Cleveland Clinic Day 9

We’ve been completely off meds for about 2 days now. Lisa has had a very bad headache since last night, it got worse this morning but according to her, it didn’t feel like a seizure, maybe closer to migraines. She had dry heaves four times between 9:00a and noon but nothing showed up on the EEG.

We met with her primary doctor here, Dr. Kotagal, at around 10a. We agreed that we should keep her here for further observation, since we’ve come this far, if we start again some other time, we might have to repeat the several day wean off of her meds. Basically, our attitude right now is “we’ve come this far, let’s keep going.”

During the afternoon, they attempted to induce seizure in a couple of ways. One was to have her hyperventilate, but this didn’t produce any results. Then, they tried flashing a strobe light at various speeds a few inches from her face but again, no results.

Lisa was very, very exhausted this morning, she slept on and off until after 11a.m. We woke her to talk with the doctors and nurses, plus she was up four times with those little interruptions I mentioned above, but she was very bleary-eyed and out of it for most of that time. When she woke around noon, she looked much, much better.

It’s 9p now and she’s doing World History homework.

After that and a little algebra, she can start on eclipse, the third book in the hot new Stephenie Meyer series.

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Cleveland Clinic Day 8

Today, we crossed the one week mark.

There is no significant medical news, so I thought I’d post some hospital survival tactics. This might be helpful to anyone who has an extended stay like this.

  1. Find out the range of your roaming freedom and walk around. Lisa’s not confined to bed or the ward, but can walk down to the fishtank and the activities room. This is good not only for breaking the boredom, but for keeping you at least somewhat active.
  2. .(blank cuz I like some space between list items)
  3. Don’t count on the television. Unless you’re really, really an avid TV watcher, it will get boring eventually. Lisa brought New Moon (the follow-up book to Twilight) and finished all of its 547 pages 2 days ago. She would have finished it earlier but we did go through the Mork and Mindy marathon and the Spiderman DVDs. Which leads to…
  4. .
  5. Bring some favorite DVDs. The Cleveland Clinic (and no doubt a lot of hospitals) has a DVD player and a lot of DVDs to choose from in the activities room, but it’s nice to have some favorites along. Comforting to watch favorites.
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  7. Play games. They keep you thinking and active. Lisa’s made about $12,460,000 playing “Who Want To Be a Millionaire” with dad. Dad’s made about $27.50. She’s also killer at Sorry. Until I manually restacked the deck, she had 4 episodes of “dad got Sorry and sent Lisa’s piece home, then Lisa’s very next card was also Sorry and she put her piece back”.
  8. Make sure you fill out your meal selection menu. Find some favorite foods. I know, I know, but the food here has really been pretty good.

I’ll solicit some more from Lisa but she’s asleep so I’m going to leave her alone.

Cleveland Clinic Day 6

Saturday and we’re still here.

Lisa’s been stepped down off of all of her medications. Talking with the doctors and the ward nurses, it isn’t uncommon for this to happen. A child is brought to the ward, hooked up to all of the equipment and … the waiting begins. She’s had a couple of dizzy spells, some hand trembling, and some stomach activity reminscent of the very early seizures but nothing useful that could be captured on the EEG.

The most nerve-wracking thing about this is that she has a tendency to go into status very quickly so we were hoping to capture the information we needed while she still had some drugs in her system. Lowering her doses feels a little like playing Russian Roulette.

The other problem is that sitting around with no symptoms gets your hopes up. “Wow, maybe she’s been miraculously cured while we weren’t looking.” But this doesn’t really happen, not after this many years.

So, the waiting continues. Lisa’s now been through a Mork and Mindy marathon, a Bob Newhart Show marathon, is caught up on all of her homework, and has watched nearly all of the DVDs she brought, including all 3 Spiderman movies. We should have packed more movies. It’s like the Gilligan’s Island folks – they thought they were going on a 3 hour tour…

Cleveland Clinic Day 4

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving day and we’re still at the Cleveland Clinic.

Wednesday afternoon, we got to see some of Lisa’s MRI. There is some swelling in locations we didn’t know about but it seems pretty certain that 1) her speech and memory are localized on the left side of the brain and 2) the seizures are originating from the right side. These are good signs in terms of whether or not surgery would be effective. 

But, we haven’t had any luck getting seizure readings. Today, we agreed to reduce her anti-seizure drugs. She’s currently on four different meds: Lamictal, Keppra, Topamax and Trileptal. Tonight, we’ll take her off of the Lamictal then tomorrow morning, we’ll drop Topamax.

Some of the things we’re thankful for:

  • family
  • church family
  • enough food
  • music
  • our crazy dog
  • fangfish (redfang triggerfish)
  • board games

 

 

Cleveland Clinic day 3 – 10a.m.

Cleveland Clinic day 3 – 10a.m.

It’s still early in the day, but the good news right now is that the WADA test has been cancelled. Or at least postponed. We’re hoping to meet with Dr. Kotagal later today to see what the plans are going forward.

Lisa is still on her regular medications for now. Last time around, they dropped her doses to 0 to induce seizure. But after the nearly two-hours it took to get her back from status, we’re all being more conservative this time around.

The techs came today and added about a foot of wire to her left sphenoidal sensor. When the original doctor put it in, the wire knotted and she had to cut it short. Not a big deal for the monitoring devices, but it really restricted Lisa’s ability to get around. If she needs to get out of bed for anything, she has to disconnect herself from the monitors and carry the device the electrodes are plugged into around with her. With yesterday’s broken wire, she couldn’t hang the device around her neck like she could on Monday, but had to hold it very close to her shoulder. So, the added wire gives her more freedom.

Another of Lisa’s nurses from the 2005 visit came on duty today, always good to see familiar faces.

Cleveland Clinic Day 2 Info

This is actually being written the morning of day 3. Not that day 2 was eventful – it wasn’t.
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The day consisted of Lisa laying in bed connected to the visual EEG machine and hoping for some seizure activity. The idea is to monitor these seizures to find out where they are originating. We’re assuming that everything originates from the site of the injury, but we need to make sure.
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I spent the night back at the Ronald McDonald house, Jean stayed with Lisa. We learned last time that trading off kept us fresh. I spent most of Monday night learning about blog sites, beading, and reading about the WADA test and functional MRIs.
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The WADA is a big subject right now in that Lisa is scheduled to have one on Wednesday but we don’t think it’s a good idea. Talking with Dr. Kotagal on Monday, it seems that if Lisa isn’t a candidate for surgery, there’s no real reason to have the test. Dr. Tuxhorn who is also working on the case, agreed that it was a good subject to reconsider – why do the test if Lisa won’t have the surgery?
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Without going into a lot of detail (and given that I’m a layman explaining what he read in pamphlets and on the internet), it sounds like the two tests gather mostly the same data. The functional MRI seems to be the non-invasive alternative to the WADA. The WADA test involves entering through the femoral artery (in the thigh) with a catheter that then numbs each side of the brain successively for testing. The goal is to learn which hemisphere processes language and memory. From that, we should get a good sense of any risks involved with the surgery.
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I tried explaining it to Lisa but I was a little careless with language and ended up making her more anxious, not less. I start with “they drill a small hole in your leg…” which was definitely the wrong way to start. While I was thinking of a tiny incision in the thigh, she was having flashbacks to Weird Al’s video for “Like A Surgeon” in which one of the docs is seen holding a power drill with a twelve-inch long 1/2″ bit, smiling maniacally as he zeroes in on a bull’s-eye painted on the patient. Bad choice of words, dad.
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Allison, her Nurse Practitioner, came in later and explained it to her again, after which Lisa felt much more comfortable. Not looking-forward-to-it comfortable, but not dreading it either. She’s concerned it’s going to “feel weird”. Fair enough.
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They did insert the sphenoidal electrodes as well. Lisa had these last time too. The doctor inserts a wire into the cheek just below the cheekbone on both sides. The sphenoidal electrodes gather information that the standard electrodes miss. Given the expected point of origin for Lisa’s seizure, this test is pretty much necessary.
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AND, Lisa’s been through another photo shoot.
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While we were watching television in her room, a small group of people came by – two hospital reps, a photographer, and the Social Worker. They were taking photos of patients for use in promotional things like the annual report and Lisa was one of the kids they picked. We’ll be peeking at their webiste to see any of the photos end up there.

Cleveland Clinic Day 1 (Reflections)

Being back in the Cleveland Clinic, going through the tests, the consultation with the doctor, walking to the cafeteria all bring back memories. Last time around (2005), we were new to the whole thing. Now, we feel like regulars. We have at least two of the same nurses. Aside from the fact that it reminds us that we’ve been through this before, it’s a bit comforting.

The single thing that stands out most prominently to me is trying to explain Lisa’s condition. Every time I hear the question “When was her last seizure?” I hear “when was the last time she went into convulsions?”. I immediately feel that I have to tell the person her entire history: the crash, 2 weeks in coma, years of carrying around carrying that plastic bucket in case she threw up, then years of waking up in a panic and pleading “walk with me, I have to walk around” followed by the terrifying episode in the van – her first seizure – then three (four? – I should know that) episodes of status epilepticus.

Status is a life-threatening condition in which the seizure lasts more than the normal 5-10 minutes. I just looked it up on a medical site and the description says “5-10 or even 20 minutes”. We WISH! A typical episode saw her seizing for an hour-and-a-half while the doctors and nurses did everything they could. It’s scary to hear comments like “no, that can’t be right, we don’t give that much mediation to an adult…”

As usual, we’re very optimistic. Dr. Kotagal and the hospital staff are great to work with, Lisa feels completely safe here and we have a huge network of prayer and support around us.