Well as always the long gap between posts is because the best laid plans in our world really never go according to plan. I wish I had the luxury of time to do more frequent updates but I squash my blogging in at the end of what is normally an exhausting day....and that is most days at the moment! (for those of you on facebook I have setup a page where you can get daily updates on Daisy, it's at www.facebook.com/daisysangels, and for those who use twitter, I tweet as @stephnimmo)
Of course I should have realised that the "odd temperature spikes" that I referred to at the end of my last post would actually become something more than that - while at Chase, Daisy developed a very high temperature, reaching the level where we have to take her back into hospital. However having just reclaimed her back for ourselves, Andy and I were loathe to take her back to hospital, especially as the one nearest our hospice is not our regular haunt. We dug our heels in as in herself Daisy was well, and once again the wonderful team at our hospice helped us by arranging to have her bloods processed at the nearest hospital and also for IV antibiotics to treat what turned out to be yet another urine infection. We were also able to transfer to Shooting Star hospice which is under the same management as Chase Hospice and is significantly closer to home for us. This meant we were able to manage all of Daisy's IV treatment with the support of the hospice nursing staff rather than struggling on at home.
So we arrived home properly after a lovely 10 day respite break on June 17 and we had a family day out to Wimbledon Village fair the next day - sadly this was rounded off with a call for an ambulance as Daisy's temperature sky rocketted the moment I flushed her hickman line to connect her TPN, no time to spare this could be a line infection! More IV antibiotics, more juggling childcare, but at least we were closer to home. This also meant that although Daisy was back in hospital I did not have to miss my longed for return to Glastonbury Music Festival with Theo and Xanthe. Those few days in Somerset, in the craziness of the festival, ankle deep in mud, camping in the rain, helped me recharge my batteries and find a little time for me. We arrived back home on the Sunday, Daisy had been discharged from hospital and we tried, once again, just to function as a family of six under one roof.
Daisy went back to school for her first full day since February last Monday. She was so pleased to see her teacher Beth and her intervenor (specialist assistant for dual sensory impaired children), Carmen again as well as her school friends. I know everyone at her school, Linden Lodge, was delighted to welcome her back. They have always been so accomodating of Daisy's ever increasing medical needs and frequent hospitalisations and are one of the few constants in our crazy world. Last Monday was a really hot day and by the evening Andy and I put Daisy's lethargy down to being overtired, although in the back of our minds alarm bells were ringing. By 6am the next morning Daisy had spiked yet another temp. It broke my heart to call the ambulance, we could not wait until the other children had gone to school so with only one full day back at home and her siblings eating their breakfast and getting ready to go to school, Daisy went back to hospital again. A week later she is still there.
She has finished her IV antibiotics, this is the fourth course she has been on since staring back on immunosuppressant therapy for her diversion colitis around 6 weeks ago. The colitis has not improved but in herself Daisy has got worse, infection after infection and with the constant antibiotic usage she now has a candida infection in her bladder. This is being treated in hospital as there is a big risk of the candida bugs translocating into her line and once candida gets into a hickman line not only is it a very serious infection it is very difficult to treat and the line has to be removed. She is on her 7th hickman line at the moment and we want to keep hold of this for as long as possible.
At the moment Daisy has a urethral catheter in situ as her supra pubic one (her second) fell out. Next week we will meet with her urology surgeon to talk about a vesicostomy which is a permanent stoma from her bladder, this will mean she will no longer need a catheter but will always be in nappies. We had hoped to avoid this situation as most children with Costello Syndrome are potty trained sooner or later, however we have now realised that this is the least of our issues compared to everything else we are facing.
The biggest issue is whether Daisy remains on immunosuppressant therapy or steroids - in staying on them we are hopefully preventing the diversion colitis from becoming worse although it is likely that she will continue to have flare ups which will require a hospital stay and IV pulsed steroids (which she hates as they make her feel awful) the alternative is the procto-colectomy surgery. This had originally been discounted by the gastro team however now that she is getting infection after infection on the drug therapy her Gastro consultant has asked her surgeon to consider whether he would now be prepared to do this surgery. This would probably be an open procedure as opposed to keyhole as she has had so many surgeries before, it would involved complete removal of her large bowel and rectum and negate the need for drug therapy to treat the diversion colitis. We meet with her surgeon next week to discuss all of this. There are huge risks with both options and the decision we are being faced with is one that no parent should have to make, but at the end of the day Andy and I have to be able to say that we did everything possible for Daisy, and our instinct is that, despite the risks, surgery gives her a fighting chance of some sort of quality of life, even though it means yet another extended stay at GOSH.
So we are now reaching another crossroads in our lives with Daisy and the decisions we make for her are harder and harder. What is even harder is the unpredictability of our lives, difficult enough for any family but try managing our situation where one of the children has Aspergers syndrome and craves predictability, routine and stability. We can offer none of this to Theo at the moment, and at times it is a struggle for him and for us as we try to keep things on a relatively even keel for all the children. It is not only Daisy's life that is being affected but her siblings lives, often Andy and I feel that we are parenting by rota - one is at the hospital while one is at home. We juggle constantly, but we are still determined that our children should have a childhood so we push ourselves to the limits to ensure trips to concerts, the cinema, birthday parties are arranged - the majority of time with only one of us able to participate while the other cares for Daisy. Family trips are difficult to plan as we really do not know what each day will throw at us, so we seize opportunities when we can . We can't go far afield - and by this I mean to visit family, for fear of ending up in a hospital which does not know Daisy. This world is very isolating and immensly stressful and we have tried to make sure we look after ourselves so that we do not buckle under the stress.
So how are we expected to look after ourselves when we do not get any proper respite as a couple or a family from the stresses and strains of our life? The only true respite for us is when we stay at our hospice - there we know nurses will care for Daisy giving us a break, we can stay with her as a family or we can leave her there in order to have time with the other three children. Children's hospices receive no government funding, they are funded solely on voluntary donations, we receive 15 allocated nights a year to stay at our hospice at no cost to the taxpayer but with the benefit that we do not fall apart from the stress. We had also been awarded two funded nights a month at the hospice, paid for by our Primary care trust as no other respite package or facility was in place locally or could meet Daisy's needs. This was how we were able to transition from our long GOS stay to home via the hospice, by using the nights we had not been able to use while in hospital. So you will understand my frustration and anger with the system I am up against when I tell you that we will no longer receive these nights any month Daisy is in hospital (so that's July up the swannee) - apparantly when Daisy is cared for in hospital, this is counted as respite, even though Andy and I do her TPN, administer her drugs, change her stoma bags, replace blocked jejenostomy tubes, act as her translator, play specialist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist - oh and be her parents........no because our daughter has the misfortune to be very ill a lot of the time she costs our Primary Care Trust a huge amount of money, money they have to pay to the Hospital Trust each time she is an inpatient. This is how the NHS internal market works and sadly the sicker and more complex your child the more money they cost and it would appear the less likely you will be to get respite support.
Andy and I are creaking under the strain of looking after Daisy and the other three children, we have been promised a nurse three nights a week, however this may not happen until the end of July and all this gives us is three nights where we don't have to physically get up to Daisy when she cries, we can't leave the house and the nurse will not do TPN (they will be able to administer her pain relief though so I suppose this is some help, if it every materialises). Our funded nights at the hospice have gone because let's face it, will Daisy ever complete a month when she is not in hospital. This means that we are still condemned to parenting by rota, not able to go to the cinema, book theatre tickets, visit our families, make any plans...all those things we used to take for granted, and all because we have done the right thing and have chosen not to give up on our child.
I would love 5 minutes with David Cameron, who made such a deal about defending the rights of carers in one of the televised election debates - I would ask him why are we in a situation where parents of the most complex, fragile children who are doing what is morally right by caring for their child actually have less rights and freedom than prisoners. We chose this path, we knew Daisy would be disabled, we chose to be trained in all her medical care, we will never give up on her but sadly it really feels like by doing the right thing we have done the wrong thing. Perhaps Andy should give up work too and we can both claim benefits, perhaps we should leave Daisy in the hospital long term so that we get a break??? Obviously anyone who knows us knows this is not going to happen...but it does make you wonder why our child is seen as a cost and the more complex she is the higher the cost and therefore the lower the support package....where, Mr Cameron, is the logic in that?
Websites close to my heart
- Shooting Star Chase (Daisy's Hospice)
- Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity
- Torbay Holiday Helper's Network
- Sick Children's Trust
- Daisy's Angels - Facebook Page
- About Costello Syndrome
- Asperger Syndrome
- Caudwell Children
- Together for Short Lives (Children's Hospices in the UK)
- Costello Syndrome Support Group
- Give Kids The World
- PostPals - Putting Smiles on Sick Children's Faces
- Singing Hands (Daisy is their No1 Fan!)
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