Last night, my wife and I we were able to go on our first proper date (it was her birthday) since we moved to Philadelphia and since our family’s journey with epilepsy began. It was only a few hours on the town, but it came after many months of struggle.
One of the challenges that we’ve had has been to find someone to help take care of our son during the day. Up until now, it’s been primarily my wife, with me filling in after work and on the weekends. But my wife has to deal with the brunt of the behavior every day, all day, as well as struggle to find the time and attention to also give to her business, which she can’t do very often because our son needs near constant attention. And so she has bore the brunt of this for our family, sacrificed much of herself and her business, since it started.
As parents, there was no training for how to navigate this new world. We were simply thrust in to it, as was our son. We’re trying to manage his epilepsy and control and direct his behavior, while at the same time simply trying to wrap our head around what is happening and why it is happening, two questions to which we still do not have answers. Like so many families that are going through the same thing, whether it’s for epilepsy or for another condition, the relentless struggle to simply manage the day-to-day is exhausting, and frustrating, and constant. We have both broken many times, only to go to bed, wake up, and do it all over again.
Back when we lived in Colorado, we got breaks, we had jobs that we could focus on, and we went on dates. We had a few different babysitters, some as young as 15 because they only needed to play with our son and put him to bed. But now, a teenager is no more equipped for the situation than we were when we started. We needed someone who could handle the seizures, and keep him safe during an outburst, and that was trained, and capable, and able to handle the stress of working with a “special needs” kid.
While we need someone with a particular set of skills (cue Liam Neeson), our son’s condition didn’t qualify as a medical necessity that required a nurse so, again like many other families, we’re left in the middle…not a medical necessity but more than a parent can handle. If you need assistance, you need to find it yourself and pay for it yourself, too. Both of those obstacles leave many people helpless, in every sense of the word.
We’re very fortunate that we found an amazing caregiver that is patient and that works academically with our son since he hasn’t been able to attend school. But she can only come for a set number of hours a week…enough to help out and give my wife a chance to breathe, but not enough for her to actually catch her breath. We’re grateful the help and for the opportunity to go out for my wife’s birthday, especially since we know that there are other families that are not as lucky.