Friday, March 22, 2013
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
The majority of my time right now is being spent getting ready for our annual fundraising benefit, which will follow up our Great Strides walk on May 20. We are proudly hosting the Top of Our Lungs event to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at the Magnolia Motor Lounge, starting at noon that day! We have collected (and are still amassing) tons of donations from local businesses and artists to be raffled off at the event. Check out the new tab at the top for a full list of prizes to be won! There will also be live music from local favorites Greg Schroeder, Jake Robison, and another guest (TBA), face painting, and an appearance and hosting by one of our favorite radio personalities from 1310 The Ticket Sports Radio! The admission is a $10 donation, and every guest gets a raffle ticket with admission. The best part? You can pick and choose which prizes you want your raffle to go towards.
We've been busting our butts on this one, and I'm REALLY hoping we can rake in a bit for the CFF. FOr those in the CF world, it's all old hat, but this money is desperately needed to find better treatments and keep our loved ones with us. Fundraising is hard, and sometimes- I'll be honest- it can be a beating. When we began two years ago, we did it because we needed something to cling to, something to make us believe we wouldn't lose our child to this disease- something to do to actively fight back. But the nagging thought in my mind was 'when was the last time fundraising cured a disease? Am I making any difference at all? Is this false hope?'
The answer? Hope is a real thing. The drugs in development RIGHT NOW have the potential to change the lives of people living with CF in ways we haven't really imagined. This press statement was released this week, in regards to a the clinical trials of a drug combo that is targeted to treat the underlying defect of Cystic Fibrosis in Jackson's specific mutation of the disease. It's been in development for years, and now it's testing so well that they want to accelerate the trials and move toward FDA approval. One of the drugs, Kalydeco, is already on the market and making a huge difference for a very small segment of the CF population. The approval of this combo would affect a much, much greater number of people, and will help lead to drugs and treatments for other mutations that have yet to benefit from the current drugs. It's not a 'cure' in the traditional sense. But it is the single greatest piece of hope right now for people with CF, and those of us that love them. It's real. It's real, and it's happening, and we actually have the power to push it along. There is no federal funding for this research. There's us. So if you've ever had that nagging feeling that you're just paying lip service to this cause, quell it. Tell it to shut up. We're fighting together, every day, and it is making a difference. Do what you can, and know in your heart, that you helped.
Monday, April 16, 2012
More good news is that our CHIP application was approved in under half the expected time and we know that Jackson will not have to endure another lapse in health coverage. I actually couldn't believe it when the letter came and made Mike read it with me about four times to be sure I was getting it right.
We have done our best not to spend the time in limbo idly. We went to visit my family in Nebraska for Easter- a rare treat, since we're usually lucky to see them once a year. Then we trekked down to Austin to visit Mike's family, and now it's back to domestic chores and organizing our benefit for next month. I'm still equal parts horrified that nobody will show up and that I will drop the ball and be unprepared. Something about experience being the best teacher and all that, right?
The proof that we've learned and grown in the past few years is this: we're still here! We aren't madly depressed or cowering in a corner waiting for the sky to fall. This is another dip in the roller coaster, but it seems we know that the track will always go back up. Maybe I am learning to deal with the ebb and flow of the fates just a hair better. Stranger things have happened.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
Man did we work hard to get off of Government aid and get our own health insurance. Our singular focus over the past two years has been to get ourselves in shape and be financially independent and responsible. When Mike had insurance, everything was very calm, no IV's or hospitalizations, 6 months without even oral antibiotics. And through the forethought and generosity of his grandmother, we also came to have an emergency savings fund in place. A little golden light shone down and it was like we were almost Responsible Adults.
When Mike lost his job I immediately began looking into every option to keep Jackson covered that I could find. Our social worker recommended we apply for Medicaid, and so we went down to speak with the financial counselors at the hospital to help us do just that. I had every piece of documentation they might ever need, an already completed application, extra copies of everything...I was well prepared. Imagine my disappointment when I was told that having money in a savings account disqualified Jackson from eligibility for care. If you have more than $2,000 to your name, you're automatically out. Which to me seems absurd, $2,000 would be wiped out in one ER visit. And if that were everything we had to our name, we would then be unemployed, penniless, and without health coverage for our sick kid. My face was hot and red and I couldn't make eye contact with the financial counselor. I really wanted to yell about how stupid it is we should be punished for doing our best to be responsible. That small savings account is what we're living off of. It wouldn't buy two months of COBRA coverage, but it disqualifies us from assistance. I wanted to punch something.
On the other hand, I feel like a complete ass for being such a whiner about it. And it's odd to be in a place where I really do WANT to complain about it. Usually I'm pretty good about just moving on and finding other ways to do whatever needs to be done, but I just wanted to stand there and have a temper tantrum. "But we did everything right! We did everything we were supposed to do when we could and now we need help and you won't give it to us!" Maybe I even wanted to yell, "That's not fair!" But I'm lucky enough that my mom taught me it doesn't matter what's fair, it matters what is. Work with what you've got. So as our (and by our, I mean Jackson's, we'll go without until Mike gets a new job) health care hangs in the balance, our social worker assures me we've got other options to look at, and I am applying for them all at the moment. I attempted to shake off my perceived injustice and move on.
This was Friday. The next morning- yesterday- at breakfast, I lifted Jackson's jammies up to put his antibiotic into his G Button and noticed what appeared to be three bug bites on his knee. In the time it took me to wonder aloud what had caused them, two more appeared. By the time I had washed off the syringe the antibiotic was in, another half dozen had popped up and I was confusedly trying to wrap my head around the lack of bugs present in this phenomenon. Minutes ticked by and both of his legs became covered in hives, steadily creeping along his body.
Now I've always said, we're the people who are in a good position for bad things to happen, and here's a classic case. Remember how I've mentioned that Mike's folks are in medicine? Well, his mom, who lives 2 miles from us, just happens to be a practically world famous allergist. Dr Grandma does fabulous house calls. She confirmed that there were no mysterious invisible bugs, and in accordance with my fears and suspicions, this is most likely a reaction to his antibiotics. We got some Children's Benadryl and headed toward nap time with some trepidation.
Before I go on- why am I so bothered by a possible antibiotic sensitivity? Here's my not perfect, but not totally unreasonable train of thought. Mike is pretty darn allergic to MANY antibiotics. My mom, and I *think* both of my brothers are allergic to penicillin. It's fairly likely Jackson will have some sensitivities. Why does that bother me? Because I feel like it's eliminating possible treatment options for future respiratory infections. I know many CFers develop sensitivities or resistance to antibiotics through the course of repeated exposure, but I was hoping we'd have a few more years of the old tried and true Bactrim doing the trick before it was out of the running. I worry that if he has wide spectrum allergies like Mike than moving to less common antibiotics to treat him now will eliminate many options for him down the road. I know that this isn't exactly the case, but it still sticks in my craw and has apparently made me pretty cranky about the whole thing.
Moving on- When Jackson woke up from his nap, his entire neck and chest was one giant, angry, red weal. His torso was whelping up in spots now, too, as well as tender places like armpits, behind his ears, and behind his knees- and it was starting to itch some, although in general he was pretty happy. We repeated his Benadryl dose and waited a little longer. It just kept getting worse. By bed time his entire torso was one hot, tender whelp. a red line had crept up to his chin. He was turning solid red from the bottom up, like a thermometer about to burst. He had full body shivers from the sensations, and would periodically try to scratch every red spot at once, twisting his arms behind his head in a frenzied attempt to relieve the maddening itch. An oatmeal bath made him scream. Topical relievers made him scream. He would fall asleep for a moment, only to be startled awake by the crawling sensation under his skin and scream some more. I was relieved when Mike's mom checked in on us again and came in with bigger guns blazing. After some steroids, a higher dose of Benadryl (under the care of a Dr, not something to try out on your own!), Zantac- which helps the Benadryl be more effective, and three hours of rocking, consoling, and crying, he FINALLY went to sleep.
Mike & I didn't sleep so much. Between taking turns giving meds and just checking to make sure he wasn't getting worse, we maybe split three hours of sleep between us. But lo and behold, this morning my boy isn't a 28 pound hive. Woo!! I was exceedingly happy to see that about 75% of the hives were gone, and the mass redness from the neck down had returned to a normal color and texture. A closer inspection under his onesie revealed some nasty looking bruising across his back, where the previously swollen skin cells had filled with blood. I'm told the fancy word for this bruising is Ecchymosis. (Not petechiae, like I initially called it) He kind of looks like someone threw him down the stairs. His legs are having a breakout at the moment I type this, but overall it appears his condition is still on the up & up. A long phone call with our nurse is in order at the open of business in the morning, then we'll sort out where to go with all of this.
I feel better this morning than I did last night about all of it, but I'm still nonplussed. I'm used to respiratory illness. I'm used to digestive problems. But this was new, and not expected, AND I felt completely impotent watching him struggle for hours and being completely unable to relieve his discomfort. And on top of that, I was having a mental tantrum of "Of COURSE this happens when our insurance runs out! The whole time we had it he was healthy and everything was calm, of COURSE the shit hits the fan now!!" Well, excuse the voices in my head for their profanity, if you will. And understand that I know very well that this is NOT the shit hitting the fan. In a global CF sense, this is a *blip*. It's just inconvenient, and ill timed. But frankly I don't know anything about Cystic Fibrosis that is well timed or convenient. The past two days are just a reminder that we should appreciate the health and health care we've had, and keep fighting and working for more. What's fair doesn't ever matter, and it's rarely how the game plays out. It's much more important what we do with what we have than what we think we should have had to start with.
***Please excuse my less than stellar cell phone pics. It's obviously time for me to start using a real camera again.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
I'll begin with the blessing in disguise that we're working on. A week ago, Mike lost his job. It's an unnerving and uncomfortable place to be, but with all of our might, we are holding to it being a hard shove in a direction we already wanted to go. Even though we are in a better place than we've ever been to face a challenge like this, it's hard to wake up and feel each day like it's going to be okay, and is indeed a blessing in disguise. We're not spending the time idly, in fact productivity is at an all time high, but to say we're out of our comfort zone would be a grievous understatement. It's deductible season, so the medical bills are rolling in like high tide ocean waves, and the word COBRA comes with an intimidation factor all its own. I've put in applications for CHIP and Children with Special Health Care Needs programs to try to soften the blow and first and foremost, make sure Jackson is never without the life saving medications he goes through every day. We know we will not have to let him go without, but after such tremendous effort to get to a place where we could ALMOST handle all of our own business, it's salt in the wound to be virtually back where we started. My husband gave until it hurt- to the tune of 100 hour work weeks- to make sure that his family was provided for, and the proverbial rug was unceremoniously yanked out from under him. Thank you, GG, for your years of prudence that have been the pillow on which our asses landed when this happened. Let's just hope we can get this behind us without having to exhaust that resource.
But on to happier stories, we have also had much to celebrate.
On Sunday, Jackson turned two. And once again, every cliche about time and how it seems to accelerate as we age seems poignant and deep. We didn't have a big party, since Emily is out of town on Spring Break with her dad, and we really don't feel like it would be right to celebrate without her. But it was a beautiful day nonetheless. I made him bacon for breakfast in the shape of a two, about half of it when in him, and the rest was used as his special deep conditioning hair treatment. (I don't use bacon as a hair treatment, but Jackson seems to think it is the essence of youth and vitality and loves to rub it into his hair). Cake, balloons, and gifts rolled in, I cooked him his favorite dinner - Braised beef and sausage ravioli with meat sauce. He didn't disappoint, and ate an impressive amount. His excitement at having a cake presented with song was so entertaining it made it difficult to warble out my off-key version of "Happy Birthday to You", but in the end, he decided cake is a poor substitute for ravioli. I was a little disappointed to put him to bed that night, but he cuddled sweetly and slept quite soundly- the celebration for him, after all, was neither small nor subdued. I wanted to write a beautiful, prose-y reflection on how the joys of having him for my son outweigh the fear and heartache of his having CF. But alas, I fell asleep myself before sitting down and hammering out the words.
My son. My beautiful progeny, my Achilles offspring- brimming always with joy and fire and endless, boundless curiosity. The child who would have us well acquainted with the ER staff perhaps even if not for Cystic Fibrosis. He's spending the days right now with his foot wrapped in gauze bandages, trying to heal the wound borne of fearless exploration (of an antique marching band instrument that sadly found home for a sharp edge in his soft flesh). Unafraid to climb, to open, to fall, to jump, to peek, to run, and to deconstruct in hopes of learning how anything works. Who often tires me because his nimble fingers, agile feet, and bottomless curiosity are inexhaustible. Who has learned that the world doesn't stop when he is tired, and thus fights sleep like it will steal his soul...unless you play Mumford & Sons. Then it's endless cuddles and talking himself to sleep behind the plastic mask that bubbles up pulmonary preservation and leaves a tiny moustache of condensation on his upper lip. Only at bedtime is he now a baby, softly nestled under my arm, tucked tightly into whatever blanket is light enough to keep him from soaking us both in his salty sweat. Legs dangling over the arm of the big blue chair, feet tapping in secret rhythm until he begins to dream. Only in sleep is he now my baby. My pride in being his mother wins out over the melancholy at how quickly the baby time is over. Having real conversations with him and hearing his opinion on everything he sees is a coveted prize, not consolation for how quickly first words and first steps fall behind us. Watching my children grow and become 'people' is its own reward, and makes the fear, doubt, and confusion on just how one is supposed to raise a child seem so trivial in comparison. I realize at the passing of 'Two', how quickly each birthday will come and go, and how each passing year he will need less and less of me in order to find his way in the world. And I don't say that with sadness, because we begin our children's lives in hopes of making them able to live them fully and well without us. From day one, we are training them to be without us. And so it goes my son, my beautiful progeny. Just know that as it is now, I will always be there should you fall.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Our Great Strides walk is on May 20 this year, and directly after, we will head over to see our wonderful friends at the Magnolia Motor Lounge, who have generously agreed to host our shindig. The party will kick off at noon. There will be lots of fun local bands (TBA, stay tuned!), an art auction from local and national artists, and some great raffle prizes. I'm kicking around the idea of a washers or horseshoe tourney, too. We'll see how it comes together.
I'm so excited! And- really, really nervous. This is a big undertaking, and one I don't have any experience with. Basically, it's going to entail me stepping out of my comfort zone and asking all the people I know, and a lot of people I don't- to donate their time, goods, and services to our cause. In the name of funding the fight against CF, I can do that. I am a little scared that I can't pull it off, that people will tell me no, or that no one will show up. But at the same time, I'm the kind of person who sees a big opportunity for growth and for service and wants to jump out of my comfort zone to achieve it.
But then there's always the reminder of WHY we (the collective fundraisers of the world) choose the uncomfortable role of being the ones with our hands out. Asking people to give of themselves is HARD. And I never feel that my gratitude is enough to show them how much it means when they come through. The feelings that accompany this 'job' are heady. Remember why we're here...the hole in his belly...the scars on her lungs...the transplant waiting list...the lost children, husbands, & friends.
My friend Rebecca over at the UltraViolet Rock & Art Show (and the main inspiration for our benefit format!) made this video recently that I've been wanting to share, because it reflects so much raw emotion that lies just below the surface for me, too. The link will take you to the post called "Just a Mom". I was going to just post the video here, but the blog post itself needs to be read along with it. Sometimes we take on the role of the public voice of our cause, and we get used to sharing the personal things. We get used to telling the details of our child's disease, the pain, the procedures, the daily rigors of a CF treatment regimen. It becomes 'normal' for us. But every now and then something touches nerves we thought we had somewhat protected, and the heady emotion that is mostly kept in check boils over. Right now that something is the testing of drugs that can correct the underlying defect of Cystic Fibrosis. They're right there...just beyond our fingertips. So close we can taste it, and yet not quite ready- while our kids and friends and lovers are going to the hospital, being put on the list for a lung transplant, and dying, while we wait. And that part is still very hard to share. We are still the parents of children fighting a fatal disease. That's why we do whatever we can to bring in the money so desperately needed to find and make the drugs so that people with CF can LIVE with their disease rather than die from it. That's what makes it worth it to put my ass out there and ask people to help.
With any luck, I'll be able to make it fun enough that people want to participate.