Ethan's story starts not unlike most others. He was born just slightly late, fairly easy labor. His head was so big he had bruising, lol! His only complication at birth was jaundice. It was bad enough that he had to come home on bili-lights to flush it out of his system. That's a pretty common issue though, we didn't think much of anything about it. He was a happy and excessively easy baby. He was almost always calm and an amazing sleeper!
Ethan was such an easy child, and so wonderful to be around that we decided to expand our family. Shortly before he turned three, Taylor was born. He was a good big brother, probably slightly frustrated she couldn't stand up right then and play with him! Ethan started preschool when he was 3.5. He loved being able to go to school and play with his peers. He started learning so much more, and we thought for sure all he needed was to be in school and that he would soon be caught up! I even took the kids out to Arizona to visit my sister and brother-in-law shortly after starting school. He was so excited because he was very interested in fighter jets and my sister took him to see real ones! Everything was going perfect in our world!
It was just shortly after we returned from our trip that he went to another day of preschool, just like normal. It was a typical day, and I picked him up after and brought him home. I put Taylor down for a nap, and he was off playing. He kept standing up on a chair to reach up into a high up cabinet where all the snacks were kept. He kept bringing me things and each time I would say no and take it back. He got up there for a third time and I watched him with a smile on my face. He's nothing if not determined. I watched him slump down in the chair, surely he was playing dead, a fun game for a 3 year old boy. I went over to see what he was up to. What I saw will never leave me. His eyes were rolled up into his head, he was foaming from the mouth, and around the outside was turning blue. I called 911, I told them I thought he was choking, I didn't know what could have happened. Just before the paramedics got there he took a big breath and started breathing normal and fell into a deep sleep, the first of so many to come. He was asleep and draped over me when they came in to check him. They informed me he probably had a seizure. A seizure I thought? That didn't look like a seizure, not like anything I had ever seen on TV. He was taken to the hospital and a full workup was done. He was completely fine. We were told that I had missed a fever that he had and it caused a seizure. This was common and it would not happen again. So we went home, still scared but sure the doctors wouldn't tell us this if it wasn't true. But our world was again rocked when two weeks later things repeated themselves. I was positive this time, not fever, no anything!
Things got so bad that his doctor eventually came out with it; this was more than he could handle. He didn't know what it was, and he didn't know how to treat it. His seizures were out of control. The drug count was up to about 8 at the time. He was seizing hundreds of times a day. We were literally in the hospital for status seizures every other week. So we made our way over to Denver Children's Hospital. We literally went up at 8 one night when we finally got word his case had been transferred. During that admission they did a 48 hour EEG. It was the head epileptologist at the hospital that finally diagnosed him after reviewing the results. He was put on a spectrum between Lennox Gastaut Syndrome and Doose Syndrome. At his worst he's closer to LGS, and on better days closer to Doose.
From there we added more drugs, and removed others. We still didn't get results from any of the meds and the decision was made to put him on a ketogenic diet. This diet is excessively strict. All food is weighed out to the gram, and ever last spec has to be consumed during the meal. Just one little slip up can cause a negative effect. It's very high in fat. We quite literally fed him butter and heavy whipping cream every day four times a day. The diet did help a little at first, but eventually it was no longer helping and was actually making him sick. He was weaned off the diet, and just like always a few more drugs were tried. Once again, none were effective. In all he was on 13 different medications. And seizure meds are no joke, they all come with major side effects, and once you put three or four together for one small child it makes them a mess. He developed central sleep apnea and began to not breath while he was sleeping. The seizures were too much on his brain. He had to start using oxygen any time he was sleeping to keep him breathing.
Something had to be done. He was slipping further away from us every day. He regressed to the level of a two year old. He had a constant tremor. We had reached the end of the line and we knew it. There was literally nothing left, no more drugs, no more crazy diet. There was a brain surgery though, a corpus callosotomy. We had been told there weren't any surgeries that could help him, but from my own research it seemed promising. His neurologist presented his case to a board of other neurologist, epileptologists, and neurosurgeons. They initially denied him. I knew this was the only chance he had though. They had to reconsider. I told his neurologist of all the research I had done and how many kids it had helped. She agreed to do more research herself and to present his case again. He was approved for the surgery!
On September 19th 2012 Ethan went in for his complete corpus callosotomy. They completely severe the corpus collosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain, and split the brain in hopes that the seizures can't jump to the other side of the brain from where they originate and then generalize. The surgery took over 6 hours. When he came out of surgery he was in the ICU for a day. He really couldn't talk at first, mostly just a word at a time. He was also very nauseous. But every day he got stronger and was talking more and more! A week later we were home and getting back into normal life. But what wasn't back were his seizures! Every day we held our breath, and every day was another seizure free day!
The days turned to weeks, and weeks to months. Still we waited, and still no seizures! But what we did see was an amazing growth! He was suddenly talking so much more, and learning at an incredible rate. His brain was finally clear. He was able to retain information for the first time in years. He ran around and played just like a typical child. After several months he went in for a new EEG to see what was going on. Though there was frequent spiking, he did not have a single seizure! Within the next couple weeks we moved him into his own bedroom and out of ours for the first time in 2.5 years!
In early February our youngest daughter Lily was born. Ethan is completely in love with her and loves having a new little buddy. She's always wanting to hold and play with her, and he actually can. We were able to focus on having a newborn, and not worrying about Ethan constantly hitting the floor. And she just adores him. She smiles and giggles whenever he's around. He makes silly faces and sounds and she adores it!
He has hobbies and interests. He's finally excited about life again. He wants to go outside in play. He's constantly engaged in make believe games with his toys and his sister. He's excited about going to school in the morning, and he's making AMAZING progress.
Not everything is perfect. We are struggling quite significantly with his weight and eating. This is not a side effect of surgery, but just a side effect of everything he has gone through. He was a great eater until he was put on the ketogenic diet. After basically being force fed horrible foods he just decided he didn't want to eat anymore. He has gone from the 80th percentile down to the 15th. We're lucky if he takes two bites of each of his meals. Several months ago he started drinking Boost Plus which is basically just a nutritional drink. That is basically where all his calories are coming from. Just last week a decision was made to place a g-tube and start tube feedings to get more calories into him. He's also going to start feeding therapy so hopefully we can get him eating again! We're very excited about finally putting weight on him. He is skin and bones and looks quite emaciated.
So one year later I feel the nightmare is fading. It almost doesn't seem real, as odd as that sounds. I know we all went through it, but where he is now to where he was a year ago is unreal. I feel he has no where to go but up. He makes amazing strides daily. We are finally after a year starting to wean his medications. He still takes 12 pills a day, hopefully in another year that can be none! The medications do cause side effects we're excited to see go away. One thing is certain, he didn't have a future before this surgery. We were told he would most likely never leave home and would require our care for the rest of his life. Now his possibilities seem wide open! He has a future. He can go through school, and college if he wishes. He can have a job and live an independent life. He could even have a family of his own one day. Watch out world, this boy is going places!