Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Girl With the Headache - part 1

One year.  It was one year ago today that my oldest daughter walked away from a church dance with a headache that would completely change her life.  That's not where it all began though.  It began long before then, with a girl who had a passion for soccer, and an extremely competitive nature.

I haven't posted much on social media, or at all on my blog about her situation.  I don't like to publicly dwell on and lament about my family's trials.  I don't want to seem like I'm fishing for sympathy, or like I'm needy.  Maybe I'm just too prideful and don't want to seem weak.  Also, I know of others who are going through far worse trials and I feel guilty talking about ours.  But enough people know bits and pieces of her story and wonder what exactly is going on, so I thought it was time to get it all out there.  Perhaps her story will reach someone else who is going through a similar trial and help them feel less lonely.  And it will be good to have it all recorded to look back on when this is all over.

Ambria was my athlete.  Of all my kids, including my son, she is the one that took to playing sports.  And from an early age her sport of choice was soccer.  Oh how she loves it.  And over the years she became quite the soccer player, if I do say so myself.  She's also very competitive, and fearless.  This combination can lead to trouble when you're a pre-teen playing co-ed soccer.  That's the time the boys start surpassing the girls in size and strength.

April 27, 2013

It was a beautiful morning for a soccer game.  The sun was shining, and the wind that often pestered the young players and their adoring fans was absent.  Ambria was playing some of her best soccer to date, and her team was up, with the end of the game near.  That's when Ambria and a boy from the opposing team both went full steam ahead for the ball.  He beat her to it and kicked with his full force.  She was just seconds away from reaching the ball from the opposite direction, so you can imagine the force of the impact when the ball hit her square in the head.  It snapped her head back and laid her out flat.  The game went on briefly, but time stood still for me, as I waited for her to get up and walk it off.  Only she didn't.  The ref halted play and I couldn't get to her fast enough.  When I reached her she was still on her back, her coach and players from both teams huddled around her.  It took several minutes before she was able to sit up, then stand and be helped off the field.  She walked off the field to applause, but she didn't hear any of it.  She wasn't aware of anything around her and we barely made it off the field before she sank back to the ground, unable to walk further.  We hadn't reached our family or our team, but she needed to stop.  We sat there, her resting and drinking water, until the game ended.  As we made our way to the car, it was clear to her dad and I that we needed to head to the ER instead of home.  It was, of course, a concussion, and she had a hard time counting, as well as reading sight words without having to sound them out. There were more tests, I can't remember them all, but she was told not to read, or watch TV or do computer work or homework or anything to stimulate her brain as long as she was feeling dizzy or headachy at all.  She was not to return to sports until she went 10 full days with no concussion symptoms. It was a long couple of weeks for her, but her symptoms went away fairly quickly, and finally she was able to get back to her regular activity.  Then, her first time playing soccer at recess, she took another ball to the head.  It wasn't nearly as hard but still did some damage, since she had just recovered from a concussion as it was.  Over the next 10 months she suffered 2 more concussions for a total of 4 concussions in 12 months.  She missed the end of her soccer season, but recovered relatively well.  Life got back to normal, although she occasionally got headaches in the car, or a little dizzy on amusement park rides.  She continued to play soccer over the next season and 1/2.

February 28, 2015

Ambria was attending a church region dance with some friends.  I got a message near the end of the dance that she had a horrible headache.  She had to be helped out to the car by her friend whom we were also giving a ride home. She had suffered a similar, extreme headache a few days prior after being spun on a hamster wheel toy at a local playground, but it went away after some rest.  Not this time.  She spent the next week curled up in bed or on the couch, in pain.  It was a debilitating pain that kept her from attending church or school.  We were able to get her into a headache and migraine specialist where she was diagnosed with Post Concussive Syndrome with chronic daily migraine.  Basically everything in her brain was mis-firing and causing the symptoms.  It was a relief to know that it wasn't something life threatening, and we expected things to get better with some treatment and a little time.

That week stretched into a month.  Then 2 months.  Then more.  There was never a waking moment that Ambria wasn't in pain.  She missed excessive amounts of school and church.  And the emotional toll it took on her was harder for this mama to watch than even the physical pain my girl was in.  She made such a valiant effort to stay positive, be grateful for her blessings, and put on a brave face for others, but she began to feel very isolated and disconnected from her friends at school.  She has always been outgoing, active in everything, and very involved with what was going on.  Now she was missing out on all the fun activities that go along with attending a school like ours, that focuses on experiential learning.  She wasn't able to go out with her group of friends anymore, to the park or the mall or the movies.  Life at school was moving on without her.  She was very discouraged and lonely and it broke my heart to watch. The pain medicines prescribed did nothing to ease her pain.  But there were rare times when the intensity of her migraine was lower and she was able to push through the pain and make it to school or to church.  She also started having struggles with her cognitive skills.  It was hard for her to focus.  She often got dizzy, lost her balance, or had brief vision blackouts.  She would start a sentence and then lose her train of thought and not remember what she was trying to say.  It was scary and frustrating for her, at 14 to feel like she was losing her ability to concentrate and communicate fully.  We learned the triggers that would cause her pain to increase (car rides first and foremost, then bright light, especially sunlight, then lack of sleep and not eating frequently enough).  Car rides and sunlight are impossible to avoid, but we did our best to adapt and try to make the situation as bearable as possible. Still, she basically felt like she was missing out on life.  Were it not for the amazing support and friendship of a kind-hearted boy who has been by her side through everything, I'm not sure how well she would have endured those last months of school, and into the summer.

As more time went by, she seemed to be making small improvements.  The times her migraine was at the highest pain level seemed to be less frequent throughout the day and not last as long.  And the times where the pain was lower seemed to be more frequent and last longer.  It helped me have hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Still, there was never any time during the day or night (unless she was sleeping) that she wasn't in a great deal of pain, and she became increasingly disheartened and frustrated.  She cried easily and often - which led us to discover that another big trigger for her pain intensity was crying.    It gave new meaning to the term "crying headache."

Spring soccer started and when the pain wasn't too intense, we went to the soccer fields so she could support her team from the sidelines. She felt that it was something she should do, but I hated watching her heart break each time her team took the field without her.  The season progressed, but Ambria's recovery didn't.  To add insult to injury, it was determined that she should not play soccer anymore, even if she recovered completely from her symptoms.  Losing soccer for good has probably been the hardest thing for her to accept in all this.  This is a picture from the second to last game of the season.  She cried throughout and I could do nothing to help her heart.

She attempted to attend the final camp out of the school year, but the ride up the canyon and being out in the sun was too much for her and we had to bring her home after the first night.  She was so angry at missing out on the last outdoor experience with her classmates before school ended, and many of them moved on to different schools.

Tender Mercies

Over the course of these painful months, we were not without blessings from our Heavenly Father.  And how grateful I am for the times we were granted tender mercies that gave hope and comfort, and helped renew our faith. There are three times in particular that especially stand out in my memory.  As this post is already extremely long, I'll save them for next time.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Friday Five

Five thoughts, five pictures.  Easy peasy.  Today I'm linking up with Emmy for Friday Five.

1 - I have too many kids.  Seriously.  I'm not saying I'm willing to give any of them up...but with 3 of them in their teen years and involved in so many activities for church, school, and their music - I honestly need a clone to get them all to the various places they all need to be throughout the week, often their commitments overlapping each other. My oldest does drive, but we are a one car family at the moment! Sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind! 

2 - I will have one less to chauffer around by the end of summer.  I don't know where time went, but Kaden will be turning 18 and leaving on a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I don't even know what to do with this yet.  I'm excited and proud and can't wait to see where the Lord sends him.  But I cannot even imagine life without him in this household every day!  Ack!

3 - I'm super excited to go spend 4 days in Seattle with him as a chaperon for his tour with his High School Orchestra.  I've never been to Seattle, and I've rarely had any one on one time with my son this past couple of years because of the whole having too many kids thing, and his busy schedule (besides playing in the orchestra, he is the Orchestra Council President, on the Seminary Council, and on our Stake Youth Committee).

4 - I'm working on a series of blog posts about an emotional situation in my family.  I've felt prompted to do the posts for awhile now, but am feeling very anxious about putting it all out there.  I'm kind of private about family stuff - which I know - weird for a blogger.  But the first post will appear on Sunday.  

5 - Even though I have too many kids - they are the light of my life.  For my 5 pics, I'm just going to share a picture of each one of them.  So if you haven't seen them in awhile, you can see how they've grown.  Or if you don't know me, or my blog, you can "meet" them. :)

Kaden and his beautiful best friend/girl he's crazy about.  They served on orchestra council together representing different schools with a combined orchestra.  She is currently away at school - we'll see what happens when he returns from his mission. ;)  Photo Credit.

Ambria is 15 and growing more beautiful with each passing year.  She's always the one that takes the photos, so I had to steal this selfie off of Instagram!

MaiLee - 13, right after the school musical.  I can't believe how grown up she's getting.  Yeah, I totally cropped the other kids out of the picture. ;)

Brielle just turned 9.  She was just an itty bitty, funny, mischievous toddler when I first started this blog.  Where has the time gone??

And Hollyn.  She's 3!  And this look on her face says it all.  She is trouble!  Our spoiled, funny princess.

Link up to Friday 5 and play along!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Busy Busy Busy!

It's been such a busy past few months!  I'm going to recap just a bit of our crazy, fun filled life.  I think I have way too many kids!  They keep things interesting, crazy and hectic!  But I have so much I want to blog about that I'm just going to keep trying to get back here, no matter how much time gets away from me between posts!

The end of September and beginning of October brought the birthdays of these beautiful girls.  What a blessing they are in my life!  Ambria turned 15, and then 6 days later, my spunky Brielle turned 9 (posted a litte about that last time).

Halloween came and (thankfully) went! And although I loathe the "holiday", I actually enjoy helping my kids get all dressed up.

As always we had a plentiful Thanksgiving, followed by a bit of Black Friday deal snatching.  I know a lot of people are disgruntled about the commercialism of it all, but I've got to say I was able to get something really nice that was the only thing my daughter wanted for Christmas, and were it not for Black Friday, it would not have been in our Christmas budget.  So I'm a fan.

Then...the most wonderful time of the year....CHRISTMAS!  And we were graced with a beautiful, WHITE Christmas.  It's been a couple years since the fluffy white stuff visited for Christmas Day, so it was quite heavenly. Santa was good to us, and the season was filled with warmth, family, and celebrating the birth of our Savior.  Oh how I love Christmas.  I miss it already.


December and January were also filled with a crazy musical rehearsal schedule.  Ambria and MaiLee both performed in the school's production of Once On This Island, Jr.  They did a fantastic job and I was so, so proud.

The musical opened the first weekend in February.  Coincidentally, MaiLee and Hollyn both have birthdays the first week in February!  We celebrated MaiLee's 13th Birthday on Wednesday.  I attended Charter Day on the Hill at the State Capitol with her (to advocate for charter schools, and charter-friendly legislation).  She is a member of the student council and was representing our awesome school.  We celebrated with family that night, then the musical opened on Friday night - which also happened to be Hollyn's 3rd birthday - so we had a late evening birthday party at the McDonald's near the theater as soon as the musical was over.  It was a crazy, fun time!

You'd think after all that, life might settle down a little.  But nope.  It's time to start looking ahead to Kaden's tour schedule for both Orchestra, and choir, as well as graduation preparation.  He's also getting ready to start working on his paperwork for his mission.  he could be gone in 5 months from now!  It's so crazy.

My little family is growing up so quickly.  I feel like I blinked and all of a sudden I'm this mom with kids who are nearly grown, and I don't know what happened!  But I could not feel more blessed, grateful for the children I have, and proud of the people they are becoming.  My Heavenly Father has been so good to me.  I don't deserve this life, but boy am I thankful that I get to have it anyway.