Thursday, October 27, 2011

From the Wolf Den: In the Zone

Wolf and Yukon made it safely to Colorado Springs, weary but in good spirits (or, in as good of spirits as a duo who had been shuffled around more than a deck of cards could possibly be).

Yukon was treated very well by the car rental company who gave him a free upgrade to an SUV, a little benefit that would come in very handy, later. The guys drove up to Denver, found Mountain Time Zone without any difficulty, and proceeded with the admissions process. Wolf almost immediately found a pal from CHYC, a rather nice young man, and then was spied by another kid from New Facility. He was thrilled to know two people, already, and didn't want to leave them to go on his tour of the campus with Yukon. Nice.

According to Yukon, the campus is lovely, in a pleasant neighborhood with attentive staff who seem to possess a great deal of compassion for the youth they serve. There is an indoor swimming pool, "real" school, library, and three small businesses older students utilize as part of a vocational training series. By all accounts from Yukon, the general atmosphere was vastly different from CHYC, and he felt very good about leaving Wolf that evening. For his part, Wolf was quite willing to stay and get settled without any fuss.

Yukon spent the night at his best friend's house in Denver, leaving at 3 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight out of Colorado Springs to Minneapolis, then Anchorage. In a snowstorm. In that SUV.

He arrived in Anchorage at 3:45 ADT, unshaven, exhausted, but still smiling. Of course he was, he's Yukon.

All I could do was throw my arms around him and thank him for coming into our lives, over and over, and over again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Fortitude in Failure

Absurd moments are inevitable in any travel experience; as a journalist, I witness them every day, usually because they involve me. Normally, the abject absurdity results eventual resolution and laughter over a bottle of wine that evening, and life goes on.

When one is traveling with a child on the Autism Spectrum, however, the ability to laugh over a snafu is a bit more difficult. Actually, it feels downright impossible today.

Wolf was/is due in at Mountain Time Zone this morning after what should have been a great dual-parent trip where we could all march into the school together as a family united in treatment with our disabled child. As is typical when important decisions are made on Friday afternoons, however, the travel-planning-discharge wheels did not grind forward at all on Monday morning, and Yukon and I were again faced with a "who will go-who will stay" coin toss. After considerable contemplation and consultation with every medical authority at New Facility, and after Wolf promised to take an anti-anxiety med to hopefully calm his nerves, Yukon volunteered to once again deliver his son to a new and strange facility.

Supposed travel arrangements were made, but not actually confirmed, as was discovered late last night when we arrived at the airport. Ticketing agent to counter and back again we went, trying to figure out where, exactly, these two would be going, and aboard which airplane. A decided lack of paperwork in hand (yes, we left the facility without a formal itinerary; Wolf needed to go and go then, we could not wait another day, a truly AS behavior), I sent Yukon to the Alaska Airlines counter, where a fabulous agent/supervisor spent the better part of an hour tracking down the reservation (only one leg was actually secured), finding seats together (big fail on the part of New Facility), and eventually getting the boys to Colorado Springs.

Yes, you heard correctly. Colorado Springs. Not Denver. Seems New Facility Discharge Planner never mentioned that the flights to Denver were booked so she booked them to the next-closest in her mind. Right.

Before any adult melting down could occur, Yukon and I looked over at this child, who was watching our every move, pacing, muttering, and also fading fast from the anti-anxiety meds, and bent over to have a brief confab with Agent, who was by this time looking at us like we were positively crazy to even be there without the proper information.

"This child must. go. tonight." The words came out just like that, along with a 60-second synopsis of the Wolf and his long, arduous situation.

She jumped around her kiosk counter, said "I'll be back in a second, sit down," and disappeared into the back room of the Alaska Airlines offices.

Around 30 minutes later, she reappeared bearing printed tickets for all flight connections (it was the best she could do), Yukon's return flight itinerary (oh, yes, did we mention Discharge Planner did not even book Yukon to come back to Alaska?), and coupons for a few free drinks (for Yukon). She had also contacted United Airlines by phone, informed them about Yukon and Wolf, and asked on their behalf for early boarding in Chicago.

Agent told Wolf that O'Hare was a great airport, and listed a few things he should make sure he saw during their 2-hour layover. He brightened considerably at this, and said a "thank you" in his best monotone voice, hands still shaking as he clutched the Cinnabon I bought him as a reward for behaving so well during this crisis.

I had planned to capture all sorts of family photos illustrating our family goodbye; group hugs and all that. Yukon was also going to take the camera from me and use it to record Wolf's arrival at Mountain Time Zone. Drat. Instead, Bear and I hugged our big guys (it was almost 11 p.m. by this point), waved them through the MVP line (at least that was a good perk), and then I picked up my weary littlest son from the floor and we headed to the parking lot.

Yukon and Wolf made it to Chicago safely, I have yet to hear about an arrival in Colorado Springs. But I'm sure things will go smoothly from here.

Won't they?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy Birthday To Bear!

Wow. Seven years old, already.
Sometimes I think he's seen too much, yet other times, I don't believe he's seen enough.
This is one compassionate, insightful child, and I'm lucky to be his mother.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From the Wolf Den: Mountain Time Zone

Wolf has been down these past few days, we think caught up in the nothingness of his current situation. New Facility is an incredibly caring, compassionate place, but they are not meant to be a long-term solution. Wolf is bored, frustrated, and so were we, until about 2 p.m.

Best Therapist Ever, who has been working with a dilligence I don't often see in therapy staff, called us this afternoon while I was sitting in the waiting room of Yukon's physical therapist (it seems all I do lately is wait around for or attend therapy in one form or another). Mountain Zone facility in Colorado, one of the leaders in treatment and management of issues similar to Wolf's, accepted him. Even more important, the State of Alaska Medicaid system approved him for transfer, which, we feel, was absolutely due to the Utilization Review Goddess.

Now we begin the process, again. Yukon may or may not be going with us, depending upon his medical clearance. My gal pal from Anchorage, who has worked as hard as we these past few months to help Wolf, will go if Yukon cannot. We've arranged childcare, switched schedules, and taken a few deep breaths in order to prepare ourselves.

We're happy for the potential in Wolf's future. We're happy he will finally have a chance to show us and every member of the Team that he can do this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

And So It Goes...

Alaska and the Kirkland family are playing a waiting game.
Alaska's is seasonal; ours is situational. Both are important.

This is the time of year when our weather swings between rain, snow, and sun, and sometimes all three together. Nature holds it breath until the day the rain turns to snow and stays that way, with sunbreaks relieving the darkness that threatens to undermine the little bit of light we do receive. It's a harsh but beautiful time of year, this, and I love it. Alaskans congregate indoors to get used to this shift in both temperature and atmosphere; we bake more, we sleep more, and we tend to accomplish indoor sorts of tasks we put off during the busy (and light) summer months. But we're still waiting for the day when we wake up to the muffled sounds of the snowplows and shovels, scraping and sliding along the sidewalks and driveways, signaling the beginning of another long winter in Alaska.

As a family, we are holding our breath on a number of fronts. Yukon is recovering from his second surgery and spends most of his day enduring physical therapy and home therapy, both of which bring him pain. Wolf waits, still, for a final referral to a facility out of state for, we hope, the last time. Bear is waiting anxiously for his seventh birthday on Sunday, not totally understanding why we can't invite the entire class over but at the same time understanding our need to keep things mellow this year.

And me? I just wait for everything to be thrown up into the chilly fall air and return to earth in a fashion I hope will not look as haphazard as I feel.

More coffee, please.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yukon: Haven't We Been Here Before?

If these photos look somewhat familiar, join me in saying a big "ARGH" to the fact that yes, Yukon did indeed have surgery again. His elbow and shoulder were just not experiencing the range of motion desired by both he and his surgeon (not to mention our friend and physical therapist), so on Wednesday we returned to the Anchorage Surgery Center for Round Two.

Thankfully all ended well; two pins came out (the figure-eight wire will remain forever), an elbow was bent, and a shoulder was rotated. That was the easy part.

Now comes the weeks and weeks of painful physical therapy. Since the surgery Yukon has had an IV port connected to his neck and a little "power pack" delivering a nerve block to his entire left arm. Physical therapy began on Thursday, and the block will allow his brain and body to accept the amount of movement our PT pal is delivering.

We've only heard screaming once, yesterday, as Bear and I sat in the waiting room. It was awful.

The block comes out today, thanks to a visiting nurse, and we are anticipating a painful night as the full feel of such surgery becomes more real.

It has been sort of nice, though, to ease into this point. We were able to plan and that makes a huge difference.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why I Left, and Why I Came Back

The award-winning film "A River Runs Through It" was on the top shelf of Unit Director B's office at CHYC. Wolf never wanted to watch it with me, even after I said it had antique autos, fishing, and Montana in it. I ended up purchasing the DVD at Wal Mart in Salt Lake City and watched it on my last flight home this past June.

I enjoyed it immensely; being part Montanan (my mother was born and raised there, most of her life was spent in Missoula, where the film takes place) I guess the sweeping landscape and familiar rivers drew me in before the story line. In fact, it took the last lines of the film to provide the ah-ha, the validation, and the new reality of our family life.

Reverend Maclean, father to author Norman Maclean (and to Paul, the antagonist of the story), was preaching in the Presbyterian Church of Missoula, after Paul had died a violent death due to his lifestyle, personality, and choices.

He says:
"Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: "We are willing, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?"
For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give, or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us.
But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding."

I left this blog almost three weeks ago, just after Wolf had entered New Facility Anchorage, and just after he had presented (been evaluated) to the State of Alaska as a child/adult with few options for his future. Yukon and I had some difficult and painful decisions to make, and I wanted to make them with wide-open eyes to the possibilities ahead.

Wolf does not have the capability to love; he does not have the capability to empathize with others who hurt on his behalf, and in the same vein does not understand the agony of my mother-heart when I see the bruises and scrapes on his body because of some behavior-related incident.

The reality of Wolf's life is instutional; he likely will transfer out of Alaska once again, he likely will be in a locked facility where he and the community will be safe. Wolf hopefully will receive the long-term assistance he needs to graduate from high school, learn independent living skills, and perhaps get a job nearby.

Yukon and I have had to think of "what-if's" with regard to Wolf's future, and what we will do if he refuses treatment, runs away, or injures himself or someone else. That is raw emotional torment, having to make a plan like that, for a lifetime, but honestly, Yukon and I know at our cores we have made the right decision.

That's why I left; to decide.

I came back to write it all down.