Tag Archives: Dr. Reyes

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.

So what is tomorrow’s surgery, anyway?

We’ve had a lot of questions recently about Patrick’s surgery. Seems that there’s some questions about what exactly is going on. I’m going to attempt to explain what is happening in this blog post.

First, though… This is not his transplant, nor does it eliminate the need for his transplant.

Patrick is scheduled to have his small and large intestines reconnected tomorrow. To understand why this is necessary, let me tell you a little bit about his anatomy. While the average small intestine is about 20 feet long, Patrick was born with just 10-15 centimeters of small intestine. He has under a third of his large intestine. Because the large intestine has never been used, it is pencil thing. In contrast, the small intestine has been trying to adapt, which means it is larger in diameter than it would normally be. Here are a couple of images taken in April that might help you to visualize what that means.

From The Hoopes’s’s
From The Hoopes’s’s

The small intestine has three parts with 3 different roles. You can read about them here. Patrick only has the first part, the duodenum, which is very short, and an equal portion of the second, the jejunum.

The surgeons at the hospital where Patrick was born were not comfortable trying to put two pieces that were so very different in size together. Instead, they opted to create an “ostomy”, or “outward hole”. They made a whole in his side and brought the end of his small intestine out through it.

This option has it’s advantages. It’s easier to keep his skin healthy. (Patrick’s small intestine ends before stomach acid is reabsorbed so his stool can easily burn the skin.) And it’s easier to track fluids lost so that we can replace the water and electrolytes he loses. (The small intestine also ends before water and electrolytes used in digestion are reabsorbed.)

However, Patrick’s transplant surgeon and GI have asked us to take down the ostomy and connect his intestines. There are risks in having an ostomy. As his liver begins to scar, it will start looking for other ways to send blood away from it. The result is that smaller vessels will carry more blood than is usual (hyperportal tension) and a stoma could start bleeding uncontrollably.

Furthermore, the colon, while it doesn’t absorb nutrition, does absorb some bile and water and electrolytes, so in the end Patrick might lose less. This would mean he could eat more without it becoming dangerous for him.

Finally, Dr. Reyes says that he’s learned over the last 20 years that patients whose colon is in use, rather than having an ostomy, fare the wait for a transplant better. The body is happier when all the organs that can be working are. And the colon sends bile and water back to the liver, which is the liver’s version of job satisfaction. It will work better because it’s getting a positive response from it’s work.

So… the next questions you ask me are these.

1) Does this mean he won’t need a transplant as badly? No. Although the intestine does a fabulous job of adapting when it’s shortened, Patrick still is missing the vital section called the ileum where all the nutrition is absorbed. Without it, he is TPN dependent, which is where the risk to his life lies.

2) Will his diapers be normal? Well, yes and no. He will poo now. But it will still be mostly water and bile, kind of like a severe case of diarreah. We’ve been told we’ll change at least 12 diapers a day and need to use heavy duty diaper creams in order to keep the skin from breaking down in diaper rash or worse. We will also probably have to do some form of “double diapering” to prevent against explosive leaks that are common in kids with short gut and to be able to continue to monitor the fluids he loses so they can be replaced.

3) What will his recovery time be? We’ve been told to expect at least a week of recovery. He’ll go first to the PICU because he failed extubation in July. The critical care doctors will then be able to wean him off of the ventilator at a pace that is better for him. Once he can breathe on his own, he might be transferred to the infant unit… or he might stay in the PICU. It all depends on how his recovery goes.

4) Is this a risky surgery? Well, yes. With the run of infections Patrick has had lately, they are operating with him not quite as healthy as they would normally ask. There are risks of the connection leaking, or losing even more of his intestine, of the wound not healing because the skin where they are operating is so frequently exposed to stool. It’s also risky to reintubate Patrick right now. But, the risks of bleeding from his stoma are worse and Patrick is the healthiest he has been all summer, so it’s a chance we need to take.

5) What will happen on surgery day? We’ll get the time for surgery this evening. Tomorrow Patrick will fast. We’ll be admitted through outpatient surgery because Patrick’s surgeon was scheduled to be off tomorrow and added Patrick on because it was the time that was best for Patrick. The wait for surgery itself is always a bit nebulous. We’ll meet a surgery nurse and an anesthesiologist, and then finally Dr. Rollins will come talk to us.

In addition to the intestinal surgery, Patrick will have a liver biopsy, have his PICC line removed and a new broviac line placed, and have a scope done by urology to look for scarring from the catheter he had placed in July while he was in the PICU. The total OR time scheduled is about 3 1/2 hours.

We’ll wait in a parent’s waiting room where they’ll come to keep us up to date. Then instead of going to recovery, he’ll go straight to the PICU.

6) Are you nervous? It’s always hard to take your child who is healthy and happy and playing to a surgery knowing that there are risks involved… and even in best case scenario, knowing he won’t feel well for several weeks afterwards. However, we’ve been praying about this and feel calm that things will go as they’re meant to.

So – there you go. All you could hope to know about tomorrow’s surgery. We’ll do our best to keep you updated as soon as we know what’s happening. Most of the time, we’re waiting for answers, too.

Thanks for your continued prayers and support.

Re-evaluation at Seattle Children’s

Sick boy on beanbag

You may have heard that Patrick had a day of office visits scheduled at Seattle Children’s hospital last week. After his cardiac arrest and the many complications that followed, they wanted to see him again to see if anything had changed that would affect his transplant status. They also wanted to look to see if he needed to be listed for a liver transplant.

Daddy & Patrick in the ERWhat you may not have heard is that Patrick was hospitalized Sunday night with another infection. This time it was a staph infection which, if caught early, can be treated through his central line and clear easily or, if more established or more resistent, could become a very persistent infection that can hang on for months.

I called Seattle Children’s and tried to reschedule our appointment. However, Dr. Horslen was going to be away for the next several weeks and they didn’t want him to stay inactive on the transplant list for that long. After a few days and some discussion, we made the decision on Tuesday to have Patrick admitted at Seattle Children’s so they could both treat the infection and do the evaluation.

We got the final go ahead late in the day Tuesday. I was up till 1 a.m. packing.  Wednesday he was discharged from Primary Children’s with just time to go directly to the airport. The flight went well. They only real difficulty was that Patrick’s ostomy bag started leaking at takeoff. Well, and that I got a tad bit lost in the airport because we landed in the international terminal and airports aren’t as well marked when you have to take the back elevator routes.

Nevertheless, we arrived at Seattle Children’s around 6 p.m. – just as they were changing shifts. We met part of the medical team that would be following him and, as usual, wowed them by giving them in writing all the information they really would need. It took some time to get orders written, so we had another late night as labwork and meds came trickling in. It was about 2 a.m. before we made it to bed again.

Smiley in SeattleThe nice thing about being inpatient is that it gave me a sense of what things will be like during his recovery after transplant. We started with an early abdominal ultrasound, specifically a doppler. Yes, this looks a bit like the weather map images, only it shows the flow of blood through the veins. They were looking to see if portal hypertension was developing. (As the liver scars, it starts to send blood through other vessels creating extra blood pressure through them. It can cause lots of complications.)

The team rounded about 10 a.m. It was a big group, about 15 people, including his GI Dr. Horslen, his transplant coordinator, nutritionist, and others who specifically follow him. They had looked at the ultrasound and the labs from the night before and at his labwork. Both looked as good or better than they had in April.

Dr. Horslen came back later in the day to talk to me and said he was very glad we’d come. He’d imagined he’d find Patrick in much worse shape after the reports he’d been getting. He did a physical examination, too, and then said that he didn’t think Patrick’s liver was really in bad shape yet. He said that the problems with his spleen were probably mostly due to the many months of infection that Patrick has been through, meaning that hopefully when he’s healthy, his spleen will improve, too.

We discussed other goals, too… including taking down Patrick’s ostomy and replacing his PICC line with a broviac line when he could have surgery. We’ve been going the rounds on the question on whether or not Patrick should have his g-tube removed, too, before portal hypertension makes it bleed and be more difficult to close. However, Dr. Horslen said he was under the impression it was unused when he recommended that, and that if we were using it, he’d be ok with us leaving it in.

It was great to talk to him and to watch him play with Patrick. Not only is he brilliant, but he has a wonderful bedside manner. It made me happy to remember that there was at least one big reason why we chose Seattle Children’s for transplant.

We also had visits that day from the nutritionist and a care coordinator. And then in the afternoon we got to have a little bit of lazy time. Child Life brought Patrick some bubbles and it was fun to watch him experience those for the first time.

When the nurse came on the night shift and Patrick was playing with her while she took vitals she frowned and said “Do you really have to go home tomorrow?” I was surprised because I’d expected to need to be there at least through the weekend… But before midnight they had me making lists of what would be needed for me to be able to go home on the 5 p.m. flight the next day.

Rounds in the morning confirmed that they felt Patrick could go… assuming that we made sure he got a visit from Dr. Reyes, his surgeon.

The rest of the morning I packed and kind of waited for word that we were really going. A volunteer came to play with Patrick so I’d have hands free. About noon, I still hadn’t heard one way or another, so my nurse started making calls for me. I looked at flights and now there was only 1 left and the price had doubled. But – the insurance company agreed they’d rather pay for extra airfare than another night in the hospital – and so I started working on booking a flight home.

Dr. Reyes came in about 1. We talked again about the importance of taking down Patrick’s ostomy. He told me a bit about starting intestinal transplants in Pittsburgh 15 years ago. (He was on the team that did the first ones.) And he explained how they’d learned that the surgery wasn’t really effective without a strong GI team behind it to make sure the patients stayed healthy. He also explained that one thing they’d learned in that time is that survival rates are better without an ostomy.

I ran our other surgical plans past him (liver biopsy, broviac line, and possibly g-tube.) He looked at me and said, “Leave the g-tube in. He’ll need in later.”  So I guess that settles that.

He left and I immediately went back to booking a flight. Meanwhile, the care coordinator came and brought me a cab voucher. My nurse got Patrick ready and booked the cab while I got the ticket. And I literally hung up the phone, put away a few things, and walked out the door.

Flying HomeThe flight home went smoothly. Howie was there to meet us. We had some adventures waiting on the way home including a flat tire, a broken jack, and eventually a tow home. But at last, we are home.

They discussed Patrick’s transplant status in their meeting yesterday. They were ready to move him back to status 1 for a small bowel. They will not yet list him for a liver. When they checked his labs, though, they found a blood culture positive for infection… so the doctors are discussing what to do now. He’s not sick and it could have been a contaminated sample. But they have to work that out before Patrick’s listing is made active again. Time will tell.

Transplant Pre-evaluation: Day 3

Tuesday morning found us back at Seattle Children’s again bright and early. Our day started in ultrasound. They wanted images of his digestive system and the central-line eligible veins in his neck. With so much to image, we had 3 hours scheduled with ultrasound.

Keeping a 6 month old still for 3 hours while goop is being rubbed around on his abdomen and neck is quite the feat. We went through every toy that I’d brought along… rattles, books, rings. In the end, the only way to keep his head still for images of his neck was to let him watch my cell phone’s media player. It was interesting to watch them map the flow of blood through his veins and to see his broviac line. Patrick was a big fan of the black and white images on the screen.

In the end, the ultrasound took 3 and a half hours, not 3, and we had to run to make our next appointment with the department social worker.

Because the transplant process can turn your life completely upside down, part of the workup is a meeting with the social worker. She asked a lot of questions about us to make sure that we were up for the task. We talked about our coping mechanisms, our family, friends and other support systems. She told us about programs in place that could help us like the Ronald McDonald house (as a place to stay during Patrick’s recovery), Angel Flight (for transportation to and from many doctor’s appointments in Seattle, and the Children’s Organ Transplant Association(a.k.a. COTA, a charitable organization that will create an account to save and fundraise for transplant in). The social worker will be our go-to person for a lot of the logistics of planning and paying for the transplant, which will be invaluable, as this is not easy or inexpensive by any means.

Because we were running late, the appointment with the social worker was divided in two to give us the chance to meet with the surgeon, Dr. Reyes. Dr. Reyes is an expert in intestinal transplant. He’s originally from Brazil but you’d never guess it from talking to him. He explained to us a little bit about how the transplant works. He also explained the difference between an isolated intestine transplant (intestines only) and a liver-intestine transplant. The first would be done if Patrick’s liver were still in good condition. The chances of rejections are a bit higher, but if the bowel were to be rejected, they could remove it and wait for another donor. The latter would be done if his liver is in bad condition. The liver, pancreas, and intestine would all be transplanted at once, still connected to each other. The liver helps to protect the other organs from rejection – but if it is rejected, then the chances of finding another donor before the situation becomes fatal are pretty slim.

We were surprised when he asked us if Patrick’s small and large intestines had been connected. We had been previously told this wasn’t possible because the small intestine was oversized and the large intestine was pencil-thin from lack of use. But Dr. Reyes thinks it would be very beneficial to connect these. Patrick has a good portion of colon left that could help absorb water so that fluid loss would be less of a concern for Patrick and we could perhaps feed him more. This wouldn’t eliminate the need for transplant, but would reduce some problems in the time we’re waiting.

After wrapping up with the social worker, we ran over to neurodevelopmental. There a developmental specialist met with us. She took a quick history while we fed and changed Patrick, then she did her evaluation. This was probably his favorite appointment. Basically, she played with him to see what he knew how to do. The funniest was when she was testing his verbal repetition. She’d say “Aaaa…. Now your turn” and he’d respond by blowing raspberries back, since he’d just learned to repeat that sound and was quite proud of his new skill. In the end, her analysis was that he lacks some muscle tone, but that he is developmentally right on target for his “adjusted age”… meaning you subtract 3 weeks from his age because he was born 3 weeks early and he’s just where a 5 month old would be.

Our last appointment of the day was with Dr. Horslen the gastroenterologist. Dr. Horslen is one of the best known gastrointerologist in the world of short gut syndrome. He is from England and just transferred to Seattle from the very established program in Omaha, NE. He is oozing with British-ness. Patrick was finally napping by the time we got to that appointment so he slept while we repeated Patrick’s medical history again. Then Dr. Horslen examined him and he woke up and gave him a big grin. Dr. Horslen labeled him a charmer from the start.

Dr. Horslen told us that he and Dr. Jackson (our GI in Utah) have known each other since Dr. Horslen first arrived in the U.S. and said he respects him very much. He is very willing for the 2 of them to work together as a team. He did go on and tell us what changes he’d make if he were treating Patrick in Washington. 1) He said he’d reconnect Patrick’s intestines. (Which made us happy to hear… we’re excited about this possibility.) He explained that not only would Patrick have less water loss this way, but that the stoma can start to bleed uncontrollably as the liver fails… something that there’s no real reason to put Patrick or us though. 2) He suggested that we follow some of the suggested changes in diet and TPN. 3) He said he’d replace Patrick’s lipids with Omegaven (a topic I’ll have to cover in another post). They’re doing a study at his hospital and he’s allowed to distribute it in the state of Washington. 4) He’d do a contrast study of Patrick’s intestines… (Also to be explained later)… basically, take some images to see what’s there.

Then he threw in a 4 that we’d been expecting since the social worker ran into us at dinner and accidentally let it slip… He needed to see Patrick’s bloodwork right away to know what else needed to be done… And since Patrick was VERY anemic… He’d admit him to the hospital that same night so he could have a transfusion after the blood was drawn. They had a room ready for us to be admitted that night.

Now, in the interest of keeping this blog readable, for it’s length… and just for the fun of the suspense… I’m going to leave you in that cliffhanger until I find time to write again.