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

 

 

 

Practice the pause

Practice-the-pause.-640x640

Sunday will be my father’s birthday. He would have been 76 years old. Sunday is also the day we moved into our newest home, one year ago. I feel like that was a sign. Dad always wanted us to move into a smaller home and take care of ourselves first. He said we were always taking care of other people kids. He called my house “Sunshine Rehab”. When he was in the hospital, I texted him a picture of his new bed all set up in the living room of my old house. The house was very large with 5 bedrooms and 3 ½ bathrooms. The living room had no other furniture in it other than Dad’s bed and anything else he needed. I used a folding wall to give him privacy. We wanted him close to our everyday activities so he could see what was happening around him. Not in a room with a window facing the alley or a neighbor’s house.

My biggest regret when it comes to my father was talking to him like he didn’t know anything. With the tone of a snotty teenager that thinks they know it all. As he aged he asked questions I deemed as stupid or uneducated because I knew the answers. I was impatience and judgmental. Why I thought I knew more than a man that lived more than twice my life span is beyond me.

This morning as I was cleaning up dog poop in the yard, no doubt with a puss on my face, I was listening to my neighbor’s 40 something year old son talk to her like she didn’t know anything. He was explaining things like she should already know. He was aggravated and snappy. A familiar sound since I talked to my father that way many times. As we age it’s hard to be patience with the elderly, until they are dying. My neighbor wanted her son to fix something mechanical. He was mad that he didn’t understand what she wanted and snapped, “I’m not a mechanic”. This woman is in her late 60’s early 70’s, came from Poland by herself with one child, started a family here in America working several jobs. She tells me stories how she did everything because her husband was not good at things or just wouldn’t do it, like mowing the lawn or fixing the car. She dropped the kids to sitters so she could work a 12 hour shift to help put food on the table. She loved her children and always made sure they had what they needed. One child lives next door to her now, which is the son that was talking to her this morning, the other son lives with her after his divorce. Her advice to me often in the last year is, “Don’t start doing things, then he will stop doing them because he knows you can. Let him mow the lawn it will keep him busy.” She would always add “trust me”, with a thick polish accent.

I wanted to reach over the fence and tell him to stop talking to her like that. I wanted to tell him he was going to regret it someday. One day he will hear someone else talking to their parents like that and a flashback will come in reminding him of how disrespectful he was to his mother. He will regret it and feel a sadness. He will pray his kids never treat him that way and that they respect the life he lived, for them. I know you love her. Because I have seen how you take such great care of your own kids.

While Dad was alive I wish I practiced the PAUSE more often.

Pause…Let him be right.

Pause…let him tell you what to do.

Pause…let him feel in control of his home and life.

We are teaching our children how to treat us when we are elderly.

Pause…and think about how much you love them.

Happy Birthday Dad! I hope you know how much you were appreciated and loved. Even if I was always right (wink wink). I love you every day!

Dad’s first selfie ❤ He was 72, always learning new things!

Dads first selfie

#Healing

Summer fun is not so fun…

Today is Saturday. I am a business owner on top of a multitude of other titles. On the days I am not going into the shop I always check in with the video cameras to make sure someone showed up for their shift. Today, no one showed up to open the shop. So after getting a text saying she asked someone else to cover her shift but never told me so I could change the schedule, I had to pack up John and head over to the shop to open. This is where I start wondering why I thought I could be a business owner and John’s mom and contemplate closing shop and then slap myself out of it.

John doesn’t like to just get up and go. There is a process, a plan, a schedule that needs to be followed. Today, we were supposed to go to Rosemont at 2:30 for the Special Olympics Ice cream social. Next, home for water balloons. Next, Irish fest. We were not supposed to go to Josi’s at 12:15pm or any time during the day. After throwing his clothes and shoes on, driving to the shop he was pretty pissed.

When we got out of the car he tried throwing his oxygen tank at me. A guy riding his bike passed slowed down to watch. When we started walking to the door he tried pulling the tubing off. An elder man stopped to ask if I needed help. Once we got to the door I knew I needed to literally shove him into the store with tank, lock the door and dart to turn off the alarm. If John heard that alarm our day would be ruined. So that is what I did unannounced to John. John didn’t appreciate the shove but with a shocked look went to sit down at the nearest chair, thank God!!!

Once the alarm was off and doors locked I worked on opening the store while John sat on the chair chanting and screaming at me. “Mom, mom, mom, Get over here right now, I said get over here!” Over and over again. Apparently, I say that to him a lot.

A customer came to the door so I opened warning them that the shop just opened and product isn’t ready for about 5 minutes. I apologized and continued to get the shop ready while John continued chanting his chant. Meanwhile, I was texting everyone trying to get them to come in or friends to watch John, there is no way I can sit here all day with John and tend to customers.

Finally, the newest girl hired said she could make it. Two girls have been suspended and don’t start back till Monday so I didn’t even ask them. One girl was at a baby shower. I fired the girl that didn’t come in. It was the easiest fire ever since she was literally a backup, ironically that couldn’t back us up. I just took her off the schedule and told the team they can no longer use her as a backup. Didn’t even tell her.

When the girl finally showed up I took my phone and sat down next to John at the table he was chanting at. It took all of my strength to not cry. I sat there staring at John, he stared back at me finally saying nothing. I took a deep breath and started chanting to myself “God help me, god help me, god help me”, while holding back tears with my back to the audience at the counter.

Since the last night shift didn’t let me know we were out of strawberries, blueberries, donuts and a bulb was out; it was off to Target.

It had to be Target, because that is the only store John will go to without a fight. I’m just glad all the items I needed were at Target. Mission accomplished, dropped off at the shop and home we go!

On the way home he sat in the back seat the quietest I have ever seen him. So quiet I had to ask if he was ok. His beautiful face just looks over at me with a smile and says “I’m ok mommy, stop asking, I’m ok”.  That his new thing, telling me to stop asking even if I only asked once. Was this the calm before the storm? In my head I am trying to figure out how to keep him this calm….

Cancel Rosemont

Cancel the Irish fest

He’s way off his game.

Home – FINALLY – Kevin comes home early to relieve me so I can go to jewel for dinner, pet store for food and hardware store for a fly swatter! Ahhh…a break for me!

He has his water balloons… all is right with HIS world. Until daddy tell him only 5, not 10. I’m outta here….

I managed not to cry in public, only in my car…

I can’t wait to go to bed….it’s only 4:30pm….

People are texting me asking where we are….no show again.

I’m watching all the other mom-entrepreneurs take their kids to work and be good at it #SmallBizMom…no go here.

#Feeling Sad

#KeepTheFaith

#GoodNightSweetWorld

I tell this story to heal, not for sympathy….I need to heal and others can heal from reading, hopefully. Sharing our experience, our strength and our hope is how we heal. #Healing

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