Category Archives: Medications

Oh yeah.. and last week…

Blogging has been on my to do list for a couple of days. But when I sat down to write last night, I was so full of the thoughts and worries of that 48 hour period that I forgot there were other events last week that I’d meant to write about.

We had a couple of appointment last week. We finally got back in to see Patrick’s psychologist yesterday. Can I tell you how amazing she is? When Patrick’s insurance case manager called me to tell me about a new Autism clinic that she’d seen open at the University of Utah THE SAME DAY THAT SHE CALLED I was pretty speculative. Especially since we have never been big fans of the diagnosis of autism for Patrick. Spectrum diagnoses are tricky and, while time and learning have convinced me that Patrick does have struggles that fit into the definition of autism, his presentation is so atypical that I don’t feel like the diagnosis serves him well. Well, unless you are dealing with someone who really does understand autism spectrum disorders. Which the people at this clinic really do. And for all that I don’t willingly introduce Patrick as autistic, we have found the autism clinic to be a tremendous help for us. I’ve been anxious to get him back.

When Patrick met “Dr. Joo-la” and her “piggies” (guinea pigs) there was an instant connection. I could see that he clicked with her and listened to what she said to him.As icing on the cake, she also saw that with the responsibilities of being his caregiver, I wasn’t going to have a chance to go seek other help for myself. She told me in the first meeting that if we sometimes needed to spend sessions talking about and taking care of me, too, that she considered that an important part of taking care of Patrick.

This last visit, I took her up on that. First of all, she spent a lot of the session reassuring me that Patrick really HAS made great progress. I’ve said before that it doesn’t seem like he is as plagued by constant sensory seeking as he was before. She pointed that out, too. Saying he seemed more focused, more grown up. Of course, his exploding language skills are an amazing step.

She reminded me not to be overwhelmed by after-school meltdowns. Pointed out that we had the same problems last fall, too. And she helped me brainstorm ways to make coming home from school perhaps a little better.

She also reminded me not to feel guilty about not being able to do all my heart says I should be providing for Patrick. She’s been following this blog, so I know that she was aware when she told me that she knew that a lot of days, we are just still surviving the day. She encouraged me to embrace summer school as respite time for me and NOT to try to spend it doing things for him or feeling like I need to save them from problem behaviors. I really need to call and see if it’s an option for me to swim in the mornings while he’s at school. If not, at the least there is a track at the high school on the same campus and I can walk.

And then she reminded me that I need help and tried to help me work up the courage to go and tell some of the people in my support system that I’m feeling lonely and overwhelmed and could use some company, if not some help. I don’t seem to be very good at that. (Does this count?)

Anyway – we talked about some other strategies for summer, for respite, for behavior, etc. We talked about bringing him back to their social skills group. (Which I’m very pleased to have found works well this summer.) We played with the piggies and Patrick tried to trade our bird Max for one. And then we made some return appointments.

That was the happy appointment of the week. The next day, I took Patrick to his allergist and I’m afraid it didn’t go as smoothly.

I learned two important lessons. 1) Don’t schedule appointments immediately following school. Patrick needs time to unwind first. 2) Don’t go to the allergist alone.

Because of his ADHD and sensory processing disorder, Patrick doesn’t do well in new environments and Patrick’s allergist just moved to a big, beautiful new facility. I’m very excited about this because he’s no longer sharing space with a regular healthcare clinic and there’s less risk of catching a virus there. But for Patrick, new spaces have to be explored thoroughly with doors banged, containers emptied, equipment disassembled. It’s a disaster. Also, because of a lifetime of doctor’s visits, Patrick doesn’t like it when I talk to a doctor about him and will do just about anything to get me to stop.

This day was particularly bad. I’d managed to get a tired Patrick to nap the day before, but insomnia kicked in that night and he was up till 12, getting just 6 hours of sleep.

The end result is that Patrick threw all of the flashcards, snacks, magazines, and tissues on the floor. Then ended up having to sit in a chair with all other furniture moved away from him. And then he screamed for most of the rest of the appointment.

I have to give props to Patrick’s allergist, Dr. Gleich. He still smiles, talks to Patrick like Donald Duck, tells me that I have my hands full but am doing a good job being patient, and just gets us through the appointment as productively as possible. He is a very good man.

So while I tried to keep as much calm as possible, Patrick’s allergist and I tried to talk through how transplant might change the strategy for his allergies. Obviously, the ability and need to eat are a significant step. And I wanted to talk about how to safely explore what he can have.. and just how safe it is to be dabbling in some of Patrick’s milder allergies while he is on immune suppressants that are making it so he doesn’t have many reactions.

I wish Patrick had been feeling better so we could have covered more ground. We reviewed Patrick’s last test results. The gist of them is that Patrick’s test results show him allergic to a lot of foods that he tolerates, at least to some degree. We still need to stay far away from cashews, pistachios, peanuts, and unbaked eggs with caution for other foods we’ve seen cause a reaction. He said to keep encouraging Patrick to eat eggs as an ingredient in baked foods as that mild exposure is believed to help kids outgrow allergies. He gave blessing to my efforts in allowing Patrick traces of milk, in extreme moderation. (Goldfish crackers, for example.) He actually was surprised that I was still being cautious about butter and regular cheese, but I pointed out that we see reactions to those foods.

He also took care to warn me of just how serious it is that Patrick’s spleen was removed, leaving him without a major defense against illness. He wanted me to be sure that, for any fever, I know I need to go straight to Primary Children’s. Some things don’t change.

And then, because we weren’t getting much further with Patrick screaming in the corner, we decided to not try additional testing that day. Instead, he asked me to bring Patrick back in July or August for repeat blood and scratch testing. In the meantime, we are supposed to explore and even push a little bit, with epi pen and benadryl nearby, and keep a log of what we discover about Patrick’s tolerances for certain foods.

I find that the further we get down this road the more obscure my question are. Neither Patrick’s allergist nor his transplant team really know how food allergies and immune suppression will affect each other. I don’t want to compromise Patrick’s new gut with a lot of foods he’s allergic to. (Food allergies can cause a sort of rashlike reaction and ulcers in the intestine). But I also don’t want to limit his nutrition and ability to wean off of tube feeds if that’s not necessary. I find myself wishing that I knew of an allergist somewhere who has an interest in transplant and immune suppression. I’m not sure such a person even exists.

Anyway – Patrick was asleep in the car 5 minutes after we left the appointment. Next time, I’ll try to allow time for a rest after school. Next time I’ll try not to go alone.

And maybe over the next couple of months we can figure out a schedule that lets Patrick outgrow naps, like he’s trying to do, without spending afternoons and evenings too tired and grumpy to function.

One other appointment this week, feeding therapy. Inspired by Patrick’s interest at a memorial day barbecue, I decided to work on hot dogs this week. I’m pleased to report success. So long as you cut the hot dog in half so he can fit it in his mouth. And watch him and remind him to take small bites. And maybe let him decide he’s done with the bun. Still, a victory in time for summer for a kid who doesn’t like his burgers grilled.

And speaking of burgers, I’m trying to figure out how to translate Patrick’s love of certain fast foods into a working menu at home. I’ve got him eating ham on english muffins a-la Burger King breakfast sandwich. And we’re working on thin sliced roast beef on hamburger buns as a tribute to Arby’s.

I do have one lingering worry. I’ve realized that if they do decide that Patrick can continue on to first grade next year, that means eating lunch at school. And right now, I mostly have taught him to eat warm foods. He does great with fast food, mac and vegan-cheese, pasta in red sauce, hot dogs, cooked veggies, soups, chicken nuggets and french fries. And this is exactly the sort of food that will be being served in the cafeteria. Except, well, that an elementary school cafeteria is not an allergy-safe place. I can’t expect them to watch for cross-contamination.

So I’ll be packing lunches. But I think one of the conversations we need to have in this week’s school planning meeting is whether or it’s an option to heat up food for Patrick in a staff microwave. (It’s already non-negotiable for me that he’ll need an adult to sit with him in the cafeteria.)

And Patrick’s feeding therapist and I did some brainstorming on cold foods that he might be able to eat if we work with him over the summer.

I’ve decided that we will for sure be frequenting the lunch park at the school next door again this summer. But this time, with the hope and goal of being able to figure out lunches that will work to send with Patrick to school next year. Last year, I was able to follow their menu and pack matching foods 80% of the time. But if those things can’t be warmed up at the school, then we may just have to work on being ok with eating the food you had packed for you, even when it isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

One other item of note from this last week. A family moved in across the street from us while we were in Nebraska. They have a little boy Patrick’s same age. We’ve talked about but not found a way to get them together to play. Until this week.. when this boy came and asked if Patrick could play.

This was a growing experience for this mom. I am trying VERY hard to stop being a helicopter parent now that Patrick doesn’t have IV’s to monitor. But it meant that both of us were a bit thrown by a same-age playmate. I’m not sure Patrick knew quite what to do with him. In many ways, he is like his peers. But in many ways, he still has a lot of growing to do. They drew on the sidewalk with chalk a bit, tried out all of Patrick’s ride-on toys. Then they went across the street and played in his yard, too.

I was doing my best to stay looking busy but also keep an eye on them. And to let Patrick build this relationship on his own without my coaching. Mostly they drove Patrick’s ride-on car up and down the street.

When I picked Patrick up for dinner, he was enjoying a snack of animal cracker. I was grateful they were safe, and I decided that next time I send him to play I need to make sure they know he has allergies.

It’s been a full week. I sometimes think my head might explode trying to hold all of this and have a normal life, too.

Transplant Day 42 and His First Checkup

Patrick asked me to take this picture with him and the Ronald McDonald on the wall.

Patrick asked me to take this picture with him and the Ronald McDonald on the wall.

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.

Transplant Day 22 and Out of Bed

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When I arrived in the room this morning, Patrick was sore. He had woken up in pain during the night and he did NOT want to get up. He didn’t want a bath. He didn’t want to walk. He had overdone yesterday and was tired.

However, about half an hour after I got him a bath, clean clothes, some tylenol, a heat pack and then coaxed him into his wagon, his physical therapist Kirsten showed up. Because of the success of yesterday’s Blues Clues game, we decided to try it again. That was motivation enough to get up. Patrick was hunting clues when the transplant team showed up for rounds. We walked right through rounds several times this morning, much to their delight.

Kirsten also showed Patrick that there is a mailbox on the outside of the playroom. She made him some pretend letters and they played putting them in and out of the box. (Making him squat and reach.)

Well, after therapy, Patrick was tired and decided to sit in his wagon and play games on his cell phone. It lasted for a while and I was able to make a few important phone calls and then Patrick was ready to get up and move again. I agreed to help him play Blues Clues one more time. Well, we got out in the hall and the social worker came by to talk about some questions I had. While we talked, Patrick got bored. And so he started to just wander around and play and… well, he realized that there was no reason for him to be staying in bed.

So, Patrick got up and started exploring and playing in his room. He played till 3 and cried when me made him stop to nap. Then he slept for 3 hours straight. (Yes, all that play wore him out.) Anyway… it’s nice to have our adventurous little boy back. And also, that is probably the end of our quiet peaceful days in the hospital.

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Medical updates from the day: In rounds today they told us that the ulcers seen during Patrick’s scope might just be irritation from all this new gut has gone through. They are not worried.

They started adding some saline solution to Patrick’s feeds today, which increases the volume of his feeds. We hope that it will make it so he doesn’t need IV hydration. We just need to see if he can tolerate the extra volume in his feeds. So far, so good.

In other GREAT news, we found out today that Patrick has gotten pending approval for patient assistance for his antiviral drug, Valcyte. This one is only covered by my insurance in pill form and, uncovered, its price tag is over $1000/month. This approval is temporary and requires that we appeal the insurance company’s decision. However, it is a HUGE weight off of my mind.

And on that note, let’s make tonight’s educational series about medications. Patrick is going to be on a variety of medications as a result of his transplant. They include:

Prograf: To prevent rejection. At first, these are going to be very high levels, which means he will be very immune surpressed. The days of letting him lick the sidewalks as part of childhood are over. We are trading that in for lots of isolation and hand washing and mask wearing. He’ll be on this the rest of his life.

Prednisolone: Is a steroid that also prevents rejection. It also suppresses his immune system. It makes him grumpy and impulsive and sometimes makes it hard to sleep and makes his face a little bit rounder. And he won’t be on this long-term. These two drugs make it so Patrick can’t really control his anger. He’s happy most of the time, but when he’s not, the only way to help is to walk away because being there just feeds the crazy feeling. This has been hard, especially at night.

Valcyte: This protects him from a virus called CMV or cytomegalovirus that is almost unnoticable in you or me but has serious repercussions in people with surpressed immune systems. It’s crazy expensive but also crazy important given how much of Patrick’s immune system they wiped out. He’ll need it for at least a year.

Bactrim: An antibiotic to prevent pneumonia. He’ll need this till they back off the immune suppression.

Penicillin: Another antibiotic he’ll be on for his entire life because he doesn’t have a spleen.

Ranitidine (or Omeprazole): to reduce acid and his digestive system heal. He may need this for life.

Norvasc: To help fix the high blood pressure all these other drugs cause. He’ll need it till this problem goes away.

Lasix: Because for some reason, Patrick’s body likes to hold onto too much fluid since transplant. Just needs it till the problem goes away.

He’s also allowed Tylenol for pain. (But no ibuprofen again.) He’s also given a multivitamin in his formula. And some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to keep his CO2 levels right. And some saline solution for hydration. And right now, he can have a medicine for nausea.. but hasn’t needed it in a few days.

He can’t miss doses… But honestly, this is a much easier sounding regimen than I imagined it would be in our pre-transplant training. Just every 12 hours and keeping track of a few due only on certain days. The pharmacy team has come a couple of times to train us on all this… But even they have decided that our experience makes this not all that difficult compared to what we are used to.

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