Saturday, April 12, 2008

Introduction, part two

And, continuing the introductions:

Gabriel, about to turn 22 at the end of this month, came to me at the age of 5 months...the only one of my children who came to me as an infant. So, in my mind, he's always been my "baby." His birthmother was schizophrenic, so delusional that she sometimes thought she was Tina Turner, sometimes a white woman from California. She did not realize she was pregnant until she was about 8 months along, so she had still been getting injections of a powerful antipsychotic medication during the pregnancy. Gabriel appeared normal at birth, but at the age of 1 month became jittery and developed high muscle tone. Doctors suspected seizures and cerebral palsy. Over time, both diagnoses were ruled out, but they were followed by many more. As a toddler, he had speech and language delays. In elementary school, he had successive diagnoses of ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, and Tourettes syndrome. But he was a charming, goofy speech therapist who evaluated him wrote "too cute!!!" in her observation notes. Then things got more complicated when he was in middle school. At the beginning of summer after 6th grade, I gradually came to realize that Gabriel had virtually stopped eating and was exercising for hours. He soon started to look shockingly thin. The pediatrician took a wait and see approach for a month, while Gabriel's weight continued to plummet. By the time he was admitted to an eating disorder program at a children's hospital in Dallas, he weighed 69 pounds...he'd lost about 30 pounds in a month. He was hospitalized twice, for a total of 5 months, that year. It was during his second hospitalization that the doctors diagnosed him as psychotic. But during the next 5 years, his psychosis was characterized by some skewed thinking and poor motivation. Then, in July 2006, over a weekend, he became somewhat moody and obsessive about certain thoughts. One evening, as I was walking through the den, he told me that I needed to put some curtains in the back windows, because someone was trying to kill him. When I pressed him to elaborate, he clammed up, saying, "I've said too much already...they'll kill me for sure now." He would say no more. I was unsettled, but we don't live in the best neighborhood, and I thought it was conceivable that some punk had made an idle threat. Later he came to my room, asking about police protection, whispering, closing the A/C vent. He said the people were trying to kill him because of something he had told me and Marcus at dinner a couple of nights earlier. But how would they know he had told us, I asked. He looked at me incredulously. "You don't know???? The police are in the room upstairs, listening to everything we say!" I realized that he had had a psychotic, paranoid break. Luckily I was able to convince him to go to the hospital. Incredibly, they didn't even want to keep him there and were going to just send him home. I convinced them to keep him a few hours for observation...a "few hours" turned into 7 months, as his condition quickly deteriorated and he was committed to the state hospital. I was shaken to my core. For months, he was unable to understand the simplest bit of conversation, he was so absorbed in his hallucinations. He moved unseen objects and talked with unseen people. He's been home for a year and does OK...considering. Schizophrenia has been worse than I ever expected and I am often disheartened at his present condition and fearful of his future.

Tevis, 18, came to us at the age of 16 months. Like Jesse, he had been diagnosed as having cerebral palsy and developmental delays. I have to admit, I thought that he might overcome his delays as Jesse had. But he didn't. He is moderately retarded, hyperactive, and has had severe behavior problems. He has to be supervised every waking minute, and actually during the night as well, as he wanders and gets into EVERYTHING while everyone is asleep. I decided to place him in a group home several years ago, when the school started calling me frequently to tell me to come pick him up as they couldn't handle him. I'd been through that with Marcus and knew that it was almost impossible to hold down a job under those circumstances. I wish I could manage Tevis at home, but it's not possible. He comes home several weekends a month. When he's not acting out, he's SO sweet, loves to help, and comes out with some really funny comments. After 7 years on a waiting list, he finally got on a state program that pays for a higher quality group home with only 3 residents. Tomorrow he's going with other clients on a cruise to Cozymel!

That wraps up the introductions to the kids who remain part of my life. In my next post, I'll introduce the rest of my kids...