Calling it!

Hands up if you’ve had enough of this unpredictable weather that keeps cycling virus after virus around? 👋👋👋 Triple hands up for me!!! This winter has been long and painful. It’s been cold, windy and so up and down!! This week is our 6th week of someone in our house having some sort of virus or infection and I hate to say it but it’s taken me down too!!

6 weeks ago, Mia woke early hours of a Saturday morning vomiting, which took its turn through all the kids for the next week. Since then we’ve been hit one by one with something and some of us more than once. It’s seen Mia with an ear infection which has left her temporally with some hearing loss, Bailey had the most horrific sinus infection, Sienna now has a bad case of tonsillitis to the point of vomiting and I’ve spent most of this week curled up on my lounge as my chest and voice recover from the flu!

This has been our worst winter in a couple of years. I haven’t been this sick in a long time and when I do get a cold, cough or flu usually I can soldier on and get over it in a few days, but this time I had to call it! I started getting sick last Tuesday at the end of my working week. I ignored it for a few days and kept telling myself I’d be fine like all the other times I had a bit of a cold. I never felt bad enough to put myself to bed, but in an instant by Friday lunch time my voice started to fail! I know some of you must be thinking (that must of killed me lol) and by the time I got to Sunday and I kept telling everyone “I’m fine, I’m not sick”, by the end of Father’s Day I finally called it and said those two words out loud “I’m sick!!!”

I hated saying it, but for my own health and well-being it had to be said. My body was obviously telling me it was completely exhausted and needed rest. So that I’ve done, especially after I was ordered to by my doctor. This week I’ve been getting up each morning, getting the kids ready for school, dropping them off in the drop off zone and then coming back home to resume my spot on the lounge. This time forced my body to recover properly and truth be told if I had of done this a month ago, when I originally had a bad chest, I probably wouldn’t have ended up so bad. And I’m very pleased to say that after having the final season of McLeod’s Daughters sitting in the DVD draw for 5 years, I’ve finally watched it, enjoyed it immensely and cried many times like a big baby lol – oh Alex why did you have to die 😢😢😢!

Time like this always makes me reflect. Reflect on what’s important and what’s not. It’s eased away the cloud of smoke that’s been hanging around me for a bit. It’s recharged me and turned on that light bulb that I felt went out. It’s given me the energy I need to get through the rest of this year, which is always the most busiest time as we approach the festive season. This week has been a rough one, but we got through it together – and as for my husband…he’s awesome!

As a mum, we are always putting everyone first. We do to please. We plan in our sleep. We start a new job before we have finished our last. We are a taxi service, cook, cleaner, nurse, therapist and referee. We are everyone’s everyone, but sometimes, just sometimes we have to stand up and call it that it’s ‘that time’ where I need to rest and recover. Know your bodies mummas, know when to call it…you’ll thank yourself for it!

So as the winter months are now behind us, I prayer that this is the end of a long road of sickness for us and anyone else who has had the same sort of winter and by the sounds of it most of Brisbane have been living the same hell! Bring on summer I say and lots of sun, sand and swimming!!!!!

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Keep on Keeping!

It’s been 4 and half years since my life changed. 4 and half years since I was diagnosed with a heart condition while I was 37 weeks pregnant with my littlest baby.

That moment of my life, without a doubt, was singlehandedly the most frightening I’ve ever felt. Hearing the words mortality, rupture, open heart surgery, ICU, was like living a nightmare. I was about to become a mum for the third time and while I should have been embracing the moment, I was scared out of my wits as to how it would all end….But thankfully with the support of an amazing family, wonderful friends, the best cardiologist I could ask for and the strength that all of this provides for me to keep on keeping, I’m still here to tell my story!

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This week I had my annual heart scan. This past year has been a very busy one. Between work, the kids education and sport and the busy day to day chores of life with 3 kids, how can life not be busy. We travelled to the States where my daughter decided to split open her head – cause that’s not going to give your heart a scare! Our son was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD and a motor and vocal tic – that’s enough to raise my blood pressure most days! I trained for my first half marathon and to date have run 2 now – this was always going to be a question of is it too much?

But after lying there, feeling sick to my stomach like I always do during my scan on Wednesday, it was so delightful to hear my results hadn’t altered since my last scan. Yippee!!! I was so relieved. It’s always the fear of the unknown with my condition. You just never know. Although I look and feel fantastic on the outside, without that scan who knows what’s happening on the inside. What deteriorates my condition is high blood pressure and thankfully mine is always low but you just never know!

Last year’s scan, for the first time since diagnosis, there was some deterioration. It was only slight but it was movement. I was taken back to all the emotions I felt when I was first diagnosed – scared, overwhelmed, anxious, timid. But that was my scan after I lost my nana – that movement was clearly from a broken heart;(

My aorta is now dilated to 4.6cm. It’s still just sitting in the moderate range as severe is 5cm and I shall do everything in my power to maintain this to avoid open heart surgery. Each day I make conscious decisions on my food intake, I exercise 5-6 times a week, rest when I can, sleep as much as I can and do things for myself that make me happy!

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Next month I see my cardiologist to discuss my health and any further plans that need to be made. But for now I will keep on keeping. I will enjoy the small things in life. I will laugh out loud when I need to. I will remain as calm as I can when I really want to rip someone’s head off (lol). I will appreciate what my life consists of and I will be grateful everyday the moment our little angel baby was conceived, because without her, who knows how long I would be on this earth to tell my story!

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Never Judge a Book by its Cover!

8 years ago when I gave birth to my beautiful ‘big’ baby boy and I became a mum for the very first time, I was calm, relaxed, the happiest I’d ever felt. I didn’t have a care in the world as my baby boy was such an amazing baby who fed and slept so peacefully…little did we know the ride we were in for!

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Meet our baby boy…his name is Bailey, he is 8 years old and on Tuesday he was formally diagnosed with anxiety! I know some of you that know Bailey would be thinking really?? I guess you can never judge a book by its cover!

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Anxiety…this word is tossed around so frequently now. It worries me that so many people in this world suffer mental health disorders and as someone who doesn’t, I’m sad for them as it stops them from enjoying some of the most precious things in life and leaves them feeling like they constantly have a monkey on their back!

Since the age of 18 months, Bailey has always been hard work. As a special education teacher, like my mother would say ‘you know too much’, I have always thought Bailey presented with a lot of ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) tendencies. He has always had major meltdowns when things don’t go his way, he doesn’t cope well with sudden change, he obsesses over particularly things, he can be highly emotional and sensitive, he worries over specific things, he’s sensitive to certain materials, he needs time to process information, but has never had any issues socially.

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By the time he reached school age I knew it was going to be the crossroads of knowing whether to take him to a paediatrician or not. I held off taking it any further as he has never struggled in any area at school. He has always fitted in well and been the best behaved child. He has the ability to keep it together when he has to and loses his s$&t when he gets home.

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I feel for parents who don’t have the necessary skills to cope with children who present with challenging behaviours. I am so grateful for my experience that I’ve gained from teaching, this has helped me immensely over the years. I remember having many days where I felt so alone and trapped in a bubble. Even though I knew what I was dealing with and how to deal with it, it’s so different when the shoe is on the other foot. Being a teacher to children with special needs is one thing, but being the mother is a whole new ball game!

Life with Bailey leaves us leading such a rollercoaster ride, there are so many ups and downs in our days. We always start each day fresh and we know the type of day it’s going to be right from the moment he wakes up. He can go days and be fantastic and then it only takes a late night, lack of sleep or a virus and he tires so quickly that he loses his ability to rationalise situations. He then becomes very oppositional and loses all inhibitions at his worst.

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Our recent hurdle we’ve hit, which is what lead us to taking things further and seeing a paediatrician, is Bailey has developed a nervous twitch or what is called a tic. He has both a motor and vocal tic which can be so severe at times it’s quite distressing to see. I knew straight away this had taken his anxiety to a new level and felt that it was time to get him the help that he needed. This all started in conjunction with getting lost at the Ekka’s baby animal petting zoo last August. Over time things have manifested and spiralled to this point.

When I walked through the paediatrician’s door on Tuesday I thought to myself…”8 years it’s taken, I was wondering how long it would take to get here!” I went in with my 4 pages of notes (not a teacher at all lol) and felt so at ease about everything as the doctor we saw was amazing. I highly recommend Dr Anita Cohn at the Mater Hospital. She was very informative and straight to the point. She spoke about treatments and what would be best for Bailey.

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Our plan for the near future is to get Bay the help he needs to deal with his anxiety. In terms of his tics, at this stage we are treating the underlying issue or the cause of them (anxiety) therefore Bay will start seeing a child psychologist in two weeks time. This will be an ongoing thing until we resolve some issues. We are back to our paediatrician in march for a review!

It’s been such a long road to get to this point in time. It’s been a huge learning curve for everyone who is involved in Bailey’s life on a daily basis. We are so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing, loving and influential people who no one has ever made Bay feel less about himself.

Admitting there is something wrong with your child isn’t easy and then taking the next step to get help can sometimes be just as hard. But I urge anyone of you who is reading this post, if you know that your little person may need help, do everyone a favour and ask. We are our children’s advocate and it’s up to us to make sure our babies, who we carried and nurtured into this world, are equipped with the skills to cope in this big bad world!

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My advice for anyone who is living the same life…enjoy the highs and hold on tight during the lows….remember with a low there always comes a high. Be consistent, follow through and always talk through a situation once your child has calmed down. Reassure them they are loved and ok. Encourage them to try new thing and provide challenges for them. Don’t stress, keep calm as they feed off whatever mood you’re in. Be there to pick up the pieces and give them that hug that they so desire once the anxiety goes from verbal diarrhea to a sobbing mess.

In saying all of this, we as parents are only human – we have moments where our tiredness gets the better of us, we may feel sick or hormonal! I’m the first to admit I’m not parent of year and make my fair share of mistakes. Everything is easier said then done, but it really does make a difference when we are on our game and so worth it for a positive outcome. Running has definitely helped me keep me on my game!

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It’s been very difficult to see Bailey hit the level of anxiety he has. But like anything that has been thrown our way, together my husband and I shed tears when he’s not looking, debrief with each other every day and work together as a team in order to help Bay become the best person he can be!

Anxiety aside, my son is amazing! He is funny, caring, lovable, smart and very empathetic. He gives the best cuddles and always comes and says good morning to me before he starts the day. He is never shy to cuddle me in front of his friends and always seeks me out to tell me anything exciting that has happened or things that are worrying him. He is so good at sport! This is what he lives for and it’s great to seem him thrive at what he loves. He is a gentle giant that everyone loves to love!

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We will get through this…this will not define my baby boy. This is a bump in his road that will make him stronger and more resilient. But for now I will keep being his mum to the best of my ability and be there to celebrate the awesome stuff and pick up the pieces when the train derails!

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20141113-135328.jpgWe are so proud to be Bailey’s parents and would do anything to help our boy – all we want is for our children to be happy!

 

 

 

Reality Bites…

As I read an email from my cardiologist this morning, my heart was racing…

Three years ago when I was diagnosed with a dilated aorta, it was the scariest time in my life, even more frightening than having a tumour removed from my thyroid (thankfully that turned out benign)! I remember thinking not my heart…that’s the organ that keeps you alive!!! Once we learnt more about it and my cardiologist, who is brilliant, educated us on what i was facing, although it took a while, I learnt to accept what I had without it doing my head in! Since then, I’ve had 4 echos and an MRI and for the first time since diagnosis my results have changed!

Each time I trek up to the Mater Cardiology Department, all I wait to be told is that my aorta hasn’t grown from 4.5cm. Every time they always give me the nod of reassurance, but yesterday they didn’t! I walked away for the first time feeling very overwhelmed and sick with worry. I was told my cardiologist would contact me with the results….

I went straight home and emailed him. The next 12 hours would be the longest 12 hours I’ve ever lived! When I woke this morning, I frantically checked my email – nothing! I went about my business got the kids to school and before I set out to do my groceries, I checked my email and there it was….”your aorta has measured bigger than last year’s results, it’s now 4.6cm!” I went from feeling confident to fragile….

Although its only a mm of growth, it’s growth and that’s a big deal when in three years it hasn’t grown at all, this is the first time I’ve had to deal with growth! I always had it in my head that because I was probably born with this condition, maybe this is just how my heart is meant to be formed. Now that it has dilated further, the reality of this condition has bitten me today. I’m now only .4 of a cm away from being categorised in the severe range…..I’m not going to lie, this scares the crap out of me!!!!

After some tears and lots of questioning myself – how’d I let this happen?? Oh and some retail therapy, I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off and will continue about each day like I’ve done for the past three years. Because the realty of it is; I know I’m doing everything I can to keep myself as fit and healthy as I can. I don’t smoke or drink, I regularly exercise, eat well and all of this contributes to me maintaining not only good physical health but my mental health is the best it’s ever been! I’ve felt so good for so long and haven’t let this condition get the better of me, but today it got the better of me. I never feel sorry for myself but there were moments of today where I felt alone in this bubble. This was until I thought about the fact that there are so many people around me who are worse off.

Tomorrow is a new day. I will start by waking feeling happy and appreciate what I have. I will continue to be in control of what I can be and leave it up to fate to control what I can’t . I will enjoy the small things in life that make me smile and laugh and most importantly I will continue to be the best mum and wife I can be to my party of 5. I will not let this little hurdle define or defeat me. I will continue to work hard each day in order for my heart not to deteriorate. But for now, right at this moment, I will enjoy the best cuddles in town….from the 3 babies who have stolen my heart!

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A Year of Maintenance!

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This time last year I had very little winter clothes coming into the cooler months! I had just reached my goal weight after losing around 13kgs in 6 months through eating healthy (basically cutting out the crap) and exercising (mainly running)! I’m happy to say that a year later I have plenty of winter clothes to choose from and they all still fit as I’ve maintained my goal weight!

Like anything losing it really is the easy part, it’s the maintenance part that can be challenging. It’s funny how the power of our mind is the key to all of this. When losing weight your mindset is quite different to when you are maintaining. You go from being very strict with yourself to relaxing a little and treating yourself a bit here and a bit there, but if not managed well, this can be the start of where weight creeps back on! Then you can go the other extreme and become obsessed to the point where you lose too much weight and start to look too thin – not healthy ….trust me I know I’ve been there and it’s not nice!

Last year after getting to my goal weight I lost a bit more and a bit more and then before I knew I was struck down with a terrible gastro bug for days which left me looking very unhealthy and very sick looking! I learnt a lot from all of that! It taught me to get myself at a weight where I have some reserves. Getting down to a weight that is too thin for your height is like living on the edge. You may look healthy and trim but what reserves do you have if you get sick?? It took me months to build my body fat and muscle back to where it was. But I did and a year later I feel fitter, stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been!

I still maintain a heathy eating diet. My rule to myself is be sensible Monday-Friday and enjoy my favourite treats on the weekend! I love eating healthy so to me it’s not a chore but a way of life. Just like my running. It’s not a chore it’s a part of my day to day routine and without it I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I do in a week! My exercise program at the moment for winter consists of 3 runs (approx 18-20km) a week and 2 walks. My way of life that I chose to live is what works for me. I think it’s important that when losing weight and maintaining it, you have to;
1. want to do it
2. find what works for you in the way of food and exercise
3. be consistent with whatever you chose
4. believe in yourself!

Anyone can lose weight and become fit. But the way we do it is completely individualised. We are who we are and we are all individuals breathing the same oxygen, but no one can force you to do something that you don’t want to do…only YOU can be the one to make the decision:) I believe before training your eating habits and body, you have to train your mind, because if your mind isn’t at it’s best nothing else will be!

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Health is Wealth!

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This past week has taught me a lot. Sometimes we get caught up in our busy lives and forget what really is important….

On Thursday my beautiful nana was rushed to hospital after becoming very ill with vomiting from an obstruction in her tummy. It’s just another hurdle my dear grandmother of 80 years, who lives with Parkinson’s Disease has had to endure, after having several ups and downs with her health for many years now. Watching my nana lying in her hospital bed not being able to do anything for herself, makes me feel terribly sad for the once vibrant and independent women she has always been. Nana has wealth and an abundance of people who love and care for her, but in the end no matter what, life really is nothing if we don’t have our health!

I appreciate everyday of my life that I am able to get up out of bed and carry on with my day doing the things that I love the most, without needing help or supervision! I really dislike getting the flu or gastro let alone being struck down with a long-term illness or disease. I remember so vividly lying in my bed 3 years ago, when recovering from my semi-thyroidectomy, how frustrating it was not to be able to care for my children or enjoy running around with them. I use to lie there and think when I’m better I’ll never complain again that I’m playing hide-and-go-seek for the 20th time!!! We are all guilty of forgetting just how important life is when it comes to our health and it’s only once jeopardised it allows us to have a better perspective…for me watching my nana and being diagnosed with a heart condition was a huge kick in the butt!

What is health?

My definition of being healthy involves good mental and physically health. Mental – having the ability to use our minds wisely in a strong and positive manner and physically – having the ability to complete physical tasks and maintain a good fitness level! Both go hand in hand with a maintained well-balanced diet! The cycle I follow is I eat a well-balanced diet and exercise at least four/five days a week as well as drink at least 2 litres of water per day, take a women’s multivitamin and get out in the sunshine at least 4/5 times per week!

Other things I believe that are important to maintaining good health is obviously no smoking, limited alcohol consumption, getting at least 7-8 hours sleep per night, regular health check ups, seeking medical advice if you are not feeling 100%. I also believe that maintaining a healthy weight for height range is important but done wisely through good eating habits and exercise. I saw an advertisement on Facebook the other night…’lose weight in no time without dieting or exercise!’ what the? How is that healthy?? Our bodies should be treated like gold…we have one shot at life and it’s up to us to give it our best!

Plenty of things go wrong in our lives from day-to-day, week to week, but if our health is great we have the strength to get through anything! I look at my nana and am so inspired by her strength and how after everything she has been through can still smile. Her eyes still light up when someone comes to visit her and her voice still communicates with so much love and honesty. From here on in, I declare that I will continue to promote a healthy lifestyle for myself and my family – anything to give us the best chance of living a long and healthy life is certainly worth working hard for! All the money in the world could never make me happy if I didn’t have my health and as the saying goes…health is wealth!!

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Don’t Lose Sight!

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Life can be hard. It can be complicated. When you think you have it figured out and it seems as though things are sailing along nicely, that’s when you can almost guarantee that something will be layed out as a hurdle in your path to happiness. But that’s just life isn’t it!

In the 33 years that I’ve lived, my family and I have been through many ups and downs. The cycle usually consists of everyone going about their business – living, loving, laughing while working hard and then usually it only takes the ring of a phone to create a new sequence of events. We’ve been there for each other through deaths, injuries, illnesses and loss but as much as we feel upset, disheartened, heart-broken or depressed at the time, we find the strength to pick ourselves up and move forward in the direction we were heading when that phone call was made!

This year has seen so many things happen already. It’s been one thing after another and just as you feel as though you are standing upright from the last knock, you are facing the ground again! Our recent mishap for our family happened on Sunday. While our very talented nephew, who has a very promising rugby league future ahead of him, was playing footy, ran 100m towards his try line and instead of scoring he was tackled around his ankles, which ended with his lower leg being broken in three places. How things can change in a split second and from one simple action.

We were guttered for him. His season that just started, the week commencing which involved Broncos training, rep training and the start of his high school football has been put on hold until further notice! He is our champion, to us he was invincible. But no one is invincible, at anytime anything can happen to anyone of us. And I guess that’s the joys of rugby league. It’s been a massive few days. Watching my first-born nephew who is like a son to me take the pain not only from his leg and having it surgically fixed where a plate was inserted, but the pain of having to put his love of life on hold, all in his stride. He’s been so brave through it all, as has my sister and brother-in-law. I’m just so proud to call them my family.

Which brings me to why I wrote this blog. Plenty of people everyday are faced with ill-health, broken bones and situations that seem unbearable, but it’s a bump in the road that I believe has been put their to test our passion and strength. Situations like these can make or break a person, but life is too short to let it take us down! Life is precious and it’s there to be lived and enjoyed. It needs to be nurtured. Since finding out about my heart condition (although I’d rather not have it), it has been the best thing that could have happened. I’m now the fittest I’ve ever been (mentally and physically), the healthiest I’ve ever been and when we are faced with situations that aren’t pleasant, I feel as though I’m a much stronger person when dealing with whatever it is! My heart condition has not allowed me to lose sight of living a great life, it’s given me the determination to live life to its fullest!

My nephew’s broken leg is terrible, it’s disappointing, but it’s just a bump in his road. Him and I had a good talk last night about not letting it disheartened him enough to lose sight of the bigger picture. This situation I believe will show us just how passionate he is about his rugby league career and when he has made a full recovery and returns to the game, he will be bigger, better and stronger than we’ve already seen.

I believe things happen for a reason. Sometimes we figure these reasons out and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes that answer comes to us straightaway and other times it can take days, months and even years. But in all of life’s mishaps it’s so important not to lose sight. Life is about being challenged and it takes guts, strength and determination for these challenges to not knock us down. As humans we are allowed to feel upset when things are going wrong, we are allowed to shed tears or scream to the sky above. But we should never feel as though we are defeated!

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Has the road ended?

Today I made a trip into town that I’ve been doing for over 6 years…a trip to the Terrace to see my kid’s Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist! Dr Bell-Allen has been such a wonderful man to my three children who have suffered chronic middle ear infections since they were 6 months old. Between the three of them they have undergone 7 surgeries, which have involved the insertion of grommets and each have had their adenoids out! It’s been a very loooong road! Last year I wrote a blog about this road called When Will This Road End? and after today’s appointment I’d love to be optimistic and say it could be now!

Today’s appointment was do or die for Bailey and Mia. If their ears hadn’t improved since February, they were both back in for surgery! I’m always nervous driving to the specialist wondering what he’s going to tell me this time! But today I didn’t feel anything other than calm. Call it mother’s instinct, but I was pretty confident that we’d get a good response today and that we did! Bay’s ears have finally drained and don’t retain anymore fluid, so his hearing is great, which I thought and Mia’s ears looked fantastic and the best he has seen them yet! I was so thrilled and so was Dr Dave (as the kids call him)!

So where to from here? We don’t officially have another appointment unless something happens from here on in. This has happened before and I even hugged my specialist and said goodbye and thanked him for all of his help and support in getting the kids fixed up and before I knew it I was back sitting in his office!!! So today there were no hugs, there were no good byes, just a simple thank you and until we meet again!

It’s the first time in many years that none of my children haven’t had grommets. Which means no ear plugs!!! It’s so nice to be able to swim without worrying their ear plugs will fall out and although you don’t take your eyes off kids when they are swimming anyway, you have to be even more vigilant when they have grommets and need to wear ear plugs!

This road that we’ve lived and travelled to get to this point has been hard, frustrating and emotional, but it’s made me a better parent. It’s made me become aware of the ins and outs of my children’s health which so many times has been helpful in detecting an early ear infection, which in turn has prevented perforations. It’s also made me feel very blessed and grateful that although dealing with this has been annoying, it’s certainly not the worst thing my kids could be put through. I see what other parents have to face and know that once again we are the lucky ones.

But one thing I have learnt is to really know and understand your child’s health. Don’t leave it a day to see your doctor. If you think there isn’t something right go and get it checked out. Early detection is the key for anything not getting to a serious point. Many people palm ear infections off as not much, but recurring could cause a lot of problems down the track with hearing and speech development. I strongly urge any parent out there who thinks their child may not be hearing properly to get it checked out. We are our children’s advocates and while they are little their voices, so it is up to us as parents to follow through with our instincts!

For now I live in hope and pray that my babies are on the road to good ear health, cause they sure have been put through the ringer with this one! I am optimistic that this could be the end of the road, but like anything when it comes to children, you always have to keep an open mind…I always expect the unexpected!

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Love seeing my babies happy and content:)

I AM the lucky one….

Three weeks ago I had my yearly echo and today I’m finally getting my results back! What a loooonnng three weeks it’s been. Hoping and praying that my results haven’t changed since I was diagnosed with a heart condition two years ago. All I want to hear today is that my aorta hasn’t dilated any further. I’ve worked hard this 12 months to maintain my fitness and weight loss, which gives me the best chance of keeping my blood pressure down. And have I lead a stress free life like I’m suppose to? As much as you can when you are a prep special Ed teacher and mother of 3 children who are 7,5 and 2!

As I sit here in the hospital waiting room I’m feeling sick and nervous. I was hoping that starting to write this blog would keep my mind occupied but it doesn’t completely stop me from feeling worried. I can’t believe another year has passed. It only feels like yesterday that I was here and another year before that, waiting in the same room. As I walked from the carpark to the Mater hospital and through the corridors, all the memories I’ve lived at this hospital come flooding back….birthing my three children, having a curette after my miscarriage, having half my thyroid removed and the biggest health challenge yet my heart! But with each memory lived the door was closed behind me, this door is different, it’s one that will stay open for the rest of my life. The Mater hospital will be a place I visit indefinitely……

Thankfully my name was called out about 15 minutes after I sat down, which was good as it didn’t give me much time to think! As I took a seat in my cardiologist’s office I felt calm and ready to hear whatever I was to be faced with. We had our usual discussion on how my health has been over the past year. He was happy with everything. My blood pressure was perfect and he is extremely impressed with my fitness and overall well being! AND the best news of all my heart is no worse than last year’s echo….to say I’m thrilled is an understatement!!!!!

As I thank god that I’ve made it through another year, I’m also so very thankful that I’m even aware of my heart condition. Each time I visit my cardiologist he reflects with me how lucky I was to have this picked up while pregnant with my third baby. It is unknown how or why my heart’s aorta is dilated, but he believes I was born with this condition and in most cases you are unaware until its too late. At this time of year I’m always brought to tears as to how different my life could have ended up if we didn’t have Mia…my angel baby!

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I will spend the rest of my life kissing this baby for saving me!!

Like so many people who are faced with health complications, some can be fixed and so many can’t. I feel so blessed that my condition is now known and I now have the chance to live a long healthy life! I AM the lucky one. Yes I have to live the rest of my life with a defect on the organ that keeps me alive, and yes I can’t do EVERYTHING I want to do from a physical perspective and therefore I must be extra careful and cautious, BUT no matter how I look at this situation I AM the lucky one and there are far more people worse off than me!

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So where to from here?…The next step in relation to my heart is to have an exercise stress test, to check to see what my blood pressure does while I exercise. Then I’ll be back to the hospital in March next year for my annual echo. I am to keep doing what I’m doing in terms of keeping fit and eating healthy and I have to keep as stress free as I can. I could lye down and not move and rap myself up in cotton wool, but that’s one: not a life and two: not realistic! I don’t look at this as I’ve been given a death sentence, I look at this as I’ve been given a second chance. A chance to take the best care of myself. And I will spend the rest of my life giving myself the best chance to live a long, healthy and happy life with my beautiful family.

Today I feel blessed. I feel like I can keep going for another year. I feel free again for a while. Free to live, free to love and free to enjoy the simple things in life! Cheers to my heart!

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A Surreal Moment in Time!

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My last few days before my nightmare started were spent at my favourite place – the beach!

It’s been almost 18 months since I was delivered the news….”you have a bicuspid aortic valve and a dilated aorta!”……say what!

I was in the third trimester of my 3rd pregnancy when I started experiencing heart palpitations. I remember watching television one night and I said to my husband that I felt nervous like I was about to present a speech to a thousand people! A couple of nights later, I went to bed only to be disturbed by the loud thumping of my heart, to the point where I thought it was going to jump out of my chest! I had a routine appointment that week with my GP who noticed I had an irregular heart beat. I explained to him the episodes I’d been having so I was put on an EEG machine to monitor my heart rate. Nothing serious showed as did nothing serious show in my bloods. I was told to take it easy and come back if anything got worse!

Heart palpitations can be something pregnant women experience so at the time my GP said it could just be pregnancy related. I continued having palpitation episodes so when I went for my 36 week check up at the Mater, my GP wrote a note about what I’d been experiencing. I saw a really lovely obstetrician that day who thankfully was thorough. She agreed that the heart palpitations were probably pregnancy related, but because I’d had two other pregnancies with no signs of them, they wanted to be cautious and run some routine tests.

This involved having an echocardiograph (heart scan) and I had to wear a heart monitor for 24 hours to monitor my heart’s activity! Nothing significant showed up on the heart monitor, but my echo results were a different story! I didn’t have a gut feeling something was wrong, I went in thinking everything was going to be fine. My sister came with me that day. Mum and dad were on holidays and Kane had to work. This day was the beginning of a whirlwind of events……!

The doctor went through my results with me and explained my echo had showed that I had a bicuspid aortic valve when normally it’s tricuspid and my aorta was dilated 4.5cm, 5cm being severe! At first I was shocked that the results weren’t normal like I thought, then there were a million questions running through my mind? What does this mean? How serious is it? Will I be ok? Will my baby be ok?

That day was spent seeing a few different doctors and I was left with differing opinions. One doctor was happy for me to have a normal delivery, but my cardiologist preferred that I have a c-section because this being a rare condition in females meant there wasn’t enough research to support either way! I was told to go away and think about it for a couple of days and come back for a round table discussion with a heap of different doctors in the coming days….what else could I think about now???

I was due to go down the coast for a few days with my beautiful family and nothing was stopping me from doing that! This would be our last family holiday as a family of four and I needed the R n R! The weather was bliss! The kids were having a ball and I was like a beached whale! I wasn’t too stressed over my heart as I knew I was being looked after by the best and they wouldn’t have let me leave the hospital if I was going to cark it on the spot….and then the phone call that changed everything!!!!!

I will never forget this moment as long as I live! One of my obstetricians rang to say they wanted me to consent to a c-section over the phone incase I went into labour over the weekend and the staff needed to assist my case wouldn’t be on! I was hearing words like: aortic valve rupture, mortality, danger, risk, unknown….what the?? I got off the phone and was a mess to say the least! I couldn’t speak. Mum and dad were with me as Kane was meeting us after work. They kept asking what was wrong and I just couldn’t stop crying…the reality of the cards I’d been dealt had finally sunk in!

I wasn’t prepared to make any decisions; one without my husband and two without the advice of the doctors from the meeting that was going to be held! My sister, who is in the medical field, did a heap of research for me and the risks of having a baby via a natural birth or c-section were similar, but again nothing was very conclusive because this condition is more dominant in males. I was left guttered and confused!

Kane and I decided to finish our family holiday and wait to make a decision until after I’d met with all the medical professions involved! I remember the day of the meeting and walking up the Mater Hospital hill feeling sick to my stomach! I walked into the conference room to a round table of various people. The head of the Mater obstetrics started the meeting and I remember sitting there looking around, listening to what was being said and thinking I can’t believe this….these things don’t happen to me, I watch tv shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice where these things happen, but I can’t believe this is actually happening to me! It really was a surreal moment in time!

I left that meeting with a plan. The plan was that I was able to have a natural birth, but had to be induced two days later, which meant hooked up to machines, they wanted me to have an epidural and an assisted delivery….everything I didn’t want. But even though this wasn’t how I wanted to birth my last baby, what was most important was that my baby and I were as safe as possible. And safe I did feel. When I was admitted to hospital, I never once felt unsafe. I knew that all the top cardiologists in Brisbane knew about my case and were on call if anything were to happen. Between all the doctors and nurses I could not have felt more safe.

The day of Mia’s birth was long and tough. I was hoping when my induction started and my waters were broken my body, who’d been there and done that before, would remember and go into overdrive and things would happen quickly….no such luck! I spent a lot of time sitting around and waiting for things to happen that day. I can’t believe I was getting excited every time I felt pain. I kept telling myself every bit of pain got me closer to meeting my baby. I had so many different doctors coming in and going over the same questions as the doctor before – everyone wanted their finger in the pie that day. For the first part of my labour my heart rate and blood pressure were good. My midwife was under strict instructions to let my doctor know if my heart rate and blood pressure went past 100. Once my labour started to progress I went and stood in the shower as the hot water was acting as pain relief….this is how I birthed Sienna so was hoping to do the same, but my heart rate went up past 100 so after that I was confined to the bed….grrrrr!

By 3.30 that afternoon I was finally in established labour and 4 hours later without an epidural and an assisted delivery my beautiful little baby, Mia Natalie Trew entered this world. I was stoked that I did it and a piece to this puzzle was complete. Things didn’t go exactly to plan, but pretty close and my heart handled the whole event! There was talk that after I had Mia I would have to go to ICU or the Coronary Care Unit to be monitored for the first 24 hours, but the hospital allowed me to stay with my baby in birth suite overnight, where I had my own nurse who monitored me. I was admitted to hospital on Wednesday and discharged on Sunday….my longest hospital stay, so I was so happy to go home. I had mixed emotions this time. I remember getting home and my dad came over and I just fell into to his arms crying. Poor man I don’t think he knew what hit him. The reality of everything was really hitting home. I was so grateful to be ok and to have a perfect little baby, but I was always going to be left with a heart condition after it was all over!

The next three months were crucial for my condition. I had to keep a diary of my blood pressure and heart rate readings and alert the hospital if I had any chest pains. I tried not to think about it too much as it was doing my head in! It was nice to go back and speak to my cardiologist at my 3 month check up. When I was first diagnosed with my heart condition, all that was important was getting Mia out so we were both safe. Questions about my heart and what had to happen to fix it couldn’t be answered until after I had her and I waited out the 3 month period! The next step was an MRI. This test was crucial to my treatment plan. I was stoked after getting the MRI results back. It showed that I do have a dilated aorta but my heart has a tricuspid aortic valve and not a bicuspid one like the echo showed!

My cardiologist explained that an echo isn’t as accurate as an MRI so I was granted with best case scenario news!!! This means that instead of looking down the barrel of open heart surgery now, I can be closely monitored with yearly echoes and regular blood pressure readings. The thought of having such a major operation with three small children was so overwhelming. I also have to live a stress free life….mmmm ok….I certainly will try! Thankfully since the day I was diagnosed, my blood pressure has consistently stayed around 90/60 and by losing weight and keeping fit this will contribute to keeping my blood pressure down, which is the key to my aorta dilating any further or not.

This whole experience has been very surreal, but I have learnt so much as well! I appreciate the smallest of things in life now and appreciate everyday I am on this earth being a mum, wife, sister granddaughter, niece and friend. I take time out for myself and don’t feel guilty for it. I look at my baby Mia and thank God everyday she was conceived, because if I didn’t fall pregnant I wouldn’t have found out about my heart until it was possibly too late! If I can give any advice from all of this, it would be to listen and pay attention to your bodies! If there is something that you are unsure of and you know it doesn’t seem right, get it checked out. Life is far too precious and when it comes to your life, you can never be to careful!

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The little girl who saved my life!