You may have heard that Patrick had a day of office visits scheduled at Seattle Children’s hospital last week. After his cardiac arrest and the many complications that followed, they wanted to see him again to see if anything had changed that would affect his transplant status. They also wanted to look to see if he needed to be listed for a liver transplant.
What you may not have heard is that Patrick was hospitalized Sunday night with another infection. This time it was a staph infection which, if caught early, can be treated through his central line and clear easily or, if more established or more resistent, could become a very persistent infection that can hang on for months.
I called Seattle Children’s and tried to reschedule our appointment. However, Dr. Horslen was going to be away for the next several weeks and they didn’t want him to stay inactive on the transplant list for that long. After a few days and some discussion, we made the decision on Tuesday to have Patrick admitted at Seattle Children’s so they could both treat the infection and do the evaluation.
We got the final go ahead late in the day Tuesday. I was up till 1 a.m. packing. Wednesday he was discharged from Primary Children’s with just time to go directly to the airport. The flight went well. They only real difficulty was that Patrick’s ostomy bag started leaking at takeoff. Well, and that I got a tad bit lost in the airport because we landed in the international terminal and airports aren’t as well marked when you have to take the back elevator routes.
Nevertheless, we arrived at Seattle Children’s around 6 p.m. – just as they were changing shifts. We met part of the medical team that would be following him and, as usual, wowed them by giving them in writing all the information they really would need. It took some time to get orders written, so we had another late night as labwork and meds came trickling in. It was about 2 a.m. before we made it to bed again.
The nice thing about being inpatient is that it gave me a sense of what things will be like during his recovery after transplant. We started with an early abdominal ultrasound, specifically a doppler. Yes, this looks a bit like the weather map images, only it shows the flow of blood through the veins. They were looking to see if portal hypertension was developing. (As the liver scars, it starts to send blood through other vessels creating extra blood pressure through them. It can cause lots of complications.)
The team rounded about 10 a.m. It was a big group, about 15 people, including his GI Dr. Horslen, his transplant coordinator, nutritionist, and others who specifically follow him. They had looked at the ultrasound and the labs from the night before and at his labwork. Both looked as good or better than they had in April.
Dr. Horslen came back later in the day to talk to me and said he was very glad we’d come. He’d imagined he’d find Patrick in much worse shape after the reports he’d been getting. He did a physical examination, too, and then said that he didn’t think Patrick’s liver was really in bad shape yet. He said that the problems with his spleen were probably mostly due to the many months of infection that Patrick has been through, meaning that hopefully when he’s healthy, his spleen will improve, too.
We discussed other goals, too… including taking down Patrick’s ostomy and replacing his PICC line with a broviac line when he could have surgery. We’ve been going the rounds on the question on whether or not Patrick should have his g-tube removed, too, before portal hypertension makes it bleed and be more difficult to close. However, Dr. Horslen said he was under the impression it was unused when he recommended that, and that if we were using it, he’d be ok with us leaving it in.
It was great to talk to him and to watch him play with Patrick. Not only is he brilliant, but he has a wonderful bedside manner. It made me happy to remember that there was at least one big reason why we chose Seattle Children’s for transplant.
We also had visits that day from the nutritionist and a care coordinator. And then in the afternoon we got to have a little bit of lazy time. Child Life brought Patrick some bubbles and it was fun to watch him experience those for the first time.
When the nurse came on the night shift and Patrick was playing with her while she took vitals she frowned and said “Do you really have to go home tomorrow?” I was surprised because I’d expected to need to be there at least through the weekend… But before midnight they had me making lists of what would be needed for me to be able to go home on the 5 p.m. flight the next day.
Rounds in the morning confirmed that they felt Patrick could go… assuming that we made sure he got a visit from Dr. Reyes, his surgeon.
The rest of the morning I packed and kind of waited for word that we were really going. A volunteer came to play with Patrick so I’d have hands free. About noon, I still hadn’t heard one way or another, so my nurse started making calls for me. I looked at flights and now there was only 1 left and the price had doubled. But – the insurance company agreed they’d rather pay for extra airfare than another night in the hospital – and so I started working on booking a flight home.
Dr. Reyes came in about 1. We talked again about the importance of taking down Patrick’s ostomy. He told me a bit about starting intestinal transplants in Pittsburgh 15 years ago. (He was on the team that did the first ones.) And he explained how they’d learned that the surgery wasn’t really effective without a strong GI team behind it to make sure the patients stayed healthy. He also explained that one thing they’d learned in that time is that survival rates are better without an ostomy.
I ran our other surgical plans past him (liver biopsy, broviac line, and possibly g-tube.) He looked at me and said, “Leave the g-tube in. He’ll need in later.” So I guess that settles that.
He left and I immediately went back to booking a flight. Meanwhile, the care coordinator came and brought me a cab voucher. My nurse got Patrick ready and booked the cab while I got the ticket. And I literally hung up the phone, put away a few things, and walked out the door.
The flight home went smoothly. Howie was there to meet us. We had some adventures waiting on the way home including a flat tire, a broken jack, and eventually a tow home. But at last, we are home.
They discussed Patrick’s transplant status in their meeting yesterday. They were ready to move him back to status 1 for a small bowel. They will not yet list him for a liver. When they checked his labs, though, they found a blood culture positive for infection… so the doctors are discussing what to do now. He’s not sick and it could have been a contaminated sample. But they have to work that out before Patrick’s listing is made active again. Time will tell.