Sam. Conqueror. Overcomer.

On the 15th May 2009, Samuel Christian made his way into this world...two month's premature and in severe respiratory distress. Within hours, Sam was diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome - a very rare congenital disorder, of which little was known. The diagnosis together with the immediate challenges Sam faced to thrive became our core focus and it was with joy and thankfulness that we eventually brought Sam home, after nine weeks in the NICU.

As time pressed on, it became obvious that Sam's development was falling behind that of his RTS peers. Shortly before his 5th birthday Sam underwent a brain scan and it was confirmed by a paediatric neurologist that in addition to Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, Sam also has Cerebral Palsy related to his premature birth, as well as Autism.

This blog chronicles our journey through these challenges...
SAMUEL - COMPLETE IN GOD
Our world has crashed, been blown apart.
This can't be happening....why us? Why now?
Your fragile life shaken before it could barely start,
How do we get through this...please, Lord, tell us how?

Drowning in our sorrow, waiting for answers that just don't come.
Our baby "special needs"? It simply can't be true!
The heartache overwhelms us, we're left feeling cold and numb.
The diagnosis tells us little - these children are so few.

But then we finallyget to touch you, to see your precious face
And all the heartache and questions fade, replaced with love and pride.
It's obvious from the very start you're showered in God's grace,
And with His love and guidance, we'll take this challenge in stride.

When once we couldn't pronounce it, Rubinstein-Taybi's become our norm.
When once the future seemed dark, we now welcome the journey as having an RTS angel brings lessons in unexpected form.

Our world has crashed, been blown apart!
This IS happening....to us.....right now!
We've been blessed with a gift, so precious from the very start. How do we get through this? Here's how.....
By believing in a God, so merciful and great,
By trusting that He's right beside us as we journey through the narrow gate.
By believing His love for us is not determined by a human frame,
By trusting that we draw Him near by merely calling His name. This precious baby we asked God for,
Prayed he'd be perfect and complete.
And, as Samuel means "God hears", He's laid His answer at our feet.

(Nicky de Beer : 27/05/2010)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Same procedure as last year...

...Same procedure as every year, James :D 

Oh I did love me some Dinner for One on New Year's Eve. Back in the daexhausted PVR's and the like were around, we'd recortook on the ol' VHS cassettes and wSerioush happy er and over until we thought we couldn't bear to ever see it again...and then Christmas came around again and you found yourself keeping an eye out for it on New Year's Eve . Of course I wouldn't know if it's been aired at all over the last five years because that would require something of a scheduled twenty minute 'downtime' which is really little more than a hilarious joke here in Smurfville. 

And I did find myself thinking of that "same procedure as every year, James" as we prepped for our Stilbaai trip this year. ..with me being the tipsy, slurring, lion-hopping, vase-drinking, heel-clicking James (unfortunately all due to sleep deprivation as opposed to alcohol) and Sam being the poker-face Miss Spohie, seemingly unaware of the havoc she was causing. Without fail, Sam manages to come down with something every December and, with the exception of last year, has us preparing to cancel our visit with the family at the last minute. It usually happens round the 19/20th when his paed is just going or already has gone on leave, just for that extra bit of drama. This year we thought we were being super sneaky by leaving for Stilbaai on the 13th already #nodssmugly And I decided that no matter what, there wouldn't even be talk of not going - with a nebuliser and mini-pharmacy already checklisted (including cortisone and antibiotics) I was confident we could handle whatever ailment came our way this year. 

And then Gingivostomatitos came along and I was like REALLY? Super contagious viruses are not generally the most welcome Christmas gifts to bestow upon family. So, as per my last post, off we went to paed and came home with antibiotics, anti-viral meds and a healthy dose of self-loathing fuelled by my decision to stop Sam's maintenance antibiotic to test whether his immune system had shaped up a bit (which result obviously came back with a big, fat FAIL!) The day after our paed consult Sam's temp was still sky high and he just couldn't keep anything down, despite Motilium and Zofran Wafers which are usually super potent. By the following day, worried about Sam becoming dehydrated, I  made an appointment with our GP after failing to get an appt with Sam's paed. I briefed Dr GP on our paed's consult two days earlier and then, after two extremely thorough examinations, braced myself for what Dr GP had discovered was worsening Sam's condition. And what he found was...NOTHING!  Absolutely NADA!  He said both Sam's mouth and throat were completely clear. After been told that it takes a good 7-10 days for Gingivostomatitos to clear up, I asked Dr GP if it was possible Sam's could have cleared up in just 48 hrs - he said perhaps we'd caught the virus in such an early stage that the meds had sort of halted it in its tracks but in his medical opinion, that was highly unlikely. What he did feel was certainly likely was that, with no evidence of a virus which needed treating, the antiviral meds were responsible for Sam's upset system. 

Sam's temp eased up on its own a day or two later and after the usual sensory aftermath which follows any vomit-filled illness and a little oesophagul valve which also requires some time to settle, we were definitely still on course for our trip. We still don't really know how the ulcers disappeared so quickly from Sam's mouth and throat but do know that we trust both Sam's paed and our GP's judgement and so, with Sam having been the focus of many a prayer over those couple of days, can look only to divine intervention as his saving grace :) 

And so off to the "seaside" we went! When you ask Sam where Ouma and Oupa live, he signs "seaside". Sam loves the idea of the seaside but the actual seaside petrifies him. Meg had a beach party a week or two back but Sam was so traumatised by the sound and view of the waves that we had to block his sight from the ocean the whole time we were there. Thankfully Stilbaai has not only the ocean, but a lovely clear and shallow-banked river which runs right through it. With the added benefit of no wave-sounds, Sam was hooked and the second we moved towards the front door at any time during the day, he signed "seaside". The first day he was a little cautious although tolerated his feet on the sand like a pro. By the second day he couldn't wait to hit the water and on day 3 marched straight in till he was hip-high in water. What a treat to see Sam enjoying himself so much xxx


The 4hr trip there was unfortunately a little less of a treat ;) 



Mother Christmas popped in on Sat evening to ease Santa's heavy load for Christmas Eve. 


Sam was a little wary but couldn't resist Mother Christmas's gentle charm



Sam's super sensitive eyes took some strain so he had to borrow Meg's shades for a while 


Chilling in Ouma's chair




This was within 2 minutes of hitting the water. Just moments later we had a water-logged nappy on our hands and a little smurf so exhausted from all the flapping around that he passed out for a snooze on mom's lap.  Seriously happy moments xxx

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Gingivowotsowhoha?

On Sunday afternoon we were celebrating with chocolate ice-cream after several fairly easy-going outings with Sam recently. On Sunday evening we were catching vomit and sporting a lovely temp of 38.5°Cish, by Monday we were not eating and now had an impressive temp of 39.4°C and by yesterday we were off to Doc Paed for some answers and hopefully the hope of some sleep in the near future.

But sleep in the near future it was not going to be...bearing in mind that by "near future" I mean NOW! Seeing as it is 10:43pm and I am blogging instead of getting some sleep before Sam wakes up.

WHAT. AM. I. THINKING???

Okay that's the end of my post. Over and out!

Juuuuuust kidding :D

So Sam has a really interesting little condition known as Gingivostomatitos which has effectively caused painful ulcers all over his gums, in his mouth and in his throat. Up until a week or two ago I might have been able to pinpoint quite easily where Sam caught the virus but over the last week and a bit we probably came into contact with close to 50-60 people and several public baby-changing rooms, etc so I fear we'll never know where it came from.

Treatment involves a 3-day course of antibiotics and a 10 day course of Lovir, which is going swell as within 2 mins Sam vomited up two doses of each med leaving us with only one full dose of antibiotic left. So we're basically running on prayers right now. It reportedly takes about 7-10 days for the virus to clear up and the virus is extremely contagious which is fabulous when you're constantly being given love and smooches by a certain Gingivostomatitos-yielding lil dude. I'm so hoping it's psychological but my own mouth has a very worrying 'sting' to it this evening :(


This is pretty much how Sam's been spending his week...really quiet and subdued :(


By yesterday I noticed that Sam seemed very sensitive to light and was rubbing his eyes alot. As Gingivostomatitos can spread to the eyes and cause permanent damage to the cornea, I am keeping close watch on those baby-blues. Struggling with the brightness en route Doc Paed yesterday, I had no alternative but to offer my sunglasses to this totally cool dude :D 






Tuesday, November 25, 2014

To Risperdal or not to Risperdal - Part 2

So it's a funny story...well maybe not so much funny as humorous. Okay, maybe not as much humorous as WHAT.WERE. YOU. THINKING...ISH...Y(?)

Still lost with the return of our bashing-filled nights and increasing number of behaviour issues (now having added teeth-grinding to the list) I asked Doc Paed if he thought the Risperdal could be the cause of much of our issues and whether I should try weaning Sam off it. Surprisingly Doc Paed's reply started with "Perhaps the Risperdal should be upped, not stopped..."

WHAT? NO!!! A million times NO! I'm still coming to terms with the original prescribed dose and the mere fact that my 5yr old is even on an anti-psychotic medication. Mmmmm...about that 'original prescribed dose' though. You know, the one that I independently decided to decrease to the recommended dosage per weight in the always-studied pamphlet, as opposed to the dosage prescribed by the qualified, over-efficiently experienced paediatric neurologist. And which independently modified dosage was based on an almost 4kg lighter lil smurfy dude!

So, increased Sam's dose of Risperdal to what was originally prescribed and, although we've had one or two iffy hours occasionally, sleeping on the whole has improved. So mom doesn't always know best...who woulda think it!

The headslapping and irrational reaction to people moving around him remains, accompanied now with the teeth-grinding as mentioned, but they seem a little easier to tolerate when one's had some sleep xxx

Sunday, November 2, 2014

To Risperdal or not to Risperdal

I think we're close to a new record here...Sam is nearing one and a half hours of non-stop bodybashing in desperation to get himself off to sleep. And the only change in this evening's routine I can pin it down to is the fact that he had his bath before his dins, instead of after as usual, thanks to our wonderfully efficient powers-that-be choosing a Sunday evening to be the headstart of loadshedding. I thought it best to give Sam his bath before the water in the geyser cooled too much as the only thing worse than Sam having his bath at a different time would be him not having it at all. So instead of the usual 30-45mins of bodybashing we're doing double time. Yay us!

Another new record and, at least a celebration-worthy one, (I think) would be that for the first time in over a week Sam pee'd in his nappy today.  He will sometimes have his morning wee in his nappy, but even then has held it in until we take him to the potty.  But aside from the occasional morning wee, we are basically just using one nappy a day which usually gets binned bone dry. Here's why there's a bit of concern regarding what would usually be a mind blowing accomplishment for a child with Sam's challenges...it seems as if Sam is now afraid to go in his nappy. So I have to make sure I take him to potty regularly otherwise he holds it in for hours. Here's how that gets even trickier...as mentioned here before, Sam does not sit on anything unfamiliar to him. And by unfamiliar I mean something that is not a very regular part of Sam's daily routine. Let me give you an example, during the week we very seldom go anywhere as a family. But over weekends we will travel as a family in Chris's car which has a kiddies chair in it but because Sam does not sit in that chair every day, each weekend's travelling is as traumatic for him as if he were being placed in that chair in that car for the very first time in his life.  The first journey or two he is so petrified that he can barely breathe and just hangs onto the sides of the seat as if he were dangling dangerously over the edge of a cliff. Eventually by  Sunday he'll chill enough to shakingly (yes, really) hold onto a book. And then it's mom's car again for 5 days and we're back to square one! So getting Sam to use a public toilet is not (and I fear, never will be) an option. On Thursday I had to run a few errands and take Sam in for a scan en route as well. We were in the car for at least 3 hours, during which time Sam drank a bottle. When we got home his nappy was completely dry! This evening he was sitting on the bed with me and all of a sudden frantically grabbed his nappy and gestured towards the bathroom. I was beyond flabbergasted...it was the first time he'd indicated to me on his own that he wanted to use the potty as opposed to me just taking him every hour on the hour. When I opened his nappy there were two or three little wet drops...he must have suddenly realised (for whatever the reason) that he needed to be doing this standing up :D

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever have imagine that Sam would not only be potty-trained by 5yrs old, but within ONE WEEK! I mean HALLO!

And certainly worthy of a second mention (especially as the first one was a Faceboast) while sitting schooling with Sam one morning, he breezed through 48 flashcards of the 50 I had presented to him for reading. One super chaffed mom here :)

Okay so onto the scan...the aim of which was to determine whether the little mass of tissue in Sam's scrotum was the died-off remains of Sam's sole surviving testicle or rather something else, leaving the question as to where that little testicle might be hiding.

So the good news is that the little sac was completely empty (good in that if it wasn't a teste it might have been something more sinister) and that our missing teste was located in the inguinal canal, alive and well, and not yet completely homeward bound to just under Sam's ribs where he and his deceased brother had originally been relocated from. Phew! We will have to attempt bringing the teste down again but seeing as Sam's grommets are hanging at odd angles from his eardrum, I'm waiting patiently for that first ear infection (should come early next year) and then we can group these two procedures together along with a thorough Glaucoma examination under anaesthesia which Sam has not had in 18 months.

And, on a bit of a sad note, I've had to chop Sam's lovely boyband style hair off! He's developed this really unsettling habit of yanking his hair out in handfuls and hitting himself aggressively on the head. At a loss of what might be causing this new behaviour and in sheer desperation to see it end, I hoped that perhaps with Summer settling in it was simply Sam's way of trying to tell me that he was getting too warm under that lovely mop of hair. Unfortunately, although the hair-yanking has obviously stopped, Sam still keeps hitting himself on the head. It is rather disturbing. Since Sam has been on the Risperdal he has developed an alarming number of bad habits and side-effects...but what a Catch 22 situation! Despite the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, Sam does definitely get more sleep than before the Risperdal. But it is still not what I would call quality sleep and is loaded with all these other new issues! What to do...what to do!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bubble Boy

Silence is golden they say...sometimes it's just silence...bursting at the seams with so many thoughts and worries and confusion, which putting words to seems to magnify...so rather, silence :)

Silence, however, can also simply be the result of being totally preoccupied with concocting up the most creative and convincing defense arguments for the countless assault, vandalism and similar charges you are inevitably going to be delivering on behalf of your 5 year old son!!

Sam has never been crazy about people coming into his space, but as he gets older his space seems to be growing at an alarming rate (currently about a 5m radius 'bubble') and now applies to things as well as people.

If making like an ostrich and burying my head in the ground when being overwhelmed with embarrassment and awkwardness was an actual possibility, my side of the Earth would strongly resemble a giant golf ball! Whether it's the kindly old gentleman turning around in his seat at Meghan's school function to coochie-coo Sam, the lady who suddenly appeared out of nowhere to squeeze passed our snugly positioned trolley (in which Sam was a passenger) in an already sensory-abusive supermarket or the young couple who unknowingly pushed their trolley tightly up against Sam's stroller in a crowded lift...each incident was met with the same intense and hostile behaviour from Sam (not even slightly deterred by the pain he must have felt when slapping the trolley in the lift). It's mind boggling for sure how his sensory challenges just continuously change and intensify.

But, as is almost always the case, there is another matter which so overshadows our Bash-full Smurf ;)

And it's also another reason for being a little quiet, fearing that sharing might attract the usual jinxing (you know, like v-wording and being healthy). I'm hoping that 'this' has been going on long enough to be a permanent part of our lives.

For the last 10 days Sam has not only pee'd in the potty every night, but has gone THREE whole days on just one nappy, which nappy comes off dry at bathtime! Yip, I believe our little dude is well on his way to being-potty trained...how awesome is that? Of course there's a twist. Would it be Sam if there wasn't? He refuses to sit on the one-and-only big enough potty we searched endlessly for, which is making for some entertaining housekeeping when standing over the potty and not all parts are adequately aligned or little curious hands go a-wandering :D But not for a second does this dim such an awesome step from Sam xxx

Looks like the most chilled, serene little guy ever - ppffftt! LOL!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

An untimely demise...

...of Sam's left testicle is suspected. You know, the testicle which (so it seemed) had made a relatively safe relocation from it's original position up yonder abdomen, unlike it's rightside counterpart which had to be evicted. I noticed a while ago that that little testicle, apparently homesick, had gone MIA. Upon closer examination yesterday, Doc Paed discovered that the empty...um...housing unit (?)...was not so empty after all as there appears to be some sort of small mass of tissue there but not the right size or consistency of a healthy testicle. We will of course confirm with a scan but it seems very likely that the lil Smurfy dude is now testicleless. Yay for hormone replacement...when the time comes, of course. Although I'd be lying if I said I'd be totally devastated at having to skip another dose of teenage hormones.

Matters of all things testicular was not the sole purpose of our visit to Doc Paed yesterday. First and foremost was the wheezy/congestion/coughing issue and then the fact that, at the time, Sam had gone 4 days without a bowel movement (and here you thought we were moving into less 'eeeeuuuuuuu' territory! ).

It's a bit of a catch 22 really. While, most of the time, Sam seems very ready from a sensory perspective to move onto more solid food, his digestive system just doesn't seem in sync. And it's about the fourth time now that we find ourselves dealing with constipation/impaction problems this year...which inevitably leads to urinating issues and what not too. So we're back to pureed foods and our good ol friend Pediasure, as well as a hugely increased dose of Movicol which already seems to be helping as we've had about 4 poops this evening. No spectacular proportions yet, but at least there's movement. Yay!

Antibiotics and some Celestamine for the throat and sinuses but I can hardly complain as Sam's had a pretty good run through winter this year. He's grommets are apparently sitting at very odd angles, no doubt working their way out but given that they were only meant to last about 12-18 mnths and it's been 15 months now, it's really quite expected.

And one of Sam's newly acquired skills is stripping, because teaching him to undress himself seemed like a good idea at the time. When I tried to get him to nap the other day (Bwaahaha...napping! A momentary lapse of reality) Sam decided to strip in protest. When he only managed to remove one layer of clothes, he stripped the bed instead. He was finding it all too amusing...until I made him pick it all up afterwards (with me being his 'walker' of course)...


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let it go...

...let it gooooooooooooo!

That's what I've told myself at least ten...twenty times this evening. But myself just isn't listening to myself.

We went to watch Meg's school concert tonight, with a little help from our friends at Iris House in the way of a respite carer for Sam.

So we're sitting there watching the Gr 1's rendition of Frozen and I think to myself "Boy, these kids are so tiny! "

Meg was tiny too.
Seven years ago.
This is Meg's last primary school concert.
This is my last primary school concert.
Sam won't have a primary school concert.
Sam won't have any concert.
I want Sam to have a concert.
I want Sam to be dancing around in an oversized Olaf costume, trying to find my face in the crowd.
I want to be cheering him on alongside the hockey field.
I want to chat animatedly about what Sam wants to be when he grows up.
I want to tease him about the little girl who smiled sweetly at him in the shops.
I want to write out birthday invitations for kids HE HAS asked to his birthday party.
I want to ground him for not doing his chores.
I want...
I want...
Sometimes I just want normal.
I hate the idea of normal...bleh!
But sometimes my heart breaks for normal.

Just sometimes...♡

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fears

Do you have any fears? The crippling kind? I do...it sounds ever-so cheesy and overdone but I have a very real fear of heights. The kind of fear of heights which had me near hysteria on a ferris wheel...despite being in my early 20's...while my 5yr old son sat calmly next to me, enjoying the sights of the festival below. The same kind of fear which prevents me from looking down lift shafts and enjoying the delights of Cape Town's most loved attractions like the cable car up to Table Mountain. 

So, if I had to imagine what it would be like to live each and every day...every hour...facing fear, I would picture myself trying to perform everyday functions while teetering on the edge of a ridiculously high cliff. And just thinking about the most simplest of activities, like walking, makes me want to cover my face and cower down. 

And that's pretty much where we're at with Sam at this moment. 

I don't usually like to post when we're going through a rough run with Sam.  I find that waiting for that moment to pass usually allows for a less emotional, more inner-reflective post...which can be quite therapeutic.  And, another big plus, makes me sound less like a whingey not-coping-that-great mom.

But this moment just ain't passing...and I fear that if I wait, we'll next catch up round about Sam's 21st birthday! And my 56th birthday....Eeeeek! I just discovered a new fear...ageing! Nah...just kidding. 

Sam experiences life at the moment cowering down, shielding himself from the world...which has become an unbearably frightening place for him, even more so than before. Sam has, and always has had, two different kinds of defensive reactions...an aversion to anxiety-triggering elements,  eg. the puking at the sound of a hairdryer. And then completely debilitating fear, eg. when you lie him down on an unfamiliar surface (say to change his nappy) and he is so afraid that he can't even breathe. These two reactions have completely switched places and while sensory aversion occurred more frequently with moments of terror only happening very occasionally when circumstances of our surroundings were beyond our control...I now get commanded by Sam to blowdry my hair every morning! And cars induce the same reaction lying down used to! 

Cars? Cars! *sigh* 

As soon as Winter showed just the subtlest of signs of letting up, we pounced on the first opportunity to commence our usual insanity-preventing evening walks a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly with every car which drove passed us, Sam covered his face with his hands, turned his body around and tried to push his body as low down into the stroller as he could manage. And so it carried on the moment Sam noticed a car approaching.  A few nights later, determined that at least Sam would get some exercise,  we took him out front to walk an extremely short distance down the road, holding our hands. With us staying in a close, we expected there to be limited traffic...which there was. Suddenly Sam turned in panic, near climbing up my leg in his desperation to be picked up. Sure enough, a hundred metres or so in front of us, was a car....a stationary car. Which had been parked there since we began our stroll! 

So...cars and walks are now out!  It's so heartbreaking to see how full of fear Sam is without having the benefit of verbal communication to be able to soothe his worries and determine exactly what feeds these struggles.  I used to pray each and every night that the Lord would lay His healing hands on Sam's brain, allowing him to master walking and speech. Recently I changed the nature of my prayer...I pray that the Holy Spirit will completely overflow within Sam...will quiet his many fears. Just days after my new petition, so intrigued with his obsession with numbers,  Sam stood holding onto the kitchen counter on his own, completely absorbed by the scrolling numbers on the microwave seemingly unaware that I had removed my support from behind him. I have hope ♡




As Sam's anxieties grow in triggers and severity, so does his intolerance of social activity.  In church this morning we sat at the back, right next to the door in case I needed to make a rushed exit for some vomit damage control.  Every time the door opened Sam threw himself into serious unmanageable extension (almost landing on the floor several times) while protesting loudly.  It was undoubtedly the most highly-strung we've seen him during the passed few weeks and having  substantial comparison,  that's a little worrying.

On a positive note, Sam has replaced his favourite play-it-till-it-induces-nausea balloon song with a fresh tune... I'll give you 3 guesses what the new favourite song is. Nope, let's make that 300 guesses because there's no way you'll get it right.  Are you ready? 

Acapella by Karmin

Yes, you read right! I know, crazy isn't it?Not as crazy as having to listen to "Nevermind...bring the beat back" after Karmin "does it in falsetto" around 20-30  times each and every day (cos that's just a whole new level of crazy there)! 
But crazy nevertheless. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A letter...



To the Sibling of a Child with Special Needs

You’re on my heart more than you know. I know sometimes you feel like your sibling gets all the attention and I don’t notice you, but it’s not true. Entire days go by that I ache because I am so tied up in dealing with the newest symptoms, medications, and endless consultations with specialists and therapists that I don’t have time to sit down and talk with you, listen to you, like I really want to.

I see the tears you cry when a new set of symptoms means seeing another specialist, and we don’t know how many times we’ll have to travel to get to an appointment there, how many years we’ll need check-ups with that particular specialty.

I see your frustration and sadness when you witness another meltdown, are told about another surgery, or have to endure your sibling being in the hospital yet again. I see your struggle to help out when you’re asked to in situations where your dad and I aren’t around and other adults ask you to step in when they don’t know what to do.

Just let me say this:

You’re a child. You’ve had to take on far too many “adult” responsibilities and grow up way too fast already. I’m already wondering if you’ll end up being the one responsible for your sibling after your daddy and I are gone, and how you will handle that. Please enjoy being a child and let me take the burdens I can remove from your shoulders. They’re far too heavy for you. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When something happens and adults turn to you, do immediate damage control and send them to get us. You are not responsible for handling the situation alone.

You are loved more than you can imagine. I see you, I see your pain, and I see the sacrifices you make every day—to not rock the boat, to not cause us any trouble, and to help in every way possible. I love you for trying to be the “perfect” child and not cause your daddy and me more stress. Please see You’re a child. above and know that we don’t expect perfection. We don’t expect you to be able to avert every meltdown. We love you exactly as you are, mistakes and all.

I love who you’re becoming. Despite the frustration, anger, sadness, and other negative feelings you experience from time to time, I love who you’re becoming. I see your compassion, kindness, and sensitivity to others’ feelings. You are wise beyond your years. God is going to use the experiences that cause you the most pain now to continue developing character traits in you that will be invaluable to you both now and as an adult.

I love your love for your sibling. I am always amazed at how you are the first to defend your sibling when someone says something unkind. I love how you play and share life together. Although at times your hurt is deep, your love is deeper, and I am so grateful for that.

I’m sorry. For all the times you’ve felt neglected, unseen, unloved, or unwanted, I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I am making an effort to find ways to spend more alone time with you—both in little moments we can steal at home and in times we can go out together for a soft drink, meal, or to browse our favorite stores. Balancing everything gets difficult in certain seasons, and I am trying to get better at it.

You are amazing. And don’t you ever forget it.

I’m here for you. I love you every bit as much as your sibling, and I want you to know that I’m here for you too. We only get one chance at your childhood. Let’s put the mistakes of the past behind us and make the most of every moment!

Love always, Mom 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Riddle me this....

Riddle me this
Riddle me that.
Some days are peaked,
Some days are flat.

Riddle me here
Riddle me there,
Senses unclear
Best beware!

This little dude's senses. A riddle, mystery and puzzle all on their own. Exhausting.

Over the past few weeks we're very very much back to throwing up all over the show again, not in the least bit reserved for unfamiliar places but seemingly more like at any place that's not home. We were visiting a friend recently who has an old-fashioned till in her school room. Sam was already anxious just about the outing in general. Meg was messing around by the till and pressed the little button to print a till slip but there being no paper in it, it simply made a funny sound. You can probably imagine what kind of sound - not particularly sensory disturbing, well not for us anyway but definitely distressing enough for Sam to throw up.

Again we're back to a fearful, plank-like extension when I try and get Sam to walk holding my one hand or using his walker yet a few weeks ago he walked all the way from the car into the physio rooms holding just my one hand??? And here's the doozey...completely fed up with walking around with soaking wet, long hair in the middle of winter thanks to not being able to use a vomit-triggering hairdryer I decided to give my hair the chop about 2 weeks ago. Still getting used to how quickly my hair now dries, after my shower this morning I hurriedly went about getting Sam ready for his physio session and happened to catch my reflection out of the corner of my eye as I rushed about. I looked like I had run headfirst into a Van de Graaff generator!

↑ If it wasn't for the hilarious notion of being able to sit down to have a cup of (warm) tea (Oh yes please) this would have been a pretty accurate picture. 

So there was little else to do but sit Sam down in front of me (for more effective vomit-catching efficiency) and switch the hairdryer on. I first only tried about 10 seconds then stopped, expecting to see that 'I'm about to share some projectile vomiting" face. Nothing. Tried another 10 second round, then longer, and longer. Nothing! I had just started my internal whoop-whoop celebratory dance at having (finally) conquered something sensory related when it hit me. I've chopped off my hair for nothing!  
Bum! 

Luckily, Sam's sensory challenges being the chaotic labyrinth of unpredictability that they are, I will quite likely pop the hairdryer on tomorrow morning only to have him shower us all in some or other partially digested substance. Oh the anticipation! 

So other than those fabulously entertaining sensory issues, there's been nothing particularly interesting to report. We've signed Sam up for the home programme at the Chere Botha School just to have a little guidance as to what next I should be teaching him. Having mastered numbers, shapes, letters and colours some time ago I am not 100% certain where to move onto next. While Sam's physical abilities are obviously compromised, the home programme co-oordinator was very obviously impressed with Sam's intellectual strengths, especially when I showed her how I 'test' Sam by drawing several balloons in black and then write the names of the colours inside (also in black so as not to give Sam any hints) and then set all the colour crayons out next to Sam. He will, without hesitating, correctly read the name of the colour needed and select it from the lot and colour the balloon in. Fair enough his colouring skills need a little attention, but it was a very proud mommy moment for me made even sweeter knowing that it's a skill I taught him myself ♡♡♡

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

If I had to ask you...

...right now, on the spot...without a moment to compile a 'correct' answer...what are the five essential things all parents should teach their kids, what would you say?

To be honest? Respectful? Considerate? To love their neighbour? Humility? Generosity?...and a few other wonderful values I'm sure. Why then is there still such a struggle for respect and acceptance amongst differently-abled children and their parents? If you know the answer, please do enlighten...seriously.

No child is born with preconceived prejudices, we instil it within them through our own behaviour and the environment in which we raise our children. Let me put this to you...say you're spending the afternoon with your kiddo at the park. You approach the playground and there are two kids (roughly the same age) already playing but on apposite sides of the play area...one 'normal', the other with noticeable differences. Your kiddo is just so keen for a playmate he/she is open to either child. Be brutally honest now and ask yourself - towards which one of those children would you guide your child? And why?

No parent/s of a child/children with different or compromised abilities wants sympathy or pity. Well hopefully not...otherwise they might require a swift foot to the patoottie. In fact, they want little of anything for themselves...but for their kids they desire the world...you know...much like you do for your 'normal' kids. A world in which their children are accepted as valuable members of society, treated with respect and consideration and allowed to share in that wonderful phenomenon we call belonging.

You know why it's so heartbreaking to hear of regular occurences within our worldwide special needs community where children have been victimised, discriminated against and generally treated badly? Because we watch them struggle through challenges which are ten times, twenty times...heck, sometimes a hundred times more difficult to confront than typical kids. And then we have to watch them struggle through things which should not require any special effort at all.

Being accepted, respected and treated as a human being should be a given. It should *not* be a privilege bestowed only upon those who communicate like us, move like us, play like us and generally experience life as we do. Yet a privilege it appears to be.

Below is an excerpt from an article on everydayfamily.com. I can't say I'm loving the use of the word "tolerate". It seems better suited for other situations, eg. I'll tolerate a little chocolate mousse for pudding if I absolutely have to! Okay no, that's not a great example. How about - I'll tolerate a little One Direction in the car if I have to...for like two minutes max at a time...every other day...with the volume on 1.

Regardless of my word preferences the message, however, being communicated through the article is really quite relevant and hopefully extremely thought-provoking.

xxx

"How are you different? How is your child different? Learning to recognize common ground can be uniting, but learning to recognize and accept differences can be just as endearing. Tolerance is not just a buzzword exploited by the media in today’s society, but is a core social value of America. America has been labeled “the great melting pot,” because of its tendency to bring people of all races, religions, and ideals into one place. It is a place of diversity, and therefore a place for tolerance.

Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

Tolerance is the key to increasing understanding and decreasing fear in our next generation, our children. Tolerance is acceptance, openness, and respect for differences.

But how do parents promote this healthy appreciation and respect for these differences that make us so great? Children, at very young ages, are often exceptionally aware and honest about differences they observe between themselves and others, but rarely attach judgments to those candid observations.

We adults are the ones that do that!

You may have heard a parent in the grocery store shushing their three-year-old who says, “Mommy, that man is very big!” or “Daddy, that girl has pink hair!” These observations are often expressed in form of a question like, “Why does that man have such dark skin?” “Why does that lady wear that long robe?” “Why is that boy in a wheel chair?” These are perfect opportunities to teach the core social value of tolerance. What we do and say in these crucial moments can help to mend wounds and bridge chasms between different people that have been incurable in the past.

Being willing to put off the awkwardness and to talk openly and honestly with our children about their questions is just the tip of the iceberg of how we can teach them tolerance and acceptance :

6 WAYS PARENTS CAN FOSTER TOLERANCE:

Teach them love first. Be an example of loving others despite and because of their differences. Seek to help others, even if they are different than you.

Know your own values and biases.No one is without biases or values of their own. It is important to evaluate our own personal beliefs, values, and differences we struggle to tolerate. Seek to understand those things more completely.

Expose children to differences. Teach them they don’t have to agree to respect others.The best way to increase understanding is to jump in. Libraries and bookstores can take a parent and child all over the world and back to their home in an afternoon. It’s important to allow our children to explore the world and all its varieties of people, cultures, and views. This can allow a child to see your appreciation and respect for others while still allowing you to express your own views, values, and culture. It is important to note that it is not necessary to agree with or adopt all the differences we come to understand, but that we can always respect others for holding those values.

Challenge stereotypes.We do not live in a perfectly tolerant world, and there are many stereotypes and prejudices that are held and perpetuated in media, as well as in our interactions with others. It is important not to participate in jokes or other practices that foster stereotypes and degrade others. If we encounter such intolerance, parents can assertively tell their children, “That’s not true. Why don’t we learn a little more about that to better understand what is true.”

Challenge yourself. It’s easy to see things through our own personal lens. When others challenge our views or culture, it is easy to become defensive, which shuts us off to learning. It’s important to challenge personal defensiveness, and seek to see others’ point of view. Ask questions and listen before responding. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. When children see this, they adopt this quality themselves.

Foster your child’s self-esteem.When children feel good about themselves, they don’t feel threatened by the differences of others. Children who are secure about themselves are more comfortable exploring and debating opposing views."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Let's assume...

...that the Lil Smurfy Dude has spent approximately 1800 days on this Earth and that, on average, he threw up every fourth day. That's a good average because sure there have been stretches when he would go weeks without vomiting but there have also been stretches when he would vomit two...three...sometimes four or more times every day, so it's certainly a good average. That would put us at about 450 throws up over 5 years and allocating a generous 150 throw ups to alternate landing spots, it would be fair to declare that I have been drenched in a healthy dose of eau de puke at least 300 times over the last 5 years. Three.Hundred.Times!!! Now if you are sitting (on a Saturday night of all nights) considering calculations of this nature, you know you have been puked on one (or 299) too many times.

So 300 would have to be some kind of record right? Definitely worthy of a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records? A quick chat with my pal Google advises otherwise. There was a young gent considering an attempt at being
The best at throwing up but with his regurgitation being voluntary I hardly think it's a fair comparison. An interesting article on
How to vomit without making a mess did come up...I'm going to share it with Sam...will let you know how it works out.

Now who would have expected to learn such fascinating facts on such a boring mommy blog?

Another fascinating fact...the only thing I hate more than Sam vomiting is Sam vomiting ON ME! And last Sunday's incident has so far been the most spectacular. Sam's most recent sensory overload is caused by too many people standing up suddenly around him. It happened the previous Sunday at the end of the service when I took a little longer to perch his 18kg self on my hip. Luckily quickly running out stopped the gagging just in time. Last Sunday, however, Chris and one or two other gents stood up to collect the tithes instantly causing Sam to gag. It being the beginning of the service I thought I would give it an opportunity to pass before rushing out. Not the wisest decision. After the 3rd gag I knew we were in trouble and got up to leave but it was too late...a moment later partially digested Pediasure and Futurelife exploded into my face and hair. Luckily the ground was mostly spared as the excess of the explosion was beautifully captured in the loose folds of the polo neck I was wearing.

Tomorrow we shall go accessorised with at least one marg tub and with any luck will not spend the entire service in the car.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five things a special needs mom won't tell you

I saw this link flying by my FB newsfeed a coupla days ago Five Things A Special Needs Mom Won't Tell You and thought Oh no! Not another thousand page handbook on how to 'handle' the parent of a child with different abilities...you know, like don't blink when engaging in conversation because it could be misconstrued as blinding pity for the mother and/or child...don't lick your lips when talking as it's a derogatory action implying you think children with different abilities are lesser human beings...and all those other not-so-helpful articles which prevent, through creating a distorted idea that engaging in any interaction with the parent/s of a kiddo with DA's is bound to be super high maintenance, the one common desire we all ache for...to just be treated like N.O.R.M.A.L.

Bleh. Normal. But there I said it.

I'm still sort of contemplating the term 'special needs mom'. A couple of years ago I never would've considered myself one of the more politically correct types on this journey...hearing people use the r-word sure irked me, but not enough that I would grab the nearest piece of cardboard and go start a protest. Now?  I really could kinda see myself doing just that. In all fairness, I have used the term special needs mom/parent myself but mostly because it's probably the most 'recognised' term socially. I've experienced a few 'huh?' moments when referring to Sam as differently-abled as opposed to disabled. You can't land smack bang in the middle of England and instantly expect everyone there to communicate fluently in Afrikaans without having had any prior exposure to it, right? But a little enlightenment here and there will soon bring us all onto the same page.

So...special needs mom, hey?...certainly there are a few needs I have which might not fit 100% into the usual 'needs' box...being able to take my morning shower in a closed shower (especially now in winter...bbbrrrrrr) without rushing to beat my allocated three repeats of the balloon song (all the while keeping an eye on Sam) before he gets agitated...the need to not have to carry empty margarine/yoghurt tubs around with me...the need to successfully find accessories and equipment which can still accommodate a five year old who has not yet mastered certain skills generally acquired much younger (like potty training)...but I am not sure these needs could be considered special.

Could it be that the 'special needs' refers to the child? Hmmmm. An interesting concept and really quite possible. But still, does Sam have special needs? Or does he have the same needs as Meghan but just requires more thereof...more patience...more guidance...more care with his health...more creativity with his learning. Special implies extraordinary...being bathed in honey...carried around in style like an Egyption emperor...fed chocolate truffles at hourly intervals...all of which I can see Sam tolerating quite well. But if not special then what - Five Things More Needs Moms Won't Tell You? Doesn't quite have the same effect, does it?

I suspect a little further contemplation is required.

And what, you might ask, does any of this random gabbering have to do with the article. Absolutely nothing. It's not a bad article, go ahead and give it a read. The End xxx

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Apologies for soiling your charmed life m' lady

Have I mentioned that the little dude now weighs 18kg's? That's the average weight of a 'normal' five year old kid. So the slow weight gain associated with RTS has been conquered...awesome! Well...um...mostly awesome. Just the 153cm's of mom carrying those 18kg's of awesomeness around is taking a little strain. And while most of Sam's body grows sturdy and strong, those little lower legs seem to be fading just as quickly. So walk the smurfy lil dude must.

Sam is having to re-master his walker. When he first got it, he used it the wrong way round as his fears and anxieties kicked into overdrive when encountering life so far off the ground, without any form of protective shield in front of him. To start with I was just so thrilled to have him straying from his knee-walking at least a little that I didn't consider the repercussions. But seeing that Sam was adopting more of a 'pushing' stance made me realise that he was in no way strengthening his core muscles which he needs to do if walking unassisted is ever going to be an option and also, he was in actual fact being given a false sense of security...much as a baby's walking ring would. No wasted moments though, he simply would just not have used the walker at all otherwise. Baby steps, see :)

Having grown more confident using the walker correctly around the house and at therapies, I decided it was time to hit the big, bad world! Off we went to our local Spar, the same place we tried out the 'incorrect' method. Determined to avoid all things 'normal' the first place Sam heads is....the fruit and vegetables aisle! He has a fascination with, mostly, bananas and pineapples and it is very seldom we leave a store without bananas so if ever you run out, you know where to go.

It would be fair to say that using the walker this way, which makes his dragging right foot a little more pronounced, certainly makes for an awkward-looking gait but hey, my general all round clumsiness and tendency to trip over non-existent obstacles makes me look a little awkward too. His smurfy swagger usually brings a smile from others, occasionally a pretending-not-to-stare stare and sometimes...a little more often than it should...a very purposeful look of disapproval.

Disapproval? Why so?

Because I have dared to expose our 'tragedy' to those who know nought of such things, who resent you for imprinting even just briefly upon their minds the fact that such 'imperfections' even exist.

Sound like an oversensitive mommy rant to you? Tis not! And here's why I know...as the deliverer of this disapproving look squeezed passed our awkwardness, my 13yr old daughter...usually preoccupied with watching herself doing various renditions of 50 Epic Dance Moves in the shop windows or reassuring me that she would not have jayboarded straight into that oncoming car had I not literally grabbed her by the collar...paused mid-Meghaness to note how Sam and I were both being scowled at. Like, wow, really???

Now it's fairly easy to understand why, although I see plenty fellow-journeying moms at therapies or out in force at get-togethers, I very seldom run into them in random places. It's really quite sad, don't you think? Iris House Children's Hospice gifted us all with these wonderful little 'ice breaker' cards for our kiddies...I'm going to ask them to add to Sam's, in big bold print, NOT FOR SENSITIVE VIEWERS! 

Nah...just kidding :D

Thankfully, our little 'really?' moment is completely overshadowed by more heartwarming incidents like when a friend, at the same store, has already packed herself, her family and her parcels into her car and is about to drive away when she spots your smurfy entourage across the parking lot and leaps out to hurry over and say hallo!!! A small happening to some, a meaningful heartfelt gesture to others xxx

Saturday, July 19, 2014

And here's why...

...(for those who might ever have wondered) it is not a fab idea to have your overwhelmingly anxious child's dentist located in a shopping mall you frequent. Beeeeeecause...surprisingly...when three consecutive trips to said mall are purely for dental consults (the last of which ended in Meg and I discreetly trying to dispose of a margarine tub full of puke) certain smurfy lil dudes presume that every visit thereafter will involve more of the same. So it was with a touch of our own anxiety that we went off to run a few errands recently. When merely walking towards the entrance (on the completely opposite side of the mall) Sam transformed into a teeth-chattering, uncontrollably-shaking little bundle of nerves so Meg and I agreed to make it a super fast dash through the necessities, avoiding that side of the mall at all costs. How entertaining to, literally moments later, bump into.....guess who....Sam's dentist. Eeeeeeekk! After a quick exchange of niceties and firm reassurances that Sam was not, in fact, succumbing to hyperthermia we rushed through the centre like a couple of crazy loons and came out on the other end triumphant! I mean really, every puke-deprived outing is something to celebrate, right?
 
After spinal cord surgery, 2 x testicle surgeries, thumb surgery and a few ENT procedures here and there who would have imagined a dental procedure could be anywhere near as traumatic. After having our original theatre date bumped further along thanks to a doctor and his ego (not even gonna go there) which resulted in an unnecessary additional consultation (which would be the one that involved that dodgy marg tub disposal) we eventually made our way to the day hospital last week Tuesday. On the agenda was the removal of one tooth on the side which the dentist suspected might have had an abscess on it for some time, filling what ever else required it, applying sealant and then the removal of that little front, chipped tooth which was the one we were most concerned about as, having ground the tooth literally down into the gum, Sam had left nothing left to be gripped which meant the tooth literally had to be cut out of the gum. Sam was relatively calm until the moment we entered the theatre. Whether it was the absence of a pre-med, the presence of the dentist or the fact that the gas was administered at a much slower rate than usual...or a combination of all three...Sam freaked out. And by freaked out I mean he kicked, body slammed, smacked and pulled anything and everything he could make contact with. It was by far the most traumatic anaesthetic out of eight, we've ever experienced and left me feeling extremely unsettled and disorientated as I made my way back to the ward. Once the almost two-hour long procedure was over the dentist came in to advise that all had gone well. There certainly had been a nasty abscess on that one tooth which had drained once she pulled the tooth. She advised that both sets of stitches would dissolve in about 8 - 10 days and shortly after that we were on our way home. Over the next couple of days I kept a careful watch on Sam's wounds, focusing mainly on the front one where the tooth had required cutting out as it looked a little more "brutal" than I'd anticipated. On Tuesday morning I noticed that the gum where the abscess had been was very red and inflamed. I took a pic and e-mailed it to the dentist :
 
 
She felt that Sam might be having an allergic reaction to the suture and suggested I try removing the stitch. Um...sure...why not? After trying for almost an hour on Tuesday evening, I could not get Sam to stop flapping and head-rolling long enough to get hold of the stitch although he'd quite alarmingly allowed me to fiddle around in this mouth without much protesting. On Wed I took Sam off to the GP to see if she couldn't perhaps remove the stitch but once again Sam's flapping got in the way and so we made our way home with both the stitch and a prescription for an antibiotic to at least try and clear up the infection. On Wednesday evening, desperate to just put all this toothy business behind us, I lay on the bed with Sam and every couple of minutes would snip lightly at the knot and low-and-behold the darn thing came loose after a couple of tugs. Wooo Hooo! Hopefully the antibiotic successfully does it's thing and we don't have to even think about a dentist (nothing personal of course) for another six months.
 
Other than all things tooth-related, life has been low-key with the exception of a particularly exciting walk around our local pond all thanks to a psycho, stalker bee who mistook me in my violet fleece top to be a giant helping of something pollen filled and despite hysterical screeches and bee-deterring dances (much to the delight of fellow pond-visitors) lay in waiting as we completed our stroll to launch yet another farewell attack. Thankfully the random stroller parts which were hurled at it and frantic swiping and side-stepping eventually allowed us to escape. From now on, only black or grey garb shall be worn on sunny winter days when trying to remedy a bit of cabin fever with a leisurely walk. Pfffft.


One of Sam's current fads...umbrellas! We are so passed the whole "opening an umbrella indoors is bad luck" scenario :D
 

And for sure the only kid who is more fascinated by the scrolling numbers on the dvd player than the actual dvd playing.
 
It was several kinds of wonderful to get out of the house on Friday and spend some time with fellow journeying moms, made that much more appreciated by being treated to lunch by the Daniel and Friends Fund ladies, as well as each being sent home with a pack of nappies and tin of Pediasure. It being a different mall to that mall Sam was pretty chilled, despite it being over a busy lunchtime, and absolutely adored all the attention he got and precious new friends he and mom made...a truly blessed afternoon it was...

 
 
Many thanks to Marilyn, Kate and Lianie xxx

 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

World RTS Day ♡ Why awareness is essential

Today, all around the world, hundreds of families are celebrating challenges overcome, journeys embraced and the incredible bond which exists between us,  all brought into being through a shared diagnosis of Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. A common sentiment rings loud across many...Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome (or any other condition for that matter) does not define who our children are. 

I do still feel quite strongly about a particular element of our World RTS Day.  RAISING AWARENESS. And here's why...

Sam was delivered through an emergency c-section, two months prem, in severe distress. There was no cuddling on the delivery table, no pics snapped through happy tears by dad. In it's place a blue, lifeless body... barely 3 apples high... (aaahhh...smurf?) was whisked briefly over me to an awaiting incubator amidst mutterings of "abnormal" and equally devastating words.

Before I'd even had the chance to meet my little smurf, the paediatrician delivered the diagnosis. Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. 

The prognosis? 

Sam will never walk. Sam will never talk. A high risk of cancer can be expected, as can an average IQ of 30. A feeding tube was on the table as too was a look into a 'home'. No cruel intent on the part of the paediatrician,  he was sharing what he knew of RTS...which, having never heard of it before, was precious little. Hours later I made my way to the NICU filled with mind-numbing fear of what RTS was going to look like, feel like. But lying in that incubator, attached to an oscillator and way too many other tubes and needles, was a now purpley-blue little form...still barely 3 apples high with an oversized white hat. For me the diagnosis and subsequent prognosis fell into a deep, black hole to be revisited some other time...there was just too much loving and bonding and nurturing happening to care. 

But what if I wasn't me? 

Considered a high-risk pregnancy because of my age, my gynae asked early on into my pregnancy of I would be opting for an amnio. My answer was no, regardless of the result of any test termination would never be an option for me. Not at all a judgement, merely a fact. But what if I was perhaps a very young woman, unmarried, at the start of a promising career or even without any hope of financial comfort and not particularly swaying to either abortion or pro-life with any substantial conviction. What if, early enough into my pregnancy, RTS was suspected and I was delivered the exact same information? My choice, sadly inadequately informed, might well lead me to a decision which deprives the world of one more RTS sweetie. 

Raising awareness of Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, and other rare and unknown conditions, is vital. It will ultimately lead to doctors who are better equipped to prepare parents for the journey ahead by immediately creating a trusting affirmation that he/she knows what they're talking about and not merely rushing frantically to the nearest search engine to consume the exact same medical entries we as parents can. Sharing details or posts of fellow RTS families could help diagnose those who through lack of limited resources have slipped through the system. A perfect example for our avid Mr Tumble fans - little Lauren! Family and friends instantly recognise her as a sweetie with RTS. Had they not known Sam, she might not have stood out from all the other crazy-adorable kids in those videos. I never miss out on an opportunity to educate, waiting eagerly for the slightest indication in any interaction with a stranger to do so...sometimes they have me at 'hallo'!

So what if our young, unmarried mother with the fabulous career and life awaiting her was told the following instead:

Your child might not walk...unassisted. But will move around like a pro with the assistance of a walker, however most children with RTS do actually walk unassisted and even participate in sports like soccer and baseball and so much more. 

Your child might not talk...the same way you do. However they are more than adequately able to express themselves through sign language and AAC's, sometimes with delightful quirks of good humour. 

An average IQ cannot be predetermined as all folks with RTS, while sharing many similar traits, are also unique in their development and abilities. However knowing all the numbers up to twenty by the age of 2 can be expected,  as too can colours, shapes and the alphabet by age 4 and 50+ hand signs. 

Your child might be prone to tumours and cancer due to the gene which is effected, being the gene which produces the body's binding protein and is responsible for suppressing tumors. But with the ever-increasing number of people falling prey to cancer, can any one person be excluded from this possibility. 

In addition to the above, your child might have to face many medical challenges like seizures, a tethered spinal cord, immune issues, feeding issues, reflux and a few more. But a home filled with humming, twinning, happy-flapping, joy, admiration, determination and unconditional love is most definitely on the table. 

Creates a different picture, doesn't it? Education, information,  raising awareness. Vital.

If you had to ask this awesome bundle of smurfiness if, even for just one second, he'd ever felt his life was not worth living- what do you think he'd say?


If you had to ask this mom if, even for just one second, this child was not worth loving - what do you think she'd say?

A Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome diagnosis should not be the end of a journey,  but the start of one ♡

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Little Mr Smarty Pants

There is a song...about balloons... and colours...on Youtube. It is called... wait for it..."The Balloon Song (for learning colours)". Go have a listen. I did try download the link so I could share this delightful song with all of you but it automatically starts playing this song of delight and as the lil dude is lying sleeping next to me I can think of nothing more irritating right now than having him wake-up and demand to hear The Balloon Song. 

And demand he will because Sam listens to The Balloon Song on average (and no, 
this is no exaggeration) about 50 times. Each and every day. And while I don't deny the role The Balloon Song has had in Sam learning his colours, it does not take away from the fact that it is the most stuck-in-your-brain-like-no-other-song-in-the-history-of-all-songs kinda song. And yes, at random intervals throughout the day we will all find ourselves, to our horror, singing The Balloon Song.

And yet still, none of us have quite memorised the correct pattern of the song as Sam has. On Thursday evening Sam and I were enjoying our usual bathtime singalong and started on our first rendition of TBS. I sang 'red balloon', Sam signed 'red balloon'. I sang  'blue balloon', Sam signed 'blue balloon'. I sang 'green balloon', Sam signed 'white balloon'???

Uh no Sam... it's green after white. Started over but the same thing happened. And again. Eventually I asked Meg to bring me the iPad so I could help Sam right. The song started (feel free to sing along folks)

'Red red balloon, floating in the sky.

Blue blue balloon, floating up so high. 

(See? The lyrics are riveting!) 

White white balloon.....'

Say what? What happened to green? Oh pish posh. Green? White? What's the big diff anyway? Lol! 

Only after did I think about the dangerous can of worms I might have opened by bringing the iPad into the bathroom but thankfully there was no request of this kind from Sam the following night. And nevermind twinning (a fascinating quirk RTS peeps have which requires that they be, for instance, watching the same movie on their iPad and the tele at the same time) Sam has now acquired Tripling... with TBS on tv, on his iPad and homemade balloon flashcards for that extra tactile effect!



We've had a bit of a disappointing setback with Sam's teeth. Sam was meant to undergo a dental procedure this coming Wed to (finally) remove that little chipped front tooth (little as in milktooth and the minimal amount of actual tooth left after being ground right into the gum by the bottom tooth). However the dentist's office phoned on Friday morning to say that there's been some or other misunderstanding and Sam's procedure has been rescheduled for the 23rd July. What??? I'm having to keep the kid on 4-hourly doses of painmeds to limit the amount of mouth-bashing and obvious pain and discomfort he's in. Just waiting till the 2nd was gonna be a long stretch, how will he manage till the 23rd. Very distressing indeed. We all know how awful a toothache can be. So we're trying to get another anaesthetist on board who might be able to fit Sam in on the 11th July... please hold thumbs that this works out and he doesn't have to endure another 25 days with this wretched tooth :( 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

So about that further comment upon completion of processing...

...we received the official report from the neuro-paed this morning. Sam's newly adjusted diagnosis now reads Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and secondary Autism.

I knew it was coming. I attended a lecture a couple of months ago given by JP Maes on the Maes concept for physiotherapy in kids with CP or similar neurological disorders. I was tagging along as the very minor contribution to the "similar neurological disorders" group. Within minutes into the lecture both the information being shared by JP as well as the little boy being focused on in the  documentary, had me sitting up straight. There were just too many similarities between this little boy and Sam at that age. That, the information I Googled on periventricular leucomalacia and Dr neuro-paed's comments during last week's examination on lesions caused by brain bleeds in utero, abnormal reflexes, etc had me comment to Chris on the way home already that she was thinking CP.

The report also advised that Sam was aggressive and seemingly frustrated...and that he certainly has been for the last 2-3 weeks. So much so that we had to make like a hermit for pretty much most of that time. And yesterday we found out why at Sam's dentist appointment. He has three teeth which have decayed all the way down to the nerve and, according to the dentist, he must be in severe pain.

Aaaahhh...the joy of verbal limitations.

About two years ago Sam chipped his front tooth on some sushi (plastic Nemo in the bathtub). It was noticeable but not too problematic. A few months later the tooth was further chipped during an intubation. Over the passed few months Sam has progressively ground that tooth right down to the gum with his bottom tooth and about a week ago it started turning brown. Hence the dentist appointment which, thankfully, lead us to the two 'brown' molars at the back which haven't even properly broken through yet. So on the 2nd July we'll be doing our second and hopefully last anaesthetic for the year. A bit of a wait and not so wonderful theatre time at 11:30am, but what can you do  *shrug    

Sam's current infatuations are carousels and flags. (Thanks Mr Tumbles) The flags are an easy enough hit, a short drive just through town usually has Sam exclaiming in excitement. Carousels? Little bit of a more challenging find they are. Luckily there is a small 3-horse carousel in the same centre as the dentist. Walking passed it was an absolute squeal (literally) for Sam on Monday, which was a public holiday and ensured that the carousel was constantly being ridden by other kids, to Sam's delight. As with most of Sam's infatuations, he prefers viewing them from a distance and shudders in fear if you get too close.

Sam was so well-behaved at his dentist appointment yesterday and allowed a thorough examination of his teeth, albeit through some harsh sounding but luckily unproductive gagging. Seeing as he'd frantically started signing carousel the moment we entered the parking lot, I promised him a stroll plastit after our appointment. What a bummer!  Mid-week morning meant no carousel-riding kiddies for Sam to watch :(

My makeshift homemade 'safer' Sam-friendly variation on a flag...he seems happy enough!



xxx

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Eating Matters

One thing about sensory challenges, life is never boring or predictable. And today's no-no's become tomorrow's acceptables at the drop of a spoon...and vice versa.  
 
Up until a couple of weeks ago Sam was sporting a ferocious Cipla Actin-induced appetite which was satisfied by nought and which almost always overpowered his sensory aversion to his usual no-no foods. One night, having just finished dishing up our supper, Sam spotted my plate of chicken and whatnots while I quickly pureed up his own food so that we could eat together. Sam kept pointing at my plate and signing "eat" and eventually, in the hope of trying to finish his dins off in peace, I obliged and gave him a mouthful and waited for the gagging.  A minute or two later his mouth was empty! I was like "What? Really"? I'm standing here mushing up meat and veggies while you just smoothly chewed your way through CHICKEN!"
 
Keen to make the most of this sudden new accomplishment I offered Sam another bite and yet another and then eventually we all settled down to eat. My eyes caught a glimpse of something brownish-yellowish on the wall. And then another such blob on Sam's play mirror and yet another on the floor. I asked Meghan to see what it was, but she just shrugged that she couldn't make it out. Closer investigation revealed the unknown matter....chewed up chicken! What a laugh we had. And a few days later when Sam insisted on some unpureed cottage pie from my plate we saw exactly how the chicken had landed up plastered all over the place...he would chew it to the point of no recognition and then frantically brush it off his tongue and just fling it. Funny little boy :)
 
I have since removed the Cipla Actin from Sam's meds as I think it was largely contributing to his misery by making him almost insatiably hungry but still offer him new textures all the time. This afternoon Meg and I had egg and mayo sarmies for lunch and Sam quite likes egg so I made him his own half a sarmie.  Sam still shudders with displeasure if you make him hold and bite his own food. If you break up a cookie and give it to him in a bowl he will easily enough eat it as it requires a limited amount of handling before it is safely in his mouth. But as yet he doesn't seem able to tolerate the sensation of having to bite off pieces of food...and his egg and mayo sarmie was no different. Every time the filling touched his mouth he shuddered. So this is how egg and mayo sarmies are eaten in Smurfville...
 
 
 
So at last week's neuropaed appointment, Sam was prescribed some Risperdal to try and manage his, currently, very high sensory and anxiety issues. I was really worried about having to try yet a new med but NNP assured me that Risperdal is very often successfully used in children with Autism. We are on Day 6 so far and although we were told that we could only expect to see a real difference in about 3 - 4 weeks, I do have to admit that there is already some improvement with being able to cope with issues which would usually send Sam over the top. The previous Sunday we had attempted a short trip to a local shopping mall...it lasted all of about 30 seconds and ten steps into the mall before Sam just freaked out and he and I spent the remainder of the trip in the car singing "What's your favourite colour?" This passed long weekend we managed not one but TWO shopping trips with very little difficulty. In addition, as hoped for by NNP, the Risperdal seems to be having an effect on Sam's sleeping too and we've had only two really disruptive nights out of the six. Here's hoping this is that much-needed light at the end of this particular tunnel :) Tomorrow's dentist appointment is going to be the real test (Eeeek).
 
 


And when life becomes too challenging, we swing...... 
...and swing some more xxx 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

This just in....

...just had a call from NNP who, after our consultation on Tues, thought it best to go over Sam's brain scan images with a radiologist.

She confirmed the presence of the periventricular leucomalacia, advised that the previous radiologist had mistakenly advised us that Sam's Corpus Callosum is in tact as, on the contrary, a third of it is absent...and kindly referred me to someone who could help both me and Sam with coping mechanisms for Autism.

*further comment to be uploaded upon completion of processing  :)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hey! I was happy in Holland :(

There must be very few special needs parents who have not, at some point,  read through the piece by Emily Perl Kingsley...
 
WELCOME TO HOLLAND
 
I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
 
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland.""Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."
 
 
And the thing is, I was doing quite okay in Holland...tulips and windmills have become my 'thing' and I have become very passionate about the lovely things in Holland that those in Ireland miss out on. 
 
But now, after five years in Holland we're being pushed along to Belgium.and I'm like NO! That's not fair, we've laid our hearts in Holland. Why weren't we at least given the choice, seeing as we were bumped from Ireland, of whether we would prefer Holland or Belgium. I mean really! It's.just.not.fair! Okay sure, it's not like we're off to Egypt which would be a more radical change but there's only so much vacationing a person can handle. And if we absolutely HAVE to go to Belgium couldn't somebody have told us that in the beginning? Like hey guys, instead of going to Ireland you guys are going to Holland AND Belgium...some times you'll spend a fair amount of time in one before needing to cross over to the other but there will be times when you'll have one foot in Holland and another in Belgium. 
 
Yeah, that would definitely have made for a much smoother transition. Smooth is just not how this ride has being going lately...
 
The amazing news that Sam does not have the Agenisis/partial Agenisis of the Corpus Callosum more often associated with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome and that there has been no retethering of the spinal cord, had us all in a jovial mood and so we planned Sam's first ever birthday party. 
 
I suppose I can be 100% honest and say I truly believed that Sam would be walking by his 5th birthday. Heck, I thought he'd be walking by his 4th birthday. I read an article round about the time of Sam's birthday about 'living loss' or recurring grief which effectively is repeatedly dealing with the loss of the child you thought you were going to be bringing into this world. While I completely relate to the concept of the recurring grief (which can be brought on by occasions like birthdays) I do believe that, in spite of his RTS and more recent additional 'issues', the little personality inside from which shines his sense of humor, his affection and his smurfiness, is the very essence of Sam which would be the same regardless of the 'packaging' it came in. For me it's not so much a case of mourning the loss of the child I never had but more mourning the struggles the child I do have, has had to battle through and more heartbreakingly, those still to be encountered. 
 
The Monday before Sam's party I was asked to forward the MRI report to the new neuro-paed we were scheduling an appointment with. Only then did I realise I'd never seen the report so requested a copy from the radiologist and forwarded it on, only taking the time to read it myself a couple of days later seeing as I already knew what was in it. Or so I thought. 
 
And there it stood in black on white that the Corpus Callosum is in tact and that no syrinxes have formed on the spinal cord as a result of the original tethering. It said that the conus now lies on the L3 vertebrae which I can't say I was fabulously impressed with but because no post surgery MRI was done we don't know if this is the original post-op result.   
 
The report also contained the following :
 
"Multiple periventricular low T1 cysts are demonstrated likely consistent with Periventricular Leucomalacia sustained during perinatal life.
 
A lumbar segmental anomaly is identified with sacralisation  of a lumbar-type vertebra....Contiguous disc bulges are identified at the L3/4, L4/5 and L5/S1 levels.
 
Spina Bifida from the L5 to S2 levels.
 
Supratentorial, periventricular leucomalacia is identified."
 
Turned to the front page to make sure this was definitely Sam's report. It was :(
 
Well Hallo Belgium!
 
After reading through more of the report and with a little help from Prof Google it seems that the correct term for the lower vertebrae condition would be Spina Bifida Occulta . And the rest of the stuff? Who knows. Thankfully though our appointment with NNP (new neuro-paed) was bumped up from 22 August until, well, this afternoon...in almost exactly two hours to be precise. That type of being bumped I can handle.
 
But despite feeling a little blindsided by all the new info and more than a little battle-weary, we partied :)
 
Jumping Castles are one of Sam's current fads...so Aunty Cammy insisted on providing him with one for his birthday.
 
Fad or not, Sam was a little unsure at first but soon got into the spirit of things
 
Teletubbies meet Buzz Lightyear...Telebuzz's? Buzztubbies?
 
 
Another, rather trying fad, books! books! books! Sam goes nowhere without a book, he bodybashes himself to sleep holding a book and more often than not falls asleep on top of it, he swings with a book, eats with a book, has a nappy change with a book. So can you imagine how much fun bathtime is? And yes, we've tried the waterproof baby bath books...they just don't provide the same quality of sensory input that flipping through pages and biting covers does. Until we find a suitable alternative or until (oh yes please) this fad passes, bathtime every evening will be accompanied with hysterical help-I'm-being-murdered-screeching blaring from our home.