Sunday, March 30, 2008

In Memory of a Beautiful Girl

Yesterday we got word that a little girl from our Epilepsy Support Group passed away last week. She had a horrible neurological condition called Batten's Disease. Only children are diagnosed with Batten's. It is fatal and most of them do not make it to 20 years old. This little girl was a typically developing child and then, I believe at 5 years old, starting having seizures. It took them a bit to get their diagnosis. And with that diagnosis, there is not much to be done.

However, this family did not give up and went to for stem cell treatments at least 2 if not 3 times. And they actually did some good. She had lost her ability to walk and regained it after one of her treatments. The problem is, Batten's is progressive, and she lost the ability again. They were actually supposed to be getting another treatment this weekend.

But 2 weeks ago, this lovely girl went into Status Epilepticus. This is when you start seizing and no medicine can stop it. That means that the fail safe of Diastat that we as parents hold onto like a lifeline, did not stop her seizures. So she went to the ER and was admitted into the PICU. When you get to this state, they try to put you into a medically induced coma to try and stop the seizures. But her seizures were persistent and they had to keep dropping her deeper and deeper into a coma. She finally passed away on March 25th. I believe she was only 10 years old.

Her parents said of her, "Even though she had a devastating and terminal illness, she never lost her spirit and retained many of her abilities until her untimely death."

The family had a wake yesterday at their house. Aaron and I decided, since we had our respite worker coming that evening anyhow, to go to the wake without the children. I didn't know how accessible the home was and I didn't know how Moira would take to this situation. I'm glad we made that decision. I was expected just a wake.

When we arrived there was a bag pipe player playing Amazing Grace. People were crowded into a little bedroom where the body was laid out traditionally in her bed in a beautiful dress, candles all around, and adorned with flowers. I was reminded of Frida Kahlo. Around the room were big pictures of her and her family smiling, laughing, enjoying life. It was overwhelming, heartbreaking, and moving.

I spoke to her mom and she talked about how we (parents of kids with Epilepsy) always assume that Diastat will work. That the other possibility is unimaginable. And if she'd really fully grasped that possibility, they may not have done half the things they did. In December they had gone to Utah and were at a farm that was miles from a hospital. Her daughter was having break through seizures at the time, but she thought it was normal, as we all do. They may not have taken that trip if she'd known what was going to happen only months later. But then she was glad she didn't know because they all had a wonderful time. A time she wouldn't trade in for anything.

I said that she was right to take that trip and not live in fear. We can't stop living life. Not taking that trip wouldn't have changed this outcome. It's hard, but we can't let the seizures rule our lives.

It was a beautiful gathering. It was hard to be there but it was important to be there. I'm just so sorry that we lost this little girl.

Please think of this family and send them your love. May they all find peace.


1 comment:

Dancing Man said...

A friend, Lia Abbate, directed me to your blog in reference to the art show she participated in to benefit your son (which I sadly missed). I've been reading these entries and find them inspiring, funny, beautiful, and (in this case) heartbreaking - often all at the same time. My life is so ridiculously easy - it's hard not to succumb to anger and despair from the sheer unfairness of it all (I can only imagine how strong you have to be), but your attitude is truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing this bit about the wake.