I’ve posted my feelings on my personal website which you can read here but I just wanted to write that Rachel completed her first week at Massachusetts Hospital School. Tuesday was a long admission process and she stayed at school until Friday night. The school receives students (patients) on Sunday afternoon and sends the kids home on Friday afternoon. The activities they offer to their student population cannot be compared at any other facility that I have ever heard of (swimming, horseback riding, water sports, bowling, cooking, music, PT, OT, ST, TVI and the list goes on… WOW!). Over 90% of students are in wheelchairs and Rachel attended summer camp at the school.
The first week was hard on Rachel but Meredith and I visited her Thursday night for the monthly themed dinner (event) to check up on her and help her feel more grounded. As difficult as it was on her with her blindness and dementia, she did not get upset when I put her on the van today (Sunday) to return to school.
Rachel has a 1:1 person with her from the start of school until 9pm and it turns out that Gina (her 1:1 from public school) has been assigned to work with Rachel during the school week!! This made for a much easier transition on Rachel (and me).
This is not the best picture but I took it of her on Thursday night after I had tucked her into bed. She doesn’t have a roomate (yet) and is quite pleased that the TV in her room has Sprouts (her favorite channel).
Here is Rachel’s first full week at school. <3
Friends from all over the country wore their jeans to support Rachel for National Rare Disease Day. The idea is that you wear jeans to show support of rare genetic diseases because the disease is in our genes. I asked all of my friends and family (well, any of them on facebook) to tell at least 5 people about Batten Disease and my Rachel. Here are the ladies and gents who wore jeans for genes!
Me (Rachel’s Mom)
The Brightson Family
My apologies for not updating this website in months. I’ve either posted bits and pieces about how things are going on facebook or I have completely fallen off the face of the earth. Some days I would really like to just disappear and not have to watch as this disease slowly kills my daughter. So much of who Rachel is gone but I saw a glimpse of my “old” daughter today.
Tami (the lady who worked with Rachel on a 1 to 1 basis in elementary school) stopped by with her beautiful daughter Becca today and Rachel was bringing up things that we had forgotten. Rachel speech is terrible, her extremities are always freezing yet she lacks the sensation of them being cold and she can barely walk (and for those who are late to this blog she is also completely blind yet born totally healthy). She has become a danger to herself and those who work with her because she is so unsteady on her feet. If 190 pounds comes crashing down due to a motor planning or balance faltering moment, she can easily break a leg (and bleed out internally (hypovolemia)).
This is not a pretty picture and I will be completely honest (something I am known for, they tell me):
I have tapped out.
Rachel, my beautiful Rachel, will be starting at a hospital school about 30 minutes from our house in 8 days. She will live there during the week and come home on the weekends. I know it won’t be long before the weekend trips home will become too difficult.
Batten disease is so hard on myself and especially my other 3 children. As much as Rachel didn’t ask to be born with a rare, terminal brain disease, my other 3 children didn’t ask for Batten Disease to be front and center in their childhoods.
To listen to their sister scream, yell, demand and generally wreak emotional havoc on their Mom is really hard on them. A lot of her behaviors that I deal with are well worn grooves that have become deep over time. Things that Rachel does with me, at home, are behaviors that are much, much less with others (especially new people). The yelling, the death threats, the hitting, the everything. Its all a product of a little girl who’s brain is dying. Things got much worse when she started her period.
I love Rachel so much and wish there was something more that I could do but if you have to pick between your sanity and the emotional health of your children who will hopefully live long happy, healthy lives or a very ill and terminal daughter…
I had to choose. I HAD TO.
And I have chosen myself and healthy children.
And it kills me.
The school that she is going to be living at is awesome. She spent last summer there as a day camper and had THE BEST time.
Like legit. The best time (a few iPhone pics are below).
They have every piece of equipment you can possibly imagine to safely take care of Rachel. They have activities adapted to kids (under the age of 22) that you have to see to believe.. They swim, they ride horses, they do awesome crafts, they cook, they are a community. She has fought me on wanting to go, not wanting to leave home but I’ve worked the idea into her head with the help of my Mom. I know the transition will be hard on her I believe that this is the absolute best place for her to go.
As a Mom you want to protect your kids, see them grow and develop and harvest a passion for life. I’ve done so much with her yet I wish I could do so much more. I’ve been told that this transition will be harder on me than on her. And I believe it.
My other 3 kids need me and Rachel needs to be in a place that can physically manage her and have enough people in rotation to give her the best years of the rest of her life. This is the hardest thing I will ever do.
I wish it didn’t have to be this way.
I love her so much.
Here are some pictures of Rachel taken by her awesome person that was with her during middle school (Gina). Gina has taken a job at the same school Rachel is moving into and is helping Rachel (and me) bridge over into this new way of life.
It’s 4am. I need sleep. Vacation week is upon me and this is my last week with her.
For the 4th day of spirit week at school (Olympic Day), I sent her in as a Gold Medalist Snowboard (complete with board and all). She won a prize and $5 to the book fair. The smile on her face was priceless!
Annalise and Rachel have done it again. Fresh bread!!!! Best homemade bread I have ever had and the house smells great!Read More
With the help of Rachel’s brilliant TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired), Rachel is starting to cook in school and bring home delicious treats to bake in our oven.
Our home smells amazing, I am getting fatter and Rachel has a huge self esteem boost! This is week 1: apple pie!Read More
Hello folks. I just wanted to officially announce on Rachel’s website that we won’t be holding the race this year. Between Rachel’s worsening condition and our family dynamic changing I just don’t have the energy or time to invest in the race this year. My number one priority in life is to make sure all 4 of my children are taken care of to my best ability.
I know lots of people are bummed about this but in my heart I know its the right thing to do.
- KatRead More
An oldie but a goodie, dear friend Geri Calos has organized a night of painting and is donating $5 from each registration to Batten Disease Research! Please consider signing up if you can, this is located at Sea Dog Brew Pub in Hull, Massachusetts! Click to register!Read More
Between the 428 registered runners and walkers plus all of the gracious volunteers and Aquarion Water who were passing out reusable and recyclable water bottles, we had over 450 people! About an hour after the race, costume contest and raffle was over it started to rain. I couldn’t be more thankful to Hurricane Sandy for holding out and not ruining Rachel’s special day.
We have over $22,000 in the bank that we are going to donate to research once the donations stop flowing in! Thank you so much to our WONDERFUL friends and family and the community of Hull, Massachusetts for supporting our second race. It was an incredible day!Read More
I can’t wait to get ‘er done and hold this road race. Being a Race Director is very much like organizing your own wedding, except in my case, much more sad and depressing. Years from now when she has passed I’ll have all the time in the world to be depressed and lament on how much I miss her but not today. Today calls for action, it calls for determination, it calls for pushing down sad feelings and raising some money for research.
The race is on Sunday 10/28/12 and if you can’t attend but want to contribute there is a donate button on the right hand side of this page (scroll down). Thank you!
Register Online: http://www.active.com/running/hull-ma/team-rachel-race-4-a-cure-2012Read More
Notice her speech and cognitive decline…. Just showing what Batten Disease is currently doing to Rachel.
This was written by a dear friend, Denise about Rachel’s Mom. Thank you Denise for sharing this with us and giving permission to share it with the world!
Last year Kat and myself, a scientist, had three amazing opportunities thanks to the funds raised last October by TeamRachel. It started out so simple. Two Moms meeting at the first day of preschool dropping our sons off at Seaside Montessori. We had never met though Kat was someone I knew was like nobody I had never met.
Upfront and to the point with the ability to make me blush but always in this amazing fun loving way we took a walk on a cold September day and she told me about Rachel and Battens Disease and life would never be the same.
A month later an amazing TeamRachel Race occurred and a month after that we were meeting at my house with an expert in the field of gene therapy over pizza and beer and a whiteboard. A month after that, grabbing a bagel and coffee from Weinberrgers we set off to Mass General in Boston to meet with scientists who study the Juvenile form of Batten Disease to learn of their latest research. Two months later we met with a top neuroscientist from Genzyme and also an expert on gene therapy in the brain, who discussed with us his experience with a clinical trial for the Infantile Batten Disease and our mouths dropped open as he explained how he saw areas of improvements to gene therapy for Infantile Batten Disease and discussed how it is his wish to piggyback this knowledge with a Juvenile Batten Disease clinical trial.
And all the while I watched this brilliant man who reminded us of a nice Einstein humbled by Kat, Mom of Rachel. Her knowledge, her questions, her ability to make everything feel real. Her presence cannot be ignored nor can her ability to bridge the people who can change the world with the families who need them. I knew when we left that day, this brilliant scientist who reminded us of a nice Einstein would be thinking a lot of Rachel and Kat
Months later the scientists from Mass General and the scientist from Genzyme came together for the first time (academic experts in Juvenile Batten Disease with industry gene therapy experts) meeting to discuss a potential collaboration for Juvenile Batten Disease. This is where we are now. Know this race makes a difference. Know it takes ordinary people to start doing the extraordinary.
Please consider supporting Team Rachel Race 4 A Cure on October 28th, 2012. A donation can be made by clicking the “Make a Donation” button on the right hand side of this page.
Thank you! Donations are tax deductible!Read More
We have gotten the Road Race registration live on Active.com and we’d like you to register! The road race is a 4 mile run or 2 mile walk from Hull High School in Hull, Massachusetts with a Halloween Theme and Costume Contest. Please email email@example.com with questions!
Link to Registration: http://www.active.com/page/event_details.htm?event_id=2049058&cmp=1745
All proceeds are being donated to Massachusetts General Center for Human Genetic Research for Juvenile Batten Disease Research! This race is in honor of Rachel, a really lovely little girl who is unaware that she dying from Juvenile Batten Disease all the while her Mom (me) and her family are trying to make sure that she gets to squeeze as much fun out of the time she does have on this earth. She was born completely perfect and since the age of about 6 she has gone completely blind, lost a great deal of her brain power and is now losing the abilities to walk and speak.
All we want from this race is to fund research of this disease to prevent another parent from having to lose their child. Thank you! <3
Photo Caption: Rachel and newborn Charlotte having a cuddle.Read More