Transplant Day 65 and things are moving

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It is amazing, when dealing with problems of the intestine, how often we have prayed for bowel movements. We are ecstatic to announce that Patrick’s gut woke up yesterday afternoon. It seems that things are working very well so far. Patrick’s immediate reaction was to ask me if it meant he could have a bowl of soup. After a nap (giving us time to call the nurse practitioner for approval) we consented.

Life is easier with Patrick able to eat. He was really heartbroken without food so we were eating out in the hall. Now, as long as he has his bowl of soup first so his belly isn’t empty, Patrick is content letting us eat in front of him.

The plan moving forward is this. Today, they took the drain tube off of his g-tube (stomach) to see if he could make it the day without feeling sick. They also allowed him clear liquids all day. We are lucky Patrick is loving chicken broth. Tomorrow, they’ll restart his tube feeds and start weaning him back off of TPN.

It’s been a month since his lungs needed drained because of his formula, so it’s time to try the other formula, elecare, again. He needs more balanced nutrition. This could mean he needs to go slower starting feeds so that we are being really careful about not repeating that performance again. I’d guess we still have a few days here.

Sadly, though, that means that Brian will be leaving us in the hospital again. He flies home on Monday morning. I can’t believe that much time has passed. But at least he’s leaving us with things moving forward.

Today’s been a quiet day. Patrick has been kind of grumpy and contrary feeling all day. I’m not sure exactly why. I suspect it is that we have tried to go light on his pain medicine. He’s only getting tylenol right now. The other medicine controls pain well, but also slows down the gut. Patrick’s also been quite tired. Hopefully we can succeed in getting him a good night’s sleep tonight. He’s been kind of restless and jumpy and sleeps so glued to me that I can’t move all night.

Transplant Day 56 and Christmas Day

We had a very unique, but very amazing Christmas day this year.

It all started with a little bit of excitement. Every night sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. I have to get up to refill the formula in Patrick’s feeding bag. So at 3:30 I was up and it seemed to go really smoothly and I stuffed the little stocking that Patrick had hung on the IV pole by his bed. And then I went into the bathroom and the pump started to alarm.

Well, I got there quick enough that it didn’t wake Patrick and I fixed the kinked tubing. And then I noticed a very distinct smell. The smell of Patrick’s ostomy bag leaking. I felt around the pouch and it was definitely starting to come off. That usually would mean waking him to change the bag. But I looked around a room full of presents that Santa had already brought and I knew that if I woke him, we’d be having Christmas right then.

Now, my previous history of early Christmas mornings aside, I also knew that Patrick would not have time for a nap in the rest of the day without missing out on some big fun things. So I took a risky chance. I crawled in bed with him, wrapped him in a towel, secured the bag the best I could, and slept next to him. I knew we’d be starting the day off with a big mess and that we’d have to work hard to keep it from making his skin sore. But it seemed the best choice for a good Christmas day.

I had nightmares about ostomy bags the rest of the night and at 6:30, when Patrick started to stir a little, decided I’d waited long enough and let him wake up. I explained he was wet and needed to go right to the bath. He wasn’t so sure, but I didn’t give him a choice.

We got him cleaned up pretty quickly and changed into his spare Christmas morning pajamas. (We learned long ago that we need two pair of special Christmas PJ’s.) We asked him if he thought Santa would have come and he said no. Somehow, he’d missed all the presents on the way through.

But when he did see them, that’s all he wanted.

We let him start with his little stocking. That was simple stuff. A Dora doll, some hot wheels cars, some silly putty. Then Brian pulled out the big stockings.

I’ll confess. I was pretty worried about Christmas stockings this year. I could not figure out how to go about getting that part of Christmas ready when Patrick needed to be with me and time in stores was limited. Heck, we tried to buy stockings once and had to leave the store without. So when a package from Brian’s work showed up full of gifts, including stockings, I was relieved.

Patrick’s stocking was huge. It took half an hour to go through. Of course, that was the tip of the iceberg for Christmas morning. Between family, friends, DDM, and  gifts donated through the hospital and  the Ronald McDonald House, we were very well taken care of this Christmas. When I look back at myself a month ago, lying awake in the hospital in tears and unable to sleep not being able to imagine how we could possibly pull together Christmas this year and contrast that with the abundant and generous outpouring that we received I am humbled and grateful.

A phrase from a verse in Malachi kept running through my head.  Malachi 3:10:

“prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Indeed – it took most of today to make space to put away Patrick’s many gifts and there is a small collection in the corner of the “too much” that we will probably pass on to other children.

After opening gifts in our room, we let Patrick pick a couple of toys and we headed down to the kitchen to take care of meds and formula. It was fun to see children pop in and out with Christmas presents and smiles on their faces.

Finally, 10:30 rolled around and Santa was due to arrive. Christmas with Santa in the Ronald McDonald House is going to stay forever in my memory. Each family had a pile of presents with our names on them. Most were simple, some were astoundingly generous. Santa went around the room telling the kids about how he’d picked certain things just for them and which gifts were most popular.  I’ll never forget the tears in the eyes of one mom whose family had arrived for emergency surgery just a couple of days before who really did think they’d be missing Christmas this year.

And then, after presents, we gathered for Christmas brunch. The Hilton had sent a gourmet meal over with roast beef and turkey and potatoes and stuffing and the yummiest green bean casserole on the planet and about 20 different desserts.

We ate well and then had to reign ourselves in because we knew we had other plans.

In fact, right after brunch, I went up to the room to pack our things to go for the rest of the day. A couple of my very close friends from college married and live two hours away in Iowa. And they invited us out for Christmas dinner. So, we took a drive yesterday. It was fun to see country life in Iowa. And it was amazing to spend some time with friends.

Drue and Rachel have to be two of my favorite people on the planet. They’ve been through a lot in their 13 years of marriage. And now seem so happy and in their element. Both grew up in smaller towns and so it is natural that they’ve settled down in bigger small town in Iowa with 5 acres of land and a historic house they bought for $1 and moved to the lot.

While they finished up making dinner, (smoked leg of lamb and homemade gravy and Idaho mashed potatoes!!) their daughter, Julie, took Patrick out to the chicken coop and he came back with his shoes all muddy.. So then he had to play around in stocking feet all the rest of the evening, which he loved. And they gave him a real metal slinky and showed him how to use it on the stairs, and he loved that, too. And mostly, he was tired because we gave up naps to try to get him to sleep at night and he might not really be ready for that.

BUT he made it and we had a lovely dinner and played Catch Phrase afterwards and reminisced and caught up. And we got to see the stars (something I hate that Patrick misses having to always be in the city so he is close to medical care and clean.) And then we drove back and Patrick managed to stay awake the whole way, which mean he would sleep.

But we ended the day almost as excitingly as it started because one of the bottles of formula opened and spilled in the cooler and so we had to make a new batch of formula and clean up the sticky mess. So we got to bed a bit late and then Patrick woke up at 3 and insisted I come sleep in his bed. So my dreams of an early bedtime and a then sleeping in till 9 were both dashed, but it was still a wonderful Christmas.

And today was mostly quiet with a trip to Costco (then a trip back to the room to replace the feeding button that Patrick accidentally pulled out as he got out of the car. That was traumatic and he talked about it all day.).. Then we took another trip to Costco where we actually bought the totes and batteries we went for. And we spent the day resting and cleaning and playing with new toys. And today we DID make it to bed on time. And maybe tomorrow we’ll even sleep in.

I will never, EVER forget this Christmas. This season brings out the best in us. We are kinder, more generous, more Christlike. And as I read the Christmas story with Patrick this month, I could relate more with the story of Mary and Joseph far from home, staying in a stable of all places as their baby was born. But Heavenly Father knew where they were. And He sent angels to tell ordinary, humble working men – shepherds. And then those shepherds went and it was through those ordinary people that the Lord sent the message that He remembered and He knew what was happening and was was going to happen.

And we, through the ordinary people, have seen the hand of the Lord this Christmas.

Some of you are reading this. I need to say thank you. You may think that what you have done was something small. But this Christmas was anything but small for us. So thank you.

Transplant Day 48 and some Christmas Cheer

It’s been a busy couple of days. Without labs in the morning, I’ve been trying to work on a little bit of a better sleep schedule.  I don’t know that we’re getting more sleep, but at least we haven’t been up till midnight.

Yesterday we didn’t have labs and Patrick actually slept till 8 a.m. Then we took our sweet time getting ready and out of the room, which is always nice. It usually means I get some cleaning done.

Because Patrick had slept so late, I decided to try out skipping nap.  That meant I needed to keep him entertained for the day instead. I stole a little bit of internet time in the morning while he played in the playroom and I downloaded the new homeschool curriculum I want to use for “mommy school.” (I’m using Reading the Alphabet, if you are curious.) Then we came upstairs and I printed out a little reader to practice with and a reader.

Patrick was so excited to do mommy school. I think he’s feeling as bored and stir crazy as I am. He mastered his book in about 5 minutes. The series I’m using is a sight words preprimer series.. So pretty basic stuff. Just sight words mixed with pictures that he should be able to decipher. This is what he was using in school before transplant so it seemed like a good place to pick up. It’s probably a slower paced curriculum than he’d be getting in a typical classroom, but i figure that anything is better than 3 or less hours a week and the pace seems to match his learning style. Once he had mastered his book, we did a little bit of writing practice with the word of the week, (“a”) and the letter of the week (“Tt”).. and then we took his book to practice reading to other people. Both he and they love this method of practicing reading. I have the feeling that taking his books to the office staff to practice is going to be pretty par for the course.

After a little bit of resting/cleaning time in our room, we got ready for the evening’s excitement. Last night was the hospital’s annual pediatrics Christmas party. A company called Renaissance financials hosts this every year for the inpatient and outpatient pediatric patients. That means that you don’t have to be in the hospital to be invited. They know there are a lot of us here who’ve traveled quite some way and will be here long-term.

The party started with a magician. It’s amazing to me to see Patrick old enough to appreciate these things. He laughed and was awed by the tricks. He really wanted to be a helper, but didn’t raise his hand to say so.

After the magic show, we found our tables and worked on making jingle bell necklaces, marshmellow snowmen, and gingerbread houses made out of graham crackers and take out boxes. We were joined there by one of the employees helping to host the party.

That kind of made this the perfect blend of holiday party for me. It had all of the kid-friendly elements that I’m used to from a school or church party. But there were employees and their wives there for their annual company Christmas party, too.. All dressed up. It kind of helped soothe the part of me that is really missing corporate Christmas dinners.

We had a dinner of pizza and breadsticks. Patrick enjoyed some crust and declared the julienned carrots from my salad “perfect.”

And then, they made us all sing Christmas carols. They top this off with a tradition where each of the 12 dinner tables has to make up and action to do to their assigned day of the 12 Days of Christmas. I hope our 5 golden rings had enough flair.

Then, the night was topped off with a visit from Santa Claus himself. They came and called the kids up for their turns one by one so there was no line or crush. Each kid got some personal time with Santa. Patrick took his to open the present that Santa had brought him.. A big noisy 3-wheeled motorcycle that races across the room when you push a button.

Patrick’s attention was gone pretty quickly after his visit with Santa. We snuck out as things started to wind down and ran to the store to get a few things to make some little gifts for the many people we have gotten to know here. (I’m making angel ornaments out of ribbon, a paperclip, and a bead.) Patrick thinks Michaels is the best store ever.. specially since they had little shopping baskets with a handle he could pull like a rolling suitcase.

And then we came back to the house where all the kids were playing with the toys Santa brought. It reminded me of Christmas morning… which makes me really look forward to Christmas. We have lived with these kids for a couple of weeks now and they are getting to be friends. It was fun to see them sharing toys with each other.. racing around shooting each other with nerf guns and taking turns with the remote control car.

It was especially needed last night as one of the families staying in the house lost their son last night. It is hard to put into words the way that a loss like that hurts in a community like this. We understand more deeply than anyone can the pain of that loss and just want to take it away.

Today has been a pretty low-key kind of day. I got Patrick to sleep last night by 10, but that meant he was wide awake and happy at 6:30. He chose to play on his bed for an hour, though, and when he was ready to go was pretty good downstairs.

The grandparents of the boy who passed away stayed here last night and Patrick has been particularly attached to them all day.. Cuddling up with both of them and playing charmer. He really has a way of knowing what people need sometimes.

Then, when he did leave them, Patrick went to visit his friends in the office. He has made this a bit of a morning tradition. I don’t think they mind much. House rules say they are supposed to give us our space.. but if we go visit them, that is ok. Patrick likes to go visit.

Over lunch, Tyson, the 18 year old transplant recipient, took Patrick downstairs to play in the playroom while I showed his mom how to make homemade frosting and how to roll out and cut sugar cookies. (It’s funny how this is something I have just taken for granted knowing how to do. After a lifetime of baking with mom and grandma, going to church activities, doing crafts, and learning other homemaking skills.. I guess I kind of assume that most people have some experience with these things. But they have been wowed by my skills here and it’s kind of a strange feeling. The things you discover when you leave the Mormon belt.)

I got a call this afternoon from hospital social work asking me to come pick up Christmas gifts. While we were still inpatient, they came and asked if one of the hospital departments could adopt us for Christmas.. given how far we are from home and knowing what our co-pays were going to be. We tried to decline and offer this to someone else, but they insisted that we fit the bill to help. So, we made a simple list for them.

What I picked up today was not simple. My trunk is full. And there was a gift card included too that kind of blew me away.

Anyway – once we finished that outing, Patrick asked to try to play at a park. We went, but he got too cold too fast again. So we came back to the house and let him play in the playroom while I paid some bills and then pulled out my new Christmas music books and played on the piano. This is another thing that I kind of have taken for granted in the past. People who play the piano are limited back home, but there’s a few of us in every neighborhood at least. Here, though.. some of the staff say they have never seen this piano used to play actual music. I am so excited to try a sing along.

Next was dinner. One of the drawbacks of the Ronald McDonald House at Christmas time is that all the dinner groups very well-meaningly try to bring in a festive holiday meal. You don’t want to know how many hams have been served here this week. Patrick is loving it, though. Ham and potatoes is one of his favorite meals and he will happily eat it over and over again. It just makes me smile and remember my missionary days when we’d be fed at member houses and we’d see food seasons. I wonder what food season comes after Christmas.

Then, I ended up letting Patrick stay up just a bit late because we decorated cookies tonight. It was so much fun and I was really grateful for Wendy, a mom and friend in the house, and all of the resources and work she put into getting Christmas cookies into the house.  The kids had a great time. Patrick loved it and, yes, I let him splurge and have some frosting tonight. (He’s supposed to be on a no concentrated sugar diet at least until things get a little more stable.)

Our word of the day was “angels”. We read about how angels appeared to sing about Christ’s birth. And then for good measure, I pulled out my YouTube video and watched this awesome video… a record breaker for multitudes of angels in a live Nativity, and heart-touching to boot.

And now Patrick’s finally made it to sleep. I’m thrilled he is asleep before 11 again.. But every night I have grand intentions of getting up and getting to work once he is asleep. I have a couple of presents to wrap and the room needs cleaning and the laundry needs put away. Especially since we have labs tomorrow. But I can barely keep my eyes open. So I’ll be settling on finishing up this post, hunting down an internet connection so I can post it.. and then going off to bed.

 

Transplant Day 38 and Look Mom!

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Patrick has been DYING to get his hands on this statue of Robert Frost since he first saw it. We also visited Thomas Jefferson and some other sculptures today.
Patrick has been DYING to get his hands on this statue of Robert Frost since he first saw it. We also visited Thomas Jefferson and some other sculptures today.

‘m blogging at 3:30 p.m. because I expect Patrick to sleep all afternoon. He had a pump alarm at 5:30 a.m. and the nursing staff tried to pull a “while you’re awake” rush at vitals and other care. The result was that he was wide awake, and since labs were due half an hour later.. well, he was up. But I wasn’t ready to be up, so I we talked and agreed to turn on Blues Clues so he wouldn’t wake up the neighbors and then I layed down and slept while he watched. I’ve decided that, given that insomnia is a well-known side effect of steroids, I need to just go with the flow when he can’t sleep and this is one solution that has worked.

The problem is that this worked almost too well. Patrick would wake me every 10-15 minutes or so and tell me something about his show. And I’d tell him I’d get up at the end of the episode.. then I’d fall asleep again. It was like I was a teenager with a snooze button again. I slept till 9.

But it worked for us today. When I got up we were productive. Bath. Dressed. Playtime. Meds. Cleaned up the room. Zofran worked so when he got up, he felt fine.

Rounds came early. The doctor heard Patrick’s number and looked at me and said, “Well, do you want to go out?” He was entirely sincere, I think. The resident, however, got this panicked look on his face and said, “The coordinators (transplant coordinators) said not on the weekend!” I knew that really they need tomorrow to pull things together the right way and kind of laughed it off. It’s good to hear that they are earnestly considering discharge, though.

We’ve had a good day so far. The morning kind of dragged. Hospitals are so quiet on Sundays. We did a little bit of primary (Sunday School). It didn’t go over as well today. Patrick’s body was saying “move” and so sitting talking wasn’t going over so well. Singing time was a little better. I bought a little app that plays the church songs with a bouncing ball over the words and I sing along. He mostly just watches me. But I did get him to try and repeat one of the Christmas songs. And we watched a couple of videos. Today we talked about the resurrection and Patrick hands down refuses to believe that Jesus died. He knows “He is just ok, mom!” So I tried to explain that He died and is alive again and we used some exam gloves to demonstrate the spirit in the body and not. But I think this concept is still beyond him, oh well.

Because Patrick was needing to be up and moving, we went to the playroom. I set up bowling. He took one throw, then grabbed a chair and told me bowling was better sitting down. Yeah, his body is saying move, but it’s also saying “Gee, I’m tired.” So we tried bowling from a chair and that didn’t work so well. So we tried just sitting on the floor rolling a ball back and forth which worked better, but wore him out pretty quickly, too. He got up to play with magnets and his feeding pump started to alarm because it had run dry.

He ran away so fast once he had a backpack on that I could barely catch a picture
He ran away so fast once he had a backpack on that I could barely catch a picture

Today, though, that was good news. I asked his nurse this morning how she’d feel about letting me use Patrick’s home pump for the afternoon. That way, I could practice with it, Patrick could get used to it.. and we could take advantage of how dead the hospital is on a Sunday.

No sooner had I put the pump in the bag than Patrick was asking for it on his back. And with it on, away he went! He just about ran out the door without me.

We went all over the hospital today. We went up to the NICU where the rooftop garden is. The garden doors were locked for the weekend. (BOO!)… But Patrick insisted on playing on the flight of stairs leading up to them. He long flight made him huff and puff, but he found a set of 4 steps that he declared were “easy peasy.” And, easy or not, he tried them a few times.

Then, we decided to walk over to other hospital building called Clarkson tower. Think walking from Primary Children’s to the University of Utah… only with the connecting corridor being about 2-3 times as long. We had to stop to take a few breaks. Thanks goodness for benches and Christmas trees along the way. But he made it… and at one point, he shouted, “Look, Mom! I’m runnin’!” And away he went down the hall until he couldn’t go any more.

We visited the chapel. We played in the guest pavilion. We found every Christmas tree we could muster. We passed the attending surgeon on the way and he gave Patrick a HUGE smile. (Bet that wins some discharge points.)

He claimed to really like this view. I think he really liked the window ledge to rest on.
He claimed to really like this view. I think he really liked the window ledge to rest on.

We washed our hands about a billion times. (Patrick is more than happy to wear a little portable hand sanitizer around his neck and wash his hands as well as the hands of anyone else standing near him.) We practiced pushing elevator buttons with wipes and with our elbows. We talked about what it’s safe to touch and what’s not safe to touch.

Learning to be immune suppressed is going to be a big stretch for Patrick. We’ve always said that Patrick was fragile, but needed an immune system and so we have exposed him to as much as possible before. Now, the opposite is true. Before, a cold would have taken him a while to recover from but he could fight it. Now, he might not be able to fight what for us is just a mild virus.

So hand washing and mask wearing and no touching and germ fearing and crowd dodging are going to be our norm. At least for the immediate future. The transplant team here has told us not to keep him in a bubble. But also to be careful. And right now we may be erring on the side of too careful… But this recovery has also gone too well and we don’t want to risk undoing that if not undoing it is even an option.

We came back to the room to take the sacrament. Patrick has really taken to the young men’s president who brings it. He just squeezed his way right into his arms today. And for the first time in weeks, he swallowed the bread.

Of course, he also has had 1/4 cup of chicken broth and a few bites of pasta today… all his own idea. There may be hope of eating yet. Especially once we get outpatient and the foods are safe and familiar. If I can just figure out how to teach him it’s ok to swallow now.

Anyway – I expect we’ll wrap this day up with a video chat with Daddy and the family at Sunday Dinner back home in Utah. We’ll make our Christmas advent ornament while we watch the annual Christmas Devotional, one of my favorite holiday traditions. And then bedtime might be a bit late because Patrick will have napped late. And if all of that holds true, this post will auto post at 9 p.m. tonight.  (If not, you’ll never even know I wrote this last two sentences.)

But for now, with Patrick napping so deeply, I might as well see if I can get a few things done just in case we do make it out of here tomorrow.

Transplant Day 37 and Saturday is a special day

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Well, despite the rough night last night, we have done our best to make today a better day. It still started out iffy. I woke up with a tremendous headache and a backache, too, because Patrick found the button that turns off the auto adjusting mattress. I thought this would be better because it wouldn’t keep sinking on my side every time I moved. However, without that extra inflation, sleeping pressed into the corner of the bed with Patrick on my arm just made my back hurt.

But, at 9 I managed to sneak out of the bed with him still asleep and take some pain medicine and have the morning conversations with the doctors and nurses without waking him for a little. I also got on Amazon and used our Prime account to order a few of the supplies that we desperately need for discharge that I just don’t see how I’m going to make it to a store to buy. (If you don’t know this about my faith.. we don’t shop on Sundays. Goes back to the 8th commandment where it says not to make your servants work on the Sabbath.) Sure hospitals are 24/7 and medical emergencies force my hand from time to time, but we try REALLY hard to stick by this principle and not many any more people work for us than necessary on Sundays. So shopping had to be done today or it won’t be done. But back to the story..

The team rounded early. That was nice because it meant I wasn’t stuck here. There were no changes in the plan. Just trying to get the right medication dose. Alas, at 4 p.m. we learned that the morning dose had been low still. That means that tomorrow and Monday’s levels have to both be in the target range because we need back to back good values before he’ll be ready to go.

I did get one thing right, though, in my advocating for his care. I asked the nurse to give him his zofran an hour before the time he usually wakes up. And, for the first time in 2 weeks, Patrick got up without being nauseous. That made a HUGE difference for how the day went. Getting him ready was so much easier because he felt good enough to sit up to get dressed and for his bath. I think that’s going to be a daily change for a while.

At 11, Patrick’s nurse managed to round up a volunteer for me. There may be only one who comes on Saturday, so this was a bit of a miracle. I hurried off to the Ronald McDonald house to try to address the very serious problem that I was out of clean clothes. I ran into another transplant mom I know there. She offered to help get my laundry dry and to my room which was a HUGE blessing. The washing machines at the RMH are slow and you just can’t really finish laundry in the 2 hour window a volunteer can stay.  So I got the clothes in the washer and then collected the day’s delivery of packages. (I wonder if they hate me, we have so much come mail order.)

Today’s shipment was an assortment of medical supplies and a set of small plastic food storage containers. The latter made me very happy as it made it much easier to raid the leftovers from last night’s dinner at the Ronald McDonald House and bring them here for lunch.

I even managed to get back to the room on time.

Patrick and I had a good afternoon. We had lunch and then attempted a nap. (But failed attempts at sleep can sometimes make sleep times for the next several attempts harder. He didn’t nap. And just now, bedtime was harder than usual.. though he did make it so sleep pretty quickly once I told him I was going to go blog so I wasn’t a distraction.)

We are running into some sure signs that Patrick is feeling like himself again. He doesn’t want to sleep away from home. It’s getting hard to get a good blood pressure reading because he won’t hold still. The room is cluttered with bits and pieces of his toys and crafts. I am spending most of my time just watching trying to keep him safe.

We did make it to play in the playroom a bit this afternoon. We ordered up dinner from room service. Patrick has been excited to try their roasted potatoes and did as good of a job tasting them as he ever does. I am hopeful we’ll make more progress once we get outpatient and I can cook for him.

Then, this evening I decided to double our evening walk. Last night as we walked to the cafeteria, we saw that they had put Christmas lights in one of the outdoor gardens. So today we walked down to that garden to see the lights. He only got tired and asked to be carried once. (Goodness is he heavy with these weak muscles!) He didn’t last long outside, but he made it all the way back after just a short break and was even kind of skipping/jumping along the way. I have good intentions to bat my eyes and see if I can’t get a nurse to let me “practice” with his portable feeding pump in a backpack tomorrow and see how far he can go if the pump battery doesn’t die and bring us back.) One nice thing about the hospital being dead on the weekends is that it doesn’t seem as dangerous to go play in the halls.

We read some books using the Readeo account his Uncle Mark bought him, and then put him to bed. Like I said, he tried to play and stay awake. This is also typical, feeling-himself Patrick behavior. But his little body needed rest and he was out within 5 minutes of me biting the bullet and saying I couldn’t lay with him because he was trying to play with me.

Transplant day 36 and almost

A Christmas tree appeared in the playroom yesterday.  Patrick had a great time exploring its ornaments.
A Christmas tree appeared in the playroom yesterday. Patrick had a great time exploring its ornaments.

Well, Patrick had another spectacularly good day. We started with the goal of him getting out of bed by himself, since he’d climbed in by himself the day before. This was harder than expected, given his morning nausea.. But that information was helpful because I haven’t been able to tell if he actually needed zofran in the morning. We think he does and we made a plan to give it every day for a while. Hoping he starts his days off better…

Because once he’s up, he’s up. He had a great day yesterday. He’s up and around the room now. Physical therapy came by and we checked the fit of his walking brace that we had repaired. It was a bit shocking to me to see just how ill-fitted it is now. His muscles have diminished so much over the past month of bed rest. But wearing it as needed shouldn’t do him harm. And the goal now is to build those muscles back up.

So she got him up and we walked to the playroom and played with magnet letters for a while. Then when he was good and tired, we came back and took a nap.

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Overall, the day was chaos. Patrick is doing well enough to meet the criteria to be discharged from the hospital. Unfortunately, the levels of prograf (anti-rejection medicine) in his system have been either too high or too low. Until those levels stabilize, he needs to stay inpatient. The lab results were late coming back so for the morning, we got ready for discharge just in case. And in the afternoon, even though the level came back too low, we were still getting visits to discuss discharge planning. (I wish I could say this was more exciting, but we have been having discharge planning conversations off and on for a couple of weeks now.) It meant, though, that we had people in and out of the room and a lot of chaos all afternoon.

It also meant that I couldn’t leave the room to go do any shopping or laundry or other preparations for the weekend. I think this was the hardest part of an almost discharge. Being here alone means that I get very little time to get out of the room and to take care of those basic living needs for me. Once, maybe twice a day, a volunteer will come by for 1-2 hours. For the past several days, the team has had me spending those precious got-a-volunteer hours preparing for discharge. But that means that the other things haven’t gotten done and there aren’t other opportunities later to make up the difference.

So, since evenings are when there are no volunteers and the nursing staff is busy starting a new shift, I gave Patrick a choice of ideas for dinner. We decided it would be good to take him for a walk. Now remember that he has been riding in a wagon anytime he goes outside of the unit. Yesterday’s walk was about 6 times farther than he’s used to going. He was extremely winded by the time we got to the cafeteria. But he was a great sport about it. He even kept his mask on and washed his hands with hand sanitizer and let me clorox wipe his chair before he sat down.

We bought him some chips and me some sushi. In the end, he was too tired to eat, though.

We came back to the room and I was sure he was going to crash. We did his advent ornament craft while waiting for the nurse, then decided she wasn’t coming before evening meds. We video called daddy, then got ready to sleep.

But wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Patrick’s nurse came in. And I made the mistake of telling her that I hoped to make up for not getting away for laundry and/or shopping by going after Patrick went to sleep.

I’m not sure entirely that it was that.. it could have been the stuffy nose that the dry hospital air is causing.. or that Patrick could sense my growing anxiety. But last night, Patrick decided not to sleep. I tried everything I could think of. Finally, about 11 I gave up on my plans and just tried going to bed. A little before midnight, Patrick went to sleep.

I didn’t sleep great. I woke up several times trying to figure out how to get laundry done before we completely ran out of clean clothes and some things purchased that we’ll absolutely need by Monday.  I’ll blog again later today and you’ll see I found a couple of temporary solutions today. But I’m going to have to find a better way to balance time and a better or different way to use helpers. Because this method isn’t working and it appears that sneaking off in the middle of the night to make up the difference like some other moms do is not going to be an option.

Transplant day 35 and no news is good news

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This is going to be kind of a nothing post, because pretty much nothing happened today. I got up as soon as Patrick woke up and told the nurse I needed to run back to the Ronald McDonald House. I had a shipment of diapering supplies there and needed to pick up Patrick’s medications from there so I could be trained on them. I did my best to finish all the work in record time but, alas, I was 5 minutes late getting back for rounds.

I’ve been beating myself up about this all day because the adjustments they made today are just so mediocre that it’s hard to feel like we are going to gain any forward momentum anytime soon. Patrick is back to full feeds. Today, they added giving enteral replacement fluid back into the mix. (I asked them to do this yesterday, but they didn’t think he’d need it because his outputs had been lower. This is the problem with a rotating team. They have to try everything new.)

And otherwise, things have just been quiet today. We did some crafts and played with toys. I drove to the west suburbs to buy a little kid’s desk I found on craigslist. My goal today was to get back to Patrick moving freely about the room to play. He stumbles a little over the IV pole, but overall has done quite well.

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Patrick and Captain Fred

We went down to pet therapy. I was going to skip it because it was naptime and because he seems pretty hesitant to interact with the dogs. (And because it’s in one of the highest traffic areas of the hospital so I’m nervous about germs.) But alas, child life popped in to invite him while I was out of the room and his heart was set when I got back. He was pretty uncertain at first, but we found one of the dogs who would shake and sit up to the side of Patrick’s wagon, and he warmed up to the idea a little.

I’m afraid this is what posts are going to look like for the next little while and I wonder if I’m going to be boring you with them. The attending surgeon this week seems to be pretty conservative and hasn’t even mentioned the possibility of discharge.. However, other than making sure that medication doses don’t need adjustment, right now, Patrick is doing pretty darn well. He’s come a long way in the past week and even in the past 4 weeks.

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We’re coming into the weekend, though, so child life adventures are over and volunteers are more sparse and other than having to do some laundry and grocery shopping to get us through the weekend, there isn’t much to be done here.

I am stir crazy, can you tell?

So let’s relive some of yesterday’s fun. I said that no video had been posted from yesterday’s news stories. But two came online today. I still can’t believe I let them put me on TV in this state.

http://www.ketv.com/news/carolers-bring-holiday-cheer-to-nebraska-medical-center/30042774

http://www.jrn.com/kmtv/news/Carolers-Spread-Christmas-Cheer-Through-Nebraska-Medicine-284705651.html

Transplant Day 34 and child life

It was so great to get Patrick to bed on time last night. He slept well and even slept in a bit. But we were up on time to catch one of his favorite volunteers first thing in the morning. I was glad she came because Patrick’s nurse was really busy and without Brian to provide backup, getting up and going was a bit of work.

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A before picture from yesterday’s bathtime

And we needed to do it quickly. Once a month, some stylists come in and give haircuts to any kids who need them. Patrick’s last haircut was in September. He definitely needed one. They trimmed off an inch and a half at least all the way around. The pile of hair was huge.

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During the haircut

He looks and feels a lot better.

Then we came back up to the room to wash off the hair clippings and the volunteer came back again. She did some of Patrick’s homework with him while I made his bed.

The team came for rounds. Patrick’s to do list before discharge is getting shorter and shorter. He looks and feels good. He is back to full feeds and off of TPN. But his rejection medication levels have been pretty unpredictable and they are trying to find the right balance of keeping the fluid out of his lungs while still keeping him hydrated. That and some training for me are about what’s left… assuming nothing else pops up, which certainly can happen.

Next, it was time for the hospital’s annual Christmas caroling. We went with the music therapist and pharmacy students and some other kids and families to sing to the other patients around us. It was fun to see it actually bringing smiles to people’s faces. Patrick didn’t much care for it, but enjoyed the wagon ride. And it meant he got to play with the Child Life specialists a little bit.

When we first arrived, we were the only family to show up. And there were news crews there to cover the event, so that meant they asked us for an interview. Mind you, I was unshowered, no makeup, wearing a bright purple t-shirt and a bright orange Santa hat Patrick had decorated for me.  But hey, it’s a little way to give back. So we shared that side of me with Omaha to day.

Amazingly, I was able to get Patrick down for a nap on time. This was good as Wednesday is a school day. Thanks to a sweet hospital mom friend, I even had a yummy lunch to sneak in eating during this time. Patrick’s teacher comes a little after 2:30. He certainly could have used a longer nap. In fact, he cried big fat tears when I woke him. But once his teacher was here, he was happy to play and learn with him. And it gave me a good excuse to clean up the room so that the little table in his room was ready as a place for them to work.

We wrapped up our day with some time doing puzzles in the playroom, making our daily Christmas ornament, and video chatting with some friends back home. He’s still clumsy and weak, but didn’t need pain medicine all day. He is walking mostly on his own and since it’s been over 4 weeks, is even ok with getting up and down by himself.

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When it was time to eat, Patrick told me what to make for dinner and asked to have some. That’s the first time he’s chosen to put food in his mouth in a couple of weeks, so I was thrilled.

And now, if we’re going to stick to a regular schedule, it’s time for me to get him to bed. Especially since I need to make a trip back to the Ronald McDonald House first thing in the morning.

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Gotta say, though that our first day alone didn’t go off too badly. Of course, child life had activities planned for us or sent volunteers for most of the day. But I’ve learned that even when we are outpatient, we are invited to come over for all of these events. So movie night and craft times and all of the fun stuff is still available to help us pass the time.

Transplant Day 33 and back to being a kid

You’re going to love this update.

Today has been a very good day. I got back to the hospital to find Patrick just waking up. One of Patrick’s primary nurses who loves him and really advocates well for him was back on today, so I knew things were headed in a good direction. We did our usual morning routine, including a bath that he didn’t want to do because he hates getting up and coughing till it makes him sick. But we got through it and then Daddy said it was time to go to the playroom.

At first, Patrick was just as fearful of walking. But we got into the playroom and he saw a toy he wanted and he couldn’t describe.. So he got himself up off the floor and walked over to his dad to get it. Yup.. We are 4 weeks post-transplant and his abdominal strength should be coming back. Apparently, the pain from Saturday’s surgery is getting better, too.

We stayed in the playroom for 2 hours. Part of that time, Brian went back to the room to pack. When finally I could tell he was getting bored by the number of toys strewn on the floor (where they aren’t supposed to be) I grabbed his wagon and suggested we go for a walk. From time to time Patrick gets a card with cash in it. This week, there was a book fair downstairs so I suggested we go pick out a book. He was really excited about this! When he saw the giant dry erase book, he was sold. Letting him pay with his own money for the first time was priceless.

Then, we came back up to the room and it was time to leave to get Brian to the airport. Patrick got to take his new book and go sit at the nurses’ station. They told me they were also taking him downstairs for craft time.

So, after saying goodbye for a few weeks to my husband and best friend (hard, no matter what) I decided I had time to do a little something for me. I’d heard that the casserole from last night’s dinner at the Ronald McDonald House was amazing and decided to go get some. (Yup. It lived up to the description.) Then, I went upstairs to our room and put a bedrail and mattress protectors on Patrick’s bed so it will be ready when he gets to go there. And I headed back to the hospital.

Well, I got there at 3:05 and found that Patrick was back upstairs in the playroom. And they had already gotten him a volunteer and promised him painting. I asked if he would like for me to stay and he said that, no, he’d like his friend to himself. So I came back to the room and did some things on my computer while he played for a couple more hours.

All told, Patrick got to decorate a Santa hat, make a bracelet, make a jingle bell shaker, paint some pictures, and just generally play with toys. Then he came back to the room and was ready for some myself time and spent another hour playing with playdough.

The ward (church) called a new compassionate service leader on Sunday. She called tonight to see if she could bring me pot pie. After having stuffed myself on chicken cheese stuffing casserole at lunch (thinking dinner would be light) I am going to bed with a super full tummy. Also, she is crazy super nice. She has only been in the ward a little over a year and got leukemia and had to have a bone marrow transplant right after.. so she knows this hospital and life being sick and being new in the area and the whole shebang. She made pot pie so I could have comfort food. Patrick loved her visit, too.

After dinner, I got him up and we went for another walk, and then climbed up into bed. We called grandma to video chat until I could see his eyelids dipping. Then the nurse came in, gave him his meds, and he went off to sleep.

Today Patrick is off oxygen and doing well enough we dared to take the cannula off of his nose. He is sleeping lying flat in his bed with both oxygen saturation and heart rate perfectly normal. This is a huge comfort for me as I consider trying to decide when it is safe for him to go outpatient. Breathing while I’m sleeping, check.

The other great news is that after needing to go back on TPN for a few days because of the problems with his stoma, they put him on full feeds and turned off the TPN tonight.

So, all-in-all not a bad day.

Transplant Day 30 and warranty maintenance

IMG_20141129_192041Patrick finally got some good sleep last night. In fact, he was well on his way to sleeping all day. At 10 a.m., he had succeeded in going back to sleep again no matter the interruption. Therefore, I was in my PJ’s with hair uncombed when the team came for rounds.

I hopped out of bed and found them reviewing the imaging from yesterday. And what they saw looked like good news. The images of the gut still looked healthy throughout. The only sign of trouble was right where the stoma came through the abdominal wall. Right before, there was some dilation that showed that there was a narrowing there.

I asked what that meant they could do.. the answer was pretty straightforward. The surgeon, Dr. Mercer, could take him to the OR and open up the stoma a little more. He said he had some time on his schedule and could take care of it today.

Then, he turned around and said, “Don’t be surprised. My OR nurses are very efficient today. They may come for him in 20 minutes.”

So I called Brian who was finishing up laundry and told him to come quick, which he did. I hurried and got dressed. He got Patrick cleaned up and dressed. And then, sure enough, they came to take Patrick to the OR. The nice thing about this plan was that there wasn’t much time to worry. But it certainly scared and frustrated Patrick. It was hard to send him off knowing how worried he was.

The procedure was quick and successful. Dr. Mercer said that as soon as he released the pressure, he felt like the bowel said “Ah! That’s better!” There was a little scar tissue causing a twist and then a little bit of a narrowing in the abdominal wall and he thinks that was all the problem that was there. So now things should work very well, even when Patrick is ready to eat solid foods.

They also did Patrick’s 3rd scope and biopsy while he was asleep and reported that the bowel looks pink and healthy.

Dr. Mercer said no worries about this. Just consider it some warranty maintenance.

According to the post-anesthesia nurse, Patrick woke up and immediately asked if everything was done. Then he went back to sleep. When she called me back, he was awake again and sad. He asked me to lay in the bed. Then he told me he didn’t want to talk. So we just layed there together. I even laid with him as we came back to the room.

Unfortnately, after we got back to the room, he started to feel worse and worse. His oxygen saturation was low so they had to turn his oxygen back on. That isn’t a huge surprise given the condition of his lungs. However, it was a surprise when he started running fevers.

It sounds like his full tummy might have made him aspirate (inhale) some bile as they were intubating. We’ve seen this a couple of times with him and it’s pretty consistent. Some fevers. Maybe some trouble with his lungs called “aspiration pneumonia.”

The good news is that they are already doing all of the possible prescribed treatments. Antibiotics. Chest x-rays. Respiratory therapy. They did an x-ray and it looks good. His lungs sound good. We were able to get him settled down enough to keep some tylenol down and that has brought the fever down a bit, too.

He got feeling good enough to sit up and play with some playdough and he is asleep now. They have even been able to turn down the oxygen some. He’s also been asking to drink water, something he hasn’t wanted for well over a week… that tells me that his tummy has felt too tight for a while now and how that it doesn’t (and his mouth is dry from the oxygen), water sounds good. Thank goodness his belly is to suction right now and he can drink all he wants.

The great news is that his stoma is working great now, too. The funny thing about raising a kid with intestinal problems is that there are so many occasions to be extremely excited about stool.