Tag Archives: dietician

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 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.