I have been a nervous wreck all day wondering how well she would do without her chair, but (as usual) she kicked AFM’s butt and crushed it in her walker! She even went to grab some mexican food (and Krispy Kreme, as promised) after school, walking at a pretty fast pace!
We had been praying for this day for so long that it felt so surreal to know it was actually happening.
Also, I spoke to the principal regarding the accessible playground. The school is already in the process of upgrading the playground to accommodate all kids with special needs. The new playground will be constructed over the summer and will be ready for her (and the other students) beginning the fall semester. I’ll update with the progress as it comes.
Life has been so up and down lately that I completely forgot to update Annadelle’s blog! Although progress has been slow, I actually do have quite a few updates to talk about.
Christmas came and went, and now it feels as if it was ages ago. The kids had a wonderful Christmas thanks to the generous giving of two separate church groups who asked if they could help sponsor Annadelle’s Christmas. At the time, neither myself or Chris was working and we were stressing about Christmas. Fortunately the kiddos did not notice and seemed to enjoy every second of all the love, food, and gifts.
During the weeks leading up to Christmas, we took Annadelle to see the chiropractor (as we have been continuing to do twice a week) and she was able to see Santa, too. It was such an emotional moment for me as a parent thinking back on seeing her sitting in Santa’s lap this year versus this same time last year. She has gained so much strength, especially in her core, that she sat up tall and pretty on Santa’s lap as she told him she wanted “lots of Barbies” for Christmas.
Just look at the comparison photo. I mean, really…it is truly amazing.
We also took her to see Chad, her orthotist, during December because her KAFO brace needed to be adjusted. She has gotten a bit taller and the shorter brace was making it difficult for her to walk. Chad said overall her brace looked great, but he adjusted the height of the knee placement about an inch. He said she won’t need to be refitted for another KAFO for another 2-3 months, at which time we might as well do the KAFO and the AFO at the same time.
We will look at a different type of locking mechanism at the next fitting (one that makes unlocking it easier for her to do herself). Right now there are two small rings on each side of the brace that have to be held up while her brace is locked in order to unlock them. She cannot do it herself since it requires using both of her hands (and she needs one hand to hold on to something as she stands). The new mechanism is a U-shaped band that goes behind her knee and unlocks when she touches the back of her knee to a chair or similar object. She can also reach behind and unlock it with her left hand which would leave her right hand free to hold on to the restroom bar, classroom table, etc.
I was blessed enough to find a full time job at the end of January which means Chris has been taking her to the chiropractor and PT/OT twice a week. The updates I get are from him, and y’all know men and women are a lot different when it comes to relaying information. I have to pull the information out of him a lot so I don’t have some specific details to her treatments, but I can tell you that within the past two weeks, Annadelle reached all of her therapy goals and had to re-establish new ones. This is awesome news! This means she is progressing, even slightly, so her new goals have been defined. Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what those goals are.
I do know that her overall therapy goals are to transfer from her wheelchair (or walker) to the toilet completely independently. This means she would have to transfer, hold on to the bar, remove her clothing enough to use the restroom, and get to the toilet. Then she would have to wipe, stand up, pull her pants up, then transfer back to the wheelchair or walker. She is able to do most of this now with a little help, but we are praying she is able to quickly reach this goal so that she could possibly attend summer camp without an aide (and overall just be more independent).
I spoke with school staff this week and we decided to finally transition her to using only the walker at school! If you have been keeping up with the blog, you know this has been a goal of ours since school started so we are overjoyed to be reaching this point. Both the staff (and we) agree that doing this will hopefully give her the little push she needs to stay motivated enough to work to get out of the wheelchair. Because the wheelchair is “easy” for her to use, she prefers not to even try to walk. Kids can sometimes be difficult to convince to do a little more work for a greater reward because they automatically revert to doing the easiest action. This has been the case with Annadelle for several months and she has just not been interested in walking much.
Tomorrow will actually be the first day that she uses only the walker at school. She will sit in a regular chair and transition from classroom to lunchroom to P.E. (etc.) using on the walker. She will probably fatigue easily, especially the first week or so, but our prayer is that she quickly adapts and gains some strength in her legs and core.
Annadelle is still on a modified ketogenic diet at the recommendation of her neurologist. As you can see from the photos above, she has slimmed up a bit. It has made a huge difference in her movement and her ability to transfer herself. She is now able to get up on “high knees” from a seated position by herself (although larger distances are a bit more difficult, but still doable). She can also raise her right arm without bending at the elbow. Both of these are something she could not do at my last update in December. She is getting stronger!
I field a lot of questions about Annadelle’s modified keto diet so I think it is important to know she doesn’t just eat cheese and bacon (she doesn’t even like cheese!).
Breakfast is usually 1 egg (scrambled) with 2 slices of turkey bacon.
Lunch is a variety of proteins, greens, and fruits like apples or oranges. Recently I have been sending her with “surprise” lunches which are a sandwich and chips, but they are few and far between (typically only on Fridays).
For dinner she will eat whatever we eat. She likes baked fish, soups, and protein/greens combinations. If she does not like what we eat, I do not make her anything different. This was hard for me to do at first but I have found that she will eventually try whatever we are eating and will like it most of the time.
If she snacks, it is typically on a spoonful of peanut butter or a piece of fruit (banana, apple, orange, or sometimes berries). She also likes some nuts like almonds and cashews.
She also gets sweet treats occasionally (mostly sugar free treats like a piece of Russell Stover candy or Rebel brand ice cream). We also make her a “mug cake” that is around 4 net carbs for the entire bowl.
Essentially, her carb count stays relatively low (less than 50 net carbs daily) and her protein and fats stay high.
Annadelle’s school recently had this swing (pictured) installed on the playground and Annadelle was absolutely oVeR tHe MoOn!!! She calls it “my swing” and quite literally talks about it every single day. I have been speaking with the school principal about making sure the playground will be ADA compliant and have actually just got back on that this week so I will update later with any changes made to the playground. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that public school playgrounds be accessible for students with special needs. The amount of accessibility depends on the items available on the playground. For Annadelle, my request is for an accessible “floor” that would allow her access to other elements on the playground. Right now the ground is just mulch and could be replaced with accessible-friendly foam flooring seen at many other local parks. For now Annadelle is pretty content with “her” swing, but she deserves to have access to the other equipment.
Hopefully I have been able to cover everything we have been up to since December, but I will be sure to update again soon since Annadelle is transitioning to the walker. I can’t thank everyone enough for their continued support. I hope this blog can be a guiding light to others who are going through the same thing, and give any doubtful parent out there a renewed hope that recovery is possible!
We’ve had a fun weekend with friends and family in town for fall break. Annadelle’s fall break was Friday-Monday the week before, but she didn’t really get to enjoy it because she had strep throat.
She got some antibiotics and bounced back pretty quickly, though.
While our close friends Carrie and her son, Kade, were here, we took a trip to the Hangout in Gulf Shores only a few minutes from our house. Carrie wanted to get some photos of the big waves coming in from the approaching storm so we went to the public beach access at the Hangout because there is usually a wheelchair mat there that goes out to the beach. Unfortunately the mat has been removed from that location and I wasn’t able to find where it was moved to, if it was indeed moved. So Carrie and Kade walked out to the beach while Annadelle and I waited on the sidewalk. She was really bummed out that she didn’t get to go on the beach.
After Carrie and Kade came back to the sidewalk, we ended up over inside the Hangout and caught the “foam party” they hold on the weekends every hour. Annadelle has always wanted to go do that, but we’ve been hesitant not to mess up her wheelchair. The smiles and giggles that came from her playing in that foam were well worth the cleanup.
As you can probably tell from the photos, we have been practicing Annadelle wearing her KAFO brace on her left leg for long periods of time in anticipation of taking her walker to school on Monday. Last week we had another IEP meeting to modify her current IEP to include the evaluations from PT and OT. The team decided it would be best to discontinue using the mobile stander at school for an hour a day and just put her in the walker for that time period. The PT is also going to have her use her walker during P.E. one day a week.
She does well in her walker compared to a few months ago, but she has a lot of balance issues. She can’t walk in it without the side and back locks on because she leans to the left when walking. We are hoping the more she uses the walker the stronger she will get and the more balance she will have. I think a lot of it is just having confidence so we will see.
Today we took a trip to HomeGoods (my new favorite store, by the way) and didn’t take her wheelchair. She was able to walk into and around the store by herself (with the back and side locks on). It took forever but compared to a year ago at this time, she has made huge strides. Chris and I continue to be eternally grateful for the progress she has made and have faith that she will continue to recover. There is no doubt in my mind that she will one day walk with that walker with no problem at all, and no locks on.
We have hit a recent problem with therapy, as we have not been able to find a facility locally that will accept her as a patient. We continue to be told she needs to see a spinal cord injury certified therapist, but we can’t do that without traveling a good ways. Our schedules just don’t allow for it and it isn’t beneficial to Annadelle to travel so far for a 45 minute appointment.
We thought we had a therapist locally who would accept her (because she had agreed to do so the week prior), but that therapist decided not to accept her after all. I’ve been livid over her decision and have spent a lot of time praying about it. Two nights ago I made the decision to send her an email that I had initially intended to be an ugly one, but the Holy Spirit grabbed me before I could let that evil come from my lips (or fingertips, in this case). I ended up just telling her how disappointed I was in her decision not to accept Annadelle as a patient and urged her to reconsider. I haven’t heard back from her and doubt I will, but I feel better knowing I plead my/Annadelle’s case and did all I could. If it doesn’t work out, I know that wasn’t God’s plan and there will be another therapist who will be willing to fight for Annadelle.
Annadelle is doing very well in school and made all A’s and B’s on her report card! She has been working so hard in at-home therapy and at school to catch up. We are so thankful to the care team at school who have been working to get her caught up. We really are blessed for that.
We received her school picture proof this past week and I cried like a baby. She looked so beautiful and I just kept thinking about all the things that AFM took away from us this past year, included her first school photo from kindergarten. It’s stupid stuff to some people, but when you don’t get to experience it, it’s like the entire world ripped from you. I think not being able to experience some important milestones for us has made us much more appreciative of what we are able to experience now.
I was telling my FIL this morning that I thought I would dread seeing the Facebook memories from a year ago because our time at USAWC hospital in Mobile was quite traumatic for all of us. I would be lying if I said I had not woken up in sweats and crying dreaming about those nights in the hospital. But as time has passed, I realize I am able to look back on those times and see how far she has come, not what she can no longer do. Of course I still have moments of great sadness, but mostly I am just so grateful to God for what we still have. She’s here with us. She’s thriving. She’s loving life. And she’s continue to defy odds like never before.
She’s truly a miracle, and for that I couldn’t thank God enough.
I feel like such an old lady. I missed church this morning because of my back, or more specifically, my right leg. I am in constant pain right now from what we believe is sciatica pain. I am unable to sit in an upright position for long periods of time, so unless Pastor Fred is okay with me sprawling out over several chairs, I missed today’s message. Praise Jesus I have another appointment with Dr. Sharkey tomorrow. Until then, I’m going to be flat on my back with an ice pack and a lot of prayers.
Annadelle stayed home with me because she is fighting off a cold. She came home from school with a runny nose so I have been on high alert. I am constantly checking her O2 levels with a pulse oximeter, checking her temperature, loading her down with vitamin C, rubbing all kinds of oils over here, throwing together a blend in the diffuser (frankincense, lemon, and thieves), running the humidifier 24/7, putting her prone and doing some CPT, and following her around with tissues telling her to blow her nose. I have reached peak paranoid mom.
Since going back to school, we haven’t been able to schedule her for any therapy in Fairhope. She is scheduled for a quick PT appointment tomorrow so we will know more about a future schedule after that. I sent a message to the special education director for Baldwin County schools this week asking when her PT and OT evals were going to be completed. She said she would forward my email on to someone else and that they would work on scheduling that.
I also asked about plans to make the playground accessible. This was a topic of conversation during all of the IEP meetings we had and I was assured it would be accessible for Annadelle. Her recess is toward the end of the day, so we have pulled up to get in the car rider line and noticed Annadelle away from the other kids under the awning with her wonderful para, Miss Jen (as Annadelle calls her). She has a very small tub with legos to play with. Meanwhile, other kids are on the playground or sitting at benches eating their snacks. I brought this up to Debbie, the director I emailed, because I had specifically asked that Annadelle not be isolated during recess and mentioned the “play box” idea that a few other AFM parents had recommended in the parent group.
I know this may seem petty to some readers, but schools are actually required to ensure a playground is accessible for children with special needs. In this case, it may be as easy as pouring a pad in the playground instead of having mulch, or installing a wheelchair swing, etc. I know Annadelle may be the only child needing this right now, but who is to say other students won’t need it in the future?
School is otherwise going wonderfully for Annadelle. She is understanding the homework pretty well and we are reading every night. I make her read along with me and say the words that she knows. We also practice ABC, number, and sight word flashcards quite a bit. It seems we may have finally gotten into a routine, although having the problems with my back/leg disappear would be fantastic.
I’ve been looking for a job. I’ve applied to approximately 873985738497589374587345897389475893745897348957 jobs and have yet to get a call back from one. I even applied at Target, a job well below my skillset, and got an email saying I didn’t meet their minimum criteria. Obviously, I’ve been feeling like a total failure and am extremely stressed about it.
I did manage to get accepted to Columbia Southern University. I’m trying to finish my bachelor’s, but I switched my major from Nursing to Information Technology & Cybersecurity. After being in the hospital for 5 months with Annadelle, I never want to step foot inside a medical facility again unless I have to. My heart races and I feel sweaty every time I walk into a hospital or doctor’s office, and I think it is safe to say I’m a bit traumatized from the entire experience.
When thinking about what I wanted to swap my major to, I chose IT because I have always had a knack for it and am obviously tech-savvy. Did you know I know HTML and can create databases from code in Microsoft Access? I am self-taught and did all that for fun, which apparently makes me a bit of a weirdo! And to think- my parents told me all that time in the basement on AOL wouldn’t do me a bit of good. 😉
Luckily, all of the classes are online. I have an option to do it at my own pace or enter the term classes. I believe I have 57 credits, but CSU may not accept all of those for an IT major. I’ve been applying for scholarships left and right, some with essays and some not. It’s a full time job just figuring out how to pay for the courses!
Last night I used the HealerTech FlexrGo! on Annadelle’s legs to see if there would be any response. It has been a while since I checked her left leg/foot, and I was unable to get a response on her anterior tibialis or gastrocnemius. I was so bummed because of all the people who had said she had been moving it, but it looks like nothing is there. I did manage to get a small response on her right quad. I am really praying her quad wakes up because she would have much better control in her walker with it. She is able to stand well in the walker (with braces only), but is slow to move around. She is starting to put weight on the left leg just barely. Basically, we have seen great gains from the waist up, but her legs are not making much progress at all.
I tried to encourage her yesterday by showing her videos of Cami, a little girl whose grandmother we know through the AFM parent page. Cami was diagnosed with AFM in 2016 as complete quadriplegic and has made miraculous progress over the years. She is now walking with a KAFO (no walker). Her story is so inspiring to me and I was hoping it would be for Annadelle, too.
I showed her videos of Cami at Disney World, dancing with her dad and grandmother. Annadelle loved the design on Cami’s KAFO and kept asking if we could fly out to meet her. “We can see Matthew, too!” she said.
Speaking of Matthew, he is undergoing nerve transfer surgery this week in St. Louis with Dr. Moore. Please keep our extended family (Frances, Mike, and Matthew) in your prayers!
I have actually been questioning whether or not we made the right decision to skip out on a nerve transfer. I don’t think her arms need it, as she is continually making great progress with both arms, but I think at least one leg needs some help. Chris is absolutely adamant that we do not proceed with a nerve transfer so the topic has been a source of conflict for us. Chris says that the research will say something like, “7 of 10 patients with nerve transfers showed progress”, but it won’t include any information about the other 3 patients or even progress of patients without nerve transfers. There was a series of podcasts from the TMA about nerve transfers that featured Dr. Amy Moore, the physician we consulted with about nerve transfers, but I did not listen to them. I felt like it would be a biased conversation and our experience with Dr. Moore’s office left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like we were just a number, and our decision not to do the surgery wasn’t even a second thought from their office. I guess had we at least received a call from Dr. Moore, we may have reconsidered, but overall we just did not feel comfortable with it at the time.
I have been reading on nerve decompression lately, but don’t know enough to really talk about it. It might be an option in the future. I would have to do more research to give more information.
Anyway, I say all that because I’m obviously struggling. Emotionally. Financially. Spiritually. I’m on the struggle bus. I could really use some prayers.
I’d also like to ask that you pray for Annadelle, for complete healing for her and for us to see progress in her legs.
Since my last update, there have been a lot of changes in our lives. First, Chris’ youngest son, Hayden, moved in with us. He is 17 years old and is starting in to his junior year. He’s been doing summer workouts 3 days a week and got a job at a car wash, so he has met plenty of people and made friends quickly. Annadelle loves having Hayden here.
Updates are few and far between nowadays because progress is much slower. Although we see therapists or doctors pretty often, each day is pretty much the same ol’ same ol’.
It wasn’t until today that I was able to see the visual representation of the progress she has made. To be honest, I don’t see the progress like others do because I see her every day. But for those who go months without seeing her, the progress is much more evident.
In June, my sister-in-law, Heather, came down with her two boys, Eli and Asher. The boys are wonderful with Annadelle and they are really good about including her in whatever they do. They each love to be her little helpers.
While they were here, we all went bowling for the first time since Annadelle’s AFM onset. It turns out she really loves to bowl with help of the ramp. She was able to pick up a 6 lb ball easily and put it up on the ramp which is a big improvement. She is slowly getting stronger.
Our family also had a family reunion in Orange Beach during the month of June. Several of our extended family members have been keeping up with Annadelle’s progress on Facebook and were excited to see her in person. Some of our family members gave Annadelle some money while we were there. Later that week, we spent it on a Nintendo Switch which is something the recreational therapists used while we were at KKI in Baltimore. We were hoping it would help Annadelle with her left hand coordination and fine motor skills. And alas, it did because a week later Annadelle was able to give a “thumbs up” on her left hand for the first time since she got sick.
Later on, Annadelle and I traveled back to our hometown to attend VBS at my mother-in-law’s church. Annadelle used to go there with her Granna on Wednesday nights so the church members know her very well.
The first day I dropped her off, I felt very overwhelmed. Taking care of her all by myself was extremely difficult because I am used to sharing the duties with Chris. Needless to say, the first day of VBS I was an emotional (and physical wreck). As I watched her struggle to fit in on the first day, my emotions got the best of me. I went to my car and cried. I don’t even know how to explain what emotion I felt. The closest thing I can think of is “powerless”.
As a mother, all I wanted to do was to make sure she fit in. I didn’t fit in a lot as a kid. There were times I was picked on and left out. Even as an adult I have been left behind by friends as they find newer, better friends to hang around with on more than one occasion. It’s an ongoing issue that I really struggle with, and I guess I projected a lot of that fear from what happens to me to it happening to my child, especially now that she is disabled. It was always a fear of mine and is now a billion times worse so my emotions simply engulfed me in worry and sorrow as I sat there in my car.
Luckily, I was able to call one of very few friends I have and let it out. She reminded me of God’s promise and helped me to calm down. I think I really did have a panic attack.
By the end of the week, my fears proved to be nothing as Annadelle made many friends. The VBS staff were wonderful with her and I’m so glad she had such a wonderful time.
While we were In Calhoun county, we were able to see a lot of our family again. My cousin/more-like-a-sister Robin and Heather, along with our kids, went to see Toy Story 4 at the new cineplex in Pell City. The kids had a blast just being kids.
Annadelle is continuing therapy 3 times a week until school starts. We don’t have a schedule for when school starts but we are hoping to go at least 2-3 days a week. She will be evaluated for PT and OT at school after a few weeks. Right now we are working on her IEP and will meet with the team on the 18th to discuss the draft. Annadelle is so excited to be going back to school. As for me, I’m an absolute mess over it.
At the end of June, we were blessed to receive Annadelle’s new orthotic braces. She got an AFO for her right leg in the hopes it would help her with the hyper extension of that leg. She also got a KAFO for her left leg since she is not able to bear weight on it very much. He quads and glutes are firing in that leg, but she is still very weak. The KAFO just helps her to support the weight of that leg.
While in therapy, one of our goals is for her to be able to walk with the assistance of a walker. Getting used to walking is one thing, but learning to navigate and support yourself on a walker is another. It is a very slow process but we are praying that in a few months she will be walking with the walker. I wish I could express what an absolute blessing that would be for Annadelle. I have prayed for that continuously and respectfully ask that if you’re reading, you do the same.
The day she was fitted for the braces, she stood by herself for about 45 seconds to a minute. This was the first time she had stood by herself since the onset. I did not realize just how tall she had gotten until then. My little girl isn’t so little anymore. I feel like I missed so much of her growth while in the hospital. When she was admitted, it seems that she was so tiny. Now she’s a “kid”. I’m having a hard time with that realization.
We have ordered a Crocodile walker for Annadelle. We think it will arrive within 2 weeks.
Annadelle was also approved for an Amtryke (adaptive bicycle) through the local AMBUCS chapter. I’m not sure when it will come in, but I was told the chapter is covering the entire cost of the bike which is over $600. What a blessing! She has used the bike before at KKI and Children’s for therapy. The bike will allow her to spend some time outside having fun while also getting in a little therapy for her legs to help strengthen them.
Lastly, I’d like to share this amazing progress Annadelle has made after receiving chiropractic treatment. In conjunction with therapy, you can see in the comparison XRay just how much her posture and core strength have improved. The first X-ray was taken at the beginning of May, the second one was taken yesterday. I am just in shock of how much these treatments have helped in a relatively short period of time. I am so thankful to our friend John who referred us to GCFC.
I’m hoping to have another update soon of Annadelle walking in a walker independently! I am praying it will come soon. Please help me to pray for that. As always, thank you for the continued support.