Category Archives: Jesus Christ

Mini summer

So extended school year isn’t really a very full-time summer school option. It’s 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. So for the past week, Patrick’s been having a mini summer vacation.

We started off it grand fashion. He has really done well in his new summer school classroom. The kids are much more on his level and I feel like he’s making good progress there. The education is focused on maintaining and, at least in the realms of social skills and keeping a routine, it’s going a long way.

The last day before the break, Patrick had his first turn in the school swimming pool. They invited me to come help, just because he has so little experience in the pool. I’m so glad they did! When I got there, he was already dressed for the pool and waiting for me. I’m used to a little boy who is very cautious in the water. I guess he was watching out for his line, because Patrick was NOT afraid. At all. He was extremely brave. I helped him float and worked on teaching him to hold his breath or blow out if his face got in the water. We got him a floating vest and at one point, I turned my back, and he decided to go on his own. I’ll never erase the memory of him laughing as he rolled over and over again in the water.. trying not to inhale.

I’ve been in a better summer mood this week. I finally made Patrick’s 6th birthday video, 6 months late, as a father’s day gift for Brian. You can view it here. I’ve put it off because it was too hard to look at the life we’d left behind when Patrick went for transplant while he was still recovering. I thought I was in a better place. I was. It was therapeutic. It was also still hard. It made me miss last year’s summer school adventures. It made me miss him having friends. And it made me miss the days before steroids where disappointments didn’t lead to big temper tantrums, leaving me fearful of doing some things. I actually had nightmares all the time I was working on the video.

But, with it done, I was ready to dive in and make this a good summer, too. I’m still not as organized and awesome as Mommy school. But we’ve done some good things. We had a picnic at Red Butte Garden. We took a cousin and visited the children’s museum. (Called and asked for suggestions of a less-crowded time to visit and enjoyed being there without fighting a crowd.) We’ve toured a few different libraries.  We finally started collecting brag badges. We mixed up our lunch routine and went to Liberty Park where we started out just eating hot dogs, but stumbled across their wading fountains and ended up staying 3 hours just because.

It was triple-digit heat all last week so I decided that, with the success in the school pool, it would be a good time to get out the backyard swimming pool. This went better than I expected. First, the neighbor’s 10-year-old who often comes to play and help me with Patrick, helped me fill up the pool and taught Patrick how to play in it. I tried putting sunscreen on my own back with spray sunscreen. I haven’t been that burned in years.

The next day, we invited the boy across the street to come play. This was much more on Patrick’s level of play and they had a great time together. This little boy only just barely became a big brother, so there was lots of coaching for both of them about how to play together. But they had successful pool noodle sword-fighting, basketball, water fighting, and general splashing. In the end, I had to call it done because it was well past lunchtime, but neither boy wanted to be done.

Patrick actually spent the rest of that day in the pool, too. He is loving being uninhibited in the water. I love being able to share something I love so much with him.

Alas, though, nothing is perfect. I accidentally pulled Patrick’s g-tube out the day before his first time swimming and it bled a little. We have had off and on g-tube infections since and I’m sure that it’s from spending so much time in the water. Thank goodness it’s supposed to be a cooler, rainy week so I can get away with taking a few days off to let it heal.

The other big event of a summer break is that I decided it was time to work on potty training. I took Patrick to K-mart and let him pick out a pair of big boy underwear the last day of summer school. The next day, I woke up with a migraine, but he was excited to wear them. So we plunged ahead.

He made it through all 5 pairs of underwear in 2 hours, trying his best to “hold it” in between small accidents. I gave him lots of goldfish crackers and praise and did my best to keep things fun and happy. But he was still discouraged. The session ended puddles and a frustrated little boy. I’m pleased to report his mommy stayed calm and positive.

The next day, when I pulled out his underwear, he cried and threw a tantrum that he didn’t want them. But I reminded him it was only for the morning and that there were prizes waiting. After several tries, he finally went in the potty and earned the water gun I’ve been dangling as a carrot for months. The light went on and the next day, he made it several times, staying dry for half the day.

We took the weekend off, and then started again on Monday. I think he’s actually getting the hang of this. We still aren’t accident free and today is the first day I’m trying underwear all day. I don’t know how it will go to have them trying to potty train when he goes back to school next week. I still haven’t tried using a potty away from home. We might need the next long break to solidify what he’s learned. But so far, things are going better than I expected. Now if only I can convince him that this is the better option for him.

(Note: I know this is a long gap without pictures. But I am trying to not post pictures my son will find embarrassing someday when his girlfriend finds this old blog.)

We had a simple 4th of July. The evening was spent at a barbecue with my family. We’d decided to not push Patrick’s limits this year by participating in my family’s huge fireworks. Turns out, that was a convenient choice as it started to rain right after we ate. We left in a downpour but made it home with just a little sprinkling, so we decided to go ahead with our smaller fireworks. (We bought a small pack of fireworks, plus a couple of fountains specifically labeled “silent” so he wouldn’t be scared by the noise.) Who’d have expected, after years of miserable 4th’s and Patrick terrified of fireworks that, on this smaller scale, Patrick would be in love with fireworks. We had to stop and go inside for half an hour because of rain, but when it let up we went out and lit more. He was very upset when he found out we only bought enough for one night.

The rest of the day was simple. Brian hosted a barbecue for his team at work Monday so we spent most of the weekend deep cleaning the house and prettying up the yard. It feels really good to finally have cleaned up some of those messy corners and piles that have been haunting me for being undone since we got home in February. And I caught a clearance sale at the greenhouse down the street. So I got 3 healthy cucumber plants and two basil for free, some adorable patio pumpkins, eggplants, and yellow zucchini as well as a 3 pack of bell peppers for virtually nothing.

Isn't this tiny eggplant adorable? And the flowers are so pretty!

Isn’t this tiny eggplant adorable? And the flowers are so pretty!

Then, we went back later for some miniature sunflowers to fill in the front bed where our irises grow in spring. Brian wanted to plant giant sunflowers from seed earlier this year. We planted a seed in a family home evening lesson about faith. They are as tall as me now. So tying in little sunflowers in the front yard seemed the perfect touch. I’m in love with my sunflowers this year.

I also happened to listen again to this wonderful sermon this week, which only made me more in love with them. The Lord is My Light by Elder Quentin L. Cook, apostle

One of the remarkable characteristics of young wild sunflowers, in addition to growing in soil that is not hospitable, is how the young flower bud follows the sun across the sky. In doing so, it receives life-sustaining energy before bursting forth in its glorious yellow color.

Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life.

We’re plugging away. The stress of having Patrick will me full-time when paired with the Brian’s very busy summer planning handcart pioneer trek reenactment for the teenagers in our church has me running a little ragged. I’ll be honest, when paired with facing my feelings about what we’ve lost, I’ve had more trouble with anxiety and depression lately. So  looking to sunflowers as a symbol and reminder of life-sustaining faith and hope, even in the midst of a week where popular voices are calling it old-fashioned, hypocritical, and even bigoted to believe in Christ.. that is helping to lift me up. My sunflower plants really do turn and follow the sun all day. I see them every time I come and go from my house. And each time I do, I remember that it is worth following light, even before flowers bloom.  That little seed of faith we planted is as tall as I am and growing more, so long as it follows the light.

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One more week of summer awesomeness ahead. This week, we’ll resume our mommy school studies, try to earn a brag badge a day, wear underwear all day, and try to get daddy ready for Trek.

April and some Easter reflections

Happy April! Don’t you just love April? It is teeming with new life. The trees are in blossom. The tulips opened this weekend. There are little green shoots poking up out of the soil in all of the gardens around my yard. There are birds nesting in the eaves of my house. (No, that’s not necessarily a good thing.)

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April and spring also bring us Easter. A celebration of Christ’s victory over death. And spring surrounds us with reminders of the Lord’s power to bring forth life. To turn what appears dead and gone into glorious beauty. It as if all of nature is shouting the promise of renewed life.

April is also national Donate Life month. This year, with our family’s transplant journey fresh in my mind, I can’t help but see lessons about Easter and Christ’s atonement in it. I thought perhaps I would share some of those thoughts with you.

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Restoration

In the Book of Mormon, a prophet named Alma describes the resurrection in these terms.

The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.  – Book of Mormon, Alma 40:23

I used to say that I looked forward to the resurrection because Patrick and I were going to have a week-long feast. With a perfect body, I want him to be able to taste every wonderful thing that he has missed experiencing in this life.  I never imagined that to be even remotely possible in this life.

And yet, since transplant, Patrick is getting to do just that. He is finally able to begin to experience some of those things. It is incomplete. Allergies and diet restrictions and motor deficits from his brain injury still limit him. And we will still need to have our feast.

Transplant is not a perfect restoration. In fact, an x-ray or ultrasound of Patrick’s belly would reveal an anatomy that looks more like a jury-rigged mess. But it is the closest approximation that I know of in this life.  Transplant takes what is broken or missing and puts things back to their “proper” frame.

And seeing what a transformation this human attempt at restoration can bring, I look forward with joyful anticipation to a day when not even a hair is missing, let alone major organs. When everything is made right. When little eyes can focus to read without effort. When words don’t get stuck in formation. When little legs can run without weakness. When everything is made whole and perfect again.

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Resurrection

There is one part of transplant that I have a hard time understanding. When Patrick was 9 months old, his heart stopped. In essence, he died in my arms. For 2 weeks afterwards, we came back to our house every night not knowing if he would survive. I was destroyed. I had not understood until that time the literal physical ache of grief that accompanies the loss of a child.

Yet somehow, in the midst of that grief, another family found in the midst of that grief the compassion to give the gift of life to mine. Before transplant, Patrick was terminal. We didn’t talk about how very real that possibility was because we didn’t want it to get in the way of his living the life he had. But we knew. We had made plans and were preparing to one day have to let him go.

With transplant came something different. A hope of a full and long life. A gift that rose out of the grief of loss and death. And, in a very real way, Patrick’s donor also lives on in him.

Again, from the prophet Alma:

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. – Book of Mormon, Alma 7:12

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Our Savior voluntarily laid down his life. He suffered pain and sorrow so great he bled from every pore. He hung and he suffered and he died. For us. His mother and his friends wept as they watched him die. They laid him in a tomb and they went home mourning. They wondered how and if they would be able to go on. And all of it. For us.

And on the third day, the returned to find the tomb empty. Because Jesus had risen. For us. He overcame death. And because he rose, we will rise. And death is not forever. Loss and sorrow and separation need not last forever. Because of Him.

I see in transplant a whisper of this promise. It is possible to conquer death. And I know that Christ has conquered death and that my son, if he dies, will live again. And so will his donor.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? – 1 Corinthians 15:55

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Weakness

If you are a medical nerd like me with an interest in transplant, I highly recommend that you sometime read the autobiography of Thomas Starzl, the inventor of transplant. It is called The Puzzle People and it is fascinating to read the journey, the determination, the trial and constant failure that led to this amazing medical breakthrough. It was an amazing confirmation to me that God inspires science and discovery and he leads human beings to be able to master the eternal laws that govern the world we live in.

I’ve learned that in science there are also important eternal lessons. And in transplant, there is an important lesson taught about weakness.

You see, in his early experiments, Dr. Starzl found that he had mastered the surgical technique of transplantation. And yet he struggled as recipients rejected the life-saving organs because they were foreign and seen by the immune system as a threat.

Transplantation did not move from the realm of science fiction into medical science until Dr. Starzl discovered how to use immunosuppression to weaken the body’s defenses enough to accept the transplanted organ. Transplant of larger, more complex organs wasn’t possible until the discovery of a drug called FK506, better known as Prograf, that could weaken the body’s natural immune response enough to protect the transplanted graft. The reason that intestinal transplant is so new and so rare is that the intestine is so large and so intertwined with the body’s immune system that it took such a high degree of immunosuppressive therapy.

In layman’s terms, in order for the body to accept a change as large as transplant, it first had to be made weak. Weak enough to be susceptible to infection and illness.

For the week following transplant, Patrick stayed in the ICU so that he could be given a drug that completely wiped out his immune system. It removed it so completely that they then prescribed him a year of antibiotics, antivirals, and isolation in order to try to protect him. All of his defenses were removed. Because that is the only way to prevent his body from immediately rejecting the gift he had been given.

The apostle Paul wrote about an unnamed affliction that plagued him for years. He frequently prayed and asked for this “thorn in his side” to be removed. And yet, it never was. After much time and certainly much struggle, he recorded the Lord’s response to his pleas.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Sometimes, the Lord gives us strength through weakness. Sometimes he leaves us with a thorn in our side, with prayers that seem unanswered, with trials that seem neverending. He does it because sometimes the only way for us to be prepared to receive His gifts.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:5-6

Christ atoned for the sins of the world, taking upon him every sin and sorrow and transgression. But what good is that gift if we, thinking our own defenses are strong enough, reject His grace. Sometimes, it takes weakness first for God to work the change in us that will make us strong. Not all healing is painless.

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I am so grateful for Jesus Christ. For His resurrection. For His atonement. For His grace and for His love. I know He lives.

I see reminders of His gifts and His promise of life all around me. In the tulips and the tree blossoms. In tender shoots in garden beds. In the sparrows. And especially in my son.

We are doing well. Patrick’s responded well to the antibiotics he was started on last week. His liver numbers are normal again. We are still giving IV antibiotics. Therefore we are sleepy. But we are happy. And we are healthy. We had a great Easter full of bunnies and feasting and magnificent sermons. This life is not always easy, but it is good. We are blessed.

Transplant Day 56 and Christmas Day

We had a very unique, but very amazing Christmas day this year.

It all started with a little bit of excitement. Every night sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. I have to get up to refill the formula in Patrick’s feeding bag. So at 3:30 I was up and it seemed to go really smoothly and I stuffed the little stocking that Patrick had hung on the IV pole by his bed. And then I went into the bathroom and the pump started to alarm.

Well, I got there quick enough that it didn’t wake Patrick and I fixed the kinked tubing. And then I noticed a very distinct smell. The smell of Patrick’s ostomy bag leaking. I felt around the pouch and it was definitely starting to come off. That usually would mean waking him to change the bag. But I looked around a room full of presents that Santa had already brought and I knew that if I woke him, we’d be having Christmas right then.

Now, my previous history of early Christmas mornings aside, I also knew that Patrick would not have time for a nap in the rest of the day without missing out on some big fun things. So I took a risky chance. I crawled in bed with him, wrapped him in a towel, secured the bag the best I could, and slept next to him. I knew we’d be starting the day off with a big mess and that we’d have to work hard to keep it from making his skin sore. But it seemed the best choice for a good Christmas day.

I had nightmares about ostomy bags the rest of the night and at 6:30, when Patrick started to stir a little, decided I’d waited long enough and let him wake up. I explained he was wet and needed to go right to the bath. He wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t give him a choice.

We got him cleaned up pretty quickly and changed into his spare Christmas morning pajamas. (We learned long ago that we need two pair of special Christmas PJ’s.) We asked him if he thought Santa would have come and he said no. Somehow, he’d missed all the presents on the way through.

But when he did see them, that’s all he wanted.

We let him start with his little stocking. That was simple stuff. A Dora doll, some hot wheels cars, some silly putty. Then Brian pulled out the big stockings.

I’ll confess. I was pretty worried about Christmas stockings this year. I could not figure out how to go about getting that part of Christmas ready when Patrick needed to be with me and time in stores was limited. Heck, we tried to buy stockings once and had to leave the store without. So when a package from Brian’s work showed up full of gifts, including stockings, I was relieved.

Patrick’s stocking was huge. It took half an hour to go through. Of course, that was the tip of the iceberg for Christmas morning. Between family, friends, DDM, and  gifts donated through the hospital and  the Ronald McDonald House, we were very well taken care of this Christmas. When I look back at myself a month ago, lying awake in the hospital in tears and unable to sleep not being able to imagine how we could possibly pull together Christmas this year and contrast that with the abundant and generous outpouring that we received I am humbled and grateful.

A phrase from a verse in Malachi kept running through my head.  Malachi 3:10:

“prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Indeed – it took most of today to make space to put away Patrick’s many gifts and there is a small collection in the corner of the “too much” that we will probably pass on to other children.

After opening gifts in our room, we let Patrick pick a couple of toys and we headed down to the kitchen to take care of meds and formula. It was fun to see children pop in and out with Christmas presents and smiles on their faces.

Finally, 10:30 rolled around and Santa was due to arrive. Christmas with Santa in the Ronald McDonald House is going to stay forever in my memory. Each family had a pile of presents with our names on them. Most were simple, some were astoundingly generous. Santa went around the room telling the kids about how he’d picked certain things just for them and which gifts were most popular.  I’ll never forget the tears in the eyes of one mom whose family had arrived for emergency surgery just a couple of days before who really did think they’d be missing Christmas this year.

And then, after presents, we gathered for Christmas brunch. The Hilton had sent a gourmet meal over with roast beef and turkey and potatoes and stuffing and the yummiest green bean casserole on the planet and about 20 different desserts.

We ate well and then had to reign ourselves in because we knew we had other plans.

In fact, right after brunch, I went up to the room to pack our things to go for the rest of the day. A couple of my very close friends from college married and live two hours away in Iowa. And they invited us out for Christmas dinner. So, we took a drive yesterday. It was fun to see country life in Iowa. And it was amazing to spend some time with friends.

Drue and Rachel have to be two of my favorite people on the planet. They’ve been through a lot in their 13 years of marriage. And now seem so happy and in their element. Both grew up in smaller towns and so it is natural that they’ve settled down in bigger small town in Iowa with 5 acres of land and a historic house they bought for $1 and moved to the lot.

While they finished up making dinner, (smoked leg of lamb and homemade gravy and Idaho mashed potatoes!!) their daughter, Julie, took Patrick out to the chicken coop and he came back with his shoes all muddy.. So then he had to play around in stocking feet all the rest of the evening, which he loved. And they gave him a real metal slinky and showed him how to use it on the stairs, and he loved that, too. And mostly, he was tired because we gave up naps to try to get him to sleep at night and he might not really be ready for that.

BUT he made it and we had a lovely dinner and played Catch Phrase afterwards and reminisced and caught up. And we got to see the stars (something I hate that Patrick misses having to always be in the city so he is close to medical care and clean.) And then we drove back and Patrick managed to stay awake the whole way, which mean he would sleep.

But we ended the day almost as excitingly as it started because one of the bottles of formula opened and spilled in the cooler and so we had to make a new batch of formula and clean up the sticky mess. So we got to bed a bit late and then Patrick woke up at 3 and insisted I come sleep in his bed. So my dreams of an early bedtime and a then sleeping in till 9 were both dashed, but it was still a wonderful Christmas.

And today was mostly quiet with a trip to Costco (then a trip back to the room to replace the feeding button that Patrick accidentally pulled out as he got out of the car. That was traumatic and he talked about it all day.).. Then we took another trip to Costco where we actually bought the totes and batteries we went for. And we spent the day resting and cleaning and playing with new toys. And today we DID make it to bed on time. And maybe tomorrow we’ll even sleep in.

I will never, EVER forget this Christmas. This season brings out the best in us. We are kinder, more generous, more Christlike. And as I read the Christmas story with Patrick this month, I could relate more with the story of Mary and Joseph far from home, staying in a stable of all places as their baby was born. But Heavenly Father knew where they were. And He sent angels to tell ordinary, humble working men – shepherds. And then those shepherds went and it was through those ordinary people that the Lord sent the message that He remembered and He knew what was happening and was was going to happen.

And we, through the ordinary people, have seen the hand of the Lord this Christmas.

Some of you are reading this. I need to say thank you. You may think that what you have done was something small. But this Christmas was anything but small for us. So thank you.

Transplant Day 48 and some Christmas Cheer

It’s been a busy couple of days. Without labs in the morning, I’ve been trying to work on a little bit of a better sleep schedule.  I don’t know that we’re getting more sleep, but at least we haven’t been up till midnight.

Yesterday we didn’t have labs and Patrick actually slept till 8 a.m. Then we took our sweet time getting ready and out of the room, which is always nice. It usually means I get some cleaning done.

Because Patrick had slept so late, I decided to try out skipping nap.  That meant I needed to keep him entertained for the day instead. I stole a little bit of internet time in the morning while he played in the playroom and I downloaded the new homeschool curriculum I want to use for “mommy school.” (I’m using Reading the Alphabet, if you are curious.) Then we came upstairs and I printed out a little reader to practice with and a reader.

Patrick was so excited to do mommy school. I think he’s feeling as bored and stir crazy as I am. He mastered his book in about 5 minutes. The series I’m using is a sight words preprimer series.. So pretty basic stuff. Just sight words mixed with pictures that he should be able to decipher. This is what he was using in school before transplant so it seemed like a good place to pick up. It’s probably a slower paced curriculum than he’d be getting in a typical classroom, but i figure that anything is better than 3 or less hours a week and the pace seems to match his learning style. Once he had mastered his book, we did a little bit of writing practice with the word of the week, (“a”) and the letter of the week (“Tt”).. and then we took his book to practice reading to other people. Both he and they love this method of practicing reading. I have the feeling that taking his books to the office staff to practice is going to be pretty par for the course.

After a little bit of resting/cleaning time in our room, we got ready for the evening’s excitement. Last night was the hospital’s annual pediatrics Christmas party. A company called Renaissance financials hosts this every year for the inpatient and outpatient pediatric patients. That means that you don’t have to be in the hospital to be invited. They know there are a lot of us here who’ve traveled quite some way and will be here long-term.

The party started with a magician. It’s amazing to me to see Patrick old enough to appreciate these things. He laughed and was awed by the tricks. He really wanted to be a helper, but didn’t raise his hand to say so.

After the magic show, we found our tables and worked on making jingle bell necklaces, marshmellow snowmen, and gingerbread houses made out of graham crackers and take out boxes. We were joined there by one of the employees helping to host the party.

That kind of made this the perfect blend of holiday party for me. It had all of the kid-friendly elements that I’m used to from a school or church party. But there were employees and their wives there for their annual company Christmas party, too.. All dressed up. It kind of helped soothe the part of me that is really missing corporate Christmas dinners.

We had a dinner of pizza and breadsticks. Patrick enjoyed some crust and declared the julienned carrots from my salad “perfect.”

And then, they made us all sing Christmas carols. They top this off with a tradition where each of the 12 dinner tables has to make up and action to do to their assigned day of the 12 Days of Christmas. I hope our 5 golden rings had enough flair.

Then, the night was topped off with a visit from Santa Claus himself. They came and called the kids up for their turns one by one so there was no line or crush. Each kid got some personal time with Santa. Patrick took his to open the present that Santa had brought him.. A big noisy 3-wheeled motorcycle that races across the room when you push a button.

Patrick’s attention was gone pretty quickly after his visit with Santa. We snuck out as things started to wind down and ran to the store to get a few things to make some little gifts for the many people we have gotten to know here. (I’m making angel ornaments out of ribbon, a paperclip, and a bead.) Patrick thinks Michaels is the best store ever.. specially since they had little shopping baskets with a handle he could pull like a rolling suitcase.

And then we came back to the house where all the kids were playing with the toys Santa brought. It reminded me of Christmas morning… which makes me really look forward to Christmas. We have lived with these kids for a couple of weeks now and they are getting to be friends. It was fun to see them sharing toys with each other.. racing around shooting each other with nerf guns and taking turns with the remote control car.

It was especially needed last night as one of the families staying in the house lost their son last night. It is hard to put into words the way that a loss like that hurts in a community like this. We understand more deeply than anyone can the pain of that loss and just want to take it away.

Today has been a pretty low-key kind of day. I got Patrick to sleep last night by 10, but that meant he was wide awake and happy at 6:30. He chose to play on his bed for an hour, though, and when he was ready to go was pretty good downstairs.

The grandparents of the boy who passed away stayed here last night and Patrick has been particularly attached to them all day.. Cuddling up with both of them and playing charmer. He really has a way of knowing what people need sometimes.

Then, when he did leave them, Patrick went to visit his friends in the office. He has made this a bit of a morning tradition. I don’t think they mind much. House rules say they are supposed to give us our space.. but if we go visit them, that is ok. Patrick likes to go visit.

Over lunch, Tyson, the 18 year old transplant recipient, took Patrick downstairs to play in the playroom while I showed his mom how to make homemade frosting and how to roll out and cut sugar cookies. (It’s funny how this is something I have just taken for granted knowing how to do. After a lifetime of baking with mom and grandma, going to church activities, doing crafts, and learning other homemaking skills.. I guess I kind of assume that most people have some experience with these things. But they have been wowed by my skills here and it’s kind of a strange feeling. The things you discover when you leave the Mormon belt.)

I got a call this afternoon from hospital social work asking me to come pick up Christmas gifts. While we were still inpatient, they came and asked if one of the hospital departments could adopt us for Christmas.. given how far we are from home and knowing what our co-pays were going to be. We tried to decline and offer this to someone else, but they insisted that we fit the bill to help. So, we made a simple list for them.

What I picked up today was not simple. My trunk is full. And there was a gift card included too that kind of blew me away.

Anyway – once we finished that outing, Patrick asked to try to play at a park. We went, but he got too cold too fast again. So we came back to the house and let him play in the playroom while I paid some bills and then pulled out my new Christmas music books and played on the piano. This is another thing that I kind of have taken for granted in the past. People who play the piano are limited back home, but there’s a few of us in every neighborhood at least. Here, though.. some of the staff say they have never seen this piano used to play actual music. I am so excited to try a sing along.

Next was dinner. One of the drawbacks of the Ronald McDonald House at Christmas time is that all the dinner groups very well-meaningly try to bring in a festive holiday meal. You don’t want to know how many hams have been served here this week. Patrick is loving it, though. Ham and potatoes is one of his favorite meals and he will happily eat it over and over again. It just makes me smile and remember my missionary days when we’d be fed at member houses and we’d see food seasons. I wonder what food season comes after Christmas.

Then, I ended up letting Patrick stay up just a bit late because we decorated cookies tonight. It was so much fun and I was really grateful for Wendy, a mom and friend in the house, and all of the resources and work she put into getting Christmas cookies into the house.  The kids had a great time. Patrick loved it and, yes, I let him splurge and have some frosting tonight. (He’s supposed to be on a no concentrated sugar diet at least until things get a little more stable.)

Our word of the day was “angels”. We read about how angels appeared to sing about Christ’s birth. And then for good measure, I pulled out my YouTube video and watched this awesome video… a record breaker for multitudes of angels in a live Nativity, and heart-touching to boot.

And now Patrick’s finally made it to sleep. I’m thrilled he is asleep before 11 again.. But every night I have grand intentions of getting up and getting to work once he is asleep. I have a couple of presents to wrap and the room needs cleaning and the laundry needs put away. Especially since we have labs tomorrow. But I can barely keep my eyes open. So I’ll be settling on finishing up this post, hunting down an internet connection so I can post it.. and then going off to bed.

 

Transplant Day 45 and Gingerbread

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Well, it’s about 6 p.m. on a very quiet Sunday evening here in Omaha. Patrick is taking a little time in the playroom and I thought I’d throw out a quick update.

It’s been a simple day. We slept in a little bit because we were told no labs. I had Patrick in the bathtub when there was a knock at the door. It was his home nurse. She hadn’t gotten a change of orders. So while she called looking for those instructions, I got Patrick back out of the bath and dressed just in case. But she got it sorted out and went on her way.

That put us a little ahead of our expected schedule for the morning. We ate breakfast and got meds and then pulled out the Dora Candyland game they have here to play while waiting for our next plans.

I decided that maybe a Sunday morning outing would be a nice change of pace today. The Mormon Trail Center has a gingerbread house display every Christmas. I’d heard about it from more than one of the nurses. So I invited any of our friends at the house willing to be up and out earlier in the day to meet us at 10:30 to go over. (I am still hiding from crowds to protect Patrick from illness with his weakened immune system.)

We don’t have many early risers in the house right now, so only our friend Wendy joined us. Her son is 18 and had a transplant a year ago. So while he slept, she came with us.

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The gingerbread houses were fun and impressive. There were simple displays from scout troops and other kids groups. There were also very elaborate displays with sculpted candy and such. It inspired us to want to set up a gingerbread house making activity here at the house.

Then, we went upstairs in the visitors center and took a brief tour. I should maybe get tired of that, but I really don’t. I see so many parallels between the sacrifices that pioneers made crossing the plains to our life right now. Separated from husband and family. Small living quarters. Nebraska weather. And hard trials. I was really glad we got to go.

And they finished off the tour with this little video about the true and first gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ. I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Now seemed like the right time. I was talking to Brian last night. He’s doing all the grunt work of Christmas this year. Mailing cards, wrapping presents. Meanwhile, I’m here with my little nativity advent tree and only serving Patrick and the other people in the house as my jobs right now. It’s a different Christmas season and teaching me a lot.

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Anyway, we came back to the house and ate lunch, put in some laundry, visited with some of the other kids for a while. Patrick was sent a 12 days of Christmas gift countdown by our church youth group and today was the first day to open a present.

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Then the elders came with the sacrament. Our usual guy was busy this week and so this was a new father-son duo that came to visit. They got a bit lost on the way. It always seems so very brief when there are no meetings around the sacrament. I miss church horribly right now. I’m realizing that I had found a way to work scripture study and prayer into our hospital routine.. But this new Ronald McDonald House routine has been harder that way. Patrick can’t sleep in because of labs and that’s when I was reading before. And with his insomnia, he is up till almost 11. You think finding time to blog is hard? Try finding time for quiet study and meditation when you have a 6 year old who is desperately stir crazy with you in every waking moment.

But I can tell today that it needs to be a priority. Sundays are kind of a day to refill spiritually and I can tell that my lamp is running on empty and there are no meetings of any kind to refill me. That falls to me these days.

There’s no dinner in the house tonight so I probably had better go up and make us some dinner here sooner or later.  But I thought that while I had a quiet moment and an internet connection, it was worth checking in. Sorry about the typos in yesterday’s blog post. I wrote from my phone and I obviously didn’t do a good job proofreading.

Transplant Day 38 and Look Mom!

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Patrick has been DYING to get his hands on this statue of Robert Frost since he first saw it. We also visited Thomas Jefferson and some other sculptures today.

Patrick has been DYING to get his hands on this statue of Robert Frost since he first saw it. We also visited Thomas Jefferson and some other sculptures today.

‘m blogging at 3:30 p.m. because I expect Patrick to sleep all afternoon. He had a pump alarm at 5:30 a.m. and the nursing staff tried to pull a “while you’re awake” rush at vitals and other care. The result was that he was wide awake, and since labs were due half an hour later.. well, he was up. But I wasn’t ready to be up, so I we talked and agreed to turn on Blues Clues so he wouldn’t wake up the neighbors and then I layed down and slept while he watched. I’ve decided that, given that insomnia is a well-known side effect of steroids, I need to just go with the flow when he can’t sleep and this is one solution that has worked.

The problem is that this worked almost too well. Patrick would wake me every 10-15 minutes or so and tell me something about his show. And I’d tell him I’d get up at the end of the episode.. then I’d fall asleep again. It was like I was a teenager with a snooze button again. I slept till 9.

But it worked for us today. When I got up we were productive. Bath. Dressed. Playtime. Meds. Cleaned up the room. Zofran worked so when he got up, he felt fine.

Rounds came early. The doctor heard Patrick’s number and looked at me and said, “Well, do you want to go out?” He was entirely sincere, I think. The resident, however, got this panicked look on his face and said, “The coordinators (transplant coordinators) said not on the weekend!” I knew that really they need tomorrow to pull things together the right way and kind of laughed it off. It’s good to hear that they are earnestly considering discharge, though.

We’ve had a good day so far. The morning kind of dragged. Hospitals are so quiet on Sundays. We did a little bit of primary (Sunday School). It didn’t go over as well today. Patrick’s body was saying “move” and so sitting talking wasn’t going over so well. Singing time was a little better. I bought a little app that plays the church songs with a bouncing ball over the words and I sing along. He mostly just watches me. But I did get him to try and repeat one of the Christmas songs. And we watched a couple of videos. Today we talked about the resurrection and Patrick hands down refuses to believe that Jesus died. He knows “He is just ok, mom!” So I tried to explain that He died and is alive again and we used some exam gloves to demonstrate the spirit in the body and not. But I think this concept is still beyond him, oh well.

Because Patrick was needing to be up and moving, we went to the playroom. I set up bowling. He took one throw, then grabbed a chair and told me bowling was better sitting down. Yeah, his body is saying move, but it’s also saying “Gee, I’m tired.” So we tried bowling from a chair and that didn’t work so well. So we tried just sitting on the floor rolling a ball back and forth which worked better, but wore him out pretty quickly, too. He got up to play with magnets and his feeding pump started to alarm because it had run dry.

He ran away so fast once he had a backpack on that I could barely catch a picture

He ran away so fast once he had a backpack on that I could barely catch a picture

Today, though, that was good news. I asked his nurse this morning how she’d feel about letting me use Patrick’s home pump for the afternoon. That way, I could practice with it, Patrick could get used to it.. and we could take advantage of how dead the hospital is on a Sunday.

No sooner had I put the pump in the bag than Patrick was asking for it on his back. And with it on, away he went! He just about ran out the door without me.

We went all over the hospital today. We went up to the NICU where the rooftop garden is. The garden doors were locked for the weekend. (BOO!)… But Patrick insisted on playing on the flight of stairs leading up to them. He long flight made him huff and puff, but he found a set of 4 steps that he declared were “easy peasy.” And, easy or not, he tried them a few times.

Then, we decided to walk over to other hospital building called Clarkson tower. Think walking from Primary Children’s to the University of Utah… only with the connecting corridor being about 2-3 times as long. We had to stop to take a few breaks. Thanks goodness for benches and Christmas trees along the way. But he made it… and at one point, he shouted, “Look, Mom! I’m runnin’!” And away he went down the hall until he couldn’t go any more.

We visited the chapel. We played in the guest pavilion. We found every Christmas tree we could muster. We passed the attending surgeon on the way and he gave Patrick a HUGE smile. (Bet that wins some discharge points.)

He claimed to really like this view. I think he really liked the window ledge to rest on.

He claimed to really like this view. I think he really liked the window ledge to rest on.

We washed our hands about a billion times. (Patrick is more than happy to wear a little portable hand sanitizer around his neck and wash his hands as well as the hands of anyone else standing near him.) We practiced pushing elevator buttons with wipes and with our elbows. We talked about what it’s safe to touch and what’s not safe to touch.

Learning to be immune suppressed is going to be a big stretch for Patrick. We’ve always said that Patrick was fragile, but needed an immune system and so we have exposed him to as much as possible before. Now, the opposite is true. Before, a cold would have taken him a while to recover from but he could fight it. Now, he might not be able to fight what for us is just a mild virus.

So hand washing and mask wearing and no touching and germ fearing and crowd dodging are going to be our norm. At least for the immediate future. The transplant team here has told us not to keep him in a bubble. But also to be careful. And right now we may be erring on the side of too careful… But this recovery has also gone too well and we don’t want to risk undoing that if not undoing it is even an option.

We came back to the room to take the sacrament. Patrick has really taken to the young men’s president who brings it. He just squeezed his way right into his arms today. And for the first time in weeks, he swallowed the bread.

Of course, he also has had 1/4 cup of chicken broth and a few bites of pasta today… all his own idea. There may be hope of eating yet. Especially once we get outpatient and the foods are safe and familiar. If I can just figure out how to teach him it’s ok to swallow now.

Anyway – I expect we’ll wrap this day up with a video chat with Daddy and the family at Sunday Dinner back home in Utah. We’ll make our Christmas advent ornament while we watch the annual Christmas Devotional, one of my favorite holiday traditions. And then bedtime might be a bit late because Patrick will have napped late. And if all of that holds true, this post will auto post at 9 p.m. tonight.  (If not, you’ll never even know I wrote this last two sentences.)

But for now, with Patrick napping so deeply, I might as well see if I can get a few things done just in case we do make it out of here tomorrow.

Transplant Day 32 and slow and steady

Well, today I have very little to report. It was a very quiet day. Patrick’s pain is a little better, and so his breathing is, too. He only needed oxygen for a little while after we got him really mad getting up in the morning. His nurse wanted to take the cannula (tube) off his nose tonight, but we told him to wait till after bath in the morning.

The doctors restarted feeds and started to decrease the TPN again. So far, so good. We’ll see what the chest x-ray shows in the morning. So far, though, things are moving in the right direction.

We know he’s still hurting some. It’s hard to find the balance, though, to know how much he needs medicine. He does NOT want to walk. I was trying to get him to walk around the room earlier today and he decided to just stand on one foot so I couldn’t make him take the next stop. Not sure if that’s because of pain or because of a fear of coughing or just fear in general. Brian pushed and pushed to get him up and once he forgot to be miserable, Patrick actually walked quite well to the nurse’s station. But then he tried to refuse to come back. This is one area where Daddy will be sorely missed when he goes home.

Patrick got to play with a couple of his favorite volunteers. His homebound teacher came for his “first day” of homeschool. Patrick was overtired by then because his sleep schedule is all off right now, but it went ok.

Meanwhile, I started working on trying to figure out how to do Christmas here. It feels like all of our Christmas traditions are packed away or will go on without us in Utah. We don’t really have space or time for too much here. I hesitate to decorate because I don’t know where Patrick will spend his time. But I didn’t want to do nothing all month. So today, I put together a makeshift, simplified Truth in the Tinsel countdown to Christmas. The idea is to introduce the Christmas story with a topic a day. Each day has a word, a scripture, and a craft to make an ornament. Eventually, you end up with 24 homemade ornaments. I thought this might be a fun way to work towards decorating our own little miniature Christmas tree.

Today’s word was light. We read Isaiah’s prophesy of Christ’s birth and talked about how Christ is the light of the world. Then we made a candle ornament.

It was kind of nice to have time for a little project today, even if it was accomplished because I planned it while volunteers were playing with Patrick and shopped while he and his dad were napping.

Tonight, I’m spending the night at the Ronald McDonald House. Brian wanted me to have a night away before he flies home tomorrow. Plus, it means a little extra time for the two of them together. Tomorrow, things are going to be different for all of us.