Friday, December 31, 2010

Photo Friday

Isn't this a powerful photo? I love everything about it. I love the pose, the colour, her expression. I love that it is a real photo, documenting someones real story. The girl in the picture is Miranda Hutson. She is 22 years old and received a double lung transplant due to her Cystic Fibrosis in Jan 2010.  The hospital tags are hers, the oxygen tank was a part of her life before the transplant. I don't see the picture as being morbid or negative. I don't know why, but I just really love this photo.   Photographer: Curtis Almeter, who was also in hospital with Miranda.

So What If I Have Cystic Fibrosis, I'm Unstoppable!  is a Facebook page that Miranda has created. I love how the majority of the members are teenagers, and I sometimes stalk the page, watching them interact, and just be typical teenagers! It gives me great hope for Ruby.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Few Memories

I remember being in the special care nursery at Gosford hospital, thinking everything would be ok once Ruby did her first poo.

I remember noticing in NICU how long some of the babies had been there for. Months and months, and they weren't even premmies.

I remember the glass cupboard in the tea room full of books like: So Your Baby Has A Disability, Living With Multiple Sclerosis, Understanding Cystic Fibrosis. I remember being glad that I wouldn't have to worry about anything like that.

I remember wondering why the nurses hands weren't sore, dry and red raw from the antibacterial soap that had to be constantly used.

I remember Craig & I walking Ruby to the operating theatre. I was so scared but I didn't want Ruby to see me cry so I just smiled stupidly at her and told her how much she was loved. I remember wondering if it would be the last time I would see her alive.

I remember relief warming me when the surgeon told us how well the surgery went. I remember fear chilling me when he then told us there was a 90% chance that Ruby had Cystic Fibrosis. I remember confusing CF with Spina Bifida.

I remember the first time Ruby smiled. It was as we were leaving Grace Ward to go home and it was a proper smile, not gas! Good timing bubba! She hasn't stopped smiling since.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wrong Answer

Ruby and I were 100 kilometers apart for what should have been our first full night together, all because I said Yes when I should have said No.

The day went from being calm and relaxed to rushed and urgent in what felt like a couple of minutes but was actually around 6 hours. The snowball started gradually, before cascading into a full-on avalanche. In a nutshell:
Me: Nurse, Ruby has brought up a bit of this weird green vomit.
Nurse: hmmm, that's odd. I'll tell the Dr to come around. Has she done a poo yet? (answer is no)
Registrar: hmmm, that's not entirely normal. I need to consult with my other important doctor person. Has she done a poo yet? (answer is no)
Pediatrician: hmmm, could be this, or that. Has she done a poo yet? No? Lets move her to special care, not feed her, shove a finger up her butt and give her her first x-ray.
I think special care was when our attitudes started to change a bit. We were no longer in a maternity ward full of families and their new babies, we were in a ward with sick babies and big scary cribs and no visitors allowed. I couldn't wait to get back on the ward when this was sorted.

After lots of idle time waiting around, and Ruby having more tests, the Dr came back to us and told us that Ruby would need to go to Westmead, and the nurses were arranging a chopper or ambulance now, whichever is available first. What??? Blah blah no poo blah blah maybe blockage blah blah might require operation...
My first question, can I go with her? Shouldn't be a problem.

I rushed back to my bed on the ward and started packing my stuff all up. As I was doing this, the NETS (newborn emergency transport service) arrived by ambulance. They were a lovely team of people but then all the red tape stuff began. I couldn't be transferred as a patient, I had to be discharged first. No problem, I had a really helpful nurse who rushed all the paperwork and gave me a crash course on expressing. She was doing her final check-up and asked me casually if my legs were sore. I said Yes.

She looked at me and said "really?". That should have been a huge sign for me to say "just kidding!" but no. I told her really. She suddenly got all concerned and started feeling my legs and explaining how I couldn't leave if I might possibly have DVT.

Umm, hello? I went on a bushwalk yesterday, I gave birth 16 hours ago and I have been on my feet in special care for the last 4 hours!

But no matter how much I downplayed it, she wouldn't budge. I wouldn't get the all clear until my legs were ultrasounded the next morning (this was about 8.30pm). Finally after much convincing, she chased up a doctor who was happy to discharge me after I was injected with something or other and promised to follow it up.
Oh the relief, my baby wouldn't be alone! But...while the dr was explaining this, Craig, Eliza and the NETS team were outside my room with Ruby all hooked up to a spaceship and listening to our conversation. I came out all ready to go only to be told by the NETS dr that I couldn't travel with them if I was a health risk.
My brain quickly tried to think of a solution but I couldn't get my thoughts straight. I kept looking at Ruby inside that thing but I didn't have time to really think of her. The NETS team were eager to get moving, with or without me. My options were:
a. Discharge myself and Craig drives us all down. Really not practical with a 3 year old to think of as well
b. Discharge myself, I stay home with Eliza, Craig drives to Westmead to be with Ruby and we head down in the morning
c. I stay in hospital alone, Craig and Eliza go home and we all go down in the morningl
Well we ended up choosing C. That way Eliza and Craig could get a good night sleep in preparation for a busy next day and I could get my legs checked out first thing in the morning. Craig promised that he would leave really early in the morning and I would meet him there once I got the all clear. So Ruby was whizzed away after I peered goodbye to her through the plastic window and the rest of my little family left also. I was all alone surrounded by other mums and their babies.

I grabbed my phone, walked to the visitors room, sat there in the dark, called my mum and finally let the tears run. I was sad for Ruby, not for myself. This is not how she should have been introduced to the world. This was not the cocoon I wanted her wrapped in.
I felt so bad that she had no family with her. But sometimes things do go your way. My parents were driving from Melbourne to Sydney and were about an hour away from the children's hospital. With no hesitation they drove straight there to be there for Ruby. They arrived just as they were settling her into NICU. Mum was able to give her a cuddle, and that is so important. I am so so grateful to my parents. Not only have they always been there for me, they were there for their youngest granddaughter when she needed them.

This is like what Ruby was transported in but hers had a metal casing over the top so you could only see her through the side window

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cute CF Cartoon

Well, maybe I should have just posted this instead of CF in a Nutshell!

Makes perfect sense and is great for kids and adults!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On and on...

I am a mum, I do mum things for my kids. Cook, clean, nurture, teach, play, raise...the list goes on. We all know how much is involved with being a parent, I am not alone in this!

But I am not a scientist, a researcher, a doctor or a health professional. I don't know how to cure Cystic Fibrosis, I don't even really understand the biological, genetic or technical side of it. I do know that the medical community is confident that a cure is close (and not in a "miracle cure" found on A Current Affair type shows way) and I have faith in that.

So, what can I do to help? I can spread awareness. I can let people know what CF is and how it affects us. I can hound you with raffle tickets, research links and status updates. I can share photos, stories and experiences.

So sorry if my blog posts and Facebook page seem a bit CF obsessive, but it's the only way I know how to contribute towards the best possible outcome.


Here is an interview with Dr Michael Boyle about the basic defect in CF and how the two drugs, VX-770 and VX-809, aim to help fix the underlying problems, but in different ways. Good news for CFers, even though it's not very exciting viewing!

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Baby

Oh, my baby Ruby, please don't grow up! You are so perfect in this present moment. It seems too good to be true, surely I can't be blessed so much that you will always be this way? So happy, so healthy, so so cute! I love the little conversations you have with people, quietly but confidently letting us know that you are comfortable with who you are and where you belong in our family. Your sense of self is already shining through, your strength nearly visible. Why do I get the feeling that all the support I give to you will be returned to me tenfold? As excited as I am to watch you grow, I can't help but already feel a tiny bit sad that the days, weeks, months go so fast.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

CF in a Nutshell

So, what is it? Here are some facts without getting too complicated and without having to read all the horror stories out there on the net:

  • Cystic Fibrosis is the most common life threatening, recessive genetic condition affecting Australian children. Both parents must be a carrier, you can't "catch" CF.
  • Around 10% of babies born with CF have "meconium ileus" - an obstruction in the intestines caused by thick, sticky baby poop. This requires surgery, which is what happened with Ruby.
  • In people with CF, salt and water aren't transferred properly from the cells, causing the body to produce thick sticky mucus.
  • It affects a number of organs in the body (especially the lungs and pancreas) by clogging them with the thick, sticky mucus. 
  • The mucus is a breeding ground for bacteria. Repeated infections and blockages can cause irreversible lung damage and premature death.
  • Mucus can also cause problems in the pancreas preventing the release of enzymes needed for the digestion of food, especially fats. Malnutrition can be a problem.  
So what do we do for Ruby?

  • Daily physio where we try to "knock the snot" out of her, is how I describe it.
  • She is on antibiotics until she is 18 months to give her a good head start of being healthy and strong, and hopefully not getting any chest infections in this time
  • Enzymes are given before every feed so her body breaks down food (milk). Otherwise it would just pass straight through her, nutrients and all
  • Salt is great for people with CF, so she is constantly breathing in the lovely salt air!
  • Excercise is also a very important part of keeping healthy as it prevents deterioration of the lungs and improves physical bulk and strength.
  • Regular visits to the CF clinic at Westmead
The life expectancy of a person with CF is 35 years. But don't let that scare you, this is double what it was 25 years ago, and is always increasing. There is no cure for CF, but the faulty gene has been identified and doctors and scientists are working to find ways of repairing or replacing it. With today’s improved treatment most people with CF are able to lead reasonably normal and productive lives. A great amount of time is being directed towards finding new and improved ways of treating CF and of finally finding a cure.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010


    Clinic is where Ruby sees a team of specialists to help manage her Cystic Fibrosis. She normally sees  her respiratory specialist, CF nurse, nutritionist and physiotherapist. The team also includes a gastroenterologist and social worker. The clinic is at Westmead Children's Hospital. As a newborn, we were there at least every second week, now that she is a bit older, and more importantly, heavier, we only need to go down once a month. If she stays healthy, the visits will be spaced out to every three months.

    Here is a photo journal of our clinic visit today:

     As soon as we arrive, Ruby is weighed and measured. She has put on weight and grown well! Infact she is growing longer so quickly that her weight is just keeping in proportion with her length.

      The staff at clinic always take the time to come and say hello. Ruby gets alot of attention as she always smiles at everyone.

    This is the most unpleasant part of our visits. a sputum sample is taken to make sure there is no bacteria growing in her throat. The sample is taken by a suction tube being shoved down the back of her throat. Doesn't take very long to do. 

     This is the snack box in the nutritionists room where the kids are encouraged to help themselves! 

     There is always something going on at a childrens hospital! Today we got a visit from some fairies and superheroes. Eliza was very lucky and was given a bag full of treats! Textas, colouring books, stickers, jewellery, a magnetic "learn chinese" kit(?!)...
     Ruby with her respiritory doctor who is her primary medical carer. He is listening to her lungs to make sure they are all clear, which they are.

    We saw the gastroenterologist today who checked out her surgery scar and asked lots of questions about poo!

    We picked up some of Ruby's medication for the next few months. We always leave with more than what we came with.