Tag Archives: causes

Why We Celebrate Rare Disease Day

Through the years, I have become extremely passionate about raising awareness of things I never knew existed until I was affected. Also through the years, I have been criticized for “jumping on the bandwagon” to simply share a photo, a ribbon, a video. But, it is about so much more than that. Awareness is simply the first step to so much more. Today I share with you the criticisms and why awareness is so needed.

My Child is More Than a Diagnosis. 

IMG_3474While I do tend to agree with this sentiment, I also struggle because I know my child wouldn’t be who he is without the diagnosis. The very things I love the most about him are tied into the diagnosis. Braxton’s heart-melting smile is actually an almost universal characteristic of all children with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. I love how he gets excited and his arms and body tense up as he moves his arms up and down or in and out. I love his big eyes and to-die-for long eyelashes. I love his short stubby hands. I love how he has taught me to slow down and see the beauty in the unspoken, to not take life for granted, and how to truly love unconditionally. He may not have had these characteristics were it not for RTS. Just because I bring attention to his diagnosis, does not mean that I am demeaning who he is as a person. I want you to see Braxton for Braxton. I want you to see that he is a mischief-makin’-rough-and-tumble-four-year-old little boy. But, I also want you to know what RTS looks like because one day you might run in to a family who lives in doctor’s offices trying to understand what is going on with their child, but no one knows. It took us two long years to find a diagnosis, but we know people who were diagnosed within hours, days, weeks of birth. If RTS were more known we would have had an answer right away instead of the loud voice of the neonatologist saying our son wouldn’t live more than a few weeks. That in itself is reason enough for awareness.

Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome isn’t a disease. 

Technically, it is. Disease is defined as “a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.” Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome is the result of mutations in the CREBBP or EP300 genes which are responsible for making proteins that help control the activity of many other genes. (This is extremely simplified.) Therefore, a mutation in one of these genes is a disorder of structure and function. Unfortunately, the issue is not with the definition of disease, but in the connotation, the meaning implied or associated with the word disease. When most people hear the word “disease” they think of someone who is sick, dying, and searching for a cure. If you use the implied definition of disease, then, no, RTS is not a disease. It is a condition or disorder — but guess what, those words are actually synonyms for disease.

You’re just looking for pity.

No, actually we’re not. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me, my son, or our family. But, I do want you to support the cause. We have met professional after professional whose immediate response after I tell them Braxton has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome is “Oh, I’ve never heard of that”- and these are MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS. Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, x-ray technicians. The very people who we depend on when Braxton is sick or needs surgery HAVE NEVER HEARD OF HIS CONDITION. But, I can guarantee you that they know what Down Syndrome or Autism are. They’ve probably even had trainings on how to treat patients with Autism. You know why? Because there is now greater AWARENESS of these conditions which has led to more research and publications refuting commonly held stereotypes and myths. That’s all we want as Rare Disease Patients. For the medical community to know who we are and how to meet our needs. I need someone who understands the risks anesthesia brings to Braxton specifically due to his RTS diagnosis. Someone who understands how to read his x-ray while taking in to account underlying bone issues due to his RTS diagnosis. Someone who doesn’t mistake his silence as rudeness. Awareness is extremely important in receiving proper medical care, services, and insurance coverage.

Your Time Could Be Better Spent.

Yes, I have actually been told that I am wasting my time raising awareness, sharing a ribbon, creating a video. That I should be thinking of ways to actually help people, to understand why our children are affected the way they are, to see what needs are not being met through currently available services. Yes, these are all very worthy and need our attention as well, but that costs money. To fund research, to poll focus groups, to help introduce new disability legislation — that all requires financial backing. And do you know how hard it is to fund something people have never heard of? I do. In the work I’ve done with the non-profit, U.R. Our Hope, which helps families of children with Undiagnosed and Rare Diseases, I have seen first-hand how difficult it is to garner support for an issue that is widely unknown. But, in the last 3 years, our events have grown and our reach is spreading. The more awareness we’ve raised, the more money has also come with that awareness. Money that can be used to help families or fund research or fund the creation of an Undiagnosed national database to help patients get a diagnosis faster. Awareness is just the first step in making a difference.

Awareness without Action is Pointless. 

This I do agree with, which is why awareness, for me, isn’t limited to any one specific day and I always, always try to encourage action. Action can be as simple as taking a few minutes to research a new diagnosis or as elaborate as hosting a fundraising event to address a specific need for a Rare Disease Community. Sharing a ribbon or changing your profile picture is not enough. You need to get out and DO SOMETHING. Teach someone about what you have learned. Raise or donate money to a specific cause. Meet someone with a Rare Disease and learn about what they like and don’t like. Learn who they are as a person. Play a game with them. You will surely find more common ground than you think.

Meet some of our RTS brothers and sisters in our Facebook Album.

Learn more about Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome at www.rubinstein-taybi.org

Donate to the Special Friends Foundation which is dedicated to helping individuals with RTS.

 

BraxtonRDDBanner

This year and every year, we will celebrate Rare Disease Day because awareness can be the difference in being diagnosed at birth or living for two years wondering when your child will die because that’s what the doctor told you. Awareness matters. It will always matter. 

1 Comment

Filed under Life, Special Needs Child

Rare Disease Day 2014

Today is the 6th annual Rare Disease Day, which is a day to bring awareness for all rare diseases/conditions.  The theme for this year is “Join Together for Better Care” and I cannot think of a more fitting goal this year.  The more people we can get to come together and be aware of different conditions, the better we will be able to serve individuals through medical care and funding for research.

NORD-Who-Does-Rare-Disease-Affect_DRAFT-2.19.14-e1393025442778In the United States, 30 million Americans have a rare disease.  This breaks down to 1 in 10 Americans, so chances are, someone in your life is struggling with a little known condition. Almost 2/3 of those affected are children.  (Source: NORD)

While the conditions may vary, the experiences for those with rare diseases is very similar for all who are affected.  Imagine going to the doctor and having to explain everything a doctor SHOULD know just so they can treat your child for an illness or operate on your child safely.  This is a reality parents of children with rare disease face day-in and day-out.

When we go to the doctor and I tell them that Braxton has Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, the usual response from medical professionals is something like, “It probably won’t surprise you that I don’t know what that is.”  And when Braxton has surgery, I have to educate the anesthesiologist and the nurses about the possible complications Braxton could face while under anesthesia.  It is sad that we live in a society where parents are more educated about conditions than the very doctors they trust with their children. We have made so many advancements in technology, but it is impossible for medical professionals to keep up. Because many people don’t know about RTS, I can’t simply choose another doctor who is familiar with the condition.   With over 7,000 rare diseases, it’s no wonder that doctors are unable to keep up.  They only learn about conditions as they come in contact with them through their patients.

But, we can all help this situation.  As YOU learn about rare diseases, YOU can help spread that knowledge.  Carry some facts with you and when you have the opportunity to share the information, do it! It’s true that simply changing your profile picture does nothing for Braxton’s immediate care, but when you change your picture and provide information about his condition, then you are teaching others and that does help us.  When you share our story, like our photos, comment on our Facebook page, that reaches others and at least exposes them to RTS.  The more people who know about RTS and other rare conditions the more likely it is these patients can find quality care and money to fund research opportunities.  Money is what is standing in the way of finding cures for children who face life threatening illnesses.  Braxton’s condition isn’t terminal, but there are countless children who are fighting big battles just hoping for cures.  Rare Disease Day provides an opportunity for these conditions to be known and hopefully find people to support them.

Rare Disease Day is an opportunity for awareness.  Why does awareness matter? Take a look at this graphic from Siren Interactive about the diagnostic journey.  Did you know that on average, it takes 7 years for a proper diagnosis of a rare disease? SEVEN YEARS!

Click to view the full graphic

Click to view the full graphic

Awareness matters for those who are just waiting for answers.  There are children with Braxton’s condition who were diagnosed at birth or shortly after, and then there are some who weren’t diagnosed until years later.  If more people knew about RTS, these children would be diagnosed right away and the proper medical care could begin immediately.  We could have known from the beginning and I wouldn’t have had so many sleepless night wondering if Braxton was going to live.  This is why awareness matters.  If we knew early on I could have plugged in to all the resources I now have.

Global Genes GraphicWe have to find a way to speed up the diagnostic process.  Many children without a diagnosis die before their 5th birthday, so waiting the average 7 years for a diagnosis is unacceptable.  What’s worse is finding out your child died from a disease that had treatments available and they could have been saved if a diagnosis had been made earlier.  That is just heartbreaking! WE have to do better. WE have to come together for all the children and families searching for answers and cures.  We can all make a difference.

Make the effort to learn about a rare disease today.  If you participate in the “Wear that You Care” campaign today and wear jeans, make sure you tell people who and why you are wearing jeans.  Take that chance to educate, because if even one more person knows about Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, that is a success for us.  It would be nice to meet someone and not have to explain my child’s condition, I just want them to say, “hey, I’ve heard of that!”

Spread the word and celebrate Rare Disease Day!

Support Rare Disease Day

Leave a comment

Filed under Life, Special Needs Child

Feeding Tube Awareness Week 2014!

FTA Week 2014This week is Feeding Tube Awareness Week!! I have not been as diligent this year in writing as I was last year, but that doesn’t mean that FTA Week is not important, because it is! We proudly celebrate our tubie love.  Since I did not keep up with the daily topics, I’m going to do one post to catch up for the week. This will help me keep my answers short and sweet (ha, right!?)

Let’s do this.

Day 1: Share your Feeding Tube Awareness Week video and story.  

We did not make our own video this year, but we were a part of the video created by The Oley Foundation which celebrates people of all ages with feeding tubes! The theme for this year’s FTA Week is “Nothing Can Hold Us Back” which is clearly evident in this video.  Enjoy!

Most of you know our story, but if you are new, the short version is that Braxton aspirated at birth so it was not safe for him to breast or bottle feed.  Aspirating means that you are swallowing fluid in to your lungs instead of your stomach.  Braxton also had very poor coordination and low muscle tone in his face so he simply could not eat enough to sustain his weight.  At 2 weeks old, Braxton had surgery to have his G-Tube placed.  He quickly began to thrive and finally was sent home from the NICU the next week.  We have worked very diligently with our Speech Therapist on feeding and we are just now, at 2 and a half years old, seeing real success.  Braxton is eating pretty much all of his food by mouth now and we are only using his tube to give him water to keep him hydrated and supplementing his feeds just to make sure he is getting the calories he needs to maintain his weight and gain appropriately.  For more information you can read our post from Day 1 of FTA Week 2013 or get the full scoop on the Day Braxton Became a Super Tubie.

Day 2: Share your tips for feeding on the go or in public!

The best tip is: your kid HAS to eat no matter where you are so don’t be afraid to pull out your tube and feed your child! We were so scared in the beginning about what people might think of us or Braxton when they saw us using the feeding tube.  Would they think he was chronically ill or contagious? Would they think we were bad parents? That we MUST have done something for our child to be this way? It took a while for us to be comfortable with public tube feeding, but now it is really no big deal.

We have fed in restaurants, in doctors offices, while on a road trip in the car, at the park, anywhere! We always made sure we had the supplies we needed and we kept a few extra in the car, just in case! We were given a backpack from our medical supply company when Braxton first had his tube and required a pump.  It was easy for us to set up the feed and just go about our business.  We could go to the mall or the zoo and his backpack would hang on the stroller as the pump ran.

In the beginning, Braxton’s feedings were about an hour long and eventually decreased to about 20 minutes.  If we were going to be out long enough for two feedings, we kept the 2nd feed cool in a lunchbox or lunchbag with an ice pack.  We bought a portable bottle warmer for the car so that we could heat his food up on-the-go.  Many times, we would arrive at a restaurant and ask them to bring us a cup half-full of hot water and we simply placed the bottle in the cup to heat up.

Always plan ahead.  Think about where you are going and what you will need. An extra syringe? An icepack? An extra feeding bag? A change of clothes just in case the food doesn’t stay down? Make a checklist if needed, but eventually, you learn exactly what you need!

Day 3: Show how tube feeders can do what they love to do.

This was another thing I was worried about when we first got our feeding tube.  I wasn’t sure exactly how this might affect Braxton’s development.  I remember asking the doctor if he would be able to learn to crawl or have ‘tummy time’ since his tube was right in his abdomen.  The doctor assured us that it would not be a problem, and it surely wasn’t! Braxton didn’t crawl until he was about 15 months old, but once he figured that out there was no stopping him! Braxton quickly began crawling lightning fast.  One minute he was in the living room and the next he was in the kitchen pulling tupperware out of the cabinets.   We also worried about bathing and swimming.  I asked if we needed to cover his tube every time he bathed or avoid the swimming pool.  Again, the doctors assured us that he would be just fine.  So far, Braxton has not been limited in any way because of his tube.  He is thriving!
Here are some pictures of Braxton just being a regular kid!

Day 4: Share how you and your family cope with the challenges of life with a feeding tube. What has made the journey easier?

Support! We became involved with a local support group and met other families whose children are also tube fed.  Seeing and truly understanding that we weren’t alone was a big help to us.  Connecting with virtual support was also helpful.  Groups like the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation really helped us understand that we were not the only family with a child who needed a feeding tube.  We have really learned to love and appreciate the tube for a number of reasons.  When Braxton would get sick often, we didn’t have to worry about him dehydrating or not eating because we could simply feed him with his tube and adjust the speed as needed.  Using the tube for medicine has also been helpful, because making a child take medicine by mouth is no simple task! As we learned more and met others the ‘stigma’ went away.  Now, Braxton’s tube is as much a part of him as any of his limbs! At the end of the day, the tube kept Braxton alive and we are forever grateful for that.

Day 5: What are your tube feeding hopes and dreams for you or your child in 2014?

Yummy in my tummy!

Yummy in my tummy!

Well, of course, we hope this is the year we have a tubie graduate! Yes, we are thankful for his tube and we have learned to appreciate it, we would love for Braxton not to depend on it so much.  He has recently made some really amazing progress eating by mouth and we are so excited! The next step is getting Braxton to drink by mouth.  We are working on straw drinking from a cup and so far Braxton is doing well.  He has drank up to an ounce of water in therapy taking small sips from a honey bear type sippy cup.  I tried some apple juice and Braxton was not a fan! We will need to work on flavors and temperatures before we can get graduate from the tube.  I’m very happy with the success Braxton has made and cannot wait to see what he accomplishes this year!

 

Day 6: Share the tubie love! Share pictures of you or your child living life to the fullest. Today is about living and loving life.

This one is easy.  Just glance through any of our photos on our Facebook page and you will see that nothing holds this kid back! Braxton is so full of life and love and happiness.  His joy simply pours out of him and into the lives of others.

Day 7: Share your favorite Feeding Tube Awareness Week post, photo or video.

I think I just did! I was not able to keep up with the daily topics this year, but I think this “catch up” post is perfect for FTA Week.  This captures all of the incredible things Braxton has been able to accomplish because of his tube and shares our story.  Thank you to all of the people who shared our photos throughout the week and our posts from last year.  We are looking forward to an awesome year!

FTA Week 2014

 

————————————————————————————

Simply click to vote! It's THAT easy. Then feel free to browse some other really great mommy blogs. Thank you!

Simply click to vote! It’s THAT easy. Then, feel free to browse some other really great mommy blogs. Thank you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Kids and Family, Life, Special Needs Child

Vote for Our SXSW Panel Idea!

Friends and Braxton supporters, I need your help!

As you all know, I’ve been very involved with U.R. Our Hope and they helped us so much as we struggled to find a diagnosis.  I have been asked to join a panel discussion with U.R. Our Hope and others to discuss the use of online resources, social media, and blogging to navigate the healthcare system while on a diagnostic journey.

When I was finally ready to share my story, the internet was my saving grace.  It is through the internet, my blog, and Facebook that I have been able to learn so much and connect with so many people.  In fact, it is through my blog that I first learned about Braxton’s diagnosis! I had several people contact me asking if he had been tested for Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome well before our geneticist even thought it a possibility.  Reading about it ahead of time made the news much more tolerable and I was truly finally able to breathe when we received our test results.  Having someone to walk this journey with me, being able to connect with other parents, learning about “real life” experiences instead of relying on “textbook” definitions has helped immensely.  I want to reach other people and help them in the same way that I have been helped.

If you know anything about South by Southwest (SXSW), you know that people from all over the world and from all walks of life attend this event.  This would be the ultimate chance to reach out to others and let them know they are not alone.  The internet has made so much more possible for me and for many others I know.  I honestly do not think I could have survived this and be the parent that I am 20 years ago.  The information and resources readily available via the internet are simply astonishing.  Help us help others!

All you have to do is vote for our panel ideas by clicking the links below.  They will also be in the sidebar of our site until voting ends September 6th! You do have to create a Panel Picker account, but it’s quick and easy. I promise! Create an account, click the “thumbs up” to vote for BOTH of our panels and that’s it! You’re all done! You can only vote once, but we would so greatly appreciate it if you did! If so inclined, you can even leave a comment to tell others who are browsing through topics why they should choose ours! Or if you have any questions, leave them there and we’ll be happy to answer them.

Using Social Media to Navigate Healthcare

PanelPicker_Vote

Click to vote!

Medical professionals, patients, and savvy navigators of the healthcare system will discuss resources to use when traditional channels are not effective or timely when a person or a family is faced with a medical crisis. The healthcare system can be daunting to those unfamiliar with the language and culture of the medical community. The benefits of online education, support groups, blogs, radio blog shows, Facebook groups will be explored. We will give specific examples of how individuals and families can benefit from utilizing social media on their diagnostic journey. We will discuss the benefits of having a patient advocate, whether it be an individual or an online community. We will talk about how to protect your privacy in this open and public forum. From finding a diagnosis to negotiating with healthcare networks, third party payers, and providers to have services covered, we will delve into the pitfalls that hinder effective care, and then provide solutions.

On a Diagnostic Journey

Click to Vote!

Click to Vote!

Navigating the healthcare system when the diagnosis is not clear is a daunting process. Individuals with undiagnosed disorders lack identity and are often isolated and forgotten. This panel will provide resources to assist those with undiagnosed disorders in finding answers through advocacy and collaboration. On the panel are both individuals who know the undiagnosed journey, and those whose mission it is to guide and advocate for them. Utilizing social media, Skype, online support groups, blogs, and radio blog shows the panel members have been able to reach out “without walls” to help the undiagnosed community.

 

Thank you all so much for supporting this important mission!

Leave a comment

Filed under Life, Special Needs Child

Thankful Thursday: Who Do YOU Run For?

While our last post is quickly shooting up to be one of the top posts, I don’t like to linger in negativity for too long.  I will be doing some further research on childcare for children with disabilities and the rights we have as parents, and I will be sure to pass that on since so many have to deal with these issues.

Today, I’d like to focus on something that is simply amazing.  A few weeks ago, a special needs group that I am a part of posted about an organization called “I Run 4.” Not too long after, I began seeing the group shared among many of the pages I frequent dealing with children who have special needs.  I finally visited the site and joined the Facebook group, and I can’t tell you just how moved I was.  Tears began to flow and my heart could just burst.

Who I Run 4 “I Run 4” is an organization that looks to increase awareness of individuals with a variety of illnesses and disabilities. They pair runners with an individual, who often times, is not physically able to run.  The runner can then dedicate their runs/competitions to the individual they have been paired with.  This gives runners a new motivation to keep pushing and the individuals they are paired with hope that someone out there cares more than they know.

When I first saw the website, I thought, “Wow, what a cool idea and great way to increase awareness.” I signed Braxton up to be matched with a runner.  I then joined the Facebook Group, and as I waited for Braxton to be matched I was overwhelmed by what I saw.

This group is extremely active! Posts can quickly become lost because it seems like there are hundreds of people posting every minute of everyday. But, there is so much hope and so much inspiration all day long.  Right now, if you can believe it, there are more runners than there are children signed up to be matched.  Yes, you read that right.  In fact, the runners are incredibly anxious to be paired with an individual and learn more about them.  These people are sooo willing to learn about our children and share our stories.  There are signs, shirts, tons of photos, and so much more these people are doing that motivates them but also brings awareness to many different syndromes.

So many different syndromes are being represented.  Everything from the well known conditions like Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and Autism to the more rare conditions like Braxton’s Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome and others I had yet to learn about.

Every day you see some new tragedy being reported on the news, so it’s incredibly refreshing to see this group and the people who are a part of it, and it definitely restores faith in humanity.  I read through the posts as often as I can and I’m just in awe of these people who go out of their way to find new ways to raise awareness. The mutual support is just unfathomable.  Parents post pictures of their children cheering their runner on, reaching milestones for their runner. The runners post pictures of the miles they’ve run, the photos they’ve created, the shirts they’ve made, and cheer on their “coach” with every milestone they reach.

Braxton was matched with Andrea, from North Dakota, and she’s been awesome! She ‘liked’ our Facebook Page and she cheers Braxton on with each therapy session and the baby steps he is making.  And the other day when she wasn’t sure if she even wanted to go out for a run she got a babysitter over to watch her own kids and went out to run for Braxton. 🙂 This is the kind of motivation and mutual support this group inspires.

The love and hope that surrounds this group and all the people who belong to it is just wonderful. I can’t say enough great things about the people who envisioned this project and those who participate. If you have a child with special needs, I highly encourage you to join this group and have your child matched with a runner.  The runners are all chomping at the bit to meet your child! We were matched within a couple of days and for the runners it is taking a few weeks because so many are ready and willing to run for someone who simply cannot.  But trust me, it is SO worth the wait!!

Thank you to everyone at “I Run4” for all of your hard work and for making this organization a success!

2 Comments

Filed under Life, Special Needs Child