Tag Archives: food allergies

Transplant Day 75 and eating

If I had to pick a word to describe the current focus of our days it would be: food. Patrick has always enjoyed food, but also seemed to know that it didn’t sit right with him to eat much, and so he always reigned himself in pretty well. But now that he has his “new belly,” Patrick has a renewed and kind of voracious interest in food.

Yesterday, we started our outpatient time with morning appointments. We got up early to be ready for Patrick’s morning nurse visit and blood draw. (We do this twice a week to check his nutrition and medication levels.) This is a pretty big feat right now. Instead of being able to put Patrick in a tub while I get things ready, right now he needs a sponge bath and the dressing on his ostomy incision changed.

We had an 11 a.m. appointment with an occupational therapist who also does feeding therapy. I needed to call to confirm that the plan really was to see her, because of some confusion as we went out the door on Friday.. and when that call was done, our time was pretty short. Patrick likes to start his day by sitting down and chewing up a couple of slices of ham. He eats for about an hour. And we didn’t have an hour.

So I tried to sweeten the deal. I promised him we could eat out. I’d take him to McDonalds for pancakes. (Note: this was previously one of our favorite mommy/son dates.) Nope. Patrick threw what I think was the first all-out tantrum I’ve ever seen from him. He wanted his ham.

Once he calmed down, we went to McDonald’s anyway. I talked them into giving me some of the ham from the McMuffin sandwich in place of the sausage in the Big Breakfast. He had both ham and pancakes, plus some powerade (which was a splurge).. and he forgave me.

The appointment was interesting. He was all over the place which made it kind of hard to work with him. She did some testing of his fine motor and attention skills, then we talked about food. She explained that she uses a sensory program designed to help kids become brave enough to touch, taste, smell and otherwise explore food. I told her we might already be past that. But we decided to give it a try to see if it would help. And we set up bi-weekly appointments for the next month. (This is terrifying to me. It will burn through Patrick’s therapy visits in no time at all.)

Anyway – once the appoint was done, we came back to the Ronald McDonald House for lunch. This time, soup. Chicken broth is one of Patrick’s biggest go-to foods. He eats at least a cup a day. And he dips at least 4 rolls of slices of bread in it while he eats it. This also can take up to an hour.

Patrick happily came back to the room to play for a little bit in the afternoon, giving me time to get a few phone calls made. (Working on setting up some respite care that we have qualified for once we get home… I’m going to need to hire someone to do this and finding the right person seems like a very intimidating idea. But we’ll get there.)

Then, it was time for school. Patrick did great this time! Would you believe that his teacher can tell him specific letters to write and, although sloppy, Patrick is making the right shapes for them? They also worked on reading a book and some counting and sorting activities. I think it was our best school day here yet.

After school, we had snack time. Thinking that Patrick needs to go back a little bit in food demands and start where babies start learning to eat, I’ve been trying out different big-kid flavored purees. I introduced him to guacamole and he actually really loved it, so we have some for snack every day. And when we ran out and he still wanted to eat, I grabbed the next in the “new foods” category and pulled out a jar of SoyNut butter.

Patrick’s allergic to peanuts and therefore peanut butter, but insisted this week that all kids need peanut butter. So when we found a good allergy-safe department at a grocery store this week I picked up a jar of low-sugar soynut butter. That sounds pretty unappetizing, but I actually liked it better than the Sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) that we tried last week. The taste is pretty similar. And he really liked it.

In fact, after exploring dipping teddy grahams in it for a while, I mentioned that my family has always liked peanut butter filled celery. Well, Patrick wanted to try and I happened to have some celery. Not only did he enjoy licking the soynut butter out of the celery, but then decided to try out taking bites of the celery and chewing it up, too. This is kind of huge from an oral motor skills standpoint.

We ended snack as the dinner group started to arrive to cook dinner. Patrick loves being the welcoming committee for the house and made friends quickly. But we didn’t stay in their way too long. One of the women from church who came and sat with Patrick last week came again last night to play with him. I was feeling caught up enough to stay and get to know her a bit while we played. She brought walkie talkies, which Patrick loved. (And it kind of helped because when he’d sneak away, I could ask him where he was or call him back. I kind of found myself wishing I still had them again today.) Patrick laughed for the whole hour she was here. He really needed that. So did I. And we were excited to find we share a love of hockey. And then she left and we went to dinner.

For dinner, we are a bit at the mercy of what the dinner groups choose to make for us. I’ll make Patrick alternatives but am trying to teach him to try different things that are served to him. Well, last night he just wanted the ham that I’d shorted him for breakfast. After much negotiation, we agreed that if he’d try the spaghetti they’d made, I’d let him have ham. He took two bites and then settled in with his ham.

But of course, just as we started clearing up plates, he asked for spaghetti again and sat down and licked the sauce off of a whole bowl.

We stayed up a little late last night talking to Daddy because it had been too many days and we really missed talking. We didn’t have committments this morning so I figured we could afford to sleep in.

I accidentally woke Patrick sneaking away to go to the potty this morning instead of snuggling with him. So we got up anyway. He really kind of needed a bath anyway, so I went and set up his sponge bath.

But, just as I got him naked, even taking the dressing off of his incision, the fire alarm rang. Talk about bad timing. There we were trying to get a dressing and diaper and clothes while they were banging doors telling everyone they really did need to get out.

By the time we got downstairs, I could see a group that was maybe from the house being led away somewhere far across the parking lot. But I was in PJ’s and Patrick was in an assortment of fleece I’d thrown on him and we were wrapped in blankets and if I was wrong about them, then I’d be crossing the parking lot carrying him (it was so loud he couldn’t settle down to walk) in the cold for nothing. I had grabbed my cell phone, but not my keys so we couldn’t get in the car. I looked up and saw a fire truck approaching and decided that was the better place to go wait.

We walked around front and the firemen came over and brought Patrick stickers and offered him the chance to look in their fire trucks. (He said thanks, but no thanks.) And then, once they had cleared the building, they let us go wait inside. It turned out that some water had leaked and set off the alarm somehow. I really hope they found and fixed it so we don’t have to evacuate every time that room showers. But if we do, I learned a little more about what to bring along and where to go.

The morning schedule was all thrown off. I gave the really time-sensitive medicines, but left some of the others for later. I properly changed Patrick’s surgical dressing and his central line dressing, too. I showered and we got dressed. And then today, because right now 80% of the families staying here have someone staying at the hospital and the house was quieter than usual, we did a laundry morning. We washed the dirty clothes plus most of the linens.

We came back to the room and used some index cards to make a letter and word wall. As Patrick is introduced to new sight words, we’ll add them to the wall under the corresponding first letter. He loves going over and reading me his wall.

Then, Patrick needed out of the house, so I decided we’d take an outing to the dollar store. He carefully considered all the things he could buy and chose a jumbo calculator. I picked up some new scissors for him and some bingo daubers to use in place of do-a-dot markers in some mommy school work.

Then, we decided to go check out the grocery store in the same parking lot. (We actually drove a ways to go to the dollar store.) The store was a big win. They had kid-sized shopping carts which is one of Patrick’s favorite activities. They also had all of his biggest needs.. ham and chicken broth and single serve guacamole and rolls.

The late night and early morning left Patrick in need of a nap. (Because otherwise, he was just being naughty… especially in that he kept sneaking away from me and going to visit people on other floors of the house.) He slept till 6, when I woke up for dinner where he ate his first choice, chicken broth, and then some guacamole (also known as mokily-mokily) because he “loves it so much”. And now we are staying up late watching Blues Clues because going to bed on time is pointless when he naps late.

Tomorrow, I hope that we will actually succeed in sleeping in. And then we’ll eat some more old favorites and new foods and have a little bit of school, too.

Mission Impossible

I probably have this idea in my head because we watched a Mission Impossible movie a couple of nights ago. But I swear that today, as I ran from one major problem to another and felt myself being powered by pure adrenaline, that my life is no less demanding than a Mission Impossible mission. Maybe a little more dull and much more sedentary.

Here’s why today had me thinking that. I stayed up till a little after 11 last night finishing off Patrick’s care notebooks, a 30 page medical history and emergency plan for Patrick’s school staff. I was woken 4 times during the night, twice by IV pumps alarming. Twice by Patrick’s mylar balloon drifting into the ceiling fan in the kitchen.

At 7:30, Patrick woke up and I tried really hard to explain that we had a busy morning and needed to get ready quickly. After a summer of lazy, he did his best but we were definitely out of practice.

We finally made it downstairs and I scrambled to put finishing touches on school supplies. That doesn’t mean pencils and papers for Patrick. It means putting together a medical supply emergency kits, diaper changing kits (with instructive labels on each bottle of cream), care notebooks, first aid response cards (miniature and laminated to fit in Patrick’s backpack), and allergy safe labels on boxes and bags of snacks.

Patrick’s school open house started at 9:30 and we got there a little after 10. I felt really bad for coming so late.

BUT we had a chance to meet some other parents and kids and explore the classroom a bit. As we were nearing the end of the open house, I had a chance to meet the speech therapist and special education teacher who’ll be working with Patrick this year. I kind of tried to make a mad scramble in my tired brain to remember the relevant information I wanted to discuss with them about his goals. I think we covered the main points and I was impressed that they seemed to be on the same page as me. Then I went over with the teacher and classroom aides a refresher course on his medical care and diaper care and what ADHD and sensory processing disorder mean for him. And, of course, how and who to reach in an emergency.

I left the classroom half an hour after the open house was due to end. We walked Patrick’s medical supplies down to the school nurses’ office, along with a copy of the emergency plan, and briefly went over their questions.

Then I pulled out my phone and noticed that I had missed phone calls. Lots and lots of phone calls.

On the drive to the school, I’d called Patrick’s dietitian to tell her that we can’t get blood to draw off of his new line right now and ask if she really needed any labwork done today. (A nurse visit popped up in the schedule yesterday.)

That call prompted her to call Patrick’s GI, Dr. Jackson, who’d spent the morning bringing himself up to speed on Patrick’s new line and being put on hold for transplant. And he was quite concerned.

Oh, and I’d missed the call back from the transplant nurse in Nebraska.

So, when I got in the car, I called back Dr. Jackson. He apparently spent the morning going over operative notes and talking to the radiologists and other surgeons. And he’d learned something about Patrick’s new line that was alarming.

We had misunderstood what we’d been told about the placement of the line. The azygus vein is not a central vein. That means, it doesn’t directly connect to the heart. The tip of the new line is in a dilated part of that vein. But, after the tip there are some collateral (spiderlike veins that grow around a clot to reroute bloodflow like the little streams that form around the sides of a river if it is partially blocked.) And it is those that are connecting to the main veins and to the heart.

And since those veins are small and could infiltrate just like a peripheral IV vein, (or swell and close off that access, too) Dr. Jackson wanted Patrick off of his TPN ASAP.

Because of Patrick’s low lipid protocol, there is a lot of sugar in his TPN. It’s a very high osmolarity formula that kind of rips up small veins. So tonight we got a shipment of a lower osmolarity, lower sugar formula to run until we get a resolution.

Dr. Jackson also contacted the nurses and doctors in Nebraska on our behalf.

Anyway, I spent the drive home talking to him, then brought Brian up to speed, grabbed a quick lunch then called back the Nebraska Medical Center. They asked me to fedex them a CD of all of the imaging done of Patrick’s vein in the recent past and e-mail them all the radiology reports I had.

By then, Patrick was pretty tired and pretty tired of me on the phone, so I tried to rock him to sleep for his nap. But the phone rang. A homecare nurse seeing if I needed my TPN pump reprogrammed. Then it rang again. The homecare pharmacist setting up a shipment of the new formula fluid.

By this point, I texted my sister. I could tell I was in over my head and needed more time than I had.

She drove over while I got Patrick down for a nap, then stayed with him while he slept. Meanwhile, I scanned all my radiology reports. Then I drove to the hospital to pick up the CD of radiology images that Dr. Jackson had requested on my behalf, stop in medical records for accompanying reports, and then down to the pharmacy for a prescription for ranitidine to replace the IV form Patrick usually gets in his TPN. Of course, on the drive up talking to the homecare pharmacy to order tubing and other supplies to go with the IV fluid. And, in the waiting room, e-mailing the nurse in Nebraska to decide that they wanted their own venogram done anyway and that they could schedule Patrick’s procedure without me sending a CD after all.

By now it was 3 p.m. and I was feeling a bit like my mind was doing stunts Tom Cruise could only dream of. I was exhausted with trying to change gears and think of entirely new life-critical details. Fortunately, 3 p.m. is 4 p.m. in Nebraska and close of business for the intestinal transplant office.

So, when I got home, I just had to make dinner and clean up a little bit until evening.

Dr. Jackson called this evening and we had a good conversation about where Patrick is and where things are going. The best phrase of the conversation was when he told me that he thought that the doctors in Nebraska are just smart and daring enough to be able to “Macgyver something” to keep Patrick listed if possible.

But we also had a good talk about where else central lines can go and how to reduce and treat clotting in veins and genetic predispositions and a whole bunch of other crazy things, kind of like Dr. Jackson and I like to do. Is it strange that he and I kind of enjoy talking over medical problems together?

The encouraging thing to me is that, although he called our situation “sobering”, I could hear in his voice that he has a lot of hope still.

And that he’s pushing to get things done, and quickly. I think he said he’d e-mailed the surgeon twice and had sent a copy of all of the radiology reports that he was able to send by e-mail to his nurse.

This evening, we received the delivery of new fluid and got it started. (The sad thing about this change is that, with fewer calories, Patrick can’t afford a tubes-free time every day. The good thing is, the bags are split into two per day so they weigh less and he’ll be able to wear his pack.).. After connecting his fluids for the night, we picked out clothes for school, put on PJ’s, and tucked Patrick into bed.

I’m hoping for a little more calm tomorrow. I’m happy Patrick doesn’t miss the first day back at preschool. And that, amazingly, we pulled that all together in the midst of all of the rest of this madness.

And maybe I can get phone calls done while he’s at school. Maybe even a plan for how to get out to Omaha. Maybe.

Or maybe, if they’re not ready for me yet, I’ll just go sit on the lawn at the park next door and read a book and delight in the knowledge that at 10:15 every Monday-Thursday, Patrick gets to go visit the sensory room. And all his favorite aides from his old class get to come into his new class for morning circle time. And some of his familiar friends are still there.

I think I had enough adrenaline for one day today. Heck, I’ve had enough this month to get me by for a year.

2 years old

It’s amazing to think that my baby is 2 years old! He has grown so much in this past year! And it is such a miracle to still have him here with us.

We had a great time celebrating his birthday. Since it fell on a Sunday, we spent the morning at church. We dressed him up in a new little sport coat. They sang to him in his Primary class and he got to go get a treat from the bishop.

After church and naps, it was time to get ready for the party. Since Sunday dinner is a tradition for both sides of the family, we decided to invite all of them to dinner together.  I worked all the week before shopping and preparing food… ironic for a child who doesn’t eat. We did our best to pick foods he could share, though… and that wouldn’t take the party too long to eat so Patrick wouldn’t have to wait for them.

Patrick’s birthday dinner was simple, but his favorites. We bought him a personal sized bag of Baked Lays potato chips and a little cup with a bendy straw that we filled with water. Patrick LOVES eating chips out of the bag, so having his own was the perfect birthday treat and he had fun getting them EVERYWHERE around him.

After dinner, we gathered to sing Happy Birthday and blow out candles. Because Patrick can’t have milk, eggs, or sugar, I decided to make a non-food cake this year. I painted a round box and decorated it like a cake with cars everywhere, one of Patrick’s favorite things right now.

The street signs all had birthday messages on them. After blowing out the candle, we opened the cake instead of cutting it. It was filled with toy cars for all the kids to share.

Then we opened presents. Patrick made off like a bandit with about 20 small toy cars and a few big ones, shape sorters, balls, toy instruments and tools, books, puzzles, pop-up-pals and more.

Brian and I gave him our big present the day before so he could take it trick or treating… his very own Radio Flyer wagon. He wanted to help build it, so I gave him his toy hammer and soon he and daddy were both banging away.

It took me most of a day to clean up and make room for it all, but he plays with all the new toys almost every day… getting them out himself. He couldn’t be happier!

And the wagon – oh the wagon – has taught him a new independence. I can put his backpack in the wagon and he will push it around the yard all by himself for an hour or more. Just try to end this game before he’s tired and he’ll cry inconsolably.

Many thanks to those who helped to make Patrick’s birthday party a success. Those who helped cook, host, setup or cleanup. Those who made extra effort to come. And those far away who couldn’t come, but sent presents.

We all know what an absolute miracle this 2nd birthday is! Thank you for sharing with us in celebrating a momentous day!

Allergies

As of yesterday, we are the proud owners of an EpiPen Jr.

A few months ago we started to notice that with some foods, Patrick got little red spots on his cheeks and chin. He also had a really odd habit of sticking his fingers in his mouth after eating. When he discovered french toast, I learned that the spots always came with that meal, so I started watching ingredients. Pasta produced the same results. Scrambled eggs turned his lips, cheeks and chin bright red. That’s when I stopped wondering and knew. Patrick is allergic to eggs.

So I called his dietician, who gave me a simple answer.. don’t feed him eggs. It sounded easy enough, but the spots appeared at other times, too. On top of that, I knew he’d need a flu shot and other immunizations and that those shots are often egg based.

3 weeks ago, when we saw the fabulous Dr. Jackson, Patrick’s GI, I requested a blood test for allergies to confirm the egg allergy.

Not only did that test come back definitively positive for egg white, but also for 9 other foods including egg yolk, wheat, oats, corn, peanuts, milk, soy, and even a trace positive for carrots.

I had heard that kids with Short Gut easily develop food allergies. The weak intestinal walls allow proteins to leak into the bloodstream, just like they let bacteria through. The extra exposure to undigested proteins can cause allergies. I just didn’t expect to be hit with so many positives at once.

I called his dietician again for answers, and she explained that not all the positives represent real allergies. They just represent a probability of an allergy. Therefore, I should avoid feeding Patrick foods that I knew he was allergic to, but there was no need to withhold ALL of the foods.

So I started cutting back on glutens to see if those might be contributing to a recent unexplained bout of stomach upset I was seeing in him. Patrick was pleased to be moving up to grown-up cereal instead of baby cereal, but not so happy with the fact that all the cereals I was now offering were rice. I bought rice noodles so that he could have pasta without eggs.

And I still felt lost.

I sent messages to his docs and dieticians here and in Seattle, but the common consensus seemed to be “we can’t really say.” I wasn’t sure which foods he could safely have, and I didn’t have any answer still about how to give him a flu shot. When you’re waiting for transplant, you’re preparing to be immune suppressed. Therefore, you should have every immunization possible.

Finally, I called Patrick’s pediatrician. (Don’t know why I didn’t try this before.) She said she thought it best for Patrick to see an allergist who could at least determine the safety of the flu shot. She gave me the name of one she knew and urged me to push to get an appointment ASAP.

When I called for an appointment, their version of ASAP was “our next opening is in December.” I tried Primary Children’s Allergy Clinic and was told: “We’re not taking any more appointments for this calendar year, and don’t have a calendar yet for next.”

So, I told Patrick’s practically-magic insurance case manager about the problem and she mentioned an allergy clinic that she knew our insurance covered. She said she’d heard good things about them, including short wait times. I called them on a Thursday afternoon and…drum roll please…scheduled an appointment for the next Tuesday.

That was yesterday at 9:15 a.m.

Over the weekend, Patrick had his most severe allergic reaction yet to banana pudding, which I shouldn’t have given him because of the sugar content, but am glad I did cuz it clued us in to allergies I would have otherwise missed. He also had a reaction to playing with a spoon that had been put into my Traci’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream at Leatherby’s, even though he didn’t eat any food there.

I got up with Brian yesterday. This is, in itself, an accomplishment. But I knew I’d need time. Getting Patrick ready and out the door before 9 requires near superhuman effort, but we managed it, even with time to spare.

Knowing it would be a long appointment, I came with the essentials: a bag of toys, books, and videos; a diaper bag of medical supplies and emergency kits; their 8 page medical history questionairre; an 8 page “condensed” medical history of my own; my purse; and Patrick.

It took a while for the allergist to appear. I was grateful for the wait, as Patrick started to spit up yellow goo right after we arrived in the room. I dug tubes out of my emergency kit, found that his button had been plugged overnight, and coaxed enough drainage from his stomach to avoid him getting sick in the office… finishing just as the doctor arrived.

He apologized for making me wait, but explained that it took a time to catch up on the history I’d brought. Can’t fault him for that.
We talked about why I’d come and the questions I hoped to find answers for. He went through the results of the blood test and explained that for most of the allergens tested, the blood test does only reveal a probability. For most of the low scores, the probability of a reaction was pretty low. He did his best to assure me that these were most likely not a concern. If I hadn’t seen reactions, he was most likely not allergic.

Then we talked about the eggs, the pudding, and the ice cream spoon. He scratch tested for all of the ingredients I thought might be related – 7 allergens in all, including the specific isolated proteins of milk. They also did a scratch from the vial of flu shot that he was intented to have.
Patrick wasn’t happy with the scratches, but otherwise enjoyed sitting shirtless in the office watching Elmo on TV and playing with his backpack full of farm animals. (Thank you to my neighbor who provided Elmo in VHS.) I sat and watched the reaction.

The nurse explained the two “control” scratches at the top that represented no reaction and his worst reaction. (Scratched with saline and histimine respectively.) And I watched the hives that formed at each of the scratches. Only 3 scratches didn’t react. Patrick is not allergic to banana, lactalbumin (a milk protein), or the flu shot. All the rest, he did.

Patrick is allergic to eggs (yolk and white), milk, peanuts, and corn.

His reaction on all of these was a 2 of 5. This means that at present, the reaction is not deadly, but a 2 today can be a 5 with the next exposure, so we are to assume that all of these are.

Next, they gave a partial dose of the flu shot, watched for a reaction for half an hour, and then completed the dose.

While we waited, we got to talk to the doctor about what the results mean, complete some forms, and watch more Elmo. Since we were the longest appointment of the morning, Patrick also was free to take a pantsless walking tour of the halls of the office.

So, now the punchline… what do these results mean?

Patrick can outgrow all of the allergies, except perhaps the peanut allergies IF he avoids contact with the allergens. So for safety, comfort, and future improvement, Patrick should not be exposed to any of the above listed allergens on their own, or as an ingredient.

This means reading a lot of food labels.Some of the ingredients are listed under different names. For help in interpreting labels, check out this site: https://www.foodallergy.org/section/allergens

It’s also possible that he could have a reaction to something that you don’t expect.. either by accidental contact with one of these allergens or by coming in contact with something we don’t know he’s allergic to. (Like I said, Short Gut can lead to food allergies, so it’s possible there are allergies we haven’t discovered.)

Enter the EpiPen. We’ll make sure to train all you caregivers on how to use it. He’ll also carry benadryl for milder reactions.

And so, the adventure of having a child with food allergies begins. Please feel free to ask questions. Either we’ll help you understand, or you’ll help us know what more we need to learn.