Button Buddies

When I got my first feeding tube (oh so long ago), my mom made me a “button buddy” by hand and to this day, that koala, Kevin, goes with me on every long trip to the specialists, every hospital admission, and is always arms reach away when I’m not in my “safe space” or when I’m struggling to feel strong and positive about my situation. For me, my buddy represents the love and support I recieve from my mom and the rest of my family as well as the strength and perserverence I have had since getting my first tube, my first diagnosis even. Kevin has two tubes and a central line now, and he’s been a trooper through it all.

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Kevin, my “tubie friend,” has a central line & tube(s) like mine!

My goal this year is to spread the love and the comfort that my button buddy has brought me with as many of our “newbies” as I can, and that’s all in thanks to our donors who have donated the tubes and stuffed animals or the funds for our animals and the shipping costs it takes us to send out our packages. We’ve had incredible donations from both AMT (Applied Medical Technology, Inc.)and eSutures Medical Supply Sales, both of whom are making it possible for us to send buddies to an incredibly increased amount of tubies this year than any year past ( we are still always looking for low profile tubes) and I just can’t wait to share this with you all….

 

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thank you AMT for the tubie bears!! what an incredible donation, I’m humbled and overjoyed.

When I was a little girl I LOVED my dolls. My first american girl doll looked just like me and I took her everywhere. We wore matching clothes and I even cut my hair to match hers (big mistake). For me, my dolls were so much more than just toys to have fun with, they brought me joy and comfort whereever I was – especially since I was so shy and often needed that “security blanket.” 

It’s not difficult to find dolls with wheelchairs, crutches, glasses, even diabetic kits and dolls who are beautifully bald, but feeding tubes? No. Those are still something that doesn’t even cross most people’s mind’s – and that is why I’m here.

With toys like these kids are able to share about things that may otherwise be difficult for them to communicate or to understand; through play they are able to learn from one another and see all of these new things in a way that is not scary or confusing, just kids being kids – all together, blind to any differences, and every child deserves that, tubie or otherwise. 

Button buddies allow children to be involved in as much of their loved one’s journey as possible in a way that helps them grow and understand the unknowns and the things they may be fearful of in the beginning. For instance, if the buddy goes to a child with a parent who is a tubie, the child can watch while their mom/dad is “eating” or doing fluids or changing the dressing and the child can use the buddy to do these tasks along side their parent! The same is true of siblings of tubies, classmates, and tubies themselves as they learn to care for their tubes and go through procedures, hospital visits, tube replacements, and feeds or medications that they have to do daily.

Buddies have the ability to provide comfort beyond the normal “safety blanket” item that most have and are attached to as children, it becomes another warrior in your battle and another supporter in your journey.

 

The beauty behind playing with these toys is that there is no recognition of the differences in toys, there’s no judgment, no prejudice, simply children playing together, learning as they go, growing, and that in turn becomes them accepting of one another with no qualifications, no recognition of the differences, just as they saw their toys.

When I give a button buddy to one of our little tubies and they see that tube, the light that comes into their eyes is just incredible. Suddenly that toy with a very expensive piece of plastic in its tummy changes how even the “littles” themselves see the feeding tubes! 

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You can so clearly see  that the  button buddy – a stuffed animal –  has the power to change how these children view their tubes from being a medical device that makes them different  into a part of their body that makes them special, that their tubes are not scary or gross or something to be ashamed of. When they fell in love with their Button Buddy tube and all, they have accepted themselves – tube and all.

 

Passion Over Predictability

Its really easy for my mind to go towards thinking about how my illnesses have stolen any predictability about my future; how they took me out of school, have forced me to accept that I may never have my “dream” job or may not even be able to work a “real job” at all. For someone who loves to plan and always wanted to know what was next, living in such uncertainty can be daunting. I fear living a life lacking companionship and never getting to fall in love or find my true soul mate, but then I’m reminded that my illnesses have brought to light so much in myself  that I never would have discovered if I hadn’t gotten so sick in the first place.

Instead of focusing on the things I likely won’t be able to do, I’ve started to consider all that I CAN do. I’ve discovered so much about myself that I didn’t even know was there; I have new passions and I’ve discovered talents I had no idea were hidden within me until I got sick and I have a new understanding and a new level of empathy both for the people and the world around me.

Ive strengthened relationships with my loved ones and lost many people who weren’t able to stick by me through my trials, I’ve broadened my outlook and see things in such a new and brighter perspective, and I’ve found passions that give my life more meaning than just being the “sick girl,” no matter what my body has in store.

Although I can’t eat, I’ve developed a relationship with food through cooking meals for my family. I love creating new recipes and trying new techniques with home made goods. Some people are shocked by my love for cooking, but it’s something I’ve always loved and now it’s a way for me to “enjoy meals” with my family.

I’ve rekindled my passion for photography and developed a love for painting– this one I don’t think anyone would have expected. I’ve never been the artist of the family, and although I can’t draw anything, I do have an eye for color, and I’ve found some painting techniques that work for me. Because I’ve discovered these passions and because people (not just my parents 😉 ) started buying my paintings, it has given me hope that even if I can’t graduate from college or work as a full time behavioral therapist like I had hoped, maybe there’s something more out there for me.

I’m blessed to have a community here at home as well as through chronic illness support groups online that support me in every way they can. I’ve had so much support from my local community and I’m so so thankful for each and every one of you. I also have a truly amazing family that does everything from help me with medications/treatments, drive me places, and help with any other around the house/medical things I need and they also help me be able to follow my passions and set me up for success. Not everyone in my situation is so lucky.

Chronic illnesses are exhausting and isolating, they take away so many parts of our lives that we use to identify ourselves. If you’re going to survive it with some sanity, you have to make a choice to not let your illness be the only thing that defines your life– it is always part of what defines you, but if you don’t have other distractions and passions, you’ll just about lose your mind.