Paraldehyde – the fragrant rescue medicine

Samuel’s rescue medicine has been Midazolam for a very long time. I think most (if not all) of the epilepsy world know about Midazolam. Samuel has had it since the beginning where he was given it several times a day – until his seizure treatment plan was tightened and he wasn’t given it for every single seizure. It’s always worked well. It does the job. If he exceeds his protocol (I will post that on here sometime in case anyone is curious) he gets a sqiurt of the prefilled syringe of Midazolam into his cheek. It generally works. But as Samuel has got older it’s had a more noticeable effect on his breathing and that was why we now have oxygen cylinders at home (and an oxygen protocol).

The other issue with having Midazolam in our armoury is it’s relationship with Clobazam. Now we love Clobazam. It’s been one of Samuel’s epileptic medicines for a long time and it is very effective. He has it twice a day and it is one of his most crucial medicines. But Midaz and Clobazam are almost like sister medicines. Give them too close together and you are at risk of over sedating him (which could effect his breathing), or as they work with the same receptors of the brain, Midazolam can almost dilute Clobazam making it less effective.

Prior to Samuel being admitted to hospital before the summer, he had earned himself Midazolam three days in a row. Not ideal. Think it was a contributing factor to why he got so poorly and had to be admitted.

So this is where Paraldehyde comes in. It was my suggestion to Samuel’s doctor about the possibility of introducing Paraldehyde as either an alternative to or replacement of Midazolam.  Dr H thought it was a good idea (I occasionally do have them) and we agreed that we would trial it to see if we found it effective and it did the job adequately. Well it did, and it is now Samuel’s first rescue medicine (although we will still continue to have a good stock of Midazolam in the cupboard as back up).

Now you might be thinking, ‘why didn’t you have Paraldehyde before given that Midaz is obviously quite a dirty drug?’. Unfortunately you don’t give Paraldeyhyde in quite the same way as Midazolam. It’s given rectally, plus the medicine smells. The moment you open the bottle the room is filled with, let’s just say, a unique smell. Once the bottle has been opened you have to act quickly and fill the syringe (which has a tube attached) and ‘insert’ immediately. You need to be quick as the medicine will block the syringe and wont be useable. On the wards they use to give the medicine in glass syringes but I guess budget cuts and health and safety stopped that and now you’ve just got to use it fast.

It’s not the perfect drug (are any of them?), but it’s the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately given the terrible summer Samuel had I’ve gotten very experienced (and quick) at giving it, so don’t think much of it. The only thing that bugs me about it is the way it makes him smell of it for the next few days. It’s like it fills his pores and makes his breath smell. But it doesn’t stop me going in for a smooch. NOTHING would stop me giving my boy a big fat kiss!

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Seizures suck

I was almost going to call this blog post ‘Missing in action’ as that’s how I feel I’ve been lately. But this title sums up our mood quite well!

We had our brief spell in hospital in early January for Samuel’s seizures and since then it’s true to say that things have been consistently rocky seizure-wise with perhaps one exceptionally good week thrown in.

It’s been tough. In fact the rough patch started just before Christmas but then Samuel had a heavy cold so that made everything worse and we hoped that once his cold cleared things would improve. No such luck.

We found ourselves giving Samuel’s emergency medicine, Midazolam, if not every day, then every other day. So it was decided to increase Clobazam – which so happens to be a sister drug to Midaz. As Samuel is already on such a high dose we only really had room to put it up an extra 1ml a day.

That didn’t really make enough (or any) impact. So we then increased Samuel’s morning dose of Vigabatrin. Whether it was the initial shock to the system of this increase or just coincidence but following that we found ourselves having an amazing week seizure wise. But this turned into just a good blip and we found ourselves back in a pickle again.

So we have this week increased the evening dose of Vigabatrin in the hope that it will have enough of an impact to get Samuel out of this funk. He’s also had another bad cough & cold this last couple of weeks which has just made matters worse.

We’ve also had to reach for Samuel’s sleepy drug, Chloral Hydrate, a few times recently to help calm & relax him. Chloral is normally given at bedtime, but we’ve agreed with his doctor that if he needs it during the day, we can give him an extra dose.

At least we have things in our armoury to keep Samuel comfortable.

And so we wait. Patiently.

And the ketogenic diet? *shrugs* The jury is now out on that one. Yes, he is still on it but not seeing any evidence it is doing much for Samuel. We have a review meeting with his doctor in March so will discuss it then. We may decide to give it another few months & then consider coming off. We’ve recently dropped some of the calories (and will be able to drop some more again soon) which may help the diet be more effective. I want to give it the best chance we can as I know if the diet works it can be a complete game-changer.

So that’s us. Over and out.

Meeting with Dr H

This coming week we have an appointment with Samuel’s pediatrician and we have a lot to discuss regarding the Ketogenic Diet.

We are still feeling that it is working and certainly making a difference to Samuel’s epilepsy but we have noticed a slight increase in seizure activity in the evening (but still amazing compared to before) and he is far more sleepy during the day. Also his ketones are still really low. Really low. We seem to be stuck between 1.4 and 1.6 and despite changing the recipe (Samuel is fed a special formula through his gastrostomy, so I’m referring to changing the concentration of the feed) we seem to be stuck.

When I last spoke to Samuel’s doctor and mentioned about the excessive sleepiness (with the diet working, it is now like he is a bit over medicated), he suggested that when we come into clinic for our appointment we discuss reducing Clobazam. Now we love Clobazam. It bloody works. It is a very strong drug (it is sister to Midazolam, Sam’s emergency drug) and can cause extra drowsiness. We are nervous about reducing this medicine but do see that it could really help us have more awake time with Samuel.

But the drug I do want to discuss with Dr H is Topiramate. Now we do have a fondness for Topiramate as it basically got Samuel home from NICU. But he has been on it a long time and he is on quite a high dose (14mls twice a day) and I think Clobazam and his other drug Vigabatrin have superceded it. Last weekend, while frustrated with Samuel’s ketones and no one around at the hospital to speak to, we phoned Matthew’s Friends. We were lucky enough to speak to Emma, Matthew’s Mum who advised that Topiramate can cause acidosis in the stomach which can reduce ketone levels. Well isn’t that something? So that will be high on my list to discuss with Dr H.

Although his brain and body does seem to be responding to the diet, I’m not sure what it is doing with his ketones but I really want to see them increase and increase soon as it’s the one nagging thing about the diet. We need Samuel’s ketones to remain at a stable level between 2 and 5. Even when they have been high (they have been above 2 a few times), it hasn’t been consistent and they’ve come back down again.

Do I dare wonder what his epilepsy would be like when his ketones are at a stable high level? That is just too exciting to think about. But in the meantime, maybe this is just Samuel changing the rules again. I just wish he’d let us in on the new rules!

Day in the life

Well there is no such thing really as a typical day for us. Sam makes up his own rules as he goes along – no two days are ever the same. But we do have to have a rough routine for his medicines so I guess that does keep us organised. This is how we roll:

  • 8am – Turn off the pump feed & flush through with sterilised water.
  • 9am – Give Samuel his medicines with flushes of water in between – Topiramate, Vigabatrin and Clobazam.
  • 11.15am – Give Samuel his reflux medicine (this is a new thing and I’ll talk about this more another time).
  • Noon – Sam starts his pump feed of good old Pepti Junior. After the feed we flush him through with water.
  • 3pm – Sam starts his pump feed of good old Pepti Junior with a sachet of baby Gaviscon mixed in. After the feed we flush him through with water.
  • 6pm – Sam starts his pump feed of good old Pepti Junior with a sachet of baby Gaviscon mixed in. After the feed we flush him through with water.
  • 9pm – Give Samuel his medicines with flushes of water in between – Topiramate, Vigabatrin and Clobazam.
  • 10pm – Give Samuel his bedtime medicine Chloral Hydrate which helps him sleep and flush with water.
  • 10.10pm – Start his overnight pump feed (500ml to run over 10 hours).

This is of course a bog standard day for us. This doesn’t include if Sam has had a bad seizure

Infinity Pump bag

and we’ve had to give him some Midazolam. We medicate if his seizure has been going on for 10 minutes or if he’s clustered and had four/five in 30 minutes. Midazolam is squirted into the cheek and then you rub the cheek to make sure it is absorbed.

Also this doesn’t include if we’ve given him Calpol etc. It still feels strange when we give him a ‘normal’ medicine as we are so used to it being prescription only and doses tightly controlled.

In addition to this I have to do regular care of his gastrostomy button. Turn it every day and give the skin area around the button a good wipe. I also have to replace the water in the button once a week.

Sam’s pump is very portable, we have a nifty rucksack to take it in so he can have a feed anywhere – the boy has eaten in restaurants, cafes, shopping centres, parks and the car.

So there you go. That’s how we roll in our world. Updated to be included as part of the BlogHop #definenormal. Pop over to Just Bring the Chocolate to find out more.