ImproveCareNow Parents


Michael Seid, PhD

Michael Seid, PhDI’m a health care researcher interested in making health care work better for kids with chronic illness.  My sister has Crohn's disease and my daughter was just diagnosed last year with Crohn's disease.

 

Twenty five years ago, my sister was diagnosed when her intestine burst. Her bowels were so obstructed and inflamed, that they started leaking into her abdomen. After her first surgery, she found kind and wonderful doctors. My parents did everything they could for her. But her journey was rough. She ended up having three surgeries, a TPN feeding tube, losing all but 3 feet of her small intestine, and having way too much physical and emotional suffering. She never took her meds because she didn’t think they did anything for her. She felt completely alone and was convinced no one could help her.

 

Because my daughter is part of ImproveCareNow, her experience has been different. She was connected early on to other kids her age with Crohn’s. She learned how to track her symptoms so she and her doctor could determine that her meds were helping. And she collaborated with her doctor to figure out that Carnation Instant Breakfast helped reduce her fatigue. I’ve connected online with other parents for ideas about how to help and have shared this information with her doctor. Things aren’t perfect, but my daughter has been able to bear the burden of Crohn’s more lightly, in large part because of the way that ImproveCareNow has enabled us all to be more active partners in helping her stay healthy.

 

Taking ImproveCareNow to the next level is crucial.  I want to make a world where everyone can be part of the solution.  I intend to continue to work to make it easier for more people to make a difference for their health or the health of their children.

 

Michael


C3N for CF

[Editor's Note:  Erin Moore is "Doin' it for Drew"!  Drew has Cystic Fibrosis (CF).  CF is a life shortening genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide).  It is a chronic illness - meaning until a cure is found, CF is forever.  Erin is collaborating with the C3N Project; exploring the creation of a Collaborative Chronic Care Network for CF.  This post was originally featured on Erin's blog - 66 roses.]

I arrive for our clinic appointment around 7:45am. The last time we were here was 3 months ago. Usually, we are ushered back to a room within 15 minutes of arrival. A nurse greets us shortly thereafter to review our medicine list and address any issues that we've been having. Just the other day he was coughing up a storm but seems to have gotten over it. Should I talk to the dietician about his diet again? His weight is up and his stools seem "normal" but I'm always anxious about his lack of interest in foodI wonder if an RT is available to talk a little bit about his airway clearance. I don't want to be a bother but I sure do think the airway clearance he had in the hospital this summer was more effective. I wish I knew what they were doing differently! 

 

Next up is the doctor. She asks how things have been going. Today? Great! Last week? I was a little worried, but the cough he had seemed to go away. There was that one day that his stool was a little weird but that got better too, not sure what caused it. And frankly I can't remember back farther than that. She checks him out and wants to review his labs since we are at his anniversary visit. His vitamin D is low, his breathing still sounds a little noisy, and a note that she has from his ENT seems to indicate that he may need another sinus surgery. She feels out whether I'd be open to a bronchoscopy at the same time. Maybe another CT is a better option.  When I talked to the ENT last month it sounded like things were going well? I guess I don't mind if they do a bronchoscopy while he's under for something else, but I remember huge discussion with other CF parents on Facebook about CT scans and all the negative effects of radiation and I don't know that I want to do that? I wish I could find that conversation! I ask questions about a game plan for if he needs IV antibiotics if we grow pseudomonas again, having read online about all different methods used for eradication but not knowing which is best and why. It's hypothetical at the moment because they haven't even swabbed him yet. I just have sort of a busy life and sometimes having a plan provides a sense of comfort for me. She suggests an action plan and I am mostly on board, except for the azithromycin because I saw a presentation somewhere that seemed to show compelling evidence against its use. I wish I could find that presentation to show her! I trust his doctor and want to follow her recommendations, but I have some reservations. I don't think either of us has time to get into this as I've already taken up more than my fair share of appointment time. We agree to wait for the results of the culture to decide a course of action.

 

Next up is the dietician. Lucky for me, he has a "weird poop" while we are there so she can look at it and provide her thoughts. This isn't what all of his stool looks like. I don't really know how often his stool looks like this - sometimes once a day, sometimes 4 times a day, sometimes once a week. We talk for a bit about enzyme dosing and the calories he's taking in, her offering suggestions for beefing up his intake and me adding them to the "notes" section in my iPhone, hoping I can get them down elsewhere before one of my kids deletes them by accident.

 

The social worker pops in to address some questions about starting preschool that I had mentioned to the nurse 2 hours ago. I had met with the Psychologist about a year ago to talk about his lack of interest in food, but never followed up, mostly because of both time constraints and cost. If only she could pop in and give me a couple of quick suggestions. But I have to go, we've already been here for almost 4 hours. While waiting for my discharge paperwork, a research assistant shows up to see if I'd be interested in participating in a study about I'm not sure what because my 3yr old is clambering to get out of that office. I agree anyway, get my discharge paperwork and fly out the door.

 

This summer, we were visiting family in Philadelphia and my son got sick. He was admitted to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a pulmonary exacerbation. Not a single morsel of information about him and his history with Cystic Fibrosis was available to the doctors at CHOP. Many phone calls were made between fellows from my personal cell phone to understand his medical history and doctors asked me the same questions day after day before we trusted and understood each other and hashed out what was going on in the days leading to our admission. I know that it was in Drew's best interest that we discuss everything about him ad nauseum, but it blew my mind that in this age of technology, there was no electronic medical health record that the doctors in Philadelphia could access to understand Drew to provide the best care for him quickly.

 

When Drew was a baby, we kept a diary of his formula intake and the corresponding output. We set up a nice little Excel chart and shared that with our dietician on a very regular basis. I credit that chart for his gained weight and reaching the 50th percentile by the time he was 6 months old and he has been able to maintain that to today when he is almost 3. I know that all patients aren't equal, but wouldn't it be great if that data, if our "patient reported outcomes" were cataloged somewhere so that we could share what we did and how it worked for us? Sure, I could take to the CF Mom's Facebook page and ask about what high calorie snacks work for their 3 year olds and hope that some of those moms are online and eager to provide some feedback. But once that question is asked and answered, it just simply vanishes into cyberspace. I cannot tell you how many times I've said, "I know I've seen that somewhere". Image the power of cataloging that data, those conversations, those findings. It can be used by patients, by doctors, by researchers and teachers. Just thinking about the power of that is what is driving me to stay involved and insist on nothing less.

 

I think you're seeing my point, a point that was brought out in almost every session I sat through at the NACFC this year. The information that we currently have on patients in between visits is limited. Filling those gaps would give us a more complete picture of health. It would help doctors to intervene at appropriate times, times when patients might not call because in their mind "its just not that bad yet", but doctors are able to identify a problem or a pattern that lets them know the direction something that's "not that bad" is headed. They would be able to more easily determine if certain therapies were actually making a difference through the combine use of passive behavioral and active patient reported data, looking at a real-time view of what is going on with a patient, not what they remember to tell you when they are in clinic. The registry could be enhanced by identifying day to day trends and commonalities in patients sharing mutations. And all of this data can be used by researchers and scientists to figure out every last detail this disease and find therapies that work for every one of us. From a parent's perspective, the C3N is what we need to make life easier and improve outcomes while we wait for our cure.


To Nudge or to Push

Mother to teenage son:  “Hey, have you taken your medicine yet?”

Son (playing video games): “I will in a minute!”

Mom (wondering whether it’s worth the fight):  “You know, you’re gonna move out in a few years and you’re going to have be able to do this without me telling you.  And you know you don’t want flare-ups if you can help it!”

Son: “Nope, you’ll have an alarm on your phone and you’ll just call me and keep nagging until I take it.  Can’t wait for that!” [insert sarcasm]

And, end scene.   Mom walks offstage slowly, imagining how many more times she’ll ask before he takes it, if he’ll ever fully be in charge of his body, maybe whether he’ll be living on her couch at 40….

Is this exaggerated?  Maybe.  But I know many families in this boat.  They don’t have emergencies, and they get a clean “Good job, no problems this quarter!”  during the GI checkup. The child has a good quality of life when it comes to school and sports and social time and… it’s because mom stays in charge. She’s in charge of the medicine, the questions for the doctor, all the IBD knowledge necessary to lead a good life.  She’s running this show!

How much should we push our teens to start taking charge and showing responsibility?    It’s difficult.  If we push too little, they don’t grow up.  If we push too hard, they may retreat and we'll keep doing everything anyway “because someone has to.”  And by the way, ‘Why wasn’t that last flare and hospitalization enough to make him wake up and start doing something about it?’


Emma: Your Waiting Room Ally


Today is the second day of Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Week. Throughout the week, Jill, Jennie, and I will be taking turns profiling some ImproveCareNow innovations we are incredibly excited to share with the community. I have the honor of introducing Emma, a promising initiative out of Oklahoma University (OU) Children's Hospital  to bridge the gap between tech-savvy adolescent patients and their gastroenterologists.

Who is Emma? Emma is the main character in a captivating iPad game of the same name, developed by OU students in collaboration with Dr. John Grunow. The Emma iPad app is designed to engage young patients in the waiting room, educate them on how to better manage their IBD, and give clinicians a preview into their patients' health and needs. Each session is customizable to a young patient's diagnosis and history.

Put an iPad with the Emma app in the hands of a young patient; she's a little bit anxious about her upcoming clinic visit, but is tech-savvy and somewhat disengaged in the waiting room. Emma transports her into a colorful, interactive four-realm world. It reads like a storybook at first, but soon launches into a variant on Angry Birds. The adventure begins in Port Vanguard, the portal to all four worlds. Soon, our patient is swiping her fingers across the touch screen, navigating Emma's rocket ship through hazardous terrain and "boosting" it when it starts to fall. It's familiar, it's engaging, it's competitive....and it's educational!




Emma App Screen Shot Welcome to Port Vanguard Screenshots from Emma app courtesy of Robert Free (co-developer)

Emma 2As our patient plays, Emma slips in multiple choice questions that test her comprehension on topics like nutrition and self-management, questions customized to her diagnosis. Emma also asks the patient to rank her quality of life and emotional health. Emma sends our patient's responses and a summary of  specific target areas of patient education which need work to her gastroenterologist. Her GI can then tailor her subsequent visit to address gaps in her understanding of her diagnosis and specific areas of concern. Emma is all about streamlining the clinic visit to make effective use of everyone's time. The app is currently being beta tested at OU Children's Hospital, where a select group of patients are helping Emma reach her full potential before hitting ImproveCareNow centers nationwide.


Why do I think Emma is so brilliant? Emma is an effective and clever use of technology, which has been designed especially for a tech-savvy generation. Emma engages patients in the waiting room while giving physicians a quick pre-visit snapshot of their condition. She turns waiting room downtime into a productive use of patient energy (and maybe even jitters!) to better the patient-physician dynamic. I met Emma this past summer during a Patient Advisory Council beta test opportunity and was immediately impressed. As I transition into adult care, it's exciting to watch technology improve the pediatric clinic environment I lovingly leave behind. Emma is innovating the clinical experience, starting right in the waiting room. That's a real game-changer.




ImproveCareNow to Publish CIRCLE on IBD Transition

CIRCLE eNewsletter is published by ImproveCareNow for Patients and Families living with IBD

The December issue of CIRCLE will be published on Tuesday November 27th.  The eNewsletter, which is published by ImproveCareNow for patients & families living with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, will feature parents talking about transition points, supporting each other and the importance of caring for their kids now.  We'll include some tools and resources on transitions too.  And as always, you'll find links to trending IBD topics from the past month, up-to-date ImproveCareNow remission rates and more.  Don't miss it. Sign up to have CIRCLE delivered to your inbox today.


What We Wish Our Parents Knew

Mother and Daughter not talkingAt ImproveCareNow’s Fall Learning Session, the Patient Scholars and parents had a special breakout session together. At the parents’ request, Jennie and I have co-authored a list of What We Wish Our Parents Knew navigating IBD through our teenage years:

1) Take a deep breath: Living with IBD as a teenager isn’t easy, but it doesn’t need to be figured out all in one day. There are going to be days that go according to plan, and those that really don’t - sometimes just getting through the day is the goal.

2) I’m moody; get used to it: Regardless of my IBD, I’m still a teenager, and I’m going to be moody sometimes (or okay, a lot of the time). It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I don’t need you; it just means I’m growing up.

3) Let me cool off: Between the stresses of growing up and dealing with my disease, there will be times I just want to be by myself. Let me take some time to calm myself down. I will come to you when I want to talk.

4) I’ll know when I’m ready: The second best decision I made after my diagnosis was to join a teenage support community. The first best decision was to wait until I was ready to make the most of it.

5) Forgetting is not failing: If I forget my pills a few times or make some choices I’ll regret on the toilet tomorrow, don’t assume you need to charge in and take control. I know it’s hard for you to watch, but you’ll make more of a difference if you ask me how you can help me do better instead.

6) One of these kids is not like the others: Especially when I’m sick, try to go easy on and make time for my brothers and sisters, even if it means taking time away from me. Remember that we all don’t know how it feels to be each other.

7) Caring isn’t always sharing: I know you don’t like when I don’t tell you about the blood or mucus or pain until it’s been happening for a few days – but until there’s something we can do about it, I’ve always felt it’s better for just one of us to be scared. Trust me to know when I need to come to you and when I don't.

8) It’s my body, and I’ll decide if I want to: I am going to be moving to adult care soon, and it’s important that I’m prepared to be my own medical advocate. Help involve me in my care, encourage me to call my nurse and refill prescriptions, listen carefully to my concerns and ideas, and help me make decisions with you and my medical team.

9) There’s nothing like a good IBDer: My IBD friends will just ‘get’ it, and it’s really important to have that social support - it helps me feel normal and social.

10) Hello, my name is IBD: If I ask you not to mention my disease in a public situation, it doesn’t mean I’m embarrassed. It may just mean I’d like to introduce myself before I introduce my disease.

11) At least it’s not ..... : Some of my friends with IBD or other chronic illnesses will be healthier or sicker than myself, but please don’t make comparisons. I know my worst may be someone else’s best, but that does not mean I don’t have a right to mourn my losses.

12) What hurts the most: When you say you’d take my colon from me and give me your healthy one if you could, I know it’s because you love me and hurt seeing me in pain, but I could never dump this on you. Some days, I wish you could see my perspective, but the thought of you feeling my pain makes me hurt more than anything.

13) Home is where your guts are: I don’t want to be defined by my disease, and part of that is going to school/work where I want. It’s possible to leave home and travel for school. With the right accommodations, I can do anything. I know my body and myself, and I can decide what I can handle.

14) Forever isn’t tomorrow: Sometimes, it’s okay to live in the moment, and make decisions for the next week or next month or next semester, without worrying about where we’ll end up. This is a forever disease, but we don’t have to make decisions for forever today.

15) A bumpier ride makes for a better story: Life is not going to be easy as pie living with IBD. Every year will be something different, but if we hold on and stick together, we’ll emerge one way or another.


This is it

[Editor's Note: The following post was written for LOOP by a member of the ImproveCareNow Parent Working Group who is also living with Crohn's disease.]

 

After years of planning for transition, this is it. On Monday, my son will borrow a car from a classmate, drive himself 35 miles from his university campus to a Dallas hospital, use valet parking for the first time, check in at an infusion center, and get his Remicade infusion, alone, for the first time. He’ll be far from his Ohio home and far from me. This will be his 53rd infusion; I’ve been there for nearly every one.

 

As usual, he has led me along in this transition. At age 11, when he’d only been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease for a few days, he came to me and said, “Mommy, if I have to have an ostomy that’s OK, because you have one and you can do whatever you want”. I hadn’t even brought up the possibility of surgery but he was already way ahead of me.

 

I’ve tried to do what the transition guides tell us, with mixed results. (Does anyone not get mixed results with teens?) But now that his – our – transitional period is ending, I can see that he was preparing himself all along. He is ready to continue the daily battle on his own, with me in a supporting – rather than guiding – role.

 

So now I’m left to consider what my new post-transition role should be. For the past seven years, I’ve advocated for pediatric IBD patients through our local center and the ImproveCareNow network. There’s still much to do and I’m still motivated to continue, but I’m no longer a parent of a pediatric IBD patient. How much longer will I be able to relate to other parents and feel that they can relate to me? I guess you could say that I’m in transition now. There are no pediatric-to-adult transition programs for the parents, so I suppose I will have to find my own way.


Parental Guidance

Curvy Road SignHaving a child with IBD means many things. It means learning a new language, a new way of living, developing new family dynamics, gaining a new perspective, and seeking, desperately, to get guidance (and to give guidance). Also, it reinforces the notion, "You don't know what you don't know." But, luckily at my child's care center, and across the ImproveCareNow Network in which our care center is a participating member,  guidance is available to parents and guidance is also sought from parents.

 

As I watch my child learn to live with Ulcerative Colitis, I learn too. So, not only does my parental guidance come from her medical team and other parents, it comes from my child as well. She guides me by letting me know I am being overprotective or questioning too much - how did you feel today? what was your level of stomach pain? how many times did you go to the bathroom? - and that sometimes it is best to just leave the UC inquisition for another day. When she is feeling good, she just wants to relish the moment and forget about UC. She guides me to live in the moment as she has learned to do and to appreciate the gift of now.

 

Parents as partners and teachers is important to a child's medical team. Parental guidance is a must when communicating a child's flare pattern as it is as unique as are our children. My daughter's care team relies on me and my husband to guide them through her symptoms and health pattern so they can care for her better and deliver better outcomes.  It cannot be "family-centered" care without the family participating as partners in a child's care.  Doctors cannot provide the best care for IBD kids without parental guidance.

 

As my child is a tween, my parental guidance to her during a medical visit is to model clear communications with her medical team. When my children were very young, I would always say before a doctor's visit, "Doctors are like detectives, and we have to give them the clues to help them solve the mystery."  Teaching our children how to communicate with doctors is a necessity.  With her teen years fast approaching and college around the corner (in my mind anyway), I must use my parental guidance to prepare my daughter for life-long medical care without me. I must model the behavior she needs to learn to do life with UC on her own, someday.

 

Even though my daughter is only a tween, her transition to being able to care for herself must begin now.  While I want to be by her side through her IBD journey forever, the reality is I cannot do that.  So I must not fail her by not preparing her or guiding her toward this kind of independence. We are very fortunate, our care center has a formal transition program from pediatric to adult GI care.  It  is just this type of guidance that I need to receive from them to do this right.

 

ImproveCareNow (ICN) made transitions a focus at their recent Learning Session in Chicago.  Young adult patients, medical professionals and parents came together to bring their perspectives, provide their guidance for the many transitions children with IBD face and how to navigate them as smoothly as possible.  Across the ICN Network,  parental guidance is not only needed, it is valued.  The ICN Parent Working Group (PWG) is proof of that - parents from ICN centers are coming together to guide one another and the ICN Network.

 

When a child is diagnosed with IBD, or any chronic disease, parental guidance is important. Why?  Because family-centered care requires a circle of communication and guidance from all involved at different points on the journey.   It is the needed model to resolve the issues and meet challenges of pediatric IBD. Without the many facets of "parental guidance", our children will not live as well as they should with IBD.  So not only is parental guidance important, I believe it is required.


Can't This Thing Go Any Faster?

This is not a typical post for me, but it’s important to me that I let you know that I feel your pain as parents and patients.  I PROMISE that my next post will be an Alcatraz bathroom installment.

 

The darkest days for my son, Jedediah, clearly among the darkest days of my life, were those when Jed was in horrible pain.  Often, going to the bathroom offered some relief; other times, not so much.

 

Like many of our kids prior to a new treatment taking effect or a surgery, Jed was basically housebound in the weeks leading up to his colectomy.

 

So, when we were recently on a car trip and Jed announced that he had to go to the bathroom, even though I knew he was not “in pain,” Sela and I WERE in pain.  FOR him.  We were flashing back to those darkest days.

 

Then, it was déjà vu all over again.

 

It was 1978 or thereabouts.  My dad and I were on a car trip.  I was fresh in remission from my stubborn UC onset—it took over a year of twice daily steroid enemas to get to remission.  My folks, like Sela and I, had seen their child in pain with no way to relieve it.

 

I announce that I have to go to the bathroom, and my dad’s foot gets heavy all of a sudden.  I know now what he was thinking.  “Hey, I can DO SOMETHING here.  If I go faster, I can make my son feel better quicker.”  How many times have you wanted the ability to DO SOMETHING to make your son/daughter feel better?

 

The Tennessee Highway Patrol had other ideas.  Pulled over for going about 20 mph over the speed limit, my dad pleaded with the officer to let him take his son to a bathroom.  The police officer responded that the speeding ticket would cost $75 ($264 in 2012 dollars) and that my dad would have to follow him to the police station to pay the fine.

 

This was bad, and my dad didn’t want to make it any worse, so he let the police officer continue to talk about court, judges, etc.  Then he says, “But if you give me $5 [$17.60 in 2012 dollars], you and your son can be on your way.”

 

And, that, my friends, is how one Tennessee Highway Patrolman bought lunch on that summer day in 1978.


Since 3rd Grade

Remission is the goal for anyone diagnosed with IBD.  The journey to achieve it, however, is long and winding.  The first milestone for those with IBD is getting the diagnosis (another long and winding road; and a story all unto itself).  The harsh reality of an IBD diagnosis sets in with the words, "there is no cure."  Enough said, onto mission-remission.   The road to remission is marked by things like steroids, 6-MPs,  biologics, surgeries, and more.

 

For our gutsy kid, remission finally came 18 months after diagnosis by starting Remicade infusions.  Deciding to use this drug on our daughter was trying but necessary.  No longer could we bear to see her so fatigued - at times she could not stand - or clinching her stomach in severe pain.  Nor could we allow her to live in fear of bathroom accidents at school.  We did not want her to endure another round of oral steroids or have another hospital stay.  Asacol and Azithioprine only brought brief respite.  What's a parent to do?

 

With Ulcerative Colitis, every day she is sick is another day her colon becomes damaged; each day she is sick increases the chance of her colon needing to be removed.  So Remicade it is.  The agony of the decision and the stress of the first infusion led to exhaustion, for me anyway.  But for our gutsy kid, she gained a new lease on life. The very next day she was energetic and happy.  Out of the blue she exclaimed, "I feel so good!".  I  asked her, "When was the last time you felt this good?" She paused, reflecting deeply for a moment, and responded, "Since 3rd grade."  At this time she was in 6th grade.

 

Our gutsy kid spent three years in pain and lost three years of her young life to suffering - mostly in silence.  Even through her pain and suffering she strove to be all that she could be; competing in equestrian sports, participating in school sports, never complaining and seeking normalcy at all costs.  We are proud of her bravery.  We admire her tenacity.  We are grateful to her medial team for giving her childhood back to her.

 

How many gutsy kids spend too much of their lives suffering in silence because of IBD?  Too many.  Thanks to the ImproveCareNow Network and the participating care centers like ours, more kids can achieve remission sooner and get back to the business of simply being kids.


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