There’s never a dull moment in the Martin household. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted- about 4 months to be exact. The summer was filled with complete chaos, packing an entire house, getting the kids set up with their new school, physically moving, remodeling and starting a new job. On top of all that, Greyson began having some pretty serious seizures again.
Part of the reason why we moved to our new town, was because the school district is wonderful for ASD and special needs kiddos. Greyson’s teacher in particular is VERY knowledgeable and has been doing this for some time. She has lots of experience with children who have complex medical backgrounds, behavioral issues and kids that require the specific ABA/Intensive Teaching programs. We went to G’s IEP meeting in August and were very impressed by the district and the special education program and knew that we made the best choice possible for the kids. The kids started school in August and until the end of September, Greyson was really thriving in the classroom and was really enjoying the bus ride to and from school. Because masks are “required” in the district, many children don’t wear them because of “medical exemptions”, which has caused several COVID outbreaks and quarantining for children. Both Roslynn and Greyson started with fevers, sore throats and nasty coughs at the end of September. Within a week, I had two sick kids home from school and a phone call from the school nurse stating that Greyson was directly exposed by a child in his class, who tested positive for COVID. Great. Turns out (a positive note for living in the middle of Amish country) is that COVID tests are easier to get via a pharmacy, so Roslynn, Greyson and Derek all got tested within 3 days of eachother. Good thing the tests were all negative and the kids could return to school a few days later. I was going crazy trying to work from home, take care of sick kids and get things done around the house, making it nearly impossible to have any down time for my own personal wellness. Out of all three, Greyson definitely got the virus a lot harder than Derek or Roslynn, probably because he gets febrile seizures if his temperature goes above 100.4 degrees (which happened a few times during this sickness).
Since the febrile seizure during his illness, Greyson has been having a very difficult time with behaviors, sleep and seizures. Especially this week, he has had several partial and two tonic clonic episodes, where he has stopped breathing. Fortunately, Greyson’s school has their stuff together and were on top of the tonic clonic seizure he had earlier this week. I received a phone call from the school nurse around 9:45 am, about an hour into my work day, letting me know that Greyson was having a serious seizure at school and was going to be transported via ambulance to the local hospital. I sprinted out the door and was at the school within 5 minutes to make sure he was okay. I walked into the classroom and found it filled with EMS, police and school staff, all tending to Greyson, who was knocked out cold on the floor. Turns out, he went completely limp/droopy on his right side and began to lose his coordination, until he eventually began convulsing on the floor. After 5 minutes, he got his emergency medicine and slowly stopped convulsing after a few minutes. In total, he was actively having a seizure for about 9 minutes, which is long for Greyson. At the hospital, staff and other patients in the ER didn’t really know how to respond to Greyson. It will forever surprise me that a professional medical facility does not have the knowledge or appropriate skills to work with individuals who have severe ASD, intellectual disabilities or behavioral concerns. They checked Greyson’s vitals and waited for him to return to his baseline, then drew some labs to check for anything out of the norm. After a few hours, we were finally able to go home to rest. Though parents of a special needs child never rest.
Battling insurance companies and pharmacies is a skill that both Derek and I are really becoming great at, so we began playing phone tag all afternoon with the neurologist/insurance/pharmacy/ER doc to get a secondary medication for seizures approved and filled. Once evening came, we were still waiting for the neurologist’s office to send the prescription over to the pharmacy. I thought Derek was going to stand at the CVS until the med was filled and in his hands. Luckily, we got the medicine and Greyson started his “emergency” supply, specially authorized by the insurance company because Derek flipped out on them.
All the excitement from the day must have made Greyson extremely hungry, because I sat him at the table and he actually ate something other than chicken nuggets! Though it was only a few bites of ziti, I was so impressed with his table behavior and appetite.
With the end of this ridiculously long week coming to a close, I realized several things. Derek and I are nice, caring and considerate people until we have to team up and be the pushy parents. The second realization is that we moved at the perfect time to the perfect district for the kids, especially for Greyson and the autism program he’s enrolled in. Though we are stressed constantly, exhausted everyday and never have time for ourselves or each other, we really are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to advocating for our kids.
When I sit to write a post, I’m typically doing so while Greyson is napping, or in the middle of one of my insomnia episodes at 2 AM. I have had my fair share of insomnia episodes over the past month, I have not written a post. So much has happened over the past month, I keep waiting for things to calm down before I can process them and put our life experiences into words. Unfortunately, I can’t forsee our lives calming down anytime in the near future, so chaos writing it is.
Well, first and foremost, Roslynn celebrated her 6th birthday on May 29. She finished kindergarten on the 28th, which was the same day as my sister’s wedding. What a week it was! Squeezing one last full week of schooling into two days, a rehearsal dinner, wedding, dance recital AND a birthday pretty much ran us down to empty by memorial day. Roslynn was a flower girl at my sister’s wedding, and I was SO impressed at how well she did at the rehearsal and actual ceremony. She and my niece literally started the dancing at the reception and they were certainly the hit of the dance floor! We had such a great time with friends and family, and my sister looked gorgeous. Greyson was an honorary ring bearer, but because of his epilepsy and severe needs, he stayed home and had a nice mini staycation with his Pappy. I must admit, it was so nice to have time away where Derek and I could act like a couple, and it was nice to feel like a “normal” family, even for just a few hours. I know that sounds like something a parent shouldn’t say, but for Derek and I to have a few hours to not worry about chasing after Greyson, worrying about him having a seizure, or what he has in his mouth, was liberating in a way. I did miss him a lot when we left and checked in regularly with Pappy. He was extremely happy to see us once we got home and could snuggle with him.
Things were going fairly well until the end of May. Greyson started having seizures again the week before the wedding, so his neurologist increased his medications for seizure control. He seemed to do okay for a week or so, but has been having frequent seizures since his initial breakthrough in May. Duke came down with a mysterious infection a few days after we picked him up from the kennel, where we boarded him while we were participating in wedding activities. About a day or so when we picked him up, we noticed his hair was falling out a good bit, but I assumed this was because he had a bath at the groomer before bringing him home. By Friday of that week, I noticed that Duke was really biting/scratching at himself, particularly around his ears and neck. Derek and I determined that we would call the vet on Monday morning and see what the deal was with the itching.
Monday morning came and I called the vet’s office at 9 am when they opened. Well, I called for hours and no messages could be left on the machine and I couldn’t get anyone to respond by phone, via facebook messenger or by email. I later found that the office had been closed due to an emergency, so I had to wait until Tuesday morning. Once I finally got someone on the phone on Tuesday, all appointments were booked until Thursday. At this point, Duke’s neck, left side of his face, eyes and several areas on his body were visibly infected. I tried other vet offices for a sooner appointment, but everyone was booked. I scheduled for Thursday with his vet, but something deep down was telling me not to wait, that this could not wait any longer. After calling around and doing some research, I found a newer emergency curbside vet in Lancaster and gave them a call. Luckily, they could see him that evening, so off he went to the vet. After several tests and observation, the vet was ready to send Duke home with two medications and some follow-up lab work orders to be completed after his medicine was gone. Along with the infected hot spot on his neck, that spread to several parts of his body, he also has a condition in his kidneys that dilutes urine too much. Not sure if there is a cure or what we can do about it at this point, but we will follow-up with the vet once we are finished with the meds. The vet said it was a good idea that we didn’t wait, because the infection could have been much worse by the Thursday vet appointment.
Throughout the entire dog ordeal, my concern was getting Duke back to 100% ASAP. With Greyson having seizures frequently again, we need the dog to show us when Greyson is going to have one, or is having one. We gave him lots of TLC, hugs, treats and let him sleep in the big bed with us until he started feeling better. Though he has many bald spots that have remained on random parts of his body, we are so relieved that he is feeling better and is on the mend.
Greyson continues to have these partial seizures, which seemed to only impact the one side of his face. Up until yesterday, Greyson had not had a full tonic-clonic seizure in a few months and we knew that the partial seizures lasted for a few minutes, but stopped on their own most of the time. Not that they aren’t concerning, but we were getting pretty confident that we knew what to do and how to manage these partial seizures. Last evening however, Greyson had a severe tonic-clonic drop seizure, which is when the person with epilepsy falls mid-activity and slips into a complete state of unconsciousness. This has happened once before to Greyson, back in July of 2019 when we were on our family vacation. He dropped onto the floor while eating chips and went into a full tonic-clonic seizure. Similar to that event, last evening, Greyson also dropped (luckily on the bed, so he was not injured from the fall) and began having a full tonic-clonic episode. The difference with this episode was that Greyson immediately began to turn blue: first in the lips, then his limbs. I knew that this seizure wouldn’t stop on its own, so we gave him the emergency seizure medication. About 20-30 seconds later, he was up and aware of what had just happened.
I continue to glue all of the possible triggers together, so we can avoid or try to help him before these happen, but it seems like a completely different issue each time. Whether it be heat, lights, headache, extreme tiredness, hyperactivity or lack of medicine, the possible triggers are endless. I try to be a patient, understanding and informed parent when it comes to my son’s medical needs and concerns; however, after almost 5 years of medical and behavioral concerns, I am quickly losing hope that we will ever find someone who can truly help us. I constantly remind myself that there are individuals out there that have children who are far worse off than Greyson is, and that we could have it so much worse than we currently do. That is always my drive and motivation to keep pushing on and to fight/advocate for him and his needs. As much as we think we know about Greyson and his conditions, there is so much we don’t know. That’s why it is so important that we keep going, keep pushing and keep the faith, despite it being in low supply at the moment.
As we get closer and closer to settlement and move-in day for our new house, we also get closer to the peak of the summer. I think of how much better things will be for our family once we have space to move around and not be confined to the living room, which serves as our play room, tv room and dining area. Once we survive the hellish heatwave we are experiencing this week, one can only hope that the remainder of the summer is calm, cool(er) and at least a little collected.
Déjà vu. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know that it can be extremely confusing and weird. I have had issues with déjà vu for as long as I can remember. I definitely feel like I get it a lot more often than most people. I always chalked it up to me just being really in-tune with my memory and surroundings. But if you look up why a person experiences déjà vu, you may find the following explanation:
People who are exhausted or stressed tend to experience déjà vu more. This is probably because fatigue and stress are connected with what likely causes most cases of déjà vu: memory.
Totally makes sense! The concept of déjà vu itself is so confusing, but the sensation one feels when they have the “Ah-Ha” moment, is truly unsettling. At least for me. I hate standing in a moment, knowing that I have been in this exact place under the exact circumstances, but not being able to pinpoint where or when I was in that moment. Oh how the brain plays such tricks on us.
We have been living in a déjà vu haze over the past two weeks, when Greyson began having grand mal seizures again. We had a period where things were going really well when he was just on the medical marijuana, but once his most recent EEG showed that he needed to go back on seizure meds, it seemed like everything that was going well, slowly unraveled.
Greyson’s grand mal seizures this time around have changed a lot. His typical tonic clonic seizures began in May 2017 and impacted his entire left side of his body. For those keeping track, that is the side his port-wine stain is on. But if the left side of his brain was impacted by the vascular birthmark, wouldn’t the right side of his body be seizing, not the left? And why does it seem like it’s just the left side of his face twitching, too?
I feel like every spring we jump back about 6-9 months in his progression. Seems that every time the weather begins to get nice, the seizures come more frequently. Greyson’s inconsistent behaviors and the recent increase in seizure activity, always makes me scared to leave him. He spends almost every waking moment on or extremely close by me, even sleeping with me at night so I can wake up and take care of him if he begins seizing at night.
On Saturday, we celebrated my younger sister Becca, who is getting married next Friday. The bridesmaids and some of her friends all got together and we did an Escape room and painted pottery before going out to dinner. It was such a fun time and I had a blast hanging with my sisters and Becca’s friends. I realized that it was my first time in over a year that I had gone out and done anything fun and it was almost two years since I went out for dinner somewhere. I never noticed how much time had passed among the pandemic, the kids, maintaining a house and managing to keep appointments, therapies and everyday functions running smoothly. Looking back, it feels like forever since I was able to relax and enjoy time to myself. And enjoying the day was great, but I couldn’t escape the feeling of being on edge every time I thought of Greyson.
I’m sure I will be even more on edge next week, when Derek, Roslynn and I are at the rehearsal dinner and wedding. Greyson will be in great hands (spending the time with Pappy!), but Duke will be at the kennel and with the increase in seizures, the dog not being around is worrisome. Pappy is great and knows how to do Greyson’s meds if needed, but no matter who he’s with, I always worry about my baby. Regardless, I am hoping we can have some fun, enjoy the evening and relax.
The next few months are going to be crazy busy. We will be moving into our new house in September, and packing up 7 years of stuff from our current home is going to take a lot of time and energy. I am not one to procrastinate, quite the opposite actually, so I anticipate everything will be packed and ready to go by then. I hope. Lots of changes are coming: marriages, birthdays, moving and selling houses, a new school year and hopefully returning to work. I’m hopeful that we can get G’s meds figured out so it’s one less thing to worry about come fall.
In the summer of 2020, we were nominated to have a wish granted from the Make-a-Wish foundation for Greyson. At first, we thought about maybe going on a trip, but with COVID and his seizures not being under control, we decided to askk for something that would last awhile. Greyson has a huge swingset at his Grammy and Pappy’s house, so we already knew that he loved to be outside and loved swingsets. SO naturally, his wish would be a playset of his own for our house.
It felt like forever from the time of initial contact until we were finally picking out a swingset for Greyson. Over the course of a few months and tons of emails/phone calls back and forth, we finally picked a set and had a delivery time frame. Flash forward about 4 months and Greyson’s wish has been granted!
The swingset arrived on Wednesday, April 21st and as soon as it was assembled, Greyson was practically crawling out the door to go play. He has been outside every single day to play on it. We knew he was going to love the swingset, so we are incredibly blessed that the Susquehanna Valley Make-a-Wish was able to grant him this wonderful gift.
Despite a swingset and spending time outside, Greyson has had a tough couple of weeks. He reached his ideal dose of Lamictal shortly after my last post and continued to have issues despite the medication. Due to his frequent seizures while asleep, Greyson began sleeping in bed with me again about 2 months ago. He woke me up on Tuesday last week, with violent convulsions and twitching. Luckily I am a light sleeper and woke up to the movement and was able to monitor him.
On Thursday, Roslynn had a benchmark test for school around 9 am. While she was taking her test, I received a phone call from Greyson’s school, stating that Greyson had fallen asleep after a lengthy seizure and was unresponsive. I jumped in the car and made it to his school within 15 minutes (tyically a 20-25 min drive). When the school staff brought him out to the car, he was accompanied by EMS, the school nurse, his teacher and his personal care assistant. The EMS staff informed me that he was stable and his pulse oxygen level was okay and he was in a deep post-seizure nap (which happens after any seizure of his). I got him into the car and took him home immediately. Derek was working from home that day, so he was able to stay with Roslynn, so that helped me in getting there quickly. Once he got home, I fed him lunch and laid low for the afternoon until his RBT arrived. He didn’t seem like anything was wrong once he woke up, so I was feeling pretty confident that he was not having any issues and was okay to go outside to play.
Greyson wasn’t the only person in the Martin family to have a wish come true this past week. Derek and I began looking for a new house in 2018, mainly due to the fact that we outgrew our house shortly after moving in. Because I lost my job last spring, we put our search on hold until we knew we would be ready to proceed with selling our house and purchasing a new home. We began viewing houses again in early March and by this past weekend, we saw a total of 9 houses and had an offer placed on one, which we lost to another couple who offered more money than we did. I did not feel very optimistic on many of the houses we saw, or the homes that we were finding on Zillow, Realtor.com or from our agent.
Wednesday last week, we were sent a listing for a home in New Holland, PA, which was our ideal location due to the school district of the area. We pulled into a quiet cul-de-sac, tucked in between main street and farmland and immediately were in love with the neighborhood. Expecting to fall in love with the house and to lose it to another bidder, we walked through and confirmed our fate. We peeked around another home in Stevens, PA that we liked as well, but couldn’t get the thought of the previous home out of our minds. We slept on it, and decided to place an offer on the New Holland house. A few hours later, we got a call from our agent and the sellers accepted our offer! It feels like a century since we began looking and now actually having a contract in hand, but we are so excited! We will have plenty of space inside AND outside for the kids, lots of storage and a huge fenced-in yard for the dog! We settle in mid-July and will physically move into the house in September. This gives us plenty of time to do minor things around our current home and get it on the market to sell, too. Guess this was the week for wishes to come true!
If you haven’t heard the story, Mr. Tickle by Roger Hargreaves, you are missing out. I absolutely love the Mr. Men book series, and this story in particular always reminds me of Greyson, since he absolutely loves tickles. Mr. Tickle also has a way of making everything completely inconvenient for others due to his love of tickling, but luckily for us, I am not ticklish and Greyson likes receiving those tickles. Interesting enough, our pastor recently read Mr. Fussy as part of his sermon a few weeks ago. He used the connection of Mr. Fussy with a gospel reading where Jesus explains to his disciples the outcome of his life. Mr. Fussy loves to be in control of everything and is so particular about every detail of his life, it seems like utter chaos when his cousin, Mr. Clumsy comes to visit. In the true fashion of a person with OCD, losing control of a situation or any hiccup in the person’s “perfect” world, can cause severe internal panic and uneasiness. I know, because my life has been a complete hiccup since Greyson’s diagnosis journey began and you know there’s not enough Sertraline in the world to calm my nerves. Our pastor goes on to discuss how his life is a lot like the life of Mr. Fussy, with the world only feeling content when he is in complete control of it.
Why does this all matter? Well, about a year or so ago, Derek and I were discussing the benefits of Greyson having an iPad with Proloquo on it, to aid in his communication efforts. We both knew a few clients who used Proloquo to communicate with others and express wants/needs, but we knew that we would need a new iPad to run such an extensive app. After months of research and learning about the program, our hopes of getting the program for Greyson was fading, since the iPad, app and case for the tablet would be about $1,000. And who has that kind of money just hanging around? When Derek was at our church recording a worship service, he was voicing to our pastor and his daughter, the program and the possibility of Proloquo helping Greyson and our wonderful congregation pulled together money to provide us with a grant to fund all the necessary items for the program. We purchased the tablet, program and case and programmed the essentials- Proloquo, Disney Plus and Youtube. In Proloquo, you can personalize the buttons to have pictures instead of just words, so Greyson could associate the button with the picture, since he isn’t able to read. I set the photos to all of his commonly requested/needed items: drink, food, Mom, Dad, Roslynn, Grandparents, about 50 different Disney movies and of course, Tickles.
Neither Derek or I knew how to introduce Proloquo to a child since we have no Speech/Language training and have a limited knowledge of sign language, so we brainstormed with his ABA therapist how we were going to use the tablet in his daily sessions. We put the two main reinforcers for Greyson on the main screen, so he could request them whenever he wanted to: Gummy Bear and Tickle. I was optimistic to see Greyson taking to the tablet right away and with some help, was able to push and request to be tickled. Roslynn also got a kick out of showing Greyson how to push the button and get a tickle or gummy bear in response. Soon, this became a daily request/tickle match between the two. I was so excited to see them interact with eachother and it was great to see Roslynn respond to Greyson’s request. We are so incredibly fortunate to belong to such a wonderful congregation that truly cares about each and every person who comes into the church. We have been very blessed with a small, but mighty roster of members and they have been so supportive and amazing throughout our difficulties and our joys.
Greyson has been obsessed with corn lately. The people at the grocery store probably think that I am crazy, since I usually am buying 4 to 5 bags of frozen corn each week. He eats one bag of corn each afternoon when he gets home from school, along with his vegetable chicken nuggets. It seems like he always finds a food to become fixated on, it lasts about two or three weeks, then he never touches the food again. We are starting week 3 of the corn obsession, so I will let you know how it turns out. Earlier this year, the school psychologist told us that Greyson was functioning at about a 9 to 12 month level. I never realized how much he had regressed in some of his skills until I was watching him try to eat corn with a spoon. He was making a lot of progress with silverware when he was in early intervention, but over the past year or so, he refuses to try and use it. I was surprised when I put a bowl of corn in front of him with a spoon, and he began to use it.
I sat across from Greyson at the dining room table, teary eyed, watching him eat the corn. Here I am, watching this sweet little boy try so hard to eat with his silverware, but struggling with every scoop of the spoon. I took a short video of him to show Derek, and in hopes that I could find an older video of him using silverware to compare this one with. I wasn’t going to share the video, but I think it’s important to see how much he is struggling with these skills that he once had. I reviewed older videos of him from before he was having seizures, to this video and there truly is no comparison. A 10-month old Greyson was using utensils much easier than the now, almost five year-old Greyson sitting across from me. I figured be had regressed a good bit after the first few seizures, but flash forward 10-15 large seizures later, and he is a totally different child.
The new seizure meds he is currently taking has been helping a lot when it comes to his daytime episodes. We have noticed his “twitching” when falling asleep has gotten significantly better as well. We are hopeful that once the meds are all leveled out, we will be seeing his verbal communication efforts take off. For now, we will take what we can get, enjoy time together and push forward to the future.
COVID-19 really messed up our ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) services Greyson had been receiving for the past 2 1/2 years. Effective mid-March, the company we were using was told that they would be stopping all in-home services, including services provided by BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) and RBT (Registered Behavior Technician) providers. Greyson’s primary insurance (who was in-network with the ABA provider) was set to term on 3/31/2020 anyway, so we considered this a sign to find another provider that participated with his new insurance. We consulted with our family care coordinator at Greyson/Roslynn’s Psychiatric provider’s office, and she had recommended we submit a request to the insurance for a new provider. By mid-April, I was receiving notification that Greyson was going to start services with a new agency, Pennsylvania Comprehensive Behavioral Health (PCBH). I did the intake phone call with a Behavior Specialist Consultant (BSC) and had a few phone consultations with her until I requested clarification on the prescription that was sent over by Greyson’s psychiatrist. We had been under the assumption that G was recommended for ABA services, rather than IBHS (Intensive Behavioral Health Services), which was notated correctly on the prescription. Our family care coordinator contacted PCBH and we were set up with a BCBA almost immediately after the phone call was placed.
Through the months of May and June, all BCBA contact was being held via Zoom, which is helpful in some ways, but not if you are trying to provide one-on-one support for a highly anxious child, who has serious SIB (self-injury behaviors). Our BCBA (I will call her “J” for privacy reasons), finally was cleared to come out to the house last Friday, which was her first true interaction with Greyson. She informed Derek and I that our new RBT (I will call him “D” for privacy, too) would be starting services with Greyson effective (this past) Monday. This was a much needed sigh of relief, as I have been home alone with him for the past four, almost five months, with barely any behavioral support.
Greyson had been acting odd over the past week or two, so I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t really want to interact with J, or play with her. He did not show many behaviors during her one-hour meet & greet, but it was later in the afternoon, when he is typically calming down for a movie, while I cook dinner. I reassured J that she should not expect him to behave like this, because he typically has a lot of energy and a lot of needs.
Monday rolled around and I was nervous for the new RBT to start. I always am typically nervous when new people come out, only because I’m afraid of what they will think of our crazy, dysfunctional little family. Luckily, J was coming out with D for the first time, so she could introduce us and get us acquainted with each other. Greyson was asleep when they both arrived. He had a tough weekend of little sleep and a medication adjustment, which had thrown him off and provided a bumpy start to the week. Greyson slept almost the entire time that D and J were out at the house, only waking up the last 45-minutes of the session and visibly annoyed people were here talking about him. Thankfully, Derek had come home by that point and was here to help Greyson’s transition from sleep to being awake, which has been terrible over the past week or so. D was able to see Greyson semi-happy and semi-awake, with little whining, but still fairly lethargic. Again, I reassured D that this was not the typical Greyson and to definitely expect him to be different tomorrow. Tuesday D came out at his scheduled time and Greyson had woken up from his nap about 10-minutes before his arrival. I was hoping he was going to have a good session, but sadly I was wrong. Greyson was fussy, exhausted, not eating (not that this isn’t an ongoing issue) and was not feeling the urge to do much of anything except lay on the floor, groaning whenever we tried to interact with him. I thought this was a little odd, but didn’t think too much of it, maybe just because he had sleep to catch up on from the weekend.
Tuesday evening, Greyson had an even worse night. He was up frequently and was extremely aggressive, both physically and verbally, but felt the need to wake up the entire household and our very kind neighbors next door, with his loud shrieking and pounding on the walls with his fists. I felt like something was causing him to act this way, not because of denied access or demands being placed on him, the reasons for majority of his tantrums, but because of something more complex. Feeling horrible for Derek who had to be up for work in a matter of a few hours, I took Greyson down to the living room and told Derek to get some sleep. I was able to finally calm G down by 6 am, which was perfect for my favorite morning news show, Morning Joe which I can never watch peacefully while the children are awake. Both kids slept until about 10 am, which is seriously unheard of, but I soaked it all in while I could.
Weekly, Roslynn participates in a one-hour play therapy session via Zoom with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, so she can work on appropriate turn taking, learning coping skills and just to chat with someone regarding how her brother’s disability impacts her and our family. I typically try to join in these sessions, so that I can help keep her on task and to connect with the therapist regarding how she has been progressing and any new concerns we have regarding her. This Wednesday was odd. I knew something didn’t feel right. We had grown accustomed to our typical routine over the past few months, always having G’s emergency medications on hand, but never really expecting to have to use them, since his last BIG seizure happened in September 2019. But of course, just when things become comfortable, that’s when the storm hits.
I noticed that Greyson was extremely lethargic, grumpy and was extremely sensitive to me being around, touching or evening talking to him. I did not want to push him and cause a tantrum during Roslynn’s session, so I put on Moana, which has been his favorite go-to movie over the past few months, and gave him some juice and grapes to keep him content. While I was adjusting the sofa pillows like the OCD maniac I am, I noticed Greyson’s hands and feet had a blue hue to them, similar to the shade of blue he turns when a tonic-clonic seizure is coming on. Greyson was laying down on his little Mickey Mouse cot, when I noticed his hands and feet. I went over to him to touch them, just to confirm that he wasn’t blue due to being cold. He was warm, even borderline hot.
I immediately called Derek and voiced my concerns. He was working from his Church office in Lancaster, about 15 minutes away (10 if you drive like Derek typically does). I have never been home alone with G when he had a tonic-clonic seizure, so I wanted to be sure Derek knew what was going on, in case I needed to call 911 and arrange someone to watch Roslynn. I was also extremely nervous and scared. Like clockwork, as soon as I hung up the phone, G began to have muscle tightness and minor spasms in between the episodes of muscle stiffness. He was coming in and out of consciousness and attempted to stand up and walk in between these spells. He appeared extremely dizzy, almost in a drunken state, falling over himself and walking in a manner that made it look like he had spent too much time on a merry-go-round. The spasms continued for over 30-minutes. I didn’t think it was necessary to give him his emergency medication because he was able to pull himself together between the episodes of muscle stiffness and attempting to walk. I was unsure if this was actually a seizure or if it was something else, but as soon as he was done, he fell asleep for four hours. He typically gets exhausted after a seizure, so his long slumber confirmed my fear.
Mr. Duke was by his side the entire afternoon. As Greyson slept comfortably on his Mickey Mouse cot in the living room, Duke climbed on and acted as a “big spoon”, in the popular big spoon/little spoon technique. D came out to the house in the midst of the craziness and had to leave 15-minutes into Greyson’s sleep (insurance and company policy reasons) and I knew that waking G up at this time was NOT going to go well. I allowed Greyson to rest comfortably, constantly monitoring him until Derek got home later in the afternoon. I became so comfortable with not having to “worry” about G having a seizure, since he had been (tonic-clonic) seizure-free for a few months, that I forgot the warning signs and the typical behaviors he (and Duke) show before a big one. The past two weeks were a giant build-up just leading up to the seizure. Increased aggression, hyperactivity, self-injury, crying, fussiness and no appetite should have alerted me that something was coming. Something big.
Flash forward to 5:30 pm last evening. Greyson woke up a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHILD.It was as if Greyson’s brain received an electric shock and completely recharged itself. He was happy, energetic, laughing again and actually ate 2 slices of pizza for dinner, the most food he had eaten all week so far. I was hopeful that the newly recharged Greyson would last, but I didn’t expect him to last all night. As we slept, Greyson went through a handful of Disney movies, ate two bags of regular M&M’s (and maybe another slice or two of pizza), and managed to keep himself occupied from 11 pm until 4 am, when he finally fell asleep. He was legitimately happy and content with everything and anything. It was not like the Greyson we have had for the past few months. Despite the limited sleep, it has been a much needed change to our daily routine, which typically consists of hours and hours of crying/headbanging day in and day out.
The seizure yesterday also reminded me that every single day is a new day and we should always treat it as such. We never know what will happen or when, but we always need to be on alert for a potential event such as yesterday. We are not naive. We know that this “freshly recharged” Greyson will not last. He may be here with us for a few more days, a week or so, maybe even only a few more hours, as we never know when another build-up will begin. We do know that he will most likely have another build-up over the next few weeks, but we will enjoy the “Happy Greyson” and very chatty (gibberish speaking) boy as long as it lasts.
It seems that Roslynn and Duke are enjoying “Happy Greyson”, as well.
In the spring of 2018, Greyson was written a prescription for a fitted medical-grade helmet, to keep his head safe from the headbanging he does. In 2018, his headbanging was minimal- typically only when he was mad or upset about something and it didn’t last very long. Fast forward to December 2019 and his minimal headbanging turned into severe headbanging, leaving marks on his forehead, even severe bruising. He began to headbang even when he was happy, which Derek and I assumed was a sensory output that we needed to get under control.
He began to really hurt himself in early 2020, which prompted our doctor to write another prescription for a second fitted helmet (his first helmet had bit the dust in summer 2019). Due to still being employed by WellSpan in January, I was encouraged to go through a WellSpan medical supply company to get his helmet. I contacted their office and had the pediatrician’s office fax over the prescription. We then waited for any correspondance from the supply office, which seemed to take abnormally long. Every time I would call, there were lots of different people I was transferred to, nobody knew the status of the helmet and couldn’t figure out what the hold up was. I had extra time on my hands in early March, after I was no longer employed, so I decided to get mean about the order. I contacted the higher ups from the medical supply company and spoke with the manager of the individual responsible for Greyson’s helmet order. I informed her that I had been calling for over 2 months, trying to get the helmet status and that we were in dire need of the helmet, due to an increase in self-injury. Within an hour, I had a return phone call from the staff responsible for the order. The staff member stated that he had attempted to contact me twice by phone in the past two weeks, which was not true, or else I would have taken his call and had Greyson’s helmet in hand. After voicing my concern and informing the staff that this was a long overdue order, I was taking measurements for Greyson’s new helmet.
Due to COVID19, the supply company was closed to the public. I had received the staff member’s personal cellphone number and had a detailed update when the helmet was ordered, shipped and received. Though I truly try to be level headed and kind, sometimes it does pay off to be nasty, I guess.
The helmet came in on a Tuesday and was picked up by my in-laws the same day (they lived closer to the supply company than we do). Back in 2018 when we were using the helmet for his minimal headbanging, any time we brought the helmet out, Greyson stopped hurting himself almost immediately. But as his self-injury increased, simply showing him the helmet no longer worked. We did not have Greyson wear his helmet at all hours of the day, as he was really only needing it when he was transitioning between activities and when he upset (which is when the headbanging was really happening).
June began with another change in our family’s schedule, I started to work again. Prior to working, I enjoyed three months of being a stay-at-home mom and had both Greyson and Roslynn on a consistent schedule. Greyson’s tantrums had decreased and he appeared to be happy and content with the schedule we had established. When I began working, even though it was part-time from home, Greyson’s schedule was completely thrown off. He no longer had a set breakfast/lunch time and no longer settled for a nap around 11:30am-12pm like he had done for the past 3 months.
Fast forward to this past Thursday. I was feeling really good about scheduling and the tasks of the new position, but I knew that they kids were both having a difficult time with the change. I finished working at 1 pm on Thursday and came downstairs to hang out with the kids and get them a snack. We had no furniture in our livingroom because we had a new sofa set ordered and pending arrival. The kids LOVED the extra space in the room, running around and taking advantage of the empty area. I thought Greyson was pretty low-key and mellow Thursday afternoon, even falling asleep around 3 pm, which wasn’t typical of him. I chalked this up to him being tired and not having a nap yet, so I let him lay down for awhile.
I woke Greyson up from his nap around 5 pm, before I made dinner and he was his typical “threenager” self, not wanting to wake up. Us trying to wake him continued well into dinner, then well into the nightly news. Around 6:45 pm, I told Derek that he (Greyson) had to get up and eat something, since he didn’t have snack for me earlier in the afternoon. Derek sat next to Greyson and began to rub his back, neck and head to wake him up. Startled, Derek jumped up and said that something was wrong with Greyson. I immediately thought that maybe he was having a seizure, so I was surprised that he was awake and walking when I looked up. Derek brought G over to me and told me to feel his head. I did. I was shocked. Greyson’s head felt like Jello. I couldn’t feel any sort of skull. Just softness.
Being the Queen of WebMD and Google, I looked up “Why is my child’s head soft”, which only returned articles and information about newborns and their soft spots. Having given up on the internet, I called the pediatrician’s office and was connected with the on-call nurse. After she consulted with the doctor on call, the nurse prompted us to take Greyson to the Emergency Room at LGH. An all too familiar feeling, Derek got G ready and I packed up his backpack with the essentials (meds, diapers, etc.). I decided I would stay home with Roslynn, who had already begun to fall asleep and because my immune system is not good and COVID is still lingering, I figured this would be the best option. The next bit of information is coming from Derek, so I’ll summarize what he had explained to me.
They got to the ED at about 7:30 pm and it was packed. Individuals who had symptoms or were suspected of having COVID, were placed in a separate area of the hospital, to avoid contamination with those who did not have a COVID concern. He checked in with the receptionist at the front desk, who knew that they were coming, per our pediatrician calling and informing them. He took Greyson to the section of the ED which was a little more secluded from the rest of the ED and it was easier for Derek to confine him in that spot, rather than letting him run wild among the injured and sick. When they were pulled back into triage, the staff member obtained as many vitals as he could and prompted Derek to bring G back into the lobby area until a room was ready. In the midst of being shuffled around, Derek observed a man getting agitated because his mother was suffering from a stroke and still had not been registered. The man became so incredibly irritated, he did not notice that his mother was taken back at first, and proceeded to take his temper outside to the street. Lime street in Lancaster near the ED is a cute little area, stuffed with different physician and specialist offices, most of whom are affiliated with LGH. In the time we live in, the man became so upset, that he was tackled by police who were called, in addition to the ED security staff. I guess it provided much entertainment for all in the ED, since the area is comprised of nothing but glass windows, facing the area where this man was having his fit.
Once Derek and Greyson were called back to the exam room, the doctor came in and felt Greyson’s skull. He too agreed that something was wrong and that his head should not be swollen and tender like it was. He ordered a CT scan immediately and Derek placed the helmet back on Greyson’s head for safety. Staff came in awhile later and attempted to sedate Greyson with a nasal spray (it worked really well for him at CHOP, so Derek had consented to attempting to try that again. This time however, it didn’t work. The staff placed Greyson in a papoose, similar to what he has at John’s Hopkins when he has laser treatments for his face, and got the images that they needed for the CT scan.
Turns out, due to severe headbanging earlier in the day, Greyson had a huge subdural hematoma between his skull and scalp and a likely concussion. The jello type feeling in his head was collected blood, just hanging out in there. Because his head was not actively bleeding and his brain was not impacted from what the doctors could see, he was sent home. After a follow up conversation with the doctor at the ED and the Neurologist, it was recommended that Greyson now wear his helmet at all hours of the day, whether he is happy or sad, just for extra safety of his head. In the meantime, we have to observe him closely until the hematoma is completely healed, to make sure that he doesn’t have any nausea, vomiting or other complications that accompany a brain injury.
The boys got home around 11:30 pm and I had already been weighing my options when it came to being sure that Greyson was getting the appropriate structure and supervision he needed during the day. I made the difficult decision to step down from my new job and be the stability that Greyson (and Roslynn to an extent) need. Upon submitting my resignation on Friday, the owner of the business I was working for, was completely understanding and as a mother to young children herself, could really empathize with my situation. She stated that due to the situation, I would be able to keep my job within the company, but I would be an “as needed fill-in” until the fall, when I could most likely do the company’s billing and other miscellaneous tasks in the evening, after Derek is home from work. I am so appreciative that I am able to stay on staff there, and hope that once Greyson is back in preschool and stabilized, I may be able to restart my tasks within the company.
I’ve also decided to come out of my “retirement” from teaching voice lessons, and really put my time and attention into that for the evenings. Its a flexible position where I am in control of my own schedule, teaching as many students that I want to. I revamped my marketing skills and reached out to some former students, to see if they would like to study again. Needless to say, I’m thinking I could potentially have a full studio again by the end of summer. I know that this is a good move for our family and will give the kids the attention they need during the day, and still allows me to get out of the house and do something on my own a few nights a week. Contemplating changing my LinkedIn account to “Full-time Mom, Fill in admin staff and optimistic musical entrepreneur” as my current job. Maybe I need to work on that job title a little bit.
Whether you agree or disagree with medical marijuana, don’t believe in it, swear by it or are not educated in it, I do not care. This post is therefore not a lecture, recommendation or meant to sway one’s opinion in either way. This is strictly our family’s experience with the controversial “drug” and the reasons why we have chosen to give it a try for Greyson.
So, I guess it’s best to begin with explaining the entire process of obtaining a medical marijuana ID, prescription and products.
First of all, obtaining the caregiver/medical marijuana ID is like going through Fort Knox. You have to fill out an application online and get your criminal background/FBI fingerprints done. Even if you’ve got all your clearances and have been fingerprinted for other reasons, you have to get a specific category for the fingerprints, so other prints don’t count. Once completed, you wait for the results. In the meantime, we looked up local doctors/offices that are in the state system to write prescriptions for marijuana. After sifting through all of the prescribers, we found an office in Lancaster that completed an evaluation to show medical necessity for the marijuana. After the evaluation, it took a few weeks to have the doctor send the evaluation report to the state for review.
Medical marijuana scripts are not like normal scripts- you don’t go to a pharmacy with a written prescription and pick up the medicine. Instead, you wait for the medical marijuana caregiver ID (caregiver ID’s are for individuals that are designated to obtain and administer marijuana to minors, consumers, clients, etc.) to come in the mail. To determine the dosage and combination of THC vs. Cannabis, you have to meet with a registered pharmacist to discuss specific medical history and information before the script is filled.
We began researching the option for medical marijuana in the fall last year, but let it go for a bit because of the holidays and work was getting busy. When the topic came up again earlier this year, I agreed to Greyson trying the drug, but I wanted Derek to take charge of obtaining the information, card, etc. since I have managed all other appointments/medications, etc. over the past few years. Derek obtained the prescription, did the consults, fingerprints and all. The entire process took about 6-8 weeks, but it moved fairly quickly.
We started Greyson on a specific regiment of marijuana, combining pure THC and Cannabis oil. He receives the medication via a dropper, three drops twice daily, with an optional third dose in the middle of the day, if needed. So far, he’s been on the medicine for 3 days and it has made a HUGE difference in his behaviors and aggression. This past week, there was no way I could take both kids outside by myself without Greyson trying to run off. By yesterday, Greyson not only allowed me to hold him for about 15 minutes, but he also stood in one place for about 20 minutes outside, with zero attempts to run off. In the 3 years, 8 months and 3 weeks that he has been alive, I have never seen him so calm and happy!
Today, we visited my in-laws, who have an awesome back yard/playset for the kiddos to run around and play on. I was nervous at first because Greyson was so excited and happy and immediately darted from the car as soon as the door opened. Luckily, he ran immediately to the swing set and sliding board. I haven’t seen him follow any sort of direction before, especially commands involving stopping and keeping close proximity to us. This kid followed almost every direction given to him. He stayed close by and had so much fun being outside for awhile. At one point, I even thought to myself, “wow, this is what it feels like to have a typical boy”.
I have read arguments and different opinions regarding medical marijuana. We have discussed the pros/cons with his medical providers and determined that it was worth trying, and I am so happy with the results thus far. There certainly are moments when Greyson appears to be really out of it, or “drugged”, mainly when he has his seizure meds/night time medicines that already make him drowsy.
Stay tuned, but for right now, we are hoping that we may have actually found something to help with his impulsiveness, irritability, aggression and self-injury.
Having fun outside at Grammy & Pappy’s house!
Roslynn has also started weekly outpatient therapy with a social worker, to address her anxiety and fears surrounding Greyson and his behaviors. She is still afraid of him when he is throwing a tantrum and is hypersensitive to loud noises. She’s been really afraid to do much of anything by herself recently, especially using the bathroom, going up or downstairs alone. Though she’s only had a few sessions, she has already learned that jokes help her focus on things other than her brother and that taking deep breaths help her when she feels sick or scared. Lots of uncertainties also surrounding the pandemic and whether mommy will be going back to work or not, have also made things a little bit more nerve wracking here, too.
I have been thinking a lot about the saying that most moms have heard: “the days are long, but the years are short.” And boy, do I really get what they’re saying. I feel like the stars are finally aligning and maybe, just maybe, we are getting somewhere.
When I was younger, I loved playing house. I would go outside and play in our log cabin playhouse (it was huge and made out of real wood by our neighbor) for hours. The playhouse was the place to be on our block, the entire backyard made into a kid’s playground dream. We were extremely fortunate that our parents were able to make us an awesome place to play, which we did during all seasons and types of weather. I always pretended that I had twin babies (I had the Baby Tumble Surprise Twins- super popular Christmas gift in 1997) and that I had the coolest house and cars, etc. I imagined I had the perfect life, perfect babies and perfect house.
Flash forward 23 years and I’m still playing house, except it’s real and it’s a lot harder than I ever anticipated. Also, instead of legit twin baby dolls, I have “Irish twins”, one of which is the equivalent of 2 1/2 kids. Now I don’t think think I could ever have that boring, plain life. I got my first taste of being a normal mom last night. Since Derek and Greyson were in Philadelphia at CHOP, Roslynn and I decided to go out to dinner with my good friend, Julia and her boyfriend. It was so odd leaving work and picking up one child to go to a restaurant to actually sit and eat. I felt like a normal person again. Afterwards, once we got home, the house was too quiet. Ironically, I got 5 hours of sleep (most I have in months) and I was more tired today than normal! Essentially what I have learned in the past 24 hours, is that I need to be a normal person sometimes and make time for normal things. I also really need the excitement of Greyson in my day. It was so lonely without his belly laugh and the sound of him staircase surfing at all random hours of the night.
Waiting for Julia to arrive for dinner
The next bit of information is per Derek, so I am simply relaying this.
Greyson and Derek checked into CHOP around 5:30pm. It took a good bit of time to get all the electrodes on his head, cap put on and wires stuffed into the backpack he carried around. The electrode placement is always extremely difficult for G, especially since the glue to hold the electrodes on, is super stinky and gross. After having the opportunity to eat dinner and relax, Greyson fell asleep. Unfortunately, he did not stay asleep through the night. After tossing and turning and a tough morning, he was finally discharged from CHOP around 1:00pm. Luckily, the staff was able to get the data they needed and even got the glue out of his hair before he was discharged.
After 5 different seizure medications and two years of finding a medicine regiment to control the epilepsy, we have finally received good news.
Greyson had zero instances of focal seizures while he slept and while awake. This essentially means that the Onfi is working! He has had minimal side effects with it and I’m really feeling good that we finally have found the right mix of meds. 835 days after his first diagnosis, we finally have a solution.
I’m waiting for a final report from the neurologist, but this is the best news we have heard in over two years. We needed this good news. We have been really struggling over the past couple of months, but all of those feelings are currently on mute. We are so excited. We still have a long ways to go, but this was the perfect push we needed to keep our chins up. Excuse me if I am giddy tomorrow, but TGIF and we have a successful medicine managing seizures that were once deemed uncontrollable.
2020 has been off to an interesting start. Interesting is the best word possible to describe the mixed emotions we have had since entering the new year.
Whenever I see people I know out in public (work, stores, church and other places I actually go), everyone always asks how Greyson is doing. I almost always respond “we are hanging in” or “he’s an interesting kiddo”. The truth resonating in my mind is always, “why do I try to play this off like it’s no big deal and that I am managing this fine”, when deep down it physically breaks my heart if I put too much thought into our situation. I thought that as G got older and we learned his routine, tics, compulsions and behaviors, things would get easier. Truth is, as we learn more about him and his condition and the bigger/stronger he gets, the worse things seem to be evolving.
I have found myself telling parents recently that “the world of Autism is an entirely different world. No books, research or degree is going to prepare you for it.” And it’s so true. The world of raising a child with ASD is an entirely different ball game. Even working as a TSS in the past with kiddos with similar disabilities as G, I never would have imagined that raising him would be the hardest job of my life. Working full-time and being a full-time mother of a child with special needs and a very busy sibling, is becoming quite the challenge.
I must say that my work has been keeping me grounded in actual reality. Talking to other parents, listening to their stories and putting their child’s faces with their name, has really given me solace that I am not alone in the world of Autism. WE are not alone in this world. We, as many other families, take our world day by day. Never assuming that one day will be the same as the next, because it never will be.
Medically, G has been grand-mal seizure free for a several weeks now, adjusting well to Onfi, which is is most recent anti-convulsant prescription. Things were going fairly well until January. Not sure what (if anything) had changed, but his impulsiveness became unmanageable. Everywhere we went, everything we did, always ended up in something broken, destroyed or someone injured. We were fed up. We met up with his child psychiatrist and started a dose of clonidine. Immediately we saw a difference in Greyson. We traded impulsiveness and hyperactivity for extremely fatigued and aggressive Greyson. On a positive note, despite the tiredness and negative behaviors, G has been doing extremely well on the clonidine. He is happy again, sweet and loving. He does not get really aggressive unless we deny him access to an item he wants, or if he is extremely tired.
Though there are many negative things that can be said about his destruction, aggression￼, lack of sleep and self-injury, he has been doing very well with school. He absolutely loves school and enjoys going to his class, even though they make him work. School has reported that he’s extremely fatigued and falls asleep during instructional time, most days. His ABA service comes out after lunch/naptime and he seems to be doing well with this as well, even enjoying his “roller coaster” toy for reinforcement.
Tomorrow, Greyson and Derek will be traveling to CHOP in a Philadelphia for another 24 hour EEG. This is overnight EEG #3 and his 5th EEG he’s had to date. We are hoping this new EEG will show if Greyson’s seizures are better managed during sleep, with the medication regiment he’s currently on. We are also hoping to see some more brain activity from the left side of his brain, which is his “lazy side”.
I used to have high hopes the night before a procedure, appointment or test, praying we would get answers or a cure. Now I have become so desensitized to how these appointments typically go, it just feels like another test and another appointment. If the Onfi is managing his seizures well, we could potentially discuss decreasing the medications all together, but depending on which neurologist you ask, we may or may not have much luck. Greyson’s specific type of focal epilepsy is very rare, specifically the seizures when he is asleep.
Electrical status epilepticus in slow wave sleep (ESES) is a rare, age-related, self-limited disorder characterized as epilepsy with different seizure types, neuropsychological impairment in the form of global or selective regression of cognitive functions, motor impairment, and typical electroencephalographic (EEG) findings of continuous epileptic activity occupying 85% of nonrapid eye movement sleep.
The neurologist and psychiatrist also have a theorythat Greyson is so aggressive and injuring himself over the past couple weeks, becausehe’stired and not sleeping well. He gets migraines when he’sextremely tired, so Ican only imagine how he must be feeling. He obviouslyisn’t aware that this EEG is taking place tomorrow, but please keep fingers crossed that we will see some improvement in his night time seizures.