Sunday, April 15, 2012

Second Easter in Hospital

Queen Teen has had two Easter baskets from Lucille Packard Children's Hospital, which is two baskets too many. The first Easter we spent there was after her feet surgery when she was 11. The second was this past Easter.

We finally heard from the neurologist who wanted her admitted to the hospital immediately for tests, so we dashed down to Stanford and spent three days there. Queen Teen was low on glucose and electrolytes, but a couple days of IV fluids brought the color back to her cheeks. Our new neurologist is excellent and I have a lot of faith that he'll be able to help us sort out the mystery of Queen Teen's disorder.

Disorder. Syndrome. Why can't I call it a disease?

We're home now, waiting for the results of all those tests, including an EEG to check for possible seizures. Her strength is poor and stamina worse, but she's slowly feeling better (I can tell she's feeling better because she's getting bossy again). Eating is still tricky and some days she has trouble swallowing juice. Other days she can eat Mac and Cheese with gusto. Just like everything about her neurology, her symptoms come and go. She's still not strong enough to go to school a full day, but maybe in another few weeks? Time will tell.

That's always the answer: time will tell. What will happen next? Time will tell. What does she have? Time will tell. What can we expect? Time will tell...

I found this great site that explains what Queen Teen has: What is Mitochondrial Disease? The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundations is an advocacy and resource organization which also raises funds for research. With a long list of possible Mito diseases, why is Queen Teen such a mystery? Why can't we discover her disease's label?

And why do I need to know so badly now?

I could lose my daughter; I know that now. Am I strong enough to go through this with her, to be there for her no matter what may come?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The possible syndrome roller-coaster.

Well, here it is: the possible syndrome roller-coaster. It's the exciting, heart-pounding, emotional ride in which you get to worry incessantly about your kid while doctors hunt for answers, and then after a fever pitch of panic, you get the 1000 foot drop straight down when all the tests come back "negative."

What's causing your child's illness? It could be this or that or this other really awful thing. But don't worry. We'll run all these tests which will give us answers. Just be patient.

Huh, that's odd. All the tests came back negative. Gee, I really thought it was going to be this really awful thing. She has all the signs, but the tests are negative. Hmmm... you know... it could be this other really awful thing. We should run some tests. 

We've been riding this coaster for fifteen years. We find some balance for a while, until either Queen Teen shows some new sign of a degenerative disorder, or a doctor says she "might" have this thing, and there's a new test he'd like to run. And so we climb back onto the roller-coaster, strap in, and hope for answers.

We still don't have any answers. After years of hunting, we had made peace with that. Not knowing meant the future was still wide open. She could plateau, learn skills, gain strength, and eventually have a life of her own. Maybe she could live with a friend in an apartment with support and find a job she enjoys. She could fall in love. Not knowing what would happen meant we could pretend that everything would be fine for a while longer.

But now, we need to know.

Three weeks ago Queen Teen started gagging on food. It got so bad she couldn't eat anything solid or textured. She's been living on Ensure and yogurt. I took her to Stanford for an emergency gastroenterology appointment where they ran a bunch of tests. The good news is they didn't find anything structurally wrong, which means she's safe swallowing and won't aspirate on her food. The bad news is it means it's probably neurologic. There isn't a cure for that, or an easy answer. So now we're waiting for an MRI and neurology appointment, hopefully this week. In the mean time, we wait. And worry.

We knew her condition was degenerative, but without a real diagnosis it's impossible to predict what degenerative would look like. I figured it meant she would eventually be unable to walk or her hand tremors would get worse. We could manage those. But not be able to eat? How do you deal with that?

It's hard not to think the worst. This is my child, and I feel fucking helpless just watching her suffer while waiting for the phone to ring. No matter how busy I try to stay, or how much I practice mindfulness and "stay in the moment," the fear crawls up my spine like a hungry tarantula. This roller-coaster is a bitch.

I don't know what will happen now. Maybe her eating problem will disappear on its own. She could wake up tomorrow hungry and eat a scrambled eggs without any problem. The MRI might not show anything at all. This could be just a weird thing that will go away in a few weeks. It's happened before; her hand tremors were terrible for a while and just as suddenly, the tremors improved. Why? They still don't know.

But whatever happens next, this is a reminder of just how fragile Queen Teen really is.

 Strap yourselves in kiddies, it could be a long, bumpy ride.