when I grow up…..
I want to be Mum, and a full time carer for one of my children….
I can honestly say that the second part of that thought never crossed my mind. I never thought when I was growing up, that I would have a child with different abilities and that I would then become a full time carer.
I have spent a lot of time this week thinking about what it means to me to be a carer, following the Carer Awards on Monday, where I was announced as the Tasmanian Winner for ‘Carer of a person with a disability’.
I felt strangely humbled when my name was announced, because I feel that I don’t do any more than anyone else would do given the same circumstances….
So what does it mean to me to be a Carer?
What have I learnt from my Carer role?
but I would say one of the most important jobs of being Veronika’s carer, is to be her voice and her advocate….Veronika needs me to be her voice, until she can advocate for herself.
I am hoping to help educate around perceptions of people living with disAbility, in our local community and further afield, in particular person 1st language. As uncomfortable as it may have been at the time, I have felt I needed to be Veronika’s voice( on many occasions)…an example one time when Veronika was in emergency, at change of shift, the nurse who had been looking after Veronika had to ‘hand over’ to the next nurse to come on shift…..Veronika was referred to as ‘the downs girl in bed 4……’ I then requested that the nurse please use Veronika’s name, not a diagnosis.
I have learnt that its OK to be honest with doctors…..nearly every hospital admission Veronika has had, we have been asked if some student doctors can come and talk to us/or if we can go through a practice exam, which I don’t mind as I think of it as one way to give back to the medical profession that has looked after Veronika……a couple of years ago during one practice exam, the question came up(as it usually does) around antenatal scanning for down syndrome and diagnosis. We had declined the antenatal screening for Down syndrome, because termination wouldn’t have been an option for me. So when I said that I didn’t know Veronika had down syndrome to after she was born, I was questioned ‘why didn’t you have the screening, so you could have terminated the pregnancy….’ my response was off the cuff and straight forward ‘please don’t insult me or Veronika(who was sitting on my knee at the time), I didn’t have the screening because I wouldn’t have terminated the pregnancy, and after all isn’t it your job to preserve life?’
I have learnt that by advocating for Veronika, and being her voice, that there is a flow on effect….that conversations I have had with doctors, therapists and people we meet in our community over the last 6+ years has got people thinking and conversations happening…..
I have learnt that being a Carer can carry over into the community, and this year I was excited to be offered a role as a community member on the Ministerial Taskforce – Improved support for students with disability. It is such a great opportunity to be able to not only advocate for Veronika, but all students with disability.
I have learnt that when I was growing up, I could never of possibly imagined that I would be a Carer for one of my children…but I love it
There have been two times on this journey with Veronika that the phrase “its just not fair” has crossed my mind.
The first time I thought “its not fair” was after her 1st MRI from when Veronika was only a week old, and the NICU doctor said Veronika had brain injury from the stroke she had before she was born, and that she would never walk, due to the combination of brain injury and trisomy 21.
The second time was just over a month ago. This last month has been tough, really tough.
A couple of months ago Veronika’s routine hip surveillance xray showed her left hip had migrated quickly. Just over a month ago I mentioned something to Veronika’s private physio during a school visit that was concerning me. She examined Veronika and shared my concern, throwing in a “its just not fair, with all that Veronika’s been through, we don’t want her having hip issues”. I said to her physio, that thought had crossed my mind, that “it’s just not fair” and now you her physio are saying the same, so really “it mustn’t be fair”.
This last month has seen Veronika’s gait(the way she walks) change significantly. So much that I messaged a short video of her walking to her private physio late one Saturday and she saw her the following day. Following that appointment she contacted her paed, and then many of the doctors and therapists who look after our Miss Veronika.
Later that week we spent an afternoon in emergency after Veronika indicated she was in pain. Up until that day Veronika had NEVER indicated when she had been in pain.
Fast forward to yesterday and Veronika had an appointment with her rehab physician who comes over from Melbourne. He examined Veronika and said that her hip needs repairing, and we waited to see the orthopedic surgeon who was over from the children s hospital. Upon examining Veronika he agreed that Veronika needs her left hip repaired.
Veronika will need a left hip open reduction, and a pelvic and a femoral osteotomy. As far as hip surgery goes this is about as big as it gets…..
Following the examination and during the discussion, the orthopedic surgeon hit me with reality…. “I have to be honest with you, and tell you realistically that there is a strong possibility that Veronika will NEVER walk again following the surgery”….that was the moment the tears started. Without surgery Veronika will end up permanently in her wheelchair at some point down the track, and with surgery there is the possibility she will never walk again. I said through tears to the room full of specialists and therapists, that we were told once before Veronika would never walk, and look at her go now. If anyone can learn to walk twice its Veronika.
So for now I am past “it’s not fair”….and I am onto “it is what it is”.
There is no point dwelling on the thoughts of “it’s not fair”, for now “it is what it is”, and lets stay positive and look to the future of giving Veronika every opportunity to walk again post surgery(we don’t have a date yet for surgery). Look at that smile, how can we not give Veronika every opportunity…with a mix of love, determination, tears and a whole lot of therapy let’s give Veronika the time to fulfill her limitless potential.
In 2012 we were working through transitioning Veronika from ECIS(early childhood intervention services) where she had been attending ‘school/playgroup’ since she was 7 weeks old. Part of that transition was taking part in the pre-kinder program at the school Veronika was going to go to kindergarten at.
I had been talking with Veronika’s teacher at ECIS how I had wanted to do a little ‘about me’ note for each of the students Veronika would be in kinder with. The basics of her diagnosis’ and how that may impact Veronika in the classroom. Its something that I was wanting to do since I had seen one a friend had done a couple of years prior. I thought what a good way to introduce Veronika to her future ‘peers’. Many of Veronika’s classmates were siblings of Jordan and/or Jakob(Veronika’s brothers who were already at the school) so they had known Veronika already, but there were new families attending school.
Veronika’s teacher at ECIS and myself spent a lot of time on the wording, we wanted it to be at the 4 and 5 year old level her classmates were. Not big medical words, but also use the proper medical terms, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy.
and this is what we came up with….
I had quite a few parents come up and say it was great to have the ‘about me’ note, and that they had read it with their child after the pre-kinder session.
Then following on from that I had a conversation with Principal. We decided that I should share a little of Veronika’s journey to kinder, at one of the parent information sessions. I knew if I got up to talk in front of everyone I would cry, mostly happy tears as starting school is a huge milestone for every child, but for us when at one point we thought Veronika might not survive, let alone walk into kinder, with her walking frame. So I decided a short video would be best…
Maybe if you have a child that is transitioning to school in 2015 this is something that you may be interested in doing for you child, for their peers.
My girl really is AMAZING, yes I already knew but today she continued to make me so proud of her determination.
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog about Veronika continuing to walk(I will post link in comments). Veronika’s Physio was extremely concerned about Veronika hyperextending her knee and the pressure it was putting on her knee.
Veronika’s Physio looked into a product called kiddieGAITS. They are carbon fibre orthotics. 7 weeks ago Veronika trialled them with her Physio who thought they would be a good fit for Veronika’s needs. We saw the rehab physician a few days later and he had already suggested Veronika try carbon fibre orthotics and he suggested it again, to which we replied she trialled them a few days before…..
Fast forward to today. Veronika was fitted and collected her kiddieGAITS.
Veronika’s orthotist was very excited to see how Veronika goes in them as Veronika is the 1st child in Hobart to get them. Veronika will need time to adjust to them as they activate muscles she possibly hasn’t used before. So we decided after a short walk across the orthotists room we would wait again to after school.
The YouTube clip shows how uneasy Veronika was when we 1st put them on her after school(pulling at my heart strings wondering if I was doing the right thing). The 2nd part of the clip was 2 hours later. My girl really is amazing pushing her boundaries of her comfort zone. To say I’m proud of her today is an understatement.
Obviously technology like this doesn’t come cheap, at $1000 for the pair, but we are blessed to live where we do. Half of the cost will be funded through the hospital, the other half we pay(after what we can claim back from private health)….and perfect timing really as this month we received the top of for carer supplement and that will cover the gap.
We have showed the video to Veronika’s Physio who is excited to see where these take Veronika, and we will see her next week for an appointment. In 2 weeks we go back to the orthotist who wants to do some videos of Veronika in her AFO’s and then in her new kiddieGAITS to compare for her records.
Today has been a great day on Veronika’s journey.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme(NDIS) trial turns 1 tomorrow….for our home state Tasmania it’s been rolled out for the 15-24 year old cohort. The federal government has begun tightening it’s belt on what’s deemed as ‘reasonable and necessary supports’. One item in question is iPads….for us an iPad was the beginning of Veronika developing fine motor skills. Due to her severe hypotonia everywhere, combined with her left hemiplegic cerebral palsy, she couldn’t get a cause and effect out of ‘traditional toys’. We purchased Veronika an iPad out of the carer supplement when she was 2 and a few months old. She went from minimal fine motor skills to isolating her index finger in 3 weeks and we haven’t looked back. Today those fine motor skills of her isolating her index finger is now being used to give Veronika a voice. We have been trialling an Accent 1000 device for the last few weeks, with amazing results. I have now managed to get the app onto her iPad, it’s no where near as good as the Accent 1000, but for now it will have to do. The Accent 1000 has been returned to access communication ready for the next person to trial it….
the link to the story ABC ran on the NDIS turning 1