Sunday, March 29, 2020

Week Two: Settling In

We're getting there with this whole "social distancing" thing, hitting our stride (maybe, knock on wood, fast!).

Utah schools did an online "school spirit" week, and we mostly participated.  Honestly, we probably did better this week than in the weeks the kids are actually in school.  There was a crazy sock day, a whatcha reading day, pajama day (how easy was that!), email your favorite teacher day, and school colors.  In one form or another, we managed all but the last one.  Oh, well...

Crazy sock day
Keeping in line with what the kids are doing, I started my own online class this week.  I've got lofty aspirations to enter a Masters of Social Work program in the fall of 2021 and have some prerequisite courses to complete first.  I managed to get a scholarship for one through BYU Independent Study, so here I go!  My goal is to work in medical social work, seeing as how that's been such an integral part of my life for the past almost ten years.  Wish me luck!  It's been a very long time since I was in the classroom and everything has changed!

Whatcha reading?
Aaron is doing well.  We're hanging in there.  I find myself checking the news multiple times a day.  I've decided I'm grateful that Utah only updates once a day.  I know when it will be and check just after that.

On the plus side, I get to spend more time with my cute granddaughter.  She is so much fun!  And we've gotten more housework done, including moving furniture around to make this better for everyone. (Although my boys may not think that's so much of a plus!) 

I worry so much that we're not doing enough.  I know (believe me, I know) that the flu kills so many more, but this is different, this is new.  And it's quickly overwhelming hospitals and equipment supplies.  The flu doesn't shut down elective medical procedures or cancel office visits, both of which have been done.  And by the way, "elective" means it's not an emergency, not that it's just cosmetic.  A hip replacement, a g-tube, ankle surgery, tonsillectomy:  those are considered "elective."  If it can be put off without risk of death, it's elective.  And they're not happening right now.

Utah hasn't seen a lot, yet.  I'm praying we don't.  Andrew is supposed to be in New York City right now.  Two and a half weeks ago, over 80% of the parents voted to continue with the trip along with one to California.  With Aaron's challenges, we pulled Andrew out.  Obviously, they've since been cancelled and no one has gone.

We've tightened things down around here some more.  Our adult kids were coming over for Sunday dinner along with William's mom.  That's not happening anymore, and I miss them terribly, and it's only been two weeks.  We've tightened up our nursing.  There was one nurse who was also a student, and when cases started appearing, I asked the agency to not send her until two weeks after her last hospital clinical, but now I've asked that she not come back until after this passes.  The four I've got coming are all very careful about social distancing, and so are their families.  We try to do the same.

President Russell M. Nelson called for a worldwide day of fasting and prayer today.  As I ponder upon what that means, I'm reminded that we've seen miracles come about due to faith.  We've seen them in our own lives, and also in scripture and the lives of our ancestors.  I know my nightly prayers are fervent pleas for strength and courage and comfort for the frontline workers in this pandemic, for those who are fighting the virus themselves and for their families, for the doctors and scientists who are working tirelessly to find treatment and a vaccine.  I pray for strength, for health, for us and for those around us, both physically and emotionally.  And I pray for peace.

Faith is not without worry or care, 
but faith is fear that has said a prayer. 
~Author unknown

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Lockdown Week 1, Take 2, Switching the Field

 I just spent the last hour plus writing a lot of things out.  This week has been different, challenging, sometimes HARD.  But I don't think it was any harder for us than for many others.  In fact, due to the need to keep Aaron safe the last almost ten years, it may have been easier.

But as I look through my notes that I've jotted down this week, one thing stands out.  This too will pass.  This will be temporary.  It will change the focus of many lives. Sadly, it will take many lives.  But we need to look for the good, too.

Last Sunday, as part of our worship service, we watched "Music and the Spoken Word" from the week before.  As part of the service, the speaker spoke of  the "Winged Victory of Samothrace".  The statue is broken, missing her head, her arms.  He referenced the beauty of the lines, the grace, and the unknown origin of the statue.  And then he said that it reminds us that "Victory is beautiful, but never flawless."

That spoke to my soul.  Life doesn't have to be perfect.  I don't have to get everything right.  I just have to keep trying.  I feel so overwhelmed by all the roles that I have: nurse, teacher, cook, referee (yeah, three teenage boys will make you one very quickly!).

President Nelson's message of hope during this time was also helpful.  We can find joy in the journey, which prompted me to think about what was happening if I wasn't finding the joy.  What am I looking at?  In soccer, when an offensive player is being overwhelmed with defense, many times they call for them to "switch the field."  If the defense is focusing on one or two players, that means someone else is open.  When I'm overwhelmed, discouraged, I need to switch the field.

When I focus on the news, the inability to get out among people, all of the "what ifs," it's hard, it's crazy hard!  I start to worry, am I doing enough?  Am I good enough?  Can my kids learn what they need to at home?  What about AP tests?  Will he be ready?  What about soccer?  Are we taking enough precautions to protect Aaron? Can I get all his meds?  What about food?  Can we make it through this lockdown without hating each other by the end? What about getting enough exercise?  Why me?  Why us?  Why now?  And why on earth an earthquake????

But when I switch the field, everything changes.  Spring drives me crazy. 
There's never enough time with soccer and band and choir and scouts and youth group and prep for end of year tests and AP exams.  We rarely even eat dinner together.  I usually leave it out on the counter until everyone cycles through because schedules are so difficult.  It's cold and rainy, but sports and carpool and everything goes on.  Kids are "done" with school, but still not done, so it's a struggle to keep not only my kids focused at home, but my students at school.

Instead, life is much slower right now.  I make breakfast each morning.  That hasn't happened for years.  Michael watches a quick funny video from his principal.  We start the day with a short seminary lesson via Facebook Live (thestevescott, I highly recommend it!) and then move to school work.  The boys are (fairly) focused and get their work done during the morning.  We all have lunch together and then "story time."  I'm reading The Orphan Keeper out loud to them.  It's a good book, but one I don't think they'd ever pick up on their own.

When things get squirrely, when frustrations rise, I send them outside to play football in the yard, or upstairs to use the pop-a-shot.  There's free time.  Yeah, quite a bit of screen time.  We do a scripture study and write (briefly) in the evening after dinner and then watch a movie together.  Last night was Lion King and there was discussion on whether singing was allowed or not.  I pulled the "mom card" and announced that we could, as long as it wasn't overwhelming.  😁

We've adjusted nursing hours so that Aaron's school nurse can come in and work with him each morning for a little bit, so he's still learning as well.  I'm hoping to go back to school for a Masters in Social Work the fall of 2021, and I need to take three classes prior to that to be admitted into the program, so I'll be doing online work along with the kids.

We now have time to cook together.  Michael and I did a quick inventory of the food we have in cold storage, and we're in good shape there.  Wednesday morning started out with an earthquake.  Utah doesn't usually get those.  We were definitely shaken up, but so many people called or texted to check in on us.  Not only neighbors, but also a nurse manager and his equipment company.

So while it's taking time to get adjusted to our "new normal," there are good things too.  We've done the new normal thing before.  And this won't last forever.  It may last a long time, but it will come to an end.  I don't know what will happen in the future, but I know if I can stay close to God and remember that sometimes I need to switch the field, we'll make it through.

This is not the first time the earth has gone through a pandemic; it won't be the last.  I'll do whatever I can to protect my family and my community, but at some point, I have to leave the end result up to Someone else.  I don't have that kind of influence or power anyway.  I'll try to nourish and care for my own soul so that I can be open to the needs around me.  And as we prune out the excess dead wood, there will be more energy to put into areas that are more important.

And if you're wondering, the previous post was in definite need of switching the field.  There wasn't much focus on the good there at all.  Be grateful it was just a draft.

Oh, my friend, it's not what they take away from you that counts. It's what you do with what you have left. 
~Hubert Humphrey

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Where I Am, Where We Are With Everything (Coronavirus)

It's been a _____ couple of weeks around here.  Crazy, mind boggling, interesting, confusing, scary, busy, whatever.  You fill in the blank.  I'm not sure where this is going.  Another "straighten out the brain tangles" post.  And it's long, really long.  You've been warned.

Aaron has done pretty well since coming home.  We've seen a few seizures here and there, but overall, not too bad. The new heart med is helping him not work so hard from that standpoint, and also can cause diarrhea, which is not good, except that's the opposite of what he's struggled with the last several months.  Upshot of that is he is not currently on any of the GI meds (2 doses of 2 different meds per day) that he was on.  Take away giving four med doses per day?  Yes, please.

But then there's this whole, well, you know.  It's all anyone is talking about today, and yesterday, and last week, and...

I'm struggling.  Honestly.  But it's also been interesting how things have developed here at home and out in our community.  Two weeks ago it was making enough noise that I was really starting to notice.  Yes, I know it was beyond awful for many before that, but I was dealing with seizures, and it wasn't here.  My brain literally can only deal with so much at one time, and I was already overwhelmed.

The week we came home from the hospital, my husband asked me on Thursday (March 5) what I thought of grounding Aaron, especially from church.  I honestly wasn't sure.  He really likes going, but the facts are, there are a lot of people who don't think much of going to church sick.  It's wrong, it's totally irresponsible, but it's true.  His school, on the other hand, is beyond hypervigilant about germs. It's probably the safest place he could be.  But like I said, I wasn't sure it was a good idea.

Friday morning the news began making noises about Covid 19 already being here, just undiagnosed. I started a conversation with one of Aaron's doctors, and she strongly recommended he be grounded.  So William and I put into place a way to make that happen.  That afternoon, the governor announced a state of emergency for Utah.  That evening, the first diagnosis appeared.

Can I tell you about Sunday?  I heard every single cough and sneeze and sniffle in the congregation, and cringed each time and Aaron wasn't even there.  Yes, I know some may have been allergies, or a tickle in the throat.  But reality is, I haven't heard them since his first year of life.  Yes, they've been there.  I haven't noticed.  But I did this time. My body, my brain, has shifted back into that mindset.  That exhausting, hyperaware, PTSD mindset of constant vigilance.

So that was the first step.

Then this week.  This is my week. It's a huge ballroom competition, National Dancesport, at BYU.  For the past 11 years, I've pretty much spent Wednesday through Saturday of this week at the Marriott Center.  We had a lot of discussion about whether or not I should go.  But I was also taking care of my cute granddaughter there.  We talked about social distancing.  I planned to only be there for the days mine were dancing, Wednesday evening, all day Thursday, and Friday morning.

On my way there Wednesday, William called me.  Church leaders had called off Stake conferences, determined that missionaries would be trained at home, and that General Conference would not have people in the congregation.  He wanted to talk about locking down our house, and having all of us stay home from church so as not to bring anything home to Aaron.  I was totally on board with the first.  It's not like we have that many people come over anyway, but to restrict it to just nurses working and our family seemed more than reasonable.  I was really hesitant about church though.  He reached out to our bishop (leader of our local congregation) about this as well.

Well, then things went down that evening.  That was the night that the Jazz game was called off right before tip-off.  That was the night the NBA suspended their season.  That was the night many colleges officially closed classes.

I went home and told William I was totally on board.  The next day the governor held another press conference, asking people not to gather in groups of more than 100 starting next Monday.  He stated that this did not affect public schools, but pretty much everything else.  That afternoon, church officials suspended group meetings immediately.  Once again, my husband was ahead of the curve, and I had been dragging my feet.  But still, Dancesport continued.  So I was there.

Guys, this is a big deal for a lot of people.  It's where they declare a national champion and send them to the International Championship.  Yeah, I know, so is the NCAA tournament, so is the NBA, and all the other things that were also being cancelled.  But for me, for my kids, this was personal, this was where the rubber met the road.

BYU even suspended classes.  And still the dance went on.  Until it didn't.  Mid-afternoon, the director of the ballroom program came to the podium and announced that at the close of the evening, it would be over.  Gasps and tears were audible through the arena.  Deborah would finish her competitions, but Jonny and Avanlee would not.  One that they stood the best chance in was on Friday morning.  It was the last time they would dance in a competition before leaving for Saudi Arabia next fall.  Teams and couples from around the country who had prepped all year, would not take the floor.  It was hard, and heartbreaking.

And our schools?  Well, Friday was a half day because of end of term.  Just was, and was on the calendar that way a year ago.  They announced that Monday and Tuesday would also be half days so the teachers could learn and prepare "in case" schools were closed.  Yeah.  In case.  Friday afternoon, the governor closed schools for two weeks.

This one scares me.  It scares me not just for Aaron, but for those around us.  Over the past several weeks, I've had lots of students wondering what the big deal is.  I mean, it acts like something between a bad cold and the flu.  And for most of us, that's what it is.  But not for everyone, even every typical person.

So we'd do some math.  Say you've got 2400 students in the high school and a quarter of them have it at the same time. That's about 600 sick students. (Not that they got it at the same time, but are currently sick at the same time.)  Current numbers say that kids do much better than adults, but still, 1-2% will need hospitalization to make it through.  So maybe 6-10 need a hospital.  That's not bad.  That's totally doable.  Until you realize that this is one high school.  Our district has 12. 

There are 78,000 students served by our district alone.  With those numbers, if a quarter get sick, that's 19,500 sick kids, and I don't think that's too out there.  We're confined in one county, mostly the northern part and interact through sports and other activities on a regular (but not now) basis.  If 1% need care, that's 195 kids.  From one district.  In a state with 41 districts.  Where the local children's hospital serves a five-state area, and has 266 beds, including long-term patients like NICU and cancer and organ transplant children.

And kids do better than adults.

See the problem???

Frankly, I've had to unfollow a lot of people lately.  Usually when things are  posted that I find irritating, or even ridiculous, I roll my eyes if I do anything and scroll on.  But because my anxiety has been high, for my own mental health, I find I can't handle the misinformation or the casual dismissal of what will happen if things aren't better controlled, if we can't flatten that curve.

Aaron wouldn't even be admitted, for anything, if things got out of control.  If our healthcare gets overwhelmed, the fragile ones have to be dismissed so that others can be saved.  The elderly, the ones with underlying conditions, the ones less likely to live.  If things get big, even typically healthy people will die that would otherwise be able to get care and live.  It is beyond critical that we slow the growth, flatten the curve.  I can't stand the thought of this turning into what's happening in Italy.

So that's where my brain is now.  For my own well being, I'm cutting back on how often I check in on the news.  We're putting together plans for church at home and trying to figure out school here as well.  Aaron's school nurse will still be coming, at least for a little while, because she knows much more than I do about what and how he's learning.

Just over 30 years ago, Hurricane Gloria hit the eastern seaboard.  I was a junior in high school, same age as one of my boys.  The governor cancelled school across the state and yes, it was pretty rough for a lot.  I remember waves crashing through casino windows down in Atlantic City.  There were a few deaths, but nothing like the state had prepared for.  It turned back out to sea instead of hitting us full force.  For my family, it was really bad wind and rain, and I remember being irritated by my mom who wouldn't let me go hang out with friends.

I very much hope and pray that this will be a "Hurricane Gloria" for us, where it disrupts life and causes inconvenience, but we all get to come back together.  Can't even begin to tell you how much I pray for this.

Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that 
God gives us to control our fears, 
not to oust them. 
~Vincent McNabb

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Our Week in a Nutshell (Mostly)

 Our life is crazy.  So is yours, I’m sure.  It’s just different kinds of crazy, but sometimes, it goes a bit (a lot?) over the top!

I think it started on Tuesday, although possibly Sunday.  But Tuesday was the defining moment.  Andrew had an ensamble performance for a solo/ensamble assignment and Aaron and I were going over to listen.  Except the Aaron we put in the wheelchair morphed into something else: a stiff, non-responsive, somewhat discolored, appearing to not be breathing creature.  What??  I checked trach placement, we made sure oxygen was actually on, and then it was over.  He had seized.  Hadn’t seen one of those for a long time, but apparently, they were back.

Over at the school, he had a few more, and then went for the whole “breathing is optional” scenario, so I bagged him.  Hey, unfortuantely, that’s part of our routine craziness. We just do it.  And then because he’d had about five or six seizures, when we got home, I gave him his rescue med.

Tuesday night was a bit restless in sleeping, but he slept.  Wednesday morning, his regular seizure med got overlooked.  He had a seizure during PT at school, and then that afternoon things really ramped up.  Five in about an hour, gave rescue med, they continued.  Five more and another dose of rescue med, and still they kept going. By then we’d gotten him home and realized that his Keppra had been missed, gave it, consulted with neurology, and came up with a game plan.  There were a few more, and then he fell asleep, HARD!

Slept soundly from about 5:00 pm until about 10:30 pm, restless until about 5 am, and then slept pretty much ALL DAY Thursday, waking for about an hour, (another seizure!) and then asleep until Friday mid-morning.  

And then?  You guessed it, more seizures.  After another cluster, we gave his rescue med yet again (four times in just under four days).  At that point, I was done.  We had to do something, so we came up to Primary’s.

Here’s the thing: illness causes seizures, but he’s not sick.  Stress can cause them, but he’s not stressed that we can see.  We had seriously No Idea!  We decided to stay and watch him for a couple days.  And neurology said to increase his regular seizure med.

Saturday went okay.  There were a couple times that we thought he might have had one.  But Aaron’s seizures are really pretty short.  If you’re not watching, you miss them.  Twice he had been playing and then just zonked out, super fast.  We think he may have had one and then we caught the postictal phase.  Who knows?

But, in addtion, his oxygen needs were going up, and up, and while it’s not been that unusual for us to deal with this, the doctor wasn’t real impressed.  She put in a call to cardiology.  They ordered labs.  The x-ray shows his heart is a bit larger for size than his last views.  And yeah, his heart is working harder again.  Sigh...

They’re putting him on a heart med we used back when he was tiny and in heart failure.  It will help relax things a bit and let his heart work more effectively.  Except, it can also mess a bit with some electrolytes, so we had to check them first.

Another lab draw, another poke.  And some different news. His electrolytes have always been really good.  And they weren’t really bad this time either.  But some were low.  Shouldn’t have been low enough to cause seizures, but maybe???

So they gave him potassium and magnesium, and maybe calcium.  (I can’t remember right now.). And then the heart med.  And ya know what?  He’s looking pretty darn good right now!

My night owl, my “don’t you dare wake me before noon” kid has been up and playing pretty much all morning.  We don’t see any seizures.  He’s still on a (fairly) managable amount of oxygen.  And we’re hoping to get our walking orders soon.

And that, in a very large nutshell, is how things are going right now.

Today is March 1st, the first day of Trisomy Awareness Month.  My goal is to post a picture of him  each day to instagram and Facebook.  Today I’m hoping it’s one of us going home.

If we weren't all crazy, we'd just go insane.
Jimmy Buffett