Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Well, after much cajoling by family and friends, I am back to blogging.... to be honest it has been difficult to fit in the time to write now that Daisy is at home, also, sometimes I feel like I am writing the same stuff over and over and maybe people don't want to read it but based on feedback when I stopped writing for a while it is obvious that a lot of you out there quite like my ramblings.

So here, instead of cards (do you think I have time to write Christmas cards???) - is my Christmas blog...........

Lots has happened (no suprises there) since my last post. two emergency hospital stays, lots of outpatient appointments, more surgery plans and continuing battles with bureaucracy. Lets start with the good news first however...

After the October half term our local education authority saw sense at last and agreed to fund a full time one to one support for Daisy so that she could attend school full time. The difference in Daisy has been amazing, she is more confident, vocal and her communication skills (using sign language) are truly fantastic. She ended the term being awarded the Principal's prize for excellent signing and also enjoyed playing an angel in her class assembly, sitting confidently and watching all the other children, joining in with all the songs and applause. School has been the making of Daisy and we are so grateful and happy that she has been able to attend this particular school, a specialist sensory school where the teachers are skilled in working with children with sensory impairments. The only downside is that although funding has now been approved for Daisy to be taken to school with the school transport service this has not yet happened (due to bureaucracy again) meaning Andy and I have to take her back and fore to school which takes up two hours of our day and a huge amount of juggling with the other children. I'm really hoping that this is resolved in the new year as the daily battles with other school run mums across Wimbledon are taking their toll and we are worried about the words Daisy is learning as we vent our frustrations on other mad drivers!!!

Another lovely thing that happened in November was Theo's confirmation. Some of you will know that I am a practising catholic and a confirmation is a really big rite of passage for a young person. It was such a lovely chance to be together as a family with the focus on one of the other children for a change. In catholicism you take a saints name at confirmation and Theo chose "John" which was my dad's name, particularly poignant as mum was his confirmation sponsor and dad's anniversary had been the week before . I know dad would have been so proud of all our children so it was so nice for Theo to honour his memory in this way...

Of course as always there have been the obligitary hospital visits both planned and emergency. We had a few trips to A&E in November as Daisy was experiencing really acute pain and screaming out, always in the back of our minds is the increased risk of malignancy that Costello Syndrome carries. It's so difficult taking Daisy to A&E now as staff change so frequently and it can be really frustrating going over and over things with new people. Theoretically she should have notes kept in A&E for what to do in an emergency - something that was agreed with the Great Ormond Street team on discharge - but we found on our visit there that the notes had not been updatede which made things very difficult. In addition it doesn't help that Daisy is so complex, some doctors can flounder a bit, particularly when faced with such knowledgeable parents. It took four visits before Daisy was admitted with a 40 degree temperature and quite poorly. As there were no cubicles at our local any more we had to be shipped to Epsom hospital which might as well have been Manchester as we had to start all over again with staff who did not know Daisy or us. They were however fantastic and Daisy was home after a week and then went to our wonderful hospice to recuperate...

A couple of weeks later her temperature shot up again, we always have to suspect line sepsis in this scenario and we had to rush again to A&E. This time she did get a cubicle at our local hospital so at least we were closer to home. This last stay in hospital highlighted some things to us which have changed so much since the days when Daisy was smaller and much, much less complicated (although we didn't think so at the time!!!). Daisy is the only child who normally is on the ward who is totally TPN dependent and a patient of Great Ormond Street. Part of the philosophy of the Home TPN programme at GOS is that in order to minimise infection risk only the parents should set up or take down the TPN or access the line for bloods. In theory this is fine but when you have a child like Daisy who never ever sleeps through the night and has lots of complications it puts a huge pressure on Andy and I, particularly when you add into the mix Andy trying to run and manage a business and three other children who are not allowed onto the ward because of swine flu precautions. We had agreed at a meeting at GOS that we would manage Daisy's TPN when in hospital but use a hospital pump provided by GOS, normally this works in every other hospital where their home TPN patients visit as the pump that was provided is a standard hospital one. Standard except in our local children's ward (even though it was in use in the rest of the hospital). So we had to cope with the scenario of nurses unwilling to use another hospital's pump, unwilling to put our TPN through their pump, sleep deprived parents who were having to stay awake for 18+ hours while also trying to juggle childcare and in Andy's case client work. Needless to say things were not good during Daisy's last hospital stay and while she recovered well we were disappointed that, without going into detail, we were seen as a problem. In five years we have got very close to the staff at our local hospital and I guess with the demands being put on us as parents of a medically fragile and complicated child our relationship with them has had to change as we have become more knowledgeable about Daisy's needs and she has become more complicated. Ultimately we would like to avoid any unplanned hospital stays and, now that Andy and I have been trained in lots of areas like giving TPN and IV medication hopefully emergency visits will be short and sweet.

However the planned visits are unavoidable and these all take place at Great Ormond Steet Hospital. Again since having time at home we have really come to appreciate how incredibly lucky we are to be able to have all of Daisy's specialist care at GOS. As she grows bigger other issues, more common in her syndrome, are starting to manifest. The one area which has crept up really quickly is Daisy's feet and general orthopaedic issues. Her achilles tendons are now so tight she walks in a permanent tiptoe and her leg splints are now causing her severe pain. She will have surgery in the new year to release her heel cords, followed by several weeks in plaster casts. After that is all over she will then be readmitted to hospital for extensive rehabilitation physiotherapy under the care of the rheumatology team as she has been found to have benign hypermobility syndrome complicated by fluctuating muscle tone (try saying that after a few drinks!) - the bottom line is that this causes her pain and puts things out of alignment which causes her even more pain and was probably responsible for the fluid on her hips during the summer.

We met with Daisy's Gastroenterologist a few weeks back and he now feels that the extreme inflammation she experienced with her inflammatory bowel disease has damaged her nerve ending in her gut which were not functioning properly, hence her dependency on TPN for her nutrition and her inability to manage more than 15mls/hour into her jejenum. Over Christmas we are faced with the fun task of trying to get Daisy to swallow four radio-marked pellets over four days to try and work out how slowly her gut moves - obviously if on x-ray the pellets show up in her lungs it will confirm that her swallow is still unsafe!!! We are then back in clinic in January to see if there are any further options for treatment, including, surgery, which may help her.

Despite everything, and even though she has kept us on our toes during the past few weeks Daisy managed to be well and stable for her birthday, for the first time ever she spent it out of hospital and hospice and we managed a short pre Christmas break to Center Parcs in Longleat. The Gods must have been smiling on us as considering we have not been further than our hospice in Guildford in the past 18 months Daisy was fit and strong and loved every minute of our time away, we avoided all the severe weather and the snow we had just made the forest seem even more magical than ever. I can hand on heart say it was the best birthday ever and whatever happens in 2010 the memories of happy family times in the run up to Christmas will sustain us all for a long long time.

Right - I need to get back to Christmas preparations, the presents are not going to wrap themselves. We have vigil mass in a couple of hours, Xanthe is playing an angel in the church nativity, Theo is altar serving and even Andy, the arch atheist, is coming to church (mainly to hear the choir sing a not-tongue in cheek version of Johnny Mathis' "When a Child is Born" - including the spoken bit in the middle....)

Hopefully this blog update will make up for the fact that I have not sent any Christmas cards, however to everyone who sent us cards and Daisy birthday cards, thank you so much - especially post pals who brighten our days!!!!

I'm going to post some pics later but in the meantime:



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