Tag: (Team) Rachel & Batten Disease

Today is like any other day.  Well, today is London’s 9th birthday and I let Rachel stay home today to hang out with all of us and simply relax.  I can’t believe my children are 14, 10, 9 and 8.  Seems like a happy day, which it is, but it is also a very sad day for me.

This sadness I keep inside because my children don’t need to have a sad mother.    I have been avoiding this for a long time but today…

Today I took delivery on Rachel’s hospital bed.

She’s had a hospital bed at my Mom’s house and really quite enjoyed it.  Using the controllers to move her head and legs up and down.

I don’t see this bed as a fun, good time.  I see this  bed as death coming closer to my door.

I hate this disease. I hate this bed.

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Surreal to have a child’s stuffed animals on a hospital bed in OUR home.  I don’t like it.

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She is all happy because I made her ramen for lunch.  Ramen slides down her throat which has an epiglottis that likes to forget to close from time to time.

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Rachel listening to Disney Junior.

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Please someone wake us up from this nightmare.  All of the parents of dying kids are living in a nightmare.  Nightmares are for night and you’re supposed to wake up from them in the morning being grateful that it wasn’t real.

Except this is real.

Today at her special needs school in Lakewood, Colorado, Rachel participated in bike day. Unable to see and barely able to walk with tremendous assistance, they brought adaptive bicycle equipment for her to enjoy.

She has been on the patch for 2 days which will hopefully decrease her saliva production because her terrible choking cough has been getting worse as saliva creeps its way past her faulty epiglottis. She also had a grand mal seizure tonight at respite.

Here are two pictures her principal emailed me tonight:

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Thank you so much to all of the GoFundMe donations toward Rachel’s van. I found a van only a few minutes away with low mileage and a great price. I am still working on raising a bit more money to purchase a fold up hoyer lift. Meet Cartman:

 

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The weeks after the road race have been super busy for Rachel, me and her siblings.  Rachel finished up her home schooling with several weeks of seeing Anneliese the awesome TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) at our home and baking.  Once school was out I loaded up the kids, pets and the Airstream and we drove out to Colorado.  Rachel had a hard time over the 4 day journey as it was very disorienting for her but once we arrived she has been doing much better.  I sent her IEP (education plan) to the school district here and they started her in summer school the Monday after we got here.  She likes going to school as much as she ever has (says she hates it but has a good time when she is there).  A huge difference for me was putting her on a big yellow school bus when I am used to putting her on a 13 passenger van. Continue reading “Rachel update July 2014” »

I’m watching Rachel stuff herself a few feet from me with some pancake donut holes that you can buy at Trader Joes.  It’s a Tuesday morning at 8:40 and my triplets (my other three children who are unaffected by this disease (I call them the triplets) are all at school. A little over a month ago I sent Rachel off to a new residential school and we lasted a month.  They offer some amazing activities there for kids who have a wide range of disabilities and I highly recommend the place.

But the place just wasn’t for us.

She’s home for now while we figure out the next step.  If the decision were hers she would return to the Middle School she was attending but we have to consider another option as well before she (hopefully) gets to return to her old school.  She is sitting in her recliner under an electric blanket and listening to Sesame Street on Sprouts.  Happy as a clam.  I followed my gut and I’m happy about my decision to bring her home.

My favorite part about her being home?  She is walking up and down the stairs and sleeping in her old bunk bed in her old room with her little sister, Julie.

rachIts 10:51 on Monday night and I haven’t been able to shake how much I miss Rachel since I shipped her off on the van yesterday afternoon at 4:00pm.  I pushed for her to go to this school (she has never wanted to leave home) and now I can’t stop missing her.

I have some big decisions to make.  I have an appointment tomorrow with the Pediatrician on staff at her new school to go over the MOLST form.  Grab a box of tissues and imagine filling it out for your formerly healthy baby girl:

http://www.molst-ma.org/sites/molst-ma.org/files/MOLST%20Form%20and%20Instructions%208.10.13%20FINAL.pdf

I want to pick her up and bring her home.  The last day has been the hardest since she left.  I left a voicemail for school at 7:20 tonight for her to call me but no luck.  I will definitely be bumping into her tomorrow. She drives me crazy but I love the shit out of her.  I usually get upset and just want my healthy daughter back but the last 48 hours has kind of been me realizing that I will take any version of her because sooner rather than later there will be NO version of her to have back.

This disease is relentless.

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[dropcap] THE ROAD RACE  IS BACK!!! [/dropcap]

2014-03-14 17.09.45Last week I decided (after some gentle nudging from a few people that I love as much as the sun loves the moon) to hold a second road race for Batten Disease Research. The third Team Rachel Race 4 A Cure is being held on May 18th (which happens to be my Rachel’s 14th birthday) in Hull, Mass. We are looking for everyone to chip in either as a walker, runner, volunteer, sponsor or raffle donor.

Please get in touch with me if you can help at team@teamrachel.com – click here for more information on the road race!

We’ve raised a lot of money and donated it all to research and would love to see several thousands more!  I know this is a rare disease and it seems hopeless but research into Batten Disease also helps other brain / neurological diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Multiple Sclerosis, Huntingtons and so many other rarer diseases which you hopefully never have to learn about.

So excited! Road Race meetings are being held every Wednesday night at my house 8pm starting Wed, March  26th!  <3

2014-03-19 17.29.45Rachel’s new school is full of people just like me and just like you with feelings, hopes, laughs and tears.  Young people who have been admitted to the school because they were born with (most) a disability or acquired one along the way like my Rachel.  I know that some of the kids there will probably attend the school until age 22 and will transition into the mainstream world.  I also know that due to privacy the staff is unable to divulge medical information to the other children about Rachel or her fate.  When I am visiting, different kids will strike up a conversation and I have started to tell them things about Rachel.  That she was totally normal and healthy, reminding them (especially the boys) that she is only 13, that she is blind.

Last night I told two of the other students that Rachel is terminal and the name of her disease (Batten Disease) so that they could read more about Rachel.

There is a boy at her school who is truly amazing.  He can maneuver his iPad with his feet faster than I can with my fingers.  He took a liking to Rachel over the summer when she was in summer camp at her new school and I have reminded him, specifically, that she is only 13 and a MINOR.  🙂 Last night at the theme dinner I told him about her disease and that she is terminal.  I also told him about her website that you are reading right now.

I think its only fair that the kids who care about her know that the Rachel you see today is not the Rachel that will be in a few years (and not the Rachel that I knew when a few  years ago).  It is heartbreaking, but only fair to let the other students who are cognitively capable of grasping her disease know what is to come.

Reality sucks but I’d rather be a realist.  Living an honest, pragmatic life has made living with this stupid disease much more bearable for me.  The picture is from dinner last night.  I had to threaten her to get a smile because she was so busy letting me stuff her face with mashed potatoes, gravy and chicken. <3

2014-03-08 09.44.19-1I feel like I have turned into a caterpillar these last few weeks.

I feel silly using the caterpillar to butterfly analogy. Like, please don’t bring it up to my face, but it’s such a valid feeling for me.

The last few years of my life have focused on taking care of my oldest daughter (first) and her younger siblings (second). I have tried to take care of my husband but mostly gave that job up except for a bout of vertigo this year.

I have sat at the very bottom of the list for a very long time. I think that this is a common practice, for women (especially mothers) take care of everyone else before themselves.

It’s time to re-evaluate things and put myself at the top of the list.

2014-03-04 16.46.40Last week London hit his head really hard and was unable to remember the last few weeks and every 15 seconds was asking me the same questions over and over again.  What is today?  Why am I not at school? Where is Dad? What happened? Why am I bleeding?

He cut his lip open and was bleeding and the questions didn’t stop coming and his short term memory didn’t return so I drove him to the hospital.

I will never understand how I have the ability to stay completely calm but I am very glad that I am not one to “freak out” in an emergency.  I drove him to the emergency room for an exam because I wanted to make sure his brain was okay.  After a cat scan and a popsicle he was ruled to be okay and sent home.  Gradually that afternoon and evening his short term memory started working normally again (the biggest feeling of relief in my life).  Having one sick child does not protect your healthy kids from harm, disease, accidents. That would be fair but life doesn’t work that way.

Life is so short and London’s head injury brought everything I am working towards to the surface.  In some regards I have been putting off my morphing to keep my marriage together, to keep my house together, to keep my sanity together. How can you really live if you put off your life for other people?  Its time I stuff myself with leaves, wrap myself up, hang from my feet and wrap my body in silk.

Keep taking baby steps and before I know it, I will be myself again.  Myself, only happier and more wise.  I am so glad London is okay and that I no longer suffer from depersonalization and derealization.  Feeling outside of my body was very, very scary but if I “get it” again, I will look back at that time and know I survived it once and can survive it again.

 

sleeping_rachelI gave up working on the steps I am taking to a somewhat normal life during the last 7 or 8 days. This past week has been a blur and has felt so strange, very not normal. The only two feelings that keep coming to mind are:

1. I feel like I have left my baby in the maternity ward and I am home. I should be with her. It is painfully quiet at night without her yelling for me.

The first night I had the wind taken from my lungs when I snuck past her bed (in the dining room) to grab a glass of water before I went to sleep. I looked over toward her bed on my way into the kitchen and saw she wasn’t there. The resulting feeling was terrible. That feeling was actually worse than how I felt when I had unpacked her stuff and settled into her new room and walked away from her hospital cottage with an empty suitcase. AN EMPTY SUITCASE.

2. This is similar to how I will feel when she is gone forever. I’m sure friends who have lost children will tell me I have no idea what I am talking about and I respect that but this is a real feeling and it is mine. At some point, long before should ever be possible in a parent’s worst nightmare I will lose my Rachel and my house, her room, her voice will be quiet forever.

I’m holding up incredibly well. She had a rough couple of days and I am sure the nursing staff is sick of seeing my (303) area code number show up but until I feel fully confident I am going to call as often as I think I need to. I did this job for 5 years with her disease and I know every facet of it. They forgot to send home her weekend medications on Friday but I was able to purchase what she needed for the weekend from our locally owned pharmacy. There were a few other issues which they are hopefully working out. A transition this giant can’t be perfect.

I want to lay in the street in front of my house and scream “I just want my baby back” but she is not coming home. This disease has robbed her of so much and none of us will ever be the same.

Letting her go was the hardest thing I have ever done. Admitting that someone else could take care of her better than I could was the strongest thing I have ever done.

I’m exhausted but so glad to be alive and healthy.

Rachel, blind, bakes bread with her TVI, AnneliseAnnelise and Rachel have done it again. Fresh bread!!!! Best homemade bread I have ever had and the house smells great!

 

And a conversation about the road race and her Halloween costume!


Notice her speech and cognitive decline…. Just showing what Batten Disease is currently doing to Rachel.

Another Batten mom named Cheri arranged for Rachel and the kids to go horseback riding at the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center at the Mark Reyner Stables. When we arrived they were waiting and I was a little hesitant at first because most people don’t get Rachel, especially people who don’t know her. About 5 minutes into our session with the ladies and Bubba the horse I realized I could take a deep breath because they are very experienced with helping special needs kids with riding. One lady (Corey) led Rachel and Bubba and Nancy and her daughter walked on either side of Rachel and helped her with balance. I was most impressed with their handicap accessibility and the ramp they had to help kids mount the horses.

It was a wonderful time for all of the kids and a memory I will treasure forever.

Here is a link to their website: http://markreynerstables.com/

Love these kids, they love the water and swimming so much! <3

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