Tag Archives: priesthood

Transplant Day 25 and a Bad Day

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Well again, I posted last night and then went to be with Patrick and things got worse. I’m kind of afraid to hit post early tonight.. But try hard not to believe in medical jinxes.

Yesterday evening, Patrick’s fevers started to show up even with Tylenol in his system. He also started to have coughs that he couldn’t suppress. He was so miserable, he just curled up on my lap and didn’t want to move. His nurse called the resident and more cultures were ordered as well as a chest x-ray. They also started antibiotics and an antifungal. Daddy gave him a priesthood blessing, too.

And then, we just tried to let him sleep. Sometime between 3 and 5, his fever broke. By morning, he was feeling better.. but certainly was not back to himself. His cough is still bad. He’s breathing heavy. And every time the tylenol wears off, his fever comes back.

I was frustrated during the night because I just kept hearing that everything was coming back negative. However, today when the doctors rounded, they said that they’d seen a pleural effusion in the x-ray. That means that there is fluid around the outside of his lungs. That is why it is hard to breathe.

Rounds were kind of refreshing. It’s nice that our input is both welcome and helpful. I told them about what had happened overnight, Patrick’s typical infection history and medication allergies, and my own thoughts and worries.

The current working theory is that he has some kind of respiratory bug, maybe a pneumonia. But his lungs sound good and he’s on the right IV antibiotics to help. So today’s orders were wait and watch. If things get worse, they’ll do a CT scan. Welcome to the world of immune suppression.

He napped all day and woke up with lower temps but more trouble breathing. He’s spent the day in bed watching Blues Clues. Good thing kids like watching the same DVD’s 1000 times. These TV’s are too old for our chromecast to work so we are limited to just what we own physically. We have enough for about a day’s worth of Blues Clues viewing and Patrick doesn’t mind rewatching the same thing over and over again.

I have tried to keep other things moving forward. Got him officially enrolled in school. His teacher should come tomorrow if Patrick is still doing ok. Got word that the insurance company has responded to the appeal and decided to cover the Valcyte after all. Ordered some more ostomy bag samples. Convinced the team that they still want to do our discharge training early this week in case Patrick gets better over the holiday weekend.

Alas, the evening has been hard again. His fevers have reached 104 when his tylenol wears off. His heart rate is high. His oxygenation is low, but holding. And he’s having a hard time keeping his medications down.

Darn holidays.  We need a better kind of holiday tradition.

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Adoption memories

We had Patrick’s g-tube study done. (Great results! Nothing wrong. Just a slightly upward angle that makes positioning the tube tricky.) As part of the history, they asked when the gastrostomy (g-tube hole) was created and I realized last night that I could have answered “exactly two years ago.”

Why do I remember that? Well, because exactly two years ago yesterday, the court officially named us as Patrick’s legal guardians. It was the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

A friend of mine has been doing something special this month on her blog. Because it’s national adoption awareness month, she’s been posting daily adoption related posts. She invited me to be a guest blogger and, by coincidence, will be running my post today… a very significant 2 year adoption anniversary for us.

So, I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for her. Here goes:

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Ours is not a typical adoption story, because Patrick is not a typical little boy. His life was meant to be something different, something miraculous, and so it required that it start in a very different and miraculous way.

But my part of the story starts the way a lot of others do. We wanted to have children. When that didn’t happen easily, we involved doctors. For years, we went through the ups and downs of charting and temperature taking, tests and medications. Finally, after several years and a minor surgery, our doctor sat us down for “the talk.” He explained that there were several causes of my infertility. The cards were, essentially, stacked against us. He still felt it very possible that we could have children, but only with major medical intervention. We had some big choices to make.

We talked about it and we prayed about it. And then, that Sunday, as we sat in church, we received a clear answer that it was time for us to stop medical treatments. Our child would come to us through adoption.

With a path finally before us, we moved forward quickly. I’ve never felt so driven to do anything before in my life. In under a month, we completed the application process, training classes, and were mostly done with our home study.

During our home visit, we had a conversation with our case worker that would play a major part in bringing Patrick into our family. She’d looked at our “preferences checklist” and noted that we seemed more open than most to adopting a child with special needs. We explained that we felt that adoption was a faith process. We believe that Heavenly Father puts families together. We knew we’d never turn away a child born to us with medical problems. So, if God was in charge of adoptions, too, then why would we limit His options? We knew Heavenly Father would help us find our child and that, if the child really belonged in our family, race and health wouldn’t stand in the way.

We decided to adopt in June. Our application was approved in September and we hunkered down for a nice long wait. We figured two years, at the least, was the average we’d heard. And still, by the end of October it felt like far too long. My heart ached for a child it knew was missing.

Then, on a very snowy morning the first week of November, my phone rang. It was my case worker. She started out by saying, “There was a little boy born on Halloween in Michigan.” My heart skipped a beat. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and started scribbling notes. She told me he was Korean. And then, she went on to tell me that he’d had a birth defect. His intestines had developed on the outside of his abdomen. The doctors were saying he had a life expectancy of 1 to 2 years. They needed to find an adoptive home quickly because doctors wanted to discharge him from the hospital. All she could tell me about his family that his birth mother wanted him to be able to go to the temple to be sealed to a family.

She said she’d send an e-mail with more information and a picture. She encouraged me to talk to Brian and decide if we’d like to be among those families considered to adopt this little boy, and then to call her and let her know.

As soon as I gathered myself, I called Brian. But he wasn’t at his desk. Meanwhile, two e-mails arrived. One was a short paragraph from the baby’s caseworker in Michigan explaining his medical needs and the unconventional and hurried search for parents. In the other were two photographs of a sweet little Korean boy with great big eyes and an IV in his head.

Since Brian wasn’t at his desk, I called the insurance company to find out if this we even had coverage to pay for this kind of medical problem.

That’s how Brian first found out about the offer. While I was on hold with the insurance company, he called back on my cell phone, so he heard me finish the conversation about “preexisting conditions” and “adoption”.

I gave Brian the information and, after a quick moment of thought, he said he’d come right home.

We had a prayer together, then went to the temple – the perfect setting to make decisions about life and death and eternity.

I knew that families are eternal. I knew that mortality is not the end of life. And yet, I was filled with grief. It was as if I’d just been told I was carrying a child with a terminal illness, but he wasn’t even mine yet. And I was scared. I didn’t know if I was ready to leave the life I knew then.. abandon it all, and become mom to a child who would need so much help, and who had such an uncertain future.

Still, when Brian turned to me and said, “I think we should pursue this,” my heart leapt with joy.

So, we called our caseworker and gave her a list of questions we had. And then we went to visit our parents. We felt we should tell them about the offer, because we knew that whatever happened, we were never going to be the same. And we both wanted father’s blessings. We showed them the little boy with the angel eyes and explained that we didn’t know if he was ours.. But from that moment, all of our families were praying for a little boy whom the e-mail called “Patrick.”

That was Wednesday. Thursday, I sent a copy of our profile. Friday afternoon, as I on my lunch break with Brian, our case worker called my cell phone. The birth family had seen our profile and had chosen us to adopt their baby.

Now, we had a choice to make. Because we’d been selected, we could finally start filling in the gaps in the medical information we were getting. And boy, where there gaps! We called the baby’s caseworker, who referred us to the hospital social worker. Finally, we decided we needed to talk to doctors, and we needed to do it face to face.

I called my mom and told her to take my credit card and buy airplane tickets. Then, I went back to work, explained what had happened, and asked for a leave of absence. After that, we went to the adoption agency where we signed pre-placement paperwork required for us see the baby in the hospital.

Friday night, we tried to get ready. We booked a long-term stay hotel room. We faxed legal documents to Michigan. We make a shopping list of nursery items. And we tried to pack.

I packed my bags that night not knowing what exactly I was packing for. We still didn’t know enough to say if we could take care of this baby. We didn’t know if or when he’d be discharged. We didn’t know how long it would take before we’d be given permission to leave the state again.

And yet, Saturday morning as I sat on a plane to Detroit, 10 rows ahead of my husband, I felt a quiet, happy calm. If nothing else, I knew it would be ok.

We met Patrick, his family, and his doctor Saturday night. It wasn’t what we expected. Due to unforeseen problems, things were tense at the hospital when we arrived. We felt like we knew nothing at all about his condition when we heard the doctor’s account. His case was much more severe than we’d understood, but the immediate prognosis was better.

At last, they led us to his room. My first impression was of how small he was. He was SO tiny! Just a little ball with wires and tubes attached. Without them, you’d have never guessed there was anything wrong.

They let me hold him while we talked. He felt so small and fragile.

I thought that the moment I met my baby, or the moment I held him, that I’d know he was mine. But that isn’t what happened for me. There were too many questions, still and I’d have to wait for that confirmation.

Sunday, we arranged to spend the day with Patrick. The nurses were so kind to let us change his diapers and help with other aspects of his care. I sat for hours singing him lullabies and watching monitors and letting him sleep.

When we arrived, the nurses warned us that he had a reputation as a very irritable little boy. There was even a sign on his door warning not to wake him. He was famous for screaming hysterically if his sleep was interrupted. But that’s not the baby I met. He was just a sweet, tiny little boy who wanted to be held.

I remember singing to him: “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear.” And my voice choked on the words because I knew that right at that moment, Patrick didn’t have that. I couldn’t imagine how any little boy could go through all he’d need to go through alone.

That night, as we looked at pictures from the day, I came across one that showed just his face with a white background. I knew, when I saw that picture, that I loved him.. and I wanted to keep him.

Monday morning, we held a “family conference.” It was a business day so we finally had been able to confirm that there were doctors to take care of him at our hospital at home. Our insurance confirmed that he’d be covered. Brian needed to hop on a plane to go back to work. (He was running a conference that week.) So, knowing we had the resources to provide for his physical needs, we asked Patrick if he’d like to be a part of our family. I swear, he looked up at Brian and smiled.

The case worker rushed to the hospital and by 1, we’d signed paperwork, and I was on my way to the airport with my husband. I was staying behind to start a whole new life.

The next few weeks in Michigan are among the sweetest of my life. With nothing else to do but hold my new baby and learn to care for him, I virtually lived in the NICU. My mom came for a week and shared with me in Patrick’s first feeding, first bath, and first time wearing real clothes. This time was also some of the hardest I’d experienced as I received a trial by fire as a mom of a child with major health problems. Patrick had his second surgery the day Brian flew back to be with us.

Two weeks after we signed papers, on my birthday, the birth parents appeared in court, and we were named as Patrick’s legal guardians. A week later, we had permission to bring him home. At 4 a.m. Thanksgiving day, Patrick and I arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital by air ambulance. He’d spend the next few weeks there as the doctors here got to know him and made arrangements for us to take care of him at home.

Because of his medical needs, the courts granted an early finalization of his adoption and we were able to take Patrick to the temple to be sealed as a forever family in February when he was just 4 months old.

Patrick just turned 2. He is an active, happy toddler who loves cars and music and Elmo. He is a living miracle! Patrick’s birth defect came with a rare complication. As a result, at birth he was missing over 95% of his small intestine. Without intestine, he doesn’t get nutrition by eating. In fact, eating large amounts puts him at risk for dehydration and bowel obstruction. Instead, he is entirely dependent on a form of IV nutrition called TPN. He has a permanent IV tunneled through his chest, into a vein in his chest or neck that runs to his heart.

The TPN leads to complications like infection and liver disease. In his short 2 years of life he has already struggled with both. Patrick’s doctors warned us before we adopted him that we’d become such regulars in the E.R. that we’d be on a first name basis with the staff. We soon found that to be true not just for the E.R. staff, but also the IV team, the infectious disease team, the PICU team, most of the residents, several of the medical students, and the entire gastroenterology department.

At 9 months old, as a result of infection, Patrick’s heart stopped. The fact that he is alive now is nothing short of a miracle. No doctor who hears his story and then meets him can help but confess that he has beaten the odds in countless ways.

Patrick will eventually need an intestinal transplant. He is already running out of places to put new IV’s and each new infection makes him a little more fragile.

Since they don’t do intestinal transplants where we live, we have chosen to have Patrick listed at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Patrick has been on the waiting list since April of 2009. He is status 1A and will have his transplant is soon as a donor match is found.

People try to tell us sometimes what a tremendous thing we did in adopting Patrick. We don’t really feel it’s something we can take credit for. As we told our caseworker when this all started, Heavenly Father puts families together. He knew Patrick needed us. And what’s more, He knew we needed Patrick.

Raising Patrick has taught us more about life than any other experience. We have learned to rely entirely on the Lord. We have learned to live each moment to it’s fullest. We have learned to lean on one another when things are hard and we to trust in hands of friends and strangers when we felt too weak to stand on our own. And we have learned to love like we didn’t know it was possible to love.

Our Seattle Adventure

As many of you know, Patrick had an appointment for a check-up at Seattle Children’s this week. He was scheduled in clinic for about two hours Tuesday afternoon. We decided to try to make a family vacation out of this trip (since we haven’t had a vacation since adopting Patrick.) I think we need to stop saying the word vacation in our household. It seems that Patrick thinks that vacations are taken in the hospital – this trip did not go as planned.

We flew to Seattle on Sunday. We rented a mini van and drove to visit our good friends, the Laylands who live half an hour north of the city. We had a good dinner and visit with them and then spent the night at their house.

As soon as the plane touched down in Seattle, my nose started to run. At first I was sure it was allergies, but by the next morning there was no question that it was a cold. But, we were determined to have a vacation, so after a quick stop at K-Mart for some cold medicine and other things, we set off for the city.

After picking up some much touted Mighty-O donuts and checking into our hotel, we headed to the Seattle Aquarium. We were in the first exhibit, a sort of aquatic petting zoo, letting Patrick play in the water and touch sea creatures when I looked down and noticed blood on his PICC line. Closer examination revealed that there was something wrong … there was definitely a leak.

So I made a quick call to our transplant coordinator and we headed back to the ER, leaving a very patient Lindy and her daughter stranded in downtown Seattle to avoid exposing them to hospital ER germs.

We were checked in quickly in the ER and sent to an isolation room at the back because of Patrick’s and my cold symptoms. Soon the IV team came to look and confirmed that Patrick did, indeed, have a cracked PICC line. And it could not be repaired.

As a result, Patrick needed to have a peripheral IV put in until he could get another central (goes to the heart) line. And he needed to be admitted to the hospital because you can’t get as good of nutrition through just a hand or foot.

Wednesday afternoon, there was finally room in the schedule to take Patrick to “Interventional Radiology” where they could place a new PICC line with X-ray imaging to guide them. They took Patrick down at about 3 p.m. At 5:30, a doctor came to the room to talk to us.

He explained that they had tried to pass the wire through Patrick’s vein to put in the PICC line and had run into resistence. So, they injected contrast into his veins and saw that there had been a clot. In response to the clot, Patrick’s body created a branch of smaller vessels to route the blood where it needed to go. This meets the body’s need, but doesn’t leave enough room to put a catheter into the vein to the heart. Because of this, Patrick can no longer have PICC lines in his arms.

They put a little bit more stable of a line in his arm then that wouldn’t go bad as quickly as an IV in his hand or foot and then gave us two options: stay here and have a broviac line put in, or fly to Salt Lake, be admitted there, and have a broviac put in.

We decided that it was best to just stay and have it done here in Seattle. The surgeons here had gone into the PICC placement procedure and had seen the problem first hand. Having Seattle Children’s put in the line also meant that he’d have it done sooner, since he could be put on the next day’s list.

Beyond that, in order to place the line, they needed to do an ultrasound study to see what Patrick’s remaining central blood vessels looked like. Since not having many available blood vessels moves you up the transplant list, we thought it was wise to have the transplant hospital have a record of what options remained.

So – yesterday Patrick had a new broviac line put in. He went to surgery about 3 p.m. and they were able to put the new line right where they wanted it. When I talked to the surgeon at 5 he sounded pretty good about how the procedure had gone.

There had, however, been one slight problem. Patrick’s stomach still doesn’t easily drain all the way. Even though he hadn’t eaten anything, and his stomach had been suctioned, it still wasn’t empty. As a result, he aspirated during the procedure. The surgeon said that they’d been able to clean out his lungs, though, and didn’t seem overly concerned. With any aspiration, there is a risk of pneumonia. He asked to keep Patrick 24 hours for observation, and then said he’d be able to go home.

I went to Patrick’s room to wait for him. When he finally made it upstairs, he was very upset. He’d curled himself into a little ball and was crying miserably. The nurse immediately set to work getting pain medications for him. And we decided to put him on monitors.

Things just seemed to get worse. The monitors showed that the oxygen levels in his blood were dropping, so we put an oxygen mask near his mouth to help keep them up. His heart rate was rising. He was breathing very heavily.

The nurse called in other nurses to help her and started taking vitals… And discovered Patrick was running a fever. They called down his doctors. While I explained the scarier things in Patrick’s medical history, his nurse wandered around the room making space to work if things got worse.

They ordered blood cultures to look for infection, gave Patrick some Tylenol, and got an X-ray of his chest.

Finally, they called the “Rapid Response Team”, which is a team from the PICU who come to the bedside. They watched him, took some tests bedside, and promised to come back to check on him within the hour.

Once all of the tests were done, I picked Patrick up again and he finally started to calm down. They started antibiotics while I rocked him to sleep. His heart rate was still high, and the antibiotics were making his blood pressure low, but he seemed to be starting to feel better.

As things started to settle down, I asked the nurse to help me reach elders from my church. One of the doctors in the room had mentioned earlier in the week that he had gone to school at BYU and we’d talked about how we’d been there the same year both studying Spanish. He spoke up and said “I can take care of that for you.” It was subtle, but we both understood that he was telling me that he was an elder and could help me with what he knew I was going to ask for.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we believe in the gift of healing by the laying on of hands by those who have authority from God. Brian is an elder in our church and had given Patrick one of these special blessings before he left. And this kind doctor subtly waited around until the nurses had left the room and then layed his hands on Patrick’s head and gave him another blessing, confirming the promises of health and comfort and strength.

Patrick slowly began turning around. His fever dropped and he started to sleep comfortably. A respiratory therapist came and tried to get Patrick to cough by pounding on his chest and back. Finally, she suctioned deep down into his chest and helped to get a lot of what was in his lungs out.

By midnight, Patrick was sound asleep. I stayed up to help the nurse get a few more things settled and went to bed. We slept till 7 a.m., when the doctors came in to check on him.

This morning, Patrick woke up with a smile. He was a bit weak and groggy at first, but has just gotten better and better all day long. Just an hour ago, he was climbing all over me on the couch in the room playing with toys and jumping. You would never know anything had been wrong.

The doctors are pleased enough with his improvement that they gave me the go ahead to book a flight back home for tomorrow. We’ll leave the hospital a little after noon to catch a 3:45 p.m. flight.  We should be home by 6 p.m.

I almost hate to write this because any time I’ve said that we were doing something this week, things have changed. But this time it feels like we really are going home. And I’ll be happy to be there.

I do have to share one example of the goodness of people in this world. While Patrick was in surgery, I put some of our clothes in the laundry room here. I got it as far as the dryer, but then when Patrick came back in such bad shape from surgery, didn’t make it back to it. I expected, when I headed back at midnight, to find my clothes piled in a basket somewhere. Instead, someone had taken the time to neatly fold them for me. This touched me because any parent using the laundry room here is doing it because their child is sick enough that they’re expecting to stay here for some time. The person who folded my clothes was certainly going through their own difficult time and would have been totally justified in being upset and offended at someone leaving clothes in a dryer. Instead, they took the time to make my day a little better.

This is just one example of the kindnesses that make raising a child with health problem so very rewarding.