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

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!! 

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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!

So this is France?

12715553_10208265896782337_2488624869664445143_nI am a Home School Mom. It shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, I knew, I guess I just refused to admit it. I knew how terribly Brynn still struggles to read at a second-grade level. I knew too that Brett still struggles to work on the level he mastered 5 years ago. Somehow, it did come as a shock and caused great sadness to read in black and white that I have two children who are now diagnosed as being “Moderately Intellectually Disabled.” Perhaps deep down brynnbrett1inside I had hoped that the testing would provide clues to reach them, I hoped that I was missing. Surely there was something that would magically make what is taught stick in the brain for later use.
When your children are little and you wonder what they will be when they grow up. As a Mom, you see qualities in each of your children that make them unique and special in their own way. I can still see those qualities in Brynn and Brett, I still momma2think Brynn would make a great, fix it all mechanic and Brett would surely be a wonderful, caring and compassionate doctor. You have all these hopes and dreams of your children’s future and you want them to achieve great things. You hope that they will have even more happiness than you have and if at all possible that they will grow into successful and God fearing people, with a great deal of moral responsibility and grace that they will accomplish many great things.

Have you ever read “Welcome to Holland?”
12782539_10208366778464316_129385383_n I feel like I embraced Holland, which in our case is Epilepsy. I learned all I could about it and I learned to appreciate our family life in Holland. I joined all the groups, found others like us. I advocated I researched thousands of hours and I read more than the tour guides most refer to as physicians likely do about how we ended up here on the genetic map. I made the best out of Holland and did my very best to help all the other parents who ended up in Holland unexpectedly like we did. Now I have been told that I am not really in Holland, I am in France as we are not just dealing with epilepsy, it is moderate intellectual disability as well.  I knew Brynn had been diagnosed with Cognitive Disorder 12722143_10208366778544318_679468329_nNOS and Cognitive Disability, but I assumed that when his seizures were better controlled that it was likely that his cognitive difficulties would be better. His seizures are so much better controlled than they were 5 years ago when he completed his first neuropsychological evaluation. He has been on the same medication for over two years with no adjustments at all, so this is truly who Brynn is and where he likely will stay for life. Never in a million years would I have been prepared for his full-scale IQ to be 17 points lower. We saw an immediate 3-year regression with his second status Tonic Clonic seizure. It took a few years to even get almost back to where he was and he was already behind in all areas. I can only presume that this is what caused the IQ 12782387_10208366778664321_1202466114_nlevel to drop, I have written before about brain damage from seizures.  I couldn’t have imagined that Brett’s scores across the board would be so low either. Both boys score highest in Verbal Intelligence which I have read is usually the case in Moderate disability. I suppose this is a blessing, as they are both able to speak and understand a broad variety of words. So, I guess I need to explore all I can now about France. We will have to find more tour guides, join more groups and find out all we can about this place that we have been placed. I have to wonder, if it would have made a difference had someone told us when they were born that this journey would be different.
About the Seizures
Brett’s seizures still remain pretty intractable. He is having more big seizure free days since increasing two of his medications. Still having a multitude of seizures weekly. His frustration is evident, especially when he falls or has the seizure clusters. He is still having intermittent weakness in his legs and has not received the appointment for PT to see what the problem is with his ankles yet. Brynn is, for the most part, staying at a 1-2 seizure a week trend. He has gotten pretty good at knowing when he has had a seizure nocturnally, even without bed wetting, he can feel the effects and has no problem expressing me how he feels.

 

 

We moved to a New blog site…

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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. 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, blog9Neuropsychologist, 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, blog17you 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 blog16neuro 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 blog224articles 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 blog13and 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 has spent 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 blog10higher 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 blog5down, 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 magnet 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 blog19Brynn, 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.  Brett started the testing as well, but could not blog20complete the time needed due to seizures on 3 visits that stopped the testing, so we decided to wait until he is more stable.
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 blog6Blue 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
Unfortunately the trainer didn’t even respond and has not contacted blog2us since the end of July. We have had to give 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 in attorney fees anyway. The Service Dog industry needs to be regulated and laws blog4need 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!  While we are waiting we are getting things done! blog21Brian brought home a huge 8 foot table from work, we used the wood and made a wheelchair ramp out of it! Brett has used a loaner chair from Easter Seals for some time now. The Pediatrician said he needed a better fit, since the loaner was a bit bit, and the Physical Therapist agreed and ordered a really nice NXT Generation Tilt in Space wheel chair for him. One need down at a time!

 

~Denise