amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about


15 Comments

Lord help me please. It’s tough being a mum

I promised myself that I would never do this. But I did. I knew it would hurt my child but I did it anyway.

I let two adults hold her down while she was kicking and screaming while another performed a medical procedure. And one of the adults holding her down was me.

But how did we get here? How did we get to this sunny day, full of hope of the lightheartedness of sumer, but doused with an icy blast to my heart like the arctic ocean has crashed down on me?

It’s a long story but I will try to keep it short.

She has developed a fear and trauma about having her mickey button changed. She’s been through EMDR to deal with the trauma. She and her psychologist made a plan to deal with some of the scary things:

  1. Seeing the whole in her body where the mickey sits. I’m not surprised she is scared, it gives me the heebee geebees just thinking about it. So what’s the plan? She gets to watch the mine craft films on youtube that she loves
  2. Seeing all the medical equipment laid out makes it feel like an operation. So we would keep that covered.

Everything was arranged. The psychologist was there. She had picked out her present that she would receive after her new mickey would be replaced.

Then she woke up this morning and it all went to hell. Her first event of fear and anger was pretty bad. So upset she started vomiting. I was taken back to the last time her mickey button exploded and I had to be a tough mama.

How do you get through to your child when she is out of her mind with fear? You can only tell them that you hear them. Over and over until they calm down.

The major event was at the hospital. We had agreed that J and I would not be in the room. F wanted it to just be the psychologist and the nurse. It was time and then she went wild. I can’t even call it a tantrum because it wasn’t. It was so much worse. It was a frightened girl who would do anything to make sure that she could day no.

I wholeheartedly believe that she should be heard and that we should take a “no” from a child seriously. But without her treatment, she would die.

And her treatment isn’t nice. Half the discomfort she feels comes from her medicines. And we can’t afford to have her refuse treatment. Ever.

If I listened to her no today, what would I do when she needs an IV? An IV placement is painful and she has really thin veins so it can take 30 minutes or more to secure one. 30 minutes os someone poking a needle in her. What if she says no then?

And her IVs always need to have potassium. That burns. What if she refuses that? Her potassium levels can drop so quickly that she could have a heart attack. It may seem far fetched but sadly we lost someone in the Bartters & Gitelmans community this way about a month ago.

With her condition, when she needs an IV, it means that she is seriously ill and needs it right away. Not when she has calmed down. Not later. No time for discussion. Now.

If I listen to her “no” now, it opens the door to her saying no more often. And we can’t do this. I can’t do this fighting every time.

I can’t let her say no. It’s either take the treatment or get life threateningly ill really quickly. And then give her the treatment when she becomes unconscious. And providing it’s not too late, maybe her kidneys won’t get damaged. Maybe she won’t die.

So that’s how I came to be holding her down on the hospital bed. Her arms being held by me, her legs by another nurse. And a third nurse changing her mickey button.

Her father carried her to her next appointment (it never stops with a chronically ill child). We bought something for her to eat along the way. She smiled eventually.

We will follow up with the psychologist later. She had never seen anything like this in her entire career. The strength of resistance. But we will regroup and look at how we can support F so that it isn’t so traumatic next time.

But I feel like crap. I want to eat bread. Even though I’m on a 3 week gluten free diet I want to scoff bread there’s a wheat famine approaching. But, given the very real medical reasons behind my gluten free diet, that would be like bashing my head with a sledgehammer.

So why did I do it? Why did I choose to be the one in the room with her? I know that J would have done it. But I just knew that I could get her to relax her stomach muscles. You see, she can scream, kick and relax her muscles at the same time. I don’t know how she does it, but she can. You see, it’s impossible to put a mickey into the whole in the stomach if your muscles are tense. We know, that’s one of the chapters of this story.

And she did listen. Even through the screaming. Even through the kicking. She listened and relaxed her abdomen for the change.

I just hope that she really heard me when I said

“I didn’t want to hurt you. But you need this medicine. Your illness sucks and I wish I wold change it but I can’t.”

Oh man, today it sucks to be a mum. Lord, help me please.

 


Leave a comment

Where’s the line?

This blog is supposed to be my story: what it’s really like, living with chronic illness.
It’s my view as a “patient” myself and my view as a parent to a chronically ill child.
When I write as a parent, where is the line between my story and Fs story?
When things happen to her, they affect the whole family, they happen to us too.

Yet, they happen to her first.
So am I telling her story or mine?

That’s the question on my mind lately. It’s also why I’ve not been blogging so much lately.
Did I drift away from my story to hers? Admittedly, it is so much easier to talk about her pain than my own. That may sound strange; a mother normally feels the pain of her children keenly. And that’s true: when she hurts, I hurt. But there is nothing more sharp than our own pain.
For while we feel bad when they fall and scape their knees, it is only when we fall and scrape our knees that we realise that it burns like a b*tch.

So where’s the line? Oh yeah, back there. Got it.


2 Comments

Tough love

for those who know me on FB you know that Fs Mickey button exploded. Again.

She’s still traumatized from the first time that happened. And from the last time the nurse changed (when the nurse had to push it through her abs of steel).

So my dear daughter, when I heard what happened at school on Monday I knew that it was going to be another really hard day for you.

You walked in knowing what was going to happen (it’s at these times that I wish you weren’t so smart).

I held you as you cried your heart out. Told you it was going to be ok, both of us knowing that there was a bump in the road to “ok” that you needed to face first.

I wish I could have held you until your fears disappeared. But we had 30 mins to get to the hospital and get a new mickey in place before the nurse left for the day.

So I put on my firm, tough mama voice and made you come with me. You were literally sick with anxiety. I wiped your mouth and then we had to keep moving.

We needed your cooperation: when you tense, your abs create a solid wall where it’s almost impossible to insert a new mickey into that hole in your stomach.

So we practiced at home, in the car, on the hospital table. And somehow you managed to scream and relax your abs at the same time (holey moley batman, how did you do that?)

I’m sorry I had to make you choose. Choose between admission to hospital and a potassium IV (that burns people, it burns your veins) or let us change the Mickey.

Im sorry. I hope you believed when I said I wished it could be different.

I wish that your smile on receiving the cuddly monkey toy from the nurse went all the way in, to your soul. I wish that it could heal the scar on the inside as quickly as it changed your expression.

I wish I could have held you until your fears were gone.

And I hope that one day you will understand that I was doing my best for you: making the tough decisions.

Tough love. Sometimes it sucks to be a mum.


8 Comments

Rock and a hard place: Back to a PEG?

for the last 3 and a half years we’ve been going to the hospital to get Fs Mickey button changed.

Now, technically, we can do it at home. Unfortunately the first time we tried it F had an infection in the wound and it really hurt. She freaked out and since then Nurse H does it. She’s the specialist stoma nurse and F has known her almost all her life.

it was going well until today. For various reasons nurse H isn’t allowed to do it anymore. Today I was getting trained and doing it with her and it all went tits up.

F has got really strong stomach muscles. (Although according to her she hasn’t because you can’t see the “stripes on her tummy”. What can I say? She obviously has a great role model in me, not).

She was tense. Tense muscles contract. I tried to pull it out and it got stuck. Nurse H took over and she had to practically yank it out and shove the new one in. That’s not how she did it, she’s a professional but it was almost impossible for her to do it.

So after 3.5 years building up to F allowing me to do it, we are back to square one.

Nurse H’s suggestions? Back to the child psychologist to help F get over this fear (of something that is actually uncomfortable and sometimes painful).

Or go back to a PEG. This can stay in for years (but you never know how long) but requires surgery to put in and change. And there will be a tube dangling from her body again.

Rock and a hard place.

(I was going to call it Hobsons Choice but I googled. What we have is a dilemma (2 unappealing choices). A Hobsons Choice (this or nothing) might be easier. Then I wouldn’t need to decide.

so, what to do?

Unpleasant experience every 2-3 months, potentially scarring her psychologically (some more).

Or surgery every 3years or so. And having to be careful every minute of the day so that the dangling tube doesn’t get caught on something.

Rock and a hard place.

The coach in me is saying “that’s not a helpful perspective” and she’s right. But I need to find some energy so that I can let go of this very stuck and comforting perspective (as long as it’s a rock and a hard place it’s really easy to put off making a choice).

I think it’s time for some Dr Seuss

WITH YOUR HEAD FULL OF BRAINS AND YOUR SHOES FULL OF FEET

YOU’RE TOO SMART TO GO DOWN ANY NOT SO GOOD STREET


Leave a comment

How can pink donuts be my downfall?

I have written a lot about how I have dealt with never ending sickness extreme eating problems (i.e. nil by mouth for 5 years).

I think I have written about it with patience, become a little bit wiser through the process.

Well, today I do not feel even remotely wise or patient. Today sucks.

You see, little sisters copy big sisters. In everything. All those quirky eating/non eating habits that I was able to deal with in F, who has the illness and the multitude of reasons why she does that weird stuff, well, they just suck when S does them.

Take donuts. Until recently, F didn’t eat any kind of bread or bread stuff. Yet she was interested in the little sprinkles on pink sprinked donuts.  So what did she do? Pick off the sprinkles.

S loves bread. I mean really loves it (except crusts but hey, she’s a kid). How does she eat donuts? She picks of the sprinkles (and icing because she’s a sugar junky).

Now I don’t want to force either of my kids to eat junky donuts, I really don’t. But I want to shout “just eat the effing donut!”  Sometimes I feel trapped in this circle of weirdness with food and only one of them has the illness!

Can’t catch a break. You’d think it would be easier with the “healthy one”.

Sigh.image

Ok, whingeing session over.

 


Leave a comment

What’s different about chronic illness No. 4: the risks are high

I write about both the good and the bad that comes with living with chronic illness. Today is unfortunately about the bad.

On Monday we found out that a boy in F’s class at school, whose initial is I, died last week. His illness had taken over and there was nothing more they could do. His parents and the teachers knew it was only a matter of time until it took him. And it took him last week.

F cried and remembered J, another boy from her school who died last year. When she got home she told us she felt wobbly inside thinking about them, thinking that she didn’t want this to happen to her.

I wish I could tell her that it won’t but as I write, the daughter of a friend, who has the same illness as F, is losing kidney function by the week and is almost in stage 4 kidney failure.

Did you know that you can’t tell if your kidneys are failing, unless you test for it? Well, that is until it gets really critical.

This is why we need check ups so often. This is why we need to take her to the hospital if she gets stomach flu and vomits for more than a day.

This risk is always there.

It’s as far away as the sun, and closer than her shadow, all at the same time.

That’s what is different about chronic illness.

 

In memory of I, a sweet soul. Prayers and all our love and compassion to you and your family.

 


Leave a comment

5 tips for the caregiving husband. #heforshe

My sister and I were reminiscing the other day about things that happened in our childhood and as she talked I realised that I hadn’t thought about these events – big events – for years. I had never thought “what was that like for everyone else?” I started to see them a new light and it made me wonder what our history with Bartters and chronic illness was like for my husband, J.

The mystery of : what was wrong with our child? The emergency caesarean. All the hospital drama (our very own Greys, but without any of the hook ups). The years of intensive care and so many near misses.

I know what it was like for me.

But dear J, what was it like for you?

What is it like for a man when he finds out that his wife might lose her baby? His baby?

What’s it like to see the business end of a cesarean; cuts through seven layers of her body, edges pinned back while they put their hands in to pick up your little baby saying “grab the other leg”?

What’s it like to leave your wife on her own, barely able to walk to the hospital to visit F, because you need to go back to work? (just to clarify, I wasn’t walking all the way from home, that would be heartless! I was at the Ronald McDonald house next to the hospital).

I do not know what that is like, I can only imagine. I do know this: when you are sick or it is you that has had the baby, everyone knows what is wrong, they know they need to express sympathy of some kind. They do not expect you to come to work.

But the husband? They expect him to come in, be focussed, do their job. Carry on as normal.

Because while they understand the terrible situation you are in and have sympathy, there is still a job to be done.  They give you a day or two of leave and that is supposed to be enough. You might use some of your vacation days too but there is only so much extra leave that you can take before employers start to feel that they cannot rely on you.

So, husband with the wife who needs you and the child who is fighting for her life, what do you do?

You can’t do everything and someone is always going to be disappointed. Rock and a hard place, that’s where you are my friend.

Here are some suggestions, from a woman who has been on the other side, noticing what you have to deal with.

  1. Accept: you can’t do everything. And that’s ok.
  2. Breathe. Deeply. You get cranky and uptight when you do that shallow, upper chest only breathing. If your belly is expanding when you inhale, you are breathing well.
  3. Sleep: take naps. Lack of sleep really compromises your decision making abilities. It just messes up your thinking. I know you are trying to get those extra things done but just tell me you need to sleep and I will make sure you don’t get disturbed.
  4. Choose: don’t do it all. Let some things go. Choose what feels right for you. Make choices you can live with. We (the wives) may not always agree or understand your choices but you can escape us, at least for a while. You can’t escape yourself.
  5. Talk. Man, I don’t know how to stress this enough. Talk to your boss. Talk to us. And when talking to your wife: use simple language (especially at the beginning). We may look calm and rational on the outside but inside we are freaking out. We have no idea what we are doing and are scared. So don’t ask us to figure out what you mean, be obvious and clear. But don’t patronise us because then we will bite your head off. (Ah, there you go back to that rock and hard place)

 

Finally, why do I have the #HeForShe tag on this? Well, this post is also about feminism – the equality for both men and women. When we talk about babies and their illnesses, most of our thoughts go to the mothers and how they deal with it, what support they have. But what about the men? What support do they have? I hope this post highlights that we need to think about them too.

Breathe