**Composed yesterday in the surgery waiting room**
This is a good news post. But I’m finding myself so very out of practice at writing updates in the surgery waiting room that I am having a little bit of a hard time getting started.
At 7:30 this morning, we kissed a very drugged and giddy Patrick goodbye at the O.R. doors. He is having his port removed today. We haven’t needed it in a while. We left him with a central line because this his veins are so scarred that putting in a new line will certainly be difficult. This port has been so much healthier than any other central line he’s had before. And it saved him trauma with labwork. We didn’t feel any rush to get rid of a line
But this summer Patrick’s bloodwork started to come back so stable and consistent that his decided to switch labs to every other month, the port became more effort and risk than benefit. (They have to be flushed every 30 days regardless of if they were used.) We knew we’d need to have a talk about removing the line soon.
Last October, we took Patrick for his annual transplant checkup. When we raised asked the doctor if we should be considering taking the port out, he was surprised to find it was even still there. There was no question that it was time. Soon… But of course, we still took our time.
We allowed time for the doctors here to talk to the folks in Nebraska and know what would be involved in removing a direct superior vena cava line. We tried to wait for the end of cold an flu season.
But also at Patrick’s follow-up in October, the doctors decided to stop Patrick’s prednisolone, which was a major part of his immune suppression. Within two weeks, he started to have a severe pain in his side. After about a week, a small bump finally formed. And when we took him on a rollercoaster ride, that bump burst revealing a small abscess. For some reason, one of the dissolvable stitches in Patrick’s ostomy scar never dissolved. It just stayed there as long as his immune system was heavily suppressed. But as soon as the prednisone was gone, his body started to rebel against a foreign body. He’s had a recurring abcess for several months now. Just a little pimple that would rise and fall. But it hurt like crazy. And that’s what finally got us here.
So here we are. An hour after Patrick went back, the surgeon was back out to report that all had gone well. He’ll have a little bit of an open wound where the abscess was an a pretty sore area on his chest until the space where the port was heals. But overall, this should be pretty easy.
We’ve taken the port for granted for the past year or so. That makes this transition a little bit simpler. But the simple realization that Patrick has IV line for the first time in his life is a little bit disorienting.. miraculous.. scary.. comforting.. umfamiliar.. splendiferous! Now not every fever could mean sepsis. Now he’ll have to have labs drawn from the shoddy veins in his arms. Now we won’t have to wake up early once a month to apply numbing cream before the port is accessed. Now we may not have numbing cream at all. Now he won’t have to protect his chest to play. Now it matters more if he eats and drinks. Now we won’t have to worry if a clot is forming. Now he may not automatically qualify for nursing. Now there’s one less thing that makes him different from other kids. But really, it’s about time. Because I keep forgetting that it’s time to access his port. And I keep forgetting to tell doctors he even has one. He really didn’t need it anymore.
I’ll leave you with the words of a song that Patrick is singing or making me sing at least once an hour right now.
“I feel better, so much better Thank you doc for taking all the ouchies away. I didn’t feel so good till you fixed me like I knew you would And I feel better. So much better now.”
I just tucked Patrick into his bed at the Ronald McDonald House. Tonight, at least for part of the night, I will sleep in a bed by myself. The spot on my arm where Patrick likes to snuggle all night that is beginning to be deeply bruised is very grateful for this development.
It’s been a busy couple of days. Yesterday, I got up early and started begging often for them to find a volunteer to come sit with Patrick so I could fix the battery problem with my car. It took till afternoon, though, to find someone. So I was a nervous wreck all morning.
Finally, I explained to Patrick why I was acting frustrated and suggested maybe I should pray to calm down. Well, the next thing I knew, Patrick folded his arms, bowed his head, and said a little prayer that a “vodateer” (volunteer) would come so I could fix my battery. Not 10 minutes later, one walked in.
So then I made a mad rush to get it done. I called my insurance policy’s roadside assistance. (Thanks to my mom for pointing out that I might have that service on my policy.) They sent “Rescue Rangers” to come give me a jump start. Because I was in a parking garage, the guy showed up in just a regular sedan. (Tow trucks don’t fit in this garage.) And when he hopped out with a jump starter, I was pretty doubtful. But his was better than mine and the car started right away.
I drove to AutoZone and told them I thought my battery needed replacing. He grabbed his tester, but one look at the battery told him that it was gone. (I kind of knew that.) So he sold me a new one, then installed it, cleaned up all the corrosion, oiled my screws, and checked my other fluids. I expected the help putting in the battery, but not to that level.
With the car now happily starting despite frigid temperatures, I drove back to the Ronald McDonald House to get Patrick’s feeding pump so he’d be ready for discharge.
He had a pretty good night, as far as hospital nights go. And this morning, we slept in and laid around in bed being lazy. But eventually they came to clean his room and check his vitals and look him over.
Rounds were a little bit late. That actually helped a bit because it made the rest of the day seem to go faster. They confirmed our plan from yesterday that he could leave the hospital today.
A couple of hours later, they had a problem with Patrick’s feeding bag and I suggested that we just switch to his home pump. From that point forward, I couldn’t get him to stop running and running away. He was so happy to be free. (And feeling so much better.)
While they worked on getting orders, Patrick and I went for walks, ate soup, played in the playroom. It got late enough in the day that I called Patrick’s school teacher to tell him we wouldn’t make it back to the Ronald McDonald House and ask him to come to the hospital instead. And just as we were wrapping up with school, they came to say they were ready for discharge.
We left the hospital about 3:30 and stopped at Jimmy John’s so we’d have some food for dinner. (Patrick loves Jimmy John’s bread and with his new appetite, happily dipped and entire 2 foot long day old loaf in bread and sucked the broth out of it.)
Getting settled here again was more work than I wanted. It takes time to unpack, do laundry, put away a month of medical supplies, etc. But eventually, I got it all done and we wandered downstairs for a late dinner. Patrick is so happy to get to walk away from me a bit and to visit with his friends here. That felt really REALLY nice.
The new formula is easier to make, which I’m especially happy about. Doing meds again was much more second nature. And we even managed to change the dressing on Patrick’s incision with minimal fuss. I got him into bed by 10 and asleep before 10:30.
I’ll admit, it was kind of sad to come back here. When we were here last, we were still in that post-Christmas happy state. Brian was here. It was lonely coming back and knowing we need to put away Christmas is kind of hard. I’d leave it up, but really this room is tiny and with all the new toys, I need to get the Christmas decorations out of here.
Here are some pictures from this hospital stay. I wasn’t really great about uploading them so they cover a few days.
It is amazing, when dealing with problems of the intestine, how often we have prayed for bowel movements. We are ecstatic to announce that Patrick’s gut woke up yesterday afternoon. It seems that things are working very well so far. Patrick’s immediate reaction was to ask me if it meant he could have a bowl of soup. After a nap (giving us time to call the nurse practitioner for approval) we consented.
Life is easier with Patrick able to eat. He was really heartbroken without food so we were eating out in the hall. Now, as long as he has his bowl of soup first so his belly isn’t empty, Patrick is content letting us eat in front of him.
The plan moving forward is this. Today, they took the drain tube off of his g-tube (stomach) to see if he could make it the day without feeling sick. They also allowed him clear liquids all day. We are lucky Patrick is loving chicken broth. Tomorrow, they’ll restart his tube feeds and start weaning him back off of TPN.
It’s been a month since his lungs needed drained because of his formula, so it’s time to try the other formula, elecare, again. He needs more balanced nutrition. This could mean he needs to go slower starting feeds so that we are being really careful about not repeating that performance again. I’d guess we still have a few days here.
Sadly, though, that means that Brian will be leaving us in the hospital again. He flies home on Monday morning. I can’t believe that much time has passed. But at least he’s leaving us with things moving forward.
Today’s been a quiet day. Patrick has been kind of grumpy and contrary feeling all day. I’m not sure exactly why. I suspect it is that we have tried to go light on his pain medicine. He’s only getting tylenol right now. The other medicine controls pain well, but also slows down the gut. Patrick’s also been quite tired. Hopefully we can succeed in getting him a good night’s sleep tonight. He’s been kind of restless and jumpy and sleeps so glued to me that I can’t move all night.
I’m blogging from the surgery waiting room and hoping that I can finish this before the surgeon comes out as it appears that they are closing right now.
It’s been an exciting 18 hours. First of all, let’s do a review lesson.
Patrick had an ostomy created at transplant. “Ostomy” means “outward thingy” in layman’s terms. In Patrick’s case, it means that they pulled a little bit of his new intestine out through his abdominal wall and put a couple of small holes in it. The purpose of this was to make it easier to do biopsies. Rather than needing to sedate him to look into his intestine with a scope, since there are no pain nerves in the intestine, they could take off the pouch covering the ostomy, insert a small camera and look at the intestine.. then they could take a small biopsy and screen for rejection. Patrick has had this done 3 times since transplant. So far there are no signs of rejection.
I read in some article while Patrick was recovering a suggestion to name your child’s ostomy. It makes it more approachable. It gives you a kind of code-word to talk about it in public. After much debate, we named Patrick’s ostomy Louie.
Well, Louie had a problem last night. I’m not sure exactly when or how. Probably sometime around dinner Patrick started to guard the way he was moving. Not bending over. Not wanting to sit. And I, in all my brilliance, didn’t think to check and see why. I assumed Louie’s bag was getting full.
Well, at 8:45 I went to give Patrick his medications and get him ready for bed. I asked him to get undressed and he really struggled. He particularly couldn’t get the cover off of his ostomy pouch. So I knelt down to help him and thought, “Gee. That looks funny.” I looked forward and Patrick’s ostomy had “prolapsed” or, in other words, slipped out.
That doesn’t mean all of Patrick’s intestines came out. What it means is that an ostomy is a surgically created hernia.. only somehow Patrick’s had made his hernia herniate and so more of it was out that was surgically intended.
But it was new and still looked good. So I called the on call nurse coordinator. When I told her why I was calling I could hear surprise and concern in her voice. She asked me a few questions and then asked if I could come bring him in.
They have a short term treatment center here that they have their transplant patients come to for minor emergencies. Kind of nice to not have to go through the ER. They checked us in and then called the surgery resident to come have a look. The transplant team was all in a kidney transplant so it took a minute for her to arrive.
When she came, though, she had a look and Louie was seeming a little upset. Swollen and kind of dark colored. So she said we should spend the night and decide what to do in the morning. Then not long afterwards, the surgical attending came in. He tried to push Louie back inside, but without success. He said we should sleep on the problem, too.. But suggested that, as this was the second problem with Louie in the 2 months since transplant, and since Patrick isn’t needing regularly biopsies right now, maybe it was time to consider taking down the ostomy.
So Patrick and I spent the night last night. We went to bed about 2. He mostly got to sleep until just before 10. It was a cuddly, nice night. And nice to have a break from being the one keeping the medical care going during the night. And in the morning, Louie was slowly going back in.. but not quite enough and a revision was looking necessary.
So we talked with the surgeon this morning. Ultimately, we decided that Patrick is a very active child who was going to continue to have problems with this unless something more was done. And it didn’t make sense to put him through a surgery to maintain an ostomy that is rarely being used for the reason it was created.
**Picking up this post at 9 p.m. Patrick’s surgery went well. They were able to take down his ostomy.. The intestine was already connected, so they just needed to close things back up. Nevertheless, this did leave him with good inch-long incision that will need to heal. It isn’t stitched closed. They are packing it with gauze to heal as they have found that this provides better healing, even if it also means a bigger scar.
He has had a hard day. He is sad and he is sore and he is itchy. He wants to eat and drink. He doesn’t understand why this happened so suddenly or why. The pain medicines have made it so he’s slept most of the day, thankfully, as long as Brian or I lay with him. That is probably the hardest thing from our perspective. Getting up to eat or go to the bathroom or really do anything upsets him. So we just try to lay still. There are 2 TV’s in the room so one can play his shows and one can be tuned in to one of ours.
Hopefully this first day or two will be all that is hard. As soon as his gut wakes up and starts moving things through, he can start clear liquids again and then they’ll restart feeds. It will probably be at least a week.
I’m grateful Brian is here to give me breaks and to go back to the Ronald McDonald House for clothing and food. I’m sorry, though, that we are spending the last week of his visit here this way.
Hopefully it will be just a short setback that adds up to a better quality of life for him long-term.
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.
Well, 72 hours since discharge as I’m writing this and I am amazed to say that today it seems we maybe hit our stride a little bit. Amazing, considering how out of control things still seemed last night.
Sneaking back into the room last night after blogging, I noticed the distinct smell of formula and knew that it meant that Patrick’s g-tube had come open and leaked all over him and the bed. That woke him enough that I gave in and crawled in his bed to sleep last night.
At 7, his pump alarmed, waking is both. It was an early morning, but meant we had time to get ready. It took some courage for me to figure out how to get Patrick a bath with his new ostomy without losing the pouch. Yesterday morning, I knew the pouch was about to fall off anyway so we tried it and, sure enough, I had to change the bag that afternoon. But today, we did a bath again and it was ok.
Putting Patrick in the bath helps mornings go much more smoothly than showers. It means I can leave him for a bit. For example, this morning I was able to get the bed stripped so it could be washed. Patrick is chilled so easily right now. I don’t know if htat’s because his hospital room was so hot for a month and the weather outside is so cold.. But he gets shivers all over at the slightest cold. So I’ve started wrapping him in two towels. His calls this his towel dress and it is the highlight of his morning.
Being up early this morning also meant I managed to get a shower in before the nurse came. And, amazingly, Patrick woke up feeling good enough to not need Zofran this morning. That will earn me an extra half hour of sleep every day.
I didn’t feel lost looking at Patrick’s meds this morning. I kind of know what he’s getting and when and how much prep to do in the room before taking them downstairs. So after labs were drawn, we went downstairs and gave meds and mixed formula. (Which I remembered to make with warm water so it dissolved better.) And then I made pancakes. That felt like quite the luxury. Patrick ate 2 bites. Turns out we don’t love sugar free syrup from IHOP.
Then I glanced at my phone and noticed I’d missed a call when I was in the shower. It was the transplant clinic asking if we could come in early for Patrick’s appointment today. So, we hurried off to run our one errand of the day, and then rushed to the transplant clinic.
I am used to doctor’s visits where the answer is “you’re doing as well as you can. Nothing can change till after transplant.” Instead, today things were moving. Patrick’s prograf levels were still high this morning, but for fear of swinging him the other direction, they are leaving his dose the same. That means that he gets to take the morning off of labwork tomorrow and have it done Saturday, instead.
Because he is tolerating feeds SO incredibly well, they are said that we can start giving him a break in his feeding schedule. We’ll increase his feed rate by 8 cc’s and he can have 2 hours off. If that goes well, then after the weekend, we’ll go up again and he’ll get 4 hours off. Because of the diproblems with his lungs, they will go very slow in transitioning him to a different formula. So he probably won’t gain much weight in the next little bit because he isn’t getting a lot of fat.. But slowly that can be reintroduced.
Alas, the formula that they often use next has milk in it, so we need to take our time going to a hyperallergenic formula instead.
And that’s that. We came home from clinic and tried to eat lunch. But Patrick was bored and sleepy, so he spent the afternoon napping and I have mostly just spent my afternoon laying here keeping him asleep… though I snuck out of bed to write this blog post.
I finally realized today that I can write the post in a word processor and then just copy and paste when I go in a room that has an internet connection. It might mean some delayed posting, but should be a little more effective than trying to get away in a room with internet long enough to write.
Follow-up added this morning after:
We were woken from nap by a phone call saying that dinner was ready. Patrick was still all over the place at dinner, but thankfully the crowd was small because he’d slept through the start of movie night at the hospital. Dinner is very overstimulating for him. So we usually retreat to our room early.
Last night, we had good incentive. We’d picked up a Christmas tree earlier and I finally brought it into the room. We set up the Christmas tree and hung the ornament he’s made thus far on it. Then went and made two more. I cleaned out the room a little bit more. I think we may finally be almost moved in. I can’t even imagine moving houses with a kid this age.
And then, we made it to bed. Patrick’s prograf levels must still be high because he just can’t fall asleep at night. Last night, he wouldn’t stop playing with his hands. I was really grateful for the chance to visit with an older transplant patient who is staying here. He explained that the prograf makes his hands shake, hurt, and even lock. Last night, Patrick wouldn’t stop playing with his hands. So I thought to ask him if his hands were hurting. The answer was yes. And so I laid there and rubbed his hands till he settled down. Then I told him I was just too sleepy to stay up with him anymore. I went and laid down and he was asleep in 15 minutes.
We slept in till 8 this morning. No labs today. It felt luxurious. And now we’re downstairs letting him play in the playroom. Which means a little bit of internet time for me.
Yesterday gave me hope. We had some downtime and I think that will get better the more used to this new routine.
Patrick finally got some good sleep last night. In fact, he was well on his way to sleeping all day. At 10 a.m., he had succeeded in going back to sleep again no matter the interruption. Therefore, I was in my PJ’s with hair uncombed when the team came for rounds.
I hopped out of bed and found them reviewing the imaging from yesterday. And what they saw looked like good news. The images of the gut still looked healthy throughout. The only sign of trouble was right where the stoma came through the abdominal wall. Right before, there was some dilation that showed that there was a narrowing there.
I asked what that meant they could do.. the answer was pretty straightforward. The surgeon, Dr. Mercer, could take him to the OR and open up the stoma a little more. He said he had some time on his schedule and could take care of it today.
Then, he turned around and said, “Don’t be surprised. My OR nurses are very efficient today. They may come for him in 20 minutes.”
So I called Brian who was finishing up laundry and told him to come quick, which he did. I hurried and got dressed. He got Patrick cleaned up and dressed. And then, sure enough, they came to take Patrick to the OR. The nice thing about this plan was that there wasn’t much time to worry. But it certainly scared and frustrated Patrick. It was hard to send him off knowing how worried he was.
The procedure was quick and successful. Dr. Mercer said that as soon as he released the pressure, he felt like the bowel said “Ah! That’s better!” There was a little scar tissue causing a twist and then a little bit of a narrowing in the abdominal wall and he thinks that was all the problem that was there. So now things should work very well, even when Patrick is ready to eat solid foods.
They also did Patrick’s 3rd scope and biopsy while he was asleep and reported that the bowel looks pink and healthy.
Dr. Mercer said no worries about this. Just consider it some warranty maintenance.
According to the post-anesthesia nurse, Patrick woke up and immediately asked if everything was done. Then he went back to sleep. When she called me back, he was awake again and sad. He asked me to lay in the bed. Then he told me he didn’t want to talk. So we just layed there together. I even laid with him as we came back to the room.
Unfortnately, after we got back to the room, he started to feel worse and worse. His oxygen saturation was low so they had to turn his oxygen back on. That isn’t a huge surprise given the condition of his lungs. However, it was a surprise when he started running fevers.
It sounds like his full tummy might have made him aspirate (inhale) some bile as they were intubating. We’ve seen this a couple of times with him and it’s pretty consistent. Some fevers. Maybe some trouble with his lungs called “aspiration pneumonia.”
The good news is that they are already doing all of the possible prescribed treatments. Antibiotics. Chest x-rays. Respiratory therapy. They did an x-ray and it looks good. His lungs sound good. We were able to get him settled down enough to keep some tylenol down and that has brought the fever down a bit, too.
He got feeling good enough to sit up and play with some playdough and he is asleep now. They have even been able to turn down the oxygen some. He’s also been asking to drink water, something he hasn’t wanted for well over a week… that tells me that his tummy has felt too tight for a while now and how that it doesn’t (and his mouth is dry from the oxygen), water sounds good. Thank goodness his belly is to suction right now and he can drink all he wants.
The great news is that his stoma is working great now, too. The funny thing about raising a kid with intestinal problems is that there are so many occasions to be extremely excited about stool.
Well last night was frustrating. The nursing staff was spread thin because of the holiday and it took a lot longer than usual for them to respond to the non-critical things. From 10-11 p.m. one of Patrick’s antibiotics ended and the pump alarm rang and there was no one to shut it off. I silenced it for a while, but Patrick insisted that it was the nurse’s job and my job was just to cuddle and talk to him. How can you argue with that?
Unfortunately, the nurses were trying not to bother him while he slept, so every time Patrick woke, they’d try to come in and do vitals. Problem is, that mean they were in the room half an hour each of those times and we were awake at midnight and 5 and 5:30. (Not complaining about nursing… just stating trouble with sleep that comes with not doing well.) Then, at 6 Patrick’s nurse came to deliver the news that the resident didn’t want to come drain his gut again “unless he’s really uncomfortable.” Well – 10 minutes later, Patrick woke up crying. He said “bucket” and, before I could react, he threw up all over everything.
Yes – uncomfortable. Apparently, with nothing moving out of his gut and feeds still moving in, Patrick’s gut and belly had finally had enough.
So we got him up and changed the bed and gave him a bath and turned on some Blues Clues. And we waited for the doctors to come for rounds.
Rounds were actually kind of a relief today. They talked about different causes for this new problem and tests that could look for those problems. They aren’t thinking rejection at this point.. perhaps some inflammation or something called an ileus where the gut just temporarily stops moving or a mechanical issue with the muscle wall around Patrick’s stoma or a type of irritation called pneumatosis.
Then, Dr. Mercer came into the room to try out draining Patrick’s belly himself. When he saw how little a catheter needed to go in to immediately drain, he was actually really relieved. He said that ruled out a lot of possible problems. It also eliminated the perceived huge risk of draining. He showed Brian then and there and wrote orders that the nursing staff or parents could do that as often as needed.
They also stopped feeds, restarted TPN, put Patrick’s g-tube to suction so he wouldn’t have to throw up any more, switched as many medication as possible to their IV forms, and ordered some tests. The rest of the morning was very busy. Patrick had an x-ray of his abdomen and then later a CT scan to look specifically for pneumatosis or any other narrowings or problems. I guess we did a good job selling the idea of how fun a CT can be because Patrick had already been asking if he’d get to go in the “donut” again. We got comments from the radiology staff and nurse about how comfortable he was doing something that terrifies most other children.
Later today, they’ll come do an ileoscopy (scope through the stoma) and biopsy again.
Hopefully, one of these tests will show us what is going on. It is possible that Patrick’s belly just needs to rest and reset after all of the trauma of last week.
Regardless, with symptoms alleviated, the rest of yesterday was a good day. Without pain, Patrick was feeling up to sitting up and playing more. (In fact, he was more than a little afraid of his bed after all the scary things that had happened there this past few days, so he was doing all he could to get me to let him be in other places.) This means that his lungs have opened up and he was able to wean off of oxygen. His lungs are still recovering and they are trying to get the fluid all the way out of them and the lungs totally reinflating. His oxygen saturation is a little bit low and he sets off alarms when he sleeps, but he quickly rebounds and no one comes running at this point.
Having family here definitely lifted his spirits, too. He and I were both worn out and frustrated and mad yesterday. It would have been a hard day had just the two of us been trying to be together. But Patrick’s family made him feel like a million bucks. Really, seeing the pride in his eyes when I came back from doing laundry (it was a big laundry day) at having his uncle all to himself was impressive. And seeing him happy and laughing as he played with his cousins was a big treat, too. This little boy needs people and fun.
Brian went with Mark’s family to the zoo in the afternoon and Patrick and I took a much needed nap and some quiet individual play time.. But then they came back and we played in the playroom and went out to a break room to eat dinner.. and then back into the room for another priesthood blessing. (Patrick asked if Mark could help daddy give him one.) Then they gave him some gifts, including a ball that was then used to play monkey in the middle. He laughed and laughed.
When they left, I let him stay up and watch some of his new Dora DVD while we finished up his care and I got ready for bed.
I’m finishing this blog post up in the morning. Patrick has slept soundly all night. X-ray snuck in at 5:30. (Patrick’s nurse is fairly mad they did because she guards to be sure they don’t wake patients who don’t need it.) Patrick was really upset about it, but then tucked up his arms under my side and went back to sleep. A little later they came to draw labs, saw his bed needed cleaned up, and the same happened.
After such a long and hard week, it is so good to see him comfortable and sleeping peacefully. Hoping that goes a long way towards a better day today.
Patrick’s days are busy right now. He starts the day with labs at 5:30 and a chest x-ray at the latest moment that the nurses will allow to get him sleep but still get the results on time for rounds. He has meds at 7 and at 9, and because he doesn’t feel well, that means running zofram for nausea first. He has 2 antibiotics each given 3 times a day with a benadryl pretreatment before. He has respiratory therapy 3 times a day. He has vitals every 6 hours. And diapers. And stoma care. And a bath. And pain management. And getting up to walk. And trying not to go stir crazy.
It’s been 4 weeks since transplant. One thing we know from this journey.. So much can change in a day, or week, or month. We really appreciate all of the ongoing support and love that you offer Patrick, near or far.
I didn’t get to blogging last night. Patrick has had some really good moments, some really difficult moments, and a very busy treatment schedule for the past 2 days. This is the first quiet moment I’ve had. So let me catch you up.
Two nights ago, I emptied Patrick’s ostomy bag and put him to bed. (In case you don’t know, an ostomy or stoma is a place where a surgeon has made a small piece of intestine come out of the skin. It drains into a bag. Patrick needs to have one so they can easily and safely do scopes to watch for rejection for the next year. Eventually, they’ll take it back down and reconnect him.)
Anyway.. I put Patrick to bed a little before midnight. By morning, his ostomy bag was still empty. When his nurse gave him his morning meds, he couldn’t keep them down. And as the day wore on, it seemed his discomfort was growing more and more. But we told the team and the surgeon said get him up and maybe it will wake up. If not, then call and a resident could come use a small tube to help break up and drain out any small blockage.
Well, 2 p.m. rolled around and still nothing and Patrick’s belly really hurt. We called the resident. She was really hesitant and thought that it was dangerous to put a tube into Patrick’s stoma and new bowel. So she wasn’t going to do it without permission. The fellow (who is over the residents) had been in the hall pulling up chest x-rays during the conversation, so he hadn’t heard the instructions. It took another hour and a little bit of firm insistence before she finally consented to come do the procedure.
But, once she did. Patrick felt lots better. The nursing staff decided that they would insist that this be done once every 8 hours at least. Because of that, Patrick was much more comfortable for the rest of the afternoon.
All that pain made it so Patrick didn’t feel much like getting up and moving much. Thank goodness for family, though. When Brian’s brother Mark heard that we were going to be here for Thanksgiving, he and his wife immediately started to make plans to come celebrate Thanksgiving with us. They rented a house for the weekend so they’d have a kitchen to cook in. They drove here from Denver, arriving Wednesday night. Then, the night before Thanksgiving, they went and found a grocery store, bought all the food for the meal, and went to work.
So yesterday morning, while Heidi stayed behind and cooked, Mark and his kids came to play. They threw a ball, blew bubbles, put on a mini puppet show. They brought Patrick big smiles, even though he didn’t feel very well. Then, they went to help pack up the food and Patrick took a nap. He slept through dinner, and that was really ok, since he wouldn’t have been eating anyway.
For a Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital, this meal was amazing. As I’ve said before, this hospital is abandoned on weekends and holidays. So we set up dinner on one of the long tables in the cafeteria. We all ate until we were well stuffed. The kids played in the cafeteria and we rested and talked.
Then I came upstairs so Patrick wouldn’t wake up alone. Good thing, too, as he woke up crying in pain. His nurse got him a hot pack and some pain meds, though, and with his belly a little less full it helped.
Brian came up after his family had left for the evening and with pain medicine on board, Patrick was ready for a walk. We got the nurse to bring in a cart for some portable oxygen. His walking was stiff and clumsy and guarded… But getting up and moving seemed to have helped his lungs. His oxygen saturation was much better for the rest of the evening. That, after a day of restarting respiratory therapy, seemed to make a really big difference.
It was a busy evening, though. Nursing staff is short on a holiday so the nurses were running like crazy. But still, with several antibiotics on the IV pump in the evening, the pumps just beeped and beeped. Finally, we made it to sleep at midnight. Unfortunately, vitals woke up at 5 and then labs at 5:30 and so we were both exhausted by morning. Therefore, this late post. I’ll start writing about today next and hopefully post after adding a bit more right at bedtime.
Today was a relatively quiet day. In fact, by the end of it, I think we all were feeling more than a little stir crazy from being in the same room together doing the same things day in and day out. But quiet is good.
Patrick definitely had a better day. Between the slight reduction in feeds and me finding a way to be super sneaky and unsmelly in emptying his ostomy bag, he didn’t spend the day feeling sick. That left him free to try other things.
Like walking, for example. The physical therapist came by and encouraged us to let go of his hand and try walking. He was a touch unsteady and there certainly moments where he moved the wrong way and it hurt. But he did it. And it gave me the idea for a game that kept him motivated to walk several more times. Because Patrick loves Blues Clues, I drew some pawprints on slips of paper and I hid them in strategic places that he would have to bed or reach a little to get. Then we’d go play Blues Clues and find the pawprints. He actually was really upset when I wouldn’t play anymore tonight.
And speaking of pawprints, we decided to go check out pet therapy today. They have several specially trained dogs that visit the hospital. Very sweet and obedient. Patrick was more fearful of them than I expected.. perhaps because he’s still sore and was afraid they might jump on him. But it gave us someplace to go to today, at least.
The other big news is that Patrick’s biopsy results came back. Amazingly, today’s rejection score was a 0. No rejection at this point.
That leaves us with a few goals to work on. 1) Get Patrick’s feeds back up that 5 cc’s more to 95 without making him sick. 2) Switch him over from IV replacement fluid to replacing lost fluids through his g-tube. As long as he has an ostomy (which will be over a year), he’ll need a little bit of extra hydration. 3) Get a plan of how to pay for Patrick’s Valcyte. It turns out that they missed checking a box on the patient assistance application and are now having to reprocess it.
I’m spending tonight at the Ronald McDonald House. It is strange to be here. It is strange to know they are there. I also have gotten quite used to going to bed with Patrick so staying up late to finish the laundry has me quite tired. And that is making me appreciate my husband because he has been doing this for us every few nights for the past several weeks.
I also appreciate the flexibility of the people he works for and with. I have been trying to find a way to give him more time to catch up on work. And in the end, he just keeps setting aside what he’s doing to come in and save me.. to make sure Patrick is up and walking, to make sure I get a chance to eat and shower and change my clothes, to snuggle with Patrick so he can nap.
Before long, we are going to have to let him go.. and I can tell you I am going to miss having him here. Patrick will too. Which is part of why, despite Patrick’s protests about my leaving, I am here and they are there tonight. At least, in my mind it is.