Saturday, 23 July 2011

Smarter than Jack....

... is the name of a series of books that my daughter likes to read.  It's more of a catch-phrase in our household for just how clever those with Prader-Willi Syndrome can be.  She now lives in residential care with another young woman with PWS who is also smarter than Jack.  They've known each other since they were very young and have grown up together (well, as much as you can be with the geographical distances); sometimes liking each other, other times, well, just not.  It's the way of PW.  Especially when you're both smarter than Jack.

Locks are part and parcel of managing this syndrome.  Locks on food cupboards, pantries, refrigerators, and, if possible, on handbags and wallets.  This is because  the dysfunctional hypothalamus (two words I've learned to spell and pronounce with monotonous regularity)  does not have an 'on/off' regulator switch for the appetite.  Which means - bottom line - those with the syndrome can eat themselves to death, quite literally, if not managed on a 24/7 basis.  So, there are locked cupboards in our house, along with a locked fridge.  Siblings always resent this, and who can blame them.  It's unnatural, prison-like, embarrassing, and, well, just too different to be normal.  But for the one with PWS, it's seen as a relief.  It's a unpassable boundary.  It's safe.  There is no need to fret about food being such a temptation.  And, besides that, it's a total protection for what is seen as "my" food.  Sibs can't get at it, outsiders can't steal it, it's quite safe, and of course, if you're in residential care, staff can't help themselves to it either.

But, if you have PWS, and you're smarter than Jack, it stands to reason that locks are a temporary barrier, a challenge if you like, and let's see just who's smarter than whom.  My daughter and her friend live in residential care.  The locks are the best keypad variety with many, many combinations.  My daughter saw this as an 'end of story' limit.  Her friend saw it as a challenge.  For days and days she watched carefully as the staff punched in the code to open the kitchen.  Even though staff turned their backs and obscured her vision, she still watched and learned.  She counted the number of punches: four.  She noticed the "C" button was used first, and realised that staff then only used the top three numbers.  Still keeping quiet about her observations, she waited for an opportunity to test out her theory.  She punched the C button, then tried several options for the top line.  One of them worked.  She was ecstatic.

Friend made an executive decision.  She would not tell my daughter just yet as she would be "too over-excited".  She would wait until the weekend.  Quite often temporary staff were on over weekends and, because there was not necessarily a schedule, staff wouldn't be on their cases time-wise.  Careful time-watching gave the girls the chance they needed.  The code was cracked.  The kitchen was entered.  Cupboards were quickly opened.  Disappointment reigned as there was only "healthy" food :-(

There were water-crackers, though, and noodles.  Butter and jam was sneaked and a packet of noodles smuggled out of the kitchen.  Door was relocked and girls retired to my daughter's bedroom.  Guess what?  They decided they wouldn't eat raw noodles - good grief no!  They had a much better idea.  Back to the kitchen, out with a small stainless steel bowl.  This they filled with enough water to cover the noodles, and placed the bowl on top of the heater.  Friend decided to leave the bedroom "as staff would want to know what we were doing", and with instructions to call her the minute the noodles were soft, my daughter was left to preside over the cooking.  Apparently it took 15 minutes before the noodles were considered edible, but the surreptitious feast was made all the more delicious by the knowledge they'd been smarter than Jack.

Of course, it wasn't to last.  Although not caught at the feast, the friend was snapped early on Monday morning, standing in the kitchen deciding what to take next.  Discretion was not the better part of valour, and so the story of the locks came to a sad ending.  For the time being, I daresay.

(For dietary needs in PWS, click here)

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