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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Anxiety got me like WTF?!?!

Anxiety just creeps up on me like a bad wedgy. One minute I’m happily dropping my son off at school next minute I’m running scenarios in my head about the things that COULD happen to him after I leave.

School nurses that show up 2 hours late and seem to think nothing of it are assholes.

My son goes to school with oxygen and a nurse is usually there to keep an eye on things. She needs to make sure the tank is full, that he is breathing ok, that he takes breaks when needed and that his oxygen concentrator battery doesn’t run out.

It’s not that hard.

So when a nurse arrives 2 hours late and manages to let the battery on his oxygen run out during her shift – the main job she has – I get angry. Anger is usually my first emotion. The program teaches me that anger stems from fear or hurt.  I have to ask myself why I am angry. I am angry because the nurse isn’t doing her job! Which spirals me into the scenarios of what could happen if John doesn’t have his oxygen.

It’s a vicious cycle that I need to stop myself in the middle of and chant “Let it go, let it go”.

What I do have control over is whether that nurse comes back. I also have control over teaching the aides and teacher what to do if a nurse doesn’t do their job or doesn’t show up.

I have control of how I react to the situation.

Before I got sober I had 2 personalities; confrontational or isolation

Today, I still have multiple personalities but they come from a better place 🙂 I can pause and live in the solution, right after an anxiety attack. I can stop myself from letting the crazy committee in my mind take over and pray, right after the anxiety attack.

I don’t know if I will ever avoid that anxiety but at least I know I can get through it today with a little more grace and dignity then I did in the past.

Now I just need to pray we find a reliable nurse that cares enough to show up on time. And I will continue to be grateful for the amazing staff at his school that support us!

Why? Grateful?

I just watched John jump onto the couch like he was sliding into third base with an oxygen cannula on. He is so resilient

If you can stop asking Why? You can enjoy what is right in front of you. I am not sure when I stopped asking why this happened to John. I still ask when he gets sick or ends up in the ICU. It’s hard to believe in “the grace of God” and a God that is “merciful” while you’re watching your child suffer, struggling to breath or in pain. It is hard to understand.

For me, I stopped trying to understand. I am grateful for the doctors experienced hands in the operating room, I am grateful for the nurse that gives him pain medicine, I am grateful for the pain medicine. Thank God for breathing treatments and ventilators. Thank God for the people before us that invented these devices so we can live our lives.

I belong to a gratitude list via email with a few friends that live in gratitude. I have a hard time contributing to the list because I feel like my gratitude is too different. However, I do enjoy having a little window into their worlds.  While they are grateful for vacations homes being so airy, the kids getting good grades and having great nannies I am grateful for oxygen, ventilators and finally finding a care provider for him after going through several. I’m grateful for his resilience, determination and strength. I’m grateful for the changes his life have brought into mine. I’m grateful for the sincere people who have crossed our paths because of John. Including doctors, nurses and other parents with special needs children…

I am grateful for love… without it we have nothing.

What are you grateful for?

“I’m glad I got cancer”

I rarely hear woman say “I wanna be just like my mom someday”.  We hear boys say they want to be just like their dads when they grow up, why don’t woman say it more? Such different relationships…

Today, I yelled at John. You might think I don’t yell a lot, maybe it was just today? No, I yell all the time. I think my normal talking voice in this house is yelling. I cannot have a conversation without talking over John and his technology devices going off so I scream “Turn it down” mid-sentence and keep going. Newcomers to the Murphy household are usually shell shocked and wondering how I can even have a conversation and retain anything we talked about.

Anyway, I started off talking about mothers. I spent years praying to not be anything like my mom. Now I wish I was like her. She was a mother that had a lot against her. She raised four very different kids in a mostly unhappy marriage as a stay at home mom. After her divorce she went out to work as a bartender, later getting a job with the Chicago School system doing janitorial work. Her relationships with her kids were strained because we were little assholes. Except for my older brother Teddy, he was and is non-judgmental and empathetic. I know he was towards our mother, not so much with others. Even though I believe he really is but tries to play it off like he isn’t. He is generous and is always helping people. A friend of his went to prison and Teddy was the only one who kept in touch with him, sent him gifts, money, etc.  When I asked him why he even bothered he said, “Why not, the guys got nothing else going for him”. When that friend got out of prison, less than 3 months later he died of a heart attack. I think about how that poor man died when his life was getting ready to change for the better and how grateful he was for Teddy’s correspondence all those years.

My mom was diagnosis with brain cancer when Johnny was a baby. I was devastated and so was Teddy. Even today I feel these overwhelming waves of guilt in me for the absence in my mother’s life for so many years, it was intentional absence. I was so mean and judgmental. Unfortunately, it took an illness for me to have any empathy for her at all. She had cancer for 6 years before she passed, we had an amazing 6 years filled with great memories. I would hop on a plane every 3-6 months to visit her in Ireland where she lived to spend a few weeks with her. Teddy and I would take turns going, sometimes going together. Mom told my cousin Mikey one day, “I’m happy I got cancer. I don’t think I would have known how much everyone loves me”.

When he told me that my heart was broken for all the lost years. All the years she wanted to talk to me and I wouldn’t. All the years I didn’t even know why I was mad at her other than other family member’s influences. That day I vowed to live a life where there was no question about love. People I love know I love them because I tell them when I see them. Even if they think it’s strange, I say it. Last weekend, we went to John’s ECMO reunion to celebrate his survival. We have kept in touch with all those folks for over 12yrs. Danny, the ECMO specialist that cared for John, is a friend we see rarely but still considered a friend because of his role in our lives. As I was leaving I told Danny “I love you, see you next year”. He said he loves me back, but I didn’t’ expect that. I truly love him for his role in my son’s life, his survival.

When the feeling rises, I say it. On the other hand, people I dislike usually know it, too. Not because I tell them. Because I create boundary’s that keep them at a distance. For example, my sister and I haven’t seen or talked to each other since Dad died. I do not like her, how she treats her family or how she treats other people. I don’t want to judge her, condemn her or save her, so I create the boundaries. Some people need to save themselves and my role in their life may be only to watch me from afar or not.

I remember mom yelling at us when we were kids. Once she chased me around the front room with a broom and almost made contact. I probably said something disrespectful.

I hate that I yell at John. Sometimes I can’t help it. I always apologize to him without the “but”. I remind myself that I am teaching him how to be treated. We make mistakes, we make amends, we forgive, we pray and we live in gratitude. Thank God for the ability to take time outs, restart our day and thank god for LOVE!

At the end of the night he has never turned away a hug or kiss, for that I am grateful. At the end of the night he knows I love him!

Grateful for the chaos

Today, I thought to myself “I don’t think I’ve had my period in a while?” So I checked my handy little memo pad on my phone and the last period was May 8th! Which means I am either due for my period July 8th and just skipped a month or I am going through menopause. I know, you’re sitting there reading this thinking “Girl, you better get a pregnancy test!” But, I refuse to believe that I am pregnant.  I’m too old for that!

In the meantime, I am losing my mind. I walk into a room and forget what I came in for. I start working on my computer and forget what I was starting to do. John is downstairs throwing remote controls around, chanting and suffering through the consequences, so dramatically. The sitter just texted to say she will be here at 12:30pm instead of 10am because she had to pick up her niece. Opps, I guess we aren’t a priority!

Last night, I sent an email to North Park University to inquire about a second Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.  I can’t sell froyo forever, right?! Can I?! I sent this email after working a 12 hour shift two days in a row because I suspended two girls at the shop, one I should have fired but seem to have a soft spot and can’t do it.

Sounds chaotic? That’s not the half of it. But, this is life. I will take this life over the crazy chaos I created on my own 7 years ago. I need to be reminded that even if life gets crazy I have the tools to get through it with grace and dignity. I can do this without screaming, crying or curling up into a ball.

Grateful for progress and not protection, grateful for the ability to restart my day at any time of the day so I can at least try to get it right and grateful for my chaos!

Now, let me go downstairs and go over the schedule with my son for the 15th time this morning, its 10:34am.  The boys excited that mommy is taking the day off tomorrow to go bowling with him. Hopefully, the employees show up for work!