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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Ellie just ate 60 cc's of Earth's Best Baby Carrots
BY MOUTH!!!!!!

OK! This is the BEST gift EVER!!! I had to tell you all because you're the only ones who will really understand how significant that is. Thanks especially to Erin and Lauren at school who made eating fun, hip and cool again for Ellie by patiently and persistently getting her beyond a very serious oral aversion of the last 2 years. I am also thankful to the PCA who had to cancel tonight such that Dave and I ate our New Year's Eve meal with Ellie while she was having a foot soak, watching Signing Time and getting her carrots. She's a social eater and wanted to eat with Dada by mouth and take bites when he did at first, then she just started opening her mouth and waiting for me to feed her like she had been eating all along and had never taken a three year hiatus!!!

Brought tears to my eyes to see her eating and swallowing and intermittently using the spoon herself. Not one cough or gag and not much on her clothes. Just beautiful chewing, lip pursing and swallowing! Where did this precise and head controlled princess of eaters come from? Ahhhh the things that make life grand.

Happy New Year Everyone! I really hope that this is the shape of things to come in 2010!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Abdominal Migraines and Santa

It might be that the Periactin is working. Maybe. Ellie has had a slightly elevated temp on and off for the last three days. It has ranged from 99.4 to 100.6. She has not vomited. She was given motrin and she is not totally herself in that she has been tired and has dark circles under her eyes and is very pale. I need to get a script for an oximeter because I want to know better how much pain she is in. My rational is that if her heart rate is elevated then she probably has some pain. Also, she is pale. One time when she had a seizure she was pale but flushed at the same time and the O2 saturation in her blood as taken by the EMTs was 78. So, I kinda want to know how she is doing when this is going on. It's hard though. Instead of a week between not it's a couple of days. If this becomes everyday that is an untenable situation.

Picture description: Ellie at her school's jubilee. She signed "I love you" to Santa.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Ellie's migraine lasted for about 8-10 hours. She didn't vomit this time and I kept giving her all her food so that on top of a sore head, she was not also hungry or dehydrated. It's hard to say because she, sadly, has a very high pain tolerance. I gave her Tylenol and Motrin and she went to sleep that evening and slept through (that was Monday). Tuesday we were getting buckets of snow so she stayed home, which was good so I could watch her. Though she looked tired she played all day and was in good spirits. She had a low grade temp on Tuesday morning as well which goes along with what we are learning about abdominal migraines. I think she was in a little pain still on Tuesday. However, it is clear to me now that migraines mess with, you guessed it, her sleep cycles. She fell asleep on Tuesday around 9pm. She woke up a couple of times in the night and was still tired the next day. On Wednesday she was up until 9pm and then again at midnight and was not easily persuaded back to sleep and tossed and turned. At 4am on Thursday she was UP. And I mean wide awake and wanting to play and sign and any suggestion of going back to sleep was met with a howl. She also told me she was hungry and the aowie in her head was gone.

I brought her down stairs and gave her breakfast and we played until it was time to got to school. I was expecting a call around noon saying she was crashing and to come and get her. No such call. I picked her up at 3pm and her teachers reported she was in good form, totally engaged all day and not wanting to nap at all. She finally got sleepy around 8:30pm Thursday night and slept through.

Migraines, yet another thing to learn about.

The Why question is still on the table. Root causes the doctors are saying are anything from cyclical vomiting, abdominal migraines, to deep brain seizures.

What they are not considering, at least verbally to us, is the withdrawal issue. Withdrawal from Protonix and Depakote, which is still not off the table in my mind. They in fact are saying if Ellie's symptoms are bad to put her back on the Depakote, which for many reasons discussed in prior posts I don't want to do.

If this is hereditary migraines, thanks to my side, then we have to treat them with the Periactin and pain killers. If this is withdrawal, hopefully they will end as soon as her liver has a chance to process all the toxins.

Neurology is difficult because there is so much they don't know about the brain. I am glad that this time Ellie's symptoms were less severe, no vomiting or nausea that I could tell, and a shorter time of head pain (either that or she is getting used to it - which really upsets me).

The question is, what is acceptable in terms of her symptoms? And this time instead of being a week in between symptoms, there was only a few days. What if she starts having these episodes every few days? What if, what if, what if? I have more what ifs and whys than I have answers. I wonder if it the answer is staring me in the face and I just can't see it. I want to see it, I want to do what is right for Ellie. I don't want her to be in pain. What am I missing?

**picture description: Ellie laughing in her tent this summer in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Migraines Suck.

After 2 great days at school, Ellie is down for the count again. She was having her dinner and very suddenly went into pain. She was rubbing the back of her head and in fact the whole right side of her head and started to cry. Then she wanted just to bury her face in Marla's shoulder (Marla is a PCA extrodinaire). Then Ellie spiked a fever of 101.1. After a dose of Tylenol the fever went down to 99.7 but she was still in pain. After 2 hours I gave her some Motrin as well. I gave her some homeopathic stuff to no avail inbetween. Right now she is sitting in a darkened room alternating between crying out in pain and trying to rest. She hasn't vomited up her dinner.

This is hard, for the record, very hard. Hard to see her in pain. Hard because Tylenol and Motrin seem to have no effect. Hard because she was doing so very well and having such a great day. Hard because it looks like she will miss out on a very cool field trip to a 4D version of the Polar Express. Hard because when she screams it drives out all other thoughts from my brain.
Hard because she has experienced so much physical pain in her life already. Who do we call "uncle" to? Who? I am calling, "uncle, uncle, uncle!"

Migraines Suck.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Home Again

Ellie came home last night. We did get the MRI. They tried it with her awake. There is the quickie MRI like I mentioned. Ellie didn't like it one bit and ended up getting upset even with Mama in there with her. They had to put a cage like contraption over her face. I don't blame her for hating it. But they managed to get a few images of her ventricles that will establish a baseline for this new imaging going forward so we can avoid CT scans. The good news is that there was no change in her ventricles. Dr. Gumnerova is out of town so the neurosurgery team and Ellie's amazing pediatrician did not want to tap the shunt. Ellie's shunt system is so complicated that it's like balancing a dime. No one wants to mess with it.

The other thing was that instead of being lethargic, in pain, sleepy, and nauseous for 2 - 3 days Ellie felt better after 12 hours. I am not sure this was the fact that they gave her Zofran or IV hydration and electrolytes or that the Periactin was kicking in. Ellie's pediatrician in the Thanksgiving week had time to reconsider the Diamox trial and that is off the table - thankfully.

After all that we came home last night late with a script for Zofran (anti-nausea) to give Ellie at the onset of any symptoms and a whole list of follow up appointments to make: New neurologist who is a clinician versus a researcher and who runs a headache clinic - yay for engaged neurologists as it has been a long time since we have had one, GI doc check in on the weight loss, GI surgeon rescheduled appointment to see if Ellie's G-tube site needs to be closed and a new one put in, checkin with Dr. Gumnerova, follow up with pedi. Lots of calls to make and scheduling. Did I mention I could really use an administrative assistant?

It's a lot to manage.

Her pediatrician also convinced me to give Ellie the non-live version of the H1N1 vaccination. I thought I would come clean with that. We had been holding off with NO intention of giving it to her. He made a good case for her getting it though. And she has lost so much weight and her reserves are so low, and Dr. C, who is NOT inclined towards sensationalism in any direction said that 400 children have died this year of it already. He thought the consequences for Ellie would be "devastating". Dave and I discussed it and chose what we assessed to be the lesser of two evils. The child in me is complaining, "I don't like the Two Evils game!" and I have to agree. I know for a fact that I would like even less to lose my little one, my sweet girl. This is in no way advice or recommendation to anyone reading this regarding H1N1 vaccinations. We have been giving her vaccinations slowly over 7 years. She still has not had pertussis. We are very cautious about them and have given her more than we would have, had she not been in a train wreck at birth and so compromised.

The advice I would give ALL parents is to think for yourself. The doctors are "practicing" medicine. They are troubleshooting with a flashlight fueled by the power of their huge education, experience and knowledge. You as a parent are troubleshooting with a flashlight fueled by your HUGE daily observational data of your child combined with intuition and love (doctors, like Dr. Cloherty, add love to their flashlight too).

The fact of the matter is, that the best treatments and courses of action can only be found through a collaboration of these two lights.

Ellie went to school today after receiving her full breakfast without one burp. She looks pale and has dark circles under her eyes. She is very thin. I sent her in with all kinds of bulked up food with gracious amounts of organic real maple syrup as well as green food supplements. Dr. Cloherty, who is the best pediatrician anyone could ever have, said, "Let her go to school and take off the kid gloves with feeding her. She needs to live her life." He's right. If she has to be so restricted in her activities - it's more data and more cause for tests and exploration. But until then we need to get back to our normal.

***Image description: Ellie at her 7th birthday party opening gifts with Mama. This is a Tinker Bell toy that says a great many phrases and lights up as a lantern. Ellie's favorite is when Tinker Bell says, "Hi little Tinker!" Very perky indeed.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Day 2

Dave stayed with Ellie last night after she was admitted at 11pm. We are in a single private room under "precautions" because of Ellie's fever which seems to have subsided for the moment. It's definitely nice to have our own space and it's south facing. We expected to have the MRI this morning, but because of the fact that Children's has limited number of machines (still trying to assess the exact number) and limited hours of operation....Ellie is in a long line of pre-op brain tumor patients. No argument there, I agree with that prioritization. But it means that we are here until tomorrow. I spoke with Ellie's wonderful pediatrician, Dr. Cloherty, just now. He thinks it's her shunt malfunctioning and discussed all the options with me. There are the considerations at hand (this kind of thinking is very like the logic "if/then" trees I did in my undergrad philosophy courses):

IF the MRI shows enlarged ventricles, THEN shunt revision brain surgery. The good news is the Dr. Gumnerova, superwoman and neurosurgeon all in one, is in town. That said, I hate brain surgery. We have lived through so many of them with our little miss and they terrify me, even with superwoman at the helm.

IF the MRI shows no change (it could still be the shunt, because someone with Ellie's level of brain trauma and brain atrophy, it takes a lot of pressure to expand the ventricles) THEN Dr. Cloherty will ask Dr. Gumnerova to tap the shunt. In doing that she would flush the shunt which can get it working optimally and/or will show it is definitely not working...

IF Dr. Gumnerova refuses to do that, we THEN continue down the Migraine route with the Periactin
Try Periactin and a small dose of Depakote - the logic there being to try to go back to the medication balance Ellie had this summer before these episodes began. IF that works (the two meds together) we THEN go for a month or two and IF she is symptom free we THEN pull one of the meds to figure out which one it was that was working...

He again, speaking for all the GI doctors in the world (not really, but it feels that way) suggested we reconsider doing a fundoplication, which he said could get her off all the reflux meds and ensure that she keep down her food. I have written extensively about the fundo...but seeing her lose all this weight and the effect all these meds have on her, I am once again looking for the lesser of two evils. That might be another new name for my blog "Ryn Tales: Looking for the lesser of two evils".

Here we are, waiting and watching and thinking in IF/THEN scenarios. Through it all my dear Ellie continues to shine brightly with a light from within that sustains us all.

***Image description: Ellie sitting on the fence of the Safari Exhibit at the Dublin Zoo in early August, held up by Dave.