Jill and I head out bright and early tomorrow morning.
Actually, it will still be dark out. I’m thinking 5:00. To be there in time for our 10:00 slot.
I realized this week as people said “Wait, what are you doing?! Is everything okay???” that I did a lousy job of explaining what was happening. I feel like I’ve talked and talked and talked about our extended trip to UCLA Children’s Hospital…I mean, really…I’m sick of hearing myself talk about it!….but it appears that I’m talking about it to some people, but maybe not all the people.
So just a simple post explaining what’s up. Nothing to share. Nothing inspirational. Just a great, big FYI.
Jill has epilepsy. But Jill’s epilepsy is complicated and different and frankly, unusual. Epilepsy doesn’t really present the same way in any two people, but generally speaking, when people have seizures they last anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes and stop on their own. At worst, they respond quickly to “emergency meds”. 70% of epilepsy patients can have their seizures under control (meaning they don’t have any) with medication. That leaves 30% of patients with uncontrolled epilepsy. Uncontrolled defined as having a seizure even when you are on meds.
Jill doesn’t have seizures very often. Typically 2-4 per year. She takes two different medications twice a day, and has since she was 11 months old. Yet, she still has seizures several times a year. Uncontrolled.
But the real kicker is the duration and severity of these seizures. In her case, the shortest seizure she has ever experienced was 45 minutes…with the longest lasting almost 5 hours. Yes, hours.
In each case, we must call 911…ride an ambulance…and watch as emergency room doctors administer more and more medications, all the while getting more and more nervous.
Whenever a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes it is called Status. You want to avoid status. Status is bad. Because when you reach status, your mortality rate drops (or is it increases? Whatever, I can’t bring myself to look it up. But you know what I mean.).
Jill’s shortest seizure was 45 minutes. That’s 9 times longer than the moment people start freaking out. And that’s the SHORTEST.
As you can imagine, this puzzles her doctors. It worries her doctors.
So, our (wonderful) neurologist referred us to her old colleagues at UCLA. There, she will undergo extensive testing, including but not limited to, MRIs, CT Scans, PET Scans, and maybe even some genetic testing.
But the biggie is the 24 hour video EEG. A couple dozen leads will be glued to her scalp and she will then be continuously monitored both through the brain waves picked up by the EEG leads…and the video.
We will take her off her daily meds. We will sleep deprive her. (This means a maximum of 4 hours of sleep at night and ZERO napping. This is torture. No, actually. It’s not natural and it is cruel. But we have no choice.)
Now. This gammut of testing isn’t entirely unusual for those with uncontrolled seizures. When the basic course of treatment (which includes some educated guessing and process of elimination), fails…doctors need hard and fast data. They need to see what is actually going on in that noggin. So, the 24 hour video EEG happens.
But in the vast majority of cases, this process is a 3-4 day hospital stay. Because in the vast majority of cases, a person with epilepsy will have a seizure within a few days of being taken off their meds.
But this is Jill. And she doesn’t seize all that often. Ever. It’s just that when she does, it’s always a very big deal. A very scary big deal. A very, I can’t even type it out big deal.
To give you a sense of how unusual her case is, the HEAD of the UCLA Pediatric Neurology Department…a kind, elderly man…a man who has been doing this the better part of his life…a man nearing retirement…the head guy at a leading research facility…says “So, I have to warn you: this one time, I had this one girl who had a similar seizure pattern. She and her mom were here for 3 weeks before she had a seizure. So get comfortable.”
Now, when the shock of 3 weeks wears off, note the ONE girl this ONE time…in all his years, and all his patients, he’s only seen this ONE other time.
(Our own neurologist has said that Jill is one of the most complicated cases she’s seen in 25 years of practice.)
We actually did this very thing at this very place 2.5 years ago
. Owen was a wee 3 month old. Who was exclusively breastfed. We were told it would be a 3-4 day stay. Standard. So I took the newborn and the girl. But 4 days later, no seizure. 7 days later, no seizure. We had to go home. Owen was too little…my milk supply was drying up from stress…and no one had planned time off work any longer. We called it. Went home with no more information than we had walked in with.
We don’t really know how long we will be gone. But Andy and I have planned for three weeks of mama being 200 miles away with the One. He will be single dad for the first week (with our phenomenal church family bringing him and the 3 dinner every night)…and then his mom and aunt will come to help the remainder of the time.
We are praying she has a seizure sooner than 3 weeks (a bizarre prayer, no?). We are praying we don’t leave after an excruciating 3 weeks with no information. Again.
I’m sad to leave my family. I will miss the other 3. I will miss my husband. I will be sad at the task of keeping my 5 year old awake to the point of delirium. I hope she doesn’t hate me forever after.
Prayers that we can get the information we need to best help my girl…and preferably in a less than 3 week period.
But silver linings abound. Love pours out from our church family. And her teachers and classroom threw her a party today. Complete with princess balloons, gifts, and handwritten notes.
God is good. Always. No matter what.
(If you want to follow along on our stay, your best bet will be Instagram. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to update the blog, but a quick pic and a sentence of two might be able to be squeezed in.)