Recalculating….

bbb36063997_1838393646206648_5468404218702331904_nBrett and I went on a grand adventure to Service Dog Training Camp for 10 days. Instead of graduating as a Service Dog Team Brett Graduated with his amazing Dog Taylor as a Skilled Companion Team. The reason is that Brett was not able to learn everything he needs to pass the Public Access Test with Taylor independently is he has a disability. I found it painful to watch as those around us struggled to understand how to reach him and  understand exactly what Brett’s disability is. As traumatic and life threatening as Epilepsy is for Brett, his intellectual disability that his Epilepsy Syndrome caused has the greatest impact on his life and his abilities. Last time it was tested, his IQ was 46. He carries a Moderate Intellectual Disability diagnosis, that is just a number and in no way defines Brett, but does explain why he could not perfect complete control and care for Taylor in 10 days. He is after all unable to care for himself completely without assistance. As I drove the 7 hours home I had a lot of time to think and reflect on everything. When we drove there we were mostly on highways, surrounded by farmland. It was beautiful, but pretty desolate. It was boring and seemed like the same scenery the whole way. This is probably what a lecture without visual aids is like for a person with Intellectual Disability. It did not take me long to realize that we were going to be going a different way… when I heard the nice voice say “RECALCULATING….”
  I inadvertently had missed a turn and somehow by the gift of technology managed to end up on the interstate. This route would take me a little longer (more time needed to reach the same destination), had two tolls along the way (would need more investment to get to the same destination) and there were more exits along the way (more visual cues). What a perfect analogy for intellectual disability. When Brett is taught the right way, consistently for a longer period of time he will be able to perfect the commands. This brings me to my point. Intellectual Disability. Most people do not understand how difficult things are for a person with moderate intellectual disability. A Cognitive or Intellectual Disability is when a person has deficits in thinking and reasoning skills. They usually have difficulty especially with abstract reasoning, being able to apply what they learn in multiple situations and grasping cause and effect. Attention spans are shorter, they experience difficulty with staying on task and have a terrible time organizing information. In order for an intellectually disabled child to learn information it must be broken into small concrete steps and presented in a way that they can understand. Each step must be mastered before another step can be introduced, they learn best with  sequential information. Most intellectually disabled people learn best with kinesthetic methods, meaning they need to learn in a hands on way if possible. They almost always need visual aids to get information to stick in the memory bank to retrieve it later too! Brett like his brother Brynn, looks perfectly normal and most would not realize they even have a disability. This is a blessing in some ways, but other ways more damaging. People tend to “look” at the person and expect them to be able to perform according to “age” and not ability. In many ways a person with intellectual disability will get less help and accommodations than a person who looks disabled. A person with Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy may “look” disabled but some are actually not intellectually disabled. The DSM-5 list Intellectual Disability as a disorder with onset during the developmental period (before age 18) that includes both intellectual and adaptive functioning deficits in conceptual, social, and practical domains. To receive a diagnosis of Intellectual Disability they person must meet the criteria deficits in intellectual functions, such as reasoning, problem-solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning and learning from experience, and practical understanding confirmed by both clinical assessment and individualized, standardized intelligence testing. The levels of Intellectual Disability are:

*Mild = IQ 55-70

*Moderate = IQ 40-55

*Severe IQ 25-40

*Profound IQ < 25

For more information about the abilities expected with different IQ ranges see:

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/learning-and-developmental-disorders/intellectual-disability

 

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It’s been so long…

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I don’t even know where to begin! We are in a happy place, with less seizures, more smiles and lots of laughter! The Aptiom has been amazing for Brett, in addition to drastically changing his VNS settings. He has gone down to minimal seizures, with having only a few a week. Recently, he went the longest ever without a seizure for 11 days! He has done a year of PT and OT, worked really hard in both and made exceptional progress. He hasn’t used his wheelchair except for a handful of times, in almost 2 years. Initially Brett had fine motor control of a 2-4 year old. He is in range with his IQ now at 6-8 age level. He will start up OT and PT again soon and we look forward to seeing more progress. We also hope to get him into vision therapy, as he has a visual disorder that they haven’t figured out just yet. We will finally get Brett’s Service Dog in a few weeks. It has been a LONG and painful journey to get here… but it’s time. He has been through a lot and healed so much since then. I am forever grateful for the anonymous donor that donated through the Chelsea Hutchison Foundation as well as DomestiPups for this amazing miracle for Brett! 

I still can’t believe my Epilepsy Warrior Boys are 18 and 13 already!! 

24909877_10214496209856270_659568372617918225_nbrynn18

Brynnon is a handsome man now, at 18 he is still funny as ever. He still has a few seizures a week, which causes some aggression and irritability, but other than that he does relatively well. He has done well adapting to the world with his moderate intellectual disability and still loves to fix things, especially taking apart things to see how they work! 

With the time available and money needed I figured out that for me, sewing is therapy! I started the adventure wanting a quilt for Brett. When I saw the prices, I decided to make one for him. Well, that led to me making ones for all my children. I started making VNS Magnet Bracelets along the way too. Oh how I do so greatly enjoy making special needs items that will help a child feel special. I started doing vinyl decals for EMS alert, since we use them I knew other parents had a need for them as well. I got busy enough that I opened my own Shop on Etsy! Check it out! 
http://etsy.com/shop/EWB
Here are some of the items I have made for our family and other special needs families! 

Say Bye Bye to those black  plain medical bracelets that come with your VNS magnets and HELLO to having your favorite colors and your name embroidered on yours. Wear them
confidently because they are stylish, adjustable and comfortable. What are your favorite colors?
Let me make yours today!

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

Catching up!

 










 

There are a few of you who follow this blog of my sporadic at best ramblings who are not involved in social media, so sorry for the long span without an update. We have been on this Epilepsy journey since 2009, starting with Brynn. Never did I consider it was even possible for any of our other children to develop epilepsy. There are a few people that say things like “Your so strong.” I hate that because I am not at all strong. Without God’s grace and help, I would have never been strong enough to get through the stress and trauma I have seen in my life and surely this epilepsy monster would have put me over the top. I have likely done more research than the six neurologist, too many pediatricians, Psychologist, Neuropsychologist, two epileptologist’s and the geneticist combined trying to figure my boys condition and cause of it, what we are dealing with and how to help them. I have still not given up, like everything else in my life I am geared to over obsess over problems until I to let it go because I start to loose my mind or until I reach the answer, whichever comes first. Unless you have a child with intractable refractory epilepsy it’s impossible to comprehend the roller coaster that we live on. Every day, you wake up and brace for the unknown. Seizures seem to constantly change and evolve either for the better or worse, but nothing stays the same long. We have been blessed to see weeks without a single seizure and we have struggled when we watched the twinkle in their eyes disappear as seizures took over and stole their precious memories, learning, endurance, laughter and fight away. At least, that is how our journey has been. Plans? We don’t often get to make plans. It is much easier to live spur of the moment. We have left seizure clinic in a wheelchair half the times we have been to see the neuro and once in an ambulance for status just getting a seat belt in the wheelchair. I have forgotten to bring shoes to the ER, forgotten what medications they take, even given the wrong age and date of birth to paramedics. I am lucky I remember my own name in an emergency. I have zero sense of direction, and just so you know, I couldn’t find my own home without a GPS if I go too far from home! I am far from being smart, I know all you e-moms think I am. Trust me, I have read thousands of studies and articles about epilepsy, regions of the brain, genes, seizure types and anything else I can get my eyes on. The better I understand things the better I deal with them. Regardless of the situation, I am not the “take two of these and call the doctor if you have a problem” kind of gal. Nah, I gotta know what to call this thing we are treating, research all I can about it, know what caused it and the name and every detail about that drug the Dr. just wrote on his script pad before I put in down any one’s throat! Epilepsy has been my weakness, I don’t know why it’s happening and in spite of the years of research. I still don’t know how to fix it or even what caused it. Brett’s journey has been much worse than Brynn’s. He has had months of sleeping 16-19 hours a day and even on good days he sleeps 12-14. His seizure counts in the last six months average 3 a day. He has a large variety: Tonic Clonic, Atonic, Complex Partial and Simple Partial/Aura’s. We still do not count any seizures that are shorter than a minute, unless they come in a cluster and count that as one. When his seizure counts were lowest, his quality of life poorer. Seizure counts higher and he lost endurance, balance, cognitive function and his laughter disappeared. Since his ammonia level and platelet level scare, we never have been able to find balance again. We lowered Depakote and saw an increase, went back up added Carnitine to try to help his ammonia level stay down that helped until a few weeks later he crashed again. We added Onfi, and I assumed that he would do well on it since Brynn has and hopefully get off one or more of the other meds. That didn’t happen. What a mess! His ammonia went back up and platelets down, so we weaned Depakote. All this while Brynn started having an increase of nocturnal seizures, the Tonics came back as did the myoclonic jerks. Saw a new neurologist who is a lot like the old one the boys favorite (Dr. D). He’s almost 3 hours away, but smart and no BS kind of guy. He increased both their VNS settings and put them on rapid cycling. He also increased Brett’s Onfi and Vimpat to see a small break and watch the counts rise again.  We decided to keep things as they are with Brynn, offsetting any meds may cause him to go back to where he was. It’s likely best to just stay where we are and appreciate where he is, less is best! He has stayed on the same doses of Fycompa, Vimpat and Onfi for two years now. Brynn has maintained his 40+ pound weight loss well. His confidence is up and he is staying active happily living back in the country again. He is 16 now, so we are awaiting his new IQ test results to have him placed in a transition program that will lead to special job training.  We all really like the new house and have been doing a lot of projects around with the really huge Hickory tree we had to have cut down! We are still heartbroken over the horrible service dog experience. Brett has been affected in many ways. Just the mention of Blue can throw him into a seizure. We adopted two dogs to try to help (Flash and Daisy) and while they are fun, they still do not make up for the loss of Blue due to her unstable temperament and aggressive tendency towards men. We put a complaint in with the BBB Here: http://www.bbb.org/atlanta/business-reviews/guard-dogs/guardian-of-the-night-k9-in-locust-grove-ga-27470394/complaints and the trainer didn’t even respond. We have given up on the service dog completely. Honestly, I don’t think Brett could handle the process again and I have doubts that he could bond with another dog like he did with Blue again. It’s a really horrible thing to have gone through, but we will do all we can to make sure this does not happen to anyone else. $5,800 is a lot of money to watch turn into nothing and there isn’t much you can do about it except sue, and loose better than half the money anyway. The Service Dog industry needs to be regulated and laws need to be made to make these deceptive “Trainers” accountable for what they are doing to families. It should be illegal for anyone who has not been through training and received certification to sell a service dog. We are not the only ones, I have been contacted by so many people who have had failed service dogs. I just wish they would have contacted us before I signed that contract! When you have done all you can do just stand and wait… We have gotten this far with God, and with Him all things are possible!

~Denise

 

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/

We are making progress, progress is good!





It’s been a while, here I am again catching up! We are pretty excited that the Neurology Clinic we are going to sent us to a Geneticist! He will be researching the two genes that Brett’s Epilepsy Panel came back with. He also ordered a Fragile X and CGH+SNP Microarrays. He doesn’t think they have Fragile X, but he felt that we should do it just to cover that. The Microarray test may or may not give answers, but it will answer some questions.
The geneticist also feels that whatever we are dealing with is a female carried problem, and all my male children had a 50/50 chance of having it. I suppose only time will tell and it appears that we will wait several weeks to 6 months to get the full test results. YIKES! What is the test? Well, it test for chromosomal imbalances that may be the cause of developmental delay/disability on the boys by looking for any imbalance of genetic material such as additional copies or loss of whole chromosomes or deletions and/or  duplication in segments of chromosomes. The information we gain may have no clinical value as for treatment protocol, but it is possible it could. If nothing comes back the test will act as a baseline, and we will know what it is not. It will be good to have it done even if we get no answers, so at least we can say well it’s not _____. I have taken the test with a grain of salt, as I have seen so many parents hope that it would give answers and they were disappointed. I have also seen a few that did get answers from the test, so I still have hope for answers!  It would be a great benefit to have a name for this journey other than Cryptogenic Refractory Epilepsy. Even greater a benefit if we could know for future generations how likely it is that this will be passed on. Brett is still having a hard time,  

since the hospital admission he has not had cluster or big seizure freedom for more than a few days at a time. He seems to consistently do better after it gets dark until bedtime over the last several weeks. We have the Nasal Versed, Diastat and Ativan to use when they get out of hand. Fortunately, I find that the Ativan given soon enough can help him to not need the others. He is handling it well, and I know he is working at understanding his seizure disorder.  

He knows when his body needs rest and does not have to be told to sleep, he just lays down and sleeps when the “seizurish” feeling hits him. This is a wonderful accomplishment because resting is the first defence against clusters for him it seems. We purchased an awesome Purple Wheelchair for him from a kind seller on ebay. He let me trade a CARE bracelet I had for sale for the wheelchair and I paid the shipping. It is an Invacare Solara Tilt in Space model. It’s a bit big for





Brett and we have no way at the moment of transporting it. The idea came about when Brett went into status at the physical therapy office and having the Tonic Clonic seizure in the standard chair we saw how dangerous that was. What we need is a chair that can be adjusted when seizures happen to lean him back and keep him safe. CRS referred us to Easter Seals, who is working with us for a solution. We will need a Hitch for the family vehicle, but the amazing sweet lady at Easter Seals decided that he really needs a smaller chair, with wheels that he can move himself when he is able. They possibly even have a lift available for us to use to attach to the back so that we can still access the hatchback. Blue will be home soon and we will  not have a lot of extra space in the family vehicle. We expect to have it for at least a few more years, so we have to adapt it to make it user-friendly as our needs change. We are looking forward to getting out the house and truly obtaining “Positive Seizure Management” when Blue gets HOME!  It sure will be wonderful to finally be able to do things in spite of the seizures. As a family, we need to learn to live life to the best of our ability, through the seizures! I find myself in a great amount of gratitude for those that have donated to make Blue possible. Her balance is down to $410 as of today. It is amazing that a few people, churches, and one business came together and got us this far. We all have great happy feelings knowing that people have seen the need, reached out and gave.

Here is a link to the Red Basket site set up for Brynn and Brett’s Seizure Alert K9 Blue:


https://redbasket.org/320/bring-blue-home
All donations through Red Basket are tax deductible. We would like to thank Red Basket for their help in setting up the boys page. They are really great to work with and verify all askers, so you can feel good about donating to any cause on the site. 

I have been volunteering with National Seizure Disorders Foundation and hope to spend many years helping others achieve their goals! I really enjoy being the Treasurer and writing Caregivers Corner! We have some really great folks on the Board of Directors and I am blessed to have them in our lives. We would like to thank National Seizure Disorders Foundation for helping us to believe that Blue was possible and helping me not to loose faith or focus when people were not donating! 



Here is a link to the latest edition of Caregivers Corner:
http://nationalseizuredisordersfoundation.org/nsdf-caregivers-corner-by-denise-marsh-2/


   

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!
 
http://nationalseizuredisordersfoundation.org/nsdf-caregivers-corner-2/?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=NSDF+Blog&utm_campaign=Blog

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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Year end quick wrap up!

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I have posted an update. October, November and December have proven to be just as much a Epilepsy Roller Coaster as the prior months… well years. We have seen Brynn do so much better and have just a few small                                                   bumps of loss in seizure control.

All in all, I would still say that he is better than he has been in years. Brett on the other hand seems to gain some control and in a matter of hours, days or weeks crashes again. Brynn and Brett will see a geneticist in January.                                        We are hoping that we will have some answers from that appointment instead of more questions, like the previous Epilepsy Panel. The Geneticist hopefully can answer some of  

the questions about the two unknown mutations that came back on Brett’s previous Panel. (varients of unknown signifigance are 1.) heterozygous for late onset multiple carboxylase def w/biotinidase def p.G1n88Glu 2.) lysomsomal storage disease ds aspartylglucosaminuria p.Leu146Val)
The new Neuro does believe that they have a male dominant, female carried rare genetic female carried epilepsy syndrome similar to LGS.
   We returned to the Seizure clinic this 

month, and were referred to the seating clinic to order a bath chair. I brought Brett’s wheelchair to ask for a seat belt to be ordered. What a blessing they had one and started installing it right then! Unfortunately, Brett went into a Complex Partial seizure while it was being installed. With no break in between after several minutes the Complex Partial generalized into a Tonic Clonic.

911 was called after about 5 or so minutes. The nurse estimated that the Tonic Clonic seizure lasted about 8 minutes. He went to a postictal like state for about two minutes and then his eyes popped open into another seizure he went. Second Complex Partial that also went into a Tonic Clonic. It took an hour before Brett arrived in postictal state by ambulance to the ER. ER was over filled and the hall was being used to treat immediate cases. We

stayed there until he slept it off and awakened hungry and ready to go home. I got a prescription from the ER Dr. for Nasal Versed after he asked why I didn’t have his Diastat on me. I explained that I usually do not carry Diastat when I am fairly close to home, we really do not leave the house often anyway and when we do we are going to the Dr. anyway!

In the off chance we do get to take Brett to a store or restaurant he is 10, weighs close to 100 pounds and I would rather call 911 than try to get his pants down and administer Diastat in that situation in front of so many people. In hindsight, I feel terribly guilty that I did not have any emergency medication on me. I had no idea that it could take so long for Paramedics to get to us in this big huge city either. My thinking will change, once

again and I am sure my anxiety will not get any better either about leaving home with Brett and without Brett. We were only about 10 minutes from home and it was just a quick appointment, but once again I am reminded that Epilepsy does not have rules. When we left the house he looked great, no clue that a seizure was coming until it was happening.

I certainly didn’t expect him to be in status in a matter of minutes like he was. I went ahead and placed the Seizure Alert Dog Medication Inside bag that will be clipped to Blue’s vest in my purse with preloaded Nasal Versed and Diastat and will not be leaving home with Brett without it again. Brett will be getting the bath chair and his wheelchair now has a seat belt. We were referred to an Easter

Seals program to try to locate a better wheelchair after the physical therapist saw him actually have a seizure in the chair it became evident that he needs a chair that we can recline the back in the even of a seizure for his safety. If we can’t locate a used one he will order him a new one. All the children are excited about Hanukkah coming! Hope to update soon, if not I will I will update after the Geneticist appointment. We should have some photos in January of the boys and Blue! She is coming for a practice training visit with Brynn and Brett! Of course we are all really excited about this! Blue’s balance is likely sitting around the $900 mark! We are getting so close to getting her paid! God is good, even in the midst of this Epilepsy battle, God is so good and has never left our sides!  I have taken on new responsibility at National Seizure Disorders Foundation as the Treasurer and started writing Caregivers Corner as well.  http://nationalseizuredisordersfoundation.org/nsdf-caregivers-corner/  
It has been a blessing to be a part of NSDF and I expect really great things to come in the future.   

Emotional mess turns into Thankfulness!

I sat down to write this blog today with so much emotion. Joy, Thankfulness, Gratefulness,

Love, Happiness… with a little Pain and Raw Emotions from the past. This past week has brought some of the most wonderful awesome news… In a matter of hours I got word that Brynn will not have to have surgery for his knee! The Orthopedic surgeon said that his kneecap could and likely will pop out of place again some time in his and need surgery, but if Brynn were his child with all that he has going on, he would leave it alone and hope for the best! Wonderful news, I was really dreading the thought of Brynn who is at the moment more stable than he has been in years with his seizures having surgery! Not long after that news came National Seizures Disorders Foundations email with the balance we need to finish Blue’s training…

 Just under $1,600! Amazing that so many have donated and made the impossible possible! What a tremendous blessing to know that so many people have come together and helped make this happen! It should be fairly easy to raise the balance needed and that takes a lot of stress away from our daily

unknowns. We know that Blue will make such a difference in the quality of life for Brynn and Brett. We can’t wait to get her home and feel all the love she is filled with from all of the love, prayers and support that is making her possible. We will always see each of you as a part of Blue, she will always be an amazing beautiful testimony of how God made the impossible possible. We checked

the P.O. Box today and found a bunch of amazing Birthday wishes for Brynn and Brett. The cards show them they are thought of and loves by so many people from all over the place! They were amazed that they each got a card from Canada too! The cards will be a beautiful addition to their wall of Love, Prayers and

support! There was a key in the P.O. Box leading to another box. Which had a Big box from a loving person filled with Paint, Brushes, Paper, Pencils, Cards and even stickers for Abigail! They were so surprised to see that box and were anxious to open it too!
They will be painting for a long time with the two beautiful boxes of love they received from two “Strangers” that have become “Family.” 

Here are a few samples of Brynn and Brett’s work! They both enjoy looking at other paintings and really enjoy painting too! 



With all that amazing, happy, joyful, grateful and thankful emotion it made me see the coming Birthday of Mom and the Anniversary of her murder differently. Every year about this time before her October 19th Birthday I have this overwhelming sadness and tears flow so easy. I noticed it a few days ago… and as usual pretended to ignore it’s looming dark, negative, sad effect on my life. For years, it has become a part of me that I had no control of. I tried year after year to portray to anyone who would listen how wonderful, beautiful she was and how unfair it was that she was taken away so brutally, and so suddenly. It occurred to me today as I was watching the joy on Brynn and Brett’s faces from

their P.O. Box filled with love… that I can no more convey who Janice Estelle Ashcraft was as I could convey how much it means to Brynn and Brett that they are so loved and thought of. I can post 1,000 photos but they could never convey who she was or how she lived. I could write a million words, but I can never convey the effect her murder has had on her mother, her siblings, her children and even the next generation the effect will go on.

Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” ~Psalm 55:22
 

I can choose however, to try to stay positive. I have chosen to forgive the person that I hold responsible for her death and I will chose to focus on the positive… no matter what life brings my way.

For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem: thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry; when he shall hear it, he will answer thee.” ~Isaiah 30:19   I will choose to be sure that my children have all the love that they have missed out by having a broken family, by reaching out and letting the strangers that love, support and pray for them know that they need them. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18
 

They will never get a gift from their Grandmother… or many other relatives who are not in their lives. They are however blessed by God to have the adopted Aunt’s and Uncles, Gan Gans and all the wonderful loving people who have stepped up in her place and for that I am forever thankful.

“The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” ~Psalm 9:9
New Video for Blue!
https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/6hk0LlEFv5s&source=uds

Brett’s current common Seizure Type… 

Just because Brett is so darn cute! 🙂