…You won’t be very missed. Hello all! It’s summer time! We’ve actually been somewhat on vacation for the past month and it has been fantastic. Spring usually comes with a month long break in my husbands work and I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for it than I was this year. This school year has given us quite a number of challenges, some that we expected and many that took us by surprise, so while we weren’t really on vacation (there was still school, activities, bookkeeping and projects around the house), it felt amazing to be able to tackle everything as a family together and spend lots of time with each other.
One of the major stressors in our life this year was both of our children’s health. While it was an above average year for flus and colds in our household, it was shocking news about Mr. J’s eye and worsening of Miss A’s asthma that really overwhelmed us.
A has had “asthma-like” symptoms since she was 3 years old. We are quite positive she has asthma, but can’t officially be diagnosed until later this year. After spending Thanksgiving Day 2015 at emergency with her getting “asthma protocol” (oral steroid, bunch of inhaled medicine, etc.), she’s had inhalers at home which have usually been able to get her back on track if she’s having an asthma attack/episode. She always has a bit of a struggle in the fall with the back to school germs and allergy issues, but this year, she came home from her very first day at kindergarten with a cold.
Unfortunately, she was sick for a good portion of September and we just couldn’t get her breathing back to where it should be, so at the end of the month, we found ourselves at emerg for the second time in a couple weeks, this time at the Children’s hospital. After a few hours of treatment, it became clear that her breathing was not improving like it should and eventually, after 14 or so hours in emergency, she was admitted to the Children’s hospital. Normally, I don’t get too panicked by her asthma, as I have it myself and was also admitted to the hospital as a child for it. So it caught me off guard that it was so upsetting to see her lying there, on oxygen, hooked up to monitors. She’s a tough cookie, so usually nothing medical phases her too much, in fact, it usual fascinates her, but at 3am, she was incredibly overtired, overwhelmed and done with the nasal cannula (oxygen tubing/prongs in the nose). She started crying, which only made her breathing worse, so I tried to calm her down best I could and get her asleep, which thankfully she did do quite quickly, but it was heartbreaking. It was such a helpless feeling to know that I couldn’t fix this for her or really do much for her at all other than comfort her.
Although it was a stressful and sad experience, we were incredibly thankful that we live just around 50 minutes from a phenomenal children’s hospital. After being admitted, Miss A started to improve rapidly. We were so fortunate to get to go home only two days later! A was on a unit with other kiddos of course, some of whom had very serious conditions and were long-time residents of the hospital. It definitely helped give me perspective of just how lucky we were to be leaving so soon after getting just a glimpse of what these families face every day.
After that, A finally made some improvements, however we have been back twice to emergency this Spring, but thankfully just a for a few hours each time as she responded much better to the steroids, meds, etc. She usually does very well through the summer, but I know we will be quite nervous again come September. We will keep praying that her meds will get her through with out any admissions this year!
My baby girl with the “nose-thingy” she hated.
Mr. J, on the other hand, is almost always healthy. As of yet, he doesn’t have any allergies or asthma, so while colds and flus are often a battle for Miss A, he usually gets through them quickly with little complication. Unfortunately he did have a bad virus in April that required a trip to the ER (at this point, I literally can throw together a hospital bag and be out the door in 5 minutes), but thankfully it appeared to have been the start of a chest infection that was quickly managed by a nebulizer treatment and inhalers. Although healthy, J has always been our injury prone little dude. This really comes as no surprise since he never stops moving and has little fear, but he’s had his share of cuts, bruises, black eyes and even had an unfortunate incident last August where he tripped running in a campground and landed on a very tiny, sharp tree stump. It cut open his cheek and required a couple stitches in a small town ER to close it back up. Little did we know at the time, it also caused substantially more damage.
This spring, J went for a regular optometrist appointment, and right away, the doctor noticed that he couldn’t see properly out of his right eye. She dilated his eyes with drops and determined that there was something blocking his vision at the back of his eye. She suggested that she felt it was either a cataract or a freckle, but that he definitely needed to be referred to an ophthalmologist at the children’s hospital. So after a lot of googling, we headed to his appointment a week and a half later, having learned that cataracts can happen in children and can usually be removed with surgery, and that a freckle that has grown to block vision is often retinoblastoma (cancer). We were completely terrified, but continued to pray hard and convince ourselves that it had to be a cataract.
At the appt, they dilated his eyes and he went for a couple tests before seeing the ophthalmologist. J and my husband came back from the tests and we had a while to wait for the drops to take effect. My husband looked at me and said, “It’s not a cataract”. In that moment, my heart felt like it dropped into my stomach. I tried to gather myself quickly and stated to my husband that it wasn’t a guarantee that it was cancer, that there was probably lots of other possibilities that we didn’t know about, but as I’m sure any parent could tell you, once the word cancer has been mentioned as even a remote possibility with your child, there’s absolutely nothing else you can think of. There has never been a worse moment, or a longer 40 minutes in my entire life. I kept hugging both A and J over and over again, which was met with a lot of ” Moommm, put me down!” and I was so grateful for their oblivion to our stress.
Finally, we were called in to see the doctor. The doctor took another couple looks at his eye before saying that there was definitely something across his retina that was blocking a large portion of his vision, but that he was quite confident it was a scar. After seeing how terrified we looked, he quickly reiterated that they had been concerned that it was retinoblastoma, but he found no tumours, instead the raised area was definitely a scar. While this was not exactly good news, it was a huge, HUGE relief to find out it was not cancer. He proceeded to tell us that Mr. J has approximately 20% vision in his right eye and that almost all of that vision is peripheral, he has almost no central vision as the scar is right across his retina.
After referral to a retinal specialist, it was confirmed again to be a scar, and unfortunately, there is nothing to be done. He will likely always have only 20% vision in his eye and our major concern will now be trying to protect his good eye from any damage. The specialist couldn’t be absolutely sure, but suspected that the scar was caused by trauma to the front of the eye that transferred into a scar on the retina. The most likely suspect of that trauma was his fall in August onto the tree stump that resulted in the stitches. To say we were shocked by this would be an understatement. At the time, his eye was just a tiny bit bloodshot and showed no obvious signs of trauma, especially by comparison to the gash on his cheek.
My little man in emerg, because the cheek injury pic is too gruesome and I was too stressed to get any at his eye appointments.
So in the days that followed, we adjusted to his new reality. Truthfully, at the moment, it affects him very little. He is used to only having vision in one eye and copes quite well, obviously so well that we didn’t even notice. We try to place food on his left side, because he does sometimes spill if it is on his right, and he definitely sometimes falls because he’s missed seeing something or catches a corner, but unless you know to watch for it, you’d never notice. Our biggest challenge is trying to protect his good eye from any further accidents. There is a possibility of him wearing glasses for protection, although it is already a battle to try and get him to wear sunglasses or his safety glasses at baseball, so I’m not totally sure how that will go.
So that’s how this school year has been! Sorry it got so long and detailed, but I do feel a little bit lighter having shared what’s been happening with us. I’ve felt like a bad friend/family member at times this year when I haven’t been able to be there for others as much as I would like to have been, but I’m hoping I can be again soon.
My babies, getting back to being their fun, sweet selves. Love them more than I can comprehend!
I hope everyone has a great summer, with less stress and less health scares. I know I will be praying for that to be the case for us, and I would be happy to pray for anyone else who needs comforting in this time! Take care 🙂