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Luke Update – Caring for Special Needs After ICU

Today marks two weeks since Luke came home after being in the hospital for nearly a month.

To Recap – 

Luke had a shunt placed at 3 days old, and it became infected when he was one.  He had surgery and proceeded to be problem free for 14 years.  A miracle, really, until this past December when he got off the bus one Friday afternoon and couldn’t walk.  Literally sat down in the middle of the road.  Ryan and I reasoned that the symptom was attributed with the discomfort of his new braces; however, that night he wouldn’t eat and the next morning he wouldn’t either.  Luke ALWAYS eats. We brought him to ER where it was discovered that his shunt was broken.  He underwent surgery a few days later, was discharged, and we came home after a week; thankful that everything in our chaotic life was somewhat in order again.

Luke appeared to rebound quickly: walking again, eating, and singing so instead of canceling my speaking engagements, I headed to Michigan the following week and shared my story and encouraged communities to help special needs families.

I arrived back home, we had a wonderful holiday together, Christmas night we enjoyed our traditional prime rib dinner, and Luke wouldn’t eat again. The next morning, he couldn’t walk again.  We returned to ER where it was discovered that his new shunt was infected.  This was an “OH GOD!” moment because the revelation entailed a much more intense surgery and recovery period to first remove the infected shunt, strong sedation to ensure that Luke wouldn’t mess with anything, strong antibiotics to clear the infection out of his body, and then another surgery to place a new – hopefully infection free – shunt back in.

Then there was three weeks of absolute exhaustion – head down, “get er done” kind of life –  as Mya and I managed the fort at home, I visited Luke during the days, Ryan worked when he could because we did have bills to pay, and he spent every night beside Luke.

When Luke was finally discharged two weeks ago, I spent most of the first week in bed with his baby monitor beside me.  I would get up to make food for the kids, throw in a load of laundry, and check email, but I primarily binged on Netflix and good books like The Body Keeps the Score and Small Fry (links below).  The trauma had finally caught up with me.  Ryan continued to move, slowly, but never felt rested or quite right.  We still don’t – really.  We’re so damn tired.  We compare it to the aftermath of when our first spouses passed away in 2010 when we napped almost daily for over a year – our bodies and minds completely spent.  Trauma affects people in the strangest ways: for me, all I want to do is sleep, my joints ache – hips, knees, legs – bound so tight from stress, so tightly I’ve been moving like I’m 80 not 42.  About a week ago, concerned about my Advil consumption, I discovered instead a natural combination of Gaba, willow bark (2 for natural pain relief), Tumeric (4-6 for inflammation) and magnesium calm (2 at night for sleep) that has been a very effective nighttime cocktail, and I dance a lot with the kids – shaking off the stress like a wild animal after being pursued. I haven’t been able to convince Ryan to join our dance parties – not yet, at least 😊 I’ve tried to take really good care of myself and go slowly – difficult for a type A, Enneagram 1 who thrives on changing the world, but right now, my focus has been on changing me so that I can function for my world – my husband and kids.

Luke is getting there.  He had a week remaining of detox meds when we arrived home so he’s been drug free for a week now; however, we still notice occasional tremors. He’s resting most days in his bed with music or his Ipad, he’s eating really well – back to normal – and his walking is improving daily but could take a while to be back to baseline.  Today he walked by himself to his chair – which is huge! During surgery the doctor had to remove the infected tube that ran from his head down to the base of his abdomen – a tube which had been there for 14 years – so yes, his core strength has been greatly compromised. The doctor informed us that we’ll be much more in the clear (infection wise) at the 6 week marker.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ll even begin to exhale until we reach 6 weeks.  Hope feels very fickle right now, and I’m not trusting it at all. I know I have to let some of these walls of protection fall, but it is hard. We’ve done everything we can possibly do as Luke’s parents – hydrogen peroxide on his wounds, feeding him healthy foods full of hidden nutrition, Vit D drops, Vit C, Gaba to keep him calm, magnesium to help him sleep, washing his blankie and bed constantly, we’ve done it all but at the end of the day, this is a child with profound special needs who we can’t reason with, and if he’s interested in playing with his wounds with his grimy fingers (he also puts his fingers in his mouth all the time) he’s going to do it.  Every meal, as he sits in his feeding chair, I look at the scar on his head and envision tiny little angels scrubbing away all the germs with tiny little sponges, and I pray, protect my boy from infection and protect our family from any more trauma and then I say –

“But you are God, and I am not.  Thy will be done.”

Thank you for checking in on us. Links for any of the products I mentioned are below.

(Jess Ronne is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.)

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Just keep livin.

 

 

 

To the Medical Mama – I See You.

How many times have Ryan and I watched from a distance – mostly online – as a special needs family spent weeks or even months in the hospital with their child, and we said to each other – gosh, that’s gotta be hard. We had a limited understanding of how difficult an ordeal like that could be because Luke has been extremely healthy for many years – healthy until now – our 25th day spent in the hospital.

Now we know how hard it is; we know on a personal level. We’re aware that it involves trying to determine how a non verbal child is feeling or reacting to a particular treatment. It includes stiff muscles from sedation & sleeping on hospital cots & sleep deprivation from vital checks & rounds. It involves depleting the savings account because of days missed at work & stress related problems & nutritional deficiencies because our meal options primarily consist of Taco Bell or Pizza Hut. It’s depression & ptsd & loneliness & marital disconnect & siblings who misbehave because they need attention too and a house that hasn’t been cleaned in a month & rotting fruit & veggies because of absentee parents & piles of laundry & bills & vehicles that require servicing because of extra miles driving back and forth and back and forth, and exhaustion on a level where in your quietest moments you wonder if you might die.

My passion in life is to bring awareness to the struggles special needs families face. It’s why I started The Lucas Project – to bring public awareness to the problem and then provide a solution.

I couldn’t personally speak into the medical mom struggle before this journey because it wasn’t my story, but it is now, and I will lend my voice – honestly and vulnerably to the conversation in order to bring awareness to the silent warriors tucked away – rocking themselves into a disrupted sleep, penning updates for the masses; those hiding behind cords & beeping machines & very sick children.

I see you.

I see you
I see you.
I see you.

Solidarity & peace & love my friends ❤️

Simple Ways to Support Special Needs Caregivers

Anger, guilt, anxiety, depression, stress and exhaustion. Pick a word – special needs caregivers experience it. Not seasonally nor occasionally but daily.  I do with 8 kids; one, my 15 year old son Lucas who has profound special needs which include limited mobility, speech, and incontinence. I’m not sure I know how to relax anymore or even dare try to because the second I sit down and finally exhale there will be another task beckoning – probably immediately – and I’ve discovered that it’s more difficult to rebound out of relaxation mode than to simply continue, head down, in stressed out mode.

We could all use a helping hand – a friend or a stranger who gives us a tiny boost of encouragement when we need it the most. Consider the caregivers in your life and then offer to help in a tangible way. Perhaps one of the following simple suggestions might lift their burden a bit.

1. We are lonely and as we crawl deeper into our loneliness we often struggle with anxiety and depression. Many times we are excluded from gatherings because of the special needs factor or we decline an invitation because the excursion will be difficult in our unique circumstances. We know it will be overwhelmingly exhausting if we show up so we save our limited supplies of energy for our families, but we do long for community. If we invite you over, please come! And please offer to bring something. We are desperate for human companionship and really want to make friends but excuse our initial awkwardness. For most of us it’s probably been awhile since we’ve had the opportunity to use our social skills.

2. Offer to watch our kids for a few hours so we can take a break -even the scary kid. Sorry, bad joke but I get it! Luke would be intimidating if I didn’t know him. Ask questions. A lot of these kids have really simple familiar routines, and if you stick to the routine, they’re content.

3. Sit with us and let us vent. Don’t try to fix our problems or understand or pray it away. Just listen and empathize – which is not offering solutions but looks more like “I’m so sorry, how can I help?”

4. Exhaustion is part of life as a caregiver. All the little extras that people do are greatly appreciated because we we are being seen. We feel invisible the majority of the time. Stop by with pizza or dinner or gather a crew from church to clean our house or accomplish yard work. We will be so grateful.

5. If we have other kids, and most of us do, we LOVE for them to enjoy all the fun normal activities such as: football games, sleepovers, birthday parties, dodge ball games at church, bowling, and the list could go on and on. We want these activities for our kids, but it’s often difficult to get our typical kids to and fro with our special needs situation. It takes a lot of extra work to bring Luke anywhere and with his sensory issues most of these fun options are not practical. We are okay(ish) with staying home with our child, but we don’t want our other kids to constantly miss out. Please offer to take them and bring them home if possible. This is a huge help in our life and leaves us feeling a little less guilty.

6. Encourage your church or any tribe you belong to in the community to step in and support these families. A few examples include: a week long summer respite camp, a special day of VBS, a monthly break to serve the community, or a love offering to purchase a family some needed equipment for their child. The possibilities are endless.

7. Finally, if you’re going to offer to pray (or bless my heart in the South) please offer to DO. Prayers have little value if not followed up with something tangible.

That’s it.  I hope these suggestions helped a little bit.  Knowledge is power and when we know we do better.

Just keep livin!

See Me Too – A Caregiver’s Plea

Dear mama with normal children,

Normal? Typical?
What’s politically correct you might wonder?
As do I and –
What is normal anyway?
Honestly, I’m not sure because I’m tired.
And I don’t spend my free time on political jargon
And I definitely don’t sleep well
And most of my waking hours I’m caring for someone else
Or finding resources that will hopefully make our life a little bit easier someday.
Someday – a day that feels more and more like a unicorn lately.
You see, I’m a special needs mama to a 15 year old son.
And no, it’s not politically correct to call myself that
Because I am more than just special needs
Or so they say
But am I?
Because a pretty high percentage of my life revolves around my child and what we can or can’t do because of his limitations.
I often see you and your beautiful typical functioning children out and about in the world, and I’m envious.
Yes, I said that out loud.
And I’m not supposed to say those words because I have my miracle baby.
The child the experts said would never live
So there’s always guilt attached
To my envy. Continue reading “See Me Too – A Caregiver’s Plea”

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