ALD Camp at Home Family Weekend with the Painted Turtle

Calling all ALD families!!! PLEASE register today for this year’s CAMP AT HOME ALD FAMILY WEEKEND (March 19-21). A weekend full of great activities for kids, interesting information for adults, and groovy music and dancing family fun!!!

The Adler family is incredible. Their beautiful son was diagnosed with ALD through CA’s newborn screening program in 2017 and without pause they dove into, not just helping their son, but helping the entire ALD community. They started The Lucas Project which has raised over $130,000 for ALD research and has raised international awareness for the disease. And, along with Dr. VanHaren and The Painter Turtle, the Adler family has organized this incredible annual event.

If you would like to learn more about ALD, or how to help our community, or connect with other people, or make lovely artwork, or just dance and sing — THIS is your weekend!!

We look forward to seeing you all there!!!

Love, Jess

2 shots (8 total) and 1 shoulder

It’s hard now to find the time to sit down and write something that’s not about a specific therapy or therapeutic practice, but I wanted to sneak away form my studies and fill everyone in on some BIG news — The Torreys of MAPSO are now fully vaccinated!!!!

You may have heard that the second dose of either COVID-19 vaccine often results in a crappy day – fever, joint pain, chills and other “crappy” stuff. Both Dan and I each had a day feeling the effects and were worried about how Jack would do. We spoke with his doctors and decided the minimal risk of a reaction was outweighed but the HUGE reward of protecting him from the virus. We did stress dose him with his steroids for a day following the second dose and kept him super hydrated. Then we watched him like new parents watching their newborn breathe. The only one who had any side effects from Jack’s second dose was me, because I was waking up constantly to check on him. Jack got through it like a champ!

We are so relieved to be on the other side of the vaccine. We are not planning any big trips just yet, but looking forward to not freaking out about every trip to the grocery store. AND, we are excited to be part of history and part of the solution to reaching the end of this crazy pandemic.

In other medical news – Dan had a shoulder replacement today. It’s been a long time coming and he is eager to see how this new one works. Not sure he will be pitching for the Yankees any time soon, but he is excited to be able to raise his arm over his head.

Back to my school work for now. Look out for another post soon about the next Camp-at-Home ALD Family Weekend at the Painted Turtle!

Love, Jess

Day +5000 (a post from Dan/Dad)

Day 5000


Lately I’ve been distracted.  Distracted by the lousy weather outside the window.  The cold.  The grey sky.  The snow piling up… Distracted by the inane MTG politico drama playing out on TV every day and night…  Distracted by work stuff ( I just started a new job this week).  Work can sometimes be a positive and useful distraction – especially when living through the first 12 months of a pandemic (Yes, we are now in our 12th month…).  But at the end of the day, it is still a DISTRACTION.   


Sometimes the only part of the day when things come into focus, when my mind clears, when I shed all the distractions is when I get a giant hug from Jack.  It’s the best part of my day – every day. 

 
Even if you haven’t spent a lot of time with Jack, you know that he is non-verbal.  But you probably can’t fully understand how he communicates most directly and most effectively.  It’s when he gives you a hug.  He is extremely strong.  He will literally squeeze the breath right out of your chest.  It’s the best feeling in the world.  It’s when I regain all perspective — as I squeeze back! 


Today is Day 5000 in the Torrey house.  It’s been 5000 days since Jack received his stem-cell transplant in May 2007.  Since the doctors at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital saved my son’s life.  5000 days of a wonderful life.  5000 days of smiles and belly laughs and hugs and dancing to 70’s tunes.  5000 days of watching him and his baby sister grow up to be adults.  5000 days of “our normal life” with Jack.  


Think about what has happened in your life over the last 5000 days.  It’s hard to grasp all the changes, the good and the bad, the ups and downs,  the mundane and the thrilling, Hell, some days I can barely remember life before COVID.  But Jack and his hugs help me remember what is really important in life.  Not the distractions.  That’s nothing but a lot of noise.


Thank you Jack for being in my life. 


Love,
Dad 

MCATS, NYU, Old School Vinyl and Duct Tape

hApPy NeW yEaR!!!! Less than a week into 2021, and our family is starting out strong. Anna completed her junior year at Johns Hopkins a semester early, so she’s taking next semester off to study for the MCATS. Not really … Continue reading

Christmas 2020

Christmas was okay, it just didn’t feel like Christmas.

We did get to enjoy Mymom’s famous sausage/spinach lasagna on Christmas Eve and woke up Christmas morning to made french toast and opened gifts. We ate and drank and listened to Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift to You All. We spoke with family and friends via Zoom. We even got to spent the day after Christmas like every year — in our PJs watching movies and playing games. The holiday was lovely, but it just wasn’t the same.

The lack of other people felt strange. We were lucky to be able to spend time with my parents (they are our pod, although we are still careful). Our tiny table of six was filled with delicious food and lively conversation, it just felt a little festive then Christmas should be.

The entire holiday season feels a little underwhelming. We weren’t able to see our beautiful nieces and nephews or party with the extended family. There were no December Saturday nights where we Uber from one party to another. There were no lunches with my girlfriends to escape from holiday shopping. There will be no party with close friends to ring in the new year. I didn’t even have the heart or the energy to send out a holiday card. 

COVID was the Grinch that stole the holidays. 

We keep saying to ourselves that next year will be different. It better be. We need to fill this house again! 2020 has taught us all a lot about appreciating the small things AND that nature is powerful and sometimes cruel. Lesson learned 2020 — now let’s move onto 2021 with a new vaccine, a new president and (hopefully) tons of time with friends and family!!!

hApPy NeW yEaR!!!!!!!!!!

Love, Jess

Thanks JackO

This morning I was sitting in my office feeling overwhelmed as I poured through my syllabi for the winter term. I was busy second-guessing my decision to return to school at my age and wondering how on earth I was going to manage, when I heard Maria (Jack’s caregiver), “JackO – why are you crying?”

I race downstairs to find our boy in front of Maria’s phone, watching a video with big tears rolling down his face.

Shakira singing John Lennon’s Imagine.

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Don’t ever confuse Jack’s silence with not understanding. He recognizes powerful words when he hears them and sometimes his emotions take over. Perhaps his silence allows him to listen even closer than many of us. I’m always amazed by the beauty of these moments. Maria offered to turn off the song, but I insisted that we continue. Tears aren’t always such a bad thing — beside I needed a little perspective this morning.

Love you JackO. And, John Lennon and Shakira too;)

Love, Jess

Holidays + COVID = 0

Not sure how I can feel so exhausted when I do so little. Each morning I write a list of what I hope to accomplish. Some days go by where I don’t complete anything, so I return to the list and add things like — shower, walk the dogs, feed Jack — just so I can cross a couple of things off the list. With the holidays around the corner, my daily list gets longer and less seems to be getting done. Today, instead of Christmas shopping for the family, I ordered some bras and an eyebrow kit (not even sure what that is).

Love, Jess

our relationship in 100 words

As the music plays, I lay my head on his shoulder and feel his breath on my face. I wrap my arm around him so I can stroke his hair and wonder when he’ll lose the rest. He doesn’t seem to know that he’s aged, but the years have come and gone and he’s showing signs of a complicated life. He loves this song. I can tell by the way his body is rocking. He’s not been able to speak for many years, but I’m able to translate. Our connection is deeper than the scars his disease has left behind.

Two Days

Loving my new fancy ALD Connect mask!

I rarely check my calendar anymore. What’s the point? Plans aren’t really being made anymore. We live our lives playing everything by ear. All my sentences with friends and family start with — Let’s see or If the weather is good or Hopefully.

But this morning without thinking, I opened up my yellow 2020 monthly calendar and there it was — ALD Connect Patient Learning Academy. I should be packing my bags today to go down to Baltimore for their annual conference. Not this year. This year — like everything else — the conference will be on Zoom.

The 2020 conference was scheduled to be in Baltimore. My mother and I planned to head down early to steal Anna away from her college apartment, spoil her with a nice hotel room and explore Charm City for a day before hunkering down at the conference. Being in Baltimore and getting to see Anna for the weekend was going to be icing on the cake for what is always a wonderful few days with the ALD community. It’s an opportunity to sit with people who understand our disease — families, doctors, nurses, advocates, pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms — all with one mission — to win the war against ALD. It’s always an exhausting few days, but every year I leave counting the days until the next one.

Oh well.

It’s not perfect, but I will log in on Friday, and for two days get to listen to the latest news about ALD treatments and protocols. I will get to hear all the updates about newborn screening and hear stories of people’s struggles and triumphs over our disease. And, I will get to at least catch a glimpse of some of my favorite ALD folks on my computer screen.

Fingers crossed that next year we can reunite in person. Until then, I will enjoy the two days and try to appreciate the fact that I don’t need to take off my sweatpants and can get away with just a little mascara.

Love, Jess

Legalize It

In case you haven’t heard — there’s an election next week. There are very clear choices on one side of NJ’s ballot, but I want to remind Jersey voters not to forget to turn over your ballot.

Question 1 would add an amendment to the state constitution that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana, for persons age 21 and older, and legalizes the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.

In a time when our state is in need of help, the tax benefits alone would drive me to support this amendment, but selfishly the legalization of recreational marijuana would make my life, Jack’s life, and the life of many, so much easier.

I’m a pot mama.

Of corse I’ve never used pot myself (it’s illegal 😏), but Jack has had a NJ medical marijuana card since 2016. We needed to fight the state, but were able to qualify because Jack was suffering from debilitating spasms that were effecting his ability to walk. Marijuana not only helped with the spasms, but has improved his overall quality of life. He eats better, sleeps better and although his mood has never been a problem, he’s even more JackO.

We have friends and family who credit marijuana with helping with nausea caused by cancer treatments, appetite, anxiety, sleep, depression and a host of other ailments. All without any complaints of bad side-effects other than it can be a pain to purchase and there’s still a lingering stigma attached to marijuana.

I don’t worry too much about people judging us for giving our son marijuana. There have been too many improvements in Jack’s life thanks to our adding marijuana to his list of medications, that we feel completely justified in our decision. What I do complain about is that medical marijuana in NJ is a labor of love — labor being the first word.

Every few weeks I contact Jack’s doctor to make sure our file is up to date, make an appointment and head out to one of the 3 dispensaries in our area (none is our community). I purchase an ounce of marijuana and then go home and start baking. It takes hours. I decarbonate the flower, clarify the butter, use a fancy machine to infuse the butter with marijuana and then bake cookies. I try to make each cookie with approximately 7 milligrams of THC – that seems to be the dose that helps Jack the best. Some caregivers would be forced to sample the cookies to gage the strength (of corse I won’t do that — it’s illegal😏). Jack has a cookie two or three times a day until we run out and then I make another run to the dispensary and spend another day baking.

Legalizing recreational marijuana would make access to marijuana easier and limit the need for Jack’s doctors to be involved. No more cards and physician’s certificates. It also means we could purchase eatables with a specific strength so that this mom doesn’t need to sample cookies to gage strength (NOT that I would do that — it’s illegal😏). And, legalizing marijuana would help limit the negative stigma attached to a medication that has improved Jack’s life exponentially.

So, if you live in NJ and haven’t voted yet, please make sure you turn over your ballot, think about Jack and his sweet smile, and do the right thing. Then turn your ballot over again and make sure you voted for Biden/Harris!!!

Love, Jess