Sunday, June 11, 2017

It's Summer-time

Hey everyone!  Hope you are all well. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your continued prayer and care and love and kindness.  Truly, God moves through people and holds us up through you all.  There is no prayer too small, no kindness or generous act too small.  It is all stored in our hearts and brings constant encouragement to us as we often are just trying to keep our heads above water.

The waves have been hitting extra hard over the past month or so.  Our trips to Ohio have been full of difficulties and we have seen a steady decline with Elle throughout the last 4-6 weeks.  Her seizures have increased in number and severity - although, the seizures are still way 'better' than they were back in the fall.  She has lost more strength and coordination and muscle control.  She has lost more of her speech - both receptive and expressive.  She is not complying with taking her medication as well.  Her rages and frustrations have increased a bit...some days are better than others.  Her sleep has been bad.  And on and on.

However, we have seen a little bit of a good rebound in her condition after her infusion last week.  Friday and Saturday were really great days and she was so happy and vibrant!  We love seeing her playful and silly and giggly and funny - her true personality coming through.  Today, she seemed a bit more tired and irritable and I noticed a lot more seizures than she's had the last couple of days.  

So we just never know what her days and nights will look like,  There is no pattern to any of her sleep, seizures, tiredness, crankiness, strength, speech ability, etc.  And while we are utterly thankful for these enzymes that she gets every other week, we have no idea how long these enzymes will keep her disease from progressing and we have no idea how quickly her disease will progress.  

We know that God knows this, though. We know that Elle's days and nights were laid out and planned before time began.  He has always known her.  He MADE her.  He formed her and loved her long before we knew her and loved her.  

And so when our faith falters and the frustration and anger come barreling into our souls, when despair threatens to undo us, this is what we have to preach to ourselves.  This is what we have to remember and this is what we have to lean on.  How deep the Father's love for us!  How vast beyond all measure!  And it doesn't matter if we feel lovey-dovey about it all.  Our God is steadfast.  He does not love us conditionally.  When we stumble and fall apart from the weight of all of it, He remains ever-present, ever-loving.

Our Milla-willa has been gone for 6 months and 2 weeks now.  We miss her so much, so deeply.  I can't even begin to describe the longing we have to see her and hold her and listen to her belly-laugh again.  Please pray for our hearts as we grieve and try to find our way down this road.  Oh Jesus, how we hope You would come back soon.

As you know, Elle's enzyme medication has been approved by the FDA, which means we can have her infusions done here in Memphis.  And this is sooooo exciting!!  BUT, we have to wait for insurance to approve it.  So this is our biggest hurdle and biggest prayer right now - please pray for this approval!  And pray that it will happen quickly.  It has already been about 7 weeks since the medication was FDA approved and we need things to move along quickly.  Our hospital here in Memphis (LeBonheur Children's Medical Center) is ready to go - which is amazing and we are so very thankful for them working so hard for us.  So please pray, pray, pray for our insurance to approve it!!

We are surviving summer so far - we kicked it off with a beach trip to Florida Memorial Day week which was exhausting but really good.  We are a family of beach bums and the ocean soothes our souls.  :)

With the exception of this coming week, Elle will continue to have school throughout the summer - it is a very good thing for her to have this activity and stimulation for her brain.  (And good for her momma to have a little break from her constant activity and constant stimulation she needs.)  Ann Carlyle is going to a couple of day-camps this summer and has a pretty full schedule of activities to keep her busy.  

Ann Carlyle also just finished up 3 days of Camp Good Grief and it.was.wonderful for her.  She loved it and learned so much. She was able to be around a bunch of kids around her age that had all lost someone close to them...she was able to talk about Milla and all the complexities of her grief concerning both her sisters...she was able to have FUN and laugh and dance and see that all those things are okay too...she was able to comfort other kids and help them with their grief as well.  What an amazing camp it is!! And y'all, the people that run the camp and the people that volunteer to help out with these kids are unbelievable.  We have this treasure of a place (The Kimmons Wilson Center for Good Grief) right here in Memphis!!!

Speaking of, The Center for Good Grief's newest location - Milla's House - will open be opening soon this summer!!  Stay tuned for more details about the ribbon-cutting ceremony that will take place in July.  We would love for anyone that can make it to come out to celebrate Milla's life and this wonderful organization that is serving Memphis so well.

Okay, so I could type forever - I feel like I am leaving out so many things, but I gotta go get some sleep.  (Please continue to pray for our health - all of us - Frazer and I are so worn down physically and emotionally - life is definitely taking a toll on us.)

Much love to you!!
Dana

Friday, May 12, 2017

Miles 4 Milla's House is just one week away!!!



Miles 4 Milla’s House is one week away!  Please consider supporting us in raising awareness and funds for Milla’s House, which will open later this summer.  You can ride or show up and party at 11 am May 20th!  Sign up and/or donate here:  www.miles4milla.org  
There are “register” and “donate” buttons on the far left of the page.

Sign up by Monday, May 15 by 10am to be guaranteed a T-shirt at the event!

Thank you for supporting this wonderful event and cause!!!  You can find more info on Milla’s House at www.miles4milla.org

Friday, May 5, 2017

March and April and May (Buckle up - it's a long one)

I know it's been forever since I've written.  Part of it is because it was a busy, busy April.  Part of it is that I just didn't feel like saying anything.  We continue to travel a hard road, but some days/weeks/months seem to be harder.

My heart feels ruined at times, so broken.  But I cling to the only hope I know.  And I will praise Him through my tears for He came and lived among us and suffered and loved and died for us and rose from the dead so that we may live in perfect glory with Him.  So that Milla can be with Him.  And Elle.  And Ann Carlyle.  And me and Frazer.  

We miss Milla so, so stinkin' much.  Last week marked 5 months since she died - my heart breaks all over again to think it has been so long since I have held her, touched her, comforted her, kissed her, smelled her, fixed her wild curly hair...since I have heard her sweet voice, her giggle, her gut-laugh, even the way she struggled but was able to say 'mom' through her tears.  I long to be able to take care of her again.  There is such a void there for me.  I feel like I should be doing something with her, for her.  But she is not here and while I know with utter certainty that she is healed and is happy beyond comprehension, it is so hard to wait to be with Jesus, to be with her, to wait on this side of heaven.

A dear friend and fellow Batten mom from California (they lost their oldest son last September and their youngest son is receiving the same enzyme treatment as Elle) reminded me the other day to look at it this way - each day that goes by is not a day farther away from Milla, it's a day closer to when I get to see her again.  We preach this to ourselves over and over and sometimes it reaches our hearts too.  The deep pain is sometimes too much for words.

April is always a crazy busy month because Ann Carlyle's birthday is April 6th (8 years old!!) and Elle's birthday is April 20th (5 years old!!).  I know every parent says this and I know I say it every year, but I can't believe how old my babies are getting.  5 years seems especially old to me though...Elle is officially not a baby anymore...and we feel she is doing measurably better with the enzymes than she would be at 5 years old without the enzymes.

So between birthdays and birthday parties and a new canine family member and Ohio trips and big announcements and just regular life, the weeks have flown by.

Ever since our dog, Maddy, died last August, Ann Carlyle has been begging (and begging and begging and begging) for a dog.  Back in August and through the end of the year, I could not imagine getting another dog.  Of course, Ann Carlyle insisted she would take care of it but we all know who ends up taking care of the dog after the first week or 2.  But sometime in February I admitted to Frazer that I was thinking about thinking about thinking about the possibility of getting a dog.  It was a sloooow process.  But we finally decided that we would surprise Ann Carlyle with a dog for her birthday.  After extensive searching, I had picked out a possible rescue dog but we weren't able to meet/get the dog by Ann Carlyle's actual birthday, so we surprised her first thing in the morning with a card that told her we were getting a dog.  Y'all, she was so cute.  She had to read it a few times, did some double-takes and asked 'seriously??!! for real??!!' with the biggest smile on her face.  It was awesome.  

A couple days later, Frazer and I went to meet Lady and decided to bring her home.  And while we thought we were getting a 1 or 2 year old dog hound-mix that was house-broken and just chill enough to make it okay to add a dog to our circus, we ended up bringing her home, falling in love with her and then learning that she was at least 5 years old, is a Rottweiler mix, has major anxiety issues and a bad case of heart worms.  Our special needs family has found a sweet special needs dog and she has been such great therapy for all of us.  I knew she would be great for the girls, but I have been truly surprised by how much she has helped me too.  (Despite her incredible anxiety and health needs.)  Oh and Ann Carlyle is still doing GREAT with her Lady-responsibilities.  I'm so proud of her!

So, one big announcement that was made last week - the FDA approved the enzyme medication to be used commercially!!  Kind of a big deal. :) This means that we will (hopefully) soon be able to get the enzyme infusion here in Memphis.  I can't even remember what it was like not to go to Ohio every other week.  It goes without saying that to be able to simply drive downtown and get her infusion will be life-changing.  It is such a big interruption for everyone in the family to travel so often and creates a burden on so many people that help us do it every other week (although, they would never call it that because all you people helping are awesome!).  It will take a bit of time before insurance gets on board with approving coverage of the drug and for the hospital to get all their ducks in a row, but we are hopeful that sometime this summer, we will get to start getting Elle's enzymes in Memphis.  (Please pray that this all proceeds quickly and that insurance will pay for the enzymes.  It is about $700,000 per year (yes, $700k) to get this drug - so, as you can imagine, insurance approval is imperative.)

Also, we have announced the opening of Milla's House!  The Kemmons Wilson Center for Good Grief is expanding to a second location this summer in Midtown and it is being called Milla's House.  We are beyond honored to be a part of this community service in an area with great need.  We will be holding a couple of fundraisers this year - I'll get to that in a minute - but please consider helping us fund Milla's House.)  If you want to know more about The Center for Good Grief and the important work that they do, here is a link to an article about it...


If you are interested in donating to Milla's House, here is the link to help you do so:


AND, another BIG announcement - we are having a fundraiser for Milla's House in just a couple of weeks on Saturday, May 20th!  It's called Miles for Milla - it is a bike race (a 40-miler and a 6-miler) with a party at 11am with a band, food, beer and fun for the whole family. :)  We would love for everyone to join us (even if you don't bike - you can be a ghost-rider or just come to the party)!  We want as many people as possible to come out and have a good time (and the t-shirt is awesome!).
PS - when we announced to event last week, there was a hiccup with the website, so some of you may have not been able to register, but all is fixed now.
The link for information and to register is: 

(By the by, the registration and donation links are off to the far left side of the web page right now...it may be hard to find but we are working on changing that.)


So, there's a lot going on these days. :)

Please pray for all these things mentioned above and please pray for Ann Carlyle - this week, she has felt the weight of her grief a little more than usual, and we can see that affecting her when she slows down from all her activities.

Please pray for Elle - the last few days, she has been having an increase in seizures (even though we upped one of her meds a couple of weeks ago, which worked until recently).  And she's just been 'off' - fussier, more tired, the rages are coming back.  She doesn't have any symptoms of an infection, but it's possible that she coming down with something or fighting off something.  So please pray for her general health and that these neurological things settle back down as well.  Her seizures have been on the rise for about a month now.

For our latest trip to Ohio, we were there for 5 days so that Elle could get some extra tests run while we were up there.  It was a crazy week.  We flew to Columbus before sunrise Monday morning and went straight to the hospital from the airport to get admitted for a 24 hour EEG.  (That flight had mechanical and weather issues, so instead of less than 3 hours, it took us about 5 hours to get up there). Tuesday, we were discharged and then went to a physical therapy appointment where we learned she needs serial casting for her feet.  Wednesday morning, we had to be back at the hospital early to have her enzyme infusion (which includes an overnight stay).  Thursday morning, after leaving the research clinic, we went to the surgical unit so that Elle could have a sedated eye exam and MRI.  This unexpectedly took pretty much all day.  And anyone with a kid who has had anesthesia knows that kids get super crabby when they wake up - good times.  We were discharged and then spent the night in our Ohio apartment and flew out Friday around noon.  It.was.a.long.week.

The good news is that she did not have her usual fever after the infusion - so hopefully, that reaction is starting to subside.  However, she still feels super yucky and lethargic.  Also, we found out that her eye sight (it's 20/80) has not gotten worse in the last 6 months which is amazing!!  I am still waiting to hear back from the eye doctor with the in-depth eye exam report but we are thankful at least that she is still able to see.  

The MRI of her brain did show degeneration compared to 7 months ago.  But her doctor anticipated this and was unsurprised at how her brain looked.  Bottomline, she feels that Elle is right in line with the other patients that have been on the enzyme treatment for 3+ years.  According to her, the first year of the treatment, the brain degeneration continues and then they see a level-ing off of the degeneration on the MRI's.

Even though there were 'stable' reports from the tests, it is still hard to hear all the ways Elle's brain is getting worse.  And we are reminded that this drug is an ongoing treatment, not a cure.  It is a treatment to only slow the progression of her disease - the disease will continue to progress regardless.  And we will have to watch as her body continues to fail her.  We think she is actually doing better cognitively, which is unfortunately a double-edged sword.  I love seeing her comprehend things that maybe we haven't seen before, but she also is getting more frustrated as she comprehends the ways her body can't keep up with what she wants it to do.

Thank you for pursuing us and praying for us and caring for us!!  We continue to (very much) need all those things.  Some days we are able to carry on swept up in the fast current of daily activities/life, but other days, it feels like we are being sucked down into the muck and every little thing takes so much effort and seems to go no where.

One more thing, please pray for our dear friends, the Betts, who lost their cute-as-pie, precious son, Bentley, at the end of March.  We met them at the very first BDSRA conference that we went to a couple of years ago.  We have gotten to see them a few times in-between the annual conferences because they live just a couple of hours away and have come to Memphis to visit.  Like all the Batten 'babies', we smile to think of Bentley running around healthy and healed with Jesus, but oh how we grieve the hole he left here physically and in our hearts.

Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Much love (and thank you for enduring this enormous email!)
Dana
(I'll post some pictures soon.)


Monday, May 1, 2017

FDA Approval!!!

Elle's enzyme medication has been approved by the FDA!!

http://www.commercialappeal.com/story/news/health/2017/04/28/fda-action-buoys-memphis-family-battling-brain-disease/101021776/

Miles For Milla's House




Hey everyone! 

Here is the Miles for Milla's House Event website where you can find out more information and register for the event.

miles4milla.org

More to come soon! 
Dana


Friday, April 21, 2017

SAVE THE DATE!!! – May 20, 2017

MILES FOR MILLA’S HOUSE

Please save the date for Miles for Milla’s House, a bike ride and party on May 20!!

We are planning a bike ride (40 mile option at 9am and 6 mile option at 10:15am) and post-race party (11AM) to help raise funds and awareness for newest location of the Kemmon’s Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, Milla’s House.

The start and finish for the rides and the post party will all be at Wiseacre on Broad, just a few blocks from the location of the new Milla’s House!  More info including registration will be coming very soon, but we wanted start spreading the word now as May 20th is quickly approaching!

** Please be advised that even if you are not a "rider" you and your family are still welcome to attend the party at Wiseacre and support Milla's House. 

Here is a link to press release about the opening of Milla’s House later this summer.


(Wanted to blast this info out there...I'll post a family update soon.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

March Update

Up, up and away!!!

Infusion time!
Riding at the Richey Ranch :)
Hello from Columbus!  I decided to get a quick word in while Elle is napping.  

She just finished her 13th infusion a couple of hours ago and it went just fine.  

We flew into Columbus yesterday afternoon and got settled into a new place - the sweet and generous people that have selflessly housed us since last October, are moving...so now, we are staying at the apartment of another (extremely kind and gracious) Batten family that also commutes to Columbus for infusions but on opposite weeks.  The apartment is close to the hospital and close to a few other Batten families that live here, so we are excited about that!

Elle barely slept at all last night after about 1am, so we were both pretty exhausted starting the day - she has been sleeping hard for over 3.5hrs now, partially due to the lack of sleep, I'm sure, but I think her reaction to the infusion as well just wears her out.  

We have spring break this week, so the 4 of us drove to Birmingham for a few days to visit my family (and celebrate my dad's birthday and rode my parents' horses, which the girls LOVED!) and then Frazer, Elle and I drove back to Memphis Tuesday in order to make it back in time for a neurology check-up and then to fly out to Columbus yesterday.  Ann Carlyle is staying in Birmingham for the rest of the week playing with cousins, grandparents, aunt and uncle.  I'm so glad she is able to stay there and do something fun and special during her spring break, especially since it's an Ohio-week.

Please pray for the rest of our time in Columbus and that we will make it back home safe and sound.  Pray, too, that Ann Carlyle will make it home safely this weekend (my mom is bringing her home and will stay a couple of days).

There are some changes coming with the infusions - nothing huge - but a change in the day of the week Elle will get infused and a change in the hospital area where she gets the infusion (inpatient vs outpatient).  Also, we will probably have some extended trips to Columbus coming up due to 24hr EEG and other testing.  So, really no big deal, but just having to deal with logistics and that gets tiresome.  (Shout out to Leigh, Molly and Kathy that make the world go-round when it comes to the logistics of my life!  A lot of this change makes more work for the - so thank you, friends!). Pray that soon, the enzyme drug will be officially and commercially approved by the FDA and that we will be able to get it a lot closer to home.  (As thankful as we are for Columbus and our medical team here, this would be life-changing for our family.)

Thank you for the continued support.  My heart has been heavier than usual the past couple of weeks, but I do feel that God has given me an added measure of comfort and peace this week and for this I am so grateful.  Please pray for us all as we continue to navigate these valleys and this grief and the changes and the unknown and the hope and the exhaustion and the sadness and the joy (that we are sometimes surprised to still have).  Thanks be to God, Who, morning by morning, brings us new mercies and knows just what we need.

Elle-belle is finally awake!  Gotta run.  :)

Much love to you all!
Dana


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Milla's House Press Release

We are so excited to announce the opening of Milla's House!  See below...


MEMPHIS, Tenn.,  March 1, 2017- Baptist Memorial Health Care announced today it will be opening two new grief centers; one in midtown Memphis and the other in Jonesboro, Ark., where Baptist has one of its 17 hospitals, NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital. 

Baptist opened the area’s first grief center, the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, in 2005. The midtown location, the Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, Milla’s House, will open this summer on the grounds of Idlewild Presbyterian Church. Baptist also spearheaded the area’s first grief camp for children, Camp Good Grief, in 1999. 

The NEA Center will open in October at 1717 Executive Square and will offer free grief counseling and seminars to those in need. 

The model of care at both grief centers will mirror the services and programs available at Baptist’s original Grief Center, which, according to Baptist leadership, has grown exponentially under the leadership of executive director of bereavement Angela Hamblen Kelly.

The Kemmons Wilson Family Center for Good Grief, Milla’s House, is named in memory of Milla Gieselmann, the 6-year-old daughter of Memphis couple Frazer and Dana Gieselmann. In November 2016, Milla died from Batten disease, an inherited neurodegenerative disorder for which there is no cure.  

The Gieselmanns’ 5-year-old daughter, Elle, also tested positive for Batten disease, while 8-year-old Ann Carlyle tested negative and is healthy. The Gieselmanns have relied heavily on the Grief Center, and Milla’s father, Frazer Gieselmann, says the Center continues to be essential to their family's journey through a grief that is complicated and messy. He emphasized that the Center had not only been essential to his family, but to his extended family and close friends, as well. 

Dana Gieselmann, Frazer’s wife and mother of Milla, Elle and Ann Carlyle, said, “The Memphis community has benefitted greatly from the Center for Good Grief, and it is our great pleasure to have the opportunity to support the opening of the Midtown location, while also honoring our daughter Milla. Her short life of six years touched so many. Our hope is that Milla's House will provide the help our community needs to deal with the reality of living in a broken world.”

For more information about the grief programs available at Baptist, please visit www.baptistonline.org.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Good Things

So I didn't realize until after I sent the last email/post that 'virus' was probably not the best subject line.  Sorry about that!

Thank you so much for your prayers, always - God has kept us healthy and Elle was completely healthy going into last week's infusion.  She had her typical symptoms post-infusion with nausea and fever but the nausea seemed a little less.  Also, her usual super fussy/grumpiness the Sunday/Monday/Tuesday after an infusion has been nonexistent this week!!!  It's so wonderful to have her happy and silly and smiling and giggling so much.  

Also, her seizures have continued to be so much better!  It's amazing and we are so very, very thankful for this bright spot in her life - it gives her such a better quality of life.  I feel that she is still noticeably weaker than she was in January but she is fighting to keep those muscles strong. Her determined and willful spirit is a good thing as she fights this disease. :)

Elle's sleep has been less than stellar but we are getting through. 

A specific prayer, please, for sleep for her as well as appetite.  She lost 2 pounds in between the last 2 infusions (a 2-week time span).  But thankfully, her appetite has seemed to improve the last few days and she has even been eating new foods (which she rarely, rarely, rarely does)!  Please pray that she continues to eat and try new (and healthy) foods!

And please continue to pray for Ann Carlyle.  I think she is having a rougher-than-usual time lately processing Milla's death and trying to deal with Elle and momma traveling so much.  Please pray for her heart.  And pray that she is able to process things in a healthy way.

Frazer was able to get away to snow ski last weekend with some buddies.  We are so thankful that it was a wonderful time for him and thankful for a short reprieve (relatively) of the weight that is constantly on his shoulders as husband and father. (And sooo thankful that he came back in one piece and no injuries!!)

We continue to strive to rely on our God to sustain us - to give us strength - to give us life and joy.  The light is brightest when darkness is present.  He is good.

Much love!
Dana

Friday, February 10, 2017

Virus

Hello to all!

We are keepin' on keepin' on around here.

Elle's last couple of infusions have been a little difficult.  Last week, she had a fever virus earlier in the week that rolled into her infusion day.  Then her infusion had her feeling pretty crummy and that crumminess continued into this week as she was still getting over her virus.  We had to take her in to get a chest X-ray yesterday just to make sure nothing was going on in her lungs.  The doctor ended up checking everything...lungs, blood, urine, etc. but thankfully everything checked out okay.  So we are praying that she gets healthy and strong by the time we go back up to Columbus next week.  This morning she really seems to have turned a corner.  She's super tired (having a fever for so many days in a row will do that to ya) but her cough and congestion has cleared up a lot.

We aren't sure if the virus combined with her last infusion was the culprit but her speech and muscle coordination/strength have dipped back down and her seizures have been worse.  Cognitively, though, she seems stronger.  Which is amazing.

So basically more ups and downs.  More hospital stays and doctors offices.  And as a fellow Batten mom told me the other day, when she's up, I'm up but when she's down, I'm down.  It's hard not to let my emotions ride along with Elle's ups and downs...it's hard not to let those emotions lead my days.

And the lack of sleep isn't helping matters.  I don't really get much sleep at all while I'm in Ohio with Elle and then one of our night nurses was sick this week so I'm recovering from a severely sleep-deficient week.

Please continue to pray for our travel and that the weather cooperates (which it has so far!).

Pray for our hearts as we try to find our way through each day without our Milla being here with us. 

Pray that Elle gets lots of sleep and rest the next few days and that she feels better and stronger.

Pray that the rest of us stay healthy (which we all have - miracle upon miracle!) and that this city gets healthy.  These viruses are running rampant around here!  It seems like everyone I know has at least one sick family member.

Happy weekend and much love to you and yours,
dana 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Pictures!

Sweet sisters Elle and Ann Carlyle snuggling after school

I love this picture of Ann Carlyle - grabbed a box and wanted to make a rocket ship - she is so creative :)

Another sweet snuggle moment between Elle and Ann Carlyle

Our amazing Dr. Emily at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, OH

Elle, Frazer and Milla

Sister love with Ann Carlyle and Milla

Elle


Ready to infuse!

On our way to Ohio!

A couple of weeks ago, I got to get away to the mountains with 2 of my besties

Infusion time
Ann Carlyle, Elle, me and Frazer enjoying our fire
Elle and Ann Carlyle

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hello Again

It's been awhile - honestly, I didn't realize how long it had been until I was looking back at the last update. 

Part of the radio silence has been due to busy-ness.  The whole going-to-Columbus-every-other-week thing along with the holidays and getting back in the swing of things (well, trying to, at least) has been difficult.  Also, I haven't felt like I have had anything to say.  It's weird.  I either feel too much or too little and both feelings make me clam up.

Truly, I don't know of anything else that people can do to make our treks to Columbus easier.  But it is still exhausting and hard.  Ann Carlyle hates that one of us has to go - doesn't matter which one of us, she's not happy about it.  And as of the beginning of December, Elle has been having a reaction to the enzyme infusion.  She has started running a pretty significant fever for about 48 hours post-infusion.  Also, she had a severe vomiting episode after the January 5th infusion and only a couple of rounds of zofran (anti-nausea med) kept everything down after this past week's infusion.

We have been able to get Elle's infusion out-patient in the research clinic (still on hospital property but not in-patient) since the beginning of December, but after the vomiting reaction, she was admitted to the hospital overnight so they could run (seemingly) every test known to man to make sure she didn't have some kind of infection.  Everyone was pretty worried about her because no one in the clinical trial has ever had that reaction.  (However, a 24-hour fever is relatively common.)  But it seems that this is going to be Elle's norm for awhile as the enzymes are most likely building up in her brain at this point (a good thing) and her body may be having some kind of autoimmune response to it.  We don't know if she will always feel rotten and have a fever following an infusion or if her body will eventually get accustomed to it all.

The good news is that we are seeing her have days where her seizures are way down in frequency...but the ones she has are pretty intense drop seizures.  We are also seeing an, albeit small, improvement in her speech and strength/balance.  I think her tremors are a bit better too at times.  None of these things are a constant change, but the little pockets of times where we see improvements are encouraging.  

But the fickleness of it can be difficult and discouraging.  I can't help but feel tense and exhausted riding this roller coaster of is she better/worse/the same?  I don't know if her head hurts or her tummy hurts or if she feels out of control.  Sometimes she will be screaming and crying more-so than usual and for no apparent reason.  I hate that she can't tell me what is going on and I hate that in those times, I can't fix it.

I think we can confidently say, though, that Elle's disease progression has slowed down.  This could be due to the enzymes or it could just be her path.  Milla had times of progression and times of plateauing.  Regardless, we are very thankful for Elle's slow down, especially after the months-long steep slide she had this past summer.

The physical, mental and emotional stress of her journey threatens to undo me at times.  Just getting out of bed can feel like a climbing Mount Everest.  Once I am out of bed, the ball starts rolling and fortunately carries me along for the rest of the day.  The busy-ness of life is a blessing and a curse.  I would love to not have any responsibilities and sleep this all away, but I have 3 people who greatly depend on me and who I love so much, therefore, I have to get out of bed.  And in the end, I am thankful to have my people to force me to work through my grief and not just sit in it for the rest of my life.

I still feel in the fog and shock phase much of the time, although more and more, the deep, dark, searing pain of Milla not being here touches my heart and it literally takes my breath away.  I can't even begin to express how much I miss her.  While I know with all my heart I will see her again, most likely it won't be for a very long time, and so it can feel like that time will never come.  My heart feels raw and bruised and broken and I wonder, when will it not feel like this?  When will it not be so hard to breathe in and out?  When will my chest stop hurting?  When will I feel like that person I used to be that doesn't have so much anxiety just being around other people?  And I know I will never be the person I used to be.  That person changed in October of 2014 when we got Milla's diagnosis.  And I have to be okay with that.  And I am okay with some of it...still struggling with other parts of it though.

Frazer and I are doing okay - our tanks are empty but together, we are okay.  Please pray that we will continue to stay connected and relating well to each other.  We both very much know that it takes a lot of work to make it through this together.  In the depths of grief, it is hard not to shut down and shut everyone out, even the ones you love the most.  

Also, please continue to pray for our hired night help.  We are still having issues with the staffing agency that have been going on since July.  It is utterly exhausting and has caused so much frustration and stress in our daily lives.  

Ann Carlyle is doing better, I think, being back at school.  The holidays hit us all pretty hard.  Harder than I thought they would.  She's still talking about Milla and being open about her grief - in general, she is doing well.

Thank you to everyone, again, for all your help and support with groceries, dinners, carpool, child care, Ohio travel, Ohio house, Ohio help in every way, prayers, encouragement and friendship near and far.  You people are amazing.  Thank you for helping us get through each day.  You are a God-send.  Truly.  He uses people in mighty, mighty ways - nothing is a big thing or a small thing - all are mighty.  Even when it's hard to see or feel anything but pain, He is moving, He is working.  He has never left us and He never will.  

Milla loved birds - she loved listening for them and hearing them even when she could no longer see them.  'Bird' was one of the last 4 words she could say.  She was so proud to be able to say it.  She was so excited when she would hear one sing.  I always think about the sparrow when I think of Milla.  God tells us His eye is on the sparrow and yet how much more valuable are we to Him? 

(You will find this in 2 places...Matthew and Luke. So it must be something super important that He wants us to remember...something that, perhaps, we easily and often forget.)  

My heart finds comfort and joy in thinking that His eye never left Milla.  Not for a moment.  And you know what?  His eye has never left me either.  Not for a moment.  Even though great pain and sorrow has come into my life, He stays true.  He stays the same.  Ever faithful, ever loving, ever present.

Where else can I go?  He is the Christ.  He is the Light.  He loves us so, so much.

God's love and our love to you and yours,
Dana
(I'm planning on loading some pictures onto the blog tomorrow.)