Bloggy Moms

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Looking Back: My Daughter's First and Best Behavioral Health Hospitalization

My daughter's been blessed with pretty good physical health. She's rarely sick and hasn't had to miss much school due to illnesses. Her mental health has been almost the opposite. Even though she's been stable over two years now, she's missed a lot of school due to behavioral health challenges.
She was diagnosed in August of 2011 with bipolar disorder, however it wasn't until over a year later that she had her first hospitalization. As luck ,or divine providence, would have it, I was out on stress leave from my teaching job so I was able to be available throughout her entire stay.
In October of 2012 my husband and I were attempting to get our daughter ready for school. For whatever reasons she still had not transitioned back to  school. She was having an extremely difficult time getting ready for school every day. We saw a lot of aggression and self- injurious behaviors during this time. Finally one morning, I made the dreaded phone call to our local police to ask for assistance. I truly was hoping  that we could eventually make it to school that day. The officers who came out that day didn't really know how to help us, but they were able to diffuse the situation. My child calmed down enough so we were able to transport her in our vehicle to an Emergency Room not in our city, but still close by. My daughter was seen by the triage department before being taken back to the ER's psych ward. It was a scary place for sure.
At the time we had insurance through my work that was pretty amazing. We only needed the doctor on call to approve hospitalization for my girl. For all of her future hospitalizations, she was on government insurance. We had to jump through many hoops to get approval on each of those occasions.
The problem we had this time was not with getting someone to agree that my daughter needed hospitalization, rather it was finding a bed.  The hospital we went to didn't have a place for an eight year old with mental health issues. We had arrived at the ER around 10 a.m. that morning. By 6 o'clock that evening the nurses still hadn't  found a bed in a neighboring city. I finally spoke up and asked what the hold up was. It was then that I discovered that they had only been looking in the county that we live in. I implored them to look into other counties. Finally at 9 p.m. a bed was found in different county over 100 miles away. I didn't care, I was elated that one had been found. My husband and I called our therapist who then called the facility to make sure it was a quality hospital. Once the decision was made, we signed tons of paperwork to pre-admit her. I think it was almost midnight before we were told that the ambulance that would be transporting our daughter had arrived. At this point my child was calm and almost angelic. The ambulance workers strapped her in and buckled her in just to make sure. This was a new and terrifying experience for all of us so I rode in the back while my husband followed behind in his car. I recall that it was about 4 a.m. when we arrived at our destination. It was eerily quiet  and dark in the hospital corridors.  When we reached the youth unit, we signed more paperwork while the nursing staff took our daughter's vitals. Normally, when a child is admitted to a hospital, the parents are allowed to see where there child will be staying and in most cases, will be offered a bed to sleep on. In behavioral health hospitals, this is not the case.  We were ushered out while our precious baby was whisked off behind a set of locked double doors. That first experience that morning was not as traumatic as it might have been because my daughter was tired and ready for bed. As we were escorted out the front door of the building we were told the normal visiting hours. We were also told that since we'd traveled quite a distance, we could see our girl in a few hours.
As we stumbled out into the pitch black darkness of the early morning hours, numb and in shock,  I looked down at my watch. It was 5 a.m. I still hadn't slept a wink and was suddenly overcome with exhaustion. My husband and I had no clue where the nearest hotel was. We both looked up at the same time and noticed one right across the street from the hospital. It was a godsend, an expensive godsend, but a godsend nonetheless.
After we checked in, we promptly fell into a fitful sleep. I woke from my slumber sooner than my husband so I went down to get a breakfast. Then I brought my husband up something to eat so that we could see our cherub as quick as possible.
I don't know why I thought it would be easy to see my daughter that first morning. It was one of the roughest days I had ever experienced up until that point. As the double doors closed at the end of our visit and we left, our beloved child cried gut wrenching sobs. I knew that she was where she needed to be. I knew she was safe. Still, it was hard.
The hospital staff encouraged us not to visit every day so we went back home. Over the course of the next 10 days we saw our daughter as often as we could. I talked with her social worker every day. When she was discharged, we couldn't find an outpatient program close to our home, so my daughter and I stayed at a nearby motel. On the first weekend, we were advised by our private therapist to stay close to the hospital instead of making the trek back home. Our therapist felt that our child might not be ready for a home visit yet. She also thought that if she needed to return to the hospital, being close by would help her return to the place she had been at. As it turned out, my girl was still unstable and required more hospitalization. She was accepted back at this wonderful hospital since she was in their outpatient program. She stayed for another 10 days inpatient before resuming their day treatment program.
While at this facility, the social worker acted as a liaison between myself and the school, and myself and the doctor. I later learned this is the exception, not the norm at most behavioral health hospitals. In fact we  never experienced this level of care and concern again.
The entire nursing staff worked with our family and our child in a loving, but firm manor.  At home, we implemented many of the coping skills that our daughter learned though.
It was rough, really rough leaving my pride and joy in the hands of strangers. At the end of my girl's stay there, they were no longer strangers, they were almost family.
In the years since this hospital stay I have come to realize how rare it is to come across such a wonderful behavioral health facility as this one was. For that I am truly grateful.
Look Mom! I found my smile

This picture was taken a few weeks before my daughter came home from her first hospital stay.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Why My Daughter is an Only Child

For years my daughter begged my husband and I to give her a sister. I don't think she fully understood how difficult a request that was. Even though she knows that her father had cancer, she doesn't realize that the chemotherapy that saved his life rendered him incapable of creating a new life via natural means. Before my husband underwent chemotherapy, we did take measures to freeze some of his little swimmers in hopes of having another child. In Vitro Fertization was something that we considered eventually doing. It is pretty expensive and not 100% effective.
 Our situation is pretty unique because my husband's second bout with cancer came at the same time as my pregnancy with our daughter. We thought about trying to have another child when our daughter was around four. At that time my dad had passed away. I received enough money from his estate to consider doing In Vitro or possibly adoption. When I broached the subject to my husband, he replied, "We're thinking of getting a dog not having another child." I laughed when I heard his response. I wasn't surprised though.
At the age of four our little cherub was already a handful. Even though my husband came from a large family and we had agreed to have three or four children in our brood, he knew his limits. So the topic of having additional children never came up again.
We'd actually been married for six years before our daughter was born. About a year or two after we were  married, I became pregnant. Sadly that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. It happened very early into the first trimester so we never learned of the sex of the baby. I believe in my heart I was carrying a little girl. We named her McKenna. One day I will see her again in heaven. I imagine her running into my arms and saying, "Mommy!" Knowing this gives me great comfort.
It wasn't until four years later that I finally conceived Princess.  My husband and I had dealt with the onset of my mom's mental illness and my husband's testicular cancer in the years before that. In fact we were told that we could try to get pregnant after our first battle with the beast of cancer because that time he'd only had surgery and radiation. We had to wait six months after the treatments ceased to try to conceive. We didn't get pregnant right away. My husband's doctor suggested that he come back and see him in six months if I still wasn't pregnant. My doctor took a different approach. He suggested that we increase the frequency of our conception efforts around the time of my ovulation. His plan worked! I became pregnant within a month of this method.
As I previously stated, my husband's cancer returned at the same time as I was pregnant. It turned out to coincide almost exactly with my our daughter's conception. I might even be so bold as to say that looking back my husband discovered a cancerous lump the same day as our daughter was conceived. It was surreal. We were announcing that cancer had reared it's ugly head. At the same time we were announcing a new little life growing within me. My mom's mental health issues became worse during that time period as well. Essentially I was dealing with cancer and an unwell mother all while pregnant with my child. It was a stressful time to say the least.
As the years progressed, we saw the signs of ADHD in Princess which was later diagnosed as bipolar disorder and just this past October we added autism to my daughter's diagnoses. Life with her has certainly been a roller coaster.
This past week I've been having more car chats with Princess as I transport her to and from school while we wait for some school transportation issues to be resolved.  During one of these the subject of my miscarriage came up. My wise child said, "I know why God didn't let my sister live." I asked her why. Her response blew my mind. She replied, "Because God knew how hard it is for me to get along with other children and to share my toys. Maybe if my older sister had lived, we would always be arguing. It's much easier for me not having a sister." Wow! She's right. I honestly don't feel that she could have handled a sister. Before my daughter was stable, there were many days when she wasn't safe to be around. Yes it is hard for her to be an only child. I'd venture to say that for her, for us, adding another human to our household would have been too much.
As for the dog, we did get a one. She's added a lot of joy and love to our family. I guess my daughter did get a sister after all.
My daughter and her fur sister on the day we adopted her.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Solving the Mystery of the Missing Cookie or Outsmarting My Child

Recently my husband started a new job that takes him away from our home for most of my daughter's waking hours. He's out the door before the rooster crows and back home long after the sun has set. Understandably this change has been extremely hard on our daughter. After an extra hard day, I decided to make some Valentine chocolate chip cookies for my girl. You know the ones that you break apart and pop in the oven. The beauty of these nuggets of goodness is that I can bake only a few a time. That way I have a little control over how many my sweet toothed daughter eats at once. She's a sneaky little one. She'd eat a dozen in a sitting if I'm not careful. So on this particular day I baked two rows of four. By my calculations that is eight. Or so I thought. 
After the cookies finished, I pulled them out of the oven to cool. I told my daughter she could have four cookies, but no more. I thought it would be a nice treat for her to have the remaining cookies in her lunch pail for school the next day. 
I left to go do something else in the house. When I returned, there were only three cookies left. At first, my daughter tried to convince me that there were really only seven cookies to start with. Somehow I must not have counted right. I thought back over my steps and was sure there had been eight. I explained to her how I knew there must have been eight to start with. Since that tactic didn't work, she told me that our clever dog must have tipped over the cookie sheet and eaten just one. I informed my clever child that if the dog had done this, she would not have eaten just one cookie. I also would have heard her get into the cookies since she is not stealth when stealing people food. My daughter and I began to argue about the missing cookie a bit. I finally told her that I would just not be baking anymore cookies anytime soon since we could not solve this mystery. Finally her guilty conscience helped her a bit. She suggested that perhaps she may have "estimated" incorrectly when she took her share of the cookies. 
Lesson learned: Next time I'll only bake the exact amount I'd like my child to eat or pay closer attention to them. 
Some may say she only ate one extra cookie. To me it is the principal of the matter and eating only what you are allowed to eat. We're obviously working on being honest too. We've still got a long way to go on that one.

These were the remaining two cookies left the next morning. 
I'm not sure who ate one more. I just know it wasn't me.