The Accessories

At 24 years of age, DC started having seizures. **I worried about this when he was younger as I knew autism and seizures often go hand in hand. I had also always heard that in many cases, if your child has seizures when they are younger, they might stop when they hit puberty or if they never had seizures when they were younger, they could very well begin at puberty. I do not know how much truth there is in this but this is what I had always heard/believed, so puberty was my guideline.** (see below)

Once he hit his teen years, seizures became the last thing on my mind, so much so that when he did have his first seizure at 24, I had no idea what was happening.

After the second, he was put on medication and I knew that I was going to have to try to get him to wear a medical alert bracelet.

I was talking to a friend the other day about all of the accessories that DC has been made to wear since the seizures began and she admitted to being very surprised that he agrees to wear any of it, citing our many years of participation in Special Olympics and trying to figure out just what to do with the wrist bands that all of our kids were required to wear during tournaments. Other than the waiting, the wristbands were the biggest hurdle for most of our group.

DC has gotten better over the years about the wristbands. Not that it is still not a little bit of a battle to get him to wear one, but he tolerates it. It needs to come off the moment we leave wherever we were, that required him to wear it the band. THE MOMENT; meaning THE MOMENT. It does not matter if we are in the middle to the road, that wrist band is in my face.

This is the same guy who has no problem wearing 6 to 12 snap bracelets at one time, though.

My biggest fear with the seizures was him falling and hitting his head. He hates wearing hats. He wears them only when he absolutely has to; when it is part of the uniform. He wore a baseball cap when he played and he wears a baseball cap to work when he is working in the green house or on the grounds at his job for protection from the sun. I had to explain that the cap was part of his green house “uniform” to get him to wear it.

I bought a protective baseball cap to replace his “uniform” ball cap to provide some protection if he were to fall at work. I have to say that he has been very good about wearing it, but only at work.

Knowing that the bracelet would be a problem, I ordered some tags from If I Need Help, that have a code that can be scanned with Smart Phone or tablet. I knew I still wanted to try a medical alert bracelet because that is the first thing people look for, but I thought that these tags were a good option in case he refused to wear the bracelet.

I bought the dog tags and the shoe tags. DC also does not like to wear anything around his neck – another flashback to Special Olympics – and to be honest, I am not a fan of him having anything around his neck either. When I was a kid (an infant really), I saw Isadora, a movie with Vanessa Redgrave about Isadora Duncan and that was the end of scarfs or anything around the neck for me – Yes, it IS hard to be me.  The chain that came with the dog tags seemed strong enough to keep him from losing it, but not so strong that it would not break if it got caught in something.

He was not having any of it at first, but I explained that it was important that he wore it in case he “fell down” again (he doesn’t seem to remember the actual seizures or he just cannot communicate it to me. He says/thinks he fell down) so people would know how to call Mom. I had to keep it simple. Someone being able to call Mom, did it for him.

Now,  on to the bracelet. Since I had the tags that listed his medication (that could be easily changed at any time online), I opted not to list his meds on the bracelet. I knew that many times, the first med does not take or dosages have to be changed. I did not want him to be wearing an outdated bracelet or none at all while ordering and waiting for an updated bracelet to arrive after any med changes,  so I just listed: Autism  – Seizure Disorder – May Not Respond Properly – with his name on the back side.

And…. believe it or not; just like the glasses that I was sure he would never wear and/or would lose immediately, or the phone I thought he would never keep in his pocket and lose immediately – he proved me wrong.

He takes them off every night and the first thing he does when he gets out of the shower in the morning is put the dog tags on. After he is dressed and comes down stairs, he sits holding the bracelet and will do nothing else until I put it on (he can’t fasten it himself). There have been times when I was preoccupied with something else that I found him sitting with his breakfast in front of him, holding the bracelet, waiting instead of  eating. First things first, I suppose. There is one quirk, though. He will not  wear it with the text facing out so someone looking at his arm could read it easily. He HAS to wear it with the text facing him. There is no negotiating that point at all.

But go ahead and try to put anything else on his wrist. It still is not happening without drama.

I have written before about the fact that I do try to tell DC about his autism when the opportunity presents itself. I am not really sure that he understands but I do bring it up from time to time. Well, a few months ago, DC decided to read the text on his bracelet. I do not know if that was the first time he had read it or if it was just the first time he read it aloud to me, but he read “Awe-tis-ZUUUUUMMM” – “Is- er Dis-er”- “Does not ‘respend pop-oo-lee’ “, so I took that as another opportunity to talk about his autism.

Me: Autism – that is what you have. Do you know that you have autism?

DC: Yes!

Me: It is why you have a hard time talking sometimes and why somethings like loud noises bother you. I put that on your bracelet so people will know that you have autism and can not always tell us the things that you want to tell us and that sometimes it is confusing for you to answer questions.

DC: Confusing.

That is about as far as I got before he lost interest and his attention went back to getting his bracelet on.

Since that day, when he is ready to have me put his bracelet on, he will hand it to me and say “Awe-tis-ZUUUUUMMM”, causing me to wonder if he now thinks that is the name of the bracelet.

In any case,  we will keep discussing it and we will keep trying….

****

**I wanted to add a portion of a comment I received as explanation regarding seizures, pointing out that something that I do understand now but failed to explain or clarify properly above.

From C: Please note “that autism itself does not cause seizures. Epilepsy that is co-morbid with autism is what leads to seizures. I say this because not making that distinction leads to a lot of confusion and fear that isn’t necessary.
Some people develop epilepsy in adulthood or they had seizures that weren’t outwardly visible until new ones appeared later after they grew up.”

Thank you and good point!

***

I have not or will not receive compensation of any kind from If I Need Help for endorsing their product. I just think it is a great idea and a great product. 

Advertisements

Things I have learned, things I have noticed and things that might just be in my own head

hmmmm

Things I have learned since DC’s seizures began:

I have learned that seizures coming out of the blue at his age is more common than I realized.

I have learned that although I have been told many times, that seizures are not life threatening, they most certainly can be.

I have learned that when seizures begin at his age, they will most likely continue for life.

I have learned that all of the testing in the world might never tell us anything.

I have learned that I will not know if the medication is working until it doesn’t.

I have learned that this is going to be a very long road.

I have learned that “calm” will never be a word used to describe me……. wait, we knew that one already.

I have learned that I can actually drive while having a panic attack, but I would not recommend it.

I have learned that even if I wake up an entire hour earlier than usual so I can take a shower before he is awake and out of bed (because I am so panicked about being in the shower and not being able to see or hear him) that he has some sort of radar that goes off to tell him that I am awake.

I have learned just how quickly I can run up the stairs any time I hear a noise.

I have learned and understand that plenty of people experience this and go on just fine. I can’t get past the fear of him hitting his head on the way down.

I have learned that nothing is predictable…. My friend’s message to me says it best:

Our years with our kids have given us the wisdom to be able to have as much of a stable daily life as possible. The routine and the predictability of our day-to-day with them is all we have to keep us from losing it. A small upside to life with our sons is that we can, to a certain extent, control what our days look like, and we come to depend on that predictability just as much as they do. We know what to expect, we plan for every behavior, we know what every sound they make means. It’s how we cope. And having this happen doesn’t just pull the rug out from under you, it unravels the whole damn rug. I just hope you get some answers and the road to getting those answers doesn’t take you through hell and back.”

Things I have never noticed until DC’s seizures began:

I have never noticed (probably because I was so used to it) that DC’s dances at times involve him throwing himself on the floor.

I have never noticed just how long it takes him to take a shower because I have never felt the need to stand right outside the door before.

I have never noticed just how many sharp edges there are on all of the furniture in the house.

I have never noticed just how many times he feels the need to go up and down the stairs every day.

Things I have come to think may be possible precursors to his seizures:

DC’s first seizure happened on a Sunday. I specifically remember telling Mrs. H on the Friday before that I thought he was heading for a crash. He had been so overly hyper, happy hyper but over the top, laughing uncontrollably and talking about things he normally doesn’t really talk about, that I was sure his allergies were due to kick in. He was like that the entire weekend.

After this last seizure, when I spoke to Mrs. H, who had picked him up from work and drove him to his camp activity, she said he was very excited about going to camp (he always is), but more excited than usual. He also gave her specific details about what he did at work and what he was going to do at camp. This is not something that usually happens. We normally have to drag information out of him and when we get answers, they are usually standard DC answers. The biggest thing was that he said, totally unprompted “Say hello to Mr. H. for me”. I know many of you do not know DC personally, but those who do, know this is not anything he would ever say. This is not his manner of speaking. *Tam, the program director at camp also informed me that DC, while always excited to go to camp seemed to be overly excited that night. He even did his entire Arts and Crafts project (he is not an Arts and Crafts kind of a guy) and then some extra.

Things that might be just in my own head (or things I may be reading too much into):

When Mrs. H mentioned “Say hello to Mr. H for me” – I remembered the only other time I had heard him say something like that and it got me thinking. We were in Disneyland Paris almost exactly a month before his first seizure. When he met Ariel in the Princess Room, he said to her, “Say hello to Prince Eric for me”. I was blown away by that and actually mentioned it in my still unfinished post “Everything is Related – The Paris Edition”. The morning after his meeting with Ariel, he slept until 11:30!!!! The one and only time he has ever slept that late was when he was sick in Florida and even then he did wake up a few times but then went back to sleep. I normally start to think there is something wrong if he sleeps until 8:00 am. Granted we were exhausted, but even exhausted, he never ever sleeps that late.

When DC started coming out of his first seizure, he make a horrible noise that sounded like he was choking. I am told that this is normal. When he had his second and *Kim described the noise as a “weird snoring sound” I remembered that night in Disney, waking up and hearing DC snoring very oddly, so oddly that I shook him to make sure he was okay. He said he was and went right back to sleep. I am wondering now if he actually had a seizure during the night and I just didn’t know. He was so tired the following day, but I just wrote if off to travel, jet lag and the exhausting day we had the day before.

I don’t think  I will never know for sure.

So now do I worry each time he says or does something that before this happened would have been viewed as progress? I don’t know. I don’t know what I am supposed to be looking for.

Fortunately, so far the medication does not seem to be having any adverse effects. He has been going to bed much earlier than he ever has before but, quite honestly I really suspect – and I am not joking – that he is trying to get a break from me.

If wishes were horses……

 

Recently and jokingly I made the comment on an Autism-Mom post that my next post would very likely be titled “Bummer Summer” – I was serious about the fact that it has really been a bummer summer, with one thing after another, but really not serious about the post. I really should know by now, never to joke…….

I have mentioned once or twice before that DC attends a summer camp for special needs children and adults. He has attended since he was 5 years old. He loves it there.

Before he left the school system at age 21, he was able to attend every day for 7 weeks each summer. Now that he has a “job” year-round, he normally uses some of his allotted vacation time to attend for two weeks of the season. He does and has always been able to attend the twice weekly after camp program.

Because we took an extra vacation this year, he was not able to take an extra two weeks off to attend camp as he usually does, so I opted for him to go one day a week on Friday in addition to the two “after camp” sessions that do not interfere with his work schedule or his time off. “

DC really enjoys the after-camp program. There are only 10 to 12 campers that attend the program by invitation only –  first they have to be old enough and secondly have to be able to tolerate not only being at camp all day from 9 to 3 but staying on after camp until 8pm. That is a long day for many campers. Because it is such a small group, they do try to rotate the invitees for each session. When DC was finally old enough to be invited to stay, I’m guessing at 12 or 13, he was thrilled. At the time, DC enjoyed doing many things but he would always opt to stay home if given the choice. He would never ask to go anywhere. After he attended that first time, he actually asked me when he could go back. That was HUGE!

I am not one to ever ask for favors or special treatment, but he was asking me to go back! I called the director and asked if there was any way that DC could attend once a week, every week. I didn’t want to take anyone’s spot but… this was HUGE! The director at the time, understood (DC had attended camp long enough for her to also know that this was HUGE) and agreed. He attended once a week until he left school and started his job. Now that he is working and not able to attend camp daily, he has been attending the after-camp program twice a week, all summer, every summer.

The after-camp program comes to an end a week before the daily camping season ends. Thursday night was his last after-camp program for this summer. Last week was Christmas week at camp, this week was New Years Eve. He was excited.

At about 5:30 my phone rang. I saw the camp number on the caller ID. My heart stopped. I just knew. DC was having a seizure. *Tam the program director had already called 911. I could tell he was shaken (he really likes DC and the feeling is mutual) but he  kept his cool as I was panicking. Camp is a good 1/2 hour away without traffic and he didn’t know what hospital they would be transporting him to because the ambulance had not arrived yet. Doug, who only lives 2 minutes away came and we headed in the direction of camp and the two hospitals closest to camp.  Tam called back when the ambulance arrived to let me know which hospital they would be bringing him to.

As luck (seriously someone is watching out for this boy) would have it, a former camp employee, *Kim happened to be there visiting. Kim was DC’s group leader for many years at camp – many, many years. He knows him well. He even worked as an IA (“Para Professional” to some of you) at DC’s transition program at the college. Kim,  now a LPN knew exactly what to do. I’m sure Tam would have been able to handle it, we had discussed it after DC’s first seizure,  but it is always easier to have that extra pair of hands.

Kim rode in the ambulance with DC. I was in constant contact with Tam, relaying information back and forth. We somehow arrived at the hospital before the ambulance. Kim stayed with us the entire time.

The actual seizure lasted about 3 minutes, but he seemed to come out of it much more quickly this time. He was back to his old self long before we left the hospital.

I know that there are plenty of people who deal with this kind of thing or worse every day, but all of this is very new to me, so yes, I am freaking out, so please bear with me if I bring it up every once in a while. DC has been so healthy all of his life. He’s never been on any kind of medication other than the occasional antibiotics. Now at 24 he has had two seizures in a 7 week period of time. I am having trouble wrapping my head around all of this, while still trying not to make him nervous about it.

Like the last time, DC does not seem to remember the seizure. He thinks he was in the ‘Hos- a- bul’ because he ‘fell down’. After we were discharged, we drove Kim back to his car at camp. Tam and the after-camp staff were still there waiting in the parking lot. Tam had saved some of the New Years pizza DC didn’t get to have for him. This certainly helped to take away some of the sting of missing his last after-camp day.

I am grateful for all of these people. I can’t say enough about the care and compassion they showed DC. If this had to happen again, I am thankful that it happened while he was with staff and volunteers that knew just what to do, didn’t scare him and above all, made him feel comfortable. I can’t say enough about all of them. Tam even thought to send one of DC’s favorite Disney books with him so he had something to read at the hospital.

What does it say about this camp that even former employees love the place so much that they come back to visit ‘their campers’ as often as they can?  Once one becomes involved in camp, one is always involved with camp. This place never leaves them. The camp and the campers stay in their hearts forever. This is not just me gushing, this is a fact. Many of the staff started as volunteers when they were 12 or 13 years old, stayed on through high school and through college. Many have become Special Education teachers directly due to their time spent at camp and  many continue to work there during the summer. That says a lot about the camp, the campers and the people that love it enough to come back every year for 10, 15, 20 30+ years. Imagine 12 – 15 year old kids, not just a few but 15 or 20 who volunteer to spend their entire summer, every summer working at camp. I am always just blown away by that.

During the course of the evening while listening to all of our conversations, DC realized that he would not be able to attend camp the following day. Our day would be filled with – resting, filling his prescription, calling and possibly seeing the doctor, finding a neurologist and with any luck, getting an appointment.

He was not happy that he would not be going to camp on Friday, not happy at all! He was so angry that on the way home he stated point blank and  angrily   “Never falling down again!”

If wishes were horses……

*******

**Names changed

In an effort not to drive my son off the deep end…..

…..and in an effort to keep myself occupied, I am writing.

hospital

 

DC had a seizure last night. He is 24 years old and has never had a seizure. Other than the time he got an ear bud from his headphones stuck in his ear, he has never been to the Emergency Room or hospital. He has never been on any medication of any kind with the exception of antibiotics every once in a while.

Now that we are home, I don’t know what to do with myself. All I have done since we left the hospital is watch every move he makes and pace. I jump when he makes a noise, I jump when he’s too quiet. I am trying (but not succeeding) not to frighten him. Instead of sitting there and staring at him, which I know is making him nervous – I decided to sit and write so at least to him I am not focused on every move he makes (I am, but he is less inclined to notice). I have bothered as many friends as I possibly could already, so now I have nothing to do with myself than stare at him while trying not to frighten him and pace.

I had no intention of writing about this and I am not even sure that I will post it when I’m finished but I am finding it is helping me to talk about it, so for DC’s sake and my own – and before I make him fear ever leaving the couch again, talk and write is what I am going to do.

Yesterday we participated in a Bike-A-Thon for DC’s old baseball league, The Challenger Division of Little League. He aged out when he was 21 so he no longer plays but we had been involved since he was 5 and we hoped to see some old friends there, so we decided to sign up. We live in a duplex and right before we were ready to leave, my neighbor came out and said she was having a problem with water backing up into her basement. There was nothing we could do for her as it seemed to be a bigger problem than just a clogged drain so we suggested she call the landlord.

It was a hot day, but DC did well on his bike. We were home by 10/1030. When we arrived home the landlord asked us to use as little water as possible until they could figure out what was wrong. Later she came and said they had to call someone on MONDAY to look at it, but we could not use the water as everything was backing up into the neighbor’s garage. Great! We had just come back from a hot and sweaty bike event and now we could not use the shower or the bathroom. I thought about it for a while and decided we would check into a hotel that was close-by for the night and bring DC home in the morning in time for his transportation to work.

IMG_0354

DC was not happy about this. He was looking forward to staying home on his computer. I was a bit surprised because he usually loves going to a hotel and we always bring his computer. He was happier once I told him we could go out to dinner.

Fortunately Doug decided to go with us. We checked into the hotel, dropped our bags in the room and went down to the restaurant for dinner. DC showed no signs that anything was wrong. He was acting his normal self all through dinner and when we left the restaurant. Between the restaurant and the elevator, which is only a distance of about 20 feet, I heard this odd noise coming from DC. I looked at him and for a split second thought he saw someone or something in the lobby that he was excited about and that he was making his normal “DC noise” but I quickly realized that this sound was different, a low roar that sounded like it was coming from his throat. I noticed his head was cocked to the side and his face was twisted. I panicked and yelled “What is wrong?”. His whole body began to convulse at which point I began screaming. Doug who works with Special Needs Adults and had just completed “seizure training” recognized what was happening right away. I don’t know if I guided him to the floor or if he started going down and I caught him, I don’t remember. Doug says I guided him to the floor. He continued to thrash and seize on the floor. Suddenly we were surrounded by hotel staff – I don’t even know where they came from and how they got there so quickly, but they had someone counting down, and another came with oxygen. I tried to keep myself together so as not to scare him and I did for the most part until we were getting into the ambulance and I called his Dad. It wasn’t until I said the word out-loud that I started to really lose it. I know someone had been counting down, but I don’t know how long he seized – it was an eternity in my mind. Doug thinks it was about 3 or 4 minutes and it was another 20 minutes or so until he seemed to be fully aware of his surroundings.

By the time we got to the hospital, around 900PM he was talking again. I could see that he still wasn’t himself. He let them put an IV in, which as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before would never have happened if he was not so wiped out by what had just happened. When I have to take him for a regular shot at the DR’s office, I have to bring Doug and his Dad as back up. Doug followed the ambulance, his Dad arrived about 45 minutes later and then my mother arrived. We had a full house but DC was glad to have everyone there with him.  We were there until 2:30 AM. He had blood work and a CAT scan. All of which came back normal. They recommended that we see his regular doctor and that she order/schedule and EEG.

We went back to the hotel because we couldn’t go home and DC slept very well. I called my landlord in the morning and the water issue had been taken care of – we were able to come home.

I will never forget that sound and his face when the seizure started for as long as I live. I am aware that seizures often accompany autism. I worried a lot about this when he was younger but once he was 13 or 14, when they usually rear their ugly head, I felt relieved and at this point a seizure was the last thing on my mind. I suppose that is why it didn’t click immediately with me what was actually happening until Doug said it.

I have been writing bits and pieces of this all day – anytime I felt like I was making him nervous, not really knowing if I’d even post it or not. It just helped me to write it. If you are reading this, that means I decided to hit publish.

We have an appointment with his doctor tomorrow to schedule his tests and I have other suggestions from friends with children that have seizures one being an EMT as well,  that I will bring up with the doctor tomorrow. But for now, I guess I just wait and hope it doesn’t happen again or we can figure out why it happened. If we can’t figure that out then I just have to hope it can be easily treated and I hope I am not scarring him for life with my anxiety over this.

I am trying desperately not to…..