happened have been exactly the same. I can’t tell you how many times I have stayed up and researched all  night something that happened just trying to make sense of it. I never heard about SUDEP until I read about Danny on Dannydid.com.  Ms. Willa who did Brynn’s first EEG told me, “It’s okay Momma, people don’t die from seizures.” The very first Pediatric Neurologist Brynn saw after his first known Tonic Clonic while sleeping said, “People don’t have seizures while sleeping, he won’t have another at night it will be during the day, if he has another, everyone is allowed one.” The second Pediatric Neurologist said, “His Cognitive challenges and seizures are not related.” I never heard nocturnal seizures, even though Brynn had his first Tonic Clonic seizure while sleeping until I researched it. Thankfully, we went for a second opinion and stayed there for a few years, long enough to be educated, eventually get Brett diagnosed as well. I have been known to say that no one gave me a book, a pamphlet or even some printouts that could explain most of what we have had to get blindsided with. I imagine it would be frightening to tell a parent, one day your child may not know their own name, how old they are and they may become afraid of you because they do not know who you are. I still feel as though if I had the proper knowledge it may have been less scary and could have saved me hours researching the medical literature available online! Hopefully, we will make some progress soon. I feel it’s important to get those answers, the why my two boys have this obviously genetic seizure disorder and where do we go from here would be nice too!
So here’s to you dear parent with a newly diagnosed with epilepsy child. 
1. There are at least a thousand things that could happen and very few are positive things. The most important advice I can give is to take it one day at a time and keep a really good seizure journal describing every detail until you figure out what type they are.
2. Epilepsy can damage the brain, but most seizures do not. If you feel that your child is showing signs of regression find a psychologist or neuropsychologist and get testing done. This will not only  give you a reference point should true regression occur, but it will likely also help you understand and strengths and weaknesses your child has.
3. Changes are going to happen. It’s rare to come across a parent who says that their child always has the same exact seizures at the same exact times. For most parents this can be the most frustrating part. You can never know when it will happen and this can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for a parent if the seizures become or remain intractable. This is also known to cause stress on marriage and friendships. It is imperative that you have a support system in place. Know the symptoms of Caregiver burnout, especially if you have other stressors in your family dynamics:
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiving-stress-and-burnout.htm
4. Please, I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn the basics of seizure types and their symptoms.  I posted about this not long ago:
https://epilepsywarriorboys.com/2016/04/04/what-does-epilepsy-look-like-anyway/
5. Find other parents! There are several groups on facebook, you can find them by searching on facebook for “Child Epilepsy,” or similar terms and you may even have a local support group. Contact your local or State Epilepsy Foundation.
6. Know when to seek a Level 3/4 Epilepsy Center. The guidelines are here:
http://www.naec-epilepsy.org/spec_care/guidelines.htm
and to locate one use this link:
http://www.naec-epilepsy.org/find.htm

Long Time No Update? Sorry!

We have had some busy weeks… We have once again moved, but this time we purchased a home. 

Brett has been on a roller coaster of seizure instability for months. We had finally gotten great control of the Atonic and Myoclonic seizures when his ammonia level went too high and his platelets too low with Depakote. We went down on his dose and they reappeared again causing several falls. So we added a supplement and went back up. This is the first time with either boy we have had this problem with ammonia and platelets. 

Unfortunately, it did not give the same result and the Atonics came back full force along with Myoclonics and sleeping 14-16 hours a day. As of now we added Onfi and halved his daytime dose for a few weeks and he has somewhat stabilized again with those seizure types. His Complex Partials have not gone into status nearly as often, but the shorter Complex and Simple Partials are about the same. His VNS has been going off the same as Brynn’s for several months now, so I would have expected to see a difference if it was going to work at reducing his seizures like I believe it did for Brynn. We are almost finished weaning Depakote and are seeing improvements in his wakefulness and less seizures. 

Brynn has been pretty stable averaging just 1-2 seizures a week for an entire year. He has only had a few daytime seizures in this time and has somewhat cognitively leveled out to where I presume he will remain. We have worked really hard on inferring and basic life skills while maintaining his Reading and other scholastic levels. I have reached out to the local fire department to see if they will let him volunteer there to give him some positive men to have an influence on his life and prepare him for adulthood.

When people ask what made the biggest difference for Brynn I have a hard time knowing what to say. I do believe the VNS has had a benefit, especially on his depression. The Vimpat has had a wakening effect on his thinking and I believe it helps with the slow processing. The Onfi made a tremendous difference giving him about 50-60% reduction in Complex Partials. The Fycompa has stopped them from generalizing into Tonic Clonics as well as removed about half his Tonic Seizures. Altogether, he has gone from 4-6 seizures a week being a good baseline to his current 1-2 seizures a week. We will take that happily. He has lost over 40 pounds through watching his eating and being back in the country! We are so proud of him!      
..

On June 25th Blue was surrendered to the Breeder the Trainer got her from. I had her accessed by a local trainer. He determined that she has an unstable temperament and should have never been placed as a Service Dog. He also said she posed a risk for biting our 5-year-old Daughter due to her temperament problems. We decided that was a risk we couldn’t take. It took Brett five days to realize that Blue was not only gone but wouldn’t be coming back. He has had a really hard time adjusting to life without Blue. The trainer agreed to let us place Blue with the Breeder, who says the Mom is a lot like Blue. It’s no surprise really that one of the four puppies did not make it as a Service Dog. I have done a lot of research and have learned a lot over the past few weeks. The most staggering fact came from a fellow Mom’s blog. Her Daughter received a Service Dog from another Service Dog Training facility and she stated that they temperament tested over 100 dogs to enter 10 into the program. There were 5 graduates.” Wow. Blue came from a litter of 8. Our trainer did not temperament test the 4 available female pups she trained until she picked them up at just past eight weeks of age. How many did she put out as Service Dogs to families like us? ALL FOUR! Not only impossible that 4 out of 4 could finish successfully as Service Dogs, but very irresponsible, just ask any trainer! She stated in an interview with NSDF, that she temperament tested the dogs before they are chosen. NSDF was our sponsor for Blue and the NSDF website states Paws-4-Seizures, the seizure and multi-service dog placement program at National Seizure Disorders Foundation, is available to any qualifying individual with  diagnosis of seizure disorder or multiple diagnoses requiring the assistance of a highly trained multi-service dog. Our Experience:
10 Month old Blue was delivered on April 9th as a Service Dog listing Brett (10) as the handler. The trainer spent four days coming to our home to show us how to handle Blue. It was on the second day that we heard Blue Growl and Bark for the first time. We passed it off as dreaming because she was sleeping on and off at the time. When the older two boys would come downstairs to leave for work she would do the same. When my husband and oldest son would come in from work she would o the same sometimes. 
When we received Blue it took a full 10 days just to get her house trained, have to give ny husband credit here he questioned her training from day one because of this fact. We all knew with the first visitor to our home we had a big problem when she had to be taken outside due to growling and barking. The second visitor (a family) proved that we had persistence, no matter who it was she was going to react the same way. Imagine the horror that the “Service Dog” would cause if she were to bark and growl at paramedics coming to help one of the boys? When she growled and barked at a grocery store manager, that’s when we knew we needed help, what use is a Service Dog when you can’t even take it in public? We did everything we could do and were heartbroken to learn that she couldn’t be “fixed” to really fit into our home even as a pet. We adopted a Basset Doxie puppy who Brynn has really taken a liking to, but Brett has not been able to bond with the puppy. We are looking into adopting a German Shepherd from a rescue. She happens to look exactly like Blue, she was malnourished and is even abnormally small like Blue. Not sure if we will get her, but that’s the direction we are going at this time to help Brett with the loss of Blue. 
 As for the trainer that trained Blue, I notified her of this problem with growling and barking on April 28th that occurred on the 27th with our realtor. She suggested good firm prong collar correction. We did that with second visitors on the 29th, again had to take her outside she would not stop. Notified her again on May 9th that she did it to the manager in the grocery and she said she would come show us some things. We decided to have her fixed, hoping that it would help to calm her down if the problem was hormonal. When Blue was spayed, the vet said that she had never been in heat and did not look to be close to having her first heat cycle. So all that time, every time something negative was happening the trainer would say “it’s preheat” definitely was not. Meanwhile, I did a lot of research. She said that she would replace Blue on June 19th, I feel that we have been getting the run around ever since. We were supposed to get a photo of the Golden Retriever she was testing on Jul. 6th and she explained on July 29th that dog wasn’t going to work because she is too mouthy for Brett. So that’s where we are in our Service Dog Journey. Sadly, I have heard from several families that have had bad experiences as well. 

Recommended Reading:
*IAADP Minimum Training Standards for Public Access:
 http://www.iaadp.org/iaadp-minimum-training-standards-for-public-access.html

*Service Dogs Training Standards
These are intended to be minimum standards for all assistance dog programs that are members or provisional members with ADI. All programs are encouraged to work at levels above the minimums:

http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/standards/assistance-dogs/standards-for-dogs/training-standards-for-service-dogs/

*How to choose your service or assistance dog program:

http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/517

*Finding a program or trainer and evaluating the one you’ve found:

http://servicedogcentral.org/content/node/591

Sources:
http://nationalseizuredisordersfoundation.org/nsdf-paws-4-seizures
http://seizinghope.com/category/seizure-dog/

Decembers Caregivers Corner NSDF

 This is a special place Found in our NSDF website for Caregivers only. Find comfort, support, and helpful resources here from caregivers just like YOU!
 
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This month, Caregiver Denise shares her thoughts and experiences on  stress  and a few resources she finds helpful while helping her boys live with Epilepsy.
Let’s talk about stress. It’s important to understand what stress is and how it affects your body, to fully understand how important is it to find effective measures to reduce it. Stress is a natural part of life, and believe it or not stress is a necessary part of creativity, learning and survival. Too much stress however, can have a negative effect of your daily life and outcome of our survival if not dealt with effectively. When you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, what your feeling is your body’s natural fight or flight response which releases adrenaline and cortisol. A little bit of stress, often referred to as acute stress can be exciting, and it keeps us alert. Long-term, or what is referred to as chronic stress can have long term effects on our well being.   I recently went to the Dr. because I honestly felt like I was having a heart problem. The Physician explained to me that the amount of stress I was under, compiled by my pre-existing anxiety had placed my body in a constant state of tension. I researched this and found that when you are feeling that fight or flight response in a crisis your body is going through a lot. The cortisol and adrenaline released in your body is speeding up your pulse rate, breathing, blood circulation, muscle tension and glandular function. When a caregiver of someone with Epilepsy has this happen over and over again, eventually the nervous system stays ready to react to a crisis all the time causing the body to stay in a constant state of tension. This state of tension creates a person that tends to react to small stressors the way you would normally to true emergencies. All those hormones that are created in the stress state must be released to bring our bodies back in balance. If we do not work towards reducing stress and releasing this built up tension, it can only lead to emotional burnout and complete exhaustion. The only way to break this cycle is to find ways that work for you to relieve stress. I encourage you to find ways to reduce stress in your lives. Doing this will help us be better caregivers, by having better health and positive long term health outcomes.
There are many forms of stress reduction techniques and I will just touch on a few of them.
~Music and Art Therapy
There are many options in this category! Sometimes just putting on your favorite upbeat CD can make a difference if you dance and sing along! My older child with Epilepsy has recently discovered that Art Therapy works for him. He will sit for hours and paint creating wonderful works of art. I also find it very relaxing to draw and paint.
~Prayer/Meditation
A quiet mind is more important than a positive mind. – Deepak Chopra
Take just 5 minutes a day to be in complete silence, focusing on your body and the effects of stress and learning to relax. This can be achieved in the bath, laying on your back in bed or even while sitting. Start at your feel and pay attention as you move upward focusing on noticing areas of tension and calming them. Once your body is calm and relaxed pray or focus on the positive things.meditate Think about all the blessings you have and the good that is in your life. Even if it’s just the pretty sky today or the beautiful flower you saw, find something to focus on that is positive and good. A Physician years ago use to tell patents to breathe in and out deeply. As you breathe in say (Peace, Jesus, Higher Power, Joy, Calm whatever you need) IN and as your release that deep breath slowly say (Stress, Anxiety, Tension, Sadness, Pain) whatever you need out OUT. So I often find myself saying Peace IN Stress out as I take deep breaths and so on. Focusing on releasing it seems to help me in a big way, even when I do not have a lot  of time. I find that CD’s that are designed with stress reduction, relaxation and meditation are a good choice for me, such as this one:
~Laugh
Laughter is a natural stress reducer that  is very effective at reducing stress. Watch funny videos, a funny movie and seriously just Laugh Out Loud!
~Exercise
Something we all may not want to do or think we have time for, but we all need exercise! Go for a walk, even if it is just up and down the driveway, get moving! Can’t go outside today? Stretch and touch those cute toes! Turn on the music and dance the stress away. Exercise will release those feel good chemicals to help combat those stress feelings.
~Practice Gratitude
When we make a point to keep track of Good, Positive and Beautiful things it helps us to not stay so focused on the Negative, Painful, Stressful things in our lives. I find that when I start to feel overwhelmed, if I start looking for simple little positives it helps combat the stress and overwhelming feelings. Such as, “Brett had a terrible seizure today, but he recovered well and his postictal is not as overwhelming as it could be.”
~ Volunteer 
What is available in your community or online to help you live your passion while helping others? Find it and ask about volunteer opportunities. Even as little as 1 hour a week can decrease your stress, help others, and increase your health. Volunteering to do that which you love decreases your stress and increases those feel good hormones instantly! I know from experience as I volunteer my time to reduce stress and feel good at National Seizure Disorders Foundation as Board Member and Treasurer. Leave a comment below to ask about our opportunities.
Life as a caregiver can be tremendously stressful  as we endure this roller coaster ride of good and bad days. Often it seems like we may never have a “normal” life again. I hope that today you will focus on ways to combat the stress that comes with this journey. I also hope that if you are feeling overwhelmed and need help you will reach out to those around you. Find other parents who are on the same ride and somehow it doesn’t feel so lonely. Just knowing that there are others experiencing the same stress helps greatly.
Denise MarshAbout the Author: Denise is a homeschooling mother of six who lives in Alabama. Denise’s two youngest sons, Brynn and Brett have refractory Epilepsy.  Denise volunteers her time and energy as National Seizure Disorders Foundation Board Member and Treasurer. Enjoy the monthly feature articles from NSDF Caregivers Corner written by Denise. 

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