Sunday, March 27, 2011

First Round of Actemra and MRI

So we headed to the Gainesville for our first Actemra infusion treatment on Friday…but first we made a very important stop.  At our last visit we met the medics who fly the ShandsCair and they invited us to come see them at the helicopter pad.  It was one of the most amazing things we have ever done.  These men are so incredible.  They helped support Parker so he could walk into the hanger and then they lifted him into the front of the helicopter.  They totally engaged him and then I saw the biggest smile I have seen on Parker in the longest time as they told him they were going to drive the helicopter out of the hanger, with him in it.  Tears of happiness streamed down my face as Parker road backwards into the sunlight.  They were so compassionate in taking the time to make this visit so special.  Their heartfelt time was truly a gift that he and I will cherish.  I thanked them for making this trip so incredible.  Simple acts of kindness are so beautiful.

As many of you know, Parker’s doc changed his infusion treatment Friday from Remicade to Actemra.  We were concerned that they would want to cancel it because Parker had the starts of a sinus infection but we got enough antibiotics in him prior to his infusion and he wasn’t running a fever. Whew!  The first infusion started with pre-meds. Then he got the Actemra…no reaction and so that’s a success so far.  We got there at about 1:45 and left about 5:45.  Faster than Remicade; that’s a plus.  And we stayed an extra half hour to keep our little friend Sadie and her mom company; since they were the last 2 in the infusion room.  It was so nice to connect with them and the kids enjoyed each other so much that we went to dinner together.  Us, moms also got a chance to connect.   Sadie gave Parker "Happy" the hippo.  After dinner, they came back to our hotel to swim...but it was too cold. So Sadie's stuffed dog, Lemondaide, met Parker's tiger. It was a nice end to the day.

I had the chance to talk with the doc and PA and they helped me better understand what we were dealing with.  Parker has probably had systemic JA for some time and they still think he also has psoriatic JA also because of the nail pitting.  They are going to keep a close eye on his blood levels and symptoms, along with the joints and organs.  They also explained that his blood work shows weird patterns and that in combination with some of his extreme muscle weakness and blood vessel patterns it is leading them to do further diagnostic tests.  One of the glaring concerns is his CRP numbers.  He had a CRP of 79.6 and norm is 0 to 4.9.  They said that this is a big inflammation marker.  They also feel that his platelet count is on the high side.  And his kidneys are dry (proof that he needs to drink more).  So they explained that they are hoping the MRI will give them some more answers.  They admitted that Parker has been a challenge and the doc feels that what is going on with him is rare.

Parker and I both had a hard time sleeping that night in our unfamiliar hotel bed.  I am sure because we were both anticipating the next day, but also because there was a dog barking next door.  But when morning came, I gladly awoke to face the day.  I let Parker sleep…he was running a low grade fever.   When he got up; he was all about the buffet.  He loved his eggs and waffles.  He is so funny…he thinks buffets are the best thing about hotels.  It’s the little things that just make me giggle these days.

We then headed over to the Butterfly Garden and the History Museum.  We had such a great time together.  Two butterflies landed on each of us; so we knew we were going to have a good day.  What a lovely garden.  A must see.  Parker took a gazillion pictures.
The MRI went well and I thank the doc because she had him take benedryl and morphine prior to the scan.  They scanned his pelvis and legs; then they repositioned him and did his jaw.  For the final scan, a crank was placed between his teeth and his jaw was slowly opened, until it hurt.  He went back in the tube for the final scan with his jaw locked in that position.  That moment was hard for me to watch.  I just couldn’t hold it together any longer.  As they did this last scan, I silently sobbed in the corner, fully aware that I had to pull it together before he could see my face.  I am so very proud of him.  The tech said that most adults can’t do that test without protest and he held perfectly still.  She didn’t have to rescan anything.  I do think he was determined to spend as little time in that thing as possible…he is so resilient.  We had to bring in a non-magnetic wheelchair to get him off the table to his wheelchair in the hall.  He almost fell in the transfer to his wheelchair but he did it.  We were done!  The good news is the tech said that she was sending the pics over to the radiologist to read that day so the results would be waiting for the doc on Monday.  They did say they would probably also get an ortho consult and that might take another day, but that means we may know Monday or Tuesday if he has dermatomyositis and/or vasculitis. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Parker Shares What JA is Like

March 16, 2011
So I am writing today to try let people understand what arthritis is like. Now just let me tell you it is not fun; it is painful.
For example, look at this picture...

To see the vessels and the pain in my back angle the screen.

Also for optimal view, angle the screen.

Now for those doctors that say, it was all in my head; look at this. Bet you don’t think it’s in my head now.

I also have to go through a lot of tests along with the pain.

For example, look at this.
Not fun.

And for all my friends who say I’m lucky because I don’t have to do all the homework and school work. Well their wrong. I have to do all the work they do but while I’m in pain.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Parker's Second Blog

March 14, 2011
Today, when I woke up, my legs buckled under me and I couldn’t stand.  It’s been a scary day; so I decided to blog about something good.  So now look at this picture!

Isn’t it funny? When we were at Shands Hospital in Gainesville a week ago, all the nurses dressed up as gauze super heroes. Jeanette, the one on the top left with glasses and curly hair, said she thinks she is allergic to the gauze. She got all rashy where she had put gauze on. Then nurse Kim (who by the way is pregnant) they call the dictator because she is bossy. Soooooooooooo I said since she did not dress up as a super hero, she is the evil super villain THE DICTATOR! Da da daaaaaaaaaa! On a side note isn’t that gauze cool.
So this is my friend Mark. He has arthritis too. See how he is all dressed up in Elmo. Red Elmo shirt red, Elmo hat, and even red shorts to match it. It’s cool, isn’t it?

(Sorry the picture has Jello covering his face. He did not want me to take a picture of him, but I snuck one in.)  

OK, now look at me here. Blue Cookie Monster shirt, blue Rays hat, blue shorts, and even blue shoes (you can’t see the shoes and shorts but they were blue). Now guess when this picture of me was taken? 1 day… 1 day after the one of Mark. And guess what? I was going to where this outfit the day I was with Mark, but my dad said it was too much blue. Now how cool would that have been. Me and Mark in matching Sesame Street outfits.  I call it “Facebook profile picture worthy”. But I have a pretty good soon-to-be Facebook profile picture.

Look below.

Now how cute is that? That is me and Emily. She is just like me but in girl form. I love her. She is like my new BFF.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Arthur Itis" Leads Us Down a New Path...

Here we are, one month later, and we are taking several twists and turns along our journey with “Arthur Itis”.  Saturday, our path took us to Orlando to our first JA Family Connect event.  We had such a wonderful time with our newfound JA Family and met wonderful people who all shared our acquaintance with Mr. Arthur Itis. 

Logan had so much fun playing with all the itty bitty kids (he is definitely his mom’s kid…loves those toddlers and preschoolers)!  He even got to meet some siblings going through the same experience as him.  Most of them were girls, but he was just fine with that :O).

Parker Gets His Certificate

Parker was such a trooper.  He played for a bit and even won a contest and was thrilled when he won a Colby video cam (much like the Flip Cam).  He was also so touched when he received a certificate for his hard work with the Jingle Bell Run/Walk and for being the number one fund raiser for Tampa and number four in the state.  To see his pride when he received that was a priceless moment.

Parker said that this was one of the best days of his life.  He felt like he could be himself and that it didn’t matter to the other kids that he had to stop playing and sit.  One other very special little girl, Emily, sat and talked and talked to him.  They were totally engaged for quite some time as they shared their experiences around their symptoms, many medical tests, medications, treatments, and feelings.  He hasn’t stopped talking about her since we got home!  Actually, he has been talking about all the kids, but Emily definitely had a huge impact on him.  At bedtime, he included each kid he met in his prayers for healing tonight.

Swallow Test

The timing of the family picnic was perfection for our family because on Friday our journey took a very sharp and scary turn for the worse.  Parker spent the day at Shand’s Hospital doing some tests and getting his infusion treatment and meds.  His doctor spent a considerable amount of time with us, was very compassionate and thoughtful.  But nothing could have prepared me for the news she shared with Parker and I.  I had thought we had already passed this road, but she voiced our biggest fear…Parker has systemic JA, also known as Still’s Disease,  And as if that wasn’t enough to hear, but she is concerned he could also have a very rare autoimmune illness called juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM),  That was quite a moment…I literally had to catch my breath as I fought back my tears for my son’s sake.  She then went on to explain that she is very concerned about Parker and that we have to stop the progression of the JA.  He is failing all the TNF biologic drugs and so we are to only wait one week and if he is the same or worse she is going to change his infusion treatment.  In the meantime, she is setting up an MRI to look at how his muscles and myelin are behaving.  And this may confirm if he also has JDM.  So now we wait for the insurance to approve.  We are getting very good at “waiting”.  So, when we were at the picnic, I was asked to introduce our family and the kind of JA that Parker has…and for a moment I didn’t know if I could say the words aloud:  “He has systemic JA.”  It now feels all too real.
After a long day of tests and infusions we journey home.
Life can change in a moment… Our hugs and prayers go out to one very dear little friend with systemic JA who was happily riding her scooter and giggling with all the little girls yesterday; and today she was admitted into the hospital.  Love your children dearly and tell them you love them.