Tag Archives: anesthesia

Getting a line in and back on the transplant list

Sorry to have kept you waiting for updates. As you’ll see from this post, it’s been a crazy few days.

First of all, if you haven’t heard word any other way, the doctors in Nebraska were able to get a new central line into the Superior Vena Cava and Patrick is back on the transplant list. I mean to post updates but didn’t expect them to order bed rest and minimal activity for the next days after the procedure and, well, accomplishing that is kind of a full time job where Patrick is concerned.

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We checked in to pre-op at 5:30 a.m. which is 4:30 a.m. Mountain Time and we were all incredibly sleepy. Pre-op was the usual flurry of activity as we met anesthesiologists and got fluids ordered and labs drawn. (They had an amazing phlebotemist who managed to draw blood without Patrick even crying and on her first attempt.) We met the OR nurse whom Patrick loved so much he said she was “Kinda Jo”, in other words, put him at ease like his favorite child life specialist. He collected teddy bears and various and sundry medical equipment to use on the bears and charmed everyone in sight.

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Loving his warm blankets in pre-op

Then we got the meet the doctor and go over the plan.

The procedure it took to get us there absolutely terrifies me. I order to get around the blockages, they put a guidewire in through Patrick’s femoral vein and ran it up to his heart where they repositioned the veins in order to reach the right ones and get around the clotting and scarring. At least, that’s what I understood. He followed along with x-ray and ultrasound the entire way to make sure things went where they should.

What I really gathered from the description of the procedure is that it was insanely dangerous. As the interventional radiologist was going over the risks with us, I just kind of had to shut off the part of my brain that could process what those risks might mean and remind myself that without it, he had no long-term chance of survival. Instead, I honed in on the fact that he sounded confident in what he was doing and that, well, it just felt right. I couldn’t help but think that THIS was the reason we’d been impressed to transfer Patrick’s care to the University of Nebraska. Because they had doctors who had developed this technique to save access and save lives.

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Knowing how difficult Patrick’s access can be, we all kind of hunkered down expecting them to need hours. So, when we looked up at the status board after just a couple of hours and see that they were closing. Then, sure enough, there was the doctor telling us that everything had gone well and that he had a new line in place.

As we understand it, this is a rare direct superior vena cava line, entering the vein directly after going through soft tissue. (Patrick’s GI is questioning this, so I’m getting a copy of the procedure notes so I can go back over what was done and we can understand it.)

He went ahead and put in another double lumen line for us. Because they stock a different brand, the line they had was rather large, a 9 french, but that could kind of be a good thing. Should be less prone to clotting problems.

He also us that this line is to, under no circumstances, be taken out without his approval. If Patrick gets and infection, if the line breaks, if it clots, whatever… the team at the University of Nebraska needs to get involved. Maybe they will teach the team here how to keep the site open. Or, maybe they will fly us back out again. Whatever happens, they do not want to have to attempt to repeat this procedure. We were told that, next to transplant, this is one of the riskier and more specialized things that they do at their hospital.

Whew!

And by the end of the day, Patrick was back active on the transplant list.

The rest of the day was kind of crazy. Because of the risks of bleeding from that femoral access, Patrick was ordered to 3 hours of total bed rest with that leg completely immobilized. Knowing our child, we quickly agreed to request sedation for that.

At first, the sedation made things a little easier as we scrambled to attached fluids to the new line to keep it open. We also called to ask that his old line be removed while he was sedated (they’d left it in thinking it was still needed, but decided we didn’t need that to be done at home.)… and then scrambling to round up information about the new, different brand of line and repair kits, etc.

Patrick started to wake up just a little and was, well, cuddly. That’s normal for him, but normally I’m also allowed to hold him. This time, he had to stay in bed. So he settled for holding onto my head. For half an hour, he held my head as tightly as he possibly could. (Meanwhile, the doctor came back to pull the old line.)

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Patrick making his teddy bear play tablet while on forced, sedated bed rest

About an hour in, the nurse decided to stop giving him sedation and just let what was in his system and me distract him. So, we played games on the tablet and we checked the blood pressure of the teddy bear and tried out a Nintendo DS. Meanwhile, Brian went back to the Ronald McDonald House to bring back TPN and to try to meet our delivery of medical supplies.

2 hours in, the doctor said that Patrick could sit up in bed and make sure his leg was ok with the extra movement. The post-anesthesia nurse was kind of tired of him tying up the space in PACU I think (they could only keep giving him sedation there) and so she discharged us to their extended care unit.

The extended care nurse acted as though she hadn’t received report from the PACU nurse, though. When we got there, she tried to insist that Patrick needed to stay lying still in bed for another hour because that’s what the orders in the computer said. And so, well, yes, I went a little angry mama bear on her and told her that I would not have agreed to come to her unit had those been the instructions.

And then we spent the next half an hour trying to keep Patrick still sitting up in bed, doing crafts, sipping water, and not chewing on or removing the COMPLETELY inappropriate non-pediatric pulse oximeter on his finger.

And then, I don’t know who talked to her, but the nurse came back in and cheerfully told us we could get Patrick dressed and he could be discharged. Like the nurse who I’d gone crazy on didn’t even exist.

Anyway, we were grateful for the dismissal as we had managed to squeeze in an appointment with one of the transplant surgeons at 1 p.m. and 1 p.m. is when Patrick was supposed to be cleared after 3 hours’ bed rest.

So, we hurried over to the Intestinal Rehab Clinic and checked in for our visit and a little while later, Dr. Langnas joined us. We explained to him our concerns about whether or not waiting for a combined liver/intestine transplant might be increasing Patrick’s wait time. He listened to our concerns and then explained the benefits that he sees for Patrick in the liver listing. Then he promised us a future date where, if Patrick has not received a transplant, he will take our concerns back to the transplant review board for reconsideration.

The rest of the day we spent trying to help keep Patrick down. We went back to the Ronald McDonald house again for a little back and let Patrick play in the playroom. Then, in the interest of some forced holding still, took a drive instead. Patrick heard us mention the temple as a possible destination and voted for that. So, with our bruised and bandaged and druggy little boy, we went and visited the Mormon Trail Center and Winter Quarters Temple grounds. Then came back on time for a yummy lasagna dinner courtesy some generous Ronny House graduates, then went to bed early and exhausted.

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Playing pioneer at the Mormon Trail Center

After tucking Patrick into bed, it hit me just how serious what he’d been through that day and week really was. Another case of him surviving against the odds, an unquestionable miracle. And a VERY close call. I shed a few tears of fear and relief that night, said a prayer of gratitude, and went to bed.

Outpatient

Last entry, I wrote about Patrick coming down with a common childhood illness and how much more complicated that is for him.

Well, as predicted, this illness definitely had it’s impact. The day after that blog entry, Patrick started throwing up. As it turns out, herpangina, better known as Hand, Foot and Mouth is caused by a series of viruses that live in the intestines. Symptoms indicate that Patrick’s was caused by one called “enterovirus.” As a result, Patrick started to lose so much fluid by g-tube that I was having a hard time keeping up replacing the fluid.

By the time Brian got home from work, he was pale and weak, running a fever, and we were worried. I put a call into Patrick’s GI to ask if they wanted to check blood cultures. By the time they called back to talk about putting in those orders, we’d changed our minds and asked if he could just come in for a night of observation. The night went well and Patrick was obviously feeling better with no additional treatment and by morning, we were asking to go back home. (Especially since we’d barely gotten any sleep.)

By early afternoon, we had been officially discharged when we discovered another problem. When I went to connect the TPN, one of Patrick’s lumen’s wouldn’t flush at all. I tried a few times without success. But we were sleepy and his nurse timid. We’ve unclotted lines lots of times at home. He still had one working lumen, so I said “let’s go.” On the way home, I made calls to get the anticlotting agent sent to me.

All night long I tried to work it, getting up every couple of hours to try again. It just didn’t work. By morning, I knew it was a lost cause for my efforts. But by this time Brian was also sick, I hadn’t slept in 2 nights, and Patrick needed rest. So I made phone calls instead of running in. Eventually, we made arrangements to go in to have the hospital staff try to unclot the line. We arrived around 8 p.m., (we asked to wait until we’d at least had Brian’s birthday dinner with his parents)… And the nurse tried all the things I’d tried. Finally, at midnight, we declared it a lost cause and they sent us home.

Patrick’s doctor called the next day to tell me that, as we suspected, Patrick would need a new line. And we went on, finally feeling a bit better, with celebrating Brian’s birthday. We took Brian shopping for a few big wishes, then went out to dinner. That was all the energy any of us had.

I talked to surgery the next day to make arrangements for the new line to be placed. Since Patrick still had sores in his throat and his surgeon was out of town anyway, we scheduled it a week away on Tuesday.

That was a week ago today. The surgery went well. We checked Patrick in at 6 a.m. then talked to the nurses, surgeon and anesthesiologist who’d take care of him. The anesthesiologist said what we all know, “He looks a lot better in person than on paper.” Still, even minor surgeries can be major for Patrick so we didn’t really relax until his surgeon came and told us all was well.

The only complication was that Patrick was bleeding fairly easily. But that seemed to be under control. We came home and I sent Brian off on a business trip to DC the next morning.

His occupational therapist came the next morning as I was trying to find an assistant for the day-after-surgery dressing changes. Since we’ve been specifically trying to help him with those, she volunteered to help. All went smoothly and we were playing with her after when I noticed that I could see blood on the new dressings.

I peeked under his shirt to find that the old line site had bled since the change so much that it had soaked the dressing and was now soaking into his shirt. So his OT made a quick departure as I called the hospital who suggested I change the dressing again and apply pressure. It worked and he went to sleep.

But, come 6 p.m. the same problem came back. I called the surgeon on call this time and got the same instructions. They worked again, but I realized that Patrick needed to be helped to be a little less active until things healed.

Lucky for him, we’d bought a zoo pass the weekend before, so I packed him up and went to the zoo where he’d be strapped down in the stroller for the morning. It worked and we had a great time looking at the animals (I think the zoo deserves a separate post)… He only scratched off his dressing once while we were there, and I was able to get a new one on without any bleeding at all! And I managed to keep the IV tubing away from the stroller wheels until we were exiting, when they got tangled so badly they broke, but fortunately I pulled off a quick tubing change without any incident and we made it home safely and ready to nap.

He seems to be healing just fine from the surgery now… and his sore throat is gone. His tummy even was better for a couple of days. He’s back to losing a ton of fluid again this week which means either the enterovirus is still there… or he’s been exposed to something else… which is possible.

It’s work sometimes to keep Patrick outpatient, but as my next posts will show, it gives him the chance to experience the joys of life, which makes it worth all my work.

Sorry this entry is so long! Between Patrick, Brian and myself being sick at various times and me “playing Florence Nightengale” as Patrick’s case manager put it, this is the first chance I’ve had to catch up stories. I thought I’d start with the medical first so I can follow with tales of fun later.

Unpredictable

I like planning and I like things going as planned. I’ve never been very spontaneous. Patrick is teaching me things.

We thought we’d be heading home a couple nights ago. Patrick’s weekend was completely uneventful. He was healthy and happy and doing really well. Everything was in order – he was on the schedule for his line to be placed on Tuesday and then once it was in, we were going home. We’ve done that surgery outpatient before, so why not go home the same day, right?

Monday night my nurse couldn’t find a record of him being on the surgery schedule, though.. even though I was sure they were planning on it because his surgeon had talked to me about doing it. All night long I had nightmares about him not getting his line.

But before the sun was up Tuesday morning, I was signing a consent for surgery. That afternoon, out of the blue, surgical transport came to get Patrick. I had a pow wow with his surgeon in the hall on the way down then went through the usual presurgery consent and exchange of history, kissed him goodbye, and went to the surgery waiting room. Pretty routine.

This time, though, things were just slow! This procedure usually takes 30-45 minutes. And an hour and 15 I was asking for updates from the O.R. But then, minutes later, his surgeon came to tell me the line was in and everything had gone well.

Great, I thought, and sat down to wait again. Typically 15 minutes or so after the surgeon visits me I get to go back to recovery. 15 minutes passed and then the anesthesiologist came to talk to me. He explained that Patrick had somehow been extubated during the procedure, but that he thought he was ok.

2 hours after I got to the waiting room, they finally called me to recovery. Patrick seemed to be just fine.. mellow and with tears dried in his hair, but ok. We brought him up to the room and he cuddled up with me in the rocking chair.

Soon it was time to give his afternoon medicines. Because of his allergic reaction to the caspofungin, they give him Benadryl first now and that on top of the anesthesia helped him fall very fast asleep.

Brian came and packed up the room. The doctors came and gave me discharge instructions and prescriptions. We were just waiting out the medication and waiting for his TPN to be delivered.

Then I noticed that Patrick felt rather warm. So, reluctantly, I paged the nurse and asked her to check his temperature. The result – 103.3.

Just then, the TPN arrived.. the last piece we’d needed to go home. And we were staying. They drew a bunch of labwork to look for infection, just to be safe.

Patrick’s lungs seemed a bit coarser than normal and he had a cough. The doctors theorize that the fever was a result of something that happened with the anesthesia or his airway while he was in the O.R. Throughout the night, he finally got some good coughs and his fever went down.

By morning, he seemed to be just fine. They stopped the antibiotics they’d added as a preventative measure.

So – here we are still. I’ve learned never to really count on the first discharge date we plan for… but we were so close this time!!

We’re ok, though. We’ve got a fair amount of cabin fever. And I’m definitely missing some of the comforts of home like soft toilet paper and going barefoot. But we’ll make it through. At least he’s happy and healthy and allowed to leave his room to go to the playroom where he can spend hours running around the room holding my hand with one of his, and pushing a push toy or chair with the other while i try to keep up with the IV pole.. keeping his feet out of the tubing.

We’re hoping to go home maybe tomorrow morning, now. <Knock on wood>. To do that his cultures have to stay negative and he has to not give us any more surprises.

All too familiar

Here we are again. Back at Primary Children’s hospital – battling yeast yet again.

Sunday morning, Patrick developed a fever. It started low, but after a couple of hours, it was evident that he didn’t feel well. It seemed to both Brian and myself that he was trying to communicate with us that he wasn’t feeling well and needed help.

We’d made it through 2 hours of church, but decided it best to leave before Sacrament meeting was over. We got home, took his temperature – 101.4 – and he was starting to have chills. So we packed up and headed to the E.R. as quickly as possible.

Once we arrived, things were pretty much the usual drill.. they gave him some Motrin, took his history, drew blood cultures and started antibiotics and antifungals.

It didn’t take long for us to get into a room. But we started out right away with excitement. Before the nurse had even finished her initial assessment, Brian noticed hives forming next to Patrick’s ears. Within 5 minutes he was covered with hives from head to toe and his lips and eyes were starting to swell. They turned off the antifungal medicine and the reaction stopped and started to reverse. We think that they ran that medicine faster than his body’s used to and it caused the reaction, but it was a very scary moment to think that our preferred antifungal medication might suddenly have become off limits.

That night, Patrick was really, really sick. His fever reached over 104 degrees and he was sick to his stomach. We barely slept at all. The only rest he got was if he had both Tylenol and Motrin in his system. The problems continued through the next day and the antibiotics and antifungals didn’t seem to be making much difference until afternoon when his fever finally broke for the first time.. But his blood cultures stayed negative all day.

Around 8 p.m. a doctor came to visit us, though, and gave us results. Patrick has yeast in his bloodstream again.

The rest isn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it easier. Today’s been scary, stressful, and exhausting. Especially since Patrick is not cooperating with me about sleeping in his bed and neither one of us has had a good night’s sleep since we got here.

We talked to the doctors early and they confirmed that we needed to pull out his line. They also explained that Patrick’s spleen, yet again, is sequestering platelets and his blood counts are falling to dangerous levels. This means transfusions again with all the potential complications that come with that.

We spent the morning getting a little more settled in. Social work and child life came to visit. Child life talked about ways that we can help Patrick to be less afraid while he’s here. They brought him a baby doll with a little oxygen mask and blood pressure cuff to show him that they’re ok. He gave the doll lots of kisses and snuggles.. But took the blood pressure cuff off.. I think he was protecting it. They came along to all the following tests and surgery, too, to help minimize the trauma of these procedures. This was a new experience, but he seemed to enjoy it.

We went down to ultrasound around noon. They were looking for fungal balls in his organs. The poor radiology tech and radiologist were very confused trying to understand the anatomy they were seeing. I tried to explain that his gut looks funny and that his gall bladder is so small it’s almost invisible.. but they still were pretty sure his small intestine was his gall bladder. As we were leaving, the technician said “He looks so healthy, though”.. implying that on the insides he looks far from healthy.

When we got back from ultrasound Brian was waiting for us. He’d been given the afternoon off of work to come help. I was so grateful he was here!

We hurried and got ready for surgery. Just as we were about ready, the resident from the infectious disease team came to examine Patrick and take a history. Surgery showed up to take us down before he’d finished his exam. Patrick was jumping on the bed. I said to Brian “He’s just jumping because he knows he’s about to loose his foot”, referring to the fact that he’d come back from surgery with an IV in at least one foot. The guy from surgery looked up and said “Wait. What? Do I have the wrong kid?” We had a good laugh after that.

We went down to surgery with the child life specialist and infectious disease doctor in tow. After talking to the anesthesiologist, we sent Patrick on his way in a crib full of toys. Then we sat down to finish the history with infectious disease. Before we finished, Patrick’s surgeon came in.

Dr. Rollins, the surgeon, talked to us about what a dangerous situation we are in as Patrick is running out of more and more places to put lines. We’re aware of this, but hearing it vocalized by our surgeon made it all the more real.

Worse yet, he called from the OR as they were trying to place peripheral IV’s to tell us that they couldn’t get them in and to ask my permission to put in a “shallow central” line in his leg or neck. Apparently, they’d stuck him 8 times attempting to place a peripheral IV.

In the end, though, they got 2 peripheral IV’s in. Infectious disease didn’t like the idea of using a central line at all and asked them not to leave one in. So we find ourselves in a scary position now. Patrick needs IV’s for his nutrition and medication. He also needs to have labwork drawn to keep a close eye on his fragile health.. and we don’t know where else they can get needles in.

After talking to the surgeon, they let me go back to the recovery room where I found Patrick just by following his screams. He was hysterical and they told me that the anesthesiologist had prescribed me as his pain medicine. So I sat and rocked him and eventually got from screams to whimpers to sleeping.. But that was the situation for the next 5 hours or so. Patrick screamed bloody murder whenever anyone but me or Brian touched him. He was only content being held and rocked by one of us.

He just woke up about half an hour ago, though.. and for once seems back to himself. They gave him medicine for nausea and started his last transfusion of the day and it seems to have him finally feeling better. The best news is that he doesn’t have a fever.

Right now, he and his daddy and playing with toys in his crib. He’s not 100%, but doing ok for now.

Prayers for IV’s to last, for veins to be found when needed, and for Patrick to feel comfort in a very scary situation would be appreciated.

The attending from infectious disease explained that they don’t think this is the result of an untreated infection. The previous infection didn’t grow back. Instead they think these infections are coming from his gut.. and we don’t know how to stop that for now.

A lot is still up in the air. I’ll post more as I know it.

Worth the wait

Last week was one of the harder hospital stays we’ve had, and I think it’s because there was so much waiting for answers to scary questions… and while we waiting Patrick didn’t feel all that sick and couldn’t figure out why his boundaries were suddenly so much smaller. Had he not discovered opening and closing cabinet doors as a way to spend his time, I think I’d have been a goner.

After 3 days, the lab tests showed that the infection was, in fact, the same infection Patrick had back in January. This type of bacteria can sometimes live in the plastic of a central line. The doctors theorize that the reason Patrick only sometimes had low fevers and only sometimes acted sick was that the infection was living in the line and only sometimes making its way into his bloodstream.

The best way to make sure Patrick got better was to take out his central line. So – Thursday afternoon they took Patrick to do an ultrasound of his veins to see where a new line could be placed. Friday morning they explained a plan to me that involved removing his broviac line and putting in a temporary PICC line instead. (Please see previous blogs for descriptions of the differences between these lines). After 3 days, they’d take out the PICC line and put in a new broviac line instead.

I explained again that we’d been told that Patrick couldn’t have PICC lines because of the collateral vessels in his shoulders. But – it was better to try than to plan for peripheral IV’s in his hands and feet for 3 days.. So we went ahead.

Both the broviac removal and the PICC placement are sedated procedures and it took some talking to convince them that they could be done at the same time – but, despite a full-to-overflowing hospital, they made it happen.

We got ready by putting an IV in his hand where contrast could be injected and an NG tube down his nose to drain his stomach and make sure he didn’t vomit and aspirate again. This took over an hour to do. Patrick has learned to block tubes with his tongue as they try to pass them down his throat. It took several tries and a very crafty charge nurse to finally get it all done. With music therapy there to try to help calm him down, the room seemed a bit like chaos. In the end, Patrick was exhausted and furious. I took this picture as I tried to calm him down right before he fell asleep from total exhaustion.

Late afternoon on Friday, they took Patrick to Special Procedures where they use a technique called fluoroscope to view the blood vessels to view the blood vessels as they work.

The anesthesiologist gave Patrick a dose of Versed and let me hold him as it put him to sleep. This was a first for me, and interesting to see his reaction. First he got all giggly. They he took my face in both hands and gave me a big sloppy kiss on the mouth. They he went kind of limp and I put him on the procedure table and left as he was drifting off to sleep.

Less than an hour later, they called. They explained that he did indeed have collateral vessels that made a PICC line impossible. However, they’d put in a deep peripheral IV that would better survive the 3 day wait.

Picking Patrick up, I learned that Versed does two things to Patrick. It makes him loud, and it makes him fearless. He spent the entire ride to his room and then at least an hour afterwards yelling “Hi!” at the top of his lungs to every person who passed by.. including the ones all the way out in the hall where they couldn’t see him. He also took to jumping and climbing and bonking his head into things. (He still has a bruise between his eyes from this game).

Soon he got tired and went to sleep. And we went back to waiting. Surgery requires a 3 day wait before they can put in a new broviac line whenever one is pulled for infection. In the meantime, the sugar in Patrick’s TPN had to be reduced to prevent damage to the peripheral vein. This meant he didn’t feel quite as well. He also kept the IV in his hand because we don’t dare take out any working IV, for fear we won’t get one later when he needs it.

Patrick didn’t want to slow down, though. Within a day he’d figured out how to still crawl with a splint on his hand.. he was determined to stand at the side of his crib.. and he taught himself to sit up to make sure that no one else would be able to get away with trapping him by laying him down. It was an exhausting 3 days because he was extra motivated to stay active, despite his new restraints.

Finally, Monday rolled around and Patrick was eligible for surgery again. We waited all day, and finally Patrick’s doctor told the nurse to call and see what was taking so long. We found that his name had been accidentally left off the schedule. They added him at 4 and around 6:30 took him down to surgery.

While we waited for the anesthesiologist to come, Patrick was his usual bundle of energy. He discovered a pretty big blue button on the wall that he pushed. He was thrilled by the alarm that sounded and how quickly people made it to the room. Yes, he found and pushed the “Code Blue” button that is used to call emergency help when a patient stops breathing or worse. I caught on and cancelled the alarm as the anesthesiologist got to the room. He only got to the button once more as we talked, which just got a big grin from the doctor.

The pre-surgery talk with this doctor scared me. He explained that there were big risks in intubating when Patrick had RSV. He also explained that the surgery might take a long time, as they didn’t know for sure how hard it would be to get a line.

Again, they gave Patrick a dose of Versed and I kissed him as he drifted off then went to the waiting room – a nervous wreck. Howie joined me about 15 minutes later, and after another 15 minutes the surgeon appeared and explained that they’d easily gotten a line in.

When I got to the recovery room, Patrick was trying his best to sit up while everyone else tried to keep him laying down. An hour later, though, in the room, he was up and full of energy. Again, he was fearless. His nurse kept calling him “wild” as he would quickly try to escape guarding hands to stand and jump, etc. Fortunately, by 10 he wore himself out completely and other than being woken by vitals, slept through the night.

Tuesday morning, we were finally able to go home. We arrived home almost exactly 7 days after we were admitted to the hospital.

When you’re confined in a little hospital room, you don’t necessarily notice all the learning your child has done. Patrick is now able to sit himself up and just needs a little more practice to master crawling on hands and knees. He’s playing peek-a-boo and other interactive games. He is a HANDFUL and it seems as though it came overnight.

He was so happy to be home with space, though, and so was I! It’s so much easier to contain a tornado if it has a little bit of space to bounce around in. We’ve had to adapt some, though, to adjust to his new skills. It’s no longer safe to use the changing table.

Patrick did manage to break his line his first morning home, so we spent yesterday morning up at the hospital getting it repaired. (Big thanks are owed to the GI staff who managed this in their clinic and saved us a trip to a very overworked ER). Between that adventure and his daily appointments this week, I was quickly reminded that, even at home, keeping up with Patrick and his needs is plenty of work.

We did see his pediatrician yesterday and she was all grins as she handed me a growth chart that showed Patrick’s weight in the 5th percentile! He’s always been well under the lines on the growth chart. We’ve never even talked percentiles.

I don’t know how we’ve been so blessed that, even with infections, he’s been really very healthy for so long. But we are grateful as we take each day at a time. Some days are harder than others, but at least this week, the outcome is worth the wait.

Transplant Pre-evaluation: Day 2


Monday morning I woke up at around 6 a.m. to try to get everything packed and ready for a day at the hospital. Our first appointment of the morning was at 9 a.m. and we needed to arrive early enough to check in and find our way around.Our transplant nurse, Sandy Mitchell, met us in the “Whale” (outpatient) wing of Seattle Children’s Hospital. We had to stop and get badges at a security desk at the entrance identifying us as Patrick’s parents. Then we went to a registration desk in the middle of the main floor and they got us checked in. They gave us a “purple pass” to use to check in for the rest of our clinic visits that day so we wouldn’t have to wait in line again to check in, and then gave us a pager and sent us off to the cardiology waiting area.


Patrick’s first appointment was for an EKG. They stuck probes all over his chest… so many that you could barely find a patch of visible skin and then in just a few minutes had a printout of the electrical readings of his heart. The funniest thing about all this is that we did it all with him still in his stroller. Hooray for whoever at Carter’s thought up the snap front bodysuit. Best hospital clothes every dreamed up for a baby!

Next Patrick had an echocardiogram. This is an ultrasound of his heart and it took about an hour to do. We undressed him this time and I laid on the table with him and kept him calm and entertained. Between Baby Einsteins on the TV and the cool black and white images on the monitor, though, he didn’t need my attention much. Funny the opportunities that life presents you, though. I finally got the chance to see my baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound!

After lunch, we headed upstairs and met with the nutritionist for the intestinal transplant program. She looked over Patrick’s most recent lab results, his output history, and his current diet and then she made suggestions, which I’ll be blogging about in a future post. It was great to hear he say that she was happy with how Patrick’s care is being managed and that she fully trusts our dieticians here.

Our next appointment was probably the most brutal of the day. We spent 2 hours with the transplant coordinator and she went over all aspects of the transplant. She explained what they’re looking for in a transplant patient and how the approval process works. (Basically, after the workup the transplant team meets together and decides if Patrick is a good candidate for transplant and if they’re willing to list him, or if there might be other things they can do to care for him w/o a transplant). Then she explained that Patrick, if accepted, would be followed closely by the team in Seattle and would probably make regular visits back to Seattle pre-transplant so they can monitor his care.

She explained a bit about what to expect when an organ became available. We learned that he will have 6-8 hours max to get to Seattle once we get a call saying that there is a donor organ. He’ll need to be healthy at the time, of course. The surgery will be a very long one, followed by a hospital stay of at least a month.

Most of the talk was about what to expect after transplant, though. First of all, to prevent rejection of the new intestine, his immune system will be surpressed. Because of the risk of rejection and other complications, we’ll need to live close to the hospital so that he can have regular follow-up visits, including biopsies to check for rejection. He’ll be on immunosuppressants for the rest of his life, but in that first year, at least, his immune system will be incredibly weak. We’ll have to avoid public places as much as possible and avoid exposure to any kind of illness, bacteria, or other source of bugs that can cause him problems.. His diet will be limited, and at first he’ll probably still be on TPN as he learns to eat and eventually to get enough nutrition that way, but they’ll work to slowly wean him off of that. He’ll be at risk for a lot of big scary health problems, including rejection, infection, and a certain type of cancer that can develop when the immune system is supressed. Here’s more information about the risks and ramifications of life after transplant.

Our last scheduled appointment was with pre-anesthesiology, which was really a simple one, considering that Patrick’s had surgeries before. They we headed upstairs because they’d ordered a bunch of lab test. We pushed to have labs drawn through his broviac, but they still wanted us to ask at the lab for it to be drawn by just sticking a vein. They told us to ask for their best tech, which we did. He took one look at the list of tests and then at Patrick and said that he didn’t feel comfortable drawing that much blood from a kid this size, especially through a needle, when he has a broviac line. So, he took a little blood for some blood typing, gave us a bag to collect a urine sample and sent us on our way.

We were pretty overwhelmed that day and avoided giving updates because it was so much information to process ourselves. Instead, we went out to dinner and Patrick made our evening for us.

While we were eating, I looked over and noticed that Patrick was imitating my expressions while I ate. He was making chewing faces and licking his lips when I did. Then he started to blow bubbles and, well, I decided to blow bubbles back at him. The next thing we knew, he’d learned to blow raspberries and would happily spit back at us whenever we spit at him. It was a fun game to play for the rest of the evening and week, and definitely helped to lighten the load of a HUGE day.