Winter Reflections

By Christina Houck

In like a lion, out like a lamb. This month we celebrate the incredible strength of two more families, Marching on!

The winter doldrums can take on many forms, but one constant is that winter weather presents many challenges for families with CMD. As we bid adieu to winter and welcome spring, we asked Christina Houck to reflect upon the winter season: what it means for her family, what she dreads and how they deal with hospitalizations.

Q: What does winter mean for your family?

A: In short, it means 4-5 months of anxiety and worry until the weather gets warmer and we can relax a little.

During cold and flu season, everything we do is geared toward keeping Selena healthy and out of the hospital. Because of her merosin deficient CMD, Selena does not have a strong cough and is unable to clear her lungs. When she catches a cold, it quickly turns into pneumonia and a prolonged hospital stay. Further, the hospital stay brings many worries that she will contract some other virus.

This means we miss a lot of family and social gatherings. Large groups are not allowed to visit at the same time and we will not attend any gathering where we cannot control the contact with Selena. Any plans we make are contingent upon anyone being sick the day of the gathering.

Selena will not go to school if anyone in her class is sick or if there is a chance of inclement weather. Her older brother, Micheal, has to wash his hands or sanitize them when he gets home from school before he can have contact with Selena. We even go as far as making him wear a gown and mask if we think he might have had contact with anyone who is sick. Selena’s younger brother, CJ, is only 15 months old. It is virtually impossible to keep his germs off her. If we think he might be sick, Selena stays in her room until we are sure he is not contagious.

Q: What you dread during the winter season?

A: In Maryland, our winters are unpredictable. It can be 60 degrees one day and 20 degrees the next. With this kind of weather comes cold and flu season. During this time of the year we hate leaving the house or letting anyone come into the house for any reason.

Q: How do you deal with hospitalizations?

A: When I think of Selena being in the hospital I experience so many emotions. Being in the hospital is never easy, but we try to make the best of it.

Selena is always surrounded by what we call her “comfort stuff.” We have a list of things that we pack in a bag for her to make the hospital room seem more like home.

We are very thankful that we have a strong family support system. My sister, aunt and cousin help take care of my boys so I can stay at the hospital with Selena. My mother is the one by my side helping me keep a positive attitude so that my husband can still work and not worry about me as well. Without this family support, I really don’t think I could deal with hospitalizations without losing my mind.

We spend each winter praying for spring to arrive early. When spring does arrive we feel relieved that we made it through another winter. During March and April of 2010, Selena spent 22 days in the PICU at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. We spent at least one night wondering if she was going to come home. Our concern for her well-being during the winter months has increased substantially since then. Her return home coincided with warmer weather last year and, therefore, spring is now welcomed and appreciated more than ever.

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