Tag Archives: cardiac arrest

Adoption memories

We had Patrick’s g-tube study done. (Great results! Nothing wrong. Just a slightly upward angle that makes positioning the tube tricky.) As part of the history, they asked when the gastrostomy (g-tube hole) was created and I realized last night that I could have answered “exactly two years ago.”

Why do I remember that? Well, because exactly two years ago yesterday, the court officially named us as Patrick’s legal guardians. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

A friend of mine has been doing something special this month on her blog. Because it’s national adoption awareness month, she’s been posting daily adoption related posts. She invited me to be a guest blogger and, by coincidence, will be running my post today… a very significant 2 year adoption anniversary for us.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for her. Here goes:

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Ours is not a typical adoption story, because Patrick is not a typical little boy. His life was meant to be something different, something miraculous, and so it required that it start in a very different and miraculous way.

But my part of the story starts the way a lot of others do. We wanted to have children. When that didn’t happen easily, we involved doctors. For years, we went through the ups and downs of charting and temperature taking, tests and medications. Finally, after several years and a minor surgery, our doctor sat us down for “the talk.” He explained that there were several causes of my infertility. The cards were, essentially, stacked against us. He still felt it very possible that we could have children, but only with major medical intervention. We had some big choices to make.

We talked about it and we prayed about it. And then, that Sunday, as we sat in church, we received a clear answer that it was time for us to stop medical treatments. Our child would come to us through adoption.

With a path finally before us, we moved forward quickly. I’ve never felt so driven to do anything before in my life. In under a month, we completed the application process, training classes, and were mostly done with our home study.

During our home visit, we had a conversation with our case worker that would play a major part in bringing Patrick into our family. She’d looked at our “preferences checklist” and noted that we seemed more open than most to adopting a child with special needs. We explained that we felt that adoption was a faith process. We believe that Heavenly Father puts families together. We knew we’d never turn away a child born to us with medical problems. So, if God was in charge of adoptions, too, then why would we limit His options? We knew Heavenly Father would help us find our child and that, if the child really belonged in our family, race and health wouldn’t stand in the way.

We decided to adopt in June. Our application was approved in September and we hunkered down for a nice long wait. We figured two years, at the least, was the average we’d heard. And still, by the end of October it felt like far too long. My heart ached for a child it knew was missing.

Then, on a very snowy morning the first week of November, my phone rang. It was my case worker. She started out by saying, “There was a little boy born on Halloween in Michigan.” My heart skipped a beat. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started scribbling notes. She told me he was Korean. And then, she went on to tell me that he’d had a birth defect. His intestines had developed on the outside of his abdomen. The doctors were saying he had a life expectancy of 1 to 2 years. They needed to find an adoptive home quickly because doctors wanted to discharge him from the hospital. All she could tell me about his family that his birth mother wanted him to be able to go to the temple to be sealed to a family.

She said she’d send an e-mail with more information and a picture. She encouraged me to talk to Brian and decide if we’d like to be among those families considered to adopt this little boy, and then to call her and let her know.

As soon as I gathered myself, I called Brian. But he wasn’t at his desk. Meanwhile, two e-mails arrived. One was a short paragraph from the baby’s caseworker in Michigan explaining his medical needs and the unconventional and hurried search for parents. In the other were two photographs of a sweet little Korean boy with great big eyes and an IV in his head.

Since Brian wasn’t at his desk, I called the insurance company to find out if this we even had coverage to pay for this kind of medical problem.

That’s how Brian first found out about the offer. While I was on hold with the insurance company, he called back on my cell phone, so he heard me finish the conversation about “preexisting conditions” and “adoption”.

I gave Brian the information and, after a quick moment of thought, he said he’d come right home.

We had a prayer together, then went to the temple – the perfect setting to make decisions about life and death and eternity.

I knew that families are eternal. I knew that mortality is not the end of life. And yet, I was filled with grief. It was as if I’d just been told I was carrying a child with a terminal illness, but he wasn’t even mine yet. And I was scared. I didn’t know if I was ready to leave the life I knew then.. abandon it all, and become mom to a child who would need so much help, and who had such an uncertain future.

Still, when Brian turned to me and said, “I think we should pursue this,” my heart leapt with joy.

So, we called our caseworker and gave her a list of questions we had. And then we went to visit our parents. We felt we should tell them about the offer, because we knew that whatever happened, we were never going to be the same. And we both wanted father’s blessings. We showed them the little boy with the angel eyes and explained that we didn’t know if he was ours.. But from that moment, all of our families were praying for a little boy whom the e-mail called “Patrick.”

That was Wednesday. Thursday, I sent a copy of our profile. Friday afternoon, as I on my lunch break with Brian, our case worker called my cell phone. The birth family had seen our profile and had chosen us to adopt their baby.

Now, we had a choice to make. Because we’d been selected, we could finally start filling in the gaps in the medical information we were getting. And boy, where there gaps! We called the baby’s caseworker, who referred us to the hospital social worker. Finally, we decided we needed to talk to doctors, and we needed to do it face to face.

I called my mom and told her to take my credit card and buy airplane tickets. Then, I went back to work, explained what had happened, and asked for a leave of absence. After that, we went to the adoption agency where we signed pre-placement paperwork required for us see the baby in the hospital.

Friday night, we tried to get ready. We booked a long-term stay hotel room. We faxed legal documents to Michigan. We make a shopping list of nursery items. And we tried to pack.

I packed my bags that night not knowing what exactly I was packing for. We still didn’t know enough to say if we could take care of this baby. We didn’t know if or when he’d be discharged. We didn’t know how long it would take before we’d be given permission to leave the state again.

And yet, Saturday morning as I sat on a plane to Detroit, 10 rows ahead of my husband, I felt a quiet, happy calm. If nothing else, I knew it would be ok.

We met Patrick, his family, and his doctor Saturday night. It wasn’t what we expected. Due to unforeseen problems, things were tense at the hospital when we arrived. We felt like we knew nothing at all about his condition when we heard the doctor’s account. His case was much more severe than we’d understood, but the immediate prognosis was better.

At last, they led us to his room. My first impression was of how small he was. He was SO tiny! Just a little ball with wires and tubes attached. Without them, you’d have never guessed there was anything wrong.

They let me hold him while we talked. He felt so small and fragile.

I thought that the moment I met my baby, or the moment I held him, that I’d know he was mine. But that isn’t what happened for me. There were too many questions, still and I’d have to wait for that confirmation.

Sunday, we arranged to spend the day with Patrick. The nurses were so kind to let us change his diapers and help with other aspects of his care. I sat for hours singing him lullabies and watching monitors and letting him sleep.

When we arrived, the nurses warned us that he had a reputation as a very irritable little boy. There was even a sign on his door warning not to wake him. He was famous for screaming hysterically if his sleep was interrupted. But that’s not the baby I met. He was just a sweet, tiny little boy who wanted to be held.

I remember singing to him: “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” And my voice choked on the words because I knew that right at that moment, Patrick didn’t have that. I couldn’t imagine how any little boy could go through all he’d need to go through alone.

That night, as we looked at pictures from the day, I came across one that showed just his face with a white background. I knew, when I saw that picture, that I loved him.. and I wanted to keep him.

Monday morning, we held a “family conference.” It was a business day so we finally had been able to confirm that there were doctors to take care of him at our hospital at home. Our insurance confirmed that he’d be covered. Brian needed to hop on a plane to go back to work. (He was running a conference that week.) So, knowing we had the resources to provide for his physical needs, we asked Patrick if he’d like to be a part of our family. I swear, he looked up at Brian and smiled.

The case worker rushed to the hospital and by 1, we’d signed paperwork, and I was on my way to the airport with my husband. I was staying behind to start a whole new life.

The next few weeks in Michigan are among the sweetest of my life. With nothing else to do but hold my new baby and learn to care for him, I virtually lived in the NICU. My mom came for a week and shared with me in Patrick’s first feeding, first bath, and first time wearing real clothes. This time was also some of the hardest I’d experienced as I received a trial by fire as a mom of a child with major health problems. Patrick had his second surgery the day Brian flew back to be with us.

Two weeks after we signed papers, on my birthday, the birth parents appeared in court, and we were named as Patrick’s legal guardians. A week later, we had permission to bring him home. At 4 a.m. Thanksgiving day, Patrick and I arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital by air ambulance. He’d spend the next few weeks there as the doctors here got to know him and made arrangements for us to take care of him at home.

Because of his medical needs, the courts granted an early finalization of his adoption and we were able to take Patrick to the temple to be sealed as a forever family in February when he was just 4 months old.

Patrick just turned 2. He is an active, happy toddler who loves cars and music and Elmo. He is a living miracle! Patrick’s birth defect came with a rare complication. As a result, at birth he was missing over 95% of his small intestine. Without intestine, he doesn’t get nutrition by eating. In fact, eating large amounts puts him at risk for dehydration and bowel obstruction. Instead, he is entirely dependent on a form of IV nutrition called TPN. He has a permanent IV tunneled through his chest, into a vein in his chest or neck that runs to his heart.

The TPN leads to complications like infection and liver disease. In his short 2 years of life he has already struggled with both. Patrick’s doctors warned us before we adopted him that we’d become such regulars in the E.R. that we’d be on a first name basis with the staff. We soon found that to be true not just for the E.R. staff, but also the IV team, the infectious disease team, the PICU team, most of the residents, several of the medical students, and the entire gastroenterology department.

At 9 months old, as a result of infection, Patrick’s heart stopped. The fact that he is alive now is nothing short of a miracle. No doctor who hears his story and then meets him can help but confess that he has beaten the odds in countless ways.

Patrick will eventually need an intestinal transplant. He is already running out of places to put new IV’s and each new infection makes him a little more fragile.

Since they don’t do intestinal transplants where we live, we have chosen to have Patrick listed at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Patrick has been on the waiting list since April of 2009. He is status 1A and will have his transplant is soon as a donor match is found.

People try to tell us sometimes what a tremendous thing we did in adopting Patrick. We don’t really feel it’s something we can take credit for. As we told our caseworker when this all started, Heavenly Father puts families together. He knew Patrick needed us. And what’s more, He knew we needed Patrick.

Raising Patrick has taught us more about life than any other experience. We have learned to rely entirely on the Lord. We have learned to live each moment to it’s fullest. We have learned to lean on one another when things are hard and we to trust in hands of friends and strangers when we felt too weak to stand on our own. And we have learned to love like we didn’t know it was possible to love.

Baby steps

I mentioned a while back that we were taking Patrick to see a doctor who specialized in rehabilitation and development. It’s about time I write about it.

The appointment went a lot more positively than I’d expected. I went in half expecting for her to see the muscle tone in Patrick’s foot and decide it was time for dramatic action. Patrick’s physical therapist had suggested botox injections and casting, and I was afraid that that was the next step.

I was so nervous, in fact, that I had Brian come along with me. That wasn’t the sort of decision I wanted to make alone. And he was kind enough to take the whole day off, which was an extra special treat.

They make you feel out a history every time you go into this office, including a list of everything that’s changed in the last 6 months since you were seen. This can be quite the task to list everything and I often just write blanket statements like “typical to short gut” so I don’t have to fill in all the hospitalizations, diet changes, etc.

The good thing about this form, though, is that it gives the doctor an idea of where to start, so she came in and right away said, “So why do you think he’s having problems with his foot?” We stripped Patrick down so she could see his muscles as he walked and then we had him walk back and forth between us. We also talked about the developmental lag I’ve seen on his right side versus his left. She watched the way he hold his hands when relaxed. She stretched his muscles to see how they move.

In the end, we didn’t decide anything new… but she confirmed a lot of things I’ve suspected. Basically, it looks as though there was some degree of brain damage caused by Patrick’s cardiac arrest. This isn’t a surprise. They did CPR for 15 minutes, which means that for 15 minutes, he didn’t have a good supply of oxygen to his brain. In fact, everyone’s always amazed at just how well he IS doing in spite of that.

This doctor, even telling me that there seems to have been damage, still calls him a miracle and says that he is far, far healthier than his medical history would predict.

The official diagnosis she gave is “dystonia”… which basically means “irregular muscle tone.” In layman’s terms, it means that his brain sends the message to move the muscle, but the message gets garbled somewhere along the way. The message the foot get tells the muscles to flex harder than they should or in the wrong direction. The faster he tries to go, the more the signal gets confused and the more unpredictable the movements.

She said to just keep working with him. She said that these muscle tone issues could vary in how much they affect him as he grows and the muscles relax or get tighter. In the future, they might still recommend injections of botox into the muscles to weaken them so he can have better control of them. But that’s not for now.

For now, we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing. We’ll keep a brace on his foot and we’ll do stretches every morning and night. We’ll keep encouraging him to walk wherever he goes and we’ll hope that, like the rest of his right side movements, he’ll get better with practice so that you don’t even notice a difference unless you know what you’re watching for.

It’s a relief to have my suspicions confirmed and plan of action approved. For the past year I’ve been telling therapists that I suspected something was wrong. It’s only been since we started working on walking with his newest PT that it’s been clear that something actually was wrong.

It’s discouraging, though, too to know that he’s going to have this battle ahead of him. He’s young enough that his brain is very “plastic”, very adaptable and it is possible for him to overcome most of the effects of this… But it’s going to require a lot more effort from him and from me to learn to do those basic things.

Still, he’s making amazing progress with his “boot”. He spent 15 minutes yesterday walking 6 feet between his therapist and myself. Then, he spent most of the evening walking across my mother’s living room. He lets go when he’s playing next to furniture. He refuses to have two hands held while he walks. He is getting faster and steadier and braver. He’ll be walking in no time.

How everything changed in a moment

WARNING: THIS POST INCLUDES DETAILS OF PATRICK’S CARDIAC ARREST AND SUBSEQUENT PROBLEMS IN THE ICU, INCLUDING PICTURES.

I’ve been asked to explain several times the events of this week. I’ve decided it’s probably easiest if I just take some time to sit down and write this in a blog. It will save frequent emotional repetitions for me… preserve some of the last week while it’s still fresh in my mind… and hopefully give some answers for those who are wondering how things got to where they are. These are things that are still hard for me to remember and talk about so please don’t be hurt if I don’t want to talk more about what I’m posting in this entry.

In my last post, I wrote about a yeast infection called candida that Patrick had in his central line and in his blood. He was hospitalized for 11 days in June for that infection and then went home on antifungal medications. On July 5th his fever returned and we came back to the hospital to learn that the infection had grown back again.

In order to treat the persistent infection, they decided to return to giving him a very dangerous medication called amphotericin (a.k.a. “ampho-terrible”). He was on a very high dose but seemed to be doing ok. He always got chills while it was being given and wanted to be held and held very still, but all other signs pointed towards it doing it’s job without too much problem.

On the 15th, we were making plans to go home. We would give 3 more weeks of treatment at home to make sure the infection didn’t come back. However, before we went home, we decided to try giving the medication the same way he’d get it there. This meant shutting off his TPN (IV nutrition) for a few hours while the medicine was being administered.

He’d been doing so well that I ran home to shower and take care of a few things right before they were supposed to start the ampho. I got back an hour into it and he just didn’t seem to be tolerating it well. His hands were as cold as ice, despite several blankets and heatpacks. He was pretty restless. We tried to feed him to comfort him, but that just make him sicker.

About 3:30 p.m. he got really agitated and started to squirm and pull at his ears and cry. Then he just went limp. I called his nurse in and she called in one of the charge nurses. They took him from me and started administering CPR.

They also hit a button on the wall that pages for a “Code Blue” on the PA system. In under a minute the room was filled with people. A PCT who had cared for Patrick before came immediately to my side, as did a social worker and they stayed with me until we were delivered into the hands of another social worker in the PICU.

One doctor took charge of calling out orders while another kept track of everything that had been done. There were at least 10 people bedside helping with CPR, medications, watching vitals and I don’t know what else.

After about 15 minutes (a.k.a. an eternity) they finally revived him and they took Patrick straight to the Pediatric ICU. I followed with the social workers and his nurses in another elevator.

On the way up I finally got a hold of Brian and told him to come up and where to find us.

Normally parents are taken to a waiting room, but they knew us and how involved we are with Patrick’s care so they let us stay and watch as they placed an arterial line to monitor his blood pressure and worked to find out what happened.

The best guess is that his weakened little body was hit with a few things at once. Being off his TPN caused his blood sugar to drop. At the same time, his weakened kidneys weren’t processing potassium in the right way. When those two things hit at the same time, it created a sort of perfect storm that caused him to seize and caused his heart to stop.The next day they worked madly to stabilize him. His organs had been starved for oxygen for long enough that they’d forgotten how to work. His blood sugar was all over the charts. His potassium levels were out of control. He was anemic and his platelet count just kept dropping. His nurse that day didn’t sit down for the entire 12 hour shift.

Over the next few days things started to stabilize but there were a lot of things out of whack still. His spleen, which had already been in bad shape because of his cholestasis (liver damage) and prolonged infection, decided to protect itself by sequestering all the platelets that went through it. As a result, although they were giving multiple transfusions, his platelet count was still low and he was bleeding easily from anywhere that could bleed. His kidneys also had kind of shut down and so all of the extra fluids being poured in to give transfusions and electolytes and medicines weren’t being cleared by his body. Instead they were soaking through the veins and collecting in the other tissues of his body.

To top it all off, he had some bacteria “leak” from his gut and get into his bloodstream causing a bacterial blood infection.

Saturday they tried to extubate him, but by Sunday morning it was pretty obvious that he was having trouble breathing. X-rays showed that the fluid in his tissues had made it’s way into his lungs. And so they had to put him back on the ventilator and started to give him medicines to make his body shed the extra fluid.

We watched and prayed and waited and tried to get ready to say goodbye until Wednesday when something amazing happened. Patrick peeked at me through heavy eyelids and seemed to know that I was there… He started reaching with his hands and so I gave him a rattle… and he shook it! The next day I was actually able to get him to laugh!

As the day went on, he woke up little by little and started to play peek-a-boo and smile and hold toys. His X-rays and labwork improved. As he woke up, they started to wean him slowly off the ventilator and off the sedatives.

His throat was very swollen and we weren’t sure if the airway would stay open without the tube in. But Friday evening they decided the only way to know would be to try. So they took him off the ventilator and put him on high flow oxygen. And he was the happiest kid you could imagine.

Without the breathing tube to bother him, they were able to turn off his sedatives and we became aware of what might be another problem. We noticed as Patrick started waking up that he wasn’t focusing his eyes well… staring off into space and not always following what’s going on in the room. He’s also been holding his head and arms very still. When these issues didn’t go away when the sedatives started wearing off, we became more concerned.

Neuro came to see him and said that they think there is reason to evaluate him. He will have an MRI on Monday as well as a neurodevelopmental workup. There is a possibility, especially considering how long he was down, that Patrick’s brain was damaged. Neuro will be able to help us see if that is true… and if it is, they’ll help us do all we can to help him do the best that he can.

Regardless of how weak his body is, though… the spirit inside of it is still Patrick’s. His eyes still sparkles and he loves to play and laugh with us. It has been a gift to be able to hold him and play with him again… to know he knows us and loves us still. It breaks our hearts to see that magnificent spirit confined by such a weak little body and we hope that those limitations will be brief.

As far as long term planning- Patrick will need to stay in the ICU until he is better able to breathe on his own. He is doing it right now, but he is working very hard at it. He’s on hold for transplant until he can go back to Seattle for another evaluation. At the very least, he will probably now need a liver transplant along with the small bowel transplant. We won’t know if he’s still healthy enough for transplant, though, until he is evaluated again. We’ll continue working with the doctors and therapists and nurses here to help Patrick regain as much as he can. And the rest we’ll leave in the Lord’s hands.

We’ve always known that there was a plan for Patrick’s life. We’re just humbled to get to be the parents in that plan. We trust Heavenly Father to take care of the rest.