Last night, as Brian and I were turning off the lights to go to sleep, my cell phone rang in my hand. I looked at the caller ID and my heart skipped a beat. It was the transplant team. It was 10:30 p.m. It took me 2 rings to get the courage to answer.
Patrick’s transplant coordinator asked how his health had been, and then she told me that she was calling because they had received an offer for donor organs for Patrick.
I thought I’d be excited when this call came. I was not. I wanted to shout “NO” and hang up the phone. Patrick has been having a very good year. His health has been good. He is loving kindergarten and for the first time has had friends his age. I’d just helped to a Halloween party in his class. It was a hit and he’d had a great time. We’ve gotten in to one of the best mental health programs in the state and were making good progress with his attention and behavior. We’d been trying a medication for his ADHD and it was a hard adjustment, but it seemed to be helping. He’s been learning to read. And I just planned his birthday cake and finished wrapping his presents.
Did I want to change any of that!? NO!
But at the same time, we know a very hard truth. Patrick has been defying odds as he lives with a terminal illness. There is a reason they let us do a wish trip. Patrick is running out of access. His intestines have been redilating and sooner or later would need surgery again. Patrick has been living on borrowed time.
We have said for 5 years that transplant would come at the right time for Patrick. Why that time happened to be during one of the happiest seasons of his life, I don’t know. BUT it did. And we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Who knows when it would come again.
Getting ready to go was a chaotic mess. We had bags packed for us, but needed to pack Patrick’s things. We needed to call insurance and the doctors and somehow get to Primary Children’s, then to Life Flight and then to the Nebraska Medical Center. We needed to gather family to say goodbye and get blessings. And we were supposed to do it in 6 hours.
We didn’t do it in 6 hours. I was too confused. The hospital and Life Flight couldn’t agree.. And it took extra time. And it was ok.
We got to the hospital a little after midnight. There, we were met by Patrick’s amazing GI who had come in and stayed up just for us. He wrote orders and then saw us off.
We got to the airport and were met by two amazing nurses and a pilot. Patrick had to ride lying on a gurney, but they managed to make it fun enough that, even though we’d woken him 2 hours after he went to bed (on a day he hadn’t napped), he laughed and played and was ok.
We arrive at the hospital around 6 a.m. and were shown into the PICU. There was some bustle of admission, but things were pretty quiet. Before long, Patrick had snuggled up and fallen asleep. And so did I.
Eventually, they came for some labs. We let him open his birthday present. Then, Child Life came by and asked if he needed a Halloween costume. As I’d left his awesome purple minion costume at home, we borrowed a Buzz Lightyear. It barely fit, but he was happy. And it came just on time, as the Nurse Practioner told us just then to let him up to move around. We made it out just on time to go trick or treating. Each department of the hospital put together mostly non-food goodies. Patrick happily went to each of them saying “Happy Halloween” and being showered with gifts. He came away with quite the haul. We even made the news.
About 2/3 around the room of trick or treats, we got a call that they wanted Patrick back in the room for a procedure. We made a hurried run back to the room where they explained that they wanted him to go to interventional radiology to try to place another line. That sounded like a request to do the impossible. It turns out it was hard, but possible. Patrick currently has 6 lumens.
Going down early for this meant that Patrick would need to be intubated and sedated earlier than we expected. It wasn’t worth the risk to wake him up again. So I used the little time that we had before sending him down to try to explain to him what would happen. I could tell he didn’t get it. I could tell he was scared.
But it was time to go. So we did all we could to tell him we loved him and help him feel brave, and then we walked him to the procedure room and kissed him goodbye.
He spent the afternoon intubated and asleep. He woke a little once and made a furious fight to take the breathing tube out of his throat. It took several people to keep him safe until they were able to get some more meds to settle him down. Hard, hard moment.
But the rest of the day was peaceful. With him asleep, they were able to get the other catheters and lines in that they will need to be able to monitor and take care of him during and after the surgery.
Finally, around 6 p.m. they came to take him to the O.R. We sat a bit on pins and needles till them, because until the organs arrived here and were inspected, there is always the chance of the transplant not going through.
It’s 9 p.m. now. The last update said that they were finishing putting in the liver and were just about to start putting in the other organs.
It has been a very emotional day. We have shed tears of fear and of hope and of grief and of joy. We have celebrated a birthday and Halloween and then said goodbye to our son for an indefinite amount of time. We have doubted ourselves, and we’ve been given flashes of reminders of faith. We have been touched again and again by the encouraging words of our family and friends and even of strangers.
Once again, we find our lives entirely overturned. I honestly don’t know how we are going to do this. But I am trusting it is going to be ok.
I’d like your help with something, if you don’t mind. Patrick’s birthday celebration got cut short when they took him early to place that line. I’d love for him to wake up to a room full of birthday wishes. Would you consider mailing a birthday card or sending an e-card? Mail to:
Room # 5349
P.O. Box 6159
Omaha, NE 68106-0159
or you can send an e-card that will be printed and delivered to him http://www.nebraskamed.com/patients/well-wishers