Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Recap! A LONG Recap!

Somewhere I heard the quote "The end of a matter is more important than the beginning." Not sure where I read/heard it, but I like it. It definitely pertains to my darling Kendall. It doesn't matter where, when, or why all of her issues started, what really matters is that we cherish every single day we have with her, and every single milestone she hits. As a family we have come a very long way with acceptance. I can honestly say I wake up in the morning happy again. There were quite a few dark days in the past year when that wasn't the case. But, like every other hurdle in life, you keep on trucking, and eventually you get through it. You become stronger in the process. Justin and I have become closer. Kamden has learned patience. I have witnessed my 8 year old's faith evolve. He has an amazing understanding of the world and a relationship with the Lord. We have all learned how to pray. As a mother, I now treasure everything most parents take for granted in my children. And while I know we will continue to have occasional dark days, or self pity days, they seem to be spacing out.

I have decided to do a post that recaps Kendall's medical issues from the beginning. Mostly, so I can refer back to this all in one place. I wish every time we went to a new Dr. or had to go through Kendall's history, I could say "check my blog!" But that's not the case. Maybe this will help someone out there who, God forbid, is in a similar situation. I also want to link all the medical terms to sites that explain them well. It will help me to gather my thoughts and our most recent findings with her clotting issues. I'll try to give the Reader's Digest version, but I've never been very good at giving the short story. Once I have this out, I vow to myself to focus on the "end of the matter" and stop wondering the dreaded "what if's." So here goes.

My son was born 7 years before Kendall with no issues. He was text book! My water broke at home on his due date. I went into labor on my own, and had a natural birth. My pregnancy with Kendall was more or less uneventful. I was 29 years old with no history of any health problems. My blood pressure was fine. I am RH negative, so in both pregnancies I took the needed injections. Toward the end of my pregnancy, there was protein in my urine, but I was assured that was OK as long as there weren't any issues with my blood pressure. Kendall was in a Breech position pretty much every time I had a sonogram.

At a routine sonogram around 28 weeks, they noted "enlarged ventricles." My Dr. didn't seem too concerned, but did refer me to a perinatologist. My whole family went into a tail spin with worry! But in the back of my mind, I thought everything would be OK since we had relatively healthy people in our family. The next day we were fit into the Perinatologist. He was a little man with annoying habits. I hated him from the beginning. He said her ventricles were "borderline enlarged" at only 12 mm and we were going to watch them. HOWEVER, she had two white spots in her heart...calcifications...and a hole in her heart. He said there was a chance she had Downs, and recommended an Amnio. He said we could abort, but there was only one state that would do it and we would have to move quickly. I remember looking at him, seeing his lips move, but no sound coming out, and everything was in slow motion. He left for a minute and told us to think about it. There was no thinking required. Before we got pregnant, we knew we would love our child no matter what. We declined the amnio and of course, the abortion. He came back in, we gave him our decision, and he handed us a card for a scheduled EKG at Children's Hospital. We went home and I cried for the next 2 days. I discovered the Internet and learned more about the heart than I ever wanted to know. I found the worst case scenario, the best case scenario, and prayed.

We went for the EKG and received the results the same day. Her heart was perfectly normal. A month later we went back to the perinatologist for a follow up. My mom was with me, Justin at work. That day he did a sonogram, and came back in putting on the same show. He looked like he was giving a speech to a group of medical students. He asked if my mother was my sister (clearly...she isn't....she had me when she was 38....although she looks great for her age...clearly....NOT my that just pissed me off. This wasn't a time for jokes.) I was expecting a clean bill of health, but that's not what I got. She still had "borderline ventriculomegaly" and a possible "arachnoid cyst." This time we were too late to abort, and he returned with a card to go to Children's Medical Center for an MRI. I cried at the checkout desk scheduling the appointment. Before we made it to the car, I felt I was living a bad dream. My sadness quickly turned to anger. Anger because he had already sent us on a wild goose chase with her heart, and I wasn't going to go through it again. I was firing him! He didn't know what he was talking about! He was the WORST Dr. on the planet! But still, I went home, jumped on the Internet, learned more about the brain than I ever wanted to know. I found the worst case scenario, the best case scenario, and prayed.

After letting it sink in for a few days, I called my OB and asked to be referred to another perinatologist. My nurse was wonderful and encouraging. My Dr. sent me to the Dr. his wife went to. It was a longer drive, but worth it. Within a week, we had a second opinion from a well-regarded Dr. who had bad breath, but didn't piss me off. He reviewed everything, performed a long sonogram, and said everything looked fine...but she may have a club foot. In retrospect, a club foot would have been great! We breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the rest of our pregnancy. Kamden was excited about his baby sister. He drew pictures of her (and being the gifted and talented kid he is...drew her with a club foot in all of them.) Our angel never turned, so I was scheduled for a c-section.

Kendall was born on a Sunday morning. She didn't have a club foot. Emails and text messages were sent out stating everything was fine. She had an apgar score of 10. She latched on to breastfeed immediately. She was small 5 lb. 12 oz. Her head was also small. But she received a clean bill of health from everyone in the hospital. She even passed her eye exam!?!?!? We went home 2 days later with our bundle of joy...prepared for sleepless nights.

The next 2 months, I enjoyed my Maternity Leave. I recovered from my c-section, breast-feeding was going great, and I was focused on losing the 65 pounds I gained with my 6lb baby! She was the best baby. She had a few nights with crying fits, but all in all, she was so mellow. She slept a lot. Her eyes were always a bit shaky, but I must have asked the Dr. 100 times if that was normal! In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn't but I didn't want to think about it. Everything was going so great. Then one evening, we placed her down to go to sleep and she had a series of startles. She did it 3 times in a row. I knew this wasn't normal and called the Dr. the next day.

At that appointment I insisted he look at her eyes. She never made eye contact. Something was off. We left there and immediately went to a Pediatric Ophthalmologist. She was diagnosed with bilateral congenital cataracts. Surgery was scheduled for the next week for the left eye, then the following week for the right eye. I went home, jumped on the Internet and learned more about the eyes than I ever wanted to know. I found the best case scenario, the worst case scenario, and prayed.

She recovered from her surgeries was fitted for glasses weeks later, but still wasn't tracking. We thought there may still be something wrong with her vision even though during her examination under anesthesia they said her optic nerve was fine and everything else was in tact. She wasn't rolling or reaching, but we blamed that on her vision! We started ECI services with Vision Instruction and Orientation and Mobility through our school district. We also added PT since she wasn't really moving.

She went for a routine evaluation at our pediatrician's office. Her head circumference was small, but was growing along the curve. They were a bit concerned. We mentioned a shaking of her foot on occasion and absent stares and head drops she was exhibiting. Soon after we left with a referral to a Neurologist and the label Microcephaly. We scheduled an EEG and an MRI. We also had the EEG followed by an appointment with the Neurologist. Her EEG was abnormal, he said she had high tone, and wanted to have a 24 hour video EEG done the following week. Of course I went home jumped on the Internet, researched everything I could about abnormal EEG's, abnormal tone, seizures, and you guessed it. I knew everything there was to know about Cerebral Palsy. I found the best case scenario, worst case scenario, and prayed!!!

At the hospital following her video EEG, we were told she did not have seizures, but they were going to go ahead and move the MRI appointment for the next morning since we were already there. She got general anesthesia for the third time in her short 5 months of life. When the results were in, they escorted us back to our room. We knew something was up when the train of Dr.'s walked us to the viewing room. The Dr. on call told us she had a large cyst in her brain, possibly on 2 sides, and we should start therapy and familiarize ourselves with the term Cerebral Palsy (ha! I already had!) We went home thinking a left sided weakness was the end of the world. Our next neurologist appointment wasn't for another 5 months. That wouldn't do, so I called the nurse. I explained that we didn't understand and the 5 minutes the Dr. on call spent with us wasn't going to hack it. She told me Kendall had damage all over her brain. I cried on the phone with her and she was able to move our appointment up to the next week.

At that appointment we were told Kendall had a bilateral stroke on both sides of her brain. She had two Porencephalic Cysts that were compatible with a hypoxic/ischemic brain injury. She would never be normal. She wouldn't walk, see, or talk. She would be "mentally retarted." We cried with the Dr. and went home.

The weeks following I did a lot of research on plasticity of the brain. I also asked a lot of questions about why this happened. I found incredible support and information on Yahoo message boards (my list of them got so extensive, I finally had to unsubscribe!) I learned about seizures through my Microcephaly group. Kendall continued the next few months with the "startles" that to me resembled videos of Infantile Spasms I had seen. Two more video EEG's finally diagnosed her with Infantile Spasms. That is where our current search for the right seizure medication began.

A group I found called the "Pediatric Stroke Network" helped me discover Kendall's possible cause of her stroke in utero. Apparently she has the Factor V Leiden Mutation, two copies of the MTHFR gene, and her Homocystene levels are high. These are inherited from both Justin and I. I have tested positive for the Factor V, and Justin and I both have MTHFR. We have decided not to have my son tested in fear that it would be a pre-existing condition that would interfere with him obtaining life insurance in the future. We are all starting on an aspirin a day. And we will make sure we tell Dr.'s in the future if we have any surgeries or increased risk of blood clots. In a weird way, finding out a possible reason for Kendall's stroke has helped me move forward. I don't research causes on the Internet anymore. I mainly focus on therapy and equipment and how other's with similar diagnosis cope day to day.

So that's it. The "beginning of our matter." We are blessed with a beautifully unique little girl,a true fighter, with a smile that lights up a room, a laugh that lifts your spirits on the toughest of days, and a whole new outlook on life.

Thank you Kendall. We know you are going to surprise everyone with what you are able to overcome!


When I orignally wrote this... I was praying I wouldn't have to ever. Unfortuately for us, 2 weeks ago on (August 24th 2009 at 16 months old) Kendall had really high blood sugars and was admitted to the hospital, only to be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. (the auto-immune flavor) Oddly enough this result was a relief for us because it meant she didn't have Mitochondrial Disease...

Currently her blood sugars are evening out, and seizures remain semi-controlled on the Ketogenic Diet. She failed Topamax, Vigabatrin, and Keppra so the reduced seizures are welcomed, even though it has complicated the Diabetes Treatment! Our Endocrine and Neurology teams at Cook Childrens are working together to provide the best treatment for Kendall. She now smiles and laughs, rolls, and reaches, and is days away (I believe) from sitting on her own! Hard work and perserverence will pay off.

Go Kendall Go!


Jessica said...

You are such a beautiful woman, inside and out. Not only is Justin lucky to have you as his wife, your kids are lucky to have you as their Momma. Kendall is a goregous little girl who melts my (and I'm sure many others)heart! It's o.k. to have some pity party days, you are only human, but you have so many people praying for you for peace, comfort and strength that hopefully those days will be VERY few and far between. I love you guys. Give your kiddos big hugs for me and don't forget to kiss Kendall's sweet little cheeks for me!!!

Reagan Leigh said...

Oh my goodness! I also gained 60lbs with Reagan...I thought I was the only one! I know exactly where you're coming from and I'm just so upset that another family has to go through this junk! Enough already! When are we going to catch some breaks?!?! Hang in there! Kendall is always in my prayers...

Holly said...

This is great. We have carried around 'Caleigh's Story' for about 6 months now. Some of the physicians and therapists we see read it...some don't, but those who do get an emotional connection with our family and they seem to understand that Caleigh isn't just a patient but a very amazing little girl who has been through alot. I update it once a month or so and I think it has really helped. It runs from conception to present and everyone who reads it tells us just how much it is appreciated. I also have a current picture on it.

Print it up!

K D said...

Your story reads alot like my Kelsey's. She had a stroke in utero because of the death of her identical twin sister. She shares many of Kendall's labels including micro, CP, Porencephalic cysts, stroke causing damage on both sides of her brain. I have never found anyone who shares so many similarities with all of Kelsey's diagnosis's. You can visit us at KelseyCan.Com Kendall is beautiful by the way!

Toni Conrad said...


I was googeling my daughter (Kendall Hope Conrad) and came up with your story. WOW! You are an amazing woman.

I was 7 months pregnant and I needed a pacemaker. All my doctors said it would be fine for Kendall because she was formed and no real danger. Well, the doctor poked my heart and my daughter was without blood and oxygen too long. She probably had a stroke in utero, but we dont know. Once I was recovered from my surgery they noticed Kendalls ventricals open in her brain. They were 11 to 13 rather than 10, but it is sonogram and hard to tell actually. Ok, we prayed everything would be ok and waited. We knew something was going on, but becasue I now have a pacemaker, I can not have an MRI. We had to wait until Kendall was born. On July 8, 2009 she was born and immediately we knew there was something wrong. She had no muscle tone, didnt cry and no swallow reflexes. In the end, we found out Kendalls brain had been "killed" on April 15 (the day of my pacemaker accident) and she was not going to live. We took her home and treated her just like we would have if she had been a perfectly healthy baby. In the end she lived for 12 1/2 weeks and it was the best and worst time of my life.

I will be praying for your daughter and I really hope things turn out the way they are supposed to.