Tag Archives: antibiotics

Watch out for waterlemons

A week ago Saturday, we decided to go out for breakfast at Paradise Bakery. Because of nut and egg allergies, we brought his breakfast along, but when he asked to play with my fruit cup (practicing his fork skills) I agreed.

He picked up a piece of pineapple, dropped it, and gave a very big scowl. I looked to see what was wrong and discovered a long, thin cut in his finger. I thought maybe one of the finger pricks from the previous weeks’ hospital stay hadn’t healed and was infected.

So, when we got home, I put some neosporin on it, and a bandaid. That night, when I changed the bandaid, Brian pointed out that the rest of that fingertip and the one next to it looked like they were burned. We asked Patrick how he got hurt. He said the “waterlemon” poked him.

We kept doing bandaids and neosporin. And then a couple of days later, I bumped Patrick’s other hand and got the same reaction. He jumped, pulled back, scowled, then started to cry. I looked and, lo and behold, the other hand was dry and cracking too. All of his fingers looked calloused, dry, flaking and cracking.

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I panicked a little bit. TPN dependence means risks of nutritional deficiencies. Zinc deficiency causes horrible flaking skin ulcers. Fatty acid deficiency can cause dry skin, but only once it’s severe enough that you also start wondering about brain development.

I called his dietitian and made her check his labs. They were ok, except a note about low Omega-6 fatty acids. The doctor had just said he thought it was ok. She suggested I rub Patrick in safflower oil.

This created quite a quandary for me. Last time I tried safflower oil in Patrick’s diet he had an allergic reaction because all culinary oils are processed on the same equipment so safflower oil can have peanut oil and almond oil in it.

So I decided to start using his regular eczema cream and keep asking.

I got a good picture of the problem and sent it to, well, everyone. His nurse suggested an allergy to the bandaids or neosporin. His GI and I had a long talk where we discussed ways to get him more fatty acids from increasing the lipids in his TPN to feeding him microlipids through the g-tube, to rubbing him in it. (Which I put more effort into. We stopped at Sprouts market that night and read every label until I found a lotion that had safflower oil, but nothing else he might be allergic to.) Finally, the University of Nebraska called back and said that Patrick’s labs had looked good in February and could not have possibly tanked that quickly and to stop worrying about deficiency.

So then I turned to Dr. Google. I try not to research symptoms on the internet. However, Google Images is a wonderful took for looking up skin conditions. I looked up pictures of zinc and fatty acid deficiency and they didn’t match. Then I looked up pictures of cracking fingertips and I found it…

Fingertip eczema. Caused by… a systemic allergic reaction due to prolonged exposure to an allergen.

I ditched the bandaids. Switched to hydrocortisone cream and aquaphor… kept rubbing Patrick in the safflower lotion for good measure because of the other deficiency anyway. And I stopped cheating Patrick on his benadryl pretreatment.

Because Patrick is allergic to vancomycin, the antibiotic they started him on 3 weeks ago, he is supposed to get a very high dose of benadryl before every dose of antibiotic. But that high dose does a number on his gut, not to mention his concentration and his mood. So when we came home from the hospital, I started backing off the dose.

So we upped the dose.. and then we got hospitalized and they took him back up to the full prescription strength. And they made him stay on vanco a few extra days in case that was the cause of the fevers, and then finally let it be discontinued.

Patrick’s fingers almost immediately started to get better. They are still dry and we are still doing a good lotion regimen a few times a day. Patrick voted down a few brands, but is really in love with Aquaphor (“Apa-poh”) and several times a day will ask permission to just dip his fingers in it. This is helping a lot.

Poor little kid.. as if there weren’t already enough other things to worry about this month. And I still can’t convince him to lay hands on another “waterlemon.”

Not again!

Here’s the ultimate test of the value of the switch to wordpress. I am trying a quick blog to update everyone everywhere about what’s going on.

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Taken a couple of weeks ago, during our last admission. He’s watching the construction going on outside the window.

So, quick version.. About 3 weeks ago Patrick had a really bad few days. His stomach was upset. He had a hard time concentrating. He was in a BAD mood and into everything. It went on long enough that even though his labwork didn’t show any signs of trouble, I requested a set of blood cultures and skipped a nap to drive all the way to the hospital to get them done.

And then, that night, as I was getting Patrick ready for bed, I checked his temperature and discovered he had a fever. We called his doctor and came up to the hospital.

We were here 6 days, our longest stay in over a year, because it took forever to get the infection to respond to the treatment. (For various reasons I may or may not expound on later.) And because it took an extra long time to get the right antibiotic dose. It was a frustrating stay because he never got horribly sick, but he had staph epi in his line and it’s notoriously hard to clear. And the longer it took to clear, the more the doctors wanted to try a different approach (understandably.)

And, well, because the night shift just couldn’t manage to help him sleep through the night. But that’s a gripe for another day.

I’m afraid I jinxed us. One of the dramatic changes the doctors wanted to do to be sure to clear the infection was to switch from using ethanol to using vancomycin, a targeted antibiotic, to protect the line.

I raised more than a little bit of a stink. I insisted that we still use ethanol at least 4 hours a day. I made the attending come discuss it with me. And I won.

But i felt guilty. And when we went home, I did my best to follow doctors orders and put a heavy preference on vanco locks over ethanol.

Fastforward to today. For the 2 weeks since bringing Patrick home, I’ve been giving antibiotics every 8 hours.. including a dose at midnight. Tonight was supposed to be our last night.

Patrick’s cousins are in town and we’ve been having a grand family party. Aquarium trip. Hiking in the mountains. And today they rented a bounce house.

Patrick and I were very excited about today. Only one matter of business to take care of. A visit to his physical therapist. We have been waiting for MONTHS for a new DAFO (brace) for his foot to help with his worsening muscle tightness. And, Patrick has been dying to show his therapist how he’s learned to ride a tricycle.

Well – we got to the therapy office. And we got in the elevator. And Patrick’s breathing got a little shallow. And he gave a little shiver. And a hundred memories rushed back into my mind and I knew something was wrong. I remembered what a bad and out of sorts day he had yesterday, how his tummy was upset, how he had a hard time concentrating and kept getting into trouble.

So the elevator doors opened and I didn’t get off. Pushed the down button and went straight to the family clinic on the first floor. And I asked for a thermometer.

A nurse came out and checked and at first his temp was normal, but she rechecked and got 99.0. In his low ear.

So, we hopped in the elevator and went back upstairs to cancel our appointment.

Patrick was distraught. He didn’t want to be sick. He wanted to see Miss Holly.

Well, Miss Holly came out and I explained what was happening and she explained that the brace company had rejected the cast we’d sent as a model for his foot and asked her to recast. If we missed this appointment, it would be another month without a brace.

So – we made a deal. I’d call the hospital, she’d cast his foot to get a mold for the brace. Patrick would, well, try to cry more quietly.

By the time we left the therapy office, Patrick was sold on going to the hospital. So, we hurried home. Checked a temp. 101.8 this time. 15 minutes later. I grabbed the transplant go bag because I didn’t want to waste time packing, gave him some tylenol, and we booked it up to the ER.

The tylenol worked. Mostly. His fever was the same when we arrived.

And so, here we are. We are antibiotics to cover all the major bacteria, and an antifungal. I threw a bit of a momma bear tantrum when they tried to tell me they didn’t think we needed the antibiotic that kills his recurring kleibsiella bacteria.

He doesn’t feel well. He is tired. He only napped for 10 minutes. We have tried going for walks and in the end, he just prefers to lay in the bed.

And so, here we are. Hoping culture results are fast and clear. Hoping we are giving him the right drugs. Wondering how we’re going to make tomorrow bearable.

Just like every summer.

Mid-July rolls around and I start to get nervous. And I hate that we are here because I don’t want to be superstitious about certain months. But for some reason, summers are always hard for Patrick.

And so, I’m quite discouraged tonight. I am sad to be missing out on my first-of-the season tomatoes that I harvested this week and the green beans on my plants waiting for harvest and the great big yummy yellow zucchini sitting in the fridge. I hate that Patrick and I had finally hit our stride again, finally had a routine again, finally were catching up on the chores again. (Does anyone want to iron a month’s worth of dress shirts?)… And now we are starting over all over again.

But at least it is 10:30 and I can go to sleep because tonight giving the antibiotics on time is someone else’s responsibility.

When the cat’s away, the mice will….

…Well, the idea was to play. This is the 2nd and last night that Brian will be away on business and I thought that, other than a Wednesday full of appointments, I had a pretty laid back schedule. So far, this past few days have been anything but laid back.

Wednesday morning, right after kissing Brian goodbye, I went to set out Patrick’s morning fluids. They weren’t cold. This was especially concerning as I’d been setting the fridge to colder and colder settings all week and there was snow on the ground outside.

So, as Brian was finishing up his last work before heading the airport, I was scrambling to shop for a new fridge. Thankfully, Patrick’s morning therapy appointment was cancelled which gave me just enough time to hit a few stores before his nap.

After his nap, we went to his monthly appointment with his GI at the hospital. All the news is good. Patrick is growing at a good rate right now… he’s still 50th percentile for weight… just above the target weight for his height. His liver is healthy. He’s about as stable as can be.

The only change we discussed was a change to his antibiotic regimen. Patrick takes oral antibiotics to help keep bacteria from accumulating in his stomach and gut. Only lately, it seems that he’s had more and more problems that lead to stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. So we switched around the medicines a little bit in the hopes that a new plan would make a difference, and then headed out.

We stopped at Sears on the way home to pick up the fridge that I’d picked out. You should have seen the look on the man’s face when I told him I wanted to put it in my car with my baby. Patrick wasn’t too excited about the idea either.

Still, we made it home and got the fridge up to his room and furniture and Patrick ready for bed.

We’d almost made it.. and then, as we were saying goodnight to Brian by video chat, Patrick stepped on the tube that was draining from his stomach and I heard a “pop”… and looked down to see that his button on the floor, the balloon that was supposed to hold it in still inflated.

Thankfully, my neighbor answered when I called and came quickly. It wasn’t easy, but we managed to get the button back in and Patrick comforted and into bed.

Thankfully, today was easier. Patrick and I managed to stay home the whole day with time to help my sister with a paper for school. But I got to talk to the GI clinic several times.

I started it. I called them to talk about how very difficult and painful placing buttons has been recently for Patrick. So first the nurse called back to find out more. Then Patrick’s dietitician called to talk to me about his TPN orders.

Apparently, as Patrick has had more and more stomach upset, and we’ve had to give more and more replacement fluids, his labs have been showing increased dehydration. They decided to try to make some changes to help him be more comfortable. They’re adding another half a liter of fluid to his TPN, plus some electrolytes so that we won’t have to give as much to catch up for what he loses.

Then, this evening, Patrick’s doctor called to talk. We reviewed the plan for hydration, and then he asked about the g-tube.

In the end of the conversation, we decided it was best to check to make sure that there isn’t a space between Patrick’s abdominal wall and his stomach making it hard to get a g-tube in. They’ll do that by taking out the tube, and then putting it back in filled with some contrast. This will let them see if there are any spaces or leaks to be concerned about.

We talked about doing this tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then sometime next week. The good news in the plan is that they’ve offered to give him a little bit of sedative to help him calm down and not remember the discomfort.

That’s a lot of changes in just a couple of days. Thankfully, I’ve had all the right help come at all the right times. Thank goodness for good friends, visiting teachers and family who’ve been there to help. And I’m sorry for those who may have called and gotten a frazzled forgetful me who couldn’t even think through all the details of this, let alone speak them.

Most of all, thank goodness for a good-natured, patient, loving little boy who has been incredibly cooperative and given hugs at all the right moments.

Brian may rethink his next business trip.

Who needs sleep?

There’s a song by the Barenaked Ladies called “Who needs sleep?” Here’s a line from that song: “With all life has to offer, there’s so much to be enjoyed. But the pleasures of insomia are ones I can’t avoid.”

If you’ve been waiting for an update on the concert, I need to apologize. See, Patrick’s been having a hard time sleeping this week. It seems every few nights something goes wrong and wakes him up. First it was diaper rash. (When his prescription strength creams fail him, the result is massive skin breakdown that makes me want to cry just looking at it.) Then, I accidentally turned off his TPN pump and had to monitor glucose and hydration in the middle of the night. And my little happy-go-lucky optimist responds to these discomforts by trying to cheerfully play through them. So instead of being up crying, he’s up jumping and playing until I pinpoint the cause of discomfort and get him settled.

So – my good intentions of writing earlier in the week were thwarted by extreme exhaustion. And then a series of coincidences landed us in the hospital for about 36 hours.. not helping sleep, but helping to remind me not to procrastinate.

Here’s a rundown of the other events of the week.

Wednesday, Patrick had an appointment with his GI, Dr. Jackson.  Patrick’s central line was a bit slow to heal this time around and was a bit weepy even 2 weeks after placement. So I asked the doctor to look just to make sure there was no infection there. Since we were looking for infection, he checked his temperature and it was 99.3. So – Patrick and I hung around for an extra couple hours in the hospital. Dr. Jackson came in and we took off his central line dressing so he could examine it up close and take a culture of any fluid that was there. It looked healthy, just healing, so I went ahead and put the dressing back on. Then we went down to the lab and had blood cultures drawn. Those cultures were all negative.

That night, I got that getting sick tickle in my throat and started to run low-grade fevers.. kind of like when you get a flu shot. Never sick, but not quite right. Since the cultures were clean, I said “Ok, he has a virus, too” and didn’t think more of it.

Friday, Brian came home early from work and since we’d all missed a lot of sleep, we all laid down for a nap. I got Patrick up to put on his afternoon TPN around 4. Only when I tried to draw ethanol out of his line, I just got air. Tried again, got air again. Finally, 3 syringes full of air later, I looked and found a hole in Patrick’s central line.

So away to the E.R. we went. They’ve implemented a new policy that sent us to the Rapid Treatment Unit (RTU) for the repair which, by the way, is WAY preferrable to the E.R. Many fewer bugs and much quicker, more attentive care. The RTU is set up to give basic medical care that takes 24 hours or less.

Well, part of any admission is to check a temperature and Patrick’s read about 100. They rechecked it rectally and it came up 99.8, so we could justify not automatically being admitted. I explained the viral symptoms, but they decided to check cultures anyway. Then they repaired the line and sent us on our way.

The next day, Patrick woke up feeling great! No fevers. So since it was memorial day weekend, we packed up and headed out to Tabiona – a small town in Eastern Utah – for a family reunion. He loved the car ride.. playing in the back seat, singing with the radio, napping, and even trying to figure out how to whistle. Had a great day with cousins, aunts and uncles.

That evening, we got home to find two messages on our answering machine. The blood cultures they’d drawn were showing a staph infection.

Now, in case you haven’t noticed this, I’ve spent a lot of time learning from infectious disease over the past year. And one thing they’ve taught me is that 1 in every 20 positive cultures is a “contaminant”.. that is, something that grew in the culture that didn’t come from the blood sample taken. And staph, although it lives on all of our skin and can get into central lines, usually isn’t one you pick up at home. It’s most often contracted in the ICU. Every positive “staph” culture Patrick has ever had has been a contaminant.

So – I called the doctor and made my case that Patrick wasn’t sick and that this was likely a contaminant. We decided to recheck the cultures on Sunday.

Well, Monday morning rolled around. For once, we were planning to be home for Brian’s day off and had a big to-do list.. And at 8 a.m. the phone rang. Sunday’s culture was positive for staph, too. Patrick’s still healthy, but we’d better go in.

So, just to be safe, that’s what we did. We got there at 9:30. Because it was a holiday, things took longer than usual.. but by early afternoon they’d drawn a new set of blood cultures and by 4:00 p.m. had started some antibiotics. Meanwhile, Patrick’s nurses got to run to try to take care of all of his basic daily needs.. a slow process when doctors have to write for them and pharmacy has to fill them before it can happen.

A quick soapbox moment. One of the most frustrating things about going into the hospital is how difficult it is to maintain the same quality of care and quality of life as at home. There are so many more steps, so many more people, and so many more lawsuit-prevention policies that it is exponentially more difficult to accomplish the same things that I do at home in the midst of daily life. In a short 36 hour stay, I think the nurses had to call the pharmacy at least 10 times about administration questions, late medications, and my ever-hated argument about whether or not they’ll let Patrick have his home TPN. (I usually lose this battle and they hang something with sugar, water and electrolytes but none of the good vitamins, minerals, and fats that he’s used to.) They started him out on a super high dose of antibiotics. (I won’t let that happen again. I’ve seen it done 3 times now with the same result and I’ll speak up next time.) And they accidentally ran his TPN at a 5% of it’s prescribed rate for the night. ( Thankfully, this only resulted in a grumpy, sleepless night as Patrick got hungrier and thirstier. They caught it in the morning and there was no other harm done.) I can’t really fault the nurses here. They work their tails off trying to get everything right within Patrick’s first 24 hours. The fact of the matter is that he’s a complex kid who has a lot of special care. For me it’s routine.. but in the hospital, it’s the exception. In fact, there are some things that require special permission every time because it doesn’t match hospital policy. Still, it’s frustrating to me to have to work so much harder to maintain the status quo. I much prefer to just do it myself at home. Ok. Getting off my soapbox now.

Yesterday morning, Dr. Jackson came on service. I ran into him at the nurse’s desk looking up info to find out why Patrick was in the hospital. We talked about the 4 sets of blood cultures that had been drawn. By then, the cultures drawn in the hospital Monday were still negative for infection. Looking back, it was looking more and more likely that we’d had two contaminants in a row. So Dr. Jackson said the words that we love him for saying so often: “I think you can do this at home. Would you like to go home?”

He helped sort out a few more questions and then set the wheels in motion for us to go home. Because they’d started Patrick on an extremely high dose of antibiotic, we had to stay till 4 to have them check his blood one more time to make sure that he’d been able to get it back out of his system. Brian got off work and up to the hospital by 5:30 p.m. and we made it home shortly after that.

Patrick will be on antibiotics for the next 2 days at least and then they’ll check cultures again to make sure that he doesn’t have a real infection. And then hopefully things can go back to our at-home normal again for a while.

Whatever happens, we’re resolved to made better use of this time at home. Procrastination isn’t really an option when you can’t tell where you’ll be hour to hour. I would hate to get the transplant call and leave my house in the condition it’s in right now.

And – I’ll be getting that blog entry about the concert up hopefully before the end of the day tomorrow.

Oh – the best news of all? With us healthy and at home, Patrick slept a blissful 11 hours last night! Which meant mom and dad got some sleep for once, too.