Tag Archives: Seattle

Patrick has a new blue car

I probably sound like a crazy person telling Patrick this several times a day. “Patrick has a new car. Patrick has a new blue car.”

I’m not just making conversation. Patrick is afraid of his new blue car. The day we took him on the test drive, he sobbed and sobbed. I think he thought we were giving him to the nice girl who sold it to us.

Unfortunately, the fear didn’t go away right away.

First, we took him on the test drive. Then, a few days later (when the banks were open), we went and picked it up. He started crying as soon as we got close to it.

He got a reprieve when daddy drove him home so I could take the car for inspection on the way home, and again when we took it to our mechanic for new tires and a checkup the next day. But when the car was done at the mechanic and he had to ride in grandma’s similar sedan so I’d be free to go to the DMV to get it licensed, he screamed bloody murder.

It took 15 minutes for Patrick to be willing to get in the car to drive home.

Things are getting better. He accepts the car so long as I don’t let go of his hand as we approach and don’t make him touch the inside of the car on the way to his carseat. But he will not sleep there. (So much for car rides to invoke naptime.)

The car is not really new. It’s used. A 2001 Mazda 626. It’s got chipped paint and a stain or two in the carpet, but it has pretty low mileage and is reported to be a reliable brand of car. The mechanic gave it a clean bill of health (after changing the tires and a CV axle).

I’ll admit, I’m a bit emotional about the car, too.

This will be our Seattle car. We decided that it would be best to have a small, gas efficient, reliable car for me to drive while Patrick and I live in Seattle. So, for a while we’ve been shopping to replace Brian’s truck. We set the money aside months ago.

We bought our Jeep with the intention of it being a business car for Brian. That’s why we got the model with leather seats and all the frills. So he can look like he deserves his “director” title when he entertains business associates from out of town. We got an SUV to help ease the transition from a truck.

Last week, my grandpa’s truck died. He needed a new one, and I offered ours. It pushed us to finally buy a car for me and Patrick.

This is one of the last and biggest items on our “get ready for transplant” checklist. I’ll admit, we’ve been stalling. Having taken this step is a leap of faith proving that we believe the transplant call will come. But it makes the reality of our having to live apart all too real, too.

Patrick’s reaction to the car is ironically all too appropriate. This car really does represent a big change that will take him away from home.

But don’t tell him that. Tell him:

“Patrick has a new blue car!”

Seattle Checkup and a Miraculous Anniversary


Not sure what we were thinking, but 3 days after returning from Yellowstone, we headed up to Seattle. It was time again for Patrick’s quarterly checkup and we decided to keep the vacation going by taking a few extra days and going as a family.

We arrived the day before our appointment and spent the afternoon and evening with our good friends. Lindy, her husband Kelly, and their daughter Lauren live north of Seattle and are kind enough to let us crash their home for these regular checkups. Lauren’s just a few months younger than Patrick and is one of his very favorite friends to play with.

Patrick’s appointment was Thursday afternoon. So, after making a stop for Mighty-O doughnuts (a special treat one of Patrick’s nurses introduced us to), we headed up to Seattle Children’s.

Every visit, they send us a detailed itinerary with individual appointments with his transplant coordinator, dietician, and doctor. But the reality is that they all come into the room at once to see Patrick. His dietician appeared first and couldn’t wait to show me his growth chart. While most kids’ chart shows a nice even curve that tapers off as they get older, Patrick’s has been taking a steep vertical climb lately. He’s in the 50th percentile for weight right now.. However, because he’s only around the 10th percentile for height, this means that he was at about 104% of his target weight. As the team gathered, they couldn’t help commenting on how nice it was to see chunky little legs.

Dr. Horslen, Patrick’s GI, seemed quite happy with how Patrick is doing overall. We talked what Patrick’s eating, how his stomach had been upset by travelling, and some of the strategies being used to prevent infections. Then, after examining Patrick, Dr. Horslen said that he didn’t see a reason for Patrick to need to be seen again as soon. Instead of 3 months, they suggested that we come back in 6. The team in Salt Lake has been doing a great job caring for Patrick and they are happy letting them continue to do so until the transplant comes.

Hearing an enthusiastic clean bill of health (well, except for the Short Gut and obvious problems that come with day to day living) was a special treat on that day. See, July 15th was more than just the day of Patrick’s appointment to me. It was the one-year anniversary of the worst day of my life.. the day of Patrick’s cardiac arrest.

When I look at Patrick now and compare it to what the doctors were telling us was the projected outcome of such a traumatic event I can’t help by say that I believe in miracles. One year before I was watching doctors work frantically and feeling uncertain of what the future could hold. Now, he was full of energy crawling around the doctor’s office, impossible to contain, showing off and flirting as only Patrick can.

After the appointment, we made a quick stop at the Ronald McDonald house to try to get a vision of where it is Patrick and I will be living during his recovery. Patrick LOVED sitting on Ronald’s lap, and especially, for some reason, honking Ronald’s nose. The house is different than I’d imagined, but kind of felt like it could be home for a while.

We decided that dinner that night needed to be something special. Brian suggested a picnic and Lindy and Kelly told us about a place called Carkeek Park in the city.

So, after a short detour chasing down a lost delivery of TPN, we headed into Seattle. We stopped at Pagliacci’s for pizza, then the Laylands guided us to a road where city suddenly turned to beautiful forest that then opened up to a beautiful view of the sound.

We ate dinner, then let the kids play on a little playground in the park. Lauren tried to teach Patrick to climb up the slides.. but in the end, he decided he was a much bigger fan of a giant teeter totter.

Then, we took a bridge with stairs that led us down the bluff and onto the beach.

This was the first time Patrick’s been to a beach and I wasn’t sure what he’d think of it. At first, he wasn’t so certain.. But soon he discovered the joy of walking and stomping in the sand.

Before long, he was cheering out loud! Then we sat for a while and watched Lauren, Brian and Kelly throw rocks in the water.

Finally, we decided it was past bedtime and we’d better head back. But to leave, we had to carry Patrick out. He wouldn’t take more than 3 steps without stopping to cheer.

Friday morning, Brian went in to his company’s offices in Seattle for a few hours. That left Lindy, the kids and I to play. We decided to go back to the beach because Patrick loved it so much. This time, we went to a beach about 10 minutes from the Lindy’s house.

Since I hadn’t planned on beach trips, I dressed Patrick in the only clothes I could come up with for the job. For shoes, he borrowed a bright purple pair of Crocs from Lauren. The result was quite the fashion statement.

It was a cold morning, though. Even beach savvy Lauren didn’t want to throw rocks in the water. I took Patrick down to watch the waves but decided it was a bad time to get wet. So I took his hands and went to lead him up the beach. He surprised me, though. He turned around and headed back to the water and stood where the waves would just lap onto his toes. Once he knew that was safe, he crept forward until the water came up to his ankles. Then he stood there until the cold water had him shivering all over.  The only pictures I got there he looks miserable because he was already chilled to the bone. But at least now we can say Patrick’s stood in the surf.

I was grateful for an Ivar’s stand on the way back where we could get some clam chowder to warm us up. Patrick was just grateful for his carseat. He fell asleep immediately and both he and Lauren slept 3 hours.

We went to a japanese steakhouse for dinner. It was a first for everyone but Brian and myself. Most loved the show, but once Patrick saw fire come from the onion and oil volcano, he was pretty nervous about the rest. He was a fan of the chopsticks they gave him to play with, though.. That was our saving grace.

And then, like all good things, our vacation had to come to an end. We flew home Saturday. Patrick showed his true daredevil character on landing. Because of the heat in Salt Lake, the landing was a bit rougher than usual. The girl sitting next to me almost turned green. Then, as we touched down, I looked at Patrick. He was grinning from ear to ear and chuckling. The smile didn’t leave his face until we’d reached the gate. He LOVED the bumps. My little thrill seeker!

I don’t know anyone who loves life as much as Patrick does. Perhaps because so early on he had to fight to keep it. What a miracle it is to share his life with him.

RSV and other adventures

This post is a follow-up on last week’s rant. It turns out that Patrick’s low-grade fevers were caused by RSV, a highly dangerous respiratory bug. He probably picked it up while he was trying to taste every piece of furniture in his hospital room the week before.

He was discharged to home before noon.. less than 24 hours after he was admitted. They sent us home with orders to visit the outpatient respiratory clinic as often as needed and boy have we been glad to have that resource! I think we caught this bug the first day… The symptoms didn’t really hit till Friday. Friday morning when he woke up he was working hard to breathe and my best efforts with steam and a bulb syringe wouldn’t budge things so I took him in. The respiratory therapist described the secretions as “glue”. He said that is was possible that Patrick was needing extra fluids, since I couldn’t give him drinks to keep him hydrated. So I stopped and asked for a prescription for some extra fluids.

The next night, he hardly slept! Finally at 3 a.m. I put the fluids on and he finally started to be able to clear his airway and went to sleep. When we took him in again his oxygen saturations weren’t in the dangerous zone, but they had dropped significantly.

That was the worst of it, though.. Patrick is actually doing much better these last couple of days. I think we finally have him rehydrated and he’s breathing much more easily now. We haven’t had to take him in for help in a couple of days now. I think that other than the long contagoius period and resulting quarantine, he’s on his way back to normal.

As for our car – well, it turned out to need $4000 in repairs. This is NOT what we wanted to hear in January, the month where we pay all of our out-of-pocket medical for the year.. We ended up approving the repairs, but have also decided that it’s time to sell that car and drive something more affordable to repair. And maybe once that car’s sold and our tax return comes back and things are a bit more stable, we can revisit the idea of having a practical car for me to drive in Seattle while leaving Brian with a practical car to drive here.

None of this excitement has done much to hinder Patrick, though. Despite being sick and grumpy and working to breathe, he is still growing up more and more every day. A week ago, I took a load of laundry downstairs. When I came upstairs I discovered Patrick halfway across the kitchen floor. He had dragged his IV pumps in their backpack by the tubing a good 4 feet trying to follow me downstairs. The next day we invented a safer way for him to get around.

Now when Patrick’s playing on the floor he wears a safety harness connected to a little cart that his backpack sits in. This way, he can get around the house without as high of a risk of ripping his central line out. He’s enjoying exploring how far he can go, and getting faster all the time! The funniest thing is how much he loves being under furniture. I’m amazed at all the places I find him. (And have to subsequently save him from.. because he gets his tubes and harness tied all around the furniture legs).

He also spent most of his last hospitalization improving his standing skills and he now dares stand himself up to some furniture and can walk around a big holding on… especially in his crib.

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.

Top 10 ways you’ll know that Patrick has had his transplant

It seems that our fundraising efforts have created some confusion about Patrick’s transplant. The fact that the Produce for Patrick stands coincided with Patrick’s intestinal reconnection surgery has led a lot of people to believe that transplant has already happened. As much as we wish that were true, Patrick is still waiting for his transplant.

I’m asked every few days how the transplant went. And when I explain that we’re still waiting, the response I almost always get is “Well, you’ll let us know when it does, right?”

So – for all who are afraid that they’ll miss word of Patrick’s transplant, here is a list of ways you’ll know it’s happened. (It’s also a little intro to what we expect life to be like after transplant.)

1) We’ll be in Washington. Patrick is having his transplant done at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

2) Brian will be alone when he’s at home. Patrick needs to live near Seattle Children’s for at least 6 months. I’ll be there with him.

3) Brian will achieve frequent flier status. The plan is for him to go back and forth between cities until Patrick and I can come home.

4) We’ll be germophobes. To prevent rejection, Patrick’s immune system will be suppressed. We won’t often take him into public places, and when we do, he’ll probably be wearing a mask. If you visit us, we’ll demand that you be healthy, and that you make sure to wash your hands… often.

5) Patrick will be allowed to eat. Not just a teaspoon of formula and one bite of solid food every 3 hours. He will need normal quantities of real food because…

6) Patrick won’t need TPN anymore. At first they’ll slowly decrease the number of hours that he has it. A goal before he comes home will be that he doesn’t need it at all anymore. He won’t have an IV anymore. It’s possible that for a while he’ll be fed through the tube in his stomach.. but eventually, even that will not be needed.

7) Patrick and I rack up a different kind of frequent flier miles. For the first little while after coming home, Patrick will need to go back to Seattle Children’s much more often than he goes now. To make these trips while he’s on immunosuppressants, we will probably stop flying commercially and use smaller planes through a service like Angel Flight. Since small planes fly more slowly, the trip will take a day each way, not counting time in clinic.

8 ) We’ll have to start watching our budget even more closely than we do now. Right now, most of Patrick’s care falls under our insurance company’s catastrophe protection. However, immune suppressants are a pharmacy benefit, to which no out of pocket maximum applies. Co-pays for transplant medications average hundreds of dollars a month.

9) We’ll probably change a lot of what we do. Patrick’s care will require a whole new and different routine. Because his health will be at risk, we’ll have to be careful of where we go with him, as well as what we do around the house. (For example, gardening is a huge health risk for Patrick.)

10) WE’LL TELL YOU! I promise, when it comes time for Patrick’s transplant, we will be overflowing with excitement, fear, and anticipation. An intestinal transplant is MAJOR. You won’t be guessing if it’s happened. It will be all we can think about for a long time.

Now, the next question I’ve been getting is this. “If Patrick hasn’t had his transplant yet, why are you fundraising?” The answer is this… Patrick’s transplant is a VERY expensive one. It’s a newer form of transplant with higher rejection risk, and so follow-up care for this transplant is quite intesive. Furthermore, we have to travel to have the transplant done, which ups our cost exponentially, especially when you add in cost of living and travel on top of out-of-network medical bills and medication co-pays. Raising $70,000 can take some time, and we’re trying to be prepared and to help in the fundraising efforts while we are still in a position to do so.

There is, of course, the possibility that Patrick’s health could fail before he gets to transplant. This is one of the biggest reasons that we decided to work with COTA to do fundraising. Any money raised that Patrick doesn’t need will go to the transplant-related expenses of other children.

So there’s my educational spiel of the morning. Hope it helps to answer some of the questions you may have.

Re-evaluation at Seattle Children’s

Sick boy on beanbag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recovering at home


I’m happy to announce some tremendous news! Patrick made a miraculous and quick recovery after my last post. The day after my last post, after much fasting and prayer by friends, family, and even people we don’t know, we walked into the ICU to find Patrick smiling and playing in his crib. He turned his head, saw Brian and me, and smiled. Over the next couple of days he continued to make steady improvement.

They gave him some steroids which helped reduce the swelling in his throat and his breathing became much less labored. Ear, nose & throat came and looked at his upper airway and determined that his vocal chords were ok and that, although he had swelling below them, that there wasn’t any evidence of scarring or other permanent damage. The only limitation that they placed on him was that he not be reintubated except for life-saving procedures for the next 6 weeks.

Neurology also came by several times in that day and watched as he progressed, began interacting with me, focusing his eyes, moving his arms and hands more normally… and in the end decided that there didn’t seem to be any evidence of a problem there that would merit further attention.

Next, they scheduled for him to go back to Special Procedures and to have another PICC line placed. Because his antifungal medications aren’t compatible with TPN, he needs two points of access. Amazingly, they were able to get a double lumen PICC placed. This means that there are essentially two tubes wrapped into one and placed in the same vein… instead of having a line in each arm. With that in place, they removed all of the other lines in his body.

The PICC made him sore, but by Thursday that was their primary complaint and they decided to transfer him out of the ICU into the infant unit.

Also Thursday he had a swallow study done. This means that they mixed contrast into apple sauce and put some him a bottle and had me feed it to him while they watched it go down his throat on floroscope. Having fasted or been fed by G-tube for 2 weeks, Patrick thought this was heaven and was furious when it was done. The end result was that he swallows perfectly… pretty amazing for a kid who is barely allowed to eat.

That confirmed, they started giving him bottles again. However, his gut had gone unused so long that it’s still working on recovering. We started out with just 2.5 cc’s every 3 hours…that’s about 1/4 tsp.

Saturday night Patrick’s PICC line got tugged and the vein started to swell. He woke up in the middle of the night and really didn’t sleep the rest of the night. We worried that it might need to be replaced again… but with some rest and elevation and heat, it slowly started to show signs of recovery.

Finally, Monday his electrolytes, stool output, feeds, and PICC line were all stable enough and at noon that day we were able to bring him home.

You should have seen how big his eyes got when we pulled into the garage! I was all grins and giggles when we walked into the house. As per tradition, once we got business squared away, Patrick and I curled up in my bed and went right to sleep. He slept till 5:30, completely peaceful.

We’ve been home for a few days now and are finally getting back into the swing of things. Family and friends have been great – bringing in meals and coming to sit with him during the day so that I can get things caught up around the house. He’s having a hard time getting used to sleeping through the night again. He doesn’t like being on his back since spending so much time in a bed. And I’m having a very hard time getting used to caring for a double lumen picc. But we are slowly moving forward and today, for the first time, has felt like routine again.

He needs to be seen ASAP in Seattle so that they can determine if he can be put back as status 1 on the intestinal transplant list. They are also looking at possibly listing him for a liver-intestine transplant, as well… since the problems with his spleen could be evidence of scarring in his liver. We have a trip planned from Wednesday through Friday next week… with appointments most of the day Wednesday. This will be my first time travelling alone with Patrick. It’ll be a process, I’m sure… But hopefully well worth the effort. If nothing else, it’ll be good practice for me.

It’s hard to believe that just weeks ago we were sure we’d lost our little boy. He has so much light and life in his spirit right now. He’s pretty weak still and we’re working on getting him back to eating what he had been eating before… And both of us have to get used to that line in his arm. But things in this house are calm and happy. It’s so good to be together… and so good to be home!