April is Autism Awareness month…

Wetzel home

I know that this post is coming out in May but I have something important to say and just did not feel that I was ready to talk about it until now…
In mid-March, Mark and I were out for a walk and he attacked me.  We go for 2 mile walks every weekend, on both Saturday and Sunday.  This was a Sunday.  I knew something was “off” from the previous Thursday evening.  He started to “roar” toward Joshua.  I don’t know of a different way to describe it.  He just goes “ARGHHHH” really loud over and over and he would get closer and closer to Joshua.  We would step in and ask him to go to his room to calm down.  He did this on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.  Let me make it clear that I have never heard Mark make these aggressive noises before.  This was happening at the end of Spring Break week.  I think Mark gets bored when there is no school.  That is one reason I try to keep him busy with going for walks.  He just loves to be outside and we had been cooped up in the house all winter.  We all seemed to have a lot of cabin fever this past year.  It was a long winter.
Joshua was with us on our walk when we started.  Mark started this roaring noise and so I asked Joshua to just go back home.  Joshua decided to stop walking with us and stay to play around in the Paradise Creek.  Mark and I kept walking along Paradise Creek on our way to Mountain View park.  We were not even halfway there and he started asking for “cheese balls”.  This is not uncommon.  Requesting food is one of the most rewarding conversations for Mark because he can get food to eat. I reminded him that we would have to go back home to get cheese balls.  He got more insistent and loud.  I asked him if he wanted to go back home to get cheese balls.  He turned around.  Then, he turned to me and hit me on the chest (he hits with an open palm because he does not know to make a fist).  This was weird.  Mark has never hit me before!  He started roaring again.  I kept encouraging him to take a deep breath and keep walking so we can get home for cheese balls.  We probably got another 100 yards but we were still 1/2 mile from our home and he started to grab me.  He was trying to grab my arm and bite me.  I kept telling him to “stop” and “hands down”.  But he kept coming after me and he was just filled with rage!  I kept my hands up to defend myself and pushed him away on his chest.  After about a minute of him actively attacking me, I realized that he was NOT going to stop.  He would come at my about 3 times and then take about a 2 second break and then come at me again.  So, when he stopped I was able to pull my phone out of my pocket.  Then, during a second break, I was able to dial 911.  Finally, when the next 2 second break came, I just yelled into the phone that I was being attacked and I was at the corner of D Street and Eisenhower.  That is pretty much all I could say and then I had to continue to defend myself.  Mark weighs about 100 pounds more than me so it was all I could do to keep up on my two feet and defend myself.  He kept grabbing and pinching my triceps as he was trying to grab my arm to bite me.  He had so much rage that I knew if I let him bite me, he could have taken a chunk out of my arm.  He was roaring at me the whole time this was happening.  One of the neighbors came out to see what was going on.  He happened to be a bus driver at the school and recognized Mark from taking the “special” kids out into the community.  He came up and tried to get Mark off me.  Of course, Mark then starting to attack him.  I just yelled to not let Mark bit him.  It seemed like an eternity but it was only about 5 minutes before the police showed up.  Then, Mark sat down in the rocks and started just throwing rocks.  Once Mark calmed down, two officers walked us home the rest of the way.  We also had our dog, Coal, with us this whole time.
I am so grateful for the bus driver to come and intervene.  There were lots of other people that saw Mark was attacking me but did nothing (it was a beautiful afternoon up to this point and lots of other people were also out for walks).  
Do me a favor and if you see someone being attacked, at least call 911.  I’m not asking you to be a hero and risk getting hurt by intervening, just pick up the phone and dial…
Once we got home, Mark calmed down but later that evening he did it again.  Luckily, this time we were at home and we could seek shelter in a locked bathroom.  I called 911 again and he was escorted via police car down to the Emergency Room.  Then, we waited for like 2 hours to see a doctor to get some medication to help him calm down.  He started to get amped up at one point and the police put him in handcuffs (in front of his body, not behind his back).  Let me tell you, that is just heartbreaking to see your child in handcuffs.    
The last time Mark showed any aggression was over 5 years ago.  He was due for a medication change and this appears to be a similar situation.  
Even getting a hold of the psychiatrist was a difficult endeavor.  First, the psychiatrist is only available on Monday and Tuesday.  I called first thing on Monday but they were sick (there are 2 of them that we see, a husband and wife team).  I called again on Tuesday and said that I needed some medication to help Mark calm down.  The nurse on duty was able to help me out.  I waited and called back the next Monday (we still needed to set up an official appointment with the psychiatrist).  They were still sick and now the nurse did not work there anymore!  I could go on and on…finding good health care is a challenge and I do not want to go down that rabbit hole here…
We are still keeping our “emergency calming” medication handy but the good news is that Mark’s roaring behavior has decreased immensely.  Since daylight savings time and a little bit of warmer weather has occurred, he has been able to get outside much more.  He just LOVES to be outside.  He will stay out there for hours.  I have known this about Mark for a long time and it is one reason that I really want to do this farm journey with him.  It will be a great way to get him outside each and every day, even in poor weather.  I just feel that it is really good for him to be outside!
I have to tell you a funny story about one new medication that we tried (after we finally got to meet with the psychiatrist).  It is called Depakote and is used to help control seizures (Mark does not have seizures), bipolar and migraines.  So, we were told to give it to him in the evening and that it might help him to sleep.  (We also have trouble with Mark not sleeping…)  The first evening, I gave him the medication at 7:30PM.  Then, starting at 8:00PM Mark yelled “monkey” at the top of his lungs for 3 hours!  Then next night, it was the word “hello” for 3 hours.  Needless to say, we discontinued this medication right away.  Of course, this story was not funny when you are listening to someone yell monkey for 3 hours as we were trying to sleep.
There you have it.  Your dose of Autism Awareness for this year.  It is a complex disability and we continue to learn more every day.  I love Mark and do not blame him in any way for what happened.  Today, he is going with me up to Coeur d’Alene and we are going to go swimming at the Kroc center.  Then, we are picking up our bees and heading back home and I am really looking forward to having some one-on-one time with him and doing something he loves (swimming!).  
Thanks for listening…

Mark and Joshua on one of our winter walks along Paradise Creek.

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