Monday, I was sitting with Skylar watching a movie in the afternoon like we usually do. I had just finished massaging her gums hoping to encourage those teeth to poke through. She usually swallows a lot of saliva when I do that so I "cough" her and pull up anything that might have gotten into her lungs. Afterwards, she's usually pretty stable so we just sit, watch movies and I will stretch her legs, ankles and feet suctioning her saliva out when needed.
Around 3 or so I noticed that her pulse-ox machine was running on battery power. I didn't think much about it because sometimes the cord wiggles loose so I just assumed that is what happened and would fix it later. Five minutes later, I went to turn on the suction machine... nothing. You've got to be joking. I flipped the switch frantically. I was home alone with no help this time, but I remembered I had back-up power and managed to remain calm. I ran to get the battery and inverter that we had used for our attempted trip to the doctor's office. I plugged in her bi-pap and the bi-pap was alarming and had a warning light flashing, but no error message or explanation as to why. Regardless, it wasn't working and I was on limited time where seconds count so I tossed that option aside. The back-up battery for the bi-pap didn't work a few days ago so I didn't even try that and went straight for the generator. Meanwhile, Skylar is happy watching her movie, but it only takes a second for her to choke. At the moment, the portable suction machine that has about 5-10 minutes of battery was my only defense.
I grabbed the key to the shed, ran outside, grabbed the 30 pound generator, ran not so fast back to the house and set it by the back door. I read the instruction manual once before, but I didn't want to mess anything up so I took a few seconds to flip through the pages to make sure I had everything right. Step 1: for a cold start, leave the choke closed and slowly open it up as the generator warms up - check! Step 2: check, Step 3: check and by step 4 or 5 the generator was on and running great. I plugged an extension cord in, green light - power is on! I ran in as soon as it started to get Skylar on bi-pap. As soon as I had the mask on her face, the generator slowed and the power on her bi-pap went out. You've got to be freaking kidding me!!! I ran out, green light is off. I tried to re-start the generator - nothing.
I called Kyle (who had ridden his bike to go do work) and told him to come home immediately - the power was out, every back-up option had failed and I needed help. I called my neighbor who was 5 minutes away and said she would come straight into our driveway. Meanwhile, I am about to have a heart attack because I am totally helpless and was tempted to call 911 just to get a vehicle out to our house for power. I kept repeating out loud, "God is in control, God is in control" to keep myself calm and sane. My neighbor pulled in (4 kids with her in her van - the oldest girl comes to read to Skylar every now and then) and helped me get Skylar into her stroller and then into the van. Thank God we have a little dinky inverter with a cigarette adapter that runs the bi-pap. Skylar was upset and crying, but at least stable. Kyle arrived minutes later on his bike, beet red, dripping in sweat, coughing and exhausted from his 10 minute ride home on a bike without working gears.
Minutes after that, the power had kicked back on and Kyle double checked to make sure everything was working. Seconds before we were going to transfer her back to the house, something happened in the car and the bi-pap power went out. I quick pulled her mask off, scooped her up in my arms, had kyle grab the pulse-ox machine attached to her and we ran in to do a cough assist and move the mucous/saliva that she was choking on. Once we got her stable and on bi-pap, she passed out for her nap. Kyle and I were right behind her for the nap, but I had a nice little emotional breakdown first. Poor Kyle had an extremely tough bike ride to get to us and wasn't sure what he was going to come home to. We both were so exhausted. I hate SMA. I hate the fact that we are so dependent on power, the fact that my daughter could die at any moment, and that there is nothing we can do to save her in the end.
So later that night, we found ourselves in the middle of a wicked storm and the power was flashing on and off for a little bit. Thankfully, it never went completely off, but we were ready to go back in the van in the event that it did. In hind sight, I think I flooded the generator. I left the choke closed to start it and as soon as it started I ran in the house to hook Skylar up to it and was going to open the choke when I came back out because I didn't know how long it took to "warm up" as it said in the instructions. Give me a computer, a stereo, a modem or anything electronics and I can set it up, but electrical and power stuff is not my forte. I don't know what was wrong with our battery and inverter. The inverter came with really wimpy wires and I don't think they were connecting securely to the battery because the battery was fully charged.
Lesson learned, we're going to do trial "emergency" test runs once a month to make sure everything is running well and working. We want to know this equipment so we could do everything with our eyes closed. We're also looking into a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) system so that we can keep her bi-pap plugged in at all times.
So after the storm, the next morning, Kyle was on his way to work and noticed a lot of emergency vehicles three streets over. As he got closer, he came upon a vehicle that was smashed completely in half due to a huge tree limb falling on it. The driver had to have been killed instantly because the bough was right across the seats. The driver ended up being a young guy in his early 20s visiting a friend for coffee. There was no warning. He was just driving down the street. It's amazing to us how the timing of things causes events to happen - good or bad.
It's rather mind-boggling to think back through events and ponder, "if only..." and the turn of events could've been completely different. Some attribute it to fate, to coincidence, but I like to think there's purpose to everything - even something as tragic as that incident. Monday, we could've lost Skylar. The driver of the 18-wheeler that knocked out two power poles causing a large chunk of west midtown to lose power had no intention of sending me into a panic that day and doesn't even know the effect of his accident. If that incident would have happened earlier or later in the day, Skylar could've been a lot less stable and we may have lost her. GA Power was awesome yet again and had it fixed within 30 minutes. Had it taken longer, Skylar might not be here. That driver who lost his life from a huge tree branch falling on his car could've survived if he had taken longer to say goodbye to his friend or any other event he did that day. Seconds. It truly blows my mind. Even with our belief in God, it's hard to understand things like this and I don't think anyone ever fully will. We know we live in a broken world where things aren't perfect and thank God that it was not Skylar's time to go to heaven last week.
Below is a picture of Skylar with her bi-pap on with covered in her new spring blanket that was given to us by Blankets 4 SMA and our new owl pillow in the background that was hand-made by a good friend!
Anyway, it's taken a while to process everything. Plus, we've been busy with work, taxes (yes, we wait until the last minute), gardening and other random stuff. Tessa, our awesome photographer, came back to take pictures of our family again (since it's been almost a year since our last photo shoot) and we're so excited to share some of them with you! You can see the rest on her blog. It was a little sad because Skylar didn't smile at all - she was extremely tired and was ready for a nap, but Tessa is so talented and we're really happy with them.
I have been doing a lot more photography myself and am trying to find a balance of the amount of work I can handle while still getting enough rest and taking care of Skylar. For the first time in two years, I am sick. Our nurse has been out for over a week and a half now which has been difficult since we've been spoiled with her, but we're managing. It couldn't have come at a worse time since I am trying to keep out of the nursery as much as possible so Skylar doesn't get sick. Thankfully, all of Skylar's grandparents are close by and are able to come and at least sit with Skylar so she's not alone, even though she has to stay on bi-pap all day. Please pray that Nurse Natalie will be able to come back and I'll get well soon and no one else will get sick!!!
Hopefully my next update won't contain any emergency situations and will be full of good news :)
One last thing for all you runners out there, a good friend of ours is organizing a 10K team for Skylar for the race on May 21 in Grant Park. It's called "GeneRACEtion" which I thought was really cool because "gene" and "race" are in the title and we're hoping gene-therapy (among other things) will help us win the race for a cure for SMA. Also, the race benefits a senior citizen group and Kate’s Club, which is a non-profit organization that empowers children and teens facing life after the death of a parent or sibling. Who knows, it could be from SMA! Anyway, for more details, check out the awesome website our friend put together.