“It would take a miracle, you say? Well, if it takes a miracle, why not?” – Boyd K. Packer
Patrick is full of life. He’s energetic, friendly, and quite honestly, very hard to keep up with. He is always moving. He rides his bike and scooter, pulls his wagon, drives his “jeep” or just plain runs around the neighborhood. He has a friendly “hi” for everyone and makes new friends whereever he goes. He loves cars, books, and Netflix. He can name every major car make by logo. He is fascinated with learning to read.
But while on the outside, Patrick looks like a healthy and happy boy, his scars tells a different story.
Patrick was born missing most of his intestines. He’s waited almost 6 years before receiving a desperately needed liver-intestine transplant. Patrick was always far healthier than anyone would expect given the length of his illness. But it was this gift that gave him hope of a long and healthy life. On October 31, 2014, Patrick received a multivisceral (liver, intestine, pancreas) transplant at Nebraska Medicine, one of the best intestinal programs in the world.
Patrick was born weighing just 5 and a half pounds with a condition called Short Gut or Short Bowel Syndrome. Because of a birth defect called gastroschisis, Patrick’s intestines didn’t develop properly. The defect allowed them to twist, cutting off their blood supply. As a result, most of Patrick’s intestines died before he was born. Patrick was left dependent on a form of intravenous feeding called Total Parenteral Nutrition, or TPN. Because he couldn’t absorb nutrients from food, everything he needed to grow was given to him through an IV. It’s a delicate balance and a challenge for an active little boy to be tied to IV pumps all day.
Patrick’s doctors gave us a pretty dismal picture of what his life would be like when we adopted him. They said his liver would scar from the TPN and he’d live his life in and out of hospitals with life-threatening blood infections. They said it would be like living with an hourglass running out of an unknown amount of sand, never knowing how much time was left. They were right. But we quickly fell in love with the one-week-old baby boy with brown angel eyes and a full head of black hair. We knew he’d need help and love with his journey.
So we learned how to care for him and we brought him home to Utah. The doctors at Primary Children’s Hospital are wonderful, but because of Patrick’s Ultra Short Gut, he needs more help than they can offer. He needed an intestine. When he was 6 months old, Patrick traveled to Seattle Children’s Hospital where he was listed for an isolated small bowel transplant. He was listed Status 1.
And he waited and he waited.
Patrick waited for a transplant for almost 6 years. He’s continued growing bigger and stronger. He beat the odds every day. But, 6 years of Short Bowel Syndrome took their toll. He developed liver fibrosis. He was prone to infections that took him from healthy to critical in under an hour. His veins started scarring so that every new IV was difficult to place and the doctors worried that they soon will lose the ability to give him the TPN that kept him alive. And as his remaining intestine became more and more overworked and dilated, his belly became more and more sick. Patrick was sick to his stomach a good amount of the time.
In February 2013, knowing Patrick needed more help, we took him for one more transplant evaluation. This time, we traveled to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The news was a mix of good and bad. Patrick was far healthier than anyone would expect given the length of his illness. But, his intestine could adapt more than it had. His liver could not get better. He was running out of time. But they were confident they could help. They added his name to their transplant list and we went back to waiting and praying. We feared the worst, but tried our best to keep living life at its best, trusting that transplant would come when the time was right.
Patrick’s Gift of Life
On Patrick’s 6th birthday, he was given the most amazing gift – the gift of life. Our phone rang just after we finished wrapping his last birthday present and were headed to bed. So instead of sleeping, we woke Patrick, packed our bags, said goodbye to our families, and headed to the airport. That was the longest flight of our lives.
Patrick’s opened birthday presents and trick or treated in the morning on October 31. Then went to surgery. His transplant was finished a little before midnight. The surgeon said things could not have gone more smoothly. Patrick, ever the fighter, was awake by the next day.
Recovery from this kind of surgery is long and painful. The next weeks and months were some of the hardest of our lives. They were also some of the most miraculous. We celebrated the holidays in Nebraska as we watched Patrick’s new gut accept feeding. Within weeks, he completely weaned off of the TPN that had kept him alive for 6 years.
It wasn’t much longer before Patrick discovered eating. And that, with functioning intestines, he could enjoy it more than he’d ever experienced. Right now, Patrick doesn’t rely on tubes for his nutrition except when he is sick.
His recovery went so smoothly that we were able to return home to Utah just 4 months after transplant. Patrick was able to rejoin his kindergarten class for the last few weeks of the school year.
Years have passed since transplant. Patrick barely remembers what it was like to live in and out of hospitals.With every passing year, we are amazed at the incredible gift given to us by Patrick’s transplant. When we adopted Patrick, we hoped for one year. Now, he is growing into a strong, independent, caring young man. He wins over everyone he meets with his exuberant friendliness. He loves cars, travel, pens, and all things Disney.
We are still navigating the world of special medical needs. Some problems like immune suppression, brain injury, and ADHD will accompany him throughout his life. His brain injury has left him with a perpetual innocence. But he has a bright and happy future ahead.
Even with very good medical insurance, Patrick’s transplant was very expensive for our family. We want to thank those of you who generously donated to help cover medical expenses, living expenses in Omaha during recovery as well as doctor’s visit co-pays, prescription co-pays, and the cost of travel back to Omaha. Because Patrick’s transplant expenses will be ongoing, as he requires medication and follow-up care for the rest of his life, we do still have an active fundraising campaign with the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.