Friday, January 25, 2013

He's The REAL Deal

When I first met Robert Clifford, he was a senior in high school. A gifted musician, Robert played all manner of instruments, but primarily rocked the piano. He was also the top of his class, popular, athletic and handsome. Also one of the nicest people I'd ever met. And just when you think it doesn't get much better than all of that, then he goes to medical school to become a doctor.

Fast forward twenty some years, and now "Dr. Robert" is my children's pediatrician. We began going to his practice, Coastal Pediatric Associates, when we moved to the West Ashley area of Charleston about 6 years ago, and he has been an instrumental part of our strategy for managing Will's learning challenges, as well as being an awesome all-around pediatrician. Not only can I count on him to be a good doctor to my children, he is always generous with his "talk time" with me as well, always considering my opinions and feelings when it comes to the care of our children.

Many local moms take their children to Coastal, and many local moms like Dr. Clifford just as much as I do. What many local moms may not realize is that Dr. Clifford is also the only doctor some children in the world ever seen. Period. In conjunction with an organization called Remember, Dr. Clifford leads medical teams on outreach missions around the world, targeting areas where medical services available to children and families are virtually non-existent or out of reach due to lack of resources.

Now, while all of us locals know what a good guy he is, it was so exciting to hear that he was recently nominated for a REAL award. (Don't worry - I didn't know what it meant at first either.) The REAL awards are a global awards program created by Save The Children and the Frontline Health Workers Coalition to develop greater respect and appreciation for health workers and the lifesaving care they provide globally, as well as in the United States.

It's just so exciting to me that while people from all over the country were nominated and while I'm sure they are all very deserving folks, someone who I am proud to call my friend and my doctor, and a local Charlestonian won! This award is made possible by some names you might recognize, like, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GlaxoSmith Kline, Medtronic Foundation, Merck Company Foundation and Time Magazine, just to name a few. Yesterday, Dr. Clifford was presented with a symbolic boarding pass for the awards ceremony held in Washington, DC this April. Not only will the actual awards be given, the recipients will have a chance to advocate on Capitol Hill on behalf of health care providers around the world.



While the award itself is extremely exciting and a huge honor, Dr. Clifford took a moment to remind us why he and other health care workers go on these trips, saying, "It's such an incredible blessing to be able to work with colleagues who think that even though it's hard, even though we're tired, there's a greater purpose out there. This is especially true in poorer countries where there are children who have never even seen a doctor, let alone what a doctor is or have the resources to get health care."

And there you go, folks. I probably need to stop this blogging stuff and go make my kid's appointments. Waaaay in advance. In all seriousness, I'd like to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Robert Clifford - he truly is the real deal.

PS. Some of you Charleston peeps may recognize the lovely lady on the far right...our own Joan Perry of Charleston Daily Photo! She actually wrote the nomination that got all this going. Thanks Joan!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When The Shoe Comes Off, You Know He Means Business

My son has some challenges in the sensory department. As he grows, some of these, like noise tolerance have improved, but one that remains in full force is his intolerance for unpleasant touch sensations. This would include things like, say, going to the dentist. As a three year old, Will became a legend at the ENT for his complete and terrible beat down he put on the recovery room after having his tonsils out. To be fair, I gave them warning that he was going to wake up fast, and he was going to also be temporarily possessed by a demon, but I don't think they took me seriously. Big mistake.

As I was sitting in the waiting room, the door flies open and a very excited staff member calls out, "Mrs. Connelly! Can you please come back?!" I hurried through the door and was momentarily stopped in my tracks by the scene. Will had ripped out his IV, was fighting the nurse tooth and nail, screaming bloody murder and had also kicked one of his shoes across the room. Inconsolable is a nice way of putting it. In need of an exorcism is probably more accurate. He was given some pain medicine in his nose (OUCH) and settled down a little bit once he cursed everyone out in toddler language.

A few minutes later, the nurse needed to use suction in his mouth so that he didn't have to swallow or spit saliva with his raw now tonsil-less throat. "Open wide and let's use Mr. Thirsty", she says, placing the suction in his mouth. "HOOOOWWWWLLLL!!! RAAAWWWWERRRRRRR!!!!!!! I HATE MR THIRSTY!!!" he shrieks at her in reply and then proceeds to bite the tube so hard it breaks. Next, the other shoe flies across the room and it is at that moment that I realize that the shoe is his tell. A tell is a poker term - it means a clue, based on behavior or demeanor. Will apparently likes to take off his shoes before he goes to the mattresses.

Yesterday, Will had to have a tooth extracted. He has had multiple procedures because he doesn't have the best teeth in the world so even though his dentist is one of my best friends who babies him shamelessly and happens to be a well regarded and experienced pediatric specialist, he still goes buck wild. There was screaming, crying, telling everyone off, flailing, grabbing and so forth. The worst part about this is that he has the metabolism of an ox, so sedation meds are somewhat negligible. We have tried all kinds of combinations of things to help him be comfortable and relaxed, but to not much avail. He just goes nuts. And just like at the ENT, I knew things were about get crazy when, yep, you guessed it - the shoes came off.

It's frustrating and upsetting because it is so hard to know what he can or cannot help. At one point yesterday, I did pop him on the hand because he was starting to swat at my friend and her assistant, and I was absolutely not going to tolerate that. I feel so bad for him, but then I'm really aggravated too. I think to myself, "you are too old to be acting like this!" but then he softly says things like "I hated today. It was terrible." while I'm tucking him into bed last night and my heart breaks for him. All I could do is tell him that I hated it too, that I was so sorry he was that upset and that I hoped he understood that even though it was really unpleasant, we were doing what we had to in order to help him have a healthy mouth.
I don't know if anyone else who might read this has a child with similar issues, but if so, I'd love to hear from you. I hate how we both feel after one of these ordeals, and I'm worried he is not going to be manageable for a whole lot longer. I mean, the odds of me being able to wrangle a teen aged boy who is flailing at the dentist is pretty unlikely. It would be great to get some suggestions for medical/dental procedures if anyone has any. In the meantime, I'm just going to keep an eye on those shoes and hope for the best.


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Friday, January 18, 2013

Stranger Danger and My Kids Were Unprepared

Earlier this week, I picked up my children from the library, which is their bus stop on the days they actually ride the bus. This particular branch is a stop for multiple schools and lots of kids wait for their rides for short periods of time. They do homework, read, chat with each other, play games etc while they are there. The librarians don't babysit or anything, but they do keep an eye out.

Normally, everything is fine. Earlier this week though, it wasn't. I got stuck in major traffic and instead of sitting for the usual 15-20 minutes, the kids were there almost an hour. I don't know if this made a difference or not, but by the time I got there, the herd of students had almost completely thinned out. Anyway, while they were gathering up their things and getting ready to go, Cecilia says, "some weird guy came up to my friend and was laughing all crazy." "Wow. Really", I asked. "Is everything okay?" She assured me that it was all fine and we went on about our way.

About an hour or so later, I got a text from the friend's mother and apparently the situation was much more involved than that. Through the course of some text messages and a phone conversation more details emerged. Not only did this person approach the friend, he also was hugging him around the shoulders and trying to get him to convince the concerned librarian that he was the friend's Sunday school teacher. He was immediately told to go to a different part of the library, as no one was buying this story. The friend told his mother about this (she was in the same traffic and we basically just missed each other) and she went back to the library to confront the person who became belligerent and the librarian called the police. Weird guy fled.

Once I got these details, we immediately sat our kids down to talk with them further about what happened. Through the course of my conversation with friend's mom, we are fairly certain that this individual is a mentally ill or disabled adult, which would explain the odd behavior, weird story etc. What became glaringly apparent however, is that even though we have talked to our children lots of times about never going somewhere with a stranger, shouting that this person is not my mommy, how to look for an adult that will help you, etc., they had no idea what to do when something completely off the wall and potentially very dangerous can happen.

The conversation really got interesting when Cecilia began talking about how kids are told to mind the adults, not talk back and cooperate with authority and so she didn't know what to do. Not only did this incident scare the absolute hell out of us, but it also revealed a serious gap in the safety section of our parenting strategy. It was good though, in hindsight. No lecture or conversation could have ever made the same kind of impact as a scary situation that ended up being only a scary situation for a few minutes, with no harm done. We talked to them about it being their right to stand up for themselves to anyone who was making them feel uncomfortable, even if it turns out that they are incorrect. They seemed to understand that we would much rather them make a mistake in judgement than let something ride that would endanger them.

We also made sure to clarify that this was no one's fault - that none of the kids were to blame for not knowing what to do in response to the situation. In all our conversations about strangers etc., it never occurred to us to talk to them about a situation like this. We also showed them this video, about a girl who escaped an attempted kidnapping in Walmart. Not the exact same scenario, but the child in this situation was kicking and screaming for all she was worth - defending herself. The would be kidnapper gave up, fled and was subsequently arrested. Hopefully the combination of the conversation, the experience and the visual aid will drive home the point.

I 'm sharing this post because this particular kind of scenario was not one that ever crossed my mind, and if sharing it can help even one other parent protect their child, it will be a meaningful thing. I am also so thankful for the communication among parents - it reminds me of the meerkat colonies - one starts signaling danger and they all get the message. Long story short, please reiterate to your children their right to defend themselves and that if something feels even a little bit wrong or off, it's because it probably is.



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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm Back From Hiatus, And It Ain't Pretty

Hi there, remember me? It apparently has been almost a month since I posted last. Christmas was pretty much the usual insanity, I contracted the plague for New Year's and then the kids went back to school. All in all, just the status quo.
I wish I had something interesting to write about but I'm kinda not in the groove at the moment, and to be honest, I've done a bunch of reading and thinking and a little, okay maybe a lot of crying too. I think the reason I haven't wanted to write is because so much of what's going on in my head is very raw - feelings are pretty jacked up at the moment, and I don't like blogging that turns into emotional vomit. Plus, when my feelings are all over the place, organizing my thoughts in a way that makes sense to readers is a real challenge and I always delete the draft because I feel like it sounds crazy.

However, recently, I've been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and am starting to feel like she has been spying on me, if you know what I mean. Even as I type this, I am thinking, "You have turned into SUCH a cliche. Approaching middle age, reading self help books...gah." Anyway. So, one of the things that Brene says we need to do to live "wholeheartedly" is tell our personal story with bravery and no spin. Since I seem to find it difficult to articulate how I feel and what I think about feelings in sentence form, I did what I can and made a kind of list. Bear in mind that I am totally cognizant of the fact that my perspective may be a little off.

So, here are the things that I tell almost no one, the stuff I hide:
  • I was abused, physically and emotionally, by my father until my parents separated when I was in high school. My dad was/is an alcoholic (sort of I guess who knows) and a certified crazy person. Very unpredictable and volatile, which meant I was always watching him to see how I should act. The fallout of that is that now I watch everyone to see how I "should" act, just in case they might get mad and hurt me. I am now estranged from him entirely, and not having a good dad is a huge hole in my life.
  • While I am typically smiling and laughing in public and socially, that is very often a front. Behind the scenes, I am horribly lonely, very disappointed in myself for my lack of professional success/personal growth/appearance and am flat broke - none of which actually help you feel better about yourself.
  • I get my feelings hurt easily. I also have an inner mean girl that picks on me relentlessly and she is a hateful bitch. I don't really know why I care what people would say to or think about me, because I can promise you that I have already said or thought worse to myself.
  • I have a huge heart and feel empathy to a fault. I always think that I would be a great rich person because I would help everyone I could. It also makes me kind of a sucker, and very often I feel like an emotional vending machine, always willing to lend an ear and be supportive, but with not much outlet for me to have the same.
  • I believe in God, and consider myself a Christian, but have so many questions, doubts and things I don't agree with that I have no idea what I am. I love church though, and then I feel bad about that too, like I'm using God to feel comfort in His house.
  • I am scared that I will die having never experienced anything amazing, with the exception of my children. I would probably commit a felony if it meant being able to travel some. 
  • I spend way too much time on the phone and online, mostly because of wanting interaction with other people. Then I observe people interacting with each other and it makes me feel worse. Can anyone say circular?
  • I'm terrified that my daughter will turn out like me. We are a lot alike, and I see her heading down the same path I did. Good at lots of things, excellent at nothing. This is when I really pull out the self hate because I think if I could afford additional instruction in this that or the other thing, she might actually have a chance at being really good at something. But I can't, so she probably won't. Awesome.
  • I have a very nasty temper when crossed. I have said and done some things in the heat of anger that I really, really regret. I have two speeds of dealing with conflict - complete avoidance or total insanity.
I don't know if this is exactly what she meant, but it's as good a starting place as any, I guess. Maybe I'll list some positives another time to try to balance the UGHHHH factor of this post. I don't know if this will be off putting to people who read this, but I just need somewhere to lay out the ugly stuff, and not just the funny and good humored writing. I hope that you guys will come back again - I promise that this is not the start of a trend or anything. I think that naming what scares and hurts you takes it's power away, and I for one am sick of feeling like this. If it takes a million self help books, a miracle or a wonder pill, I'll get there one day. Another positive is that I generally don't give up, so there is always hope for better.

If you want, you are welcome to share things you don't normally tell anyone either. Your "secret" is safe here, I promise. I sincerely appreciate everyone who comes here and reads - it means a lot to me. Thank you.

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