Saturday, December 12, 2009

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Time to fill everyone in on how she's doing. I have mixed feelings on this, it's hard to give just one answer. There are several areas where she is doing great and others that aren't so hot right now. The good-she is still excelling in school. I recently met with her principal and others that work with Emma at her school for another IEP. It was a really great meeting, except that not everyone could make it so I have to go back to meet with the speech therapist and physical therapist. I felt more confident in the process this time. It's been really overwhelming to me to understand the IEP process. I have a hard time trying to figure out what goals to set for her and where I want her to be. I don't want to put limitations on her growth, but she is developmentally delayed so I have to be realistic. OVERWHELMING. I thought a lot about what I wanted for her right now and went into the meeting with some things to discuss. Naturally, I have a hard time making decisions and standing up to people. For some reason, the whole advocating-wanting what is best for her really came to me this time. We spent the majority of the time trying to figure out where to place her for next year. It's a big decision and I'm very grateful that I have the support of her teacher and the principal. When she was first moved to the Dan Peterson school, we knew it would be only temporary. Technically, she doesn't qualify to be there from a development stand point. Medically, she does though. Going from early childhood intervention into the school system was a nightmare. She was the first one to make that transition with juvenile diabetes from kids on the move, so I don't think anyone knew what she needed. The diabetes is difficult with her since her communication is delayed. She never tells me if she is sick or that she feels hungry. I really had to learn her behavior associated with high and low blood sugars. So to place her in a full classroom where there is only 1 teacher and 1 aid, neither with any diabetes training did not work. Although her teacher at her last school tried really hard, bless her heart. She even told me, I don't know how to be her teacher and her nurse. Most kids in school with juvenile diabetes can manage it by themselves. Obviously, Emma can't so this is tough to figure out. Dan Peterson is staffed with a lot of nurses so moving her there just worked. Her teacher could focus on being her teacher and the nurses took on the diabetes. The plan was to give her a couple of years at Dan Peterson and then maybe by then she would be a little more help in managing the diabetes. There is a little communication there, but very little. It's more like I can bribe her to eat for me now, instead of me pinning her down and forcing her to drink sugar gel. She doesn't tell me she is sick and I can't tell her to eat an orange and expect her to cooperate. At one of Emma's A1c appointments, she had a low blood sugar. One of the other moms had an orange in her purse(her daughter with diabetes was a teenager) and offered it to me. If only it was that easy-here Emma eat this orange. Ya right! They have had a few problems at school this year managing her diabetes. Mostly, because Emma is being more stubborn with them about eating. This is something I deal with on a regular basis. It really does take a lot of effort to get her to eat sometimes. It makes me worry about transitioning her for the next school year. I don't know how it will work. The principle was really good about processing the new developments with her. We talked about all of the options and she even suggested putting transition off another year on the back burner. We have a lot to think about in making this decision. She didn't meet a ton of goals, but a few. I think she is pretty smart with all that's on her plate, so I'm not worried. They aren't either. Her behavior is kind of all over the place depending on who she is with. She seems to react positively to strangers and new settings, but can have extreme behavior with those she is most comfortable with( I guess that's me). The good news there is that it is improving. Other good news to report-Emma has learned to spell her name. She can't write it, easily forgets and needs prompting a lot, but still it is such a huge milestone for her. She is also talking more and more everyday. There are quite a few moments that leave me asking her to repeat what she said because I can't understand her still. Abby has become a good tool in translating for me, I don't how she can figure it out. Emma is really starting to want independence, it's awesome and frustrating at the same time. She likes to say "all by myself" with everything. She tries so hard to get the words out, it's adorable. She has to scrunch up her face and gets stuck on the transition from all to by myself. She will repeat "all by" at least 3 times before she can make it to myself. It's barely understandable, but we can understand it, so it needs acknowledged. Emma is having less problems with her skin infections this year, thank goodness. She was constantly getting bacterial infections that led to boils, some had to be lanced. I was doing around the clock care to keep it a minor problem. It's nice to be less obsessed with wiping everything down with cleaning wipes. I recently took her in for a yearly exam. Her doctor agrees that she is showing some age appropriate skills, but is closer to Abby's than her own. It doesn't bother me like I thought it would, maybe because I see improvement and not regression in her. That's all that really matters.

The bad news. Emma is getting sick a lot right now(no hospital at least), it makes living with Diabetes hard on her. I hate that. As a result, her latest A1c came in high at 9 something. I knew it would because of the blood sugars I have been battling. It's still really hard to accept. It was one of the harder diabetes management appointments. Emma's behavior is the same when she has diabetes problems or meltdowns. With the communication barrier I can't ask, so I rule out the most problematic scenario first. I check her blood sugar, if that's ok, I can move on and keep digging to find the source. Technically, if you understand how insulin works you shouldn't need to check within at least a 3 hour period. Emma's management is different, I guess. When I do check her blood sugar within the 3 hour period, more times than not a problem has evolved with her diabetes. Not only that, but she is sick all the time and pulls out her pump site a lot. It makes her blood sugar really high and forces me to check her more than normal. It leaves me feeling anxious all the time because I never really know what I'm dealing with, checking her often is my only link to sanity. Her endo kind of gave me a hard time about the number of times her blood sugar is checked this time, actually he kind of made fun of me. I wanted to explain to him our real life side of living with diabetes. I simply just said that she was really hard. I cried on the way home. He really has no clue what I go through with her, so it definitely struck a nerve. I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to find a new Endocrinologist. Emma is having problems with her ears again and isn't sleeping very well. Since before Thanksgiving she is up more than half the night. It's wearing us down for sure. She started getting back to back ear infections so I knew she needed to be seen by her ear, nose doctor. We met with him on Dec. 23rd and found out that she has a retracted eardrum. She's getting tubes put in for the 4th time on Jan 14th. This should help with her eardrum as well. He thinks that the eardrum is why she's not sleeping. The plan is to fix her ears first and if she doesn't start sleeping, then we'll keep digging to figure out what is going on. I'm starting to worry about her hearing, especially in her right ear. He said her eustachian tube is dysfunctional, which is causing the problems. I worry that we'll never get it under control and she will develop permanent hearing loss. Emma is not eating all that great right now either. She is gagging a lot on foods that she used to eat just fine. I'm trying to figure out if we're dealing with oral sensory issues again or if she is just being stubborn. Her weight isn't being affected yet. Her carb intake is pretty sad, so I need to keep an eye on it. All in all-nothing too bad, Emma's everyday stuff is just causing a few bumps in the road right now.

The ugly-This has to do more with my protective side of her. Lately, I have reached a breaking point in hearing the "r" word. If you stopped to notice, you would be surprised at how many times people used the word retarded. It makes me upset when I hear it. I've actually had people call others "retarded" in conversations with me. It's mind boggling to me that people don't realize that they are slamming people like Emma every time they say it. I'm just doing my part to help spread the word to stop the word. Please be aware of the words you use. You can check out the campaign here .

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's new with Emma

Emma has been doing really well lately. She is attending the same school she did last year and is thriving at school. The crisis moments are getting farther and farther apart and it's giving her a chance to just be a kid. The other day, I watched her dancing with Abby and was overcome with emotion. I was so happy that she is getting moments like that, when I know so many other children with special needs don't. Every day is still hard in one way or another. Either her aggressive side comes out or Diabetes gets in the way or her minute by minute draining behavior will show up(food can't touch, blanket can't have wrinkles, chair has to be lined up just right, I could go on and on). These are the things that we are getting better at handling, they are a part of our "normal" life. I feel like the insulin pump has given her and our family more freedom and feel like we've adjusted to living with Diabetes. It's also helping her overall care, her last A1c came in at 8.2. which if you remember it needs to be 8.0 or below. We're getting closer! She still gets a lot of viral illnesses, but isn't getting as sick from them. She didn't qualify for the extended school year this year and I was really worried that she would regress. All summer long, I was shocked at how well she was doing. Behavior problems and illness were far and few between and I feel like her speech continued to progress. Things have been going so well that I decided to have her join the local dance group made up of individuals born with Down syndrome. She loves dancing with the Sparkly Pals and I love watching her. They had a performance this summer at the Hogle Zoo. Here are a few pictures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The latest and the greatest with Miss Em

Easter morning

We almost made it this year, staying out of the hospital that is.  I was hoping we could keep her home a whole winter, but it's not happening this year.  A week before Easter, Em came down with a stomach flu.  It hit her on a Sunday night and by Monday morning we were losing ground with her.  She wouldn't eat or drink(always a challenge when she is sick) and her blood sugars were really high all night(loses a lot of fluid with this).  Normally, Em's sugars either run low with this kind of illness because she's not eating or they will plateau.  I had also given her Zofran around the clock all night and it was not working.  Throwing up is not good for her with the Nissen.  She was admitted in the hospital Monday morning for i.v. fluids and was discharged Tuesday morning.  It was really stressful trying to keep her hydrated through the night.  I felt a huge weight lifted once the i.v. was in.   It could have been a lot worse.  It's never fun staying there, but I was relieved she was in a safe environment since things can change so quickly with her.  She was a sick little girl, but was doing really well after she got hydrated.  She started eating and drinking, that is why we were able to come home so soon.  The countdown has started over, maybe next year... 

Her behavior is still really difficult most days.  Her and I have met with a family therapist and I have been feeling really good about some of the new things to try with her.  I'm understanding where her behavior problems stem from more and that alone makes it a little more bearable.  His speculation is that all of her medical issues have led to an attachement disorder.  From day one of her life she has had a difficult road healthwise.  Due to her birth trauma and chronic illness she wasn't able to fully attach and bond the way she should have, especially with me.  It's easy to see for me, all of her life I have had to respond to a lot of her needs and care with some sort of discomfort or pain(shots, therapy, etc.).  It's a little difficult for me to swallow because I'm the mom.  Moms are supposed to make things better, comfort and soothe.  Taking care of her in the way she needed has left her traumatized.  Jeff and I both have been traumatized with it all, it's only fair that she is too.  So when she is acting out or in a meltdown as I like to call it, she is feeling hyper-anxiety.  To make herself feel better, she tries to control or manipulate situations.  When I don't give in to her the feelings escalate, resulting in the meltdown.  It breaks my heart now that I better understand what is going on.  The good news is this is something that can get better, it's going to be a long road though.  I called the Utah parent center and was given some great advice on where to receive help, right now I'm currently trying to get it all figured out.  I wish she knew how much we love her.   

Isn't that picture of her above so great?  Can't tell she got out of the hospital a few days before, I love that about her.....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Family Links Conference 2009

A few weeks ago, Jeff and I attended the family links conference that is hosted by the Utah parent center.  It was awesome and we learned a ton.  I love going to things like this because it provides an environment where I feel like we fit in.  I always say that raising Em is liking living in a world inside the world.  It is difficult for us to relate to people around us anymore.  Not complaining, but it's true.  The keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Brooks, his session focused on from being stressed out to stressed hardy.  I really needed his speech!  I think he was great, he was funny and also had some great advice.  Check out his website.  We attended the conference with some friends of ours who are also raising a child born with Down syndrome.  We all split up and went to different breakout sessions to get as much information as possible.  During the last breakout session, we all met up again and went together.  It was a panel board of people all born with Down syndrome from age 8 all to way up to 54.  Two of them were even married, and were such an inspiration.  They live on their own and have a wonderful life, I was given hope for Em.  The audience was able to ask questions and we received such valuable information straight from the mouths of those just like our children.  I loved when they were asked about what makes them happy and what makes them sad.  I was on the verge of tears the entire time because of the gratitude I felt in experiencing something so amazing.  Emma blesses our lives in countless ways.  What an experience to remember.  

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cardiology appointment

A week ago today, we met with Emma's Cardiologist for her annual exam.  She has this because she had pulmonary hypertension when she was born.  I was a little nervous because last year they discovered during her echo that her aorta was a little dilated.  Emma was pretty well behaved this time and handled it all like a pro.  She always gets scared at first, but after some coaxing and loves she calms down and cooperates.  Surprisingly, everything came back normal.  There is no evidence of any hypertension and her aorta is no longer dilated.  Last year her Dr. didn't know why her aorta was dilated, it was kind of a strange thing.  I was SO relieved that it had resolved, I almost didn't know how to react to good news.  For so long now we go to appointments and always have an issue to deal with.  The cardiologist decided to discharge us from the cardiology unit.  He wants an EKG done every year, we'll just add that to her yearly screenings that her Peds doctor orders.  He said they wouldn't need to see us anymore unless her EKG shows anything abnormal.  It was really great to walk out with no referrals, prescriptions, or future tests to perform.   

Monday, February 23, 2009


Lisa's favorite (signing 'Mom')

Jeff's favorite (signing 'Dad')


Candy, again.  (All too often)



showing off

Take this!




Who, me?

Can't touch this!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Thursday, Emma's Principal called me after Emma got home from school.  She wanted to tell me about something that happened at school that day that was concerning to her.  While Emma's teacher was at lunch, Emma followed one of the class aids out while she took one of the students to therapy.  The aid that left didn't know that she followed her and the other aid who stayed in the room didn't know either.  Someone else at the school found Emma about 10 minutes later, she had found a couch and was hanging out.  Emma has a tendency to run off now and I do have to keep a close eye(or grip) on her.  She wasn't hurt or anything, but she could have easily gone outside and the school is on a busy road.  I appreciated the phone call and I wasn't too concerned about it.  I doubt it will ever happen again because the Principal told me that there was already a gate on the door and the window and a rule was established to verbally communicate who they are taking and where.  I guess Emma was 1 of 3 runaways that day, two went out the window.  I felt bad for the Pricipal it sounded like she had a rough day, I was impressed with how she handled the situation though.  We still love her school.     

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A1c and Progress report

This Tuesday was Emma's A1 c appointment.  We meet with her Endocrinologist every 2-3 months.  Every time I leave this appointment I feel just as overwhemed as the day she was diagnosed.  They run a test called an A1c, it represents the average glucose in her blood over a 3-4 month period.  It provides a lot of information to help manage her diabetes better.  A1c goals for kids Emma's age(0-6 years)  should be below 8.5%.  This time she rang in at a 9.1, I was glad that it had come down from the previous appointment(she was at 10.0).  With that being said, it really isn't a good number.  I don't like that her result lands on the scale where you see Dangerous.  I would love to see it in the Excellent control range and would even take Fair control.  We have only received a fair once or twice and never ever see excellent control.  

This is an appointment that I dread.  Besides the A1c, we also meet with the Nurse/Diabetes educator followed by the Dr.  They have me fill out paperwork that provides current dosing information.  They download her pump and glucometer into a computer system that prints out a summary of her imformation. It adds that info into charts and then we can use those averages and readings to look for problematic times or meals that might need tweaking in her insulin doses.  There is no way a teenager could fake taking care of their Diabetes, it all gets recorded.  So if they weren't doing anything, the downloads would be empty.  I kind of feel bad that these kids are living with that kind of pressure.  

They ask me all sorts of questions and while I attempt to answer them, Emma is either emptying all the cabinets out or hitting and screaming.  Saying it is stressful is a huge understatement.  It is always frustrating for me because they really don't know why we can't get better control.  I always feel like it is my fault, maybe I'm not carb counting accurately or maybe I am getting too lenient.  Deep down inside I know I am doing at least enough.  I also have good reminders, like on Monday, her blood sugars ran in the 100's all day(I did nothing different than any other day).  They can tell her blood sugar is being checked enough and that we are giving her plenty of insulin in a 24 hour period.  Her numbers are just depressing.  Ben, one of the educators, reminded me that I am doing a good job.  Maybe he could tell that I was fighting back tears the entire time(I always am).  Every time we're there he kind of shakes his head when he looks at her charts and numbers because he doesn't know what to do.  We both spent a lot of time looking for patterns.  He explained to me that they will usually show up at the same time of day or on the same day of the week or at the same meal.  Not Emma, there was no distinct pattern.  Her numbers were all over the place.  I mentioned to him that I noticed I was getting better numbers when I put her pump site in her arm(we can use the back of the arms, the top of her fanny, her chuncky thighs or her stomach).  He still wants me to rotate through the site areas in spite of that though.  We both kind of decided that maybe she just wasn't getting enough insulin.  Dr. Donaldson came in at that point and came to the same conclusion.  He ended up switching everything.  He is having us use a new glucometer and a new brand of test strips.  He increased her basal rate, that is the amount of insulin she receives about every 10 minutes.  He increased her bolus amount, the insulin she gets for her high blood sugars.  He increased her carb ratio(meaning she gets more insulin for the carbs she eats) she is at a 1:20 ratio now.  She receives 1 unit of insulin for every 20 grams of carbs that she eats.  I think it is a pretty agressive dose, I have met grown ups with a 1:10 ratio.  Since insulin absorption is the best on the first day of a new pump site, I have to now temporarily lower her doses 20%.  It sounds more difficult than it is, there is a feature I can use on the pump.  I program how long I want it and how much I want it lowered.  One more thing I have to remember in the day, if I don't she could have low blood sugars that first day.  It is interesting the things we have to do to "fine tune" her Diabetes management.  I have seen good blood sugars since the appointment, but I have also had way more lows.  If it doesn't level out, her doses will have to be tweaked again.  

Dr. Donaldson is using a new system to help the parents manage better(at least the ones who are on insulin pumps).  I spent an extra hour on Tuesday getting set up and learning what to do.  I wasn't too thrilled about having to stay longer, but I am excited for a better change.  Until now, when her blood sugars were giving me problems, I have had to chart everything for a day or so and fax it into them.  The nurses or the Dr. would review it and then fax the changes back.  It has presented problems for me because it is not a fast process and like I have time to do that on top of everything else.  Now when I need their advice, I will use something kind of like a usb port to download the pump into the program.  I can call the office and they will have all the info they will need broken down into log books and summaries.  So much less work for me(two weeks worth downloads in like a minute) and I think this will be a valuable tool in them helping us.  Doesn't this information make your head hurt?

I received Emma's quarterly report for her Occupational Therapy goals yesterday.  All 5 are brand new goals as of this year.  They are 1. will imitate and progress to copy from a visual reference the pre-writing lines and shapes while using a tripod grasp on writing utensils.  2. Will find 10 objects hidden in a soft resistive theraputty in under 5 minutes independently.  3.  Will match the letters of her first name and then trace her name with correct letter formation.  4. Will use adaptive scissors to cut a theraputty snake into 10 pieces, snip a straw into 10 pieces, snip a strip of 1" wide paper into 10 pieces, and progress to cut along a 6" line.  5. Will button and un-button on a dressing vest in under 4 minutes independently.  The performance measurements are (G)=good 75% or more accuracy.  (F+)=50-75% accuracy.  (F)=fair 50% accuracy.  (P+)=25-50% accuracy.  (P)=poor=25% accuracy or below.  For goal #1 Emma received a P+.  2. She received a P+.  3.  she received a P.  4.  she received a P.  5. she received a P.  A few years ago I probably would have spent the night crying knowing that she scored at the very bottom.  But, I have learned to look at her progress with the right perspective.  I can't compare it to 'normal" kids, that is depressing.  I definately can't focus too much on the actual score.  As long as she progresses I don't care where her marks come in at. I am pleased with the progress I am seeing in her.   

Speechless and T-cell results

It's true, I am finally updating about Emma.  Things have been interesting and I literally have been left speechless.  The results for the stomach issues came back normal.  Are you thinking what?  Don't worry, we did to.  It is a long story that honestly I don't know if I have the energy to fully explain.  The short version is that the gastric-emptying study came back at 27%.  Anything under 30% is considered normal.  When I met back with Dr. Downey, miraculously he wasn't worried about her stomach anymore.  To be honest he was kind of a jerk and in a way made me feel like an overbearing, worried parent.  He was the one who got "specialist" on me and sent us off on a completely unnecessary rollercoaster ride.  Originally, I was just wondering IF I needed to be worried about the reflux that I was seeing.  He made no mention the first visit(or really ever) that it was still normal to reflux 8-10% of the time after a nissen.  At the follow up appointment however, he made it known like I was some sort of idiot.  The appointment was a battle between him and me and actually got pretty uncomfortable.  I felt bad for the intern.  I wasn't rude by an means(I wish I had it in me to tell him off), but I didn't sit there and take his crap.  The best part was when he told me he didn't even think she was refluxing.  I am so glad he knows her, since he sees her once maybe twice a year(Did you pick up on my sarcasm?).  I wonder what he would call the little puke spots that I have to scrub out of the carpet?  I'm pretty sure he knew I was not happy by the end of the appointment and he tried to make amends(it so didn't happen).  I didn't even make it out to the parking lot before I burst into tears.  He has no idea the way he messed with me.  Since day one, the responsibility I feel over her is indescribable really.  I would do anything for her and I have learned that if I am noticing a problem it is better to act fast than to wait it out.  I don't care if he is one of the best surgeons in the country, it would take something BIG to go back to him.  This isn't the first time we have faced "possibilities" that turned out to be nothing, but this was by far the worst experience I have had so far with a Doctor.  I have since gotten a few other opinions and feel like the reflux I am seeing isn't a problem unless she starts having symptematic problems(pneumonia).  Sigh.............................. 


The t-cell function ended up being normal in her immune system.  She doesn't necessarily have a normal immune system, but her t-cell function is normal.  I am relieved that overall everything has turned out to be okay with her.  It isn't fun to think about the worry and fear we were facing, but it really doesn't matter knowing that she is okay.  We will move on from this and just keep going.  I am sure it won't be the last time, we have "scares".