Category Archives: Infections

Transplant Day 149 and how liver enzymes meant a weekend in the hospital

Hello from “The Hotel on the Hill.” If you are new to our blog, this is the nickname for Primary Children’s Hospital which is situated in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains on the edge of the Salt Lake Valley.

We have been here since yesterday afternoon. Here’s why.

A few weeks ago, Patrick’s nurse checked his temperature when he came to draw his morning labwork and it was a little high. Later that day, his labwork showed elevated liver enzymes and a slightly higher white count. These two signs together usually mean an illness and we thought that maybe Patrick had a bit of a stomach bug. The numbers stayed high for a couple of days, then went back down. We called Nebraska Medicine and they said they would check some viral studies to see if something was brewing. No one seemed too concerned.

For the past several weeks, this pattern has repeated itself. Once or twice a week, Patrick’s temperature has gone up. His liver enzymes go up. Sometimes his white count goes up. Sometimes it doesn’t. And Patrick never got sick. And no one ever seemed really worried.

Well, this Tuesday, when they checked Patrick’s labs, his liver enzymes were up by almost 100 points. His white count was normal this time. His temperature was 99.7. He was acting fine. But they also finally got around to those viral studies which showed no concern for the viruses they suspected might be to blame. Also, Patrick’s prograf level was a touch high and the transplant team decided to drop his dose by half.

I texted Patrick’s local doctor, Dr. Jackson, to let him know about the change and that night he called me.  He suggested that the one other thing we hadn’t checked for was infection in Patrick’s central line.. maybe some small amount of bacteria seeded there. So the next morning Patrick’s home nurse came by and drew cultures and repeated liver enzymes and prograf levels. The liver tests came back pretty early. The enzymes that had been high were the same, but another marker was now up, too.  And Saturday morning, as we were getting ready for the day, we got a call from the GI fellow on call who said that Patrick had tested positive for a line infection.

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Well, Patrick was still feeling fine. So we asked if we could still take him to the Make-a-Wish easter egg hunt we had gotten him up early for. Then I called Dr. Jackson to figure out how exactly to proceed. We talked about starting treatment at home, but Patrick needed some vancomycin.. a drug we have a love/hate relationship with because it clears infections, but Patrick’s pretty allergic to. It gives him a rash, so he has to have benadryl. It also makes his belly quite sick and we didn’t know how a new gut would take it.

So, we made a plan to bring Patrick inpatient for the weekend while we start antibiotics and figure out what comes next.

Because he is still so soon after transplant, we are making our first stay in the cancer/transplant unit, or immune compromised unit. (ICS). At first, I was worried they might kick us out after we went through all the work to make an infection-risk-minimal admission. They don’t accept transplant patients after the initial immune suppression and they didn’t know us and thought maybe someone was sneaking us in. But once they heard “5 months since transplant” it was ok.

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They are experts with central lines here, which is nice. They don’t do g-tubes or ethanol locks often, though. Apparently only short gut and related GI diagnoses get the full gammut like we do. So there’s still some teaching to do.

The nice thing is that they keep the rooms super duper clean and, really, the nursing staff here is in general a little more experienced.  The techs are really on the ball making sure things are cleaned up, diapers charted, extra food collected, teeth brushes, baths given, etc. There are things in this unit that I would have killed for in Nebraska. Like washing machines down the hall. (Last night Patrick had a diaper leak and they just showed me to the washing machines so I could clean it up.) And bathtubs. Patrick was very excited to take a bath here this morning. And needleless hubs with scrub caps and a policy of scrubbing the hub for a full 15 seconds and then letting it dry.

The room is smaller, but these rooms feel like home. And the parent bed is comfy. And the view is spectacular. And the cafeteria is just downstairs and still serves most of our comfort foods, even though they’ve just remodeled.

So it’s different, but it’s home.

This has been a very long week. We are all very tired. Monday night, my cell phone rebooted and wouldn’t load its operating system afterwards. Brian plugged away at it every chance he got, but there was no fixing the problem. So I had a few panicked days where I could see abnormal labs but couldn’t text as I normally do to communicate with Patrick’s medical team. Thankfully, Google has amazing customer service and pulled off a warranty exchange before Friday.

Tuesday night, I started to get an ache at the back of my throat. I hoped it was allergies, but was pretty sure it was a cold. I woke up sure I was sick. So I masked and gloved up, stripped and washed all my bedding, did as much laundry as possible, clorox wiped everything in sight and just tried to muddle through with as little exposure to Patrick as possible. It took round the clock mask-wearing, lots of handwashing, lots of running outside or to another room to sneeze or cough of blow my nose, and lots of picnic lunches (so I could eat without breathing near him) to get through the week. Thank goodness family was in town visiting. Two nights in a row, Brian took Patrick to dinner with his family, leaving me home to rest, clean, eat, and breathe mask-free.

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I was still sick and masked yesterday when we came up here. I was almost afraid they wouldnt’ let us into this unit with me sick… but I’m following the same precautions the rest of the staff here does so it turns out it was ok.

Thank goodness I am better today, though. My ears are so tender from wearing a mask all day and night that I can barely stand to wear my glasses and putting a mask on this morning to walk Patrick to the playroom almost made me cry.

It hasn’t been a better week for Brian, either. Coming home from work and taking Patrick away immediately is not easy for him. And he has some some busy weeks, preparing for some organizational changes heading his way.

So we were beyond grateful yesterday morning when Patrick’s doctor asked if we’d like to wait and come into the hospital at 1:00. We had promised and easter egg hunt and we had a great time. Make a Wish throws a great party and no one looks twice at you wearing masks and gloves and not eating any candy. Patrick was so very excited to meet the Easter Bunny. We got his face painted. We had a great time in line with the clown making balloon animals. (Have I mentioned Patrick loves clowns?)  The egg hunt was only mildly interesting to him. He gets tired walking still and so running around hunting eggs wasn’t the most exciting idea.

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The eggs were filled with candy and Patrick was a bit disappointed. But we knew we were headed to the hospital and were feeling generous and Brian had a coupon. So, we offered to let Patrick trade his candy for a prize and we headed to the Disney store.

We talked briefly about heading home and doing our chores but opted for some family fun time instead. We started at the Disney store where Patrick picked out a Mickey Mouse train set. Then we went to a built-to-order pizza restaurant and let Patrick design a cheeseless pizza. He loved it and scarfed it down and packed up his leftovers to go.

We left the mall and went for a walk around Temple Square. If you’ve never seen the gardens at Temple Square around the time of LDS conference you should, Especially in spring. They are amazing! Tulips and fountains and pansies and flowering trees raining white petals everywhere.
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Patrick did what all little boys do… walked the borders of every fountain and ran away and climbed up into the bronze statues.

And then, it was time to come up to the hospital.

And it was strange being admitted to a new place that is different but familiar. We had an ok night. Patrick didn’t nap on schedule. Not a surprise. But after they gave him benadryl at 5, his eyelids got droopy.

I turned on a broadcast of the LDS Women’s Conference right after Brian left to go get things cleaned up and packed up at home. They started off with a video presentation of a song that Patrick knows from church, The Family is of God. View the video here. Knowing he loves these things, I pulled him up on my lap to watch. He snuggled right down and his eyelids started to droop. The song ended and I told him to stay cuddled and I’d get him a show on his tablet. Well, his tablet was slow and before I had a show loaded, he was asleep. He slept on my lap for 2 hours. I got to bask in a quiet evening of gospel and sisterhood and uplifting messages about the importance of motherhood and womanhood and family. The entire conference is available to watch, read, or listen to here. Largest women’s conference in the world. Totally worthwhile and inspiring if you have time.

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And then, he woke up was very mellow the rest of the evening. We watched movies, played with syringes, cuddled on the bed. At 11, he seemed tired enough finally to sleep so I turned out the lights and he was out in 5 minutes. He slept all night except for diaper changes and woke up with the sun. (Much to my chagrin).

Rounds came early this morning. They said that he had immediately responded to antibiotics and his liver numbers were already trending down. No cultures have grown out, though, from the labs drawn right before antibiotics were started and we can’t quite explain it. The doctor suggested that another option for the off liver numbers being bacteria from Patrick’s gut gettiing into his liver through the gastric bypass created at transplant. I guess we’ll explore that more.

But the long story short is that Patrick seems to be responding well to treatment and shouldn’t be hospitalized long. And we’ll have more conversations about the cause of the problem and the fate of his line in the future.

It’s been a quiet Sunday. Patrick is so much calmer in the hospital now. I don’t know if that’s from practice being in the hospital and entertaining himself alone or because his sensory processing disorder is less of a problem since transplant or because his nurse last night started giving him all the used syringes and passed along in report to continue doing so and he has like 30 of them now, plus extensions to connect them to and that always keeps him happy. But he’s quiet and once we’d all had a nap we were all happier.

That was a lot of story to tell. I really should blog more often so you don’t have as much back story to read through. Oh well.

“Do you know deep in your heart that your Heavenly Father loves you and desires you and those you love to be with Him? Just as Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ are perfect, their hopes for us are perfect. Their plan for us is perfect, and Their promises are sure.” – Carole M Stephens, Relief Society General Presidency, LDS General Women’s Conference, October 2015

 

Transplant Day 24 and a fever

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Well, I hit post last night and crawled in bed with Patrick as promised.. Only to have Brian notice as he moved Patrick to bed that he felt kind of warm to the touch. Patrick was running a fever of about 101. So they called the doctors and they ordered blood cultures (including peripheral ones, which means they had to use a needle which always makes him scared and sad.) Then, they gave him Tylenol and told him he could sleep.

His night wasn’t the greatest. He tossed and turned and felt like he was burning up. But, with Tylenol, he didn’t register another fever. And this morning he wasn’t the happiest, but he was ok.

I talked to the nurse this morning and asked if we could get cultures on the other side of Patrick’s line and also test to see if he had a virus. So they did a respiratory viral panel. (Sidenote, this is abbreviated RVP here, but VRP at home and they keep correcting us here thinking we are making a mistake, when really it’s just a difference in word order.)

The viral panel was negative and it’s been almost 24 hour and the first set of cultures is also negative. His lungs sound clear. Patrick’s done ok all day, though didn’t seem to feel much like himself.

They don’t usually start antibiotics for their transplant kids unless fevers either get really high or last a long time or they can’t find a cause.

Finally, this evening, we let his Tylenol wear off again. Patrick kind of curled up in a ball and started to breathe heavily. Sure enough, the fever was back at 101.

This is proving to be a tricky balance. We don’t really want to give him narcotic pain medicines anymore. But the alternative is Tylenol, which hides a fever. We don’t know if he’s really had this problem lurking but hidden for a while. And the team keeps saying that Patrick only ran a fever once in the previous day, when really it’s just that Patrick could only handle the pain of his tylenol wearing off enough to show a fever once in the past day.

Because Patrick hasn’t been feeling well, we have had a pretty quiet Sunday. I had to go do some laundry at the Ronald McDonald House this morning. While I was there, I did a little bit of rearranging and organizing to get the room ready for Patrick to come there. It’s small and organization is going to matter.

Then Brian called and said the elders were on their way with the sacrament, so I hurried back.

Usually, I would have done some homeschool-style Sunday School today.. But none of us really felt like doing much of anything.. So maybe we’ll wait till later in the week.

So, we are just waiting and watching and praying that if something needs to be discovered and treated, that it will be. Otherwise, we just keep planning for the best case scenario that Patrick might be ready to move out of the hospital one of these days. After all, it’s a holiday week and if we follow Patrick’s rules for holidays, something big has gotta happen.

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Losing the line we were told never to lose

Or perhaps I should title this post “A date with the devil.” We are being forced to get to know the devil we don’t know.

Believe it or not, we finished a course of antibiotics and we went on vacation. Brian went on a business trip to the Ukraine. Patrick and I went to visit our good friends, the Laylands, in Seattle.

But writing about those things will end up waiting for another day. Because I’m writing tonight from a hospital room. Again. And there are things on my mind that, for me, have been the subject of nightmares for many months now.

Patrick has lost his central line. Not entirely yet. But it will have to be replaced.

It all started Saturday night right after I put Patrick to bed after our first day home from Washington and went to clean up before Brian returned from Ukraine. Patrick had been in bed about half an hour when I heard a plaintive “Mommy”, and then that unmistakable, heart stopping sound of him throwing up in bed.

I ran up the stairs but was too late. The poor little guy threw up half a liter of nasty green stuff. He must have felt awful all day. It took an hour to settle him enough to sleep.

Saturday morning, a homecare nurse had come to draw some labwork and follow up blood cultures. All seemed well at that point.. But i was very glad for those cultures when Sunday morning, Patrick was having low grade fevers. We went to church just to be able to take the Sacrament and see how long we could make it. We had a backup plan for our assignments at church.

And it wasn’t long before it was obvious Patrick didn’t feel well enough to sit quietly. So I took him to the foyer to let him move and I got on the phone with his doctor to see if we could come get more bloodwork done. And I pulled out a thermometer, and there was the number we had waited all morning for. 100.4 degrees farenheit. And official fever.

So, we made a bit of a scene leaving church, packed bags, and came to the hospital.

It took several hours to restart Patrick’s antibiotics. 8 for the one I thought he needed most, which just about made me crazy waiting for as he got feeling sicker and sicker. But as soon as they were given (along with a Priesthood blessing), Patrick started to feel a little better. We even slept through that first night.

All seemed to be going smoothly by the end of the 2nd day. I was a rockstar advocate mommy and got Patrick therapy, a picture schedule, integrative medicine & aromatherapy, and even talked to the palliative care team about signing him up for their services. I even managed to get his GI, surgeon, and a radiologist to have a care conference to discuss replacing Patrick’s positional line. They came back in favor of a change and suggested a plan of action to decide if and how to proceed.

And then, at 4 p.m., we came back to the room to draw cultures and start his antibiotics and his line wouldn’t draw. Or flush.

We ordered TPA and we worked it, and we worked it… and, well, after 4 hours of effort, he was exhausted, I was heartsick, and the line was still not working. And the plan from the care conference was upgraded from a hypothetical, optional plan to a necessity.

I did not sleep as well last night. (And not just because the nurse was slow about keeping the pumps from alarming and banged the door.)

Today we put the plan into action. Patrick went to radiology for a sedated ultrasound of the veins in his upper body. The order was for light sedation.

We learned today that Patrick is very capable of fighting light sedation. Made him silly and sleepy, but he was still perfectly able to fight the test. Moderate sedation didn’t fix things either. In fact, with sedation all of his inhibition control was gone and none of my usual distraction tricks were even an option. The ultrasound was wiggly, to say the least.. but the technician was patient and kept trying to get the information the doctors wanted.

Listening to her review her images with the radiologist, though, made my heartsick. As usual, Patrick’s right side vessels are fairly scarred. (Though perhaps a little better looking than the last I’d known.) But, they worked enough to give a better answer about the left side than before. Instead of just saying “Inconclusive”, what they said was that the left subclavian vein (the one in his shoulder) has lots of little collateral vessels around it too and shows evidence of being swollen at least, if not scarred, and also probably has a clot in it.

I asked the radiologist if that would explain the tricky behavior of this line for the past year and he said absolutely, that the vessel may have been pressing on the line. He also said that changing out the line over a wire was a risky move, given the clot in the line. But that I’d need to discuss that plan with our surgeons.

Other vessels were open, but most of them looked to have some kind of narrowing.

The rest of the afternoon was a little crazy. I got permission to change out Patrick’s button while he was still sedated and that went quickly and smoothly and he doesn’t seem to understand it even happened. That’s what we hoped for.

And that meant that Brian came up for the ultrasound and stayed the afternoon.

But it was a rough afternoon. Patrick didn’t sleep under sedation and he didn’t sleep after, either. He fought REALLY hard all afternoon to stay awake. We could tell when it started to wear off because he finally stopped fighting.

But because of low heart rates, he still had to stay in bed till 5:30. We got out for a short walk, but when we came back for TPN at 6, and I asked the nurse if all was done so we could leave, she told me no. She didn’t want to use the automatic settings to taper Patrick’s TPN levels up (to protect his blood sugar levels)… and so, we couldn’t leave the room.

The idea of making Patrick stay any longer in the room with the same old toys and bed and short IV tubing kind of broke my heart. So I had a very short little cry about it. Then I went and helped myself to several fitted sheets and used the extra safety pins around the room to build us a fort.

That tided us over for the rest of the evening.

Tomorrow will not be an easier day. As of tonight, they plan to take Patrick to surgery tomorrow. The surgeon will probably attempt first to put a line back into the same vein. That means that he’ll put a wire into the catheter, remove the old line leaving the wire, and then use the wire to guide a new line in.

That is the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that that won’t work. In that case, they want to repeat a venogram.. which is a contrast study of the Patrick’s veins. And they will use that to pick a new vein to put a line into.

It is entirely possible that the surgeon will come in in the morning and decide that he wants to have that done before Patrick goes to the OR. And then we’ll just do that tomorrow and the surgery the next day.

And the worst of worse case scenario is that the wire over doesn’t work, none of the other vessels are still wide enough to get a central line into, and then we’ll start discussing desperate measure that I don’t really want to get into in a blog post unless they happen.

Needless to say, this is scary. I am still terrified of the idea of Patrick no longer having veins to give nutrition through. I do not want to imagine that happening.

We are not to that point yet. There are veins in other places in the body that can be used. But there is still a lot of pressure to make one of these sites work because in order to have a transplant, Patrick has a have a central line in his upper body.

I’m scared and I’m sad.. and I’m really, really lonely for some reason this stay. But I’m calm. We have been praying and fasting about this line for a while now. I can’t help but think that this is an answer to those prayers.

So, if you’re the praying type, please join us in praying for the surgeon and his team and the radiologists tomorrow. We’d love to save this access site. We’d love to get another year and a half or more out of another. And I have this faint little hope that maybe the next line won’t scare me every time someone else flushes it, (and sometimes when I do, too.)

Watch out for waterlemons

A week ago Saturday, we decided to go out for breakfast at Paradise Bakery. Because of nut and egg allergies, we brought his breakfast along, but when he asked to play with my fruit cup (practicing his fork skills) I agreed.

He picked up a piece of pineapple, dropped it, and gave a very big scowl. I looked to see what was wrong and discovered a long, thin cut in his finger. I thought maybe one of the finger pricks from the previous weeks’ hospital stay hadn’t healed and was infected.

So, when we got home, I put some neosporin on it, and a bandaid. That night, when I changed the bandaid, Brian pointed out that the rest of that fingertip and the one next to it looked like they were burned. We asked Patrick how he got hurt. He said the “waterlemon” poked him.

We kept doing bandaids and neosporin. And then a couple of days later, I bumped Patrick’s other hand and got the same reaction. He jumped, pulled back, scowled, then started to cry. I looked and, lo and behold, the other hand was dry and cracking too. All of his fingers looked calloused, dry, flaking and cracking.

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I panicked a little bit. TPN dependence means risks of nutritional deficiencies. Zinc deficiency causes horrible flaking skin ulcers. Fatty acid deficiency can cause dry skin, but only once it’s severe enough that you also start wondering about brain development.

I called his dietitian and made her check his labs. They were ok, except a note about low Omega-6 fatty acids. The doctor had just said he thought it was ok. She suggested I rub Patrick in safflower oil.

This created quite a quandary for me. Last time I tried safflower oil in Patrick’s diet he had an allergic reaction because all culinary oils are processed on the same equipment so safflower oil can have peanut oil and almond oil in it.

So I decided to start using his regular eczema cream and keep asking.

I got a good picture of the problem and sent it to, well, everyone. His nurse suggested an allergy to the bandaids or neosporin. His GI and I had a long talk where we discussed ways to get him more fatty acids from increasing the lipids in his TPN to feeding him microlipids through the g-tube, to rubbing him in it. (Which I put more effort into. We stopped at Sprouts market that night and read every label until I found a lotion that had safflower oil, but nothing else he might be allergic to.) Finally, the University of Nebraska called back and said that Patrick’s labs had looked good in February and could not have possibly tanked that quickly and to stop worrying about deficiency.

So then I turned to Dr. Google. I try not to research symptoms on the internet. However, Google Images is a wonderful took for looking up skin conditions. I looked up pictures of zinc and fatty acid deficiency and they didn’t match. Then I looked up pictures of cracking fingertips and I found it…

Fingertip eczema. Caused by… a systemic allergic reaction due to prolonged exposure to an allergen.

I ditched the bandaids. Switched to hydrocortisone cream and aquaphor… kept rubbing Patrick in the safflower lotion for good measure because of the other deficiency anyway. And I stopped cheating Patrick on his benadryl pretreatment.

Because Patrick is allergic to vancomycin, the antibiotic they started him on 3 weeks ago, he is supposed to get a very high dose of benadryl before every dose of antibiotic. But that high dose does a number on his gut, not to mention his concentration and his mood. So when we came home from the hospital, I started backing off the dose.

So we upped the dose.. and then we got hospitalized and they took him back up to the full prescription strength. And they made him stay on vanco a few extra days in case that was the cause of the fevers, and then finally let it be discontinued.

Patrick’s fingers almost immediately started to get better. They are still dry and we are still doing a good lotion regimen a few times a day. Patrick voted down a few brands, but is really in love with Aquaphor (“Apa-poh”) and several times a day will ask permission to just dip his fingers in it. This is helping a lot.

Poor little kid.. as if there weren’t already enough other things to worry about this month. And I still can’t convince him to lay hands on another “waterlemon.”

We have bacteria species, and a plan to try to stay at home

From our hospital stay 2 weeks ago: Playing with another family from our support group. Daddies are awesome!

From our hospital stay 2 weeks ago: Playing with another family from our support group. Daddies are awesome!

We’ve been home for a couple of days now. By Sunday evening, Patrick was feeling 100 times better. He started talking and playing again. We went to the playroom and raced cars down their giant car ramps. His cousins came to visit and while we waited for them, he was playing around in the lobby by walking every silly way he could think of, including with his eyes covered.

But the night shift rolled around and, yet again, they didn’t send up his melatonin on time. And the pumps didn’t like running TPN, lipids, and antibiotics all at once. And he didn’t get to sleep till 11. And then he woke up vomiting (because his g-tube had to be clamped because the medications had been late).. not once, but twice. Only the melatonin had come up by then and so he couldn’t wake up all the way and it was well, just sad..

From two weeks ago: Pushing Daddy in a wheelchair as a form of occupational therapy. Heavy work=happier child

From two weeks ago: Pushing Daddy in a wheelchair as a form of occupational therapy. Heavy work=happier child

And by morning, I was fed up. It’s time to go home when hospital routine is making him feel sicker instead of better. So I asked them if we could finish up care at home. And they agreed. (With some cautions, but agreed.)

And so we came home and the antibiotic thankfully was due just once a day.. and so we all got to visit with Brian’s family who has been in town visiting, and then we got to go to bed and sleep at night. First time in 3 weeks that I didn’t have to be up at midnight for antibiotics.

And we’ve all been feeling much better.

One of the joys of our July hospital stay was the discovery that because we have a Physical Therapy goal to learn to ride a tricycle, if the doctors order physical therapy for Patrick, he's allowed to borrow a bike. He learned to ride a tricycle during that hospital stay.

One of the joys of our July hospital stay was the discovery that because we have a Physical Therapy goal to learn to ride a tricycle, if the doctors order physical therapy for Patrick, he’s allowed to borrow a bike. He learned to ride a tricycle during that hospital stay.

Well, except for Patrick this morning. Again today, naughty behavior has been emerging. And the nausea, which never completely went away, seems to be getting worse. And I was really beginning to worry.

And then the phone rang. It was Patrick’s pharmacist. AT LAST they have species on the bacteria. Our two best-friend bacterias… Klebsiella Oxytoca and Citrobacter. The drug-resistant bacteria that have set up shop in Patrick’s gut. Only this time, the Klebsiella is no longer susceptible to Rocefen, the antibiotic that I threw a fit to get them to put Patrick on. It’s mutated some and that drug won’t work anymore.

One of the best ways to pass time when you don't feel well in the hospital is doing crafts. This past week, Patrick discovered glitter glue and puff paint. Our lives will never be the same.

One of the best ways to pass time when you don’t feel well in the hospital is doing crafts. This past week, Patrick discovered glitter glue and puff paint. Our lives will never be the same.

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So tonight, they’ll be sending me a new antibiotic called ertapenem. And they’ll be sending a nurse to keep and eye on Patrick during his first dose.

And hopefully by tomorrow, he’ll be feeling better.

Primary Children's Hospital has it's own LDS branch (congregation of the Mormon church) and every Sunday, volunteers will bring primary lessons and longs to any kid who wants them. Here's Patrick enjoying singing time.

Primary Children’s Hospital has it’s own LDS branch (congregation of the Mormon church) and every Sunday, volunteers will bring primary lessons and longs to any kid who wants them. Here’s Patrick enjoying singing time.

But I’m still happy that we’re home. Because at least he’s sleeping through the night. And I can keep a better routine so he doesn’t feel as sick. The good news is that this new medicine can still be given just twice a day and we can all still get some sleep. I certainly trust that things will work more smoothly with our GI writing orders instead of an intern, and our home care pharmacy and home nurse helping provide his care. No missed or forgotten doses of medications. And there is still a tiny chance that I can catch up on dishes and laundry. And feed us something other than cafeteria food. I think we are all happier at home. Even if Patrick does miss visits from Child Life with fun new toys to play with.

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One of Patrick’s favorite people in the whole world: Jo from child life. She is the sunshine of every hospital stay.

 

Not again!

Here’s the ultimate test of the value of the switch to wordpress. I am trying a quick blog to update everyone everywhere about what’s going on.

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Taken a couple of weeks ago, during our last admission. He’s watching the construction going on outside the window.

So, quick version.. About 3 weeks ago Patrick had a really bad few days. His stomach was upset. He had a hard time concentrating. He was in a BAD mood and into everything. It went on long enough that even though his labwork didn’t show any signs of trouble, I requested a set of blood cultures and skipped a nap to drive all the way to the hospital to get them done.

And then, that night, as I was getting Patrick ready for bed, I checked his temperature and discovered he had a fever. We called his doctor and came up to the hospital.

We were here 6 days, our longest stay in over a year, because it took forever to get the infection to respond to the treatment. (For various reasons I may or may not expound on later.) And because it took an extra long time to get the right antibiotic dose. It was a frustrating stay because he never got horribly sick, but he had staph epi in his line and it’s notoriously hard to clear. And the longer it took to clear, the more the doctors wanted to try a different approach (understandably.)

And, well, because the night shift just couldn’t manage to help him sleep through the night. But that’s a gripe for another day.

I’m afraid I jinxed us. One of the dramatic changes the doctors wanted to do to be sure to clear the infection was to switch from using ethanol to using vancomycin, a targeted antibiotic, to protect the line.

I raised more than a little bit of a stink. I insisted that we still use ethanol at least 4 hours a day. I made the attending come discuss it with me. And I won.

But i felt guilty. And when we went home, I did my best to follow doctors orders and put a heavy preference on vanco locks over ethanol.

Fastforward to today. For the 2 weeks since bringing Patrick home, I’ve been giving antibiotics every 8 hours.. including a dose at midnight. Tonight was supposed to be our last night.

Patrick’s cousins are in town and we’ve been having a grand family party. Aquarium trip. Hiking in the mountains. And today they rented a bounce house.

Patrick and I were very excited about today. Only one matter of business to take care of. A visit to his physical therapist. We have been waiting for MONTHS for a new DAFO (brace) for his foot to help with his worsening muscle tightness. And, Patrick has been dying to show his therapist how he’s learned to ride a tricycle.

Well – we got to the therapy office. And we got in the elevator. And Patrick’s breathing got a little shallow. And he gave a little shiver. And a hundred memories rushed back into my mind and I knew something was wrong. I remembered what a bad and out of sorts day he had yesterday, how his tummy was upset, how he had a hard time concentrating and kept getting into trouble.

So the elevator doors opened and I didn’t get off. Pushed the down button and went straight to the family clinic on the first floor. And I asked for a thermometer.

A nurse came out and checked and at first his temp was normal, but she rechecked and got 99.0. In his low ear.

So, we hopped in the elevator and went back upstairs to cancel our appointment.

Patrick was distraught. He didn’t want to be sick. He wanted to see Miss Holly.

Well, Miss Holly came out and I explained what was happening and she explained that the brace company had rejected the cast we’d sent as a model for his foot and asked her to recast. If we missed this appointment, it would be another month without a brace.

So – we made a deal. I’d call the hospital, she’d cast his foot to get a mold for the brace. Patrick would, well, try to cry more quietly.

By the time we left the therapy office, Patrick was sold on going to the hospital. So, we hurried home. Checked a temp. 101.8 this time. 15 minutes later. I grabbed the transplant go bag because I didn’t want to waste time packing, gave him some tylenol, and we booked it up to the ER.

The tylenol worked. Mostly. His fever was the same when we arrived.

And so, here we are. We are antibiotics to cover all the major bacteria, and an antifungal. I threw a bit of a momma bear tantrum when they tried to tell me they didn’t think we needed the antibiotic that kills his recurring kleibsiella bacteria.

He doesn’t feel well. He is tired. He only napped for 10 minutes. We have tried going for walks and in the end, he just prefers to lay in the bed.

And so, here we are. Hoping culture results are fast and clear. Hoping we are giving him the right drugs. Wondering how we’re going to make tomorrow bearable.

Just like every summer.

Mid-July rolls around and I start to get nervous. And I hate that we are here because I don’t want to be superstitious about certain months. But for some reason, summers are always hard for Patrick.

And so, I’m quite discouraged tonight. I am sad to be missing out on my first-of-the season tomatoes that I harvested this week and the green beans on my plants waiting for harvest and the great big yummy yellow zucchini sitting in the fridge. I hate that Patrick and I had finally hit our stride again, finally had a routine again, finally were catching up on the chores again. (Does anyone want to iron a month’s worth of dress shirts?)… And now we are starting over all over again.

But at least it is 10:30 and I can go to sleep because tonight giving the antibiotics on time is someone else’s responsibility.

Adoption memories

We had Patrick’s g-tube study done. (Great results! Nothing wrong. Just a slightly upward angle that makes positioning the tube tricky.) As part of the history, they asked when the gastrostomy (g-tube hole) was created and I realized last night that I could have answered “exactly two years ago.”

Why do I remember that? Well, because exactly two years ago yesterday, the court officially named us as Patrick’s legal guardians. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

A friend of mine has been doing something special this month on her blog. Because it’s national adoption awareness month, she’s been posting daily adoption related posts. She invited me to be a guest blogger and, by coincidence, will be running my post today… a very significant 2 year adoption anniversary for us.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for her. Here goes:

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Ours is not a typical adoption story, because Patrick is not a typical little boy. His life was meant to be something different, something miraculous, and so it required that it start in a very different and miraculous way.

But my part of the story starts the way a lot of others do. We wanted to have children. When that didn’t happen easily, we involved doctors. For years, we went through the ups and downs of charting and temperature taking, tests and medications. Finally, after several years and a minor surgery, our doctor sat us down for “the talk.” He explained that there were several causes of my infertility. The cards were, essentially, stacked against us. He still felt it very possible that we could have children, but only with major medical intervention. We had some big choices to make.

We talked about it and we prayed about it. And then, that Sunday, as we sat in church, we received a clear answer that it was time for us to stop medical treatments. Our child would come to us through adoption.

With a path finally before us, we moved forward quickly. I’ve never felt so driven to do anything before in my life. In under a month, we completed the application process, training classes, and were mostly done with our home study.

During our home visit, we had a conversation with our case worker that would play a major part in bringing Patrick into our family. She’d looked at our “preferences checklist” and noted that we seemed more open than most to adopting a child with special needs. We explained that we felt that adoption was a faith process. We believe that Heavenly Father puts families together. We knew we’d never turn away a child born to us with medical problems. So, if God was in charge of adoptions, too, then why would we limit His options? We knew Heavenly Father would help us find our child and that, if the child really belonged in our family, race and health wouldn’t stand in the way.

We decided to adopt in June. Our application was approved in September and we hunkered down for a nice long wait. We figured two years, at the least, was the average we’d heard. And still, by the end of October it felt like far too long. My heart ached for a child it knew was missing.

Then, on a very snowy morning the first week of November, my phone rang. It was my case worker. She started out by saying, “There was a little boy born on Halloween in Michigan.” My heart skipped a beat. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started scribbling notes. She told me he was Korean. And then, she went on to tell me that he’d had a birth defect. His intestines had developed on the outside of his abdomen. The doctors were saying he had a life expectancy of 1 to 2 years. They needed to find an adoptive home quickly because doctors wanted to discharge him from the hospital. All she could tell me about his family that his birth mother wanted him to be able to go to the temple to be sealed to a family.

She said she’d send an e-mail with more information and a picture. She encouraged me to talk to Brian and decide if we’d like to be among those families considered to adopt this little boy, and then to call her and let her know.

As soon as I gathered myself, I called Brian. But he wasn’t at his desk. Meanwhile, two e-mails arrived. One was a short paragraph from the baby’s caseworker in Michigan explaining his medical needs and the unconventional and hurried search for parents. In the other were two photographs of a sweet little Korean boy with great big eyes and an IV in his head.

Since Brian wasn’t at his desk, I called the insurance company to find out if this we even had coverage to pay for this kind of medical problem.

That’s how Brian first found out about the offer. While I was on hold with the insurance company, he called back on my cell phone, so he heard me finish the conversation about “preexisting conditions” and “adoption”.

I gave Brian the information and, after a quick moment of thought, he said he’d come right home.

We had a prayer together, then went to the temple – the perfect setting to make decisions about life and death and eternity.

I knew that families are eternal. I knew that mortality is not the end of life. And yet, I was filled with grief. It was as if I’d just been told I was carrying a child with a terminal illness, but he wasn’t even mine yet. And I was scared. I didn’t know if I was ready to leave the life I knew then.. abandon it all, and become mom to a child who would need so much help, and who had such an uncertain future.

Still, when Brian turned to me and said, “I think we should pursue this,” my heart leapt with joy.

So, we called our caseworker and gave her a list of questions we had. And then we went to visit our parents. We felt we should tell them about the offer, because we knew that whatever happened, we were never going to be the same. And we both wanted father’s blessings. We showed them the little boy with the angel eyes and explained that we didn’t know if he was ours.. But from that moment, all of our families were praying for a little boy whom the e-mail called “Patrick.”

That was Wednesday. Thursday, I sent a copy of our profile. Friday afternoon, as I on my lunch break with Brian, our case worker called my cell phone. The birth family had seen our profile and had chosen us to adopt their baby.

Now, we had a choice to make. Because we’d been selected, we could finally start filling in the gaps in the medical information we were getting. And boy, where there gaps! We called the baby’s caseworker, who referred us to the hospital social worker. Finally, we decided we needed to talk to doctors, and we needed to do it face to face.

I called my mom and told her to take my credit card and buy airplane tickets. Then, I went back to work, explained what had happened, and asked for a leave of absence. After that, we went to the adoption agency where we signed pre-placement paperwork required for us see the baby in the hospital.

Friday night, we tried to get ready. We booked a long-term stay hotel room. We faxed legal documents to Michigan. We make a shopping list of nursery items. And we tried to pack.

I packed my bags that night not knowing what exactly I was packing for. We still didn’t know enough to say if we could take care of this baby. We didn’t know if or when he’d be discharged. We didn’t know how long it would take before we’d be given permission to leave the state again.

And yet, Saturday morning as I sat on a plane to Detroit, 10 rows ahead of my husband, I felt a quiet, happy calm. If nothing else, I knew it would be ok.

We met Patrick, his family, and his doctor Saturday night. It wasn’t what we expected. Due to unforeseen problems, things were tense at the hospital when we arrived. We felt like we knew nothing at all about his condition when we heard the doctor’s account. His case was much more severe than we’d understood, but the immediate prognosis was better.

At last, they led us to his room. My first impression was of how small he was. He was SO tiny! Just a little ball with wires and tubes attached. Without them, you’d have never guessed there was anything wrong.

They let me hold him while we talked. He felt so small and fragile.

I thought that the moment I met my baby, or the moment I held him, that I’d know he was mine. But that isn’t what happened for me. There were too many questions, still and I’d have to wait for that confirmation.

Sunday, we arranged to spend the day with Patrick. The nurses were so kind to let us change his diapers and help with other aspects of his care. I sat for hours singing him lullabies and watching monitors and letting him sleep.

When we arrived, the nurses warned us that he had a reputation as a very irritable little boy. There was even a sign on his door warning not to wake him. He was famous for screaming hysterically if his sleep was interrupted. But that’s not the baby I met. He was just a sweet, tiny little boy who wanted to be held.

I remember singing to him: “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” And my voice choked on the words because I knew that right at that moment, Patrick didn’t have that. I couldn’t imagine how any little boy could go through all he’d need to go through alone.

That night, as we looked at pictures from the day, I came across one that showed just his face with a white background. I knew, when I saw that picture, that I loved him.. and I wanted to keep him.

Monday morning, we held a “family conference.” It was a business day so we finally had been able to confirm that there were doctors to take care of him at our hospital at home. Our insurance confirmed that he’d be covered. Brian needed to hop on a plane to go back to work. (He was running a conference that week.) So, knowing we had the resources to provide for his physical needs, we asked Patrick if he’d like to be a part of our family. I swear, he looked up at Brian and smiled.

The case worker rushed to the hospital and by 1, we’d signed paperwork, and I was on my way to the airport with my husband. I was staying behind to start a whole new life.

The next few weeks in Michigan are among the sweetest of my life. With nothing else to do but hold my new baby and learn to care for him, I virtually lived in the NICU. My mom came for a week and shared with me in Patrick’s first feeding, first bath, and first time wearing real clothes. This time was also some of the hardest I’d experienced as I received a trial by fire as a mom of a child with major health problems. Patrick had his second surgery the day Brian flew back to be with us.

Two weeks after we signed papers, on my birthday, the birth parents appeared in court, and we were named as Patrick’s legal guardians. A week later, we had permission to bring him home. At 4 a.m. Thanksgiving day, Patrick and I arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital by air ambulance. He’d spend the next few weeks there as the doctors here got to know him and made arrangements for us to take care of him at home.

Because of his medical needs, the courts granted an early finalization of his adoption and we were able to take Patrick to the temple to be sealed as a forever family in February when he was just 4 months old.

Patrick just turned 2. He is an active, happy toddler who loves cars and music and Elmo. He is a living miracle! Patrick’s birth defect came with a rare complication. As a result, at birth he was missing over 95% of his small intestine. Without intestine, he doesn’t get nutrition by eating. In fact, eating large amounts puts him at risk for dehydration and bowel obstruction. Instead, he is entirely dependent on a form of IV nutrition called TPN. He has a permanent IV tunneled through his chest, into a vein in his chest or neck that runs to his heart.

The TPN leads to complications like infection and liver disease. In his short 2 years of life he has already struggled with both. Patrick’s doctors warned us before we adopted him that we’d become such regulars in the E.R. that we’d be on a first name basis with the staff. We soon found that to be true not just for the E.R. staff, but also the IV team, the infectious disease team, the PICU team, most of the residents, several of the medical students, and the entire gastroenterology department.

At 9 months old, as a result of infection, Patrick’s heart stopped. The fact that he is alive now is nothing short of a miracle. No doctor who hears his story and then meets him can help but confess that he has beaten the odds in countless ways.

Patrick will eventually need an intestinal transplant. He is already running out of places to put new IV’s and each new infection makes him a little more fragile.

Since they don’t do intestinal transplants where we live, we have chosen to have Patrick listed at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Patrick has been on the waiting list since April of 2009. He is status 1A and will have his transplant is soon as a donor match is found.

People try to tell us sometimes what a tremendous thing we did in adopting Patrick. We don’t really feel it’s something we can take credit for. As we told our caseworker when this all started, Heavenly Father puts families together. He knew Patrick needed us. And what’s more, He knew we needed Patrick.

Raising Patrick has taught us more about life than any other experience. We have learned to rely entirely on the Lord. We have learned to live each moment to it’s fullest. We have learned to lean on one another when things are hard and we to trust in hands of friends and strangers when we felt too weak to stand on our own. And we have learned to love like we didn’t know it was possible to love.