Keep Fighting the Fight: A Living Legend

John was born with a rare birth defect called Right-sided Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (R-CDH). No two cases are ever the same so treatment can be difficult. When John was born he was given a 10% chance to live. We were asked what religion we were so they could accommodate us in having final rites said. As raised Catholics we had our son baptized the day he was born and his last rites on the same day.

It’s a brutally harsh birth defect that left his tiny little body of only 7lbs deflated, gray and lifeless. They started off by putting john on Oscillatory ventilation that provided 4X’s the normal ventilation and shock his body just to keep it going. When he graduated from the oscillator he went on a hospital ventilator and ECMO (A heart and lung bypass machine). All of these are considered “last resorts” to keeping “Baby Murphy” alive. He was on ECMO for 14 days. They told me he would need 21 days and then we will “see what happens”. 6 months into his life I learned that ‘see what happens’ meant we would have to stop life support. I always said my ignorance to all he hospital terms and procedures is what kept me from breaking down, I had no clue these were last resorts at the time. He spent the first 13 months of his life in the ICU at Children’s Memorial Hospital.

7 months in, he became addicted to Ativan and Methadone. Weaning him off those meds was surreal. With each wean of the medication he would shake and cry uncontrollable. They finally put him on Ketamine to get him off the other two. I learned Ketamine is what they give drug addicts to get them off their drug of choice.

8 months in they moved him from the Neonatal unit to the Pediatric ICU. He was growing and needed doctors that could keep up with him. No longer a baby, he graduated to Pediatrics.

He was always fighting infections, virus or just being stable on the vent. Our goal was to get him on a home ventilator so he could go home. However, the support of a home ventilator isn’t as strong as a hospital ventilator. So he needed to stay in the ICU until he was strong enough to transition over.

At 11months we have a team meeting. The head of the Pediatric ICU said “I wouldn’t doubt it if he is here another year”. With that statement we set up house in the ICU. I started bringing all the toys that family and friends bought for him to the room so we could play or learn every day. I played with him in that little box with windows every morning, watched him nap, feed him, loved him and somedays just sat there watching him while he was in an induced coma. I resigned to the fact that this was our second home. Because he was MRSA positive we were not allowed to venture out into the halls or waiting room. It was literally our prison cell. I used to refer to sitting in the room as being like zoo animals. Please would walk by, look in while they passed and smile or not smile. I would smile back or pretend I don’t see them. If John was having a bad day sometimes they would stop in, poke their heads in and ask how we were. I hated that? I hated that they asked “How are you?”, that always set me off into tears because I wasn’t good and I didn’t want to talk about it.

Our nurses were our friends. We chatted about life. I knew if they were married, single or gay. I knew if they liked their parents, if they were in school or if they exercised ever morning. I knew if they were training for marathons or loved sitting in front of the TV every night. They knew a lot about us as well. They were family, there every day with us helping us to stay positive, loving us in their way.

12 months in I felt there was something different about John. John would need to be in an induced coma every once in a while to let his body rest. He was sometimes his own worst enemy, fighting everything. Letting his body relax allowed him to get stronger for the next battle. This time he seemed stronger to me. I pleaded with the ICU team to try the home vent again. They were resistant but finally agreed to try while keeping a very close eye on him.

The first day was always ok. The second day he was still ok. A week later everyone declared it was a miracle he was still on the home vent. I knew he was different. I knew it!

A month later, after 13months in that place, he came home. He was on pressure control and pressure support ventilation, 30% oxygen, a feeding tube and full of cheeky smiles and love. We were so happy to finally be bringing our boy home. When we arrived home there was a parade of family and neighbors outside our house. The house had a banner covering the front saying “Welcome home Johnny!” It took 3 people, Kevin, the nurse and myself, to carry him into the house safely. Everyone stayed outside crying and laughing with tears watching John arrive home for the first time.

3 days later we were in the ER. After that we made almost weekly ER visits for a few months. But he was home and striving. We were back in the ICU at least every 3 months for a few week visit because of illnesses. With every visit we seen the same group of nurses, doctors and therapist from his first 13months. He was like a celebrity coming to visit. Everyone wanted to see John Murphy, the living legend.

Over the past 12 years so many babies have lost their battle to CDH. This blog post was inspired by another lose, less than 2 years old.

We had our uphill battle with CDH but we also know it could have been a lot worse. I personally struggle with the fear of what will happen if he gets sick again, I call it medical PTSD.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic to check if he is breathing. He still sleeps in my bed. Every night when I come home from work the first thing I do is go into our bed and check if his chest is moving, without waking him up. When another CDH baby earns their angel wings I panic where stand. Last night, I was at work and had to hold back tears when I heard. I had to facetime John to make myself calm down internally.

I cannot explain why these things happen but I am so grateful that it happened to us. John has changed our lives for the better. He has brought people into our lives that we never would have met. These people have added so much love and gratitude into our lives. He also reminds us to remain grateful, laugh often and to never give up!

#KeepFightingTheFight #OnJohnTime #InYourFaceCDH #Love #BeGrateful #KeepTheFaith

#ALittleStrongerALittleLonger

Daily Prompt: Legend

Boston Hospital: CDH Research

 

 

 

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Medical PTSD…Gratitude?

On the evenings I am not working Kevin and I put our son John to bed together. It is always filled with laughing, hugs and kisses. John takes a dose of melatonin every night right before bed that allows him to relax enough to fall asleep on his own. He is a happy boy, especially when he is home.

Daddy takes him into the bathroom for P and teeth cleaning while I go into the bedroom and set up the night light and sheets. Some nights I chase him into the bed pinching his little butt while he laughs and swats my hands away. He throws himself into the bed laughing hysterically, so much so his lips turn blue.

“Johnny stop laughing so hard, your lips are blue, breathe!” as Kevin and I look at each other nodding our heads with the look of “Wow, can you believe this kid”.

Kevin and I lay in the bed with John between us. We laugh at the silliness of John and usually mention how handsome or grown up he looks. Tonight, we mentioned how straight his teeth are and how beautiful his smile is. He has Kevin’s teeth, I had braces.

We say the Our Father Prayer with Kevin’s hand across us both. Tonight, Kevin was rubbing my back. John took Kevin’s hand and moved it away and began rubbing my back himself. We all laughed and kissed good night.

Sobriety brought me here….I am forever grateful for these moments that I do not rush and adore so much.

However, sometimes my mind goes to a dark place. For literally a second, my mind imagines the space between Kevin and I in that bed empty, without John. It gives me a knot in my stomach with a weakness I cannot explain. I shake it off quickly.

Death is something I think of a lot. I don’t do it on purpose. My mind just goes there. Sometimes I wonder if it’s my brain preparing me for the “what ifs”. But, my smarter brain tells me not to think of the ‘what ifs’ and to live in the present. I am not sure how to make these thoughts stop. I feel like it’s a symptom of medical PTSD, from all the years of watching him almost die or struggle to breathe.

I just don’t know how to make it stop…

Daily Prompt: Thorny…or complex?!

Thorny

I have this horrible habit of scripting conversations and scenarios in my head that will literally never happen! For example, last night someone asked me to babysit this weekend. I declined because it’s my birthday weekend and I wanted to see if my husband was going to plan anything.

Mind you, I did not remind him or even send him out a hint. My plan was to wait for him to forget so I can go bat shit crazy.

In my head, I was scripting a conversation we would have if we were to see a therapist. Which we never will because he just won’t do it. (That’s another story!) I was saying things like “We have been together for over 20 years and every year I have to remind him…why can’t he just know it!” I literally drive myself crazy with the complexity of the script. Saying I am thorny is an understatement.

When I arrived home at 10pm after a 12hour shift he had an amazing homemade burrito bowl ready for me. I asked him if he had any plans Saturday and without a beat he said, “No, wanna go out?”. I immediately softened but was also a little surprised he asked. I am still not convinced he knows why I asked, but he fed me so I wasn’t feeling as thorny or complex and let it go.

Here’s to a Happy Birthday weekend, whether he knows it or not.

And a reminder, in the great words of my dear friend Ann B., “It’s about the season, not the day.”

Good thing he fed me….:)

Daily Prompt: Sympathy (Keep it!)

Sympathy

Sympathy: caring and understanding for the suffering of other

Don’t tell me you have sympathy for me as a mother who has saved her child’s life a hand full of times. Don’t tell me you have sympathy for me when you hear I gave him CPR today or we made it through another seizure.

Don’t tell me how you could never do what I do.

You cannot imagine my feelings or what is going through my head while I gave him CPR – How I cried and prayed he wouldn’t die in my hands. How I screamed for the paramedics to hurry up. You cannot imagine how I felt.

I hope you never know how it felt.

Keep your sympathy, give me your heart. Give me your silence so I know you are listening. Give me your time so I know you care. Give me your prayers so I know you love me. Give me your patience when I don’t return your calls. Give me your love when I am angry.

But please don’t give me your sympathy.

Daily Prompt: Elevate

via Daily Prompt: Elevate

Elevate

When I think of the word elevate I can break it down by my life’s era’s.

In the 80’s, this child could elevate into tantrums and anger in a split second.

In the 90’s, this business woman would elevate an issue to a manager if I wasn’t getting what I wanted.

In 2005, this mother elevated issues to Doctors and Nurse Practitioners if my son wasn’t receiving the care he needed.

In 2010, this woman’s life was elevated to a state of chaos, so badly I needed a program!

In 2017, when I hear the word elevate I think of elevating over my body in a state of meditation and peace of mind.

It’s amazing how life’s perspective changes over the years as we grow emotionally.

I hope I always remain teachable.

The boy who didn’t talk…

via Daily Prompt: Priceless

Priceless

My son was on a ventilator and trached for 9 years. At the age of nine he had his trach removed and the stoma closed surgically.

After the surgery his dad and I stood at his bedside talking to the surgeon Dr. Holinger and the nurse about the procedure. We were so excited to hear his first words.

Johnny started to stir, we all looked over him.

Me: Johnny, how are you sweetie. You did a great job, once again!

Dr. Holiger: Hey Buddy, you did great!

Dad and the nurse stared at him.

We all anxiously waited to hear what he would say.

Johnny looked up at the four head staring down at him, rolled his eyes and said “God Damn it”, then he went back to sleep.

His first words, took 9 year and I just don’t blame him. Priceless!!

Daily Prompt: A Casual Mom

I have no fancy dresses in my closet. If I received an invitation to a black tie event or wedding I would need to go out and buy something. I have summer dress, jeans, shorts and tanks. I wear underwear with super heroes on them or the cookie monster. I wear sweatshirts over my tanks in the winter because I still sweat a lot. I recently decided to let my gray hair grow free.  I now have long hair that is gray and I love it! I wear jean shorts, leggings and yoga pants, no yoga though! I am always comfortable.

I wasn’t always like this. 12 years ago I had a baby boy, Baby boy Murphy is what they called him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Children’s Memorial Hospital, now called Robert and Ann Lurie’s Children’s Hospital. He was born with a right-sided Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. This is where his liver and bowels grew up where his lungs should have been causing him to be born with partial lungs. He spent 13 months in the ICU after birth, 8 years on a ventilator and 9 years with a tracheostomy. He has Epilepsy since the age of 2. His first seizure lasted 8 hours and only stopped because he received a sedative cocktail that would knock an elephant out. He also has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.

His story is long, tragic and beautiful. He is a lot of work and somedays just amazing to be around. I can barely take a shower for more than 10 minutes at a time while we are home alone because he has no sense of danger. I am scared he will walk out of the house or set fire to it.

This morning I pulled out a summer dress because I didn’t have time to do laundry. After envisioning the day which consist of a trip to Chuck E Cheese (because he earned it), a picnic and a festival (if we survive the picnic) I decided to put my knee length yoga pants on, they make my calves look awesome! That summer dress would have tripped me up if I had to make a runner after the little man.

Happy to be casual, working from home, entrepreneur mama ❤

via Daily Prompt: Casual