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...
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 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, March 29, 2015

The unchanging....

If I had a Rand for every person who's ever told me how great it is that I can remain lighthearted about most of our challenges, I'd have...well a handful of Rands...enough to buy a lottery ticket and put me in the runnings to become a MILLIONAIRE! (As long as "millionaire"'s somewhere in that equation, right?) Usually I laugh and say "Well, if I don't laugh, I'll cry...and if I start crying, I'm not sure I'd stop" and then we laugh some more.

Few realise how completely honest I am being.

Some days I just can't muster the energy to fake okay. Today is one of those days.

Sam has many issues relating to his RTS, Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Some are pretty straightforward...reflux, constipation, etc...some are more serious...apnoea, physical abnormalities, odd seizures, etc. I can live fairly peacefully with almost all of these and the care they require. They are all tangible issues...things I can feel or see or smell or hear.  They are all fairly common issues too, maybe not always effecting one person at the same time, but isolated they are all issues that when discussed with someone else they are easily recognised and relatively easy to treat, whether it's upping Movicol, reducing fluids before bed, sleeping on a wedge, having regular physiotherapy - they are mostly tangible problems with tangible solutions.

They are the easiest part of our journey.

And the hard part? The hard part is something that cannot be seen or heard or felt or smelled. If you sent Sam for an MRI/scan/scope it would not show up like a tethered spinal cord or malfunctioning oesophagul valve or thickened bowel wall or funky airways or Periventricular Leukomalacia or any of the other things responsible for the above ailments.


Irrational, uncontrollable, all-consuming, life-draining FEAR!

You just cannot begin to imagine what sort of fears a 5 year old could possibly have that might be anywhere near as debilitating as what I'm trying to imply. Let me blog you through our last 36hrs....

After averaging yet another night of only 3-4 hrs sleep, Sam woke grumpy, with a grumbling tummy due to his growing aversion to anything remotely resembling food and the sight of his dad in bed next to him. Yes, sounds like a harsh statement for me to make but Sam knows that Dad not going off to work means weekend which in turn means a change to his daily routine. Pediasure bottle made and handed to shaking hands - Sam has a fear of liquid moving, whether it's waves at the beach, water from a sprinkler, water poured over him in the bath or, as in this instance, milk swishing about in his bottle. It takes him a good few minutes to build up enough courage to put the swishing milk to his lips, almost choking as his shaking prevents him from swallowing calmly. Still, it's an accomplishment as sometimes fear trumps hunger and the bottle goes flying to the floor as if it might cause him physical harm. Fear 0 : Sam 1

Once we're all showered and dressed, off to the kitchen to prepare Sam's porridge. Throwing good parenting skills out the window, I put Sam in front of the TV with his favourite show hoping it will distract him enough to at least tolerate a few spoonfuls. Fail. The second I bring the bowl in he starts gagging. Fear 1 : Sam 1

Dad leaves to drop his car off at service garage. Needing to follow shortly so that I can collect Dad and we can go to shops, I opt for another Pediasure bottle. Sam spots bottle entering the room, gags and throws up what's left of the previous bottle. Fear 2 : Sam 1. Off to fetch dad and brace month-end shoppers on an empty stomach. Or so I thought.

Arrive at service place, walk into dimly-lit garage to see how it's going with car. Sam starts gagging. Mom does not panic as there can be precious little left in the kid's stomach. Wrong! Sam showers the parking lot and mom with a surprising amount of fermenting Pediasure. Fear 3 : Sam 1

Back home to shower and de-puke. Survived a thankfully uneventful shopping trip for nappies and Pediasure. Once home and after yet another food-sighting-induced-gag-session, Sam manages about 5 spoons of mashed potatoes and 120mls of Pediasure. Desperate to have this small helping actually digested, remain at home. Another night of restless, body-bashing follows.

Sam wakes a little more cheerful this morning until his bottle is placed in his hands. More gagging, but luckily this time puke-less.  Same story as yesterday when porridge bowl is spotted. Surrender and head off once again to supermarket for the rest of the family's needs. Barely in shop a few minutes when employee decides to remove the strip which keeps the prices in place on the shelves. The 'ripping' noise sends Sam into instant gagging mode and over the next few minutes, Sam empties his entire stomach's contents (?) all over the trolley, shop floor and himself. Mom flees with vomit-saturated kid and scarlet-faced teenager, leaving Dad to finish the shopping. Back home for bath and de-puking. Before heading back to shop to collect Dad, Mom swings by local church to collect two generously gifted items for her new playgroup. Upon pulling into the unfamiliar parking lot and choosing to park right in front of the open doors, a motherload of Pediasure is projected from Sam's stomach. Sam, carseat and car's seat all drenched. Phone Dad to advise we are headed home first for de-puking. Once Dad and groceries have been collected, retreat to our cave giving up (once again) on the Sunday afternoon family outing.

Washing machine works overtime for the remainder of the day, family members tiptoe around with their own food to avoid further gagging and eventually, after a mere 320mls of Pediasure for a straight 24hr period, Sam falls asleep exhausted from a day filled with unexplainably frightening things.

Mom sits next to him on the bed, listening to his grumbling tummy and shushing him when he whimpers in his sleep, feeling helpless and lost about how to help him. Is it possible to avoid all the things that cause her 5 year old so much anxiety? Yes, of course...but it means never leaving home. She wipes the tears from her cheeks as she reminds herself that no-one gets this part of Sam...of their lives, especially the doctors and specialists...and realises that until someone does, it can't ever change.

FEAR 54785588 : MOM 0

Monday, March 9, 2015

Celebrate Rare Disease Day? Yes please.

Oooooohhhh...that word again! And I don't mean the "r" word, which has recently also had its annual "Spread-the-word-to-end-the-word" Awareness Day. Nope, my views on the r-word are so sophisticated and insightful that I dare not share it here. Oh, what the heck. Here it is...
If you use the r-word in an even-remotely derogatory manner - you are a jackass!
Yip, that's about it really. I mean seriously, it's been ages since I've even heard a doctor use the word retard/retarded in a medical context.
I am actually referring to the word "Disease" which accompanies the annual awareness day for rare diseases. To be completely honest, I don't personally view Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome as a disease or my child, who is effected by RTS, as being sickly. But firstly, many of the conditions related to RTS could well be classified as a disease and secondly, and most importantly, the occasion is not actually focussed on "disease" but rather on "rare". Had I been the one to take the initiative, to do the ground work to make the 28th of February an official awareness day, to spend days...weeks...months prior to the 28th February marketing and sharing the importance of having such an awareness day then sure, I might certainly have called it Rare Condition Day or something similar. But it was not me doing all the effort from behind the scenes, so instead of criticising a mere discrepancy with regards to terminology, I choose instead to ride on the wave of awareness to enlighten others about the syndrome which effects my son. 
Just as a bit of useless info though...the definition of disease :
"A disorder of structure or function in a human, animal or plant, especially one that produces specific symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury"
To learn more about Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, please visit the official Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome Website
To celebrate Rare Disease Day this year, we joined the Daniel and Friends Fund for a super, fun-filled morning...