Two Years Ago Today…
I was at Children’s National dealing with a bowel blockage that I’d later need surgery to resolve. Remember? We wondered if I would be out for Christmas. Fortunately for me (knock on wood), the surgery was successful and I have not had to go back to the hospital for any extended hospitalizations – just checkups!
3 Year Appointment (Nov 29)
I’m not a fan of going to the doctor – then again, who is? On Nov 29, I had my third “annual” checkup as they continue to try to slide the date to close of that of my actual birthday. Annual checkups are even worst because I have to be there so much longer and do so many more tests that my normal, quarterly checkup. Mom and Dad reached out to my team of doctors well ahead of time to try and not spend so much time at the hospital during cold and flu season. The result was amazing – in and out in 3 hours!
7:00 AM – Mom and Dad woke me up. We did therapy – vest and albuterol nebulizer. They got me dressed and we hopped into DC rush hour traffic.
8:00 AM – Arrive at Children’s National and head straight to X-ray. We were the first ones there. This was the most sad I was the entire day. Mom couldn’t come into the room with me because she’s pregnant with my baby sister. The whole X-ray part of the visit leaves me incredibly vulnerable because I have to take off my shirt and get strapped into this chair and the room is always really cold.
8:45 AM – Glad that is over. I finish with X-ray and head to blood work. Usually the lab area is filled with tons of people (coughing, sneezing, etc.), but because its a weekday, super early in the AM. there might be 1-3 people around. This calms me and my parents nerves as we all feel as though I’m less likely to pick up something.
I was so tough during the blood draw. I didn’t even shed one tear. The phlebotomist was amazing. Rather than force a stick in my left arm, he took the extra two minutes to unstrap my left arm and examine the veins in my right. One stick, six vials or so later, I was all done. It probably didn’t hurt that Dad thought to give me an early Christmas gift – Dinotrux! That’s Ty that I’m playing with. He’s my favorite.
9:25 AM – Finish blood draws and head to cafeteria for quick breakfast before my scheduled pulmonary appointment. I continued playing with my new Dinotrux while Mom and Dad reminisced of the horrible cafeteria food that they’ve eaten for over 55 days while by my side.
10:00 AM – Meet with my pulmonary team. Everyone is there on time and we head right in. Not going to lie – it can be a bit overwhelming to be surrounded in a room with doctors (pulmonologist, nutritionist, nurse, social worker, physical therapist) as they all ask questions on how I’m doing, how I’m eating, etc. The physical therapist is the newest member of my team. She seems cool. She asked me to run up-and-down the hall and jump up-and-down. She also showed Mom and Dad some new airway clearance exercises and stretches that I should do.
11:00 AM – I’m getting cranky and want to go home. It’s a gorgeous day weather-wise and I’m stuck in a hospital. Time to head home.
Overall, the doctors appeared to be happy with what they saw. I’m in the 69 percentile for height, the 55 percentile for weight. Anytime your weight is over 50% with CF, that’s considered good/acceptable, but the more the better. The “problem” is that I’m so tall. When you factor in my height and weight, I’m left with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 33 percentile, which is not that ideal. Seeing as my BMI is so low, the team thought it might be beneficial for me to go on a new medication – CYPROHEPTADINE. The thought behind prescribing this medication to me is that I would benefit form the drug’s side effects – increased appetite, and sleep through the night. I still drink a bottle between 9PM – 6AM 2-3 nights a week on average. Mom and Dad are not sold on this new prescription so they and Bama & Pop are trying to a do a better job at getting me to eat more on my own and make me exercise more so that I’m more tuckered out at night.
Since the day was so nice and Mom was anxious to get a Christmas tree, we decided to head out west to cut one down and spend time as a family.
Christmas Tree Farm
We drove an hour or so west to Snickers Gap Tree Farm in Round Hill, VA. Again, taking advantage of a weekday when most people are at work or school, me, Mom, and Dad pretty much had the entire tree farm to ourselves. We walked all around, evaluating Douglas Firs and Colorado Blue Spruces on the property until we finally decided on a beautiful fir which had a nice full shape. Dad and I cut down the tree and loaded it into the back of his truck.
Dirt Farm Brewery
After running around the tree farm, Dad and I worked up a thirst so we headed to a nearby brewery which was highly recommended by the owner of Snickers Gap – Dirt Farm Brewery.
Then Mom made us go to Luckett’s, near Leesburg. It’s some antique place. But this point I had pretty much lost it. I had dozed off for about 30 minutes in the car on the way here but never took a real nap, so we ran around briefly and then headed home. What a day!
I cannot thank the team at Children’s enough for such a smooth and quick annual appointment. It’s the best one I’ve had thus far.
Playdate with My Cousins
When you have cystic fibrosis, you often don’t get to hang out with all your friends and family. For one, your parents are overly cautious. Ok, maybe not overly cautious, but they care so much about you, that they don’t take risks. Second, other kids often pick things up if/when they go to daycare. Anyway, it’s super rare that everyone is healthy and free of obligations, so for the first time I got to hang out with my cousins JJ and Luke.
We all met at Bama and Pops’ house, where we played with my trucks and we danced to Alexa. I asked that Alexa play my new favorite song – Believer by Imagine Dragons.
Switching Health Insurance
Switching benefits providers is never fun. Dad’s firm recently hit 50+ employees so as a result leadership is constantly searching for best value when it comes to benefits and they opted to switch carriers – CareFirst to Cigna. What probably makes switching so bad is the added time required on the phone paired with new deductibles which must be met and not being able to get your medicine that is sitting at your local pharmacy but just so happened to be delivered on the day your insurance carrier switched. Convenient CareFirst.
Mom called Cigna and spoke to a man who was unbelievably helpful. He assisted by getting me into a drug co-pay program where they convinced Genentech (maker of Pulmozyme) to cover my entire deductible and we’ll only owe $30/co-pay, unlike the $150/mo with CareFirst where we would blow through our entire HSA and FSA in the first month. Can you believe that? In nearly 3 years with CareFirst no one even attempted to help me out with things like that. My team at Children’s got me into a similar style of program for my Creon medication, but that only gets me free Pediasure and vitamins which are certainly helpful, but this gentleman literally saved Mom and Dad $3,000.
In closing Mike from Cigna, said “You’re most welcome and the most important thing is Jack’s health and I wish him the best.” Not once did anyone at CareFirst demonstrate empathy over the phone. Mike then made sure that my Pulmozyme was overnighted to my home. While I’m sure Cigna will not be without their challenges and they’ll get their money, Cigna is already a welcomed change for me in terms of my health care.
The weather has been great and I’ve spent a lot of time outside and playing with my cousins. I also have spending a lot of time at Coco’s new apartment. I even helped her move in and even helped Pop hang his new television.
In the News
There’s a relatively new cover story published in New York Magazine that’s become quite controversial and is even described as heart-wrenching by many. It’s been referenced on the radio and even written about by others and people have even asked Mom and Dad about their thoughts. The article centers around a mother’s “wrongful birth” lawsuit and had she known she was to have a child with cystic fibrosis, she most certainly would have aborted during pregnancy. The article itself is a bit upsetting to think that individuals with cystic fibrosis or other diseases and disabilities may not be wanted.
I won’t get into the whole religious /pro-life aspect or anything because to each their own, but I can say that I know my parents and family love me more than anything. Mom and Dad repeatedly say how I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to them and they would never change anything. Do they wish I didn’t have to battle this terrible disease – absolutely! Would they switch places with me – absolutely! Do we all pray for a cure – absolutely! While there is no cure today, that doesn’t mean there won’t be in the future. Anything can happen. Thank you to everyone who’s ever donated.
Also, I feel like it takes a special person or persons (if you’re lucky to have both a Mom and Dad in your life) to be a parent. Mom and Dad say that becoming a parent requires putting themselves after me (and soon my sister too) and that’s just part of being a parent. I guess, in the case of this article, I have to question whether the mother was ready to become a parent. Accidents and things happen every day and if something were to happen (i.e. car accident, becoming paralyzed playing football, being diagnosed with cancer, etc.) to a child, it would be the responsibility of the parent to see that the child is taken care of and has everything he/she needs. Being born with a disease or disability is no different. Parents step up! Life happens. Life isn’t fair. What makes us different is what makes this world such a great place. I for one am prepared to fight this disease and I know my parents, family, and friends will be by my side. They all love me and cannot imagine a life without me.
In a way, Mom and Dad’s situation was similar. Mom tested positive for G542X (second, most common CFTR mutation). I guess where it began to differ is Mom’s OBGYN office immediately contacted Dad to get tested given Mom’s positive test result. Dad rushed to to get tested and he and Mom waited for what felt like months (it was about a week). Dad’s test came back negative. Mom still has the voicemail on her phone saying, “great news, your husband’s tests came back negative” – eluding to a sense that I would not have CF. Doctors did recommend that the only way to be certain that I did have the disease was to perform an amniocentesis. Given that neither of Mom and Dad’s families had history of cystic fibrosis, Dad’s negative tests were encouraging, the risks of amniocentesis elevate the risk of miscarriage, and Mom and Dad ultimately decided they were not going to abort the pregnancy this far along anyway…they elected to continue on the path to becoming parents – and mighty fine ones at that. On Feb 2, 2015, I was born to two amazing parents who love me and give me every opportunity to live a normal life. They stayed by my side while in Children’s NICU and continue to provide for me today. I was born with cystic fibrosis (CFTR mutations G542X, S466X in cis R1070Q). I cannot thank them enough for the life they’ve given to me and I know each day I make them proud. I can’t wait until I have a sister to share them with and will only be a matter of time before she sees how great they are as well.
It’s Almost Christmas!
On this past Saturday (12/09), we had our first snow of the winter. It was so much fun. I kept the sidewalk cleared of snow, went sledding, and even built snowmen
Lastly, for those of you have asked or plan to do Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve (I’m talking to you Aunt Rachel)….I’m a size 4T in the clothes. I really like trucks but Mom and Dad say I don’t need anymore so any art or craft that I can take to Bama and Pop’s during the work week will do.
See you after Christmas!