What’s the best thing about Thanksgiving dinner? Not the food, according to Patrick, who really didn’t even want to eat much of anything at either of the family get-togethers we went to. For Patrick, the best part of Thanksgiving dinner was that it put his family all together between the hours of 2 & 4 p.m. This is when Patrick has his break from his TPN, which means that on two consecutive days, Patrick got to run around tube free and play with his very favorite people.

You couldn’t ask for a better holiday treat.

I’ll admit, I enjoyed it, too. It’s different to go to an event and be able to let Patrick play without having to follow behind him watching his tubes.

And the best thing about the entire holiday weekend? Well, according to Patrick, it was having Daddy home for so many days in a row. He didn’t want to let him out of his sight. Friday morning we went to do a little bit of Christmas shopping and when Brian walked away from the cart, Patrick was absolutely heartbroken.

Daddy is, hands down, Patrick’s favorite person in the entire world. And who am I to argue? The two of them are my two favorite people, too.

Spending the holiday with the two of them, free from the hospital, healthy and happy is truely something to be thankful for.

Adoption Reflections: The journey home

I think this will be the last in my adoption reflections series.

Things started to come together quickly once the court granted us full custody of Patrick. The adoption agency put in a petition for something called an “interstate compact” or “ICPC”. Basically, Michigan and Utah had to formally agree on which laws would govern the adoption. Meanwhile, the hospital social worker and discharge planner started working on the bigger question of how exactly we’d get Patrick home.

Patrick’s care needed to be transferred to specialists in Utah. He needed doctors here arranged and home care set up before he could leave the hospital environment. That meant he couldn’t just be discharged from the hospital so we could fly home commercially.

Eventually, it was decided that our best option was a medical flight. It took some juggling, negotiating, and everything short of outright begging to come up with the $20,000 cost of the flight, but eventually between our insurance company, a private donor, and our own savings, we had enough to book the flight.

Two days before Thanksgiving, the ICPC and flight were arranged, Patrick had a bed and a doctor at Primary Children’s hospital. We were coming home!

There wasn’t room for both of us and our month’s worth of luggage on the flight home, so Brian flew home Tuesday evening with the luggage. I stayed behind to take care of Patrick.

We were scheduled to fly out early in the afternoon on Wednesday, but some bad weather put the flight crew behind so it was after midnight before we left. We bundled Patrick up as warmly as possible. Then they strapped him to a stretcher. We went by ambulance to the airport, where a Leer Jet was waiting. We flew at 70,000 feet to stay out of turbulance. Patrick just slept the whole way.

Finally, we landed in Salt Lake and took an ambulance to the hospital, arriving about 4 a.m.

It was so disorienting to be in a new hospital. Nothing was familiar. I was tired and somewhat lightheaded from the long trip.

Brian met us at the hospital, and once we were checked in, took me home to rest. Leaving my baby all alone in an unfamiliar place was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I knew I had to take care of myself.

After a couple of hours’ sleep, we got up and got ready for Thanksgiving. I finally got to see the nursery Brian and our friends had put together for us. We took hundreds of pictures with us to Thanksgiving dinner. And then, once we were rested and fed, we went back to the hospital – where’d I’d spend most of my days for the next 2 and a half weeks.

For the first time, it was our last name on Patrick’s nametag. We were just the parents, not the “adoptive parents”. Our families got to finally meet him. It would be a couple of weeks more before he left the hospital, but Patrick was home.

This year, he gets to come with us to his first ever Thanksgiving dinner. Two of them in fact! We’ve come a long way to get here. Probably the best journey I’ve ever experienced.

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.

Coming Home

Well, it took a few days longer that we’d hoped… But on a grand scale we actually made incredibly good time at getting back home to Utah. The ICPC came through late on Monday… unfortunately too late to do anything about it. So – Tuesday morning arrangements began to be made for the air ambulance. We were scheduled to leave Michigan at 2 p.m. Wednesday. Since space on the plane was limited, and there were things to do at home, Howie flew home Tuesday as soon as we’d made arrangements. I stayed behind to tie up the last loose ends and to take care of Patrick.

Of course, the best laid plans… Weather and mechanical things put the air ambulance enough behind that they had to take an FAA required break… So instead of leaving at 2 p.m., they finally made it to the hospital at midnight. I did my best to sleep before then… but Patrick wasn’t too keen on that idea so I was pretty tired even before I left.

The trip home was a very unique experience. 3 flight nurses and 2 EMT’s showed up around midnight and talked to the nurses at Beaumont to make sure they understood Patrick’s needs. Then, we wrapped him up in the snowsuit I’d bought for him at the last minute and strapped him into the carseat, which had been secured to a stretcher.

We made our way out through the ER of the hospital and were loaded into an ambulance. When transporting an infant, their biggest goal is to keep them warm… So the ambulance was a bit like a sauna. It took 45 minutes to get to the airport in Pontiac.

They put me on the plane first to get settled while they got things warm and ready for Patrick. Then they brought the rest of everything along. (Everything means Patrick in his carseat and a tiny little vital signs monitor and a tiny size pump for his TPN). Plus the flight nurses. We rode home in a leer jet so the space was quite cramped, but pretty comfortable. There were two nurses, a respiratory nurse (to make sure Patrick didn’t get hypoxic), and two pilots.

We flew at 70,000 feet because there is less turbulance at that altitude, so the climb took forever. But Patrick, who’d been asleep since we’d put him in his snowsuit, barely stirred. Once we reached altitude, I got to trade seats so I was closest to Patrick. But he was determined not to wake up. I had to work really hard to get him awake enough for his feeding, and then he fell asleep again right away.

Since he was determined to sleep, I went back to the comfier seat myself and tried to get some sleep in. I think I slept for about an hour and a half, and then woke up on time to start recognizing the silhouettes of mountains. One of the most stunning sights from the flight was the moon setting over the rockies, seen through the front windows of the jet.

We landed at the Salt Lake Airport about 4:30 and it took about 40 minutes to get loaded into the new ambulance and up to the airport. We found the NICU at just about 5:30. The hospital staff knew we were coming, but had expected us several hours before. And, for some reason, the ambulance crew didn’t think to call ahead and came in through a back entrance they weren’t expected to use… so we caught them a bit off guard.

They did an exceptional job through getting us in. I guess that, although the hospital had been in communication with the GI accepting Patrick, that information didn’t get passed along to many people. So, fortunately, the staff at Beaumont had done a great job educating us and we were able to help provide the basic information they needed to get started with his care.

They did pull me out to do some admissions and orientation stuff. And right about then the stress of the past day and the flight hit me. I was so glad for a stash of food and water in my bag because for a few moments there I was sure I was going to pass out. Fortunately, Howie finally got to us (he’d missed us because we came in an unexpected door) just as I hit the non-functional state and was able to take care of the most crucial things there.

Then, with Patrick mostly settled, we went home to get some much needed rest. I would have liked to spend a few hours with him, but I’d about hit my limit. So we got home at 7 a.m. Boy was it nice to see my own car and my own house!

We slept a few hours then got up, put the 200 some odd pictures we took in Michigan into a photo album (Howie had all those digitals printed), and then went to Thanksgiving dinner. It was early afternoon before we made it back to the hospital but Patrick was doing pretty well when we got there. He wasn’t sleeping, he was just laying there looking at his new surroundings. (He’s in a much busier room and I’m sure was confused).

That night, he got to meet my dad, his grandpa, for the first time.

Now we’re just trying to get things settled. We brought stacks and stacks of pages from his chart in Michigan with us. But- as we’d been warned they would- for most information they are relying on us to help explain. Again, we are so grateful for those doctors and nurses who took time to make sure that we really understood everything from Patrick’s care to his treatment, tests, and diagnosis.

This is a bit of a big adjustment for us. Different hospitals do things in different ways. Of course, the hospital wants to do their own assessment, so we’re repeating some things. He has to earn his way back off of pulse-ox and back into a crib. But they’re also being pretty proactive in his care. They’ve tried continuous feeding… but it sent his output levels through the roof. So now we’re trying progestamil by mouth… and he seems to be doing fine with it. We’re hoping to be transferred into the infant unit instead of the NICU pretty soon… but that all has to wait till the end of the assessment period, so it may still take some time. Some of the fun changes in this hospital are that we are dressing Patrick ourselves and he gets a bath 3 nights a week. I got to give him a bath last night, and boy oh boy did he love the baby lotion massage afterwards.

We expect things to pick up once we make it through the weekend. Yesterday, as people came back from the holiday, we started to meet some of the important people who’ll be involved with Patrick’s care. Monday we expect to see the most progress as things are finally back to work as usual.