Saturday, January 31, 2009


It is standard procedure for our school nurse to send home a letter when it’s discovered that a student in your child’s classroom has any form of contagious infection. The letters describe symptoms to be aware of and information on what treatment is necessary should your student become infected.

Caleb came home with such a letter last week. It was written to alert parents that a case of Strep throat had been identified in his class. And yes, Caleb was the infected student. I felt a little guilty and a bit germy, but hey, what can you do? Kids just get sick now and then.

Then yesterday, less than two weeks after the first letter, another one arrived home in his backpack. This time, the subject was Conjunctivitis (Pink-eye).

Just guess who the contaminated kid was this time…

I’m thinking next week we should be expecting a letter with the following:

This is to notify you that a Caleb has been identified in your student’s room at school. We want to alert you to observe your student closely since medical treatment should be sought immediately if symptoms of contact with Caleb occur. Any form of contact with this child may result in bacterial infection, all of which will require an antibiotic prescription.

(His diseases may be easy to catch, but he won’t be. He ran a 5K today in 24:02!)


Our family's latest obsession.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A New Label

Seizure Disorder.

A form of epilepsy.

According to the doctor, either one is a new and accurate label for the abnormalities in Caleb's brain.

We all have labels, some just have more than others. Some define our strengths, others highlight our weaknesses. Some might cause a slightly higher raise of the eye-brow (good or bad),and others require most of the school staff be notified of the label.

Caleb's over-three-inches-thick school file full of labels just got thicker. And so did our medicine cabinet. But we're ready to face this beast head-on. Because we have to be.

Some of these are from the strep throat so we can do away with them shortly.

Another label Caleb has earned: model patient. He handled all that was asked of him like a superstar! The phlebotomist wanted Caleb to do advertisements for the lab when he enthusiastically declared that his blood draw was "no big deal."

An EEG is painless but certainly uncomfortable. Caleb did great while they methodically measured his head and then attached about 20 electrodes. They then wrap him up like a mummy.

The test is divided into three main parts: a strobe light section, a blowing-forcefully-on-a-pinwheel section, and a sleep section. With the strobe light, they place it inches from his face and turn it on in increasing frequencies and durations. With the pinwheel he has to bring himself near to hyperventilation by blowing continually for three minutes. That doesn't sound long, but it sure looks like torture. And finally, Caleb had to fall asleep so his brain waves could be monitored while sleeping. The test requires sleep deprivation, so in preparation, Caleb had to stay up until 1:00 am the night before the test and be awakened at 5:00 am morning of. So in other words, Mom and Dad were also sleep deprived.

Here's our champ, giving the thumb's-up. Cute, cute boy. If you look closely, you can see the indentations on his forehead and faint red marks from measurements. The tech did a pretty good job cleaning his hair for him. It doesn't look too goopy.

Caleb's first EEG, one year ago, was "minimally abnormal." It didn't warrant medication at that time. This year's results were still somewhat minor but "more abnormal" than last year and when coupled with a second, much larger seizure, medication was recommended. This time, the greatest abnormalities in his brain waves were noticed while he was sleeping. Maybe that explains why both of his seizures have happened after waking abruptly from a deep sleep.

Caleb has been started on an anti-seizure drug called Trileptal. We are on a schedule to build up his medication over the next two weeks. When he reaches full dosage, he'll be taking six pills a day. He's going to get good at swallowing pills!

The doctor stated that our odds of a repeat seizure are about 1 in 5 while on the medication. If we didn't medicate him, our odds would jump to a 70% chance of recurrence. If he can go two years on the meds without a seizure, he would repeat the EEG and if abnormalities have healed, he could be weaned off the medications. In other words, we have reason to hope that he could grow out of this label.

But until then, we've made sure all appropriate prescriptions are filled, a new days-of-the-week pill box purchased, and all the proper paper work distributed through the schools. The emergency plan is in place. Now let's just hope and pray that we never have to use it.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hanging In There

Some of life’s events are difficult to document. This is one of those. But my memory is weak and I’ve found that the details I recorded from previous events have been helpful as we experience similar situations again.

My reluctance to write comes partly from having to relive the trauma and partly from a fear of sounding self-pitiful. It’s true that the refiner’s fire seems to be blazing about us, but we are hopeful that we will emerge stronger from its flames. While we look forward to more peaceful times for our family, we recognize that our current struggles pale in comparison with many others around us and we make conscious efforts to focus on all that is good.

Caleb has recovered quickly and fully from a terrible seizure. That is good. And it all occurred two weeks before our insurance benefits are scheduled to be terminated. That is also good. The details of the episode, however, are not.

Caleb woke with a headache Wednesday morning. He was complaining of a sore throat as well. He tried to ready himself for school but after vomiting, it was clear he needed to stay home for the day. He got sick several more times throughout the morning, but after napping and taking it easy for a few hours, seemed to be improving.

I ran to Sam’s to get some groceries while Jon kept one eye on Natty and Caleb, and the other on the job hunt. As I neared the check-out line, I called home to see if I could entice Caleb to eat some lunch. I was hoping a slice of his favorite food—pepperoni pizza—would encourage him to feel better. Jon thought he’d be up for it so I added a couple of slices to my cart and headed for home.

Once home, I set the pizza and an armful of groceries onto the kitchen counter and went to wake Caleb for his lunch. He was so deeply asleep that I couldn’t seem to wake him. Before returning to the car for the remainder of my groceries, I felt impressed to call my Visiting Teachers who were scheduled to come in the next hour. Caleb didn’t seem to be doing better after all, so I felt the need to cancel our appointment.

While I was on the phone, Caleb suddenly lurched up from the couch and let out an enormous, animalistic scream. He clutched the sides of his head and shouted incoherently. “I’m going to be sick” was all we could really understand. It seemed as though he was not fully awake but I instantly got off the phone and ran for a plastic bowl thinking that vomiting was the kind of “sick” to which he was referring. Caleb stumbled onto the floor and Jon ran to him, lifting to his lap.

When I got close with the bowl, I was struck by the sight of Caleb’s fixed, empty stare. I instantly recognized the symptoms as those I’d seen during his last seizure almost one year ago. He was clearly not “there” as I desperately tried to get him to look at me.

“This is it, Jon. This is it! This is exactly how he looked last time!” Jon hadn’t been witness to last year’s episode, but I was beginning to feel panicked as it suddenly seemed so familiar.

In the next moment, Caleb’s hands started to shake. “Look at his hands!” I shouted. With that we were heading into unfamiliar territory. His entire body began to convulse wildly. His arms were drawn up to his chest, his legs bent and every single muscle in his body intensely flexed. This went on for what felt like several minutes but was, in reality, probably only about thirty seconds. I squealed helplessly as I tried to audibly tell myself that he was okay.

When the convulsions stopped, so did his breathing. His face became a sickly shade of gray, his lips a vivid blue. Jon still holding him, cradling him like a baby, told me to call 911. I called while Jon transferred Caleb to the floor, rubbed him and yelled his name in hopes of restoring his breath. It had been about 30 seconds and Jon was getting ready to start rescue breathing when Caleb’s chest heaved dramatically in an intense, hoarse gasp. His breathing was staggered and labored, but it had returned. He remained unconscious but knowing that he was breathing helped bring us some relief.

The medics arrived just minutes after I shuttled Natalie to the neighbor’s house. Caleb, having been returned to the couch, was still unconscious and wet from incontinence caused by the seizure. He was warm to the touch, his head and face dripping with sweat. Though he let out an occasional high-pitched, whiny cry, he remained unaware of the eight emergency personnel gathered in our family room. They took his vitals then prepared to transfer him to the hospital.

One thoughtful paramedic (the only female) had noticed upon her arrival, that it appeared I was in the middle of unloading groceries. My garage door was still open and she had seen that the back hatch of my car was open with many groceries still inside. She encouraged me to quickly unload any perishables since it would take them a few more minutes to load Caleb into the ambulance. One of the other paramedics helped me by carrying in my tomatoes and grapes. It’s not every day that a fireman helps unload the groceries!

I rode in the front seat of the ambulance and Jon led the way in our car. The ride to the hospital seemed to take forever, but shortly before arriving, Caleb finally regained consciousness. I wasn’t able to see him since I had to ride up front, but I hoped my “Mom’s here” shout would bring him comfort. Though it would still be several hours before he could participate in a conversation, he was able to answer questions in one or two words. He was what they call “postictal” for an hour and half after the seizure.

We spent the next several hours in the hospital. Caleb slept soundly between the nurses’ pokings and proddings. It was determined he could be released, but he was scheduled for an EEG and appointment with the neurologist on this coming Tuesday. While at the hospital, it was also discovered that Caleb had strep throat, so they sent us out the door with a couple of prescriptions. Caleb was still too weak to walk, so Jon carried him to the car, which was about a block away.

The details of the seizure remain vivid, yet surreal in our minds. Peace has slowly drowned out the trauma of the ordeal as we’ve watched Caleb regain his strength and return to his normal energetic self. We are keeping a list of the many questions we hope to ask the neurologist this week. We fully expect to come away with a diagnosis of epilepsy and a prescription for medication. While we hope not to have to relive a situation as terrifying as last Wednesday’s events, at the very least we hope for information on how best to handle them should they occur in the future.

Caleb is doing just fine. In fact, I think he recovered more quickly than we did. We have the support of friends and family. We feel the prayers offered in our behalf. We know that soon enough, the afflictions we bear will work together for our good. And all of that is: good.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Patched-Up Pilot

I don't remember the last time I was this excited. I can't stop squealing and clapping my hands.

We've been without our family car for two full weeks. Since Jon's little truck can't transport our entire family (not to mention had failing brakes), we've had to do a bit of bumming rides and asking for favors.

It's not easy for us to ask for help. Earlier this week, Jon carried Natalie on his shoulders, in the pouring rain and howling wind (have you heard of our recent flooding?) to pick Caleb up from basketball practice at the school. I had the truck at work and he just couldn't bear the thought of asking anyone for a ride.

I came home from work tonight--dropped off by my friend who'd given me a ride--to see my shiny car sitting in the driveway. It's fully repaired and gleaming from the comprehensive washing it received after being put back together.

And another friend was in the garage with Jon, helping him replace the entirely worn out brakes on his truck. This same friend is the one that accompanied Jon to pick up the Pilot. Good guy.

I was so glad that just as I was arriving home, Caleb was needing to be picked up from his second basketball practice of the day. I simply couldn't wait to take my wheels for a spin. And I don't even like to drive.

It felt so good.

Now I've got to get to work on a whole bunch of thank-yous.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Sunbeam!

No more nursery.

I thought our baby phase officially ended when we got rid of the crib and infant toys, but I think today's entrance into Primary added a definitive punctuation to our No-more-babies-at-our-house sentence.

It was a bittersweet moment for me.

Natty looked so darn cute sitting on that front row, looking a bit nervous as she clutched an old set of scriptures that her sister advised her to take. I had a hard time leaving the room. So I watched for a few minutes.

Her new primary teacher (all our kids really got the cream of the crop this year) came to meet her yesterday and after her visit, she simply couldn't wait to go to Primary.

Everybody tells me she had a great first day. She's proud of her colored picture and her crown that makes her a princess. A princess of a Heavenly King, of course.

She gets to give the opening prayer in next week's opening exercises. Evidently our Primary doesn't waste any time getting the little guys involved.

So grown up. And shining like a Sunbeam!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I, for one, am glad to welcome 2009. I'm ready to put a long 2008 to rest and have a new start.

We rang in the new year with good friends, food and fun.

After filling up on our yummy spread, we broke out the guitars and rocked the house. The "boy band" was quite a bit more talented than the girl version but we still had fun.

Though we all combined against her, Tammy ended up as the champion of our long, slow-moving Settlers game.

The kids entertained themselves so well. We called them out to enjoy the build-your-own sundae bar just before midnight.

And everyone got a little glass of "bubbly" for the countdown.

We watched the ball drop and I sang Auld Lang Syne (no one else knew the words) because you just can't welcome the new year without it.

Fun times!
Here's to 2009!


When we're down-and-out, it's nice to know we can get by with the help (and thoughtfulness) of our family and friends.

Our days have been long. Jon's been looking at all options but with the weather, holidays and bleak state of the economy, employment leads are few and far between. With no job, it's hard to justify spending any money. And with no car large enough to transport our family, outings are even more unlikely.

We don't intend to sound sorry for our ourselves, but rather to show just how grateful we feel to some extra special people who provided us a way to do something fun as a family.

Shortly after Jon received that dreaded news that he'd no longer be a WaMulian, the Johnson family sent us gift cards to Claim Jumper since distance keeps them from personally taking us to dinner. Some friends took care of our transportation problem by loaning us a van that they weren't using for the week.

Jon helped Caleb with his word search while I enjoyed my favorite: California Citrus Salad.

Then Jon did his regular wad-the-straw-wrapper-and-toss-it-into-someone's-mouth game. Here he is showing Natalie how to open her mouth for his target. And he makes it every time.

Our pizzas arrived and I was a little jealous that the kids servings were twice as large as mine. Guess they figured I must have filled up on salad.
Alyssa enjoyed a hearty chicken nugget lunch. Nothing skimpy about Claim Jumper's portions. Except maybe the size of my pizza. :)

Happy kids. Happy parents. Grateful family.

Thank you, Johnsons and Guisingers. You made our day.

Mom's Makeover

I don't normally agree to this kind of activity, but we've had so many consecutive homebound days and we were growing desperate for (free) entertainment.

I agreed that after my shower one morning, the girls could turn my bathroom into their own personal salon with me as their client. I allowed free reign with my make-up and hair-styling tools.

The result was actually pretty impressive for an eight- and three-year-old.

After taking turns with the hair dryer, they moved to the straight iron.

One applied moisturizer to my face and arms while the other straightened my waves.

Next was the make-up. They managed foundation, eye shadow and lipstick, but I did take over the mascara after getting poked in the eye. I can relinquish my looks but my eye sight deserves protecting.

The final step was adding the earrings they had carefully selected to finish the look. The hair was a bit "Tina Turner" (no product) and my eyes resembled one who'd taken a punch to the face, but they declared their work, "Perfect!"

And they had fun.