Yesterday, I posted my third and final attempt at contacting Unity Point/Blank Children's via their VP and CEO. Although, I never did get an official response from they themselves, the President and COO at Blank Children's Hospital contacted me to address my concerns.
I have to be cordial in saying that he was a polite man but he advised me he was going to tell me what I didn't want to hear. I already knew that.... but I wanted to be heard. Not ignored. This is a child we are talking about.
The facts are: Unity Point/Blank Children's opposes the CBD Bill here in Iowa and will not consider backing it until the FDA Approves it.
I get it. It's big business and big pharma and there is nothing that I can do about it to change anyone's mind.
It's just sad that parents and physicians aren't able to make choices for their children and their patients without policies blocking their way. My son has suffered enough. He has been through three years of absolute hell in dealing with the medical world from the very day he was born.
It doesn't matter that they don't know how to treat his Rare Chromosome Disorder. It doesn't matter that they didn't know how to treat him when we come into the ER with collapsing spells. It doesn't matter that they put him through unneccesary IVs and starve him for hours and hours for tests that never happened due to the fact that no one wanted to call our neurologist to find out he'd just had an MRI.
It doesn't matter that he's only 3 and that we have to travel out of town and out-of-state to get the help that we need. It doesn't matter that his own Neurologist who has been seeing him since he was 10 months old won't sign an card to ensure that we won't go to jail for giving him a medicine that comes from a plant.
It doesn't matter that he's got a massive kidney and that a good portion of anti-convulsant medications are out due to the fact that they are metabolized in the kindeys. It doesn't matter that the only two medications that we have been advised are our last options can make him go backwards and lose the skills that he has worked so hard to gain.
It doesn't matter that he's had to be in multiple therapies since before he could crawl - just so he was able to sit up. It doesn't matter that at 3 he still cannot even say Mama or that he can't feed himself because his pincer grasp is just now starting to work.
It doesn't matter that the mass in his brain makes him feel pressure in his head so badly he'll slam his head into his crib for hours. It doesn't matter that the pressure from the mass in his neck that has been ignored for months has made him start hitting himself in the head and ear.
None of what my son has gone through or will go through matters to them. They will not back the CBD Bill until the FDA Approves it. Which could take decades. THESE KIDS DON'T HAVE YEARS TO WAIT.
But you know what? It doesn't matter that my kid doesn't matter to them.
It doesn't matter that they told me No. It doesn't matter that our Neurologist doesn't have the guts to do what is right. It doesn't matter that our own Physician and our own Politicians have even advised us to do it anyway.
None of that matters.
He is my son. HE MATTERS. I am going to fight to get him access to a medicine that could literally change his world. THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. KIDS MATTER. LIVES MATTER.
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.)
There is nothing that I can stress more when you are dealing with a sick or special needs child than the fact that if you feel that you have gotten terrible care or that the individual you met with did not answer all your questions - PLEASE get a Second Opinion.
Until I had a son that has had medical issues since day one, I had no idea how different and often times completely opposing views doctors and nurses would have as to what is considered appropriate care for my child. If you are new to the blog you might be shocked to hear we had an Orthopaedic Surgeon tell us that our son may not walk, a Neurologist who told us he was "fine" and a Pediatrician who missed a lot of signs of a serious issue for the first ten months of his life!
I am lucky to have had a nurse friend advise me on what to do when no one else was listening. So, if you are reading this because you have a sick child and no one listens... find someone who will. Since my son was born we have seen Nephrologists, Orthopaedic Surgeons, Neurosurgeons, Neurologists, Ophthalmologists, Cardiologists, a handful of Pediatricians, Orthotists, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Dieticians, and almost any other kind of "ist" there is out there. Once I finally got his first Pediatrician to admit that something was off with my child, there hasn't been a day that I haven't fought like hell to do everything that I can for him.
After my last post, we decided to travel to Iowa City to see another Nephrologist. She concurred that he does have abnormal kidneys but that the scans weren't exactly the best. It appeared that they are almost on top of one another, so she doesn't believe them to be horseshoe kidneys per se but said that there was flesh where there shouldn't be any and that they definitely aren't where they are supposed to be. So, she recommended that he get a nuclear test (Mag 3) to check his kidney function and to make sure that everything is working properly. They were going to try to schedule it the same day as his next MRI (in three weeks, eep!), so he only has to be sedated the one time. Sedating your child is risky and scary but sometimes it is a necessary evil.
In addition to the Nephrologist, we also managed to get the Sleep Study conducted over mother's day weekend. We took our own supplies and showed the sweet nurse how we prevented him from ripping off the sensors during his three day EEG. They managed to get the information they needed from the very little time that he slept (he woke every 60 minutes the entire night) but I am hoping that it is enough to show the Pulmonologist what is going on in Abram's sleep. We have already ruled out Aspiration but are still waiting to hear if he has sleep apnea or RLS before chalking his sleep issues 100% as an affect of his chromosomal disorder and the mass on his pineal gland.
The Geneticist also called back to report that Abram's test for Noonan Syndrome came back as "normal" but that the test only catches 60-70% of the cases so a normal result doesn't necessarily rule out Noonan Syndrome but it makes it less likely. That was a $4,700 test for a maybe? So, now we are still waiting on the results of my husbands blood work to see if he is a carrier of the Chromosome 7 Deletion. If he isn't, then they will be testing for Fragile X Syndrome.
We also have had a follow-up with our Neurologist who upon walking into our appointment was convinced that he would start medication for Abram's seizure-like activity but after seeing him and how much he'd improved socially and physically since our last meeting changed his mind entirely! That was a big relief. The less medicine the better because most anti-seizure medications make kiddos very sedate and his entire personality could change.
Next month is another huge month with appointments and follow-ups but I am hoping that July will bring fewer doctors appointments and more fun! This is officially Abram's third summer and I plan to make it the first memorable one for him. He deserves to be a kid. If the Fragile X comes back as "normal" too, I think we'll be taking a break from the hunt for a diagnosis or a name of a syndrome for our son's affliction. Life is too short to spend it in a waiting room!
My apologies for my lack in posting recently! I think all of the stress of the last year finally caught up with me and on top of being overwhelmed by appointments I managed to catch the dreaded "crud" along with Abram last week!
February and March were incredibly busy months with doctor's appointments, speciality clinics, therapies and working hard on walking with Abe. After we got the news of our son's rare genetic disorder on New Years Eve, we have basically been running the gamut of specialists to rule out the common things that go with the Chromosome deletion he has.
We were VERY lucky to hear that Abram's heart it "beautiful"!! He has no murmurs or abnormalities so when the Pediatric Cardiologist walked in and said "good news" after his EKG and Echocardiogram, my eyes filled with tears and every hair stood up on my arms. That moment was honestly the first time we've heard GOOD news from a doctor since Abram was born and for that - we are so thankful!!
In March we also found out through a renal sonogram (requested by our Geneticist) that Abram has fused kidneys. They are apparently one large organ and pushed over to one side. For now, we have no idea what that means for Abram but since he has not had any issues wetting diapers, I refused to let myself read or research anything about it. We got to see the Nephrologist (the kidney doc) this Friday where Abe will have to get another renal sonogram after which we will get to see the specialist. I am nervous to see how that will turn out but I am trying to keep calm and focus on the things I CAN do something about right now!
Abram also got his new glasses with the correct prescription and he has done so well with wearing them and keeping them on. You can tell that they really do help him and make a huge difference so I must say I am impressed with the Wolfe Eye Clinic! They made dilating Abram's eyes seem like a piece of cake and we were in and out of there in under two hours. I even think the glasses are helping immensely with Abram's mobility as well since he can see where he's going! He is now "cruising" on furniture and walls, wants to constantly walk holding mommy's fingers so tight that my fingertips turn purple and he loves his new push-behind toy that I managed to score for $8 at a Flea Market! (It's a nice ALL wood one that will be sweet with my intended makeover).
The next BIG thing after our Nephrologist appointment will be Abram's MRI to check the mass in his brain for growth. I am SO nervous about that but we have to take things one appointment at a time and one day at a time. I know I am well educated about all of my son's medical issues and all I can do now is hope that it hasn't grown.
I also have some exciting news regarding Abram's healthcare. We were booted off Medicaid on Abram's first birthday) the same day we were talking to a Skull Base Surgeon about brain surgery for our child. We made "too much" money on their scale but we did manage to qualify for Hawki. That has helped immensely but it hasn't covered everything so we have really dwindled our savings down paying out-of-pocket for things for Abram's medical expenses/necessities. We heard about the Disability Waiver and the Intellecutal Disability Waiver last summer after all of Abe's diagnoses and I immediately applied. He qualified for disability but the wait list for help is 18 months long and after two REALLY long years raising a special needs kid without a great support system has been difficult at best. After supplying an encyclopedia of information to DHS and a meeting with a psychiatrist, Abram qualified for the ID Waiver so we now officially have a case worker, Abe has his Title 19 back which will help immensely with medical expenses, we got our WIC back and we now qualify for Respite Care and Supported Community Living, which means we will finally have the ability to take a break every now and then!
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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