Tag Archives: growing up

Transplant Day 180 and School

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This picture was taken 6 months ago at Pumpkin and Mustache Day in Patrick’s kindergarten class. I didn’t know it then, but the Halloween parade and party the next day would also be his last day of school.

6 months ago, I tucked him into bed and then I went and wrapped up his birthday presents and I went to bed, but before I fell asleep my phone rang and our lives changed forever.

I dare say, at least as far as I can judge right now, for the better.

Today, I had an IEP meeting with Patrick’s school. Can I tell you what an amazing school he is in? They were completely behind me asking for a slow transition back into regular school. In fact, they were good with just about everything I asked them to consider. This meeting was amazing!

Here’s the gist of things. There is a month left of school and Patrick’s immune suppression goals have been adjusted down because it’s been long enough since transplant to try. And the transplant team said that about this time we ought to consider starting to ease him back into the normal life that they did the transplant to hopefully give to him.

So, after a very thorough discussion today, the decision was made to start letting Patrick attend school for an hour each school day. He’ll attend the last hour of every day. He’ll spend the first half of that time working with a special education teacher to help him to make up as much ground as possible. And then he’ll spend the last half of the day with his kindergarten class so that he can work on relearning the classroom routine and social skills. Also, once a week, I’ll bring him in a little early so that he can spend time in occupational therapy as well rebuilding his strength, working on writing and other fine motor skills, practicing eating, and so forth.

Because he’ll only be in school part time, he’ll also still qualify to work with his in-home teacher.

And, when the school year is done, he’ll take a short break, and then get to participate in the extended school year (or summer school) program this year at another medical school that is actually even a bit closer to our home.

The mood in this meeting was so positive. I genuinely believe that this team is happy that Patrick gets to come back to school and eager to help him succeed in every way that they can. How many people come out of an IEP meeting saying that?

That doesn’t mean that his IEP meetings aren’t still intense. There is a lot to coordinate and I am constantly amazed at the efficiency with which they run these meetings. (Also, with their stamina to do so many back to back to back at this time of year. They had already done several that morning with several more to go.) We made plans for how to drop Patrick off and what to do if classmates are sick and an aide to be with him in the classroom and what physical activities he can participate in and what to do when he needs to stay home and how to make sure that he gets the absolute most bang for the buck out of his hour a day at school.

For the rest of this school year, they’ll be reimplementing the amazing IEP that they wrote for him the week of his transplant. Then we will reconvene in a month to figure out where he is on his goals and what the best plan for school next fall will be.

The most amazing part? I thought we’d be waiting a week or two more for medication changes but the team in Nebraska says that because he kept swinging too high, they brought his dose down and he’s already there. That doesn’t mean he’s not immunocompromised. But this is about the best it’s gonna get for a while and so we might as well let him live.

We are taking the next few days as a family to celebrate Patrick’s 6 month transplantiversary and half-birthday (because, face it, transplant is an awesome birthday gift but a sucky birthday party.)

And then on Monday, Patrick starts school.

I’m trying to wrap my mind around gathering all of the supplies, emergency plans, paperwork and other little details I need to have ready by Monday at 10:45 a.m. I’m hoping this is as good of an idea as it sounds. That he has the strength. That he can stay healthy.

It’s strange to think that a month ago, I answered a phone call and our lives stopped and reset.

And now, 6 months later..to the day.. we’re trying to kickstart life again.

Patrick is bouncing off the walls excited.

Transplant Day 102 and Snow boots

I was almost going to put off writing one more day. Then I thought, “Well maybe I’ll send a short update out just so people know we are ok.” Then I pulled up the blog and realized I haven’t written in almost a week. So I’m going to try my best to post a quick blog. I am very VERY sleepy so this may not be my best.

Things are good here. Patrick’s belly finally has been seeming settled. On Sunday I turned up Patrick’s feed rate without it making him sick overnight.. a first since he got sick and a sign that he might finally have beaten the virus. However, the diaper I changed just as I put Patrick back to bed has me questioning my confidence in that notion and we’ll see what the night brings.

We’ve been working on finding our rhythm again this week. I mixed up the routine a bit this discharge. I realized that it wasn’t worth the struggle of trying to do so many things outside of the room. It just means more exposure for Patrick. And more time spent tracking him down when he wanders or telling him to stay out of things and more bad feelings between us.

He was so happy to be back at the Ronald McDonald House. So happy to be able to play without rules with his choice of toys. The first couple of days he didn’t want to leave the room. So I started making formula here in the room instead of in the kitchen. And I started drawing up his morning meds at night and putting them in the cooler I keep in the room so I don’t have to go get them in the morning. And we don’t go out as much. And we are both cool with that.

Patrick trying on my new hat and scarf.

Patrick trying on my new hat and scarf.

But we have had some fun, regardless. Friday, Child Life at the hospital arranged for a mini carnival and haircuts to be held at the same time. So we went over and got Patrick and myself much needed haircuts. And while it was my turn, Patrick got to go into the room next door and play. Then, he got to pick carnival prizes. Only he didn’t just pick for himself. He got gifts for Brian and me, too. He picked me out a bottle of lotion which, really, is the first time I think I’ve ever had him pick a gift for me and struck me as very thoughtful. He picked hoop earrings for Brian, but then noticed a Rubix cube and changed his mind. For himself, a book light that we use every night to read his picture scripture stories.

Saturday, we got together with a friend that Patrick made here at the hospital. They are staying in the Leid, a hotel attached to the hospital. His grandma and I have been watching for a chance to get them together. So on Saturday, I invited them to come play in the snow. We had a foot of snow, but it was 45 degrees and starting to melt.

So, in the morning, Patrick and I ran out to Shopko and bought some snowboots and waterproof gloves on clearance. We also picked up some snow dye bottles. And then we had a McDonalds happy meal together. (The little boy is here doing the intensive feeding therapy program so we thought that eating together might be good peer support for both boys.) Then we went out and played in the snow for several hours. We built a snowman. Patrick’s friend then said we needed a snow elephant, so we built that, too. I dug a box out of the recycling bin and we helped the boys sled on a little hill and they laughed and laughed. We made snow angels. We threw snow at each other, but not snowballs because our perfect packing snow made killer snowballs. A family in the house from Tennessee kind of timidly came out to play, too. I think the moms had as much fun as the kids.

And then, by the end of the day the color had all run off our snowman because of the heat and by the end of the next day, he was just a little pile of snow.

Another treat is that Patrick can take baths again. Since transplant, baths have been very limited and often forbidden. With an ostomy, they were possible but had to be short. After takedown, he had an open incision for almost a month. In the hospital, I only do sponge baths. So to be able to put him in the tub and let him play is a treat for both of us. He’s had a few 1 hour baths. One morning, I just put all the towels in the room on the floor to catch the spills and splashed and let him go.

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So much has changed for Patrick. It will be a lot to get used to when he comes back. He is eating like crazy these days. I’ve started to let him have snacks to just graze on. I put the in the disposable coffee cups that the house provides. So he munches on cheerios while we drive. I have cheerios in my seats. Who knew I’d be happy for that little milestone one day?

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On Sunday evening, I packed him a cup of veggie straws and we went for a drive. He finished his cup after 10 minutes and asked to go back home for more. I didn’t oblige. Instead, we went to drive across the “Mormon Bridge” just cuz we’d heard about it. Then, as I was driving back, I noticed signs for the “Lewis and Clark Monument” outside of Council Bluffs, Iowa. So, we went over there. Arrived just as the sun was setting, reflecting in the Missouri River. Being in a state park, on a hill overlooking the city.. felt a bit like home. Patrick was just happy to wear his snowboots and stomp in snow and mud.

Patrick also snacked on Cheerios all through our Primary lesson this week. We were looking for a room to do this in and found the Sunday house staff member resting on the couch in the room we usually use because her back was out. Patrick just snuggled up next to her and watched her show and ate Cheerios. Then, when her show ended, I told him it was time to do his lesson. So he asked her to join us. She obliged and it was very sweet, and kind of nice to get to have someone else listening as we talked about Jesus and his resurrection and atonement. She even sang along with us. Patrick tried to make her say the prayer, but I persuaded him to teach her about how we pray and let her listen just this one time.

Anyway – I was saying… so much has changed for Patrick. He is growing up in so many ways.

He eats. Kind of all the time. It’s still new and most of what he eats is like what you’d feed a toddler still learning to eat. But he has discovered a love for ham and cheese sandwiches. He chews up and swallows the bread and cheese, but spits out the ham. The first time he did this, I was stunned. When a few days later I offered another sandwich, he said “Mmm. Yum!!” I think he just needs time to go through the developmental stages of eating. I haven’t taken him back to feeding therapy yet because I wanted to give him a week to get better and see what the doctors said in clinic this week. But we are moving the right direction.

He has realized that dirty diapers don’t feel good. Now, he knew this before, but his stool was very different before. It was all liquid and either had to be changed right away or absorbed completely into the diaper. This is different. So we get up and change him during the night if he goes. And he’s learned to go back to sleep after. (A HUGE step for him.) And when we someday can keep a routine long enough, I think we’ll be ready to start exploring potty training again because I think he finally has some control over that.

Meanwhile, this means I am very sleepy. It’s kind of like I have a newborn again. Formula has to be refilled every 4 hours because Patrick’s bags only hold that much. A bigger bag could be put on ice and not need this attention, but then Patrick would have to wear a bigger backpack. He has one, but he prefers the little backpack that doesn’t get in his way when he sits down. Between changing diapers and refilling formula, I am up every 3-4 hours during the night. This is why I don’t blog. I am so sleepy I crash when Patrick crashes. And since naps can mean insomnia, we don’t always make that up during the day.

Taking the snowy way because he has snow boots

Taking the snowy way because he has snow boots

He still chews on everything, but he’s given up paci’s. Ok, I’ll be honest. He tried to cave on that today. He found his pacifiers and asked for them back today. But I reminded him he had chosen to be a big boy and didn’t need them anymore. Then I grabbed the sewing kit and cut the paci’s out of his wubbanubs and sewed their mouths back closed. He was sad. He said he wasn’t a big boy. He was a girl. So he could have paci’s. So I grabbed a chewy tube and sewed it onto the hand of his monkey and told him that he was a big boy and his monkey could help him have chewies instead. This kind of worked and he is happily sleeping with his friends again tonight.

Patrick has also made tremendous leaps in language. His first/second person confusion is pretty well gone. And he talking more and about more grown up things. The other day, we had a really off day. We tried to nap and it failed and Patrick had a chip on his shoulder all day, and after fighting about nap, I did, too. Nothing clicked. He kept pushing boundaries. I kept falling for it and snapping at him. Finally, we got to the room in the evening and I sat down and just cried and told him I didn’t like fighting with him anymore.  He gave me a big hug. He told me, “I’m a tech.” This is the title of the medical assistants who check vitals at the hospital. I don’t know why this exemplified the most compassionate person he could be at that moment, but I understood that was exactly what he was offering. Then, he got up and got my Kindle and brought it to me and said. “Mom. Look at your Kindle. It calm you.” And you know what, he was right? We sat on the bed and I read my kindle and he played with his tablet and we were calm.

He is still in love with reading. I wish we were making faster gains. It’s really hard when school is only 1 hour a day, 3 days a week and we rarely make it a week without missing at least one day. But I’m trying. On Monday, I pulled out Patrick’s stack of sight word readers and my laptop and I told him that for every book he’d read to me, I’d let him play one game on SesameStreet.org. This strategy actually worked really well. Not only did we practice reading, but we played some educational games. Then, when he wanted more mommy school, I pulled out a little game we have with letters on dice and we built words to and then changed their first letters to find rhyming words. It was one of my better mommy school sessions.

Patrick often pulls out this bike and rides while I do the laundry

Patrick often pulls out this bike and rides while I do the laundry

 

And today, we just stayed in the room and cleaned out Patrick’s toys. It helped him remember what he had here so he wanted to play here more. It helped me organize some of what was overflowing. And it gave us a step in the right direction for daddy to come back tomorrow.

Brian has had a doozy of a trip home. He had meetings with a group from out of town last week and a couple of days in, one of them came down with a cold. Well, Brian caught it. And it took him down. He had to take a couple of sick days. When he was still running fevers after a few days, he actually ended up at the doctor where he was diagnosed with bronchitis and given antibiotics and a cough suppressant. But that didn’t mean rest for him. We decided that a last step to really cleaning up the house was replacing the carpet in our bedroom. So, still sick, he moved all of the furniture out of our room so that could be done Monday morning. Then, also Monday morning, discovered that he had a nail in his tire. Had to put on a tire and take it to be repaired.

He is a lot better, but his cough is still lingering so I get to try to reach Patrick’s team tomorrow to figure out if that means that Daddy shouldn’t be around. And then we have to figure out if that means postponing his trip or finding him somewhere else to sleep or wearing a mask all the time or what. This is another new thing for us. Navigating a contagious world with an immune suppressed family member.

It has led me to research into contagious period for certain illnesses. Someday, I’ll summarize that into a handy guide of “how long to stay away if you have been or might be getting sick.” For tonight, this was a handy little document. http://www.bccdc.ca/NR/rdonlyres/8061A728-C969-4F38-9082-B0296EF2A128/0/Epid_GF_childhood_quickguide_may_09.pdf Especially given that Utah is experiencing outbreaks of a few vaccine preventable diseases right now. I’m biting my tongue and trying not to blog about how scared I am coming back to this absolutely ridiculous problem. It’ll probably come out one of these days when I have time, though.

Anyway – I think I’m about out of stories worth telling. Well, maybe just one more. First of all, we survived a very long weekend of no dinner groups at the Ronald McDonald House. I miss the friendly group of families that was here over Christmas. The current group has a more every-family-for-himself attitude that I think has grown out of the panic of cold and flu season. Regardless, knowing that norovirus can be spread in food, I decided we’d better just cook for ourselves. I started to brainstorm dinner with Patrick the other night and he said, “I have a great idea! Let’s have chicken! Like at the hospital.” Well, I’d had KFC one night and apparently he liked it. But KFC was out of chicken and literally locked their doors that night. Odd. So we ended up getting a rotisserie chicken instead and I think we did pretty darn well with instant mashed potatoes and gravy made out of Patrick’s chicken broth. Patrick ate a ton and we were both happy.

Patrick and the Omaha Lancers Hockey Team

Patrick and the Omaha Lancers Hockey Team

But tonight, dinner groups are back. And we started out with a great one. The Omaha Lancers, a junior league hockey team. Not knowing they were coming, Patrick decided to wear his Avs (hockey) sweater today. So he gave us away early as hockey fans. And I’m sure he made and impression and won them over. He traced the player numbers on every team member’s jersey.. then spelled out the letters of their names. They made him pancakes and ham and toast, all current favorites, which of course won him over, too.

Ok. I am out of stories and really should get some sleep.

 

 

Transplant Day 82 and golden tickets

 

Daddy is back!! Brian got back into town Saturday evening. Patrick couldn’t have been happier. And we’ve stayed busy all weekend.

Mostly, we’ve been busy cooking. If December is the most charitable month that they see at the Ronald McDonald House, January is its leanest. This week only had a couple of dinner groups scheduled. But there are a lot of donated turkeys and hams left over from the Christmas season. So last week, after having pretty good success last week making a ham and having the rest of the house help make side dishes, they offered us a turkey.

Sunday, we Brian helped get a turkey in the oven, and let’s be honest, did more than me watching it to make sure it came out ok. And then yesterday, we went shopping and got ingredients for Brian to cook pasta for the whole house, too. I’m wondering if he’s frustrated with having cooked large meals for large groups of people his first two nights here.

But the food was really AMAZING. And right now, there are only a handful of families living in the house who don’t have kids at the hospital and so if someone is going to be cooking, it is going to be us. It feels good to know we’re helping other people with something that we knew makes such a big difference. And we like the company for dinner, too.

Grocery shopping was just one of our adventures yesterday, though. Because yesterday was a holiday, Brian suggested that we treat it like one. So we went to the zoo. It has been beautiful here the past few days. 50 degrees or better. And so the zoo, of course, was crowded on a day off of school. However, it also meant that there were a lot of animals outside which made for a fun and different zoo experience. We got to see bears and rhinos, which have been inside on our last few trips to the zoo. And since we have been going often, we didn’t feel like we were missing out on some of the more crowded indoor exhibits.

And then, since going to the zoo wore him out, Patrick came back and even willingly took a nap.

Today Brian had to work again. He goes to the computer room down the hall where he can video conference and code. We meet for lunch and then he’s off at dinner time.

Meanwhile, Patrick and I went to feeding therapy this morning. Today, we took some lunch meat ham and the goal was to get Patrick to swallow some of it. It actually worked and Patrick is really excited about wrapping cheese in ham now. He swallowed some ham sandwich, too.

Then, we went grocery shopping. Patrick’s been anxious to go back to the store with kid sized shopping carts. So we went today to pick up some of his staples and to let him spend his tooth fairy money.

That’s right, Patrick lost his second tooth this week. I have been worried. It was loose, but an adult tooth had grown in behind and it still wasn’t coming out. Well, he’s fallen in love with his electric toothbrush and brushing his teeth. And a couple of nights ago, he brushed that loose tooth right out. It took some hunting and sweeping to find the tooth, but we did find it. And it only took a little convincing to persuade him that brushing his teeth wouldn’t knock them all out.

The other new thing this past few days is that there is another kindergarten age girl in the house right now. Her mom has been trying her best to keep her caught up with school work. We decided to try to combine forces. So while we wait for dinner each night, I bring down some of our mommy school things and they study together. They both are staying and working longer this way.

In other news, Patrick’s ostomy incision finally healed enough to not need to pack it with gauze anymore. Just cleaning it and covering it with a bandaid. And that means he can shower. He’s not too excited, but I feel like he gets so much cleaner that way than sponge baths.

Tonight is the first we’ve tried going without a nap since Daddy got into town and I’m questioning my choice. Patrick has been very grumpy. But it’s a tricky tradeoff between sleeping at night and being nice during the day. And I haven’t found a balance that makes him feel good enough to ignore the side effects of his medications. He’s either too sleepy or not sleepy enough and either way he is usually either angry or bouncing off the walls.

I keep thinking that we are going to finally get a routine and get past this. Sometimes I think that we just need to hang on and get home and then things will get better.

But in church this week, they said something that really struck a chord and I’m trying to put it into practice. The speaker reminded me that always waiting for something next to be happy doesn’t usually result in being happy. It just means always waiting. As Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:

So many people today are waiting for their own golden ticket—the ticket that they believe holds the key to the happiness they have always dreamed about. . .

There is nothing wrong with righteous yearnings—we hope and seek after things that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy.”4 The problem comes when we put our happiness on hold as we wait for some future event—our golden ticket—to appear. . .

The happiest people I know are not those who find their golden ticket; they are those who, while in pursuit of worthy goals, discover and treasure the beauty and sweetness of the everyday moments. They are the ones who, thread by daily thread, weave a tapestry of gratitude and wonder throughout their lives. These are they who are truly happy.

Read the full text of this amazing talk here.

So today, when I feel homesick, I’m checking myself and trying to be grateful and productive and happy in the moment I have been given.

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.

Transplant days 53-54, insomnia, and Christmas carols

Photo Brian took while we were singing Christmas carols. Notice that when Patrick is tired he can't stop moving, hence all the pictures are motion blurred from this day.

Photo Brian took while we were singing Christmas carols. Notice that when Patrick is tired he can’t stop moving, hence all the pictures are motion blurred from this day.

Last night was a tough mix for us. Patrick slept the best he has in a week. Brian and I did not. As I put Patrick down, I noticed that there was some blood in his ostomy bag. An intestinal bleed could mean scary things for him.. But we also knew that it was Sunday night and not the most efficient time in the hospital. So we decided to wait and watch. And within an hour and a half the bleeding had stopped.

But for me, that meant setting the alarm clock every 2 hours during the night to make sure it didn’t come back. If that weren’t enough of a loss of sleep, at 4 a.m. Brian got up to go to the bathroom. Patrick woke up and insisted someone needed to lay with him. As much as I love the sweet little boy cuddles, Patrick hogs the bed.

We did finally all get to sleep, but unfortunately, Patrick had labs due this morning so when the alarm went off, I could only snooze it a couple of times before having to wake us all up.

After labs, we left Brian in the room and Patrick and I went downstairs to get him his meds and make his formula. The formula especially is quite a production to make. This morning, though, more than usual. While I was still working on it, the front doorbell of the house rang. I was the only one downstairs, so when it rang a couple more times, I went to answer. Turns out the girl from the office had locked herself out with a couple of people bringing by donations.

Well, Patrick sometimes bebops over and lets people in if they wait long enough. So he went and let them in. It turned out to be a family from a montessori school coming by to drop off some donations. They were waiting for the rest of the class, though, so they came in to wait. Then the bell rang again and this time it was people coming to put that night’s dinner into crockpots.

So here I am, in the kitchen trying to mix up Patrick’s 2.5 gallons of crazy complicated formula with people buzzing all around me making dinner. (And me telling them where to find everything.) And I look up and notice that there’s a little boy Patrick’s age that came over with the Montessori group looking bored but trying to be good. So I grabbed Patrick and went over and introduced him and got them a game to play together.

Eventually, the rest of the Montessori class arrived and they took some pictures together (and with Patrick.) And then my phone rang and it was the transplant team returning my call. And when I came back, Patrick had somehow gotten them to give him one of the gift bags that they’d brought along. As it happens, it was filled with Sesame Street themed things that we now find invaluable.. an Elmo bread crust cutter-offer and a couple of dry erase number and shape writing workbooks. (These happen to be the two fine motor practice things that i didn’t have in dry erase form.)

P.S. the doctors said that the apparent blood in the output was likely an anomaly and not to worry about it unless it came back.

We came back to the room to find Brian on a work call so I made a hurried effort to get Patrick his mommy-school readers printed for the week so we could get out of the way. We went downstairs and spent an hour doing mommy school. I could tell Patrick was tired then. He was happiest just snuggled up doing educational games on my computer.

And as the day wore on, he got more and more tired.

At dinner, we got to eat the chili that had smelled so amazing in the house all day. Then we tried going for a drive to look at Christmas lights. But I got us lost. And Patrick fell asleep. It was kind of a bust.

— picking up this post a couple of days later—

Patrick falling asleep wasn’t the greatest of things for him. He was still exhausted enough to be totally irrational. When he’s tired, the steroids kind of take over and all rational thought shuts off. We were all already tired, but nothing we could do would convince him to sleep. Brian and I went the rounds with him until 2 a.m. when Brian had him downstairs in time out for screaming in the middle of the night. I decided we needed to just find a way for the grown-ups to sleep so I drew up morning meds so we wouldn’t have to go out of the room for them. And then suggested we just turn on the TV for him.

Well, when Patrick saw the room, he decided he was ready to lay down again and went to sleep without much more fight. We slept till a little after 9 when giving morning meds was enough to wake Patrick.

It was kind of a rough morning. I don’t do well when I’m tired. I cry a lot.

But once we got past the morning, we were able to lay down and rest a little and that helped us reset. (Not sleep… just rest. We received several dozen.. maybe even 100.. homemade Christmas cards this week from a middle school, a primary, and Brian’s work so we sat down and read all of those.)

I called the team back one more time because Patrick’s output had been black looking during the night. They came back again and said his labs looked good and he didn’t seem to be feeling bad and that maybe it was the food he was eating. As in, the dyes in the food he was eating.. (That night instead of letting him have a cup of soup at dinner, I served him ham instead of soup. Sure enough, no funny colors.)

After dinner, though, we had something I’ve been looking forward to ever since I started playing the piano here. Our Christmas sing-along.  I spent the quiet moments in the day typing up and printing lyrics to several Christmas songs. We gathered up those of us in the house who’ll get together to do things like this. Plus, the sister missionaries came over. They had offered to come visit and that happened to be the only day that they could come.. and the best day for us to do the sing-along. I figured more voices could only help.

It was a lot of fun to gather around the piano and sing. Everyone was a great sport. We sang everything on my list, and then when we needed to fill some time before our next activity, we took requests. I hope everyone got to sing or hear their favorite.

Then everyone visited for a while and then went upstairs to work on a craft that one of the House employees had put together for us. Patrick and I really kind of enjoyed that while Brian drew up meds.

And then, Patrick laid down in bed and was asleep in about 10 minutes. I think I wasn’t far behind. Looking like we are going to need to explore a new phase in Patrick’s life. Giving up naps.

It is amazing to see how much this has made him grow up. Have I mentioned he also weaned himself from pacifiers? After 6 years and not knowing how he’d ever quit them… the hospital experience was enough to just make him not like them. I offered them back a few days after we got to the Ronald McDonald House. He tried them but didn’t like them. So I sat down and explained that kids grow up and then they are big kids and grownups and don’t like paci’s anymore. He thought about it and then said, “Me too, mom.” He was done. I told him that as soon as I get a chance, I’ll remove the pacifiers from his wubbanub friends and he’s great with that idea.

And that has nothing to do with anything except that I hadn’t told you. So that’s a summary of the hardest 2 days of the week. Next post, Christmas Eve.

 

Transplant Day 7 and the tooth fairy

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This picture kind of tells most of the big news of the day. Look closely and you’ll see a few things.

1) Patrick was able to wean off of oxygen to room air during the night last night. That means no more nasal cannula.

2) They decided that his g-tube was providing sufficient drainage for his belly. He’s still having bleeding, but no apparent side effects. They have been trying to clamp his belly periodically throughout the day. If things continue going well, they’ll start feeds through his belly soon.

3) Patrick lost his first tooth. We noticed a loose tooth a week ago as Patrick was leaving his class Halloween party. When he went to the OR, the anethesiologist said he’d pull it so it wasn’t a choking risk. Then the report came back that it wasn’t loose enough yet. Well, today it was quite wiggly. And tonight, as I was putting Patrick to bed I noticed it was missing.

He was terrified. He thought something really bad had happened and insisted we needed to press the nurse call to take care of this big emergency. It took a while to calm him down. Then his nurse came in and helped me make a big deal about it. We called some other family so he could tell them and after a little bit of celebration, was proud and not scared. We’ve told him the tooth fairy will take care of finding it in his bed and he’s excited about finding some coins there.

Other big moments of the day: Patrick had his first scope. This is the entire reason that Patrick has an ostomy right now.. so they can easily look inside and check his intestine for rejection. They brought the scope right to the bedside. Patrick was pretty worried, especially as this happened first thing in the morning. But the doctors did a great job of putting him at ease, showing off the equipment, etc. Because there aren’t pain nerves in the intestine, they can just do the scope right at the bedside… Just slip in the scope, look around, take a biopsy and done. The longest amount of time was spent taking off Patrick’s ostomy bag so they could easily reach where they needed to.

He was downright adorable the whole time.. and when they sent a puff of air in to open the intestine (they said this might be uncomfortable), Patrick just giggled and said it tickled. Whew! We are doing those at least weekly for the next month and then very regularly for up to a year.. and so it was a huge relief that he wasn’t scared by it.

Really, our only scary moment today was walking. Physical therapy came and because we’d had all the excitement of a scope, a bath, two tubes and lots of adhesive removed all in the wee hours of the morning, Patrick was just plain tired. Also, with all of that going on, I don’t think they had been very consistent with pain medicine. Anyway, he made it out to the goal they’d set and was doing so well, they decided to push for a few more feet. Only, he was hurting and didn’t want to go 2 more feet. He just sat down on the floor and cried. (This is a problem on so many levels when it comes to protecting an incision and protecting an immune system.) It took a good 10 minutes to coax him into walking back to the room and then, only with me hugging him the whole way.

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Really, it was a pretty good day overall. He napped for almost 3 hours on my lap after his walk.. then I took a break and went back to my room for my own nap. We’ve played all evening and are just getting ready for bed.

One more thought, though.. Mail time is quickly becoming our best time of day. Patrick loves opening all of his birthday cards.. Some of the messages and other gifts leave me in tears. We should be moving out of the ICU soon and plan to plaster the walls with them. I’m not sure there will be even an inch of spare space.

I can’t believe that a week ago at this time, Patrick’s team was getting a call that Patrick had been matched with a donor for a long-anticipated transplant. It breaks my heart to consider what the donor family was going through at that moment while we, completely unaware, were putting the finishing touches on Patrick’s birthday present and plans. How quickly life can change.

I’ve shared it before, but this song and video have been in my thoughts often this week as I consider the selfless sacrifice in the midst of devastating loss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J44vAOp1BmM&feature=share

The end of another school year

Patrick woke up crying this morning at 6. Not just a little “I’m sleepy” cry. Out and out sobbing. When I asked him what was wrong, he replied “Push!!” “Push what?” I asked. “Push TAMMY!” He answered.

And I understood exactly what he meant.

“Push Tammy” is code for “I fought with my classmates at school again.” This time it was a dream. But it hits on a really real fear and a very big problem that I’ve been so baffled and busy with that it’s kept me away from this blog for quite some time.

This has been a hard school year for Patrick. My sweet, friendly, optimistic little boy has felt stressed and discouraged and just plain rejected. It was bound to happen one day that his medical issues and his developmental delays and his just-plain-awkwardness would catch up to him and cuteness wouldn’t carry him anymore. At least it started in his last year of preschool with a teacher who knows him and is OH SO patient and willing to adapt and help.

Patrick’s frustrations have manifested themselves in a lot of hitting, pushing, and kicking. Usually it’s subtle and small. Sometimes it’s angry. Some would say we’re lucky that he’s perfecting the art of the tantrum this late in life. The problem is that at age 5, it’s a whole lot more frowned upon. And it certainly is costing him friendships.

So, if you’re wondering what I’ve been doing since I wrote about the IEP meeting last fall.. I’ve been volunteering in Patrick’s classroom, advocating for a behavior plan and better support for him at school, trying to find a good psychologist and then trying to implement what she’s trying to teach me to do.

I’ve also been being humbled a lot as I realize how far I need to go still in developing patience, self-control, long-suffering, flexibility.. and on and on…

Oh, and watching a lot of Mister Rogers and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Because they teach lessons both Patrick and I need to learn.

Now – why am I telling you this? Well, because I am really hoping that I can spend the summer blogging about how Patrick and I are having wonderfully fun adventures together as we explore the alphabet. Patrick’s got just a few days left in preschool. 

So if I tell you now about this struggle, maybe I’ll stop worrying about how to tell you about this struggle and can get on with writing about our lives, imperfections and all.

The rest of today didn’t exactly pan out much better. Patrick’s nap got delayed because of our kitchen remodel (subject for another post soon).. and then I had to wake him early for speech therapy. And he was so tired that he fell asleep in the car for the first time in a year. And the he wouldn’t talk to his speech therapist and threw the flash cards she was using on the floor again. And when that was done, we took him to the zoo to see the new lions. And I’m not sure if he had a good time or not, because he was so sleepy he only cared about pushing the stroller (a tendency his psychologist calls a perseveration, which means something he gets stuck on obsessively). And when we would take it away, it just plain made him mad. And he tried tantrums, and we tried not to give in to tantrums… But when I reminded him he needed to calm down, he took a breath and counted to 4, then asked again in a nice voice. That is actually really good progress for him, and for me.