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.

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If you want to sponsor a Button Buddy you can do so by making a donation of anywhere from $12 (for just the animal) – $30 (for the button & “surgery”) – each bear is valued at $30 and shipping is $8-$15 each.

PayPal & Venmo are both @positivelyrachel.com

You can also purchase an animal and send that to us to use to create a buddy! We have an amazon list or you can pick one out on your own and ship it to us!

Here is our AMAZON Buddy link!

https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/W9IXBH9TFV4A?ref_=wl_share

Xoxo

Rachel

 

Chronic Illnesses: Who Knows?

In the past few months I’ve seen increased frequency and severity in my symptoms and even new symptoms coming to light. When I have flare ups or new issues I often become more aware of my current physical state, and ironically, while doing so, I usually think I’m better off until these harsh realizations, moments of brutality that shine a light on the fact that no, I’m not better, I’m actually worse, but I’ve just gotten used to being sick, used to this flare up that just never left, that became my new “normal.”

Though I’m used to high levels of pain, severe nausea, frequent migraines, fatigue, etc. when I wake up and have new symptoms or symptoms I’ve had before all of a sudden “amplified,” it can be super frustrating, discouraging – not to mention painful. But when these “flare ups” come about and decide to stick around for more than a day or two, the mind starts to wonder….

Is this a flare? Are these symptoms going to go back to “normal?” Is there something more serious going on?

Pain is a hard thing to talk about and understand because everyone has a different relationship with pain, everyone’s “scale” is their own – my 6 could be your 9 for example – and you can’t really know what anyone else’s is unless you’re living it. My pain has been a totally new phenomenon the last couple weeks, my body is searing, my head is killing me, it’s just relentless. This pain is different from my “normal” pain, though, so it’s kind of hard to compare them severity wise, it’s hard to simplify it to a word like “throbbing, stabbing, burning, etc.” or a number 1-10 – I’m in severe pain and discomfort all over my body and it won’t give me a break — I wish that were enough to figure out a way to help, right?

“What concerns me the most is the unknown….it is just too overwhelming to think about…”

When my symptoms cause me to be even more “disabled” than normal, when I can’t get up or out of the house for a week or more, I’m hardly able to be around others because of the pain and stimulation, and I’m sleeping excessively or unable to sleep at all, it can be hard to find motivation, hard to force yourself to get up and get going, doing something as simple as shower or change into fresh pjs…

“No one really explained to me the depth or the magnitude of that diagnosis, no one explained how serious and life changing this chronic illness can be….”

There are so many unknowns with chronic illnesses, and most of us learn all about that through personal experiences, not from doctors or even google doctor! Living with conditions that even doctors don’t know enough about can be scary, all of a sudden everything you know is just swept out from underneath you, you’re left with so little understanding and no control over your own body, your own life. This is all shocking, it’s devastating, and you have got to find a way to embrace it, conquer it, and grow right along side it, otherwise, it will break you through and through, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, mind, body, and soul.

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.

 

Recovery: The Real Challenge with Surgery

The past two weeks have been even more challenging than my “normal” for both my body and my mind. I had surgery two weeks ago to place a new/additional feeding tube and we ran into some challenges and now I am trying to heal and recover.

I’ve had to spend more time in bed since getting home from my surgery because I’ve been unable to move much on my own. For the first week I couldn’t sit up, stand, walk, sit down, go to the bathroom, brush my hair, or do anything for myself. Being 100% dependent on other people is really hard, regardless of the fact that I was already disabled and very dependent on my parents for so much even prior to surgery.

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Kevin needs his new tube placed!
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Baxter alerting me.

I have to admit that the first week or so post- surgery is all a blur. There was lots of pain, many doctors, a painful car ride home (or two), a lot of sleeping, medications, ambulance, pain, another ambulance, an awful ER, pain…. But what I do remember is that both of my parents were right there by my side the whole time. There was never any talk of hiring a nurse to do the hard work or asking another family member or close friend to come help so my parents could go back to work. Every day I had at least one if not both of my parents there taking care of me, no complaints or mention of using up their sick days.

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3 tubes?!

For the first many days I slept 20+ hours a day with the help of pain medication, nausea medication, and sedatives, which all together helped make me more comfortable. After my ER trip on Monday/Tuesday I stopped taking the heavy pain medications because they delay gastric emptying so I also stopped sleeping and instead started having major insomnia again. By Wednesday/Thursday I was starting to walk on my own and eventually getting out of bed by myself, too. Although I run out of energy quickly and my pain levels are still severe, every step forward is worth a celebration.

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Our one and only trick or treater 🙂 My favorite visitor!
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Always blessed and spoiled by my parents’ coworkers!

Having such a supportive and involved family made all the difference for me; I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with meds or finding a good nurse or anything because my parents and sister were on 24/7 “Rachel Duty” for as long as I needed them. We also have an incredible community that supports me by sending cards, flowers, and gifts but they also support my parents at work and through facebook and texts/calls of support and well wishes. Being the parents and care takers of a young adult as sick as I am is no easy task and it’s extremely important to have that support.

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Mom sleeping in the ER.

Surgery is tough, but recovery is hell. Waking up each morning in major pain and knowing it’s not going away isn’t easy on anyone physically or mentally, but each small improvement or sign of progress gives me hope. Life is precious and every day that your body is functional and pain free is a gift; I encourage you to take advantage of every day and live life to the fullest, always follow your heart and do more of what makes you happy. Find joy in every day.

Xoxo