Seizures suck

I was almost going to call this blog post ‘Missing in action’ as that’s how I feel I’ve been lately. But this title sums up our mood quite well!

We had our brief spell in hospital in early January for Samuel’s seizures and since then it’s true to say that things have been consistently rocky seizure-wise with perhaps one exceptionally good week thrown in.

It’s been tough. In fact the rough patch started just before Christmas but then Samuel had a heavy cold so that made everything worse and we hoped that once his cold cleared things would improve. No such luck.

We found ourselves giving Samuel’s emergency medicine, Midazolam, if not every day, then every other day. So it was decided to increase Clobazam – which so happens to be a sister drug to Midaz. As Samuel is already on such a high dose we only really had room to put it up an extra 1ml a day.

That didn’t really make enough (or any) impact. So we then increased Samuel’s morning dose of Vigabatrin. Whether it was the initial shock to the system of this increase or just coincidence but following that we found ourselves having an amazing week seizure wise. But this turned into just a good blip and we found ourselves back in a pickle again.

So we have this week increased the evening dose of Vigabatrin in the hope that it will have enough of an impact to get Samuel out of this funk. He’s also had another bad cough & cold this last couple of weeks which has just made matters worse.

We’ve also had to reach for Samuel’s sleepy drug, Chloral Hydrate, a few times recently to help calm & relax him. Chloral is normally given at bedtime, but we’ve agreed with his doctor that if he needs it during the day, we can give him an extra dose.

At least we have things in our armoury to keep Samuel comfortable.

And so we wait. Patiently.

And the ketogenic diet? *shrugs* The jury is now out on that one. Yes, he is still on it but not seeing any evidence it is doing much for Samuel. We have a review meeting with his doctor in March so will discuss it then. We may decide to give it another few months & then consider coming off. We’ve recently dropped some of the calories (and will be able to drop some more again soon) which may help the diet be more effective. I want to give it the best chance we can as I know if the diet works it can be a complete game-changer.

So that’s us. Over and out.

An O thing

20130112-125249.jpgSo, we spent the last week in hospital. ‘What?‘ You say. ‘I didn’t know about that‘. Well reader I would have written a little post if I could have done (mainly to relieve my boredom) but the signal was so bad that my phone was rubbish! Anyway, I digress…

At 8pm on Tuesday we had to give Samuel his emergency medicine Midazolam as he was clustering and we couldn’t wait for his evening medicines to kick in (which we had just given him). After having Midazolam, Samuel often has quite an elaborate wind down with lots of fussing and this time it was no different but he then started to cough up A LOT of phlegm.

Once he’d calmed down and was sedated hi20130112-125304.jpgs breathing started to very quickly become quite laboured and exaggerated and he was flaring his nostrils. We checked his SATs and they were quite poor. So we packed him up and took him into hospital.

As soon as he was in hospital he was put on oxygen and hooked up to a saturation monitor and you could see the  instant benefit of the oxygen.

To cut a long story short, they think he might have had a virus which had caused the breathing problems. He started off on 90% oxygen but quite soon we were able to start weaning him off. He was initially given an oxygen mask, then he was put in an oxygen box (which looked like a little greenhouse), then as he was taken out of the box and given nasal prongs.

While in hospital, Samuel’s epilepsy was very bad. Not sure if that was just a coincidence or something to do with the virus (he was also a bit constipated which may have contributed). He had several doses of Midazolam and we had to grit our teeth and hope this wasn’t the start of something else.

It was also frustrating that Samuel’s brilliant paedetrician, who is the one person at the hospital who knows and understands everything about Samuel (as much as that is possible), was on holiday, but the nurses were brilliant and I think the other doctors are starting to get the hang of our little tricky customer.

As hospital stays go, it wasn’t too bad. We could see that as far as the virus was concerned he was getting better. His seizures did calm down and he didn’t have any emergency medicine yesterday (Friday). I also wasn’t alone during our stay. Although Samuel’s Dad had to go to work, two of my lovely Mum-friends from Julia’s House were also in hospital with their children, so we had a chance for a good natter.

We’ve got to see how things go, his breathing is back to normal but he’s still jerky and while I’ve been writing this he’s had a couple of short seizures. It might all be fine or he might end up having some emergency medicine before the end of the day.

Either way it is great to be home.

Uncle Midaz

Midazolam has been in our lives since the early days. It has become a very important part of our armoury in the battle against Samuel’s seizures. It is his emergency drug.

The protocol of when to give Midazolam to Samuel is if he’s had a seizure lasting more than 10 minutes or if he’s had a cluster of four or five short ones in half an hour. It is only given for full on focal seizures and not his general twitching.

In the very early days, Samuel had Midazolam a lot. On average he’d have about five doses A DAY! There wasn’t really a clear protocol at that time so he was given it almost as soon as he’d seizure. Problem was, Samuel would seizure a lot and medical staff are trained to zap seizure activity immediately! But the neurologist stepped in and changed the rules. She made us and his hospital team wait. It was hard. I’d be there holding my boy who’d been having a seizure for 8 long minutes and I wasn’t giving him anything. But it worked. It showed us all that more often that not, Samuel will self resolve after about 10 minutes and then be fine.

When the going is good and things are quite balanced, Samuel on average has Midazolam about once every two weeks. Although when the Ketogenic Diet was at it’s best he went without it for about 60 days!

Midazolam is the only thing Samuel has orally. It is squirted into his cheek and absorbed that way. After Samuel has been given it, he can take a bit of time to wind down. Sometimes he will even have another seizure after he’s had it. But then he eventually calms down and relaxes and usually goes off to sleep for about three hours.

Giving Midazolam is at last much easier after the introduction of pre-filled syringes. Before, Midazolam came in a little brown bottle and you would have to push the syringe through the stopper to draw up the Midazolam. This wasn’t always as simple as it sounds. There was always a big label over the bottle making it awkward to see what you were doing, if you’d already used the bottle a couple of times and the liquid was getting low, you’d have to angle the bottle a certain way to ensure you got enough in your syringe. Then you have the problem of air bubbles. When drawing up a medicine, you have to get rid of air bubbles as where air bubbles are, medicine isn’t. Don’t forget this is an emergency medicine. You are trying to do all this as quickly as possible too!

20121216-102738.jpgSo at last we have pre-filled syringes. All you do is remove the seal of the tube, take out the syringe, break off the tab and it’s all ready to give.

We have a bit of a love & hate relationship with Midazolam. We love the effect it has. How it works. How it stops what is happening. But we hate it too. We hate having to give it. We hate what it symbolises…that Samuel’s had a bad patch.

But the relief you feel when you’ve been watching Samuel seizure for over 10 minutes and then suddenly he stops, relaxes and yawns and goes off to sleep. All is calm. Samuel is safe and content once more. That is why Uncle Midaz is a very important part of Team Sam.

Keto update – stick or twist?

Samuel started the Ketogenic Diet in April. If you have been following this blog for a while you will know that we started off really well, in fact Samuel went without Midazolam for a record time and everyone who knew him said how different he was.

Then the seizures started to creep back in, he was also losing weight as it seemed that he wasn’t absorbing fats. So he was moved onto the MCT version of the diet to help him gain weight. Because of the importance of getting back on top of his weight, we increased the calories, so really Samuel hasn’t been on the ‘proper’ Ketogenic Diet for a while, because of the high calories.

But today his weight finally hit 10kg and the dietician is now happy to start dropping very slowly, some of his calories and carbohydrate. We are really hoping that reducing this side of his diet and therefore returning to a more pure and traditional ketogenic diet will positively affect his seizures.

The real test will be once we are fully back on the proper diet for a while. If we feel that he is benefiting from the diet and his seizures are better, then we will stick with it. But if not, then the twist will be that we will come off. Perhaps we might revisit the diet again in the future, but in the meantime it would be a case of back to just relying on drugs again.

You may think well there are must be lots of anti-epileptic medicines around for Samuel to try, but it’s not that simple. In his two years of life he has already made good headway working through the drug book and some medicines he did try, barely touched the sides. Although there is sometimes scope to increase the dose, the risk is that you end up reaching the ceiling for that medicine and you can’t increase it anymore. That’s why it is so crucial that this diet works for our Samuel. If it works, if we can go back to how things were when he originally started the diet that would be wonderful. We had almost seizure free days – to have that again would be…well beyond words.

So readers, I ask for your positive thoughts and prayers.

Previous keto blog posts - read more about Samuel’s journey on the Ketogenic Diet

Little H is a good friend of Samuel’s and is also on the Ketogenic Diet. Pop over to Little Mamma said and read his positive story.

If you want to find out more about the diet, Matthew’s Friends has lots of really useful information and support.

Fats and Fits

TUESDAY

So, day two of our hospital stay. Not quite sure what to say really. We’ve started Samuel on a medicine called Pancrex to help him absorb fats better. He started on 1.55ml yesterday but we’ve cranked up the dose today. So far we’ve not seen a difference. Dietician is still not happy with Samuel’s nappies and quite frankly, as the one changing them, neither am I!

Pancrex is an odd gloopy medicine that I make from a powder and water. It is probably the ugliest medicine I have seen with a very creepy smell.

Seizure wise? They are getting worse. He had Midazolam yesterday afternoon but woke up after a three hour snooze unsettled, which carried on through the evening. At 10pm he had 6ml of Chloral Hydrate and thank goodness for that as he finally relaxed and went off to sleep.

He woke then at 3.30am and was twitchy on and off from then. Today has so far been very strange, his sleeping pattern is very different and he is very twitchy.

We are all hoping that this is to do with his weight loss. He’s not absorbing his fats, so losing weight which is reducing his ketone levels (0.5 today) which could be why his seizures are rapidly increasing. Hopefully if this new medicine works & he puts on weight then we will see an improvement in him. Well that’s what we are hoping and praying for.

I want to end this post all chirpy and upbeat but struggling with that to be honest. It’s obvious that we will be here for most of the week, but at least the nurses, doctors and our poor overworked dietician are all fantastic and all trying their damndest to help Samuel.

WEDNESDAY

After ketones of 0.5 and 0.4 yesterday, it was quite a nice way to start the day with reading of 0.6. Still ridiculously low but at least it’s an increase, if only a slight one.

The dietician had asked me to save her Samuel’s morning dirty nappies (brave woman) and I was pleased to see they looked better. Less, well, fatty. A poo sample is also being sent off to the lab.

Our plan now is to stay in another 48 hours, increase the enzyme medicine some more and keep monitoring his nappies and ketones. It will take a bit of time for us to see a weight gain though.

In the meantime we just have to brace ourselves and use the medicines we have in our armoury to keep the boy comfortable.

So far today has started off much better than yesterday, so I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. We’ve just got to wait and see.

Oh and you may be interested to know that this situation of a child on the ketogenic diet having to use these enzymes is rather unusual. In fact they don’t know of many any in the country it would seem. Why am I not surprised?!

UPDATE: This evening it was discovered (despite numerous different people listening to his chest since he was admitted) that Samuel has a chest infection on his right side. Chest infections are one of the things I fear for Samuel so did panic me initially but he’s been started on a course of antibiotics. Infections can reduce ketones. Is this why his have been so low? Will my son ever stop throwing us curve balls?

THURSDAY

8.30am: Despite having Midazolam at about 4pm yesterday, he ended up having another dose around 9pm. He then settled and had a good night. So far this morning he has been very relaxed and it’s nice to see him so settled even before his morning medicines.

10.30am: It has been suggested that slowing down Samuel’s feed may help his fat absorption. I was asked whether it would work at home having Samuel on a 20 hour continuos pump feed. My response was a big NO, it wouldn’t work. I think the plan may be then to have a very long feed over night and a couple of slightly slower feeds during the day. This should fit in ok hopefully with our daily routine. Well I very much hope so.

9pm: Today has been a much better day. Samuel was very snoozy this morning and although twitchy and did have a number of seizures, he didn’t have any Midazolam and has gone off to sleep on just his usual drugs.

We can also report from Camp Sam that his ketones were surprisingly high this evening, 1.9. Not going to get too excited yet as who knows what is in store for us tomorrow.

FRIDAY

8am: Samuel had a good night overnight, he slept through like a good boy. But, he was put on a saturation monitor overnight and it was showing that his SATs were low so he needed oxygen a lot of the night. I think this will probably mean we will be in hospital for at least another night. Because of the chest infection.

Back to the original reason we came into hospital, we’ve got a new feeding plan which I’m trying to get my head around. It’s confused me as we are reintroducing night feeds and the day feeds are so long (2 hours) I’m not sure what that will be like at home to manage. But if it helps his gut, then who am I to complain!

His ketones were 0.9 this morning so at least they are moving in the right direction.

It’s all a waiting game really.

MONDAY (17 September)

Chest infection: Samuel’s sat levels overnight are causing a headache. They keep sitting at 86 which nurses aren’t happy with and have to put him on oxygen. They want his sats to be in the 90s, preferably above 95. It could be because it’s just Samuel, the medicines he’s on at bedtime, or it’s still a bit of a hangover from his chest infection.

Diet/fats: This weekend Samuel ketones were 0.8 and 0.6 but this morning they were 1.0 which was very pleasing to see. We also weighed him and his weight has gone back up to what it was when he was admitted (it dipped during the week which was thought to be because the antibiotics were causing loose nappies).

The dietician has been to see us and wants to move Samuel into a tailor made version of the ketogenic diet which should be better for his gut. She has also suggested we increase the speed of his feeds as long feeds may affect ketone levels. She will come back later with a new recipient and feed plan.

The only complication is his saturation levels and whether he needs oxygen. That is what is going to keep us in hospital if the doctors are concerned. The gastro doctor is away today but Sam’s paediatrician is due to visit later so hopefully I will be able to report back later with some good (fingers crossed) news.

TUESDAY

I have some good news for you. We had a pow wow late yesterday with Dr H, Samuel’s paediatrician. We agreed last night to halve Chloral and get nurse just to do spot checks of his sats (instead of leaving him hooked up to the monitor all night) and if Samuel behaves himself then we can go home Tuesday/Today.

Well he did behave and wasn’t put on oxygen at all. Our nurse was fab too (but they’ve all been wonderful I must say).

We now just need the dietician to be on the ball today. We are going to move to the new feed recipe of some ketocal & a new concoction. The dietician said she should have everything ready to start at lunchtime. So if we are freed today, it probably won’t be until late afternoon. Or possibly early evening as we will need to get some bits from pharmacy.

So there is light at the end of the tunnel. But I’m not getting too excited yet. Who knows what the day holds. I’ll save my excitement for when we are actually home and my boy is back where he belongs.

3pm: Well, we are being freed!! The dieticians want to have a play with the new concoction we’ll be giving Samuel. So we’ve agreed that we’ll go home this afternoon BUT will come in as a day patient for a few hours tomorrow to start the new recipe and to weigh the boy. We may also have to come in again on Friday but we are going to see what happens. It’s a pain to have to come back in but knowing that we’ll be able to go home afterwards is fine. And if it helps my little boy then…..

A Samuel update

(Warning: This post contains poo references)

It’s been a while since I updated you on how Samuel is doing on the Ketogenic diet, so I thought I’d bring you up to speed.

Right, where to start. Things have been going quite well. Samuel had been having only a few seizures a day, mostly (if not all) in the evening and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we’ve had a few (just a few but even one is amazing) seizure-free days. As I write this, Samuel has so far gone 59 days since his last dose of his emergency medicine Midazolam. Pre-Ketogenic diet he averaged 14 days between doses, so we think this is pretty damn good.

Over the last few weeks we had noticed that his ketones had stuck on around 0.8. This is much lower than we’d like but the diet was still having a positive effect so we weren’t worried. The thing to make note of is what Samuel is actually doing rather than what the numbers say.

But, over the last week we’ve noticed more seizures have crept in during the day and although they may be short, they are very sharp and seem to unsettle him quite a bit. We’ve also noticed that he might have lost some weight. Samuel has always been like me, long and lean, but lately we’ve felt that he seemed a bit less podgy in certain areas.

Anyway, we got him weighed and sure enough he’s dropped some weight, which was particularly frustrating as we’ve been trying to fatten him up.

But don’t worry reader, we think we are on to it.

Today we handed in two poo samples to the hospital. One is to check whether Samuel has an infection which could affect weight gain and possibly ketone levels. The second sample is to check for fat globules in his poo – it could be that Samuel is effectively pooing out the fats so therefore he isn’t benefiting from them (this is what the dietician thinks the problem is, especially after seeing the consistency of his poo). If this proves to be the case, they can give Samuel a supplement which will him help him properly absorb the fats.

While we wait for the results, we are changing Samuel’s feed from powder to liquid. It is essentially the same feed, but there is thought that sometimes children who use a powder or liquid feed, tolerate one better than the other, so we are giving it a try. The liquid form of the feeds contains more fibre, so that might add a bit of extra excitement to nappy time!

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Samuel’s new liquid feed

Drug wean 1 update – We are in the processing of weaning Samuel off one of his drugs, Topiramate. The wean is going well and sometime mid-September, Samuel should be off the medicine completely. He will still be on two anti-seizure medicines but the fantastic thing is that for the first time we wont be replacing this drug with another seizure medicine.

UPDATE: Since posting this, Samuel’s seizures have got worse and we had to give him Midazolam on Friday afternoon, ending his fantastic 60 day run. His poo nappies have got worse too, so we are hoping that once the lab results come back we can then start him on the supplement to help him absorb his fats better.

Celebrate: 50 days

Today we are celebrating.

We had to give Samuel his emergency medicine Midazolam today. You may think that wouldn’t be something to celebrate, but what we are celebrating is that has been 50 days since we last had to give it to him. 50 days. Samuel’s ‘normal’ average was previously 14 days.

50 days.

We are so very proud of him. That boy is one hell of a fighter. We are so proud to be his Mum and Dad. It is our greatest privilege.

Well done Samuel. x

This post is part of the Celebrate Blogging Challenge. This world of special needs and disabilities has many rocky roads, we will find ourselves on many rollercoasters along the way. But, there are a lot of positives. Through our adventures so far, we have met a lot of amazing, supportive people. It has made us stronger. We have learned to look at the world through new, wider eyes and find ourselves celebrating what to others may seem such a small achievement but to us, it’s the world. It’s a tough world, but there is so much to celebrate. Our children. So please join me each week and post about what there is to celebrate in your world during the past week. I’m looking forward to reading your posts and celebrating with you.

Click here and share your celebration post and then grab the Celebrate Blogging Challenge badge for your blog. Don’t forget to tweet about it too using #celebratebloghop

Tricky Customer Celebrate Blog Hop

My previous ‘Celebrate’ blog hop posts:

Seizure monster has gone missing (and left his lazy assistant in charge!)

I have absolutely no idea where I should start with what I want to say, what I want to tell you. In my previous blog post A day to remember, I told you that for one day last Friday, Samuel had no seizures. None. Zilch.

I couldn’t understand it because his ketones were so low (to anyone new reading this, Samuel is on the Ketogenic Diet – pop over to my ketogenic blog posts page for a quick round-up of what’s it all about), so it couldn’t be the new diet.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. He was miserable. Grumpy like I’ve never seen him grumpy before. But by Friday evening we realised why. The area around his gastrostomy site was very red, angry and sore looking. Plus the tip of one of his little fingers was very red too. We took him into hospital Saturday morning (and spent 5.5 hours there waiting to be seen and then waiting for antibiotics) and were told that he had a skin infection.

That would explain why he was so very grumpy. And we discovered that infections can reduce ketone levels which is why his ketones were so very low. (For those who still haven’t got their heads around ketones or haven’t been over to my Ketogenic pages to find out more – basically we need Samuel’s ketones to be high and at a consistent stable level for him to be in ketosis and therefore for the diet to work).

But dear reader, and perhaps this is the point of the post, so well done for sticking with me, you will be rewarded, Samuel didn’t have a seizure on Saturday either. And this time his Dad was there, so I have a witness. He didn’t have one seizure on Saturday. And Sunday? Sunday he did have a one minute seizure but that was all. That was all. Samuel has severe ‘off the scale epilepsy’ (to quote his padetrician) and has seizures every single day. Well he did.

And today? I’m not going to jinx it, but so far he’s had two 30 second seizures and that is all.

Original image ‘borrowed’ from http://www.littlemammasaid.blogspot.co.uk

So is it the new diet? Is it actually working? I still can’t answer that. And it’s not me being coy or over-cautious, I just really don’t know. His ketones are low, very low, so the diet shouldn’t really be working. But it makes me wonder if Samuel is again making up his own rules, even for this new diet.

I might blog again and tell you that we’ve had a shocking evening tonight, had to give him his emergency medicine (Midazolam) and the rest of the week is dire. It is normal for us to not have two days the same. What is normal is to have two dramatically different days. So I’m confused. Feeling rather shell-shocked actually.

But to sit here with my precious boy and not have to watch his little body twist and stiffen, his arms and legs jerking manically, him screaming and crying, is an overwhelming, wonderful feeling. I wish I could bottle it.#

I’m not sure if the Seizure Monster has just gone away on a short holiday and left his lazy assistant in his place. The Seizure Monster may be missing. But we aren’t missing him.

UPDATE (15/05/12) - Samuel didn’t have any more seizures after I posted yesterday, so that was just two small ones he had yesterday. Today? Well, it’s 8pm and Samuel has only had three very brief seizures today. You may be thinking, ‘well three seizures, that doesn’t sound good’. But three very short seizures in one day, for Samuel, is brilliant. Whatever happens tonight or tomorrow, I am such a very proud mum.

More information: If you want to find out more about the Ketogenic diet, please have a look at Samuel’s Ketogenic journey and you can also read a round-up of all my blog posts about Samuel’s Ketogenic adventures. Matthewsfriends.org is a fantastic resource full of really useful information and case studies about the Ketogenic Diet.

Keep calm and ask Mum

As you know we are in hospital for Samuel to start the Ketogenic Diet. I wrote in a previous blog post, Tricky Customer, that I was mainly nervous about the doctors and nurses and their approach to Samuel’s epilepsy.

I’m all too aware that Samuel has unusual epilepsy and that you don’t medicate all his seizure activity (because that would mean you’d be sedating him every single day when he does usually come out of the seizure by himself). But nurses and doctors are trained to resolve seizure activity as soon as possible.

To add to it all, Samuel didn’t have a great start to the week. We came into hospital on Monday and that evening we gave him Midazolam. But we, as in his Dad and I, decided to give it to him. He also had another dose on Wednesday which was given under my instruction.

And that’s been the theme for this week. Everyone has been told to follow our lead and it is up to us to decide when to give the emergency medication. In fact we’ve been pretty much left to it. I’m doing everything for Samuel as I normally do, doing all his medicines and feed plus managing his seizures. They’ve not even taken his medicines from us, they are here in the room with us for me to use when we need to.

The nurses are lovely as usual and very interested in Samuel and I’ve told them all about him. They notice his twitches and jerks and I explain that they are normal for Samuel and they tell him that he’s a brave boy and stroke his hair.

Being honest I think some of the nurses are relieved they don’t have to make any judgement calls and it can all be left up to Mum. I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all. It’s my job after all and although I might not be trained or be able to do lots of complicated nursing and medical stuff, I’m the best nurse Samuel will ever have.

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Getting it right

Samuel and I spent the day today with our friends at Julia’s House. I’ve come home feeling knackered, which is probably because I did a lot of nattering (I am a chatterbox to be honest) and having to think even more about Samuel’s epilepsy and trying to explain to the carers and nurses about how we medicate Sam’s seizures.

I’ve talked before in my post Early days about the difficulties in explaining just when is the appropriate time to medicate Samuel with Midazolam (his emergency medicine) and when you just give him a good cuddle and ride it out. It isn’t a perfect science and I’m sure I get it wrong sometimes but it can be so difficult, especially as he really does live up to being a tricky customer!

Samuel started off today really snoozy but then as the day went on he became more unsettled. I was hoping that it might be his teeth giving him agro so I gave him some paracetamol as his cheeks were really pink but that didn’t make much of a difference. He progressed to an afternoon of on and off clustering. If I hadn’t have been there he would have had Midazolam, we all knew that.

But the problem is the grey area within his protocol.  There are some seizures you count, you look at your watch and mentally log, others you just give him a good old cuddle. But should we be ignoring those seizures? Are we pushing the boundaries too much? I think everyone understands that by nature Samuel is a twitchy boy and those twitches (which are in actual fact seizure activity) are inevitable due to the set-up of his brain, but it’s the other things he does, the seizures. How can I expect people to ignore some but count others? We just don’t want him medicated every day which realistically could happen. Samuel has seizures EVERY day.

I think the nurses, well one in particular, could see the difficulty I have and advised me to talk to Sam’s doctors about it to clarify his protocol. The ridiculous thing is I do agree with the written protocol, in fact I co-wrote it with the doctor over the phone BUT it’s about how it works in practice. She said that she felt that it is such a huge responsibility on my shoulders to make sure that they get it right when I leave him in their care.

You see I love Julia’s House, I really do. The whole place, the people, I just love it there. I cannot explain how amazing the nurses and carers are, how kind, lovely and understanding they are. They make me feel normal. Nothing I tell them phases them. I doubt there is much I can tell them that would surprise them or they hadn’t heard before. They must be the best childminders in the world!!! And I can’t begin to tell you just how lovely they are with Samuel. Right from day one, the way they talk to him, stroke him, cuddle him. As his mother who loves him with every grain of my being, watching these people hold him so gently, look after him with so much care. It just makes my heart swell.

If it wasn’t for this situation with his epilepsy and emergency medication I would have left him there on his own after the first day. I trust them, I really do.

We did end up giving him Midazolam in the end. He did need it to break the cycle he’d got himself into. But although it’s always disappointing when he has to have it, I really did feel we achieved something today. They saw what he does. They witnessed what his epilepsy can be like and they saw how much I want him to be awake and alert as much as possible. They saw the difficult situation I’m in, the hard decisions I often have to make about medicating him and I really felt that they were there behind me, supporting me.

Why is no-one cuddling me?

The nurse was keen to make me see that it isn’t a test of me. It’s not about right or wrong or whether we are looking after Samuel correctly. It’s about us all being in the same team and understanding how we can care for Samuel together.

We will get it sorted. We must. I’ve already put forward some dates to have community sits which is where carers come over to the house to look after Samuel. I will be home, just for the time being, but do have every confidence in them, Samuel and me, that we will get there.

There is a sign up in Julia’s House that says ‘Julia’s House is a happy place’ but it is more than that. Julia’s House is a happy, loving, caring, supportive, cuddly, fun, positive, sunny, friendly place. The sun ALWAYS shines at Julia’s House.

Story of survival

When Samuel was in NICU we would regularly have a nurse called K. I really liked her, she had a great sense of humour (which really helped given the situation) and she was very kind and seemed to be very fond of Sam.

I think we’d been in NICU two or three weeks when the head consultant Dr MK asked us to have a chat with him. He told us that they were becoming increasingly concerned about Samuel’s condition and the fact they were finding his seizures so hard to control. At that point he was on a Midazolam infusion and totally out of it. Dr MK told us that we needed to prepare ourselves for the possibility that Samuel would not come home. Ever. We would either lose him to the seizures or that they would be so impossible to treat he would have to be permanently sedated and remain in hospital indefinitely. As you can imagine our already shaky world crumbled.

My husband got angry. Not at the doctor but at the unfairness of it all. At the women, pregnant women he saw outside the maternity unit in their dressing gowns smoking. We were both very emotional. We went back out to Samuel’s cot and K sat with us for quite a while before telling us her story.

She hesitated at first, I think she was unsure whether it was the right thing to do. But I’m so glad she did. She told us of her baby boy J, who had been born 24 years previously. He had a rare brain disorder, I can’t remember if she told me what it was or whether he had a diagnosis,  but she said it was bad. His brain was in a worse situation than Sam’s. He also had a severe cleft palate and in effect was missing his top lip. She was allowed to take him home, but everyone knew it was for ‘family time’ before he passed away. It was almost certain that her boy wouldn’t make it. If I remember correctly, he lived for around 8 months.

As she told me this story I kept staring at her thinking, but how are you here, walking, talking, how have you made it through? But the point is, she did. Her experience led her into nursing, she was a hairdresser when she had J, but after what she went through she wanted to help other babies, so she became a neonatal nurse.

K told us that things we said in the meeting with the doctor, the things that my husband had got angry about, she had said the same things herself all those years ago. She told me that I must not feel guilty, however hard it is, I must not feel guilty. She said that I must always remember that I brought Samuel into this world and whatever happens I will give him a life full of love.

Throughout our time in NICU when things got really bad and I had really dark thoughts I kept reminding myself that K’s been through this and she survived. She somehow made it through and she had worse odds than we did.

The fact that she wanted to help other poorly babies made me admire her even more. I don’t think I’ve got it in me to do that. Being a NICU nurse you see just how damn cruel nature can be. Our friend Auntie C, also a NICU nurse, has told me many stories of children she’s nursed and the different conditions. I don’t think I could deal with that cruelty every day.

When we finally got Samuel home, my husband and I made a deal. That we would truly treasure Samuel. We would enjoy every moment and celebrate the boy he is and try not to mourn the boy he will never be. We made that pact in memory of J.

Although he has surprised the doctors that he’s still here and seems to be doing ok, we know that we will outlive Samuel. He wont make old bones. But we’ve got this far and he is a fighter.

I know there will be parents reading this that have lost their babies. Samuel is 16 months and maybe their little ones didn’t make it that far. But I promise each and every one of you that we hold and squeeze him so tightly every day and know how lucky we are to still have him here with us.

Whatever happens in the future, somehow we will survive. We have to, as Samuel will always be here in our hearts.

Early days

Well we’ve had four sessions now at Julia’s House and I do really feel that bringing them into our lives is certainly going to be really positive for us.

For three of those days Samuel slept for most of the day (which he is doing now as I write) so the carers didn’t really have a chance to play with him. One of the sessions he was much more awake, but very unsettled with some bigish seizures thrown in, so we didn’t think he was in the right mood for play time.

But I do think they are getting to know him. The only problem is (and I need to keep reminding myself that it is still early days) that to be able to leave him with them, they need to see and understand which of his seizures we medicate and which we just cuddle him through.

There is a protocol, which is a good protocol, but when it comes down to it, it isn’t helpful for a child like Sam who has a lot of seizures. So the protocol says to medicate when he’s been having a seizure for 10 minutes. The problem is, Samuel has a lot of seizures. When he’s twitching, that is actually a seizure. So there are some things he does that we don’t medicate, that we just have to overlook.

There are some seizures, even though he’d been doing it for several minutes, where I would just scoop him up onto the sofa with me and we’d cuddle for however long he needed. It wasn’t a seizure that particularly would worry me and in fact in our language at home we’d probably say that he was unsettled and having a bit of a fuss.

Apart from leaving him with Auntie C a few times for no longer than a couple of hours, I’ve never left Samuel since he came home from hospital. It has always been his dad or I with him (mainly me). I’ve never had to explain it before in quite such detail. This is different to when I’m discussing Sam’s condition and seizures to his doctors. This is so I can leave him confident that his new carers understand when to get the Midazolam out and when just to give him a good squeeze.

Because Julia’s House are booked up with training over the next couple of weeks, we’ve not got a session again until next month. But I’ve got a plan. With the use of our little video camera, I’m going to film Samuel to show what we do medicate and what we just cuddle through. I think this might help me show the nurses and carers because I have found it really quite difficult to explain and worry that I’ll just never be able to articulate it correctly. But I keep reminding myself, it’s still early days.

They are more than happy for me to stay with Samuel when he has his sessions and I can go off into another room and have a read or a coffee if I want some space. But I like being around the carers and seeing the other children play (I could write a whole post about how adorable the other children are) and watching people chat to Samuel and admire his gorgeousness.

They make me feel normal.

It is so nice to be around people who will chat and cuddle Samuel and aren’t put off by him not obviously reacting to them. They stroke his hand and chat to him about what the weather is like, what the other children are doing, they tell him that they like his shoes and his new jumper. They hold him tightly when he has a seizure and tell him that it will be alright, he will be ok. Very quickly they have become Samuel’s friends.

I know we’ll get there in time. After all, it’s still early days.

 

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Take the rough with the smooth

Well readers, we seem to be having quite a good period at the moment. Very good in fact.

Please don’t get me wrong, Samuel is still having seizures every day. But at the moment he doesn’t seem to be having as many in a day as previously and instead of being quite low, they are quite short and sharp.

We are often asked how many seizures he has in a day and as we don’t keep a log it is an impossible question to answer exactly. But our staple answer is between five and 15. It just depends on what kind of day we are having and often no two days are the same. For no reason, he could have two dramatically different days. It is just the way things are.

When things are going well we average about two weeks in between giving him Buccal Midazolam. Midazolam is his emergency medicine. The dose we give him at the moment is 0.5ml and as it is a buccal medicine you give it orally (the only thing he has orally). You put the syringe into the mouth push it against the inside of the cheek and then squirt. His system absorbs it very quickly, although it can take between five and 10 minutes for him to unravel from the intensity of the seizure and go to sleep.

Samuel’s current emergency plan is that we give him one dose of Midazolam if he’s been having a seizure for over 10 minutes or he has had a cluster (of say about four or five short ones) in half an hour. We can give him two doses in 24 hours but if he needs more than two doses within 24 hours or when he wakes up from the second dose and we are worried we have to take him into hospital. So far we’ve not needed to call an ambulance and only taken him in twice. We have open access at our hospital which means we don’t have to go via A&E, and we can go straight to the children’s assessment ward.

I should mention at this point that an important note on Sam’s emergency plan is cuddles. Yes, it’s true. When he’s having a seizure, giving him a cuddle not only provides him with comfort, we find it can sometimes help to take the edge off the seizure (what the NICU doctors would call containment) and it can also help you feel the seizure. You can feel its intensity and when it starts to slow down.

We often find that Samuel’s worst time is during the evening. Between 7pm and 9pm is what we call the ‘danger zone’ as this is when the level of Sam’s drugs in him has dropped and we are waiting for the evening dose to top him up. He is often extremely unsettled and more likely to have a seizure. BUT over the last few days (possibly the week) he’s said ‘up yours’ to the danger zone and slept through it!

He has been far more settled and we’ve had a lot more settled awake periods which is lovely. Although it is so nice to see him like this, we still have to take one day at a time because although he’s been so good like this recently, it doesn’t mean it will continue. So we enjoy every minute that he’s calm, settled and relaxed and make sure that we remember it as often you can forget what it is like when you hit a really rough patch.

Epilepsy, plus ARX seem to make up their own rules and just when you think ‘yeah, everything is going really, really well’ it pokes you in the eye!

Day in the life

Well there is no such thing really as a typical day for us. Sam makes up his own rules as he goes along – no two days are ever the same. But we do have to have a rough routine for his medicines so I guess that does keep us organised. This is how we roll:

  • 8am – Turn off the pump feed & flush through with sterilised water.
  • 9am – Give Samuel his medicines with flushes of water in between – Topiramate, Vigabatrin and Clobazam.
  • 11.15am – Give Samuel his reflux medicine (this is a new thing and I’ll talk about this more another time).
  • Noon – Sam starts his pump feed of good old Pepti Junior. After the feed we flush him through with water.
  • 3pm – Sam starts his pump feed of good old Pepti Junior with a sachet of baby Gaviscon mixed in. After the feed we flush him through with water.
  • 6pm – Sam starts his pump feed of good old Pepti Junior with a sachet of baby Gaviscon mixed in. After the feed we flush him through with water.
  • 9pm – Give Samuel his medicines with flushes of water in between – Topiramate, Vigabatrin and Clobazam.
  • 10pm – Give Samuel his bedtime medicine Chloral Hydrate which helps him sleep and flush with water.
  • 10.10pm – Start his overnight pump feed (500ml to run over 10 hours).

This is of course a bog standard day for us. This doesn’t include if Sam has had a bad seizure

Infinity Pump bag

and we’ve had to give him some Midazolam. We medicate if his seizure has been going on for 10 minutes or if he’s clustered and had four/five in 30 minutes. Midazolam is squirted into the cheek and then you rub the cheek to make sure it is absorbed.

Also this doesn’t include if we’ve given him Calpol etc. It still feels strange when we give him a ‘normal’ medicine as we are so used to it being prescription only and doses tightly controlled.

In addition to this I have to do regular care of his gastrostomy button. Turn it every day and give the skin area around the button a good wipe. I also have to replace the water in the button once a week.

Sam’s pump is very portable, we have a nifty rucksack to take it in so he can have a feed anywhere – the boy has eaten in restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, parks and the car.

So there you go. That’s how we roll in our world. Updated to be included as part of the BlogHop #definenormal. Pop over to Just Bring the Chocolate to find out more.