Category Archives: Family

March, or in other words, take that MacBeth

On the first day of March, I sat in the 3rd grade classroom where I volunteer and I listened to the teacher, Mrs. H., explain to the children that March is either lion or lamb. I had been thinking it, too. We all have heard it. “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” We made crafts about it in school. Only Mrs. H. proposed a different idea. Whichever way comes March comes in, it goes out the opposite way. And that particular first day of March, despite a cold wind, was overall quite warm and sunny. She told the children to watch and see if March would go out like a lion.

I saw a lot of lions and lambs in the last few weeks of March this year. The spring equinox was early this year, and so also was Easter. For school schedules, that meant that spring break came earlier than usual this year, too.  In some ways, it was just on time for our family.

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March started out a little harder for Patrick. And very busy with work and other responsibilities for Brian. Our lemon of a Jeep misbehaved one too many times for our taste. Actually, its radiator literally blew up, revealing another potentially time-consuming and costly repair. And so we decided it was time to buy a new car. That’s great news. And a lot of fun.

Unless… you happen to have an uncontrollable obsession with cars. Shopping for, purchasing, and then adjusting to a new car proved exceptionally difficult for Patrick and led to him being unable to concentrate at home or even at school.

Brian’s work got especially busy right around that time, too. He crammed a business trip, some off-site planning meetings, and 3 middle of the night system upgrades into a period of about 2 weeks. All while fighting a monster of a cold.

Bike riding around Willow Pond

Bike riding around Willow Pond

And so when spring break rolled around, I think we all found ourselves more than grateful for the opportunity to escape. Brian saw the long school break on the schedule and decided to treat our family to a vacation. And, as we really only know how to really relax in one place, off to Disneyland we went.

It was a great trip, honestly. With the newfound attention-span Patrick’s medications have given him, he’s started to enjoy feature-length movies of late. And his favorite of all is Cars. He recognizes scenes in the movie from his trips to Disneyland (instead of the other way around, which is priceless.) And so was extremely excited to get to visit Radiator Springs, eat in Flo’s Diner, dance with Luigi’s cousins, and meet all of his friends in person.

We crammed as many rides into our trip as possible. We splurged on a character dining dinner the night we arrived. Patrick loved having mac & cheese pizza, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, an a bowl of M&M’s while being visited by his favorite characters. Pluto even let him feed him. As a bonus, we then skipped meeting characters this time around, allowing time for extra rides instead. We stayed in a hotel with a pool and went swimming as a family for the first time since Patrick had his line removed. We watched firework on our walk back to the hotel every night. We didn’t sleep enough at night, but enjoyed early mornings in the park. It was a fun trip.

We came home on Saturday afternoon to give ourselves time to get ready for Easter the next morning.

Oh, what a time for the message of Easter for me. While we were in Disneyland, two babies were born in my family. I have a new niece and nephew. Born just a day apart. So before Patrick returned to school, we went and met the new babies.

He doted on them. Patrick loves babies. He kept asking me if he could bring them home. He hugged them too tight. He kissed them. And he promised them he’d be their friend forever. Oh, how he made my heart ache to let there be a baby in our house.

And, oh how he reminded me that it is anything but possible right now. In all his loving attention, he has no idea how strong he is, how fragile they are. And he just can’t understand that they can’t get up and play or eat or talk the way other people can. So thank goodness for baby cousins right now. Because we need babies in our life, even when we can’t have them in our home.

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So in the mornings, I kissed and cuddled babies. In stark contrast, in the evening, I said goodbye to a dear friend.

One of the wonderful things about my church is an organization called the Relief Society. Everwhere the church is, the women of the church are gathered together in this organization. And it doesn’t matter how different you may be in age, background, culture, or wealth.. you are sisters. The neighborhood I live in was built new just long ago that many of the people who built the homes originally are reaching the ends of their lives. And so you’d think I’d get used to having to say goodbye to these sisters from time to time.

But sometimes they work their way into your hearts a little more. This friend and I loved many of the same things, despite differences in age. She was a teacher and invited me to translate in her classroom. She was a musician and loved to invite me to sing, and then push my abilities with difficult songs. She was one of Patrick’s biggest fans. And although I’ve known for a couple of months that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and that her death was quite merciful, still I think this is one goodbye that will stick with me for a while.

Especially because of timing. In the week after Easter, I greeted two new babies and attended a funeral. In fact, the day of the funeral, I spent the afternoon with Patrick at the 10th birthday party of a classmate. What an interesting sampling of milestones. To see the bookends of life so close together has made me think about the volumes inbetween them.

When I was in high school, we had to memorize a soliloquy from Macbeth. With his castle under attack and everything falling around him, Macbeth receives word that his wife has died. And his reply:

“She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle.”

I’m not sure exactly why this pessimistic eulogy has been in my mind. Except the knowledge that it is so wrong. Because life is brief, but so much more than “signifying nothing” as Macbeth lamented. In fact, a funeral reminds us that it is, in fact, all the little nothings, all the everyday things. all the tomorrow and yesterdays and todays full of mostly mundane things that add up to what matters.

Because death isn’t the end. It’s not a period. It’s a comma.

Easter celebrates that fact. Because Christ came. Because of his sacrifice. Because he died, and then after 3 days was resurrected, we all will live again.

There is something wonderful to hope for.

However, I feel that being a full-time caregiver is so perfectly captured, though, in the words “tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps forth in this petty pace from day to day.”

I’ve been struggling a bit this month. I have been feeling lost. Invisible. Mundane. I don’t have the hang of this new life. I have more time, but not complete freedom. I’m not fighting for survival every day, but there is still a lot of resistance in our lives.

Every day certain things must be done. I clean the house and do laundry and do the dishes. I sweep the crumbs of Patrick’s snacks. I put the toys back in the toybox. I shop and plan and make dinners. I prepare medications by measuring, cutting, crushing, and mixing, and then make sure they are given on schedule. I help with homework. I encourage reading. I dress and undress my son. I remind Patrick how to wash his hair. I bring in the mail. I clean off the kitchen table. Over and over again. Only to need to do it again the next day. Or the next hour.  I’ve been kept just a little too busy to dare make time for myself but had just enough free time to fret over it.

I’m struggling to get the courage to take time for myself. I’m so used to abandoning what I need to do to take care of Patrick that even though I have a little bit of time, I am timid about branching out. I don’t trust that I’ll be able to finish what I start. And that then I’ll be upset. The problem is that this is kind of a lonely way to approach life. I’m trying to reach out and reestablish relationships that got pushed aside when I didn’t have time to do anything more than survive each day. But that takes courage, too. And although I may sometimes choose to be outgoing, deep down I’m pretty shy.

But, like you, like most of us, I know the best I can do is get up and try again each morning.

We often compared the life we led with Patrick before transplant to a rollercoaster. Thrilling highs and followed by quick plummets. I’d learned to live with that kind of thrill ride. You just hang on tight.

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But in Disneyland this last trip, Patrick discovered a new favorite roller coaster: Goofy’s sky school. Instead of fast ups and downs, this ride is a much more gradual descent. Instead, of hills, it’s full of sharp turns that knock the breath out of you. The track is obscured so you don’t always see it coming. Sometimes that’s what this new version of life feels like.

It’s been a year since Patrick’s last hospital admission. That is ASTOUNDING to me! It’s been a year since we had to drop everything because he was suddenly fighting to survive.

Let me tell you a bit about what the ride is like these days. It’s gentler, for sure, but it’s no “It’s a Small World” cruise.

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Geared up for a snowshoeing field trip at school. Couldn’t ever get him to look at the camera with eyes open.


Patrick’s been struggling with behavior at home and at school. And every note home or call home has left me feeling helpless because, unlike problems with his health that had prescribed medical solutions, this isn’t straight forward. They turn to me for answers and I don’t have them.

He’s doing ok. We’ve been experimenting with changes in his medication and the changes are helping. He is doing better. But the transition has been tricky. And I don’t know if it’s been that, or illness, or hayfever, or growing, or something else but he has been tired and grumpy and not himself. Medicine is more practice than science and when it comes to brain injury, that’s especially frustrating.

We increased his dose of clonidine to see if we could help afternoons go better, and he started to need a nap every day. He hates naps. But he can’t function sometimes without one. I even had to check him out of school and bring him home to nap last week.

We’ve talked to his psychiatrist and adjusted that dosing and talked about trying some other things. It seems to be helping. But it still feels helpless.

With time to kill between doctor's appointments, Patrick and I stopped in at the museum at Fort Douglas

With time to kill between doctor’s appointments, Patrick and I stopped in at the museum at Fort Douglas

We had a good scare right before spring break. Patrick was knocked off of the playground at school and landed flat on his stomach. It left a bruise where his g-tube hit and so I had to squeeze in an emergency visit with his GI to check to make sure that his graft wasn’t at risk. That’s a possibility with any injury to his abdomen.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that out of the blue, his oral aversions have gotten worse. He won’t take his vitamins anymore in the morning. I crush them and mix them in yogurt so they are easier to eat. He sticks his tongue out to block them going in. Or holds them in his mouth and doesn’t swallow. It’s miserable to watch. But they aren’t optional. They’re mandatory. And so we start many days with me pleading with him to do something that he thinks is torture.

He sprained his ankle at the birthday party. He tried climbing onto a bunkbed and fell off. Patrick’s never really had this kind of injury. With his cerebral palsy, he was especially unsteady limping. He also isn’t used to regular illnesses or injuries still, so he was extremely afraid. Asking him to do what little might help.. Elevation, ice, rest. That only scared him more. He needed extra help getting around, getting dressed, bathing, etc. Thank goodness it was conference weekend so it was ok for him to stay home. He’s spent a few days inside at recess at school. But thankfully he’s healing. He’s limping, but can jump and run and stomp while limping.

Breakfast in the waiting room at the Eccles Outpatient Building

Breakfast in the waiting room at the Eccles Outpatient Building

I’m grateful to have had a couple of weeks of bookends. A couple of weeks of being shown things to make me think about what I’m putting inbetween. And a reminder that there are often many volumes in our life. We’re put away the one called “Ultra Short Bowel Syndrome” and are nearly done with another called “Transplant Recovery” but this latest volume of “First grade” has certainly had some unexpected plot twists.

I’m sometimes tempted to pen, like Shakespeare, that tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow just keep creeping at their petty pace. But that feeling is only a page in the story.

I heard a talk this weekend that’s helping my sentiments for tomorrow. It was shared in the semiannual general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints this weekend. The speaker was Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle and a gifted teacher.

Here’s a brief summary.

First, he shared this image that kind of sums up how I sometimes feel when I’m headed to bed and thinking about what I need to do the next day.

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Then, he gave this counsel about how to proceed.

“If in the days ahead you see not only limitations in those around you but also find elements in your own life that don’t yet measure up… please don’t be cast down in spirit and don’t give up….”

“Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christlike virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. . . ”

And then, in contrast to the pessimistic message of Macbeth, Elder Holland gave this beautiful description of the potential for tomorrow.

“If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children!”

Did you read that? Tomorrow=magnificent. Even if we don’t always recognize it as such.

I’ve got a long way to go. I have a lot to learn about patience. And a lot to learn about humility. I’m finding those lessons are taught in the long, flat, tedious prairies. Not on the peaks.

It snowed the last two days of March. I had to scrape ice off of my car on the last day of spring break. Mrs. H was right. March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion.

It wasn’t an easy month. And April has started out with it’s own measure of sound and fury. We have more milestones: another funeral and a wedding ahead this week. And will still start each and every day with a yucky vitamin.

Snow on spring break of course means a kids meal at Arby's in your PJ's

Snow on spring break of course means a kids meal at Arby’s in your PJ’s

But I’m trying remember Elder Holland’s words:

“So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”

P.S. If you haven’t read or better yet watched Elder Holland’s talk, you really should. It will make you feel happy because it is true.  Here’s a link: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/04/tomorrow-the-lord-will-do-wonders-among-you?lang=eng

Happy Transplant-a-versa-hallow-birth-day Patrick

This post is quite belated. November was a challenging month which deserves its own post. But I would be quite remiss to skip over a post about Patrick’s exciting October 31.

This year was a huge milestone. Patrick’s 7th birthday. And the one year anniversary of his transplant.

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Last year, we spent Patrick’s birthday anticipating transplant. I had only just wrapped his presents and gone to bed when the phone rang telling us a donor had been found. Around midnight, we were our local children’s hospital being admitted and transferred for insurance purposes and bidding goodbye to Patrick’s faithful GI doctor. A little after 1, we boarded a life flight plane. We were awake (and tearful) all night, arriving at Nebraska Medicine around 6 a.m.

We caught a little bit of sleep and then tried to cram in as much birthday and Halloween celebration as possible. Around 1 p.m. they took Patrick down to have a central line placed and he was kept asleep for the rest of the day.

His long-awaited and sorely needed multi-organ transplant was an amazing birthday gift. The kind of gift from a stranger that still takes my breath away.

However, from a celebration standpoint, that wasn’t much of a birthday. And so, this year we decided that we had a LOT to celebrate.

So, several months ago, we asked Patrick’s transplant team if it was safe for him to celebrate in Disneyland. And they answered with a very emphatic “YES.” In fact, all but swore they’d do everything in their power to get him there. And so, we bought tickets and made plans.

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Parent teacher conference fell just right to give a long Halloween weekend. We left for Anaheim Wednesday night and I couldn’t help see both parallel and contrast as we touched down in the dark and traveled to our room exhausted from a late night of travel.

Here’s some of the highlights from the rest of the trip.

Thursday

We stayed for 3 days. In my mind, a day for each occasion: Halloween, Transplant & Birthday. When we checked into guest services to request a disability card that would allow Patrick to wait for rides without standing in lines. When they asked why and I explained that he was celebrating his transplant anniversary and is immune suppressed, they handed us all I’m Celebrating badges. Patrick insisted we wear them right away.

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Disney Cast Members are trained to watch for badges and offer congratulations. However, I’ll admit that few expected our answer of celebrating a year since transplant. It started to feel a bit strange to keep explaining, so we snuck the badges off when we went back to our room and didn’t pull them back out till we were celebrating birthday.

We decided to head straight for the ride that Patrick loved best last trip. Radiator Springs Racers. What we didn’t think about was that Patrick always has had a good chance to warm up on calmer rides before this fast ride with big ups and downs. He was terrified. But insisted we go again and, well, after the second go broke down crying during the ride. He’s a thrill seeker, but this year Patrick also finally had a sense of fear and we had to be a little bit more careful what he rode on.

We abandoned that plan. And switched to kiddie rides in Bug’s Land. Patrick was much happier there. In fact, he had an awesome time there!

After an afternoon break and nap in our room, we got dressed in our Halloween costumes and headed back to Mickey’s Halloween Party.  Patrick had asked to dress as mechanics, so I’d put together some family costumes of Mater’s Pit Crew. We headed to Cars Land to take a couple of pictures and the costumes attracted extra attention from cast members who offered pictures and even some fast passes and we ended up there longer than planned.

Unfortunately, as we arrived at the gates to Disneyland Park, we realized that we had forgotten to pack Patrick’s evening meds. Howie bravely headed back alone to get them while Patrick and I headed in to find something to ride. With crowds as they were, we were just getting onto the first ride when Brian caught up with us.

We rode a couple other rides in the dark. Then decided to give trick or treating a go. We’d planned to skip it, but when we discovered that there were lower sugar nut free treats available in each cart, and when Patrick was having a great time with it, we hit a few more trick or treat lines. We caught the electric parade and then watched the halloween fireworks before heading back to our room.

Friday

Friday was incredibly busy in the park. That meant fighting crowds in a lot of places and we didn’t ride as much as usual. We did the obligatory multiple rides in Autopia, met a couple of super heroes, and then decided to let Patrick try a couple of grown up rides as he was seeming braver. The was the first time we’ve tried Matterhorn. Unlike other rides, the Matterhorn bobsleds don’t allow for sitting side by side. The meant Patrick couldn’t bury himself into daddy’s side.  I guess he found it fun, but scary. The ride stopped and I turned to see if he was ok (remembering tears the day before). Patrick was lying down in the bottom of the sled.. laughing. I guess it was scary until he got where he couldn’t see.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was open for the first time in the years we’ve taken Patrick. He was nervous on this one, but actually really enjoyed it. He asked to ride it again, but with crowds as they were, we ended up grabbing lunch and then heading back to our room to rest.

By the time we came back, it was night and the idea of a roller coaster in the dark was scary. Instead, we headed off to Dumbo and he was much happier.

That night, we decided to watch Fantasmic. We opted to request a seat in the handicapped section so that Patrick could stay in his stroller. That always end up a bit awkward. Patrick is so much younger than everyone else there. But he quickly made friends with a grandma who was sitting there alone while her family was seated somewhere else. Her birthday was on Halloween too, so they had an instant bond.

We tried to stay put after the show for fireworks. Alas, though, Patrick was doing an awesome job in underwear for this whole trip. (He had a couple of accidents on rides, but mostly was good about asking for and making it to the bathroom.)  And halfway through fireworks realized he needed to find a restroom. Oh well.

Saturday

Thank goodness Halloween meant some limitations on entrance and crowds went back down in the park. It was so strange to be there knowing it was Halloween for everyone. Lots and lots of people in costumes. But we’d had our Halloween and were purely doing birthday.

We did some back to back rides of the kiddie roller coaster in Toon Town because there crowds hadn’t found the back of the park yet. At Minnie’s house, the cast member made a big deal of Patrick being there on his actual birthday.

In fact, Patrick absolutely delighted in wearing his birthday badge and having EVERYONE wish him a happy birthday everywhere he went.

After getting our morning fill of rides, we hopped onto the monorail and rode to Downtown Disney. There’s a fairly authentic Italian style pizzeria restaurant there called Napoli. Patrick DEVOURED the pizza there.

Seriously good pizza

Seriously good pizza

Then we went to get his present. A car from Ride Makerz. (This is the car lover’s version of Build a Bear. You design your car. It sounds like it’s starting out fairly inexpensively. But once you add remote control and a rechargeable battery and custom wheels and all.. well… We knew going in. Thank goodness Patrick’s fancy was fairly restrained. The experience was worth it. He loved getting to assemble the car with power tools. And he loves his truck.

We had reservations for dinner. Disney is always so good with dining. But we learned that we have entered a new realm for them. See, they are AMAZING at following allergy precautions. They won’t take a risk with any thing you declare to them. And they have lots of alternatives.

However, we knew going in that Patrick was going to was to order the mac and cheese. In fact, he’d been rather picky all trip and we were fairly sure that the mac and cheese was the only food he’d order on the menu.

So we asked the chef to come visit us at the table to make sure that the pasta and other ingredients they would be using were exactly what I expected and would be safe. Some pasta is made with eggs and unsafe. However, for Patrick pasta manufactured near eggs, as long as it isn’t concentrated eggs, is ok.

Well, before we knew it, we were being visited by the restaurant manager who explained to us that they would not be able to serve him any pasta. Or the cake that we’d special ordered for his birthday.

Only after I’d made a very in depth explanation of the parameters we’ve worked out with Patrick’s allergist would they allow us to order these foods for him.

So lesson learned. Disney is great at avoiding allergens. But don’t tell them your grey areas out loud. I think that’s going to be an ongoing rule as long as Patrick needs to eat food’s that he is mildly allergic to.

Anyway… once food was ordered the dinner was very nice. Patrick beamed at his little miniature cake and really, really loved the sorbet they brought him , too.

After dinner, we headed over the World of Color show. Our dining package reserved us seating in a specific area. And then, on top of that, Patrick had his handicapped pass. However, that really only led to a lot of confusion. It took a lot of walking to find the area we’d be seated in. And once we got there, we weren’t so sure it was where we wanted to be.

The reserved handicapped section was full. Beyond full. Like they had to make people get up and move to make room for us. And they just kept cramming people in.

Really, the problem came down to large family groups that didn’t understand that a family of 12 was too big to all squeeze in with one family member there. Alas, that meant that as we were rule abiding, our family ended up divided. They seated us on a bench so that we could fold up Patrick’s stroller and make room for others. And then they needed more space and Brian got up to allow it. Meanwhile the gigantic family grumbled about how unfair it was to ask them to be separated.

I think maybe next time we’ll have to look more closely at whether or not we can do regular seating. Thankfully, Brian stayed close enough that we could still see each other and the other people he ended up standing with (who were also displaced) were very kind. The show was really nice and Patrick really enjoyed it.

And we went to leave, but Patrick kept talking us into one more ride, and then another and then another and we ended up lingering and riding and then doing a little more shopping so that he ended up getting to stay up till midnight on his birthday.

Monday

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We came home Sunday and had a quiet day at home. And then Monday evening we invited grandparents to come join us for birthday cake. Mixed in with needing to run back and forth to help with Patrick’s school to help take him to the bathroom that made for quite the complicated day. Never decorated a cake in half hour increments with errands in between. But it came together and Patrick loved the little quiet family party at home.

And by the end of the weekend, I was quite satisfied and quite done with reminiscing about how far we’ve come. It is truly miraculous to see what this year has brought. And also, it is time to get back to normal.

That’s what we hope Patrick’s 7th year will be. Just a nice normal year where he can keep growing and we can settle into the normal that we’ve always dreamed for him.

Mini summer

So extended school year isn’t really a very full-time summer school option. It’s 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. So for the past week, Patrick’s been having a mini summer vacation.

We started off it grand fashion. He has really done well in his new summer school classroom. The kids are much more on his level and I feel like he’s making good progress there. The education is focused on maintaining and, at least in the realms of social skills and keeping a routine, it’s going a long way.

The last day before the break, Patrick had his first turn in the school swimming pool. They invited me to come help, just because he has so little experience in the pool. I’m so glad they did! When I got there, he was already dressed for the pool and waiting for me. I’m used to a little boy who is very cautious in the water. I guess he was watching out for his line, because Patrick was NOT afraid. At all. He was extremely brave. I helped him float and worked on teaching him to hold his breath or blow out if his face got in the water. We got him a floating vest and at one point, I turned my back, and he decided to go on his own. I’ll never erase the memory of him laughing as he rolled over and over again in the water.. trying not to inhale.

I’ve been in a better summer mood this week. I finally made Patrick’s 6th birthday video, 6 months late, as a father’s day gift for Brian. You can view it here. I’ve put it off because it was too hard to look at the life we’d left behind when Patrick went for transplant while he was still recovering. I thought I was in a better place. I was. It was therapeutic. It was also still hard. It made me miss last year’s summer school adventures. It made me miss him having friends. And it made me miss the days before steroids where disappointments didn’t lead to big temper tantrums, leaving me fearful of doing some things. I actually had nightmares all the time I was working on the video.

But, with it done, I was ready to dive in and make this a good summer, too. I’m still not as organized and awesome as Mommy school. But we’ve done some good things. We had a picnic at Red Butte Garden. We took a cousin and visited the children’s museum. (Called and asked for suggestions of a less-crowded time to visit and enjoyed being there without fighting a crowd.) We’ve toured a few different libraries.  We finally started collecting brag badges. We mixed up our lunch routine and went to Liberty Park where we started out just eating hot dogs, but stumbled across their wading fountains and ended up staying 3 hours just because.

It was triple-digit heat all last week so I decided that, with the success in the school pool, it would be a good time to get out the backyard swimming pool. This went better than I expected. First, the neighbor’s 10-year-old who often comes to play and help me with Patrick, helped me fill up the pool and taught Patrick how to play in it. I tried putting sunscreen on my own back with spray sunscreen. I haven’t been that burned in years.

The next day, we invited the boy across the street to come play. This was much more on Patrick’s level of play and they had a great time together. This little boy only just barely became a big brother, so there was lots of coaching for both of them about how to play together. But they had successful pool noodle sword-fighting, basketball, water fighting, and general splashing. In the end, I had to call it done because it was well past lunchtime, but neither boy wanted to be done.

Patrick actually spent the rest of that day in the pool, too. He is loving being uninhibited in the water. I love being able to share something I love so much with him.

Alas, though, nothing is perfect. I accidentally pulled Patrick’s g-tube out the day before his first time swimming and it bled a little. We have had off and on g-tube infections since and I’m sure that it’s from spending so much time in the water. Thank goodness it’s supposed to be a cooler, rainy week so I can get away with taking a few days off to let it heal.

The other big event of a summer break is that I decided it was time to work on potty training. I took Patrick to K-mart and let him pick out a pair of big boy underwear the last day of summer school. The next day, I woke up with a migraine, but he was excited to wear them. So we plunged ahead.

He made it through all 5 pairs of underwear in 2 hours, trying his best to “hold it” in between small accidents. I gave him lots of goldfish crackers and praise and did my best to keep things fun and happy. But he was still discouraged. The session ended puddles and a frustrated little boy. I’m pleased to report his mommy stayed calm and positive.

The next day, when I pulled out his underwear, he cried and threw a tantrum that he didn’t want them. But I reminded him it was only for the morning and that there were prizes waiting. After several tries, he finally went in the potty and earned the water gun I’ve been dangling as a carrot for months. The light went on and the next day, he made it several times, staying dry for half the day.

We took the weekend off, and then started again on Monday. I think he’s actually getting the hang of this. We still aren’t accident free and today is the first day I’m trying underwear all day. I don’t know how it will go to have them trying to potty train when he goes back to school next week. I still haven’t tried using a potty away from home. We might need the next long break to solidify what he’s learned. But so far, things are going better than I expected. Now if only I can convince him that this is the better option for him.

(Note: I know this is a long gap without pictures. But I am trying to not post pictures my son will find embarrassing someday when his girlfriend finds this old blog.)

We had a simple 4th of July. The evening was spent at a barbecue with my family. We’d decided to not push Patrick’s limits this year by participating in my family’s huge fireworks. Turns out, that was a convenient choice as it started to rain right after we ate. We left in a downpour but made it home with just a little sprinkling, so we decided to go ahead with our smaller fireworks. (We bought a small pack of fireworks, plus a couple of fountains specifically labeled “silent” so he wouldn’t be scared by the noise.) Who’d have expected, after years of miserable 4th’s and Patrick terrified of fireworks that, on this smaller scale, Patrick would be in love with fireworks. We had to stop and go inside for half an hour because of rain, but when it let up we went out and lit more. He was very upset when he found out we only bought enough for one night.

The rest of the day was simple. Brian hosted a barbecue for his team at work Monday so we spent most of the weekend deep cleaning the house and prettying up the yard. It feels really good to finally have cleaned up some of those messy corners and piles that have been haunting me for being undone since we got home in February. And I caught a clearance sale at the greenhouse down the street. So I got 3 healthy cucumber plants and two basil for free, some adorable patio pumpkins, eggplants, and yellow zucchini as well as a 3 pack of bell peppers for virtually nothing.

Isn't this tiny eggplant adorable? And the flowers are so pretty!

Isn’t this tiny eggplant adorable? And the flowers are so pretty!

Then, we went back later for some miniature sunflowers to fill in the front bed where our irises grow in spring. Brian wanted to plant giant sunflowers from seed earlier this year. We planted a seed in a family home evening lesson about faith. They are as tall as me now. So tying in little sunflowers in the front yard seemed the perfect touch. I’m in love with my sunflowers this year.

I also happened to listen again to this wonderful sermon this week, which only made me more in love with them. The Lord is My Light by Elder Quentin L. Cook, apostle

One of the remarkable characteristics of young wild sunflowers, in addition to growing in soil that is not hospitable, is how the young flower bud follows the sun across the sky. In doing so, it receives life-sustaining energy before bursting forth in its glorious yellow color.

Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life.

We’re plugging away. The stress of having Patrick will me full-time when paired with the Brian’s very busy summer planning handcart pioneer trek reenactment for the teenagers in our church has me running a little ragged. I’ll be honest, when paired with facing my feelings about what we’ve lost, I’ve had more trouble with anxiety and depression lately. So  looking to sunflowers as a symbol and reminder of life-sustaining faith and hope, even in the midst of a week where popular voices are calling it old-fashioned, hypocritical, and even bigoted to believe in Christ.. that is helping to lift me up. My sunflower plants really do turn and follow the sun all day. I see them every time I come and go from my house. And each time I do, I remember that it is worth following light, even before flowers bloom.  That little seed of faith we planted is as tall as I am and growing more, so long as it follows the light.

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One more week of summer awesomeness ahead. This week, we’ll resume our mommy school studies, try to earn a brag badge a day, wear underwear all day, and try to get daddy ready for Trek.

Transplant Day 110 and Home

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration. – Charles Dickens

I am blogging tonight from my own bed. Patrick is in his bed playing instead of sleeping. Brian is at the computer in his office. We have been home since Saturday. It feels good.

I’ve learned a lot about home in the past several months. I have learned that the essence of home: the part that’s made of love and family and faith and shared joys and struggles… that part is fairly portable. For we made homes out of a variety of hospital rooms and out of a small, overcrowded room at the Ronald McDonald House. Brian commented that coming back to our house wasn’t home. Home was where we were, and when it would come back to us every couple of weeks, it really did feel like it was home to be all together.

But there is something about us all being beneath our roof own homemade home together that is very comfortable. It is nice to not share walls with anyone. To not share a fridge or a kitchen or a dinner unless we choose to. It’s nice to let Patrick leave me and not worry about where he has gone.

Picking up and moving on under 24 hours notice is, well, stressful and crazy and very disorienting. After my last post, I had a horrible time sleeping. I’d wake up for something little and then lie awake for an hour thinking of all that needed to be done for us to go. None of us slept well. And when Patrick was up early, we just got up and got to work. We had accumulated a lot of stuff over the 3 and a half months in Nebraska and packing it up in an order that would make some sense and be accessible during the trip home was no small task.

We rented a mini van to bring it all home in. Brian called it “the more comfortable version of a U-Haul.” With stow and go seating, he just put the seats flat. And we filled it. And entire mini van.

We tried to steal some goodbyes. Patrick’s teacher came over and brought some gifts and read one last book with him. We met up with the friend from church who helped to organize all the offers of help and meals and such that came from them for a playdate. (Patrick pulled out his g-tube by accident and I very cooly popped it back in right at the park.)

And then, I got THE phone call saying that everything was supposedly in order and we could go.

So we finished loading the van and cleaning out the fridge and we checked out of our room and we started driving.

We went about a third of the way the first night.. crossing most of Nebraska. Patrick did a lot better than I expected. We packed the back seat with pillows and blankets so he couldn’t lose his toys and I passed him snacks as we went along. I put on my bluetooth headset so I’d be able to answer calls hands-free and turned on an Audible book and we just drove and drove. It took me some time to figure out how to manage cruise control while following but eventually got the hang of it.

We checked into a hotel in Sidney Nebraska around 9 p.m. We made a mad scramble to get Patrick’s medications and formula somewhat on schedule. Then we went next door the Perkins for dinner. It was the only restaurant in town open that late and a game had just let out so they were busy and Patrick was barely staying awake.. But he really wanted his ham and potatoes and toughed it out.

And then we crashed and the big comfy hotel beds just felt SO GOOD!

Patrick was up early again the next day and so we got up, too, and got bathed and dressed and meds done and then grabbed some breakfast. Right after the 9:00 meds were given, we hopped back in our cars and drove again. I finished one book and started another. We convinced Patrick to go ahead and take a nap.

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I missed the sign saying we’d entered Utah. I was too busy trying to catch up to Brian after some slow trucks and a steep canyon had separated us a bit. And then, as I caught him, I started to notice that I recognized what we were passing. We were almost home. And having to stop to go to the bathroom in Park City about killed me because I knew how close we were.

We arrived home about 7 p.m. on Saturday evening to find yellow ribbons tied to the trees (that made me cry.) The house had been scrubbed clean by friends that morning. There was dinner waiting in the fridge and balloons in Patrick’s room.

Patrick was thrilled to be home. He immediately emptied his toy box. Everything looked exciting and wonderful to him. And to me. Though, I’ll admit, I was a bit frustrated to find that I couldn’t remember where I keep things in my kitchen.

It felt so good to lay down in my own bed and go to sleep.

That is one of the most often asked questions I’ve been getting. Did it feel good to sleep in your own bed? Well, yes.. it felt good to fall asleep there. But sleep didn’t come easy.

See – Patrick hadn’t fallen asleep alone in 3 and a half months. When I kissed him goodnight and walked out of the room, he started to scream. He got more and more panicked and angry. He said it was too dark. Patrick has NEVER been afraid of the dark. But I guess that is the byproduct of all of the trauma that he has been through recently. PTSD is VERY common in patients who have undergone a major medical ordeal like transplant.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t fit in Patrick’s bed. And I didn’t think he’s sleep with his lights on. So I said a silent prayer. And then I went in. I sat down next to him and told him I knew he was scared to sleep alone. I offered to help him say a prayer. He fell apart sobbing. It was heartbreaking.

I let him settle down and then told him I was going to walk away for just a minute and I’d leave a small lamp on for him. Then I’d come back. I still didn’t know what to do.

But when I went back, I got him up and held him on my lap. I read him a book. I told him we could leave the lamp on. I went out to my car and got the hot pack bear that he’d slept with in Nebraska on cold nights and warmed it up. Then I told the bear to take care of him and help him be brave. And I kissed him goodnight. And he snuggled down and was asleep within minute.

And I said a little prayer of gratitude for patience and wisdom.

And then I went and slept in my bed which felt great. But at 2:30, when I filled Patrick’s formula and changed his diaper, I somehow moved my back the wrong way.

After months of sleeping on too-soft mattresses, my back wasn’t so sure what to think of a nice normal firm mattress. And I couldn’t sleep in my bed anymore.

So no, I didn’t get a really great night’s sleep in my bed the first night. I ended up sleeping on the couch until 5, when Patrick woke up scared and I went and picked him up and we slept in the recliner in his room together instead.

Things have gotten better, though. Patrick still needs to sleep with “Louie bear” (named after Patrick’s ostomy.. long story) and with the light on. Sunday night, he only screamed and cried for about 15 minutes. Last night, he slept without tears. And tonight.. he sat up and played in bed just like he used to do.

And my back only hurt for a couple of nights and then got used to being in my bed again.

Sunday I went to church. It was VERY strange to be back. I knew I’d get lots of welcome from lots of friends and was a little hesitant about the attention. But I was happy to see them and it was ok. I told Brian I didn’t know where to go during the sunday school hour. I wasn’t sure I wanted the spotlight of going to the adult class.

He reminded me that Primary (children’s sunday school, where I am the music leader, but an assistant music leader has been leading each week)…still didn’t have anyone to play the piano. I voted for that. And I actually had a really great time. This is, after all, my favorite job in the church. And I didn’t have any of the responsibility.. Just the fun.

We had visitors for most of the afternoon.. my parents, my sister. Then, we went out to Brian’s parents. His mom had made us dinner. Ham and potatoes, special for Patrick. I remembered that I hadn’t heard anything about labs the next day and ended up making some phone calls to peacemeal something together.

Patrick’s nurse did come Monday morning. We slept in a bit and were barely ready on time. It took some time to update Patrick’s chart with all the new meds.

Because Monday was President’s Day, Brian didn’t have to work. We went out for breakfast.. I have missed Kneader’s french toast so much. It was yummy, though we established that their staff is either unwilling or incapable of making toast without butter for Patrick. Oh well.

Brian’s body was screaming that he needed a down day. So he took the job of supervising Patrick, who was still nostalgically exploring all of his toys. Meanwhile, I dove into Patrick’s room. We no longer need the drawers and drawers of IV supplies that we were using to give Patrick TPN. However, he does have a lot of new medications that we get 3 months of at a time. And he needs tube feeding supplies.

I worked all day, listening to Audible as I worked. And 3 boxes and a giant garbage bag later, I’d cleaned out the old supplies and moved in the new stuff.

That’s how the past few days have gone. Patrick and I try to get out part of the day to let him ride his bike or drive his car. The weather is like spring here right now… crazy coming from bitter cold Omaha… and so we only wear light sweaters outside.

But the rest of the day, I mostly clean. A friend came over and helped me clean out Patrick’s closet and his cupboard of craft and homeschool stuff in the kitchen. Today, I went through all of his toys and pulled out the old and broken stuff to make room for new. I filled both of our garbage cans. I have piles of boxes in the basement to donate. And I am maybe a little over halfway done with moving back in.

This is moving out of order. Usually, you clean out when you move out. You don’t move out, buy all that you want, then move back in and have to clean to make room for it.

Thankfully, being home means being surrounded by friends and family and help and meals just keep coming. I haven’t made an entree yet. And that has given me time to work.

I’ve also spent some time working on the business side of moving back home. There are claims to cover the cost of transportation to sort out. And there is getting homecare set up here. For some reason, that still isn’t done and I hope they figure it out before I run out of ethanol locks on Friday. (Thankfully, I received our month’s shipment of all the rest of our supplies right before we left Nebraska and that means no time crunch.) There are follow up appointments with doctors. Patrick’s GI, Dr. Jackson, has been great about being available to help us transition back. And figuring out how and when to go back to therapy. And e-mailing Patrick’s school so they can start working on all that it will require to get him back there when the time comes, which might involve hiring even.

It’s been a full week. But it is so, so good to be home. The stress is just what needs done and trying to keep Patrick entertained. Not the stress of being alone, but not alone.

I love the Ronald McDonald House. What would we have done without them? But there is nothing like being just here as our family and not needing to worry about anyone else. About knowing that we can pick up the phone and just call if we need something. About knowing where things are in the grocery store and what they should cost. And not getting lost trying to get to or from places.

I don’t want to let this blog drop and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to it. I don’t think well when I’m cluttered and all these boxes and suitcases have me feeling very cluttered.

But I know this journey is still just beginning.

Not only that, but I still have some things I’ve learned to tell you all about. Next time. Tonight, I’m gonna go snuggle up in my bed and go to sleep.

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2014 Year in Review

Sometimes I’m a resilient, flexible hospital mom who is great at making hospital stays homey and fun. Other times, I struggle more, thinking of what we’re missing and feeling stretched beyond my limits making up the difference. Unfortunately, I’ve let myself fall into that the past couple of days. When Patrick didn’t nap on New Years’ Eve and I knew there was no way any of us was making it till midnight, I let it get to me. The limited staff, limited entertainment, limited food choices hospital environment just fed that feeling. And so sorry, I didn’t blog.

But today, I’m resolving to do better. And so I thought I’d pick up a previous New Year’s tradition. The 2014 year in review. (Counting blessings is a good way to fend off bad feelings.) So let’s look back at what 2014 meant for our family.

January – Patrick was in preschool. We were diving in trying to make a plan to solve the struggles he was having there. We started seeing a psychologist and had a meeting with the school staff to come up with a behavior plan.  I started to volunteer almost weekly in the classroom, which I really enjoyed as it was a chance for me to use all of my talents and training in the same place and get to share in and understand Patrick’s days. I also made some very good friends with the school staff that year.

February – Patrick caught a cold and ran a high fever that landed him in the hospital for several days. But after that he managed to stay healthy. Sometime between January and February one side of Patrick’s central line clotted and the transplant team opted not to replace it. We celebrated the 5th anniversary of day we were sealed as a forever family in the temple by going out to dinner at Brick Oven Pizza buffet, an odd choice for a kid who can’t eat cheese on his pizza, but Patrick was going through a breadstick phase and so we all enjoyed the meal. The we snuck over to walk the Jordan River temple grounds, the first time health and schedules allowed us to do so on our family forever day.

March – We started working with Palliative Care at Primary Children’s somewhere early in this year. It’s a team that specialized in keeping patients with chronic or terminal conditions comfortable and helping caregivers to plan ahead and then be able to make difficult choices as medical care gets more complex. One of their top priorities: get Patrick a wish. So, in March we started working with Make-a-Wish. We visited the Utah Headquarters and Patrick got to use his special key to enter the wishing room and send his key to the wishing wizard. Patrick wished to go to DisneyWorld. We made wishes, too. Several grandparents wished he’d receive his transplant. In the back of my mind I thought, “Yeah, but that may not happen in time.” My wish was that he get all he hoped out of life.

April – This spring, my baby sister decided to get married. And she asked if she could hold the wedding in our back yard. So most of April was spent whipping the yard into shape. We have never planted so many flowers, laid down so much mulch, fertilized so often. Brian had a busy month of work. Their development team from the Ukraine came to visit for a week. And then, not much later, he left to attend a conference in San Diego. I got a flyer about mommy and me classes at the YMCA and Patrick and I started attending. We were often the only family there, besides the teacher, but we really enjoyed the time together and made some very dear friends. We also decided that wedding was the perfect excuse to remodel our cramped, outdated, and slightly rotting kitchen. On Easter weekend, the kitchen was gutted.

May –   We turned the basement wet bar into a makeshift kitchen. I learned tricks with a rice maker and a crock pot and a microwave and a grill that I’d never learned before. Between the yard and the kitchen, we made so many trips to Home Depot that Google’s cell phone tracking on my phone decided I must work there. Patrick had to spend some time out of school sick and so we also spent a lot of time snuggling on the beanbag chair in the basement. At the end of May, Brian went to New York to attend a “hack day.” In other words, a programming competition of sorts.

June – Patrick graduated from preschool. Our kitchen was finished. The wedding came out better than I’d dreamed and we welcomed Tedd into the family. Patrick immediately fell in love with him. I’d taken such good care of my garden that I harvested lettuce and spinach successfully for the first time. I started summer Mommy School, a weekly home school curriculum. We also started attending “lunch park” at the elementary school next door with some encouragement from our friends at the YMCA. Patrick was allergic to most of the food served there, but the chance to go sit on the lawn and eat with the other kids in the neighborhood, to let him make some friends. That was priceless.

July – Brian bought a book of Utah hiking trails and we started spending as many weekends as possible hiking as a family. In the hard stretches, this meant Brian carrying Patrick on his shoulders while I huffed and puffed my overweight asthmatic self behind them. But it was wonderful to be out in the mountains together.  Patrick and I also frequented libraries and parks. I got free museum passes and we visited all the museums in Salt Lake City at least once.  We full-filled a lifelong wish for Patrick and bought him a ride on car that we spent the rest of the year following him around in. He also mastered riding a tricycle.

August – I talked to Patrick’s transplant team about scheduling his annual checkup since it would be a year since our last visit in September. Patrick’s clotted line had developed a hole and needed repaired so they decided it would be best to replace the line at this visit. Not wanting to interfere with school, I asked them to schedule us early and we headed out to Nebraska a couple of weeks later. They were able to replace Patrick’s line without problems. We opted to turn the trip into a family vacation and drove to Nauvoo, Illinois, a very important historic site for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (The site of a very large early Mormon city.. the last they lived in before mobs forced them to move west to Utah.) I crossed an item off my bucket list. Patrick weathered well a nice long roadtrip across Iowa with the company of his imaginary friends, Daniel Tiger and Prince Wednesday.

The rest of August was a crazy busy. Brian spent a week in Georgia learning how to create android apps (and ziplining). Meanwhile, I made a mad scramble to get everything pulled together for Patrick to be ready to start school.

September – Patrick started kindergarten. Thanks to years of preschool and the extra cramming of summer mommy school, he started at level with his peers. He was blessed with amazing school staff who adapted their teaching to help him continue to progress. They also worked to teach his classmates to be accepting of him and, one step further, Patrick made several friends in his class. We started the month by taking Patrick camping for the first time, in a cabin. Unfortunately, a g-tube leak in the middle of the night led to an infection that landed him in the hospital and he had to miss the second week of school.  Patrick also had testing that confirmed all his same allergies. He started attending group therapy to work on social skills. And he became the proud owner of an adaptive stroller/wheelchair.

In mid-September, Make-a-Wish threw Patrick a surprise party to let him know his wish was finally being granted. They invited all of his friends and family and hired an ice cream truck. We left on our wish trip at the end of September.We stayed at Give Kids the World. They gave us tickets to Universal Studios and SeaWorld as well as DisneyWorld. We played from the moment we woke up till the moment we fell asleep. It was magical.

October – Because of district budget, Patrick got a new teacher at school. She was also amazing, too. To help the transition, and because it’s my dream job anyway, I got to start volunteering in the classroom at school. I was invited to attend a research planning conference in Washington DC in mid-october as a parent advocate to talk about how research could help solve the problem of lost central line access. It was the first I’ve left Patrick overnight (except when he was in the hospital.) It was strange but good to get out and be myself and a grown up for a few days. We attended some early halloween parties and I helped throw a halloween party in Patrick’s class.And then, on the 30th of October, we got a call that they had found a donor for Patrick. He received his transplant on his birthday, October 31st.

November – November was devoted to recovery. Patrick flew through the usual post-transplant obstacles. He made it out of the PICU and off of IV feeding in record time. However, right before Thanksgiving, that early progress backfired as his lymphatic system was leaky and he got a type of fat leaking around his lungs. He had to have an emergency chest tube as his lungs were collapsing. He was doing better until his stoma healed too tightly and had to be revised. But, with a change in formula and a quick revision surgery, he sailed through recovery again.

December – Brian had to go back to Utah to work and he spent the month trying to catch up work and to get Christmas ready. Meanwhile, Patrick was discharged from the hospital on December 8th. We moved into the Ronald McDonald House where we enjoyed a Christmas season full of gifts and cards from home and watching the generosity of others but without the bustle of other Christmas preparations. We learned a new medical care routine. We tried adjusting to the side effects of Patrick’s new medication. We made Christmas crafts with friends. Brian and I celebrated our 11th anniversary apart. But, a week later he came back and we celebrated together. We enjoyed a different but amazing Christmas where we were showered with love by friends and strangers.

And then, right at the end of December, Patrick’s stoma prolapsed and landed him back in the hospital. Offered the chance to take it down, we did. And therefore, we spent New Years’ Eve this year in the hospital. Patrick and I passed out in exhaustion right around 11 p.m. Brian waited up and rang in the new year.

 

Transplant Day 29 and some gut rest

Well last night was frustrating. The nursing staff was spread thin because of the holiday and it took a lot longer than usual for them to respond to the non-critical things. From 10-11 p.m. one of Patrick’s antibiotics ended and the pump alarm rang and there was no one to shut it off. I silenced it for a while, but Patrick insisted that it was the nurse’s job and my job was just to cuddle and talk to him. How can you argue with that?

Unfortunately, the nurses were trying not to bother him while he slept, so every time Patrick woke, they’d try to come in and do vitals. Problem is, that mean they were in the room half an hour each of those times and we were awake at midnight and 5 and 5:30. (Not complaining about nursing… just stating trouble with sleep that comes with not doing well.) Then, at 6 Patrick’s nurse came to deliver the news that the resident didn’t want to come drain his gut again “unless he’s really uncomfortable.” Well – 10 minutes later, Patrick woke up crying. He said “bucket” and, before I could react, he threw up all over everything.

Yes – uncomfortable. Apparently, with nothing moving out of his gut and feeds still moving in, Patrick’s gut and belly had finally had enough.

So we got him up and changed the bed and gave him a bath and turned on some Blues Clues. And we waited for the doctors to come for rounds.

Rounds were actually kind of a relief today. They talked about different causes for this new problem and tests that could look for those problems. They aren’t thinking rejection at this point.. perhaps some inflammation or something called an ileus where the gut just temporarily stops moving or a mechanical issue with the muscle wall around Patrick’s stoma or a type of irritation called pneumatosis.

Then, Dr. Mercer came into the room to try out draining Patrick’s belly himself. When he saw how little a catheter needed to go in to immediately drain, he was actually really relieved. He said that ruled out a lot of possible problems. It also eliminated the perceived huge risk of draining. He showed Brian then and there and wrote orders that the nursing staff or parents could do that as often as needed.

They also stopped feeds, restarted TPN, put Patrick’s g-tube to suction so he wouldn’t have to throw up any more, switched as many medication as possible to their IV forms, and ordered some tests. The rest of the morning was very busy. Patrick had an x-ray of his abdomen and then later a CT scan to look specifically for pneumatosis or any other narrowings or problems. I guess we did a good job selling the idea of how fun a CT can be because Patrick had already been asking if he’d get to go in the “donut” again. We got comments from the radiology staff and nurse about how comfortable he was doing something that terrifies most other children.

Patrick and daddy in a wheelchair headed to CT

Patrick and daddy in a wheelchair headed to CT

Later today, they’ll come do an ileoscopy (scope through the stoma) and biopsy again.

Hopefully, one of these tests will show us what is going on. It is possible that Patrick’s belly just needs to rest and reset after all of the trauma of last week.

Regardless, with symptoms alleviated, the rest of yesterday was a good day. Without pain, Patrick was feeling up to sitting up and playing more. (In fact, he was more than a little afraid of his bed after all the scary things that had happened there this past few days, so he was doing all he could to get me to let him be in other places.) This means that his lungs have opened up and he was able to wean off of oxygen. His lungs are still recovering and they are trying to get the fluid all the way out of them and the lungs totally reinflating. His oxygen saturation is a little bit low and he sets off alarms when he sleeps, but he quickly rebounds and no one comes running at this point.

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Having family here definitely lifted his spirits, too. He and I were both worn out and frustrated and mad yesterday. It would have been a hard day had just the two of us been trying to be together. But Patrick’s family made him feel like a million bucks. Really, seeing the pride in his eyes when I came back from doing laundry (it was a big laundry day) at having his uncle all to himself was impressive. And seeing him happy and laughing as he played with his cousins was a big treat, too. This little boy needs people and fun.

Brian went with Mark’s family to the zoo in the afternoon and Patrick and I took a much needed nap and some quiet individual play time.. But then they came back and we played in the playroom and went out to a break room to eat dinner.. and then back into the room for another priesthood blessing. (Patrick asked if Mark could help daddy give him one.) Then they gave him some gifts, including a ball that was then used to play monkey in the middle. He laughed and laughed.

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When they left, I let him stay up and watch some of his new Dora DVD while we finished up his care and I got ready for bed.

I’m finishing this blog post up in the morning. Patrick has slept soundly all night. X-ray snuck in at 5:30. (Patrick’s nurse is fairly mad they did because she guards to be sure they don’t wake patients who don’t need it.) Patrick was really upset about it, but then tucked up his arms under my side and went back to sleep. A little later they came to draw labs, saw his bed needed cleaned up, and the same happened.

After such a long and hard week, it is so good to see him comfortable and sleeping peacefully. Hoping that goes a long way towards a better day today.

Patrick’s days are busy right now. He starts the day with labs at 5:30 and a chest x-ray at the latest moment that the nurses will allow to get him sleep but still get the results on time for rounds. He has meds at 7 and at 9, and because he doesn’t feel well, that means running zofram for nausea first. He has 2 antibiotics each given 3 times a day with a benadryl pretreatment before. He has respiratory therapy 3 times a day. He has vitals every 6 hours. And diapers. And stoma care. And a bath. And pain management. And getting up to walk. And trying not to go stir crazy.

It’s been 4 weeks since transplant. One thing we know from this journey.. So much can change in a day, or week, or month. We really appreciate all of the ongoing support and love that you offer Patrick, near or far.

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Transplant Day 27 and Baby Steps

Well, since I blogged this morning, I don’t have a lot of updates. Patrick’s made steady progress all day. He still needs some oxygen support, but not as much. He slept till noon. He played in his wagon.

It was a good mail day. We got cards from Patrick’s kindergarten, a picture of the Salt Lake Temple from a friend, and a package from Patrick’s therapist and social skills group. Those things came on just on time to lift our spirits. Patrick was confused and sad to wake up in the ICU when he’d expected to go back to his room last night. Brian and I were just tired.

In addition to that, Brian went to Village Inn to pick up a couple of pies I ordered yesterday for Thanksgiving dinner. When I placed the order, they noticed my out of state phone number and asked what brought us to town. Well, when Brian got there to pick up the pies, she came out and explained that she had bought our pies for us. Just the kind of gesture to make the morning after a bad night better.

Patrick had a CT scan this afternoon to look at the current state of his lungs. That scared him and brought some tears… but they let Brian and me hold his hands and we even got some smiles during the test.

It’s been great to see his smiles. I hadn’t noticed how much they had been missing till I saw them come back. He is sore and afraid of being more sore so he hasn’t wanted to walk much. His neck is kinked and he doesn’t want to turn his head. But overall, he’s still feeling and moving better.

After it hurting to talk yesterday, Patrick has stayed with his default method of communication from yesterday. He is waiting for yes/no questions and then answering with sign language. This is better than not talking at all… but I hope his words come back soon.

We were transferred back to the pediatric floor today to a room that is a touch smaller but otherwise a mirror image of our previous room. Since his lungs are still kind of at risk, we are packing smarter this week… keeping things a little more put away and hanging fewer decorations on the walls.  But it is nice to have more space and more quiet at least.

Brian’s brother and his family arrived tonight. They are making Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. It was really fun to see them. Patrick was so content that he fell asleep in his wagon holding Mark’s hand. I don’t quite have the heart to move him back to bed yet.

Transplant Day 7 and the tooth fairy

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This picture kind of tells most of the big news of the day. Look closely and you’ll see a few things.

1) Patrick was able to wean off of oxygen to room air during the night last night. That means no more nasal cannula.

2) They decided that his g-tube was providing sufficient drainage for his belly. He’s still having bleeding, but no apparent side effects. They have been trying to clamp his belly periodically throughout the day. If things continue going well, they’ll start feeds through his belly soon.

3) Patrick lost his first tooth. We noticed a loose tooth a week ago as Patrick was leaving his class Halloween party. When he went to the OR, the anethesiologist said he’d pull it so it wasn’t a choking risk. Then the report came back that it wasn’t loose enough yet. Well, today it was quite wiggly. And tonight, as I was putting Patrick to bed I noticed it was missing.

He was terrified. He thought something really bad had happened and insisted we needed to press the nurse call to take care of this big emergency. It took a while to calm him down. Then his nurse came in and helped me make a big deal about it. We called some other family so he could tell them and after a little bit of celebration, was proud and not scared. We’ve told him the tooth fairy will take care of finding it in his bed and he’s excited about finding some coins there.

Other big moments of the day: Patrick had his first scope. This is the entire reason that Patrick has an ostomy right now.. so they can easily look inside and check his intestine for rejection. They brought the scope right to the bedside. Patrick was pretty worried, especially as this happened first thing in the morning. But the doctors did a great job of putting him at ease, showing off the equipment, etc. Because there aren’t pain nerves in the intestine, they can just do the scope right at the bedside… Just slip in the scope, look around, take a biopsy and done. The longest amount of time was spent taking off Patrick’s ostomy bag so they could easily reach where they needed to.

He was downright adorable the whole time.. and when they sent a puff of air in to open the intestine (they said this might be uncomfortable), Patrick just giggled and said it tickled. Whew! We are doing those at least weekly for the next month and then very regularly for up to a year.. and so it was a huge relief that he wasn’t scared by it.

Really, our only scary moment today was walking. Physical therapy came and because we’d had all the excitement of a scope, a bath, two tubes and lots of adhesive removed all in the wee hours of the morning, Patrick was just plain tired. Also, with all of that going on, I don’t think they had been very consistent with pain medicine. Anyway, he made it out to the goal they’d set and was doing so well, they decided to push for a few more feet. Only, he was hurting and didn’t want to go 2 more feet. He just sat down on the floor and cried. (This is a problem on so many levels when it comes to protecting an incision and protecting an immune system.) It took a good 10 minutes to coax him into walking back to the room and then, only with me hugging him the whole way.

We’ll try again tomorrow.

Really, it was a pretty good day overall. He napped for almost 3 hours on my lap after his walk.. then I took a break and went back to my room for my own nap. We’ve played all evening and are just getting ready for bed.

One more thought, though.. Mail time is quickly becoming our best time of day. Patrick loves opening all of his birthday cards.. Some of the messages and other gifts leave me in tears. We should be moving out of the ICU soon and plan to plaster the walls with them. I’m not sure there will be even an inch of spare space.

I can’t believe that a week ago at this time, Patrick’s team was getting a call that Patrick had been matched with a donor for a long-anticipated transplant. It breaks my heart to consider what the donor family was going through at that moment while we, completely unaware, were putting the finishing touches on Patrick’s birthday present and plans. How quickly life can change.

I’ve shared it before, but this song and video have been in my thoughts often this week as I consider the selfless sacrifice in the midst of devastating loss. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J44vAOp1BmM&feature=share

Mom’s Wish Trip Recap

I loved reading Brian’s retelling of the events of our wish trip. I’m so glad he was able to capture those memories and share them with you.

It is very strange to come home and be right back to normal life. Life where things are too busy to spend time telling the stories of the Wish Trip that I wish I had time to tell. I’m looking forward to our star-raising party for just that opportunity. But for now, I’m gonna grab a moment and tell you what I wish I could tell you face-to-face.

I wish I could tell you how different it was to travel with everything planned out and taken care of for us. We travel a lot. But this time, someone else made sure that we had what we needed, that we knew were we were going, that we always had a chance to be fed. Give Kids the World does exactly what it’s name says. But what the name doesn’t say is that they wrap up tired, worn-down parents in their arms and do all they can to lighten their load and make them feel special, too.

And they give you the best gift in the world in giving you a chance to witness joy on the face of your child over and over again. That gift is so precious, especially to parents who have seen their children’s faces filled with pain and worry and fear many more times than is fair to any child.

Every night, after giving Patrick his melatonin and tucking him into bed, I’d lay next to him while he fell asleep. Every day, he’d relive the excitement of the day. We’d relive rides and retell the conversations had with the characters we met. One very special evening, after meeting Spiderman, Patrick and I had a good 20 minute heart-to-heart about what superpowers are and what amazing thing each superhero can do. Describing “web-slinging” to Patrick and seeing him overflowing with excitement at the idea… Yes, that is one of the precious moments I hope I never forget.

I could tell you how amazing it was to receive the same magic treatment at each theme park, too.  We didn’t go in assuming anything was owed to us. A quick jump to the front of the lines seemed like more than enough special treatment. But most places we went, they went above and beyond that. We were told not to expect to skip lines for characters, and yet when Patrick wanted nothing more than to meet Donald our first day in the Magic Kingdom, there were the Disney Castmembers showing us through the back entrance right to Patrick’s favorite character. Or the morning we decided to pop in and see if there were any cancelled reservations at the month-long-wait-list Beast’s Castle restaurant and they handed us a piece of paper and told us to go right in.. At SeaWorld we were told we’d need to buy a tray of fish for me, but when we tried to do so we were informed that we were their “guests” today and not only did we get that extra tray of fish, but a trainer who commanded the dolphin to jump right up so Patrick could touch it. And in Universal Studios they were determined to add to our experience. Not only did we get to turn around and ride the same ride again when Patrick wanted more, and were given special meet and greet opportunities after the animal show… But if someone met us and didn’t know anything more they could do for us, they’d make sure to give us a hint about some way to sneak in a little more.. like where to sit on the parade route for an uncrowded extra-long show by the cast of Dora.

And speaking of Dora the Explorer… in order to meet both Captain America and Dora and Boots, we virtually ran in our parkhopping and, if the Fitbit was right, covered a couple of miles in that hour. But it was well worth it to see the look on Patrick’s face when Boots walked out in front of him. And to see him flexing his muscles with his favorite superhero, too?  Yeah, sometimes we parents do crazy things for our kids.

Like spending every day for a week out walking miles (about 10 a day) in the crazy mix of hot humidity and afternoon thunderstorms that is Florida’s daily weather. I don’t think a Utahn can properly prepare themselves for that kind of humidity. But, why didn’t anyone warn me that we’d need ponchos? And a game plan for when lightning closed everything. I don’t see myself moving to Florida anytime soon.

We were amazed that Patrick stayed healthy. Our second day, we were afraid that wasn’t going to hold. He had a cold when we left our house and as we went to lunch at Universal Studios, he got really grumpy and started rubbing his ears. We were contemplating which nurses we could call back home and whether or not the first aid station would be able to help him. Thankfully, after his nap, his ear seemed better. He stayed healthy. I caught his cold, instead.

Brian didn’t tell you much about the last days of our trip.

We left Give Kids the World on Saturday morning. Brian drove to the airport to trade in our rental car. (Make a Wish only rented our car for the length of our wish trip, so we needed a different car for the days that we extended to visit family.) Meanwhile, Patrick and I stayed behind to pack up the room and give Patrick one last chance to play on the Candyland playground.

Leaving the village was bittersweet. We visited to see Patrick’s star on the ceiling of the castle and snuck into the Amberville station (train station/arcade) to play with the remote control boats before leaving. (When Brian first saw them, he said it’d always been a dream to play with something like them. Moms and dads can have wishes granted too, right?) Give Kids the World will always hold a special spot in my heart. I think we’ll spend our lives looking for ways to give back.

It was so nice to go spend some time with Brian’s aunt and uncle. We were exhausted after a week in amusements parks. So to go and just sit, visit, play with toys, watch Women’s Conference on TV (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint’s boasts the largest women’s organization and the largest conference for women in the world), and just rest for a few days …that was heaven.

Sunday, we slept in, wore our pajamas till well past breakfast, and watched Dora the Explorer. Then we took a nap, went to church, and in the evening all of Brian’s cousins from the Florida area came for dinner.

Dinner was wonderful chaos with kids everywhere and food overflowing. Brian’s cousin taught Patrick to play duck-duck-goose.  He thought this was hilarious, except that instead of running for his spot in the circle, he’d just yell “Goose!” and run away! I couldn’t help wishing that this family didn’t live so far away. He was just so at home with them.

Monday morning, we packed up once more. Patrick’s gift haul filled an entire large duffle bag by itself. We put on our matching Minion t-shirts and then went to Silver Springs for a glass-bottomed boat tour. It was a lot of fun, even if we didn’t see any gators or monkeys. Patrick, however, didn’t know what to do when that was the only ride planned for the day.

We drove back to Orlando and grabbed lunch at Giordano’s Pizza.. a favorite restaurant of mine from my days in Chicago and not found anywhere outside Illinois.. except in Orlando. Mmm. Deep dish pizza!

It was starting to rain again as we arrived at the airport. We thought we were in the clear when they let us board the plane, but then lightning started again. We waited an hour before finally being able to take off. Amazingly, Patrick handled this pretty well. Thank goodness for the tablet.

It was late when we made it home. The air had that perfect Utah fall chill in it. Thank goodness for that. It helped ease the transition back home. Because face it, as good as home is.. nothing compares to a wish trip. We were glad to be back to normal, but very, very sorry to see it go. This is the kind of experience that just changes you. You want to tell everyone about it.. but there just isn’t time to put it all in words.

Patrick talked about nothing but his trip for most of the next week. At least, until his favorite friend at school fell and had to get stitches in her head. His head’s now full of friends and school, which is also wonderful. But we talk about his trip still a little every day.

Here are some pictures taken of us by Give Kids the World and Disney.

 

Granting a wish.

Patrick has been learning about Disney World.  For a time when asked where he lived he said Disney World.  Patricks wish granters would send a package every once in a while to let him know that it was still happening.

A few months ago we got the dates for the trip.  There was a lot that needed to happen between then and the trip, so it got put off in our minds.  We had a trip to Omaha, I had a business trip, Patrick started Kindergarten, and we had an attempt at camping (gee most of those should be blog posts, I’ll see what I can do about that).  A few weeks ago we got a call from one of Patricks wish granters Beth, she told us that they were working on planning a wish granting party.  Something to tell Patrick that his wish had been granted, and he was on his way.

About a week ago we got details of his wish granting party.  And started inviting family, and close friends (sorry to those that didn’t get invited, the group was fairly large and we didn’t think it would be right to go larger, we still love and appreciate you).

We had coordinated the details with Beth.  We would send Patrick to the neighbors, the guests would come, and then we would surprise him, and then an ice cream truck would come as the cherry on top.

As with all things in our life, things change.  Emily started exploring some new therapy for Patrick yesterday.  They said great would it be possible to come tomorrow afternoon.  This caused our plans to change a bit.  The new plan was that I would come home early and meet everyone, help Beth and Natasha setup and then Emily and Patrick would arrive home from therapy to a group of friends.  With the contingency that if they got back too early they would play at the neighbors.

I got home from work early thinking I needed to help clean the house.  Cleaning the house with Patrick around is sometimes an effort in insanity.  When I arrived home Emily had the house in great shape.  I sat down and read for a while.  Then I decided to grab some chairs.

As I got outside Beth pulled up with balloons.  We tied balloons around our front yard.  Guests started arriving.  Natasha arrived with more balloons, which made things look all the more festive.

The majority of the guests arrived, and I texted Emily to let her know we were ready.

Patrick was taking in all his guests at his surprise wish granting party.

Patrick was taking in all his guests at his surprise wish granting party.

A few minutes later Emily pulled into the drive way.  Patrick looking out his window noticed we were all there, and started grinning.  Emily reports that Patrick saw everyone and yelled, “Hey! Why everyone here?” Then, grinning ear to ear and climbing out of his seat before we were even parked, “I want talk to them!”

Patrick got out of the car as fast as Emily could get his door open.  Ran to the driveway and just grinned.

He saw the present that was waiting for him on the porch and ran to it.  Beth cut him off, and presented him with a certificate stating that his wish was granted.  Then he resumed his quest for the gift.

He pulled all the things out of the gift bag, and around the corner comes music from and ice cream truck.  It stops at

"You are officially granted your wish"

“You are officially granted your wish”

our house and Beth leads him over to the truck.  Emily got there just in time with Patrick safe (soy) ice cream.  Patrick was more fascinated with the van than the ice cream, but none the less it was a hit.

The rest of the evening was spent with everyone getting ice cream, and Patrick running from person to person hugging and saying hi to them.

Then Beth let him play with her car (big points from him).  And she led him up and down the street naming all the car makes, which is one of Patricks favorite games.

I pulled Patrick aside and told him we were going on a trip on Sunday, and that we were going to go to Mickey’s

Presents!

Presents!

other house (he’s been to Disney Land a few times).

The night was great.  Big thanks to those who came.  Even bigger thanks to our wish granters Beth (and her husband Tim who accompanied her tonight), and Natasha.

We are super excited to go on our adventure.

The ice cream truck came just for Patrick.

The ice cream truck came just for Patrick.

 

The left overs of the balloons.  Each child took one home as well.

The left overs of the balloons. Each child took one home as well.