Tag Archives: ostomy

Transplant Day 60 and A Farewell to Louie

I’m blogging from the surgery waiting room and hoping that I can finish this before the surgeon comes out as it appears that they are closing right now.

It’s been an exciting 18 hours. First of all, let’s do a review lesson.

Patrick had an ostomy created at transplant. “Ostomy” means “outward thingy” in layman’s terms. In Patrick’s case, it means that they pulled a little bit of his new intestine out through his abdominal wall and put a couple of small holes in it. The purpose of this was to make it easier to do biopsies. Rather than needing to sedate him to look into his intestine with a scope, since there are no pain nerves in the intestine, they could take off the pouch covering the ostomy, insert a small camera and look at the intestine.. then they could take a small biopsy and screen for rejection. Patrick has had this done 3 times since transplant. So far there are no signs of rejection.

I read in some article while Patrick was recovering a suggestion to name your child’s ostomy. It makes it more approachable. It gives you a kind of code-word to talk about it in public. After much debate, we named Patrick’s ostomy Louie.

Well, Louie had a problem last night. I’m not sure exactly when or how. Probably sometime around dinner Patrick started to guard the way he was moving. Not bending over. Not wanting to sit. And I, in all my brilliance, didn’t think to check and see why. I assumed Louie’s bag was getting full.

Well, at 8:45 I went to give Patrick his medications and get him ready for bed. I asked him to get undressed and he really struggled. He particularly couldn’t get the cover off of his ostomy pouch. So I knelt down to help him and thought, “Gee. That looks funny.” I looked forward and Patrick’s ostomy had “prolapsed” or, in other words, slipped out.

That doesn’t mean all of Patrick’s intestines came out. What it means is that an ostomy is a surgically created hernia.. only somehow Patrick’s had made his hernia herniate and so more of it was out that was surgically intended.

But it was new and still looked good. So I called the on call nurse coordinator. When I told her why I was calling I could hear surprise and concern in her voice. She asked me a few questions and then asked if I could come bring him in.

They have a short term treatment center here that they have their transplant patients come to for minor emergencies. Kind of nice to not have to go through the ER.  They checked us in and then called the surgery resident to come have a look. The transplant team was all in a kidney transplant so it took a minute for her to arrive.

When she came, though, she had a look and Louie was seeming a little upset. Swollen and kind of dark colored. So she said we should spend the night and decide what to do in the morning. Then not long afterwards, the surgical attending came in. He tried to push Louie back inside, but without success. He said we should sleep on the problem, too.. But suggested that, as this was the second problem with Louie in the 2 months since transplant, and since Patrick isn’t needing regularly biopsies right now, maybe it was time to consider taking down the ostomy.

So Patrick and I spent the night last night. We went to bed about 2. He mostly got to sleep until just before 10. It was a cuddly, nice night. And nice to have a break from being the one keeping the medical care going during the night. And in the morning, Louie was slowly going back in.. but not quite enough and a revision was looking necessary.

So we talked with the surgeon this morning. Ultimately, we decided that Patrick is a very active child who was going to continue to have problems with this unless something more was done. And it didn’t make sense to put him through a surgery to maintain an ostomy that is rarely being used for the reason it was created.

**Picking up this post at 9 p.m. Patrick’s surgery went well. They were able to take down his ostomy.. The intestine was already connected, so they just needed to close things back up. Nevertheless, this did leave him with good inch-long incision that will need to heal. It isn’t stitched closed. They are packing it with gauze to heal as they have found that this provides better healing, even if it also means a bigger scar.

He has had a hard day. He is sad and he is sore and he is itchy. He wants to eat and drink. He doesn’t understand why this happened so suddenly or why. The pain medicines have made it so he’s slept most of the day, thankfully, as long as Brian or I lay with him. That is probably the hardest thing from our perspective. Getting up to eat or go to the bathroom or really do anything upsets him. So we just try to lay still. There are 2 TV’s in the room so one can play his shows and one can be tuned in to one of ours.

Hopefully this first day or two will be all that is hard. As soon as his gut wakes up and starts moving things through, he can start clear liquids again and then they’ll restart feeds. It will probably be at least a week.

I’m grateful Brian is here to give me breaks and to go back to the Ronald McDonald House for clothing and food. I’m sorry, though, that we are spending the last week of his visit here this way.

Hopefully it will be just a short setback that adds up to a better quality of life for him long-term.

Transplant Day 28 and Thanksgiving

I didn’t get to blogging last night. Patrick has had some really good moments, some really difficult moments, and a very busy treatment schedule for the past 2 days. This is the first quiet moment I’ve had. So let me catch you up.

Two nights ago, I emptied Patrick’s ostomy bag and put him to bed. (In case you don’t know, an ostomy or stoma is a place where a surgeon has made a small piece of intestine come out of the skin. It drains into a bag. Patrick needs to have one so they can easily and safely do scopes to watch for rejection for the next year. Eventually, they’ll take it back down and reconnect him.)

Anyway.. I put Patrick to bed a little before midnight. By morning, his ostomy bag was still empty. When his nurse gave him his morning meds, he couldn’t keep them down. And as the day wore on, it seemed his discomfort was growing more and more. But we told the team and the surgeon said get him up and maybe it will wake up.  If not, then call and a resident could come use a small tube to help break up and drain out any small blockage.

Well, 2 p.m. rolled around and still nothing and Patrick’s belly really hurt. We called the resident. She was really hesitant and thought that it was dangerous to put a tube into Patrick’s stoma and new bowel. So she wasn’t going to do it without permission. The fellow (who is over the residents) had been in the hall pulling up chest x-rays during the conversation, so he hadn’t heard the instructions.  It took another hour and a little bit of firm insistence before she finally consented to come do the procedure.

But, once she did. Patrick felt lots better. The nursing staff decided that they would insist that this be done once every 8 hours at least. Because of that, Patrick was much more comfortable for the rest of the afternoon.

All that pain made it so Patrick didn’t feel much like getting up and moving much. Thank goodness for family, though. When Brian’s brother Mark heard that we were going to be here for Thanksgiving, he and his wife immediately started to make plans to come celebrate Thanksgiving with us. They rented a house for the weekend so they’d have a kitchen to cook in. They drove here from Denver, arriving Wednesday night. Then, the night before Thanksgiving, they went and found a grocery store, bought all the food for the meal, and went to work.

So yesterday morning, while Heidi stayed behind and cooked, Mark and his kids came to play. They threw a ball, blew bubbles, put on a mini puppet show. They brought Patrick big smiles, even though he didn’t feel very well. Then, they went to help pack up the food and Patrick took a nap. He slept through dinner, and that was really ok, since he wouldn’t have been eating anyway.

For a Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital, this meal was amazing. As I’ve said before, this hospital is abandoned on weekends and holidays. So we set up dinner on one of the long tables in the cafeteria. We all ate until we were well stuffed.  The kids played in the cafeteria and we rested and talked.

Then I came upstairs so Patrick wouldn’t wake up alone. Good thing, too, as he woke up crying in pain. His nurse got him a hot pack and some pain meds, though, and with his belly a little less full it helped.

Brian came up after his family had left for the evening and with pain medicine on board, Patrick was ready for a walk. We got the nurse to bring in a cart for some portable oxygen. His walking was stiff and clumsy and guarded… But getting up and moving seemed to have helped his lungs. His oxygen saturation was much better for the rest of the evening. That, after a day of restarting respiratory therapy, seemed to make a really big difference.

It was a busy evening, though. Nursing staff is short on a holiday so the nurses were running like crazy. But still, with several antibiotics on the IV pump in the evening, the pumps just beeped and beeped.  Finally, we made it to sleep at midnight. Unfortunately, vitals woke up at 5 and then labs at 5:30 and so we were both exhausted by morning. Therefore, this late post. I’ll start writing about today next and hopefully post after adding a bit more right at bedtime.

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.

Getting settled at Primary Children’s

Arriving at a hospital on Thanksgiving morning is not the best of plans. Although we’ve been well taken care of, it took a few days before the regular hospital staff was all here and we could really start to get settled. But they’ve taken good care of him so far and we’re feeling a bit less like a family of fish out of water.

The hospital immediately started working on perfecting Patrick’s nutrition and have made regular adjustments to his TPN (iv feeding) and formula. He’s now eating 13 cc’s (maybe 3 teaspoons) of Elecare, which is a predigested formula. And, since Patrick loves eating, he still just gulps it down.

On Saturday he gave us a bit of a scare when his temperature shot up to approximately 101.9 degrees. It turns out that he’d gotten an infection in his PICC line. He’s been on antibiotics for a couple of days and today they pulled the PICC and switched his TPN to a periferal IV. (That means that it is in his hand rather than going in through a central line to his heart). He’ll have that until the infection can clear and then they’ll put in a Broviac line, which is a central line in his chest that’s a bit more sturdy so he can go home with it.

He also go quite anemic, especially when they had to start taking blood samples to check his infection so he had a transfusion this morning. His color us much better and he’s much more active and alert.

We have been getting lots of training on home care for him and are pretty good now at changing his ostomy bag… though I’ll admit that if one more person comes and shows me the same pictures of possible complications for a stoma, I might just lose my mind.

We have a care conference scheduled tomorrow morning. This means that the doctors and nurses and social workers and discharge planners will all sit down with us and we’ll talk about a plan for Patrick’s long term care. Our two main priorities are getting him listed for transplants and making plans for him to be able to go home with us until he’s big enough and an organ becomes available. After that meeting, we might be able to answer the question of when he’s coming home. I know a lot of our friends and family are dying to meet him and we appreciate your patience with us as we’ve been trying to get him settled and healthy here.

Sorry for a post with no pictures. Patrick’s due to be fed and I don’t have the time to get them off the camera. If I get a chance later this afternoon I’ll send out a post of just pictures.

The last legal hurdle

Our adoption process is a bit like a triathlon. The first leg is the home study and finding process. Most of you have heard about that. You answer a bunch of questions, clean every nook and cranny of your house (even the ones a caseworker would never look at), and then wait and publicize and wait some more.

The second leg for us has had a lot of hurdles. Some of the milestones have been a pre-placement agreement, enrolling Patrick in our insurance, a court date to establish custody, pre-authorizing a medical transport, and today we crossed the last hurdle… the Interstate Compact, or ICPC.

An ICPC is a formal agreement between two states about how an interstate adoption will be handled. It has to be finished before the child can leave the state. And we’ve been sitting here anxiously all weekend waiting for it to come through. And finally today at 4:15 EST we got the authorization we were waiting for to take Patrick back to Utah!

So now the only thing left for us to be able to go home is arranging the air ambulance for him. We expect that to be worked out tomorrow morning. If we’re lucky, we’ll make it home before Thanksgiving. (Knock on wood). Then the last leg is 6 months’ supervision and then the adoption will be final.

We are so excited to be able to bring Patrick home and let him meet the family and friends who have been praying so earnestly for him.

In the meantime, I’ve thrown a couple of other pictures of him in just because that’s what a bragging mom should do.

Patrick’s doing really well this week. His surgery on Monday seems to have been a success. A couple of days ago his jejunostomy started to work. They started feeding him again yesterday and today advanced him to formula. (Patrick doesn’t get much nutrition from food, but eating stimulates his other organs to work and may help preserve his liver and increase his chances of making it to a successful transplant.)

He’s also making great strides in winning us over. He’s pretty good at convincing me that I should hold him for hours for no reason beyond just that he wants it. I’m a sucker for the little smile he gives me when he recognizes my voice or my face. Howie’s not faring much better in resisting his charms.