Tuesday, August 25, 2015


It's the end of August now and things are still getting better in the sweet world of Miss Josie girl.
She's getting stronger. No "milestones" reached yet, but she is absolutely stronger. She is more connected to everyone around her. And the seizures are mild.

We're heading in the right direction.

"Believe" is a song from My Morning Jacket's latest album The Waterfall. I've become obsessed with this band, and can't believe (no pun) it took me so long to pay attention to them. Jim James is from another planet. The band is just amazing. "Believe" is actually my least favorite song on the album, but the word is among my top favorite words in the English language. Yo creo - it's pretty nice in Spanish too.

So, the big news is.... (drumroll, please).. We got the medicinal hemp oil (CBD) for Josie to try as an anti-seizure medicine. I've written about it before, the marijuana-derived cannabidiol (CBD), which is stripped of THC (the part of marijuana that makes you high). It's been all over the news, including a CNN special called "Weeds," about it being tremendously successful in helping children and adults with seizures. More and more states are now legalizing it. New York is pretty late to the party, but we can now get it shipped here. So no more considerations of moving to Colorado for me!

Josie had her first dose today. Numero uno. We are continuing all her other (heavy duty) meds while we try this and the idea is that if she doesn't have any seizures, we can start to reduce the others. So we will wait and see how it works and I'll do a whole lot of believing that this can be the trick.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lost in my Mind

I can't believe July is almost over. Boy, this summer is flying by. What a difference a year makes! Last summer we were no strangers to grand mal seizures, ambulance rides, hospital stays, and anxiety. Things are so much better now!

In all areas, Josie is doing so much better.

Yes, she is still having seizures, but they are much less frequent (about one a week) and much less severe. In fact, many people might not even realize she's having one if they don't know what they look like. Still, the goal is no seizures and we will continue to do everything to make them go away - for good!

My heart still breaks when a seizure takes control of Josie, but we all handle it with ease now. The rescue med we use now called medazalum is much easier on her. The diastat suppository we used to use would knock her out for the rest of the day. The medazalum, which is a nasal spray, stops the seizure and doesn't knock her out. Luckily, we haven't had to use the diastat in a very long time.

So what is helping? It's so hard to know. She is on three anti-seizure meds and a ketogenic diet. We avoid the things we thought could be triggers, like when she gets too warm or being over-stimulated. It's hard to know exactly what is helping, but we're just happy to know something is.

She's stronger. She may not have reached any "milestones" yet, like crawling, rolling over, etc., but she has great neck control and is walking in her walker better, and still trying so hard to move that little body.

Speaking of that little body, it ain't so little! She's getting big!

At her last doctor's visit, we learned that for the first time she's actually on the growth charts for her age! She was always below the charts for height and weight and I decided not to pay it any mind. But, now she is in the 15th percentile for both (I have to look at her records again). And it's no surprise that she's grown, she is so tall and getting so heavy! She's making my arms pretty strong.

I continue to stay positive about Josie. I like to think about how possible it is that there could be cure one day. There are incredible advances in gene therapy and it's very likely that if a drug is discovered to help other conditions, it could be applicable for Foxg1.

As positive as I am, I realize I have a trigger. There is one thing that sets me back and just makes me sad. That is being around other little girls Josie's age. Being in Montauk all summer with so many friends, it seems like I am surrounded by adorable, sassy, sweet, and hilarious little girls ages two to five. Josie will be four in November. I love these girls. they are my close friend's daughters. I love to be girly with them and get right down to their level, which is perhaps a little too easy for me, but when I see them all huddled around each other holding hands and dancing in a circle, I just wish that Josie could join them.

I see where Josie would be right now in her life if she didn't have Foxg1. I would know her personality. She would have friends and opinions and scheduled activities like dance class and gymnastics. She would call for me. Would she call me mama or mommy? She would say hilarious things and shake her butt to music. Would she have tantrums or be easy like Tanner has always been? She would be potty trained by now. She would be in the youngest group at camp. Would she be a girly-girl or a tom-boy? I have a feeling she'd be a girly-girl. Well, actually, she is a girly-girl and she does show her personality. She laughs and smiles and only cries when she's trying to tell us something. It's not that I don't know Josie. She is full of personality. I just can't help but get lost in thoughts of what she would be like right now, when I am around little girls her age.

Anyway, she swam today on her own! I bought this float by waterway babies that is designed for children with low muscle tone. It keeps her head above water so she can use her arms and legs without being held. It took me a while to let go, but once I did it, it was amazing. She loved it.

I will post the video as soon as I fix my iPhotos on my Mac (it doesn't want to load my photos). Stay tuned for pictures and video of the little swimmer.

This post title, of course, is a song title, "Lost in My Mind" by The Head and the Heart. I chose it in reference to feeling a bit lost in my mind when I'm around little girls Josie's age. Don't we all get lost in our minds, though? Of course we do. I also chose it because I recently saw a solo performance by Jonathan Russell, one of the singer-songwriters from the band. It was an intimate, lovely performance at a little outdoor venue on a lake across the street from our house. Nights like those make me get out of my head and just make me feel grateful for all that I have.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Easy to Love You

If there's one constant with Josie, it's that everyone who meets her falls in love with her - instantly.

My post title is a Grateful Dead song. "You don't know how easy it is.. You don't know how easy it is to love you."

Oh, but Josie knows. How could she not?

Speaking of those who love this little girl, her soon-to-be 11-year-old cousin, Macy, leads the pack.

Yesterday, Josie and I had a Skype call with Macy's class. Macy has been talking about Josie all year long. She wrote an essay about Josie, made Josie her "Time Person of the Year," created a logo for Foxg1, and honored Josie by holding her Foxg1 banner while running a lap with her class.

I would have loved to bring Josie to Macy's class rather than Skyping, but that would take away from Josie's therapies, so once again, we thank technology for these incredible connections we make.

Each student asked questions, and such great questions. Not that I think there are any bad questions - there is no judgement in curiosity.

"If Josie can't talk, how do you know what's bothering her?" "What is her day like?" " What kind of medicine does she take and do you know if she doesn't like it?"

I love answering questions about Josie. I've noticed as my friend's children are getting a little older, they have questions for me, but they're not sure how to ask. Most adults are hesitant to ask.
For the record, I welcome them all. I love to talk about Josie and to teach anyone, children especially, that it's ok to talk about the fact that Josie is different. At the end of the day, I believe we're helping so many people learn that we're all dealt a different deck of cards in life. I explained to them that we're not sad, we're inspired because Josie does and will continue to amaze us.

I think that the people who have Josie in their lives are much better for it. I really think she touches people in a way that can't be put to words and she makes people slow down and gain perspective. It's just so easy to love that little girl.

Macy's essay:
January 13, 2015
Macy Millones

If you had a super-power, what would it be and how would you use it to make a difference in someone’s life?

If I had a super-power it would be the power to cure every disease or medical condition or just a plain old sickness in the world. I chose that super-power because my cousin has a neurological genetic disorder called FOXG1 Syndrome that impacts her ability to walk, talk or crawl. She is three years old and cannot do any of those things, but I have high hopes of finding a cure. I try and help in as many ways as possible such as doing fundraisers, spreading awareness, and much more. I love my cousin and hope that she can have the same experiences as I do in life. I hope that she can share my love of using words in poetry. Not only would I use my super-power to cure FOXG1 Syndrome, but also I would use it to cancer, ALS, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and many more diseases. I hope that this super-power becomes real one day. I have faith.

We love you, Macy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

O-o-o child, things are gonna get easier.

"Ooo-oo- things will get brighter."

How good is that song? One of the most covered songs ever and for good reason. It always reminds me that hard times will pass and the important part is to find the joy and lesson in every moment. Josie knows it too - that things are gonna get easier. She's the one who reminds me of that all the time.

Things are getting easier, and better. Josie is showing some serious cognitive and physical improvement.

Before I get there I want to say that I've sat in front of my computer many times trying to blog, but kept stopping. I wanted to write about something very very sad that happened in February.

I woke up one morning and checked our private Facebook Foxg1 Family page and saw that one of our little fox's, Beatrice, passed away in her sleep. I never met Beatrice in person, or any of the other Fox families for that matter, but I felt like I knew her mom, Kathleen, from our online community. I knew Beatrice's face and smile so well and I always thought she looked quite a bit like Josie.

We all support each other in this group and share stories of hard times and accomplishments. The one thing we don't expect to hear about is that a child passed away. There are just no words to explain what that feels like. When I read about Beatrice, I cried instantly and for days. I know it doesn't mean this will happen to Josie, I know it won't, but it just hit so close to home. And the sadness I feel for Kathleen and her husband is so immense. Kathleen doesn't know what happened that night - why Beatrice passed away. She says she won't have autopsy results for about 12 months, which seems like an awfully long time to keep her waiting.

So now we pray to Beatrice, our angel Fox to look over us and help us reach the cure. And to lighten up this story, just a few days after Beatrice passed, Kathleen gave birth to her baby boy.

I'm writing this post on a Wednesday late afternoon. Josie had two seizures today. One at 3 am and one at 2pm. She has a bad cold and maybe that's the trigger. Two in one day is rare. Her meds have been helping to keep her seizures mild, though. They are very mild and the medazalum (rescue drug) stops them within minutes. She also started a new med called Fycompa recently. I think it's helping. And we are weening of Keppra, which I don't think helped and only made her restless.

I've been bringing Josie back to Keep Moving Forward for intense physical therapy and I am seeing progress. They work her hard there and sometimes she grunts like a 200 pound weightlifter (not really). They are saints at this center. I've seen some amazing improvements from some of the other disabled patients there and it's just so encouraging. Josie isn't staying in one spot on the floor anymore. She scoots in a circle and is trying so hard to get those knees under her to crawl.

She is trying so hard to talk too. She waves now and we swear she is saying "Hi!" She will watch my mouth and move it to imitate me. Or she'll just laugh in my face like I'm crazy. That's cool. It's so cute.

Some day, yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter
Ooh-oo child
Things are gonna be easier
Ooh-oo child
Things'll get brighter.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Where have You Been??

That blog title is a song by Rhianna. And Rich and Tanner would roll their eyes and look at each other when I say, "we have a dance to that song in my dance class!" I say that often when we listen to Tanner's pop radio stations. And he says, without fail, "please don't start doing your dance, mom." I'm officially embarrassing.

Anyway, where have we been? Why haven't I been blogging? I don't know why, but I can say it's so amazing that so many people have reached out to me to ask! If you're reading this, thank you so much for caring about us.


1. We have nurse care!!

We can actually sleep through the night - sort of.

Well, the truth is, it's not a perfect solution and one of us is still sleeping with one eye open every night.

One problem is that there are about 4-5 different nurses who rotate shifts. They don't know Josie's ways. Her seizures are not classic convulsion seizures that are obvious to anyone. And she has so many other movements that could be confused with a seizure. The nurses don't know her yet, and we don't feel comfortable assuming they will know what is and what is not a seizure.

One nurse was holding Josie while her seizure started and he didn't know. I don't blame him at all. Who would know that the way she started to breath a little heavier and widen her eyes meant her seizure was starting. So we ask them to get us no matter what.

"If she twitches funny and you're not sure, get me."

The fact that it's not me or Rich staring at her all night is an incredible blessing. I sure as hell don't mind if I'm woken up a million times.

Another problem with the night nurses - and this is kind of funny, but not funny - they fall asleep!! I told Rich we need a monitor on Josie and a monitor on the nurse so we know if he or she is actually watching her. It's happened a number of times. Again, I don't blame them. It's nearly impossible to sit in a dark bedroom in a comfy rocking chair through the entire night and not nod off. Sometimes I just say their name and they wake up. Other times I have to give a full on nudge to their shoulder. I always laugh a little because waking people up is just funny, but in this case it's really not funny. She needs to be watched.

The upside is that we do have a nurse or two who really never fall asleep and hopefully they'll all get to know her better. But, one of us has the video monitor right next to our face all night and we both take casual strolls into her room throughout the night. It's still better than it was.

2. Josie has had two long (10 days and 12 days) seizure-free periods in the past 2 months.

Well, while I try to focus on the positive, those seizure-free reprieves came after her worst month for frequency. In December she started having seizures almost every day. Most of them were not as sever as others in the past, but some were still severe. I couldn't figure out if the combination of her ketogenic diet and meds was causing them to lessen in severity, but increase in frequency, or if the cocktail was just causing new milder seizures in between. Or would she be having more frequent severe seizures if not for this particular cocktail. It's just impossible to know. We do know that on the two occasion that we raised her Onfi, she had a nice long seizure-free run.

3. We went to Florida for more than 2 weeks over the Christmas break! Josie was a champ. She was great to travel with and a big part of the seizure-free run was while we were away. Unfortunately, they started again in the last few days there. Our Montauk babysitter, Ariel stayed with us for the entire time and that was beyond helpful. And Josie got to do her favorite activity - swim!

4. Josie will be having her adenoids removed on Feb. 26th and at the same time her GI will do a scope of her throat. I'm not excited for surgery of course, so I won't spend too much energy on it right now.

Here are a bunch of pictures from Xmas morning (Josie was fast asleep still) through our Florida trip.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

No Doubt

We can put the question of whether or not these are seizures behind us. There is no doubt that they are.

Last week was loaded with doctor visits. By the fifth appointment I felt a lot more confident in our direction than I did in my last post.

First we saw an ENT, Dr. Max April (NYU), to discuss Josie's sleep study results. The sleep study showed mild obstructive apnea. Dr. April put a mini camera on a wire down Josie's nose and showed us her adenoids, which were a little large. There was nothing else of concern. He said he would only remove them if we were doing something else that required her to be put under anesthesia. That was we can take advantage of her already being under. Well, we have wanted to do a scope of her throat to see if she has something called EOE or Eosinophilic Esophagitis. The subject of EOE came up when she stopped eating food in July. She continues to drink her bottles, but stopped eating. The thought at the time was let's see if she has EOE before we discuss a g-tube.

Anyway, fast forward to the last appointment of the week. We saw a new pediatric GI at NYU, Dr. Moy, who works with Dr. April often. Much was discussed, including a possible g-tube down the road. But, what was decided for now, is that we will go ahead and do the scope of her throat while having Dr. April remove her adenoids at the same time. And soon after that, we will do a 24-hour ph probe to determine the degree of reflux she is experiencing. So, I'm waiting to find out what day this surgery will be.

Now on to the seizures, we saw Josie's Neurologist Dr. Maytal and I told him all about the EEG at NYU that didn't pick up her grand mal seizure. He said, "There is no question that these are seizure. I saw it in my office and she has a genetic condition characterized with seizures. The seizure was probably too deep in her brain to be seen on the EEG. That happens." I believe this 100%, but will Dr. Davinsky?

Two days later we went to see Dr. Davinsky again and when I told him what Dr. Maytal said, he said "I agree." He said we do not have to try to capture another one on another EEG, as was previously discussed. And, he added, in a few months when the next trial opens for epiliolex (the cannabis anti-seizure drug) if we feel that it's the right idea for Josie, we will put her in it.

The good news is that we are seeing some improvement with her seizures since starting the ketogenic diet. Josie is still having frequent seizures, every two-to-three days, but the severity of them is much less. I don't know if it's just the diet or the combination of the diet and the new nasal spray rescue med, medazalum, or maybe it's a combination of all her meds, but the point is, they are less severe.

We talked about weening her off some of the meds that, as far as we saw, didn't help. If they didn't work, we would love to remove the side effects and let her true personality shine through. She is a lot more alert and connected lately, especially with her brother. It's so amazing how much she pays attention to him and adores him. Well, it's hard not to, but they have a very special bond.

Here they are together cuddling on the couch...

All of the doctors we saw, with the exception of Dr. Maytal, are NYU doctors. We also saw Dr. Kothare, the sleep neurologist, who wrote several books on sleep and the brain. Dr. Kothare came from Boston Children's Hospital where he saw a number of other children with Foxg1. It's refreshing when the doctor knows the condition. I feel so good having a team and perhaps one of the best medical teams in the world.

Dr. Davinsky is the neurologist we've been looking for. He's on the pulse and involved with the new medications and trials. We're continuing to discuss the drug that is approved in Europe that can potentially "fix" gene mutations. I feel that we're in the best hands now. I was pointed to Dr. Davinsky by a high school friend Kevin, who messaged me to tell me that a friend of his has a child who is in the epidiolex trial and he would be happy to speak to me. I called his friend as we spoke for an hour. As you can imagine, there is an immediate connection when I speak to another parent who is dealing with seizures and a genetic condition. This dad told me to do whatever I can to get in to see Dr. Davinsky.

I'm so grateful for my friend and this dad for pointing me in the direction that I have a very good feeling about. It is a reminder how that sometimes going out of your way to share something with someone that may help them can make an incredible difference - maybe even lead to a cure!

And yes, my music reference is Gwen Stefani's '90's band, No Doubt, whose album (or cassette tape) I played until the ribbon broke.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The more I know.. the less I understand.

I was so full of hope in my last post. I thought we'd spend a few nights at NYU, capture a seizure on an EEG, and get Josie in the trial for epidiolex.

Well, that wasn't quite the turnout. Actually, we are more confused now than we were before going to NYU for the week.

So, Josie was admitted on a Tuesday. It was the only time I actually hoped for her to have a seizure. We needed it to be captured and it had been a few days since her last one, so chances were good that she would have one.

Well, she sure did put on a perfect performance on Wednesday night.

I noticed that her usual restless activity changed by the sound of her breathing. Rich and I recently realized that it's the sound of her breathing that lets us know it's starting to happen. She started to stiffen and went on to have a 12 minute seizure. A few minutes in, we gave her the Medazalin spray. It's the new rescue med that Dr. Davinsky prescribed. She continued to stiffen on and off, and after about five minutes she stayed stiff for at least 10 seconds. So we went for the Diastat.

Before this event, I had discussed with the doctor on-call and our nurse that in the event of a seizure, I have the rescue meds.

That was the plan.

I administered the Diastat and about one minute later, our nurse come running back in to the room and was about to give Josie another dose of Diastat in her butt.

I stopped her.

I don't even want to think what would have happened if I didn't catch this. We have strict instructions not to use Diastat twice in a 24-hour period. Medazalin can be used multiple times. It's a nasal spray that supposedly works faster and shouldn't have the prolonged knock-out affect after.

Anyway, the seizure ended after 12 minutes and Josie went right to sleep as usual. I felt like we just finished a race and we were standing on a podium with our giant trophy. After five EEGs in the past, we finally got the full-blown seizure on camera and on the EEG. Now, they will have the data they need.


The next morning, our trophy was stripped away. The neurologist at the hospital those few days, Dr. Miles, who works with Dr. Davinsky, came into the room and told me that he has been watching the video and while he sees the event he said, "the EEG is not showing a correlation with it being a seizure."

Excuse me?

How is that possible? We gave two sets of rescue meds (Medazalin and Diastat). We used oxygen. She stayed stiff for 10 seconds twice along with at least 20 other quick "tonic" stiffening. The entire team of nurses and doctors saw it.

He went on to describe the "event" he saw. He kept talking about Josie's arms flailing around, but he wasn't mentioning the stiffening. I asked to sit with him and watch the video with him to point out each time she stiffened and to show him when she stayed stiff. So we sat in the viewing room and we watched. What an interesting experience to watch myself handle a seizure. I seemed calm.

When I showed him exactly what we consider a seizure from the face she makes, to her arms stiff across her body, and her legs straightening out. He saw it. He flagged each stiffening event for Dr. Davinsky to see and he saw the two prolonged events. But, he showed me how when looking at those black lines that show brainwave activity, they didn't change much along with these events.

The next day Dr. Davinsky told me he also reviewed the film and if he were to guess he would say these are seizures even though the EEG isn't correlating. The video shows a pretty obvious seizure event.

Dr. Miles said if he had to guess, he would say they are not. He said maybe it's very bad reflux and has something to do with her lying down. This was actually the diagnosis we got after the very first EEG we did, two years ago, in which she didn't have a seizure during so I never knew how we could rule it out and call it reflux. Dr. Miles said he's seen kids stiffen and arch their bodies from reflux. I just don't know. I would say 80% of her seizures happen lying down, but there have been many sitting up.

So what now?

Dr. Davinsky asked us to stay a few more nights to try and capture another. Ever win a race and then you're told to start over? Disqualified. Well, we stayed two more nights and even lowered her meds to try and bring another one on, but as it goes, she rarely has a seizure a day or so after a big one, she didn't have another. By Saturday morning we were more than ready to go home.

Separately, both doctors thought there could be something going on with her breathing while she sleeps. I've been concerned about this. They recommended we do a sleep study at the NY Sleep Center. We did this, which I'll get to in a moment.

First, I want to talk about the Ketogenic diet we started while in the hospital. Here's a recent article about it in which the dietician we are working with explains the potential benefits for epilepsy patients. It's pretty amazing how this has been working for so many people for so long.

Jose is tolerating the formula called Ketocal very well. It's actually delicious. Well, it's about 90% fat and it's vanilla flavored, how can it be bad? I won't lie, I thought about putting it in my coffee. It's been three weeks since she started and her ketone levels have been good every day. They say it can take at least a month to know if it's working. She's still having a seizure every two to three days, so it's not working yet, but I will say the last few seizures have been milder than others. I also don't know if that's because the Medazalin is working before it turns into a grand mal seizure. We shall see.

So, back to the sleep study. Well, that was an experience. Poor Josie had to have 26 probes put on her head again for another EEG. And that's not it folks, she had to wear a thin plastic tube across her face and in her nose, two belts around her waist, and EKG wires.

I asked if we can arrive at 6:30 pm instead of 7:30 so that they can get everything all set and she can be ready to sleep by her normal bedtime - 7:30. We did show up at 6:30, but they were not done with all the technical finagling until 10:30pm! And then the techs came into the room every five minutes. Finally, a tech said to me, "There are three techs watching her. She is hooked up to every machine to monitor her. You should sleep." He told me to turn off my cell phone since it could interfere and just go to sleep. I was in a big bed with Josie and I thought I'd never actually be able to sleep.

The next time I looked at my watch it was 9:30 am! We both slept.

The results of the sleep study showed that Josie has mild obstructive apnea. That doesn't surprise me. They saw that she was restless and her brain was active all night. We are seeing an ENT this Friday and we will also see the sleep neurologist as well.

I feel like Sherlock Holmes. I got copies of the DVDs and reports of both this last EEG where she had the seizure that didn't correlate and of the EEG from April where our neurologist saw enough seizure activity to start her on anti-seizure meds. I'm having both neurology teams review both EEGs. Will Dr. Davinsky see the seizure that Dr. Maytal diagnosed as a seizure? What will Dr. Maytal think of the non-correlating event?

In speaking with Dr. Davinsky's Nurse Practitioner yesterday, she said they'd like us to try again to capture another seizure on an EEG.

I just have to sit back and breathe - deeply - for a moment before I can think about putting Josie through this again so soon.

In the mean time, I've asked Dr. D. if we can ween her off one of her medications as it's clear none of them are working and this one, Keppra, is the one that we think is causing her restlessness at night.

So that is where we are right now. So much to figure out. Many more doctors to see. Perhaps more hospital stays. But we will figure it out!

To be continued....