An excellent Seattle trip

Patrick had his quarterly appointment at Seattle Children’s on Thursday. And it was a very good trip in every way.

Because Patrick’s morning med schedule is so complicated right now, I opted to fly out on Wednesday afternoon. Our flight left at about 2 p.m. As usual, it took some effort to get through security and I probably looked insane hauling Patrick, his duffel sized diaper bag, two suitcases, a carseat, and of course, him in his stroller around the airport. But we made the flight without incident. In fact, we landed early and had time to visit and exchange blogs with a very nice woman from the same flight while we waited for our ride.

We stayed with my friend Lindy, her husband Kelly, and her little girl, Lauren. Lauren is 4 months younger than Patrick. They have always gotten along really well and it was fun to let the two of them play. Most of the play consisted of stealing each other’s toys and pacifiers.. but they did spend some time dancing to YouTube videos and there was more than one hug exchanged.

Patrick and Lindy

Thursday were the appointments. It was kind of strange to actually be seen in clinic. This is the first time since Patrick’s evaluation a year ago that we’ve done this visit in clinic instead of inpatient.

They did the usual set of vitals: weight, length, blood pressure. As we finished, another little boy about Patrick’s size came in to be weighed. He had a Broviac line and TPN in a backpack, too. I think this is the first time that I’ve ever met another kid on home TPN. It was kind of strange for me to see.

Our first visit was with Patrick’s dietician. She walked in and her first words were, “This weight looks spectacular! I had to come see if it could be correct!” She remembered meeting a tiny, frail, jaundiced baby last year. To be met by a happy, chunky, energetic (almost to a fault) toddler was a surprise.

She looked at Patrick’s TPN, his labs, and his growth charts. We talked about his current diet and in the end, she said that she was nothing but pleased with what she was seeing. She even said that it’s time to back off a bit on his feeds so that we don’t make him overweight.

It’s been recommended recently by some doctors to try continuous feeds again so I asked her her opinion of it. She told me that it’s pretty common for kids with anatomy similar to Patrick’s to stop continuous feeds after this long. She said that focusing on oral feeding so that Patrick would have an easier time learning to eat after his transplant was her preferred goal.

She also explained that some kids who’ve had problems with hypoglycemia when tiny can outgrow the problem and tolerate breaks from TPN. She watched Patrick attempt a few head dives off the bench we were sitting on and said that she thought it might be good for him to have some untethered time. This is something I’ll discuss more in depth with Patrick’s GI and dietician here. We’ve always been a bit nervous, considering his history.

Looking at books in the waiting room

Next, Patrick’s transplant nurse came in and took copies of his labs and other medical history that I’d brought with me. Then Dr. Reyes, the transplant surgeon joined us.

Again, he was excited to see how much Patrick has grown. He asked me how well he was eating and pooping since his ostomy was taken down. I explained to him all the questions that had been raised last month about whether or not Patrick had an obstruction that needed to be fixed. Then I told him that some of the doctors wondered if he needed another surgery to try to correct the problem.

Dr. Reyes’ reaction was quite direct. He said “No. We’ll get him a transplant. That will fix the problem.” He didn’t think it was a good idea to mess with things when Patrick is otherwise stable and healthy… especially if that reduces the remaining pieces of intestine.

I asked how Patrick’s reaching 10 kilos in weight would affect his candidacy for a transplant. Dr. Reyes said that that was a really big deal for him. This size changes the rules a bit for what he needs in a donor. Before, we’d been told the donor needed to be the same size as him, preferably smaller. Now that he’s bigger, they can reduce the size of a larger donor, too. His donor could be up to 6 or even 8 years old. The result is that his chances of finding a match go up.

So I had to ask if they could estimate a wait time. The answer, for all who are wondering, is still no. Dr. Reyes was careful to explain to me that Patrick’s B positive blood type is a mixed blessing. It means that there will be fewer matches. However, it also means that there are fewer waiting children with his blood type, which means his priority is higher, even while he’s healthy. Dr. Reyes just kept saying “We’ll get this transplant done.”

Next we talked about liver health. Patrick’s biopsy in September showed some early scarring of his liver. However, doctors responded quickly with a low-lipid diet and for the past several months his bilirubin and liver enzymes and other measurable signs show that his liver is relatively healthy. The clarity of his eyes and skin are also proof of this fact.

I told Dr. Reyes that we’ve been worried that Patrick’s spleen reacts so severely to infection. He admitted that the scarring in the liver was probably contributing to problems with the spleen. Recurring infections don’t help either. However, he said that a large spleen wasn’t as much of a worry if the liver isn’t also large.

Transplants are scary in a patient with a failing liver because as the liver fails, the body stops clotting as well.  Dr. Reyes said he’s not worried about that at all with Patrick. He feels safe doing the surgery. Then he said that if you fix the problems with the intestines, the liver can heal, and the spleen will get better. And he told me again, “We’ll get him transplanted.”

I asked one last question. Should we be keeping our bags packed? The answer was a resounding “Yes”. I really need to wrap my mind around that and get things in order so we’ll be ready to go quickly. The regular trips to Seattle and to the hospital here keep me practiced in packing and packing quickly – but still, it would be good to feel in some way prepared.

The mood of Patrick’s appointments was almost celebratory. His good health, his weight gain, and just the fact that we made it to a clinic visit without being admitted were all worthy of celebration.

We’ll go back again in July.

Roughousing with Lindy

The rest of the trip was pretty laid back. Lindy, who was kind enough to drive us half an hour to the appointments and then wait two hours for them to be done, took us back to her house. Patrick and Lauren crashed early. I was amazed that Patrick put himself to sleep there on just the second night.

And then, after a pretty amazing feat of getting three babies (Lindy was babysitting a 4 month old that day) into the car and off to the airport on time to catch our flight home… including all of Patrick’s medical care.. was impressive. Not the smoothest, but we accomplished it.

We got home Friday afternoon exhausted. Patrick and I both went to bed early. We all slept in. And today has been spent mostly in recovering from a pretty intense week.

I can’t really complain, though. It may be exhausting to chase after a one-year-old who crawls around the house emptying drawers and making monster noises… especially when I am the only thing standing between him and many broken lines. But I wouldn’t want to trade having him happy and wiggly and full of life – and best yet, at home – for anything in the world.

Transplant Pre-evaluation: Day 1


So the first big question about getting Patrick to Seattle was transportation. With current airport security, how do you get a kid who is connected to running IV fluids through security? And how do you go about transporting a week’s supply of TPN? It has to be kept at a certain temperature and, well, there is just a lot of it. Hauling a cooler and coordinating tubing through the airport just didn’t sound like much fun to us, but neither did dealing with any lost luggage.

So I did tons of research: called the TSA, read every page in the Delta website about baggage, and read websites written by other TPN patients. Finally, I asked the pharmacy if they could ship the TPN ahead of us. Turns out, that’s a free service that they provide. And our wonderful friends Lindy & Kelly helped us find a place in Seattle to ship to and then picked up the shipment and kept it in their fridge until we could get there.

So we were able to travel with just 2 day’s worth of medical supplies in our carryon… which was still enough to fill an entire carry-on sized suitcase, but probably saved us TONS of grief. Patrick’s luggage was by far the biggest and we were probably quite the sight making our way around with Howie hauling 3 rolling suitcases behind him and his carry-on and me with a stroller, a duffel bag, and a diaper bag.

We were surprised by how smoothly things went at security. In Salt Lake a TSA worker came up to us when she saw us getting our stuff ready to go through X-ray. I explained to her Patrick’s IV’s and showed her my suitcase full of medical equipment, including IV solutions and syringes full of saline and heparin. She took over right away. Patrick and I went through the metal detector and (of course) set it off because of his pumps. Then they took us to the little security station and ran their little tests on his medicines. When they were all done, they patted Patrick down and then did a wand/hand search of me. Then they thanked us for keeping things organized and making them easy and sent us on our way.

We were allowed to board the plane first because we were travelling with an infant, which was different but nice, especially since we needed to get his stuff settled so we could get to anything he needed during the flight.

We booked him a seat, not to sit in, but to give us some extra space. His backpack rode there buckled in and Patrick started the flight in his daddy’s arms. He played and he slept and he flashed his bright eyes and smile at the flight attendants and the passengers around us. He was by far the best behaved child on the flight! Whimpered only when he was hungry.

Finally we landed and took our crazy little caravan to the rental car company and checked in at our hotel. We took a much needed nap before heading over to visit Kelly and pick up the TPN shipment.

The day of travel was much smoother than I could have ever expected! Which turns out to be a good thing, as we had a very long week ahead of us