Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankful Reflections of Our Continual HOPE

The house is quiet and still as I reflect on our JA journey thus far.  This has definitely been the “road less traveled by…” On our voyage, we have met the most amazing people, witnessed the deepest strongest random acts of kindness, been touched by supportive and energizing love, and through it all, our hearts have been overflowing with hope each step of the way.  Truly all these blessings are multiplied over and over again as we meet children and their families who ride alongside us.  And for those who choose to continue to love and support us, your lives are also forever touched by the beauty that JA can bring…

Yes, I said “beauty”…so many open and loving hearts pour out that beauty and as much as I try to explain it…this beauty can only be felt…it is indescribable.  Our family has experienced immense pain…we know of children who have passed away with the form of this disease that Parker has…Parker has processed those questions and concerns about death.  He has talked about heaven and being “pain-free” with no more sticks, swelling, over-taking fatigue, and being able to “play like other kids”.  That is a very profound thing for a family to discuss but a healthy discussion when it is a real feeling.  Parker has been as positive as possible through all of this and his wit and smile are contagious.  Those of you who have looked in his eyes know exactly what I mean.  Our struggles with JA have allowed us to feel true beauty.

For more than 2.5 years, we have made our two and a half hours ride every other week up to the hospital for Parker’s treatment and medical care.  For about four years, systemic JA has attacked our son.  We are joyfully sharing that we are witnessing PROGRESS!  Parker’s doctor has figured out a way to get his IVIG infusions at home.  This Sunday will be his third weekly infusion and last week, with the changes that were made, I am happy to report that he did not have an allergic reaction this time.  His weekly shot of Rilonacept is also doing what we had hoped…it is really beginning to calm his JA down. 

Since starting the RAPPORT study on Rilonacept, Parker’s intermittent fevers have ceased.  We are seeing less skin rashes too.  And in the last 2 weeks, we are also seeing less swelling around his joints, especially his ankles, and his vasculitis is less intense.  This progress has allowed us to start decreasing his steroids (after 2.5 years on them) and Parker is walking more and more.  And once he got past the “placebo” phase of the study, this disease has stopped viciously attacking his internal organs.  I know study drugs are scary…because we don’t know long term what the drugs do.  Our family has chosen to “live in the moment”…we KNEW the disease was attacking our child’s body in a very fierce way…Parker’s doctor recently mentioned that if we hadn’t done all these biologics (even the ones that didn’t “work good enough”), she is pretty certain he would already have contractures…and I hate to even begin to think what it could have done to his heart, lungs, lymphatic system, intestinal track, vascular system, muscles, skin, and who knows what else because nothing is the body is immune to systemic JA.  It is a very mean beast.

Some other celebrations since the RAPPORT study and reintroducing the IVIG infusions that you will be excited to hear about are:  Parker has bravely spent the night at a friend’s house and is planning to go to another friend’s house this Friday night.  He has not been doing sleep overs for the past 4 years.  We have to also be thankful to these families who invited him over because I know all his meds are a bit overwhelming J.  He is going to finish the year out with hospital homebound as we work on getting his levels up some more, but he is really talking about starting high school AT school and the principal is being quite supportive about meeting his needs.  This is humungous.  Parker is also able to maintain longer conversations…I know that sounds like a crazy thing to celebrate, but now he talks with his enthusiastic fun-loving voice again.  He is engaging, excited, and more energized.  It is such a beautiful voice to listen to.  There are also other, simple things, that most take for granted…but not us…Parker can cut his own food again, can shower independently these last 2 weeks, wants to try going to an amusement park again, can dress more often without our help, can eat without intense stomach pain nor food getting caught up in his throat, gets excited about “parties” again, is having less nightmares, is asking to have friends over again, and he seems to be getting stronger muscles.

We know that this journey continues for Parker and it is likely to be ongoing but we are so very proud of his strength and bravery.  Do you know that he is even sticking the 3 needle probes into his own stomach for his weekly home IVIG infusions?  WOW!

Someone once told me, during one of Parker’s hospital stays this last year, that they didn’t like the word “hope” because it didn’t sound certain, definite and that “faith” was a better word to use when you have a child with chronic illness.  I have reflected on that statement for about a year and I am pretty certain that “hope” has been the perfect word for OUR family.  Hope has kept us going during much uncertainty where nothing has seemed to have a definitive answer.  And during a year of what seemed like endless uncertainty, we are certainly thankful for much… And we will continue to faithfully HOPE!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parker Defines a Hero…

What defines a hero? This is a question we are often asked in life. A hero can be anyone from someone making you happy when your sad to a super hero like Batman. Every body has their own definition of a hero, but in my opinion anyone can be a hero, even you.
    A hero can be defined in many ways. For example a hero can be just a person who inspires you. In my case I am a 13-year-old kid with arthritis and some of my heroes are the little kids that are like 4-8 living with it. These kids inspire me a lot because they have had excruciating pain their whole life and they don’t know and may never know what it is like to be a kid and just have fun. A hero is also someone who keeps a positive attitude no matter what. My mom always says I’m her hero because with everything I go through I can still maintain a positive attitude.   She says, “Parker you are my hero because you might be little but your enormous strength shines through with every smile and with how you inspire others.” A hero can also be considered someone who risks their life or sacrifices it for the good being of others. The best way I can describe this is with our troops fighting the war. They risk their lives every day some even die just so their county can stay safe and have freedom.
    There are many examples of heroes out there but my biggest hero is Ben Zobrist of the Tampa Bay Rays. I met Ben through my Make-A-Wish in 2011. My wish was to meet him, but he did not only talk to me; he took time out of his practice to introduce me to all the players, give me a tour of the locker room, and play catch with me. But this is not the only reason I consider him a hero. The main reason I consider him a hero is because on May 5th 2012 I had the walk for arthritis. I thought it would be just like any other arthritis walk but then Ben Zobrist appeared. It wasn’t just him; he actually brought his whole family with him.
Normally when you meet a celebrity they just forget about you but he didn’t. He actually came to my walk and stayed and talked for 2 hours. Then a month later, I was put in the hospital but when I got home Ben and the Rays had sent a box of Rays bobble heads and an autographed bat. Then on my birthday I emailed him and told him I was going to the game and he actually came on the field and waved to me. And I know he did because he emailed me back saying “I saw you at the game today.” But it isn’t just the things he did for me that make him a hero. One big thing is that he plays every position on the field and strives to do his best at all of them. He also has strong Christian faith and his wife is a Christian singer. He is also a great father to his 2 baby children. Something that truly makes him a hero is that he is a good person a wonderful dad and a fantastic role model for all children.
    Now that you know what a hero is, let me explain to you what a hero is not. A hero is not selfish, and what I mean by that is he is not someone who does all the good things he does just so he gets good publicity. Or just helps someone he likes. Or even just helps someone because it benefits him. Also a hero isn’t always someone in tights like batman. I’m not saying batman isn’t a hero but what I am saying is a hero isn’t always someone in tights; a hero could be a old lady helping a boy up after he fell. I feel like a lot of people think that a hero has to be a super hero like batman when in retrospect anyone can be a hero.
    So a hero is someone who inspires you, like Ben Zobrist. A hero is also someone who always keeps a positive attitude through everything. A hero is also someone who risks or sacrifices their life for others. A hero is not someone who is selfish and not necessarily someone in tights. And that is how I define a hero.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Our Most Valuable “Playa”, Parker: Thankfulness Sums It Up!

Thanks Ashlynn for
his very own Boggy M&M!

A quick update to get all of you up to speed on the Purple Playas’ most valuable “playa”:  Parker!  We are so incredibly fortunate to have a team of doctors, nurses, and medical office staff that powers on right along-side of us!  Through our appeals and persistence, Parker’s study drug, rilonacept, was approved through April.  The office manager said she thinks he is the first kid in Florida to get this approved.  Maybe now other insurance companies will jump on board and get this for the many others who also need it!  Truly the miracle we were hoping for!  We were so concerned about going backwards but now we can continue to move forward!
Another great piece of news is that this Friday will be his last overnight stay at the hospital for his IVIG infusion.  No he is not discontinuing it but rather he will be getting it at home weekly and a little bit differently (not through his port or IV).  The version he is getting is called Heizentra.  If I am understanding it all correctly, this is why:  by getting it weekly in a more concentrated but slower absorbing manner he will have less side effects and hopefully also better results.  This is because there will be a more constant level in his system.  There will be 3 probes (little needles) placed in his stomach and hooked to a small pump.  It will run for 1.5 hours each week and he can do other things while it is pumping in (tele-class, TV, Xbox…).  It also means less hospital stays, road trips to the hospital, and hopefully no more blasting headaches from the med.  He will also learn how to do it himself.   If we can get his levels up, he will also be able to be out and about without so much worry that he could easily catch something and land in the hospital.  Way huge!  We are very excited about this, especially knowing now that he is likely to be on this for life.  This will give him some normalcy back and empower him.  And we will all get to sleep in our own beds more often J!
We appreciate everyone who has rallied around us and supported us during all of this uncertainty.  We are incredibly thankful for your prayers, thoughts, and positive energy.  We know that Parker is an incredible and valuable “playa” and we are so happy you all are part of the Purple Playas Team!