Tag Archives: occupational therapy

12/16/2019 Mid December Update

Our Thanksgiving was pretty great! We spent a few days back in Alexandria, AL with my husband’s side of the family which felt like a mini vacation from reality. No therapies, doctors appointments, or school- just a few days with our little family. We decided to stay in a hotel (which Annadelle loved) because it is much easier to get her in and out of a hotel rather than worrying about steps.

While in Calhoun county, we were able to see some of my side of the family, too. I have missed them so much since we moved and especially since Annadelle got sick (especially my cousin, Robin, who is like a sister to me). Dealing with her illness and subsequent recovery has paid a heavy toll on my emotional and mental health, and having people around who “get” you is really vital.

Over the past several weeks, I have been struggling to remember who I am. I know it sounds crazy, but it is like I had been so engulfed with navigating life as a special needs mom that I really forgot who I am as a person. Like, who am I? What do I like? What hobbies do I have? It’s really crazy to even ask yourself that! I have been struggling to find a job (that I really need!) and that is definitely not helping with my emotions flying all over the place. I mention all of this because I want other newly-diagnosed AFM moms (and dads) to know you are not alone if you begin to feel the same way. I have a few other AFM friends who have talked to me about the same thing. In this way, we are family dealing with the same fears, the same struggles, and the same emotions.

We try to make sure Annadelle stays in her walker at least once a day for an hour or more. Most days we are successful, but some days it just doesn’t seem like there is enough time in the day to accomplish everything we need to get done. We are blessed that the school staff makes sure she is in it twice a day while at school, and we have recently discussed (and started) putting her in the walker for P.E. Annadelle has not wanted to spend a lot of time in her walker so we are trying to come up with ways to motivate her. Unfortunately there is not much working to motivate her and we’re really at a dead end on that front. My mom and I tried to get her tickets to meet Jojo Siwa since she will be in Pensacola in May, but the meet-and-greet tickets sold out very quickly. Annadelle really wants to meet Jojo since she is walking in her walker now, as that is something we essentially promised her early on. I kind of overpromised on that and am scrambling to find a way to make that happen.

One thing I think will help will be having her refitted and adjustments made to her KAFO for her left leg. It is about an inch too small right now so we have made an appointment with her orthotist next week to get that fixed. Hopefully with her KAFO adjusted she will be more comfortable walking. I’m praying that Chad can just adjust the KAFO for now so that she doesn’t have to be without it for a few weeks. She cannot walk without the KAFO.

Therapy at Encore is going wonderfully and we are definitely seeing improvements. Annadelle is able to get on all 4’s very easily and is actually getting on “high knees” for long periods of time. Yesterday I was with her in the living room while Chris went to the Table (a church service). I was sitting in the recliner and Annadelle was on the couch. I turned to look at her and noticed she had gotten up to high knees all by herself! This is a HUGE improvement and shows us that she is really gaining strength in her butt and legs.

The photo above is an example of her in the “high knees” position.

Tonight Annadelle participated in her school’s Christmas program. She looked so beautiful in her dress and I was so excited to see her be able to participate with the other kids. All of the kids treat her as their equal and that is honestly so wonderful to see. I had been worried she would be treated differently, but for the most part she is treated wonderfully!

I will make another update after Christmas. We have a few appointments scheduled during the school break so I am sure I will have a lot more to update about then. I try to include as much as possible in our blog for all of the other AFM families out there struggling to get information about recovery so if you are that family, I pray I have been able to provide you with a little guiding light and, most importantly, a ray of hope. Recovery with AFM is possible- you just have to keep pushing. Keep believing. Keep praying. Keep working.

Persistence pays off.

November 2019 Update & Christmas Wishes

We are now 13 months post-onset and continuing to see improvement. Praise Jesus for His healing hands. Amen?

The photo above is a grab from the weekly report sent home from Annadelle’s resource team each week. Every day she is in the general education classroom, but sees two separate resource teachers for reading and math. On Thursdays, she goes to speech and on Mondays, she does in-school PT. In other words, she has a busy schedule! We are beyond blessed for Annadelle to be at the school she is at.

I was so excited to see this note that Annadelle is now in her walker twice a day. She is no longer using her Rifton wheeled stander so we will be returning it to CRS within the next week or so. It is quite the drive to Mobile so I’m working on scheduling a time to get over there and return the stander. Now that she has the walker, the IEP team met and we determined we needed to get her in the walker more. As you can see, she is now in it twice a day in just a few weeks time. She is really progressing wonderfully! Even now as I type this, she is scooting around on the living room floor cleaning up her toys. This is a huge improvement and is something she has been working on in therapy. She is also able to lay on her back and push her butt up off the ground much better than she could a few months ago. It makes it much easier when trying to get her dressed!

While at PT/OT at Encore, her therapists have been working with her on improving her core strength, having her use her left arm, and navigating her walker without the side brakes on. She’s not comfortable enough to be without the side brakes on all the time, but she is definitely improving. Last night we put up our Christmas tree (before Thanksgiving for the first time ever I think- I usually never win that fight, but this year Chris gave in) and Annadelle helped me to decorate it. I put her in her walker and she stood at the tree while I handed her ornaments to put on. If you’ve ever let a 6-year-old put ornaments on a tree, you know you likely have to go behind them and move them around so they are spread out. I did that a little bit, but she was good about moving her walker around the tree to space them out. She did all of that with no brakes on, even on our tile floor. Although, she did tell me when we started, “Mommy! I don’t have my brakes on!” “Yeah. I know,” I said. She looked at me with confusion then went on her merry way (pun intended).

Annadelle is still on a modified ketogenic diet (sugar free), although we have been a bit lax over the last few weeks. She hasn’t gained any weight, but she hasn’t lost any either. Mommy is struggling to stay on track, too. 🙂 We had family visit recently, and when they visit it has sort of become a tradition to visit The Yard in Gulf Shores. This place has amazing milkshakes, and all of them have a whole separate dessert on top. It is definitely not sugar free (but soooooo worth it)!

My mom and I recently saw where Jojo Siwa will be coming to Pensacola on Memorial Day weekend, so we are going to try to get tickets to see the show. Annadelle really wants to meet Jojo so I need to get to work on that. We had told her that she could meet Jojo when she started walking in the walker during the day without her chair and I have a feeling that time will be here sooner than later. She told me she wanted to meet Jojo for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas- I had the most heartbreaking conversation with Annadelle about Santa. She asked me, “Mommy, does Santa Claus grant wishes?” I thought for a moment and asked her, “Why? Do you have a wish you want granted?” She said she did and I asked her what it was. “To get to walking again,” she replied.

This was one of the first times Annadelle had specifically talked to me about walking, or rather wanting to walk. She will say, “When I get back to walking, can we go to OWA?” but she has never specifically said she wants to walk. She usually just talks about walking like it is for sure something that is going to happen. Chris and I believe that she will be walking alone in time, but convincing a 6-year-old of that can be difficult.

I told her no, Santa does not grant wishes like that, but Jesus would. All she has to do is ask Him. We talked about how to pray for things that we want- no material things, but for things like healing and later that night we prayed for that. I have prayed for her to walk every single night for 13 months now and whenever someone asks me how to pray for her, that is what I say. Of course I ask the same thing now. It was one thing when I wanted to walk, but now it is a whole other thing when she asks for it.

I wish I could tell you how heartbreaking it is not to be able to fix this kind of problem for your child, but it is a feeling even I don’t know how to describe.

November 1, 2019 Halloween, Red Ribbons, and New Therapies

This has been an exciting week for Annadelle. For the past year (literally), she has continued to talk about how much she was anticipating Halloween. While in the hospital last Halloween, Annadelle was in the hospital (in the PICU) and on a vent so she was not able to trick-or-treat (either at home or at the hospital). The doctors and nurses tried to make Halloween fun for her, especially nurse Christy who brought her a bucket of candy and asked the other nurss to come to Annadelle’s room to trick-or-treat. Unfortunately, Annadelle was just too upset about being in the hospital to enjoy it.

Annadelle dressed up as Princess Belle for a neighborhood cart-or-treat in Bear Point

Halloween has always been one of her favorite holidays besides Christmas because she loves to be able to dress up. Having to tell Annadelle she couldn’t participate like she wanted to broke my heart.

Needless to say, I put some effort into Halloween this year by ordering her a beautiful Princess Belle costume off of Amazon. I’m not a very “Pinteresty” mom and I’m usually last minute when it comes to buying a costume, but this year I deserve a cookie or something because this costume was awesome. I ordered her a size 7 since it was as large as was available, thinking that maybe since she has lost some weight it would fit. Well, I was right- it fit like a glove!

Annadelle at school dressed up as “Miss Jennifer” (her para professional)
Annadelle and her dad trick-or-treating in Captain’s Cove

Speaking of weight loss, Annadelle has lost close to 16 pounds since being on a sugar free diet. Some refer to it as a ketogenic diet or low carb diet, but her diet doesn’t fully fit in to either one of those categories. We just try to give her whole foods, little starchy carbs, and low glycemic fruits. We aren’t super strict with her diet because she often gets treats at school (example: birthday parties), but overall her diet has changed a good bit.

When we first started sugar-free, we caught a lot of flack from our friends and family. Some said it was “cruel” to keep the foods she loves away from her. I admit it was rough the first week or so, but after the initial shock of changing her diet she has adjusted to it well. Plus, it’s working and we have seen some amazing improvement since she has lost some weight, such as being able to pick herself up from her wheelchair and transfer to her walker by herself (with her KAFO). She can also hold “high knees” for extended periods of time, army crawl, and lift her left leg up completely. Chris and I are also following the same diet to try to make it easier for her. I’ve lost 13 pounds and I’m not sure how much Chris has lost, but he’s a skinny mini now. He’s started working out frequently and has built up quite a bit of muscle. He says he wanted to since he was lifting Annadelle so much, it makes it easier for him to take care of her.

Annadelle in her Crocodile walker during the 60 minutes she uses it at school (as a part of her IEP)

Annadelle has been loving the first grade! Chris and I recently met with the IEP team and tweaked her IEP after having her evaluated for PT and OT. Educational PT and OT is much different than outpatient PT and OT because the functional goals are often different, but it is important that AFM kiddos get as much PT and OT as humanly possible! She will now receive PT once a week at school which is wonderful.

We also adjusted her IEP to remove the use of the mobile stander and replace it with the Crocodile walker. Miss Jennifer (her wonderful para) or another member of the resource staff puts her in the walker everyday for at least 60 minutes. This means we send her to school wearing both her AFO and her KAFO to decrease the “setup” time for her to transfer to the walker. She has been doing very well wearing the braces all day and tells me it is much easier to stand to go to the bathroom. She says she holds on to the bar while Miss Jennifer helps her with her clothes, then transfers to the toilet.

Annadelle with her friend Grayce during PE at school
Annadelle with classmates and teacher before her school’s parade for Red Ribbon Week

Our next IEP goal will be to have Annadelle utilize her walker for the 60 minutes during resource and ALSO during PE. Our ultimate goal before the end of the school year is to be able to send her to school ONLY in the walker. I am beyond grateful that we have such a supportive school staff that is helping Annadelle to achieve her goals. It takes a village!

Annadelle with her friend Haley swinging in the park during cart-or-treat

Annadelle has continued to show improvement over the last several months, including improvement in her core strength. We noticed she has made significant improvement during the Bear Point cart-or-treat prior to Halloween when her dad put her on the swings with her friend, Haley. I took a picture from far off and couldn’t believe how well she was doing.

We believe she will continue to show improvement for years to come, not just because reports from AFM parents whose children were diagnosed years ago says so, but because we have faith that she will. Especially now that Annadelle has started therapy again at Encore Therapy in Foley, about a 25 minute drive from our house. It is much closer than the previous facility we were going to in Fairhope.

Today we visited Encore so that Annadelle could do her initial evaluation with PT and OT. Her new PT, Tina, and her new OT, Sophia, said they were excited to be treating her. Sophia said she had done some training at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta and had treated several AFM patients while there, so she is very familiar with the disease and how to treat it! WHAT!? I couldn’t believe it!

We go back for her first therapy session on Monday after we visit Dr. Sharkey (chiropractor). I am beyond excited to see how she progresses and will be posting some videos after that session so that we can “see” how well she progresses in a few months.

As always, thanks for the continued support. ❤

October 20, 2019 Milestones

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.

Annadelle at urgent care being treated for strep throat

She got some antibiotics and bounced back pretty quickly, though.

Annadelle and her friend, Kade, who lives with TSC- a rare disease causing tumors throughout the body

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.

Annadelle was upset that the City of Gulf Shores removed the handicap accessible beach mat at the Hangout

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.

Annadelle and Kade playing in the foam at the Hangout
The aftermath of the foam party

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.

Annadelle during her first WALKING trip out in public!

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 showing off her book report

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.

Annadelle’s first school photo- 1st grade

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.

October 6, 2019

I had to take a break from reality today, a little time to just stand at the shore as the waves crashed over and over. It was a time to talk to God and listen for an answer as I closed my eyes and took in all the sounds and movement around me.

How peaceful it was to just be in His presence and soak in the feelings of comfort and warmth. It wasn’t until today I realized I needed that.

We have finally begun to settle into life as we know it. Things are a little rocky now and again, but overall we’re getting our groove back. The days are a lot happier now that our grief has progressed and a good bit of time has passed.

I didn’t even update the blog after the yearly anniversary of AFM had reached us. I thought I would dread that day, but it was just like any other. It’s almost as if I had convinced myself that we were racing time, like if we reached one year and Annadelle wasn’t walking independently that meant she would never walk again. But after all this time I realized that was just a lie of the enemy and there is no cap on recovery. She continues to make progress every day and will continue to do so for many years to come.

I wish I could give you a description of her recovery thus far, but it is really just little things we notice. For example, she can transfer from her walker to her wheelchair by herself, or be in the walker and pull the seat down, then sit by herself. It just continues to amaze me how God is answering our prayers. And although it may be much slower than we have prayed for, God fulfills his promises. Always.

Last week Chris was able to convince a physical therapist locally to take on Annadelle as a patient which will be a huge blessing for us since it is so much closer to home than Fairhope (literally 5 minutes from our house). I have to call and check tomorrow to make sure all of the paperwork is squared away before she can get in for an evaluation, then hopefully get on a schedule several times a week. We will miss her therapists in Fairhope, but the drive there just was not worth it with her busy school schedule.

I’m quite tired so I’ll keep it short tonight. I think there are probably a lot of updates I have forgotten to write about so I’ll write again tomorrow. For now, please continue to pray that our sweet girl will walk independently again. Be blessed.