Category Archives: parenting

Sickle Cell, up close and personal; National Sickle Cell Awareness Month

me and bre

I am the mother of three, including a set of twins, one of which has sickle cell. In honor of September’s sickle cell awareness month, we share our story.

The disorder runs on my father’s side of the family and I lost two older brothers from sickle cell complications. I learned that my youngest daughter had sickle cell from her newborn screen.  After the initial shock and confusion (My ex husband and I were unaware that he carried the trait although we were aware that I had it) I did everything I could to become educated on the disease.

Sickle Cell is a blood disorder that causes the red blood cells to change from their normal pliable circular shape to a sickle shape. These cells are sticky and can become stuck in blood vessels, leading to numerous complications, one being severe pain in the area of the sickling.

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There are different forms of Sickle Cell:

Hemoglobin SS Disease: 

Hemoglobin SS disease is the most common type of sickle cell disease.

Hemoglobin SC Disease

Hemoglobin SC disease is the second most common type of sickle cell disease.

Hemoglobin SB+ (Beta) Thalassemia

Hemoglobin SB+ (beta) thalassemia affects beta globin gene production. Symptoms are not as severe.

Beta-Zero Thalassemia

Beta-zero thalassemia is the second type of beta thalassemia. It is associated with a poorer prognosis.

People who only inherit a mutated gene from only one parent are said to have sickle cell trait. They may have no symptoms or reduced symptoms.  To learn more about the different types please click here.

My daughter has a combination of SC and Thallasemia.  We had our first real experience with the disorder when my daughter spiked a fever of 103 degrees. Anything over 101 degrees is an automatic emergency room visit. This is because people with sickle cell have a compromised spleen and cannot effectively fight off bacterial infections. If left untreated it can be fatal. She was 7 months old. Luckily it was just a virus, but it took five days in the hospital to make sure. This began a series of emergency room visits and hospital stays due to fevers, thankfully all viral, but extremely stressful nonetheless.

She had her first pain crisis at the age of three, a couple of days before she started preschool and a few days after divorce fillings.  Although not understanding exactly what was going on, I immediately focused all of my energy on doing everything within my power to make sure that my child was okay and well taken care. The differences her father and I had were irrelevant.  Our daughters health superseded that and we behaved as such.  After an emergency room visit, blood draws and an I.V. of morphine, we were released and began home-care.  Here ensued a month of around the clock pain med distribution: codeine, then ibuprofen, every three hours, 24/7.  Family members had to relieve me so I could go to work. But the hardest thing was seeing my child in pain and feeling helpless, hearing my child cry out every time she changed positions, watching her unable to walk as the pain was centered in her lower back, taking her to the doctor to see if she would need physical therapy in order to walk again, being strong for her. It broke my heart. And through the intense, non-stop blur, while somehow meeting the increased needs of my other two children; we made it through.

Things were quiet for a couple of years, a few flair ups here and there but all manageable at home.  Then another pain crisis hit, a bad one, we were trying our best to manage at home when the the night before her 5th birthday we found ourselves in the emergency room: another 103 degree fever.  I packed up my three girls and off we went. With the support of her sisters my little one endured another round of pokes while she had blood drawn and an I.V. inserted.  We waited.  My mother picked up my other two girls and we continued to wait.  The blood cultures came back clean but she was still in pain.  With instructions to keep doing what I was doing and to immediately return if anything changed, we were released around midnight. YAYAYAY she would not have to spend her entire birthday in the Hospital!  We went home!

And we did our best to make it a good day!  We went to Build A Bear, her and her twin got their ears pierced (BIG GIRLS) and there were moments when she laughed and smiled but I could tell that my baby was not feeling well. So we skipped the Cheese Cake Factory, grabbed food and went home.

But she was getting worse.  Lethargic and pale she got home and immediately laid down. She complained that her stomach hurt.  Concerned, I checked her tummy.  It was hard and tender to the touch, I was pretty sure that her spleen was enlarged.  In people with sickle cell, the spleen can become enlarged when cells become sickled and trapped inside the spleen causing it to get bigger and push on other organs causing pain.  If left untreated it can burst and be fatal.  This condition is called splenic sequestration.  The best defense when dealing with sickle cell or any illness is to be as knowledgeable as possible.  My awareness put me on high alert and I reacted immediately.

Back to the emergency room we went and she was admitted.  I was right, her spleen had enlarged.  Three days and a blood transfusion later, she was released.  A blood transfusion is a routine procedure done for Sickle Cell patients to push out the sickling cells and replace them with normal cells.  The transfusion in this case played two roles, it helped to push the sickling cells out of the spleen so that it could go back down and it replaced the sickling cells in her back to help ease her pain crisis.  This was her first transfusion and I was apprehensive but it worked and I am Thankful.  However, if her spleen enlarges again they will recommend removing it because the more often it enlarges the higher the risk of it erupting.

We left the hospital three days after her fifth birthday, a little disappointed in how things went but very grateful at how they turned out.  It wasn’t the best birthday but it was definitely blessed.

For those of us taking care of someone with a chronic illness or perhaps dealing with one ourselves, it is of the utmost importance that we take care of ourselves physically and mentally. Care taking is the number one role susceptible to burnout.

During this time I never stopped and honored myself, I was constantly running on empty and after months and months and months of neglecting my own needs I hit a wall. I was depleted, there was just nothing left to give, to anyone. I knew I had to do something, so I implemented a few things. I began walking the hospital grounds when my child was admitted. Once she was comfortable and asleep I would notify the nurses’ station and go for a 30 minute walk. I talked to my therapist regularly. Having someone to talk to, an outlet, was indispensable. I also began dedicating one day a week to myself (as much as possible as a single mom of three children) where I didn’t go sit with my dad who has dementia, where I didn’t take too many calls, where I didn’t obligate myself to be available to others: I catered to me. This is an extremely important and often overlooked task of most caregivers: self-care.

In order to continue to pour into others we must regularly and consistently replenish our reservoir so we can continue to do good work. We are all worthy of being holistically well.

Yulinda Rock

Fifth Birthday!!!

Happy bday Bre

                                                                       Feeling ALL better!!!

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Stress Management as a Family Unit

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What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger: Dealing with stress in the family as a family.

Strong families are beneficial to not only themselves but to the communities in which they reside; they are the building blocks of society.  Unfortunately even the strongest family can be shaken by stress.   However, the stress itself is not so much the problem but how it is dealt with.   The mismanagement of stress can lead to fissures in the foundation of the family system.

Effective communication is the best tool for a family to use to successfully navigate stressors, and often the most underutilized.  People tend to deal with stress in silos.  Opting to go it alone opposed to coming together to tackle it as a team; from the teen being bullied at school, to the father being burnt out from work, to the mom feeling unappreciated, to the sibling that feels left out.   These individual issues will ultimately affect the entire family, often leading to misunderstandings, unmet needs, hurt feelings, resentment, and bitterness.   In a household there is no such thing as “that persons” stress.  Everyone in the house will be affected in one way or another.

So the solution is to communicate.  But that is often much easier said than done.  Communication between two people is difficult; communication among an entire family is a special challenge but not one that can’t be navigated successfully.  Being able to listen for understanding opposed to responding is a skill that can be taught.  Fundamentally people want to feel heard and understood.

As a Youth/Parent/Family coach my role is to help the parent(s) or guardian(s) think critically, foster effective communication within the family system, create and facilitate solutions to daily challenges, as well as how to thoughtfully manage larger stressors (divorce, sickness, marriage, job loss, death, etc.) all in an effort to build and maintain a family that is solid. The first step to becoming a stronger family unit is to identify, acknowledge, and address any areas of need.

I offer a workshop for parents to provide a dynamic atmosphere were we come together as a team to support and encourage one another as we become skilled in stress management. This workshop will teach about effective communication, establishing healthy boundaries, and creating self-care systems as a means of managing stress and maintaining healthy relationships within the family.  Some role-play will be used to demonstrate effective listening and as a group we will brainstorm realistic self-care regimens that an entire family can benefit from and support.

The onus of responsibility when managing family stress falls squarely on the guardian. The first step is accepting that responsibility, the next is obtaining tools.  Stress will never go away so we might as well learn how to deal with it and manage it.  I can help.

You are worthy of being holistically well.

Yulinda Rock

Children Mental Health Awareness

childrens mental health!

Dancing through daffodils
Smiling at the frog as it leaps to freedom
Upturned face capturing the sweet breeze
Swing set waiting in anticipation for little legs to set it flying
Sprinklers chase them through the grass
As peals of laughter waft up to the listening ears of perched birds
Sun shining on closed lids
As they wake up from a dream full of peace
Only to open their eyes and realize it’s another day
Another day of being sad
And they wish they could go back to sleep again
The escape of a child…
~Yulinda Rock

Caring for children is one of the most important tasks we have as adults. All around us is evidence of what happens when we don’t: Chaos.

May 5th is children’s mental health awareness day. We must understand that as the stewards of young lives our job goes way beyond just feeding and clothing them. It means being responsible for both their physical and mental well-being. With over 18 years of experience working with the mental health of young people (from a mentor at age 18, to case manager, to school counselor) I have seen first hand the devastating effects of what happens when a child’s mental health is neglected.

I posted this two days early to give us a little time to reflect on how we can be a catalyst for positive change in a young persons life. So on Thursday May 5, and hopefully everyday, take time to speak life into the world of a child. Your words mean more than you may ever know, so make them encouraging.
You are worthy of being holistically well, and so are our children.
Yulinda Rock

Children feel sad. They feel frustrated. They feel angry. They feel happy. They are human so they feel.  But sometimes they do not know how to deal with those feelings, how to manage those emotions. They might not actually know that something is wrong; they just know that something isn’t right.

May 5, 2016 is National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Children’s mental health problems are real, common and treatable. Unfortunately, although one in five children has a diagnosable mental health problem, very few receive the help they need.

Mental health is important to overall health. Mental health disorders are chronic health conditions (those that go on for a long time and often don’t go away completely) that can continue throughout the lifespan. Without early diagnosis and treatment, children with mental health disorders can have great difficulty. Untreated mental health problems can disrupt every facet of a child’s world, from home to school, from the playground to the larger outside community. They are at an increased risk of school failure, contact with the criminal justice system, and even suicide.

Mental health in childhood means learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Mental health disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day.

Childhood mental health disorders do not discriminate. They affect every type of child and every type of family. Boys and girls of all ages, ethnic/racial backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and living all over the world, experience mental health disorders, no one is exempt. According to the World Health Organization, globally 50% of mental illness that occurs in a lifetime begins by age 14.

Children’s mental health is without a doubt the most important aspect of any child’s social and cognitive development. Parents and family members are usually the first to notice if a child has problems with emotions or behavior.

There are a variety of components that can impact a child’s mental health. When it comes to children’s mental health, as guardians the best thing to do is provide children with an environment full of love, understanding, healthy boundaries, compassion, and trust. However, even with the best of intentions, some things are out of one’s control. Some disorders are genetic and in those instances the best thing to do is to become educated in the disorder, utilize available resources, and access the necessary care. Then there are those special circumstances where a family adopts. The child may be a family member or they might not be, but whatever the child’s biological background, there may come a time when additional supports are needed in the home to help navigate the feelings and emotions that come up throughout the adoption journey.
Although it is a potentially difficult time, resources are available. With the help of a good practitioner, a willingness to work through the process and the knowledge that positive change is possible, your child or young adult can achieve mental wellness.

Intentionally Happy…

For the parents…(or anyone really)

As I find myself becoming more and more overwhelmed with life, mentally tired and struggling to focus on the positive, I decided that it would be beneficial to myself and to my kids for me to work on my mindset.
I was thinking about how I can be more “present” in my children lives. I come home form work and I often find myself looking for an escape route, a moment to just breathe.
Taking for granted that I can “plug in” later.
In a moment.
Soon…
Unfortunately with life being as it is, there may not be a soon.
But there is now.
So I came up with a seven day chart to help my children and I celebrate the now and to be intentionally happy. Use it with your kids, your spouse, friends, or just use it yourself!
I
plan to post this and use this simple seven day chart to help my children and I focus on the positive and help me to connect with them, everyday.

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Today is Soul Search Sunday and what do I need to change? My perspective, because by doing so I can change my life…

Change your mindset, change your mental language, change your life.
You are worthy of being holistically well.
Yulinda Rock

Making memories out of moments (For the parents)

mom and kids

Making memories out of moments.
Between the next breath and the last I am bolstered by the laughter of little girls that just seconds ago were gripped by their own angst.
With arms outstretched, hands soapy from dishes waiting patiently for the return of my attention, I wrap my arms around warm bundles of inspiration.
We dance and play and tears disappear amidst stomping feet and the twirl of a skirt. Mom’s irritation vanishes into the depth of shinning eyes.
With wonder I realize, that although every day is not perfect: Bills still need to be paid; noses wiped; clients booked; school functions attended; co-parenting to navigate, that this is what matters.
And although laughter may turn into fussing later in the day, right now, at this moment, we are making memories…

Yulinda Rock

little girls