I have written to you (Bill Leaver and Kevin Vermeer) several times since June with no response. Julia is listed as a contact for media on the Unity Point website and I have not received a response from her either. I called and left a message for Mr. Vermeer's assistant last week and did not receive a response that way either. Incase you didn't receive them before, you can find them by scrolling past this email to the bottom as they are also included in this email.
I have shared my story with the Des Moines Register, Associated Press, the President of the Iowa Senate as well as with all of the Republican House and Senate Members. Senator Grassley's office admitted that they were aware of your hospital policy not allowing your physicians to sign off on the CBD cards, which I found shocking. I also have contacts at most of the major news outlets for television as well. I am sure Iowans would be interested in hearing that the non-profit and publicly funded hospital who touts in their commercials about how much they care for sick kids are blocking an already extremely limited bill that parents fought so hard to get.
Perhaps my last emails were too lengthy but it is difficult to share my son's story without it. I am not going to write why I think CBD is a good choice for my child. Your hospital has made it clear with its policy that you don't trust your own doctors let alone the parents of your own patients to decide what is best for their children.
So I will just share with you some facts about my child's healthcare journey. My son just turned 3 this month. In those three years he has had to fight so hard to do things that other kids and families take for granted. Two years ago, I was informed that he has a mass growing in his brain and that the mass would most likely cause seizures and that it would require surgical intervention at some point in his life.
The mass is circled in yellow below. Due to that mass, my son has to go through routine MRIs which are dangerous in so many ways to a young body. Yet, your hospital won't let us have legal access to a medicine which is anti-tumoural and anti-seizure. Instead - you would rather us put him through MRIs and multiple sedations to make sure it isn't growing. So every six to nine months we have to say goodbye to our son and pray that he wakes up from sedation and that he doesn't stop breathing during the procedure again.
In addition to the mass in his brain he also suffers a Rare Chromosome Disorder called 7q31.31 which deleted the KCND2 gene, which also pre-disposes him to Epilepsy. He is just ONE of THIRTY-FIVE people in the world who are known to have this.
We learned all of this before he turned 18 months old. However, on top of that he was also diagnosed with Hypotonia (he was unable to walk until he was 30 months old), Sensory Processing Disorder, Microganthia and more. His diagnosis list doesn't stop there but due to the fact that you have zero care in the world for what my son is going through or what my family is going through. After all, your paid Lobbyist/Employee/Manager of Child Protection at your hospital stated publicly that “We don’t know if families use it for their children that maybe four years from now they could contract cancer or something like that.”
We have seen three Neurologists and five Neurosurgeons. We have been to two Nephrologists (one who incorrectly diagnosed my son at YOUR hospital - forcing us to go to Iowa City), we have been to the CDD to meet OTs, PTs, STs, Developmental Specialists, we have put him through FOUR EEGs and FOUR MRIs and we have seen countless other specialists like Endocrinology, Orthopaedic Surgeons and Cranio-Facial Surgeons. We have been to the MN Epilepsy Group and are heading to Mayo for their diagnostic clinic in the upcoming months as well due to the fact that no one in Iowa can put the pieces together for us.
I am writing you because I think that if you even took one look at these kids and the lives that they live you would understand that they need help NOW. My son needs reprieve.
His Generalized Seizures and Abnormal Brain activity make is so that he never gets a break. Can you imagine getting shocked all day, every day and even while you are sleeping? Could you imagine how the lack of sleep would make a person feel? My son has never had a full good day. My son has never had a full night's sleep. My son has never had a summer or a spring or a winter without countless appointments and that doesn't even count his therapies. Can you imagine working for months and even years on learning words only to have them taken away by a seizure? Can you imagine how hard it is as a parent not to hear your child call you Mama?
It is heart breaking to try to share his story with people who are so against a medicine that may have the chance of changing his entire quality of life. A medicine that has been proven in other countries and other states to be effective on Epilepsy. However, my son doesn't just have Epilepsy. He also has that mass in his brain that I shared with you.
If that were your child - wouldn't you rather take the slight risk of giving him a medicine that could have the possibility of not only taking away his seizures but also shrinking that mass in his brain? A mass that all of our specialists are waiting to grow. A mass that has doubled in size since 2013. A mass that can cause life threatening and irreversible neurological damage.
If that were your son's brain - wouldn't you want to take the risk of giving him a plant in lieu of waiting for the most invasive brain surgery there is for your toddler?
If that were your son - wouldn't you appreciate the Executives at your own child's hospital taking the time to respond to your concerns?
Please sirs. Change your policy on CBD. Please help my son.
I haven't had the courage to post here very often because when I try to tell this story over (and over) again I just get angry. After Abe had his ride to the Children's Hospital in October in an ambulance I thought that maybe we'd have answers. We went through a 44 hour VEEG and then a 22 hour Ambulatory EEG and had no events or episodes that we noted. I went all that time and all of those weeks thinking that they had just disproved seizures. WEEKS went by and we heard no news. None. At my follow-up appointment, I was told that his EEG was "abnormal" but I needed to re-schedule the next appointment with my husband so he could go over the EEGs with us. So we did. It was then that he told us that he has "Generalized Seizure Disorder" and that his EEG was "very very abnormal". He described it as "his brain is firing from all over the place all of the time". Then he gave us a list of medications in which we should look into and chose which anti-seizure med we needed to choose. Luckily, I have a great relationship with our Pharmacist who helped us pick based on his extensive knowledge of all that is Abe.
We chose Clonazepam over the rest in hopes that it would help is serious lack of sleep, his agitated mood in addition to helping his seizures. December was THE BEST MONTH we have ever had. All of our friends noticed just from his pictures that he was so happy and he felt sooooo good. He had a shine in his eyes. He smiled. He played with toys. He walked unassisted for the first time in his life at 30 months. He fed himself with a fork for the first time all right before Christmas. Everyone said "he seems like such a different little boy".
But then it changed. So we upped his Meds in January, February and March. For most of the month of March I called begging for help to our Neurologist's Office. We were trying to set up peer-to-peer conversation between our local doctor and the Skull Base Surgeon who had been following Abe since he was 10 months old. Our Neurologist had admitted that he needed outside help. I even wrote a research paper for him on the 7q31.31 deletion and our Geneticists findings as well as the info I had from the only 4 other families in the country who have similar but not the same deletion but I never got a response regarding my findings at all which basically proved that the 7q31.31 had no other patients who suffered from seizures.
After our Neuro and the Skull Based Surgeon's first peer-to-peer, we were told their concerns were things were structurally changing within the brain. We needed an "urgent MRI" that got pushed back a week. I bawled my eyes out. Then we got the MRI and it showed that in addition to his "11+mm prominent pineal cystic lesion" he now has a new 2cm occipital cyst as well and there are changes in his hippocampus and his temporal horns. It took another 10 days for these results to be discussed with the Skull Base Surgeon (who wanted to give us an even later date but our doctor refused).
Just last weekend, he had a seizure with his SCL on that Friday, by Saturday he was crawling and by Sunday he could only take a couple of steps before he collapsed and had to crawl the rest of the way. I called the "on-call" Neuro who asked me "What do you want to do?" In some occasions, it's great to have a doctor ask you that. However, that occasion is NOT when your toddler is having Neurological Issues and no one ever even really discussed with you what that REALLY MEANS or what to look for... that is not what you want to hear.
So, she advised us to give him an extra dose of meds and bring him in if it still continued. And it did. So we went to the ER. We were admitted and told he'd need another MRI and no one would even call to discuss with our Neurologist. So they prepped him for said MRI and full sedation (with breathing tube, etc) by giving him an IV (which is horrific for him, in so so many ways) and starving him. By 7pm that night he was a WRECK. They still didn't have a sedation team to do the MRI so they let him eat and then we had to withhold food again until his MRI that was to be at 8 am.
Eight o'clock in the morning came by quickly and after waiting several hours more and with Abe having a nervous breakdown, the MRI was canceled and my son was able to eat. By 2pm that day, our Neurologist told us the Skull Base Surgeon still said he was not a surgical candidate for the pineal cyst and had no other advice. No word about the Seizures or the changes in his hippocampus or temporal horns. No mention of the new occipital cyst. No explanation. No nothing. We were told that they didn't know how to help us and that we needed to go somewhere else.
Having your Neurologist tell you they don't know how to help your child is overwhelming. I'm NOT angry with him for that at all. I feel lucky that I at least have a doctor who is honest with me and WANTS to help my son get to someone who can help. It's an incredibly scary journey when the specialists need to point you in another direction.
To sum it up: I am pissed. I am so frustrated with the medical care my son has gotten since Day One. I am so tired of people being completely oblivious to the fact that even though we (as a Country) feel we live in such a great place with medical help - the fact of the matter is - it depends wholly on what insurance you have and how much money you'e got. If you or your child has a major health care issue and cannot afford private insurance on top of the Medicaid your child qualifies you are screwed. It's even worse if it's rare.
It seems to me that the doctors we have dealt with personally, would much rather tell you "I don't know" than actually do some research to try to educate themselves so that maybe they could offer some words of advice. Instead, they just point their finger at the next Specialist and send us on our way.
To help you understand my frustration, here is my breakdown in dealing with Neurology, Neurosurgery an Genetics:
Almost 18 months ago, I was told that my son had a Pineal Cyst. I was told that they are "notoriously slow growers" and that it most likely wouldn't grow at all. However, we were sent to another hospital for a follow-up MRI with a Pediatric Neurosurgeon. When we checked in and were about to put my son under anesthesia they had to ask me what we were even there for! Yes, that's right. They didn't even know WHY we were there. I had a lengthy discussion with the Nurses, the Anesthesiologist and everyone else involved in my son's care that day as to what we were looking for and much to my shock and horror the Radiologist came back and reported my son's brain scan as "normal" and "no mass lesion" when any fool with eyes can see that THERE IS SOMETHING IN MY SON'S BRAIN. (With this, I must stress the importance of YOU as a parent taking a major role in your child's health care. Get copies of everything. Get records as soon as you can. Get the Discs of all the scans and LOOK at them. READ the reports. You might be shocked at what these "specialists" are missing.)
So, I call my Neurologist who in turn is livid and makes the radiologist correct his report. Yet, you know what is scary? Typically Neurologists go by what the Radiologist says! What if that had been his first MRI? What if I HADN'T checked the scans and read the reports myself? Thankfully, we have a Neurologist who cares and advocates for his patients.
The truth is, we wouldn't be where we are or as far as we are. YOU have to advocate for your child. No one else is going to do it for you. No news is not good news. No news in actuality probably means someone is not doing their damn job and I have learned that time and time again. Anyhow, after that debaucle we met with the local Pediatric Neurosurgeon who told me that it is likely benign, can't cause symptoms, etc. Come back in one year for a follow-up MRI, which is where this part of our story actually begins.
Due to the fact that the Radiologist incorrectly reported my son's brain scan as "no mass lesion" when we were there for a follow-up BECAUSE HE HAS A MASS LESION, I wanted a second opinion. So, we got a referral to our state's teaching university (a four star hospital) and we got an appointment with what we were told was a world reknowned Neurosurgeon who came highly regarded. We also had an appointment with their Pediatric Neurologist as well to get another Neurologist's Opinion.
To get to the teaching hospital it is a 2+ hour drive to get there and when we met with this world reknown and highly regarded Neurosurgeon it was clear he had no interest in helping us and didn't even bother closing the door to the consultation. He took one look at my heavily tattooed arms, asked if I'd done drugs while I was pregnant, informed me my son had fluid all around his brain, that whatever was wrong with him happened in utero and that we needed to go to Genetics. He scoffed at my questions and quickly dismissed us.
Two hours later we met with the same teaching hospital's pediatric Neurologist who was in such a hurry to get away from us he seemed more like The Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland than a doctor. He couldn't stop looking at his watch, watched Abe roll around on the floor for less than 5 minutes, didn't even DO a physical exam and said "He looks fine to me. Come back in a year if he's still not walking." and he rushed off with his briefcase in his hand. I was livid. I filed complaints. Nothing came of it. I was hurt, disgusted and feeling betrayed by the medical system. How dare they not care about my suffering infant?!
After that, I researched day and night and read as many medical reports that I could find to educate myself as much as I could about Pineal Cysts. I joined a private support group for people who suffer from these lesions and for parents of children who suffer from these lesions. Thankfully, I stumbled upon the Skull Base Institute in Los Angeles and Doctor Shahinian. Luckily, my father and step-mother helped us out with the hefty consult fee it took to get a true professional opinion on the lesion in my son's brain. He informed us that my son's cyst was significant, that it was causing vision disturbances and that it would need to be dealt with. Last year was just not the right time. I had a hard time with understanding why his symptoms would need to worsen before this lesion was removed but the difficult truth of it all is - the surgery my son requires is literally the most dangerous sort of brain surgery there is. Pineal Cysts sit in the deepest part of the brain and most Neurosurgeons won't even touch this part of the brain until worsening (ahem, life threatening) symptoms arise. Doctor Shahinian is a Skull Base Surgeon and has actually invented surgical instruments with NASA to make endoscopic brain surgery more do-able and he is the one I will trust to remove this lesion when he says it is time. Luckily, we get to speak with him again on Friday. I am terrified of what he is going to tell us either way. Waiting is the worst but so is the thought of brain surgery. Hoping for brain surgery is even scarier but this little boy deserves to live his life pain-free and surgical intervention is literally his only option.
Doctor Shahinian told me to wait a year so I did. I tried to put it in the back of my mind and not obsess over it. I concentrated on helping my son with the things I could help him with and we dove head first into Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy and more. We went to Genetics like the first Neurosurgeon suggested and we found our son has a Rare Chromosomal Deletion but since his father carries the deletion they felt that it was a benign finding. We saw Nephrology and discovered a horseshoe kidney that is for now operating at 100% with one doing 60% of the work and the other doing 40%. We went to Cardiology and thankfully found out his heart is "beautiful". Genetics tested him for several other clinical diagnoses but came up empty handed and told us to come back in two years in hopes that new testing may arise. So they had no genetic proof for the cause of my son's global developmental delay, hypotonia or any of his other health issues and diagnoses with are now pages long.
The year went by quickly doing all of those things and Abram was scheduled for a follow-up MRI (back at the hospital where the Radiologist failed to even note his mass lesion) and of course to our dismay our appointment got screwed up courtesy of a careless nurse not reading her reports and filing his MRI with the incorrect insurance which we had not had nor paid for in months. So, we had starved our son for 14+ hours by the time I stormed into their office with my screaming toddler who was beyond consoling at this point. She needed to see that her actions actually has an impact on her patients. A two year old who is non verbal and who has been diagnosed with an Intellectual Disability cannot comprehend why he cannot eat or drink. They would NOT let us get the MRI even though I offered to pay cash. I was disgusted. I filed a complaint and we ended up going back to the Children's Hospital for the follow-up MRI.
Our normal health care provider called us the next day with the Radiologist report which stated my son's lesion was "unchanged". I should have known better. When we went to see our Neurologist for a follow-up he didn't even know we'd gotten the MRI even though I had called his office THREE TIMES to let him know it was done and that we were coming in for discussion. He never had a consult with us about this MRI and I am not convinced that those images were ever even looked at. He did send the images on to the same Neurosurgeon's office whose nurse totally screwed us over on Abe's follow-up MRI and some time afterward I got a call from said nurse informing me that there was no need for follow-up. The Pediatric Neurosurgeon had no need to see us.
Fast forward 60 days and my son is in an ambulance after what we thought at first was a Night Terror that turned into God knows what. A seizure? Aspirating? No one knows. He spent three days after that on a video EEG that caught NOTHING and then another ambulatory EEG that caught nothing. And let me tell you... putting a child with Sensory Processing Disorder through EEGs is like putting them through torture. My son was so upset that by third day of the Ambulatory EEG that he'd clawed through most of his gauze and shredded it t pieces and managed to pop of eight of the sensors. I just asked for them to end the study at that point. What's the point? It's not accurate if the sensors aren't on. They weren't going to stay on. It was pointless. I was informed then that we were "out of monitoring options" because they were convinced they'd prove that it was seizures causing my son's issues. We have officially had a sleep deprived EEG, two 3-day Video EEGs and an Ambulatory EEG and they have found no evidence or proof of seizures.
So I went down to the Hospital in person and got a copy of my son's most recent MRI and was SHOCKED to read that the Radiologist reported that it was unchanged when in fact it had GROWN. I was beyond mad. I called his office. They would not let me speak to him to explain this to me. I called my Neurologist and he told me I'd need to see the local Pediatric Neurosurgeon. I called my health care provider whom I cannot get ahold of on the telephone and it's been two weeks.
After explaining to our Neurologist the issues I had with his friend he referred us on to the teaching University to a "new" Pediatric Neurosurgeon up there. This of course took two weeks and four phone calls to get. I'm honestly questioning myself on why I'm even going back there after how their Neurology Department treated us last year but I'm going to try to be open-minded about it. Maybe this guy will not be a total egotistical maniac. If he is... you might hear me screaming.
In addition to traveling up to the University we also have an appointment with the Skull Base Institute to speak with Doctor Shahinian.I'm scared shitless of what he is going to say. Waiting is awful. Yet, if he does tell us its time - Abe's Medicaid will not pay for us to go out-of-state for a surgery like this and I do NOT trust the people in this state with something as delicate and life-threatening as brain surgery. The surgery costs in upwards of $300,000 but if it comes down to that I have faith that fundraising will help us get what we need as SBI allows for down payments, monthly payments and the like. I will do anything possible to heal my son of this terrible ailment.
So that, my friends is our Journey with Neurology, Neurology, Genetics and the very real fear that is happening to my son. I am beyond thankful for my parents who have given us unconditional support and my friends who always send an encouraging word when I need it the most. To sum it up... this fucking sucks but my son is amazing and resilient and strong. He will overcome this and most likely will not remember any of this craziness. I however, am screaming on the inside and cry a lot when he's not looking. Just so proud that I have people to count on including friends who do research and hand-deliver it to show these jerk Neurosurgeons in Iowa that there is real facts published in Medical Journals proving that what my son has is in fact symptomatic. (Cecil, if you are reading this - you are my hero.)
As usual, a lot to report since my last entry. Abram is finally pulling up to stand and "cruising" along furniture! It was such a huge deal to us and it made me cry to see how proud he was to be doing that!! The cat however, seems a bit disgusted that he's got a broader reach!
His Physical Therapist also got him to walk across our (yes, tiny) living room but the fact that she got him to 1) touch the rubbery handles and 2) "walk" using his posture trainer (picture a backward adult/elderly walker) in shiny gold! He screamed the entire time but he did it with the help Physical Therapy twice a week since last summer! I'd like to honestly have him "walk" into that Orthopaedic Surgeon's office and have him kick the guy in the shins for telling us that we could do PT until we were blue in the face and it wouldn't do a thing! We showed him! Go, Abe, Go!!
I'd also like to send a HUGE THANK YOU to the Rock Island District of the Army Corps of Engineers - where my father retired from and whose former co-workers were kind enough to send us a great donation that enabled us to pay for Abram's new glasses (coming soon!) and new shoes! Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity and for thinking of my son! It was so kind of you!
I'd also like to say thank you to the people who sent my family kind words after my Grandfather's passing. Lyle Fluckey was a great man and he will be missed by many. I'm just so glad that I got to give him a proper goodbye and he got to see Abram stand before he left this world! Such a great honor to have the chance to tell someone you love them one last time!
The Opthamalogist that we switched to turned out to be a great decision. Abram's old glasses had a prescription that was incorrect (too strong) and they check him and he does not have FEVR, which was a relief. His right eye is turning in but they feel that these glasses will help correct it and they gave us drops to put into his eyes so that they dilate enough to blur his vision so that he'll WANT to wear his glasses. I'm hoping that method works! With his Sensory issues, he tends to be very head/face sensitive and can't stand anything on his head! Drops however, are a much better suggestion that the suggestion that we got from our old Doctor who told us to duct tape magazines around his arms to restrict his movement! Um, no!!!
In addition - Abram's soft spot still has not closed up and is considered to be an "abnormal fontanelle" so on the recommendation of our PT we are going to see a cranio facial doctor next week to see if they can give us any suggestions as to why it isn't closed, if it ever will close and to get a second opinion as to whether or not putting a helmet on him to protect him would be a good idea as suggested by our Neurologist.
I think that about sums that stuff up!! Lots of appointments coming up/waiting to get scheduled and as per usual, I will update here when I can! Thanks for reading and thanks for caring. We love you!
I had written a blog entry about Abram's Diagnosis that we received on New Year's Eve. I had made it my mission to find out what 'it' was that was affecting my son's development by the end of 2013. We'd been fighting for an answer since the day he was born in the summer of 2012 and I was not expecting the flood of emotions that I would feel after getting a diagnosis that involves a rare chromosomal disorder due to a micro deletion of Chromosome Seven; labeled as 7q31.31.
This diagnosis explains many of Abram's other diagnosed issues such as global developmental delay, his hypotonia as well as quite a bit of his behavior issues but unfortunately the Macrocephaly and the Cystic Lesion in his brain are unrelated. Alas, we are doing all that we can do to monitor that situation but I must admit that as I was reorganizing Abe's medical records yesterday, my gut dropped to see pineocytoma there in black in white under what we discussed with his Neurosurgeon in November.
I think I've been in a bit of a shock. I read and re-read the pamphlet from Unique about the commonalities of diagnoses, symptoms, etc and it was relieving to read quotes from parents who have children with a similar diagnosis. A lot of what seemed unanswerable to most of our doctors was explained, finally. I was prepared to get not so good news and even though these issues of Abe's are life-long problems, it was a big burden off my heart to know officially that this was indeed just how my son was made and not caused by his traumatizing birth. There was nothing I could have done to prevent his disorder and that alone was worth the struggles and fight we had to get here!
It hurts deep to know that the things that make your son hurt and struggle cannot be 'fixed' or 'grown out of'. It is world crushing news. It is hard and it hurts and I have days where I felt like I was ready to be okay with it and other days where I wanted to feel sorry for myself, my family and my son. Last Monday, I talked about my feelings with my favorite AEA gal and she made me realize that its okay to grieve, that it IS painful and that in order to move on, I needed to grieve that loss. It was then that I realized I hadn't let myself cry and that my husband and I hadn't even really talked about it. It hurt too bad. Friday we finally talked about everything. l had a good cry and I woke up in a different place and am trying hard to stay there.
Abram is a lot more than a long list of symptoms and diagnoses. He is a wonderful, brilliant little boy whose smile lights up the room. He is clever, funny and spontaneous and has already taught me a great deal about the importance of living in the now and the value of patience and persistence. He has come a long way in the last six months and I can't wait to see how far he goes with his therapies in 2014.
I am thankful for my little boy and all the amazing people he has brought into it. Motherhood has been a crazy ride so far and I wouldn't change any of it for the world.
Hi! I'm Erin. I'm Abe's mama, a tireless advocate for UBE2a Deficiency Syndrome and a fierce proponent for medical cannabis.
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