Category Archives: Surgeries

Transplant Day 804 and Look Ma. No lines!

**Composed yesterday in the surgery waiting room**

This is a good news post. But I’m finding myself so very out of practice at writing updates in the surgery waiting room that I am having a little bit of a hard time getting started.

At 7:30 this morning, we kissed a very drugged and giddy Patrick goodbye at the O.R. doors. He is having his port removed today. We haven’t needed it in a while. We left him with a central line because this his veins are so scarred that putting in a new line will certainly be difficult. This port has been so much healthier than any other central line he’s had before. And it saved him trauma with labwork. We didn’t feel any rush to get rid of a line

But this summer Patrick’s bloodwork started to come back so stable and consistent that his decided to switch labs to every other month, the port became more effort and risk than benefit. (They have to be flushed every 30 days regardless of if they were used.) We knew we’d need to have a talk about removing the line soon.

Last October, we took Patrick for his annual transplant checkup. When we raised asked the doctor if we should be considering taking the port out, he was surprised to find it was even still there. There was no question that it was time. Soon… But of course, we still took our time.

We allowed time for the doctors here to talk to the folks in Nebraska and know what would be involved in removing a direct superior vena cava line. We tried to wait for the end of cold an flu season.

But also at Patrick’s follow-up in October, the doctors decided to stop Patrick’s prednisolone, which was a major part of his immune suppression. Within two weeks, he started to have a severe pain in his side. After about a week, a small bump finally formed. And when we took him on a rollercoaster ride, that bump burst revealing a small abscess.

For some reason, one of the dissolvable stitches in Patrick’s ostomy scar never dissolved. It just stayed there as long as his immune system was heavily suppressed. But as soon as the prednisone was gone, his body started to rebel against a foreign body. He’s had a recurring abcess for several months now. Just a little pimple that would rise and fall. But it hurt like crazy. And that’s what finally got us here.

So here we are. An hour after Patrick went back, the surgeon was back out to report that all had gone well. He’ll have a little bit of an open wound where the abscess was an a pretty sore area on his chest until the space where the port was heals.  But overall, this should be pretty easy.

We’ve taken the port for granted for the past year or so. That makes this transition a little bit simpler. But the simple realization that Patrick has IV line for the first time in his life is a little bit disorienting.. miraculous.. scary.. comforting.. umfamiliar.. splendiferous!

Now not every fever could mean sepsis. Now he’ll have to have labs drawn from the shoddy veins in his arms. Now we won’t have to wake up early once a month to apply numbing cream before the port is accessed. Now we may not have numbing cream at all. Now he won’t have to protect his chest to play. Now it matters more if he eats and drinks. Now we won’t have to worry if a clot is forming. Now he may not automatically qualify for nursing. Now there’s one less thing that makes him different from other kids.

But really, it’s about time. Because I keep forgetting that it’s time to access his port. And I keep forgetting to tell doctors he even has one. He really didn’t need it anymore.

I’ll leave you with the words of a song that Patrick is singing or making me sing at least once an hour right now.


“I feel better, so much better
Thank you doc for taking all the ouchies away.
I didn’t feel so good till you fixed me like I knew you would
And I feel better. So much better now.”

Transplant Day 72 and Discharge Again

I just tucked Patrick into his bed at the Ronald McDonald House. Tonight, at least for part of the night, I will sleep in a bed by myself. The spot on my arm where Patrick likes to snuggle all night that is beginning to be deeply bruised is very grateful for this development.

It’s been a busy couple of days. Yesterday, I got up early and started begging often for them to find a volunteer to come sit with Patrick so I could fix the battery problem with my car. It took till afternoon, though, to find someone. So I was a nervous wreck all morning.

Finally, I explained to Patrick why I was acting frustrated and suggested maybe I should pray to calm down. Well, the next thing I knew, Patrick folded his arms, bowed his head, and said a little prayer that a “vodateer” (volunteer) would come so I could fix my battery. Not 10 minutes later, one walked in.

So then I made a mad rush to get it done. I called my insurance policy’s roadside assistance. (Thanks to my mom for pointing out that I might have that service on my policy.) They sent “Rescue Rangers” to come give me a jump start. Because I was in a parking garage, the guy showed up in just a regular sedan. (Tow trucks don’t fit in this garage.) And when he hopped out with a jump starter, I was pretty doubtful. But his was better than mine and the car started right away.

I drove to AutoZone and told them I thought my battery needed replacing. He grabbed his tester, but one look at the battery told him that it was gone. (I kind of knew that.) So he sold me a new one, then installed it, cleaned up all the corrosion, oiled my screws, and checked my other fluids. I expected the help putting in the battery, but not to that level.

With the car now happily starting despite frigid temperatures, I drove back to the Ronald McDonald House to get Patrick’s feeding pump so he’d be ready for discharge.

He had a pretty good night, as far as hospital nights go. And this morning, we slept in and laid around in bed being lazy. But eventually they came to clean his room and check his vitals and look him over.

Rounds were a little bit late. That actually helped a bit because it made the rest of the day seem to go faster. They confirmed our plan from yesterday that he could leave the hospital today.

A couple of hours later, they had a problem with Patrick’s feeding bag and I suggested that we just switch to his home pump. From that point forward, I couldn’t get him to stop running and running away. He was so happy to be free. (And feeling so much better.)

While they worked on getting orders, Patrick and I went for walks, ate soup, played in the playroom. It got late enough in the day that I called Patrick’s school teacher to tell him we wouldn’t make it back to the Ronald McDonald House and ask him to come to the hospital instead. And just as we were wrapping up with school, they came to say they were ready for discharge.

We left the hospital about 3:30 and stopped at Jimmy John’s so we’d have some food for dinner. (Patrick loves Jimmy John’s bread and with his new appetite, happily dipped and entire 2 foot long day old loaf in bread and sucked the broth out of it.)

Getting settled here again was more work than I wanted. It takes time to unpack, do laundry, put away a month of medical supplies, etc. But eventually, I got it all done and we wandered downstairs for a late dinner. Patrick is so happy to get to walk away from me a bit and to visit with his friends here. That felt really REALLY nice.

The new formula is easier to make, which I’m especially happy about. Doing meds again was much more second nature. And we even managed to change the dressing on Patrick’s incision with minimal fuss. I got him into bed by 10 and asleep before 10:30.

I’ll admit, it was kind of sad to come back here. When we were here last, we were still in that post-Christmas happy state. Brian was here. It was lonely coming back and knowing we need to put away Christmas is kind of hard. I’d leave it up, but really this room is tiny and with all the new toys, I need to get the Christmas decorations out of here.

Here are some pictures from this hospital stay. I wasn’t really great about uploading them so they cover a few days.

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 60 and A Farewell to Louie

I’m blogging from the surgery waiting room and hoping that I can finish this before the surgeon comes out as it appears that they are closing right now.

It’s been an exciting 18 hours. First of all, let’s do a review lesson.

Patrick had an ostomy created at transplant. “Ostomy” means “outward thingy” in layman’s terms. In Patrick’s case, it means that they pulled a little bit of his new intestine out through his abdominal wall and put a couple of small holes in it. The purpose of this was to make it easier to do biopsies. Rather than needing to sedate him to look into his intestine with a scope, since there are no pain nerves in the intestine, they could take off the pouch covering the ostomy, insert a small camera and look at the intestine.. then they could take a small biopsy and screen for rejection. Patrick has had this done 3 times since transplant. So far there are no signs of rejection.

I read in some article while Patrick was recovering a suggestion to name your child’s ostomy. It makes it more approachable. It gives you a kind of code-word to talk about it in public. After much debate, we named Patrick’s ostomy Louie.

Well, Louie had a problem last night. I’m not sure exactly when or how. Probably sometime around dinner Patrick started to guard the way he was moving. Not bending over. Not wanting to sit. And I, in all my brilliance, didn’t think to check and see why. I assumed Louie’s bag was getting full.

Well, at 8:45 I went to give Patrick his medications and get him ready for bed. I asked him to get undressed and he really struggled. He particularly couldn’t get the cover off of his ostomy pouch. So I knelt down to help him and thought, “Gee. That looks funny.” I looked forward and Patrick’s ostomy had “prolapsed” or, in other words, slipped out.

That doesn’t mean all of Patrick’s intestines came out. What it means is that an ostomy is a surgically created hernia.. only somehow Patrick’s had made his hernia herniate and so more of it was out that was surgically intended.

But it was new and still looked good. So I called the on call nurse coordinator. When I told her why I was calling I could hear surprise and concern in her voice. She asked me a few questions and then asked if I could come bring him in.

They have a short term treatment center here that they have their transplant patients come to for minor emergencies. Kind of nice to not have to go through the ER.  They checked us in and then called the surgery resident to come have a look. The transplant team was all in a kidney transplant so it took a minute for her to arrive.

When she came, though, she had a look and Louie was seeming a little upset. Swollen and kind of dark colored. So she said we should spend the night and decide what to do in the morning. Then not long afterwards, the surgical attending came in. He tried to push Louie back inside, but without success. He said we should sleep on the problem, too.. But suggested that, as this was the second problem with Louie in the 2 months since transplant, and since Patrick isn’t needing regularly biopsies right now, maybe it was time to consider taking down the ostomy.

So Patrick and I spent the night last night. We went to bed about 2. He mostly got to sleep until just before 10. It was a cuddly, nice night. And nice to have a break from being the one keeping the medical care going during the night. And in the morning, Louie was slowly going back in.. but not quite enough and a revision was looking necessary.

So we talked with the surgeon this morning. Ultimately, we decided that Patrick is a very active child who was going to continue to have problems with this unless something more was done. And it didn’t make sense to put him through a surgery to maintain an ostomy that is rarely being used for the reason it was created.

**Picking up this post at 9 p.m. Patrick’s surgery went well. They were able to take down his ostomy.. The intestine was already connected, so they just needed to close things back up. Nevertheless, this did leave him with good inch-long incision that will need to heal. It isn’t stitched closed. They are packing it with gauze to heal as they have found that this provides better healing, even if it also means a bigger scar.

He has had a hard day. He is sad and he is sore and he is itchy. He wants to eat and drink. He doesn’t understand why this happened so suddenly or why. The pain medicines have made it so he’s slept most of the day, thankfully, as long as Brian or I lay with him. That is probably the hardest thing from our perspective. Getting up to eat or go to the bathroom or really do anything upsets him. So we just try to lay still. There are 2 TV’s in the room so one can play his shows and one can be tuned in to one of ours.

Hopefully this first day or two will be all that is hard. As soon as his gut wakes up and starts moving things through, he can start clear liquids again and then they’ll restart feeds. It will probably be at least a week.

I’m grateful Brian is here to give me breaks and to go back to the Ronald McDonald House for clothing and food. I’m sorry, though, that we are spending the last week of his visit here this way.

Hopefully it will be just a short setback that adds up to a better quality of life for him long-term.

Transplant Day 31 and a Day of Rest

It seems like Patrick turned a corner last night. I wish I could say things are all better. Today, for him, things are still hard. His fevers are gone. He hurts and hurting is making him not want to take deep breaths. Because of that, even though his lungs seem a bit healthier, he’s still requiring oxygen support when he’s awake. (Not always while he’s asleep, which confirms the idea that he’s in pain.)

Therefore, we have seized upon this Sunday as a day of rest.

Of course, it didn’t start out in a very restful note. The fire alarm went off here in the hospital this morning at 5. I wish I could say that’s a small thing, but it’s not. Strobe lights flash in all the halls. They shut all the doors. And this recorded voice repeats, “There is an emergency in the hospital” over and over again. I wish I could say this is a rare thing, but it does go off somewhat regularly. The difference today is that it didn’t stop. After about an hour, they did finally figure out how to shut the voice off. “Mostly.” But at 7 the strobes were still flashing and the doors were still closed and because that somehow affects the security doors in the pediatric units, security was there.

This was enough to get Patrick good and awake for a little bit last night. Not the end of the world.. right before the alarm he was awake needing pain medication anyway. I was really grateful for his nurse last night who, instead of offering sympathetic words, got silly and made Patrick laugh with silly antics and a pillow fight at 5:30 a.m. I learned a lot from that as I saw how much better Patrick felt laughing.

Once Patrick was feeling a bit better, I decided not to force the idea of sleep. I turned on a Blues Clues and told him I was still tired but he could watch or sleep so long as he was quiet. (Last night, because he was hurting, Patrick opted to sleep in his bed alone with me asleep in the recliner, which almost stays reclined, next to him holding his hand.) I went back to sleep and so did he.

Then, about 7 a.m. Brian appeared cuz I guess he’d been awake, too. We did an early morning shift change and I headed off to get ready for church. Since Brian flies home in a few days and it will be a while before I have the chance to attend in person again, we decided that today was a good day for it.

I had the chance to visit with some of the Ronald McDonald House staff while I was waiting for it to be time to go. One of them had been to the temple open house when they built the temple here and we had a good talk about temples and why they are important to us.

I only stayed for sacrament meeting. It was good to be able to sing hymns with a congregation. I met the bishop and the newly called compassionate service leader who went through her own big, long, scary illness and hospitalization a year ago and knew all the right questions to ask.

Then I came back to the hospital where I found that Brian had been trying to help Patrick get up and move around the room, but it hadn’t been going easy. Patrick hurt and getting up just made him need more oxygen. I found him sitting in the recliner and we played playdough together for a little bit.

Then, the men from the ward (congregation) came with the sacrament for Brian and Patrick. Today a 12-year-old deacon came along and Patrick was excited to make him play playdough, too.

After they left, Patrick was looking beyond tired.. so we decided it was time for a nap. Patrick tried to avoid it. First, he stood an extra long time leaning against my shoulder. We discovered that daddy blowing zerbets on his back made Patrick’s heart rate go down and his oxygenation go up. Then, he opted to walk to the mailbox on the playroom. But once we got there without oxygen on, he was tired and I carried him back and put him to bed.

He slept 4 hours. He is only awake now because he needed his diaper changed. But his monitors reveal that the sleep has helped him to feel better.

So it’s been a very quiet Sunday, and a much needed chance to rest. I keep reminding myself that, though much smaller than transplant, yesterday’s procedure was a surgery and it will take a few days for the pain to go away again.

People often comment or ask how it is that we stay hopeful and positive during these hard times. Patrick’s attitude helps a lot. So does the support of the staff here and all of our friends and family.

Today at church one of the hymns reminded me of another way, too, that we are getting through this. Here are the words I sang today that brought a tear to my eye and some comfort to my heart.

I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!
From him I’ll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”
I believe in Christ; so come what may,
With him I’ll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again
To rule among the sons of men.

I’ve spent the evening trying to find a good Christmas Advent for Patrick. In years past, I’ve done an activity a day calendar with baking and outings. But many of my activities don’t fit right now and I don’t feel we can plan ahead enough. So I’m looking instead at a symbol of Christ/craft a day idea like The Truth in the Tinsel.  Just gotta figure out if I have the resources to pull it off here.

Because today I was reminded that it is Christ’s atonement that carries us through this. He took upon Him all our pains, both physical and emotional.. not just the pain of sin, but our grief and other sorrows, too. His resurrection means Patrick will one day have a perfect body, free of all this illness and pain. Better than a transplant. Much better. He is the Prince of Peace.

Patrick’s Getting a Transplant – Day 1 (and a half)

Last night, as Brian and I were turning off the lights to go to sleep, my cell phone rang in my hand. I looked at the caller ID and my heart skipped a beat. It was the transplant team. It was 10:30 p.m. It took me 2 rings to get the courage to answer.

Patrick’s transplant coordinator asked how his health had been, and then she told me that she was calling because they had received an offer for donor organs for Patrick.

I thought I’d be excited when this call came. I was not. I wanted to shout “NO” and hang up the phone. Patrick has been having a very good year. His health has been good. He is loving kindergarten and for the first time has had friends his age. I’d just helped to a Halloween party in his class. It was a hit and he’d had a great time. We’ve gotten in to one of the best mental health programs in the state and were making good progress with his attention and behavior. We’d been trying a medication for his ADHD and it was a hard adjustment, but it seemed to be helping. He’s been learning to read. And I just planned his birthday cake and finished wrapping his presents.

Did I want to change any of that!? NO!

But at the same time, we know a very hard truth. Patrick has been defying odds as he lives with a terminal illness. There is a reason they let us do a wish trip. Patrick is running out of access. His intestines have been redilating and sooner or later would need surgery again. Patrick has been living on borrowed time.

We have said for 5 years that transplant would come at the right time for Patrick. Why that time happened to be during one of the happiest seasons of his life, I don’t know. BUT it did. And we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Who knows when it would come again.

Getting ready to go was a chaotic mess. We had bags packed for us, but needed to pack Patrick’s things. We needed to call insurance and the doctors and somehow get to Primary Children’s, then to Life Flight and then to the Nebraska Medical Center. We needed to gather family to say goodbye and get blessings. And we were supposed to do it in 6 hours.

We didn’t do it in 6 hours. I was too confused. The hospital and Life Flight couldn’t agree.. And it took extra time. And it was ok.

 

Patrick's doctor- with us since we got to Utah, almost as much family as physician

Patrick’s doctor- with us since we got to Utah, almost as much family as physician

We got to the hospital a little after midnight. There, we were met by Patrick’s amazing GI who had come in and stayed up just for us. He wrote orders and then saw us off.

We got to the airport and were met by two amazing nurses and a pilot. Patrick had to ride lying on a gurney, but they managed to make it fun enough that, even though we’d woken him 2 hours after he went to bed (on a day he hadn’t napped), he laughed and played and was ok.

The Life Flight and ambulance teams

The Life Flight and ambulance teams

We arrive at the hospital around 6 a.m. and were shown into the PICU. There was some bustle of admission, but things were pretty quiet. Before long, Patrick had snuggled up and fallen asleep. And so did I.

Eventually, they came for some labs. We let him open his birthday present. Then, Child Life came by and asked if he needed a Halloween costume. As I’d left his awesome purple minion costume at home, we borrowed a Buzz Lightyear. It barely fit, but he was happy. And it came just on time, as the Nurse Practioner told us just then to let him up to move around. We made it out just on time to go trick or treating. Each department of the hospital put together mostly non-food goodies. Patrick happily went to each of them saying “Happy Halloween” and being showered with gifts. He came away with quite the haul. We even made the news.

http://launch.newsinc.com/share.html?trackingGroup=69017&siteSection=ndn&videoId=28082677

Trick or treating in a borrowed costume (with accessories)

Trick or treating in a borrowed costume (with accessories)

About 2/3 around the room of trick or treats, we got a call that they wanted Patrick back in the room for a procedure. We made a hurried run back to the room where they explained that they wanted him to go to interventional radiology to try to place another line. That sounded like a request to do the impossible. It turns out it was hard, but possible. Patrick currently has 6 lumens.

Going down early for this meant that Patrick would need to be intubated and sedated earlier than we expected. It wasn’t worth the risk to wake him up again. So I used the little time that we had before sending him down to try to explain to him what would happen. I could tell he didn’t get it. I could tell he was scared.

But it was time to go. So we did all we could to tell him we loved him and help him feel brave, and then we walked him to the procedure room and kissed him goodbye.

 

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He spent the afternoon intubated and asleep. He woke a little once and made a furious fight to take the breathing tube out of his throat. It took several people to keep him safe until they were able to get some more meds to settle him down. Hard, hard moment.

But the rest of the day was peaceful. With him asleep, they were able to get the other catheters and lines in that they will need to be able to monitor and take care of him during and after the surgery.

Finally, around 6 p.m. they came to take him to the O.R. We sat a bit on pins and needles till them, because until the organs arrived here and were inspected, there is always the chance of the transplant not going through.

It’s 9 p.m. now. The last update said that they were finishing putting in the liver and were just about to start putting in the other organs.

It has been a very emotional day. We have shed tears of fear and of hope and of grief and of joy. We have celebrated a birthday and Halloween and then said goodbye to our son for an indefinite amount of time. We have doubted ourselves, and we’ve been given flashes of reminders of faith. We have been touched again and again by the encouraging words of our family and friends and even of strangers.

Once again, we find our lives entirely overturned. I honestly don’t know how we are going to do this. But I am trusting it is going to be ok.

 

I’d like your help with something, if you don’t mind. Patrick’s birthday celebration got cut short when they took him early to place that line. I’d love for him to wake up to a room full of birthday wishes. Would you consider mailing a birthday card or sending an e-card? Mail to:

Patrick Hoopes
Patient Mail
Room # 5349
P.O. Box 6159
Omaha, NE 68106-0159

or you can send an e-card that will be printed and delivered to him http://www.nebraskamed.com/patients/well-wishers

 

How the Hoopes Family does bedrest

In addition to the 3 hours of totally immobilized bedrest, Patrick’s doctor ordered that he stick to light activity for the next couple of days just to be sure that none of the little holes they put into major veins started bleeding. Patrick does not do bedrest.

So instead, this is what we did to keep him as still as possible.

Nebraska State Capital

Nebraska State Capital

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First, we went out to breakfast. Then, we got in our car and we drove, taking the longest scenic route Google maps would provide, to Lincoln, Nebraska, the state capital. We stopped and walked around the capital building.

And then we visited the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, which is, in essence a big petting zoo.

He showed us his best frog face.

He showed us his best frog face.

He experienced a hedgehog's quills.

He experienced a hedgehog’s quills.

He petted a cow.

He petted a cow.

Patrick got to ride a pony named Tinkerbell.

Patrick got to ride a pony named Tinkerbell.

We also fed goats, petted a llama, watched the penguins feeding, rode the zoo train, shared snacks with a peacock, and of course, fed ice cream cones filled with feed to camels.

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This is the wrong way to feed a camel an ice cream cone. Brian is pouring feed down the little pipe holder they gave him. The camel didn't mind much.

Put an ice cream cone on a pipe, hold it out, and the camel grabs it.

Then, we drove back taking the fastest route we could find so Patrick wouldn’t fall asleep in the car. And when we got back to the Ronald McDonald House, we snuggled down and napped until dinner time.

When we woke up, Patrick took advantage of the first break from tubes he’d been allowed in a week and played on the house playground. He didn’t mind that it was almost 100 degrees and over 80% humidity.

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And then we went for a stroll on the riverwalk.

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Not a bad day of recovery by any account. The next day we spent flying home. Booking last minute meant having to book Patrick’s first layover. A shame because he squeezed in his nap on the short flight and was exhausted and overstimulated through the second. But we finally made it home safe and sound Sunday evening.

 

 

 

The line placement was a success

We are home and in our own beds after a very VERY crazy day. Before you have to read too far, I’ll tell you that the surgeon was able to get a central line into the same vein.

Now back to the day…Patrick wanted out of the room after being cooped up yesterday, but we were a little too late in our attempt and the nurse needed us to hang around to make sure medications were given on time this morning. He spent the entire 2 hours the medications were running doing some running himself around the room, despite my protests that he was pulling his line with the very short tubes.

When he finally got to leave the room, he took off literally running… fast enough that I had to run to keep up with the IV pole.

We got to the playroom and he starting flitting from thing to thing.. And then I realized that the damp spot I’d seen on his chest was more than just damp… it was dripping wet. So I looked and, sure enough, the good lumen on the central line had broken.

So, we turned and headed back to the room, picking up Patrick’s favorite child life specialist on the way back. You should have seen the nurse’s face when I walked onto the pod and said, “His central line is broken. Please call the team and the IV team right away.”

We cleaned him up, talked to the doctors, and wrapped up the line to keep it clean. Then Jo from child life helped Patrick place an IV into Tubes’ (Patrick’s medical me doll) hand. As we finished, IV team arrived and we went and got a real IV for Patrick. Explaining the procedure actually seemed to help a little bit with his fear.

Then the GI team came for rounds, got brought up to speed, and redressed the broken line to keep it sterile. We opted not to repair it as it was due to be replaced anyway. Then surgery came by and had me sign a consent.

By then, Patrick HAD to move. So we took advantage of the short break from tubes that having to wait for a bag of fluid that was safe to run through a peripheral IV (TPN has too much sugar and other goodies in it that wreak havoc on veins.). We hopped on his physical therapy bike and started doing rounds of the hospital. My goodness is that boy fast! And even with only one good hand to steer with, he was flying through the halls.

Did I mention that Patrick’s OT said that she was going to recommend that Patrick always get to borrow a bike when he’s inpatient to burn off energy and help him calm down?

Amazingly, riding the bike wore Patrick out. He was so tired he didn’t want to pedal anymore. We came back to the room, rubbed his lavender calming cream on his feet, and he fell right to sleep.

While he was napping, my cell phone rang. It was Dr. Jackson (Patrick’s GI) calling to say that he and Dr. Rollins (the surgeon) had looked at the radiology and decided it was too risky to change out Patrick’s central line. And as I started to explain that that ship had sailed, Dr. Rollins arrived in the room.

He’d just been brought up to speed and knew that the line needed changed. But he told me that he honestly didn’t know where a new line could go. We talked about how much of Patrick’s access had been lost and how he wasn’t sure he could get a catheter to pass over a wire to change the line out over a wire. Then we talked about those scary other places central lines can go like in the groin or liver. It was the first time those options seemed real and I was quite scared when he left.

Thankfully, Patrick napped a little and Brian came up and we grabbed some lunch and talked and I didn’t spend too much time alone with those thoughts.

And then Patrick woke up from his nap and Jo from child life came back with a box of things to teach Patrick about surgery. And surgical transport came to get Patrick, then got called away on an emergency, and came back an hour and a half later.

Patrick finally made it to the OR around 3:30 p.m. The surgeon was cautious, but hoped it wouldn’t take more than 3 hours. We went and set up shop in the waiting room.

And because I didn’t expect a fast outcome, we were surprised to see him back after a little over 2 hours instead

We were amazed when he told us that he’d been able to change out the line over a wire. We were even more amazed when he told us that there was so much scar tissue in the superior vena cava (the vein that enters the heart where lines are usually placed) that the wire wouldn’t go through it. And surprised yet again when he explained that somehow his wire had landed instead in another major vein called the azygos vein. He said that sometimes they do put lines in that vein, but usually have to go in surgically through the chest.

I can’t help to think that that represents a bit of a miracle.

And when we got back to the room we flushed the line. I almost wanted to cry at how smoothly it flushed. I knew Patrick’s line was bad, but feeling the contrast makes me amazed that it lasted for 15+ months.

And then, because they offered and because we were tired and homesick, we accepted a quick discharge.

We will still need to go back in a couple of weeks for a venogram to see exactly where Patrick’s veins run now. There’s this amazing process called collateralization where the body, when it starts to have thrombosis or scarring in a vein, starts to make new blood vessels instead that connect to the heart in all kinds of crazy ways. A venogram will show us exactly how those things connect.

We did one in Nebraska, but it was somewhat inconclusive. So we are going to give Primary Children’s a go.

But for now, it seemed like we’d had enough hospital and enough sedation and it was time to let everyone rest. Patrick ran around home very happy tonight. And very funny. He was making up all kinds of silly jokes that made me laugh. He even ate 1/4 of an applesauce cookie.

And on that note, I’m going to quit staying up while the rest of the household is asleep.

Thank you all for your prayers and thoughts and love.

 

Losing the line we were told never to lose

Or perhaps I should title this post “A date with the devil.” We are being forced to get to know the devil we don’t know.

Believe it or not, we finished a course of antibiotics and we went on vacation. Brian went on a business trip to the Ukraine. Patrick and I went to visit our good friends, the Laylands, in Seattle.

But writing about those things will end up waiting for another day. Because I’m writing tonight from a hospital room. Again. And there are things on my mind that, for me, have been the subject of nightmares for many months now.

Patrick has lost his central line. Not entirely yet. But it will have to be replaced.

It all started Saturday night right after I put Patrick to bed after our first day home from Washington and went to clean up before Brian returned from Ukraine. Patrick had been in bed about half an hour when I heard a plaintive “Mommy”, and then that unmistakable, heart stopping sound of him throwing up in bed.

I ran up the stairs but was too late. The poor little guy threw up half a liter of nasty green stuff. He must have felt awful all day. It took an hour to settle him enough to sleep.

Saturday morning, a homecare nurse had come to draw some labwork and follow up blood cultures. All seemed well at that point.. But i was very glad for those cultures when Sunday morning, Patrick was having low grade fevers. We went to church just to be able to take the Sacrament and see how long we could make it. We had a backup plan for our assignments at church.

And it wasn’t long before it was obvious Patrick didn’t feel well enough to sit quietly. So I took him to the foyer to let him move and I got on the phone with his doctor to see if we could come get more bloodwork done. And I pulled out a thermometer, and there was the number we had waited all morning for. 100.4 degrees farenheit. And official fever.

So, we made a bit of a scene leaving church, packed bags, and came to the hospital.

It took several hours to restart Patrick’s antibiotics. 8 for the one I thought he needed most, which just about made me crazy waiting for as he got feeling sicker and sicker. But as soon as they were given (along with a Priesthood blessing), Patrick started to feel a little better. We even slept through that first night.

All seemed to be going smoothly by the end of the 2nd day. I was a rockstar advocate mommy and got Patrick therapy, a picture schedule, integrative medicine & aromatherapy, and even talked to the palliative care team about signing him up for their services. I even managed to get his GI, surgeon, and a radiologist to have a care conference to discuss replacing Patrick’s positional line. They came back in favor of a change and suggested a plan of action to decide if and how to proceed.

And then, at 4 p.m., we came back to the room to draw cultures and start his antibiotics and his line wouldn’t draw. Or flush.

We ordered TPA and we worked it, and we worked it… and, well, after 4 hours of effort, he was exhausted, I was heartsick, and the line was still not working. And the plan from the care conference was upgraded from a hypothetical, optional plan to a necessity.

I did not sleep as well last night. (And not just because the nurse was slow about keeping the pumps from alarming and banged the door.)

Today we put the plan into action. Patrick went to radiology for a sedated ultrasound of the veins in his upper body. The order was for light sedation.

We learned today that Patrick is very capable of fighting light sedation. Made him silly and sleepy, but he was still perfectly able to fight the test. Moderate sedation didn’t fix things either. In fact, with sedation all of his inhibition control was gone and none of my usual distraction tricks were even an option. The ultrasound was wiggly, to say the least.. but the technician was patient and kept trying to get the information the doctors wanted.

Listening to her review her images with the radiologist, though, made my heartsick. As usual, Patrick’s right side vessels are fairly scarred. (Though perhaps a little better looking than the last I’d known.) But, they worked enough to give a better answer about the left side than before. Instead of just saying “Inconclusive”, what they said was that the left subclavian vein (the one in his shoulder) has lots of little collateral vessels around it too and shows evidence of being swollen at least, if not scarred, and also probably has a clot in it.

I asked the radiologist if that would explain the tricky behavior of this line for the past year and he said absolutely, that the vessel may have been pressing on the line. He also said that changing out the line over a wire was a risky move, given the clot in the line. But that I’d need to discuss that plan with our surgeons.

Other vessels were open, but most of them looked to have some kind of narrowing.

The rest of the afternoon was a little crazy. I got permission to change out Patrick’s button while he was still sedated and that went quickly and smoothly and he doesn’t seem to understand it even happened. That’s what we hoped for.

And that meant that Brian came up for the ultrasound and stayed the afternoon.

But it was a rough afternoon. Patrick didn’t sleep under sedation and he didn’t sleep after, either. He fought REALLY hard all afternoon to stay awake. We could tell when it started to wear off because he finally stopped fighting.

But because of low heart rates, he still had to stay in bed till 5:30. We got out for a short walk, but when we came back for TPN at 6, and I asked the nurse if all was done so we could leave, she told me no. She didn’t want to use the automatic settings to taper Patrick’s TPN levels up (to protect his blood sugar levels)… and so, we couldn’t leave the room.

The idea of making Patrick stay any longer in the room with the same old toys and bed and short IV tubing kind of broke my heart. So I had a very short little cry about it. Then I went and helped myself to several fitted sheets and used the extra safety pins around the room to build us a fort.

That tided us over for the rest of the evening.

Tomorrow will not be an easier day. As of tonight, they plan to take Patrick to surgery tomorrow. The surgeon will probably attempt first to put a line back into the same vein. That means that he’ll put a wire into the catheter, remove the old line leaving the wire, and then use the wire to guide a new line in.

That is the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is that that won’t work. In that case, they want to repeat a venogram.. which is a contrast study of the Patrick’s veins. And they will use that to pick a new vein to put a line into.

It is entirely possible that the surgeon will come in in the morning and decide that he wants to have that done before Patrick goes to the OR. And then we’ll just do that tomorrow and the surgery the next day.

And the worst of worse case scenario is that the wire over doesn’t work, none of the other vessels are still wide enough to get a central line into, and then we’ll start discussing desperate measure that I don’t really want to get into in a blog post unless they happen.

Needless to say, this is scary. I am still terrified of the idea of Patrick no longer having veins to give nutrition through. I do not want to imagine that happening.

We are not to that point yet. There are veins in other places in the body that can be used. But there is still a lot of pressure to make one of these sites work because in order to have a transplant, Patrick has a have a central line in his upper body.

I’m scared and I’m sad.. and I’m really, really lonely for some reason this stay. But I’m calm. We have been praying and fasting about this line for a while now. I can’t help but think that this is an answer to those prayers.

So, if you’re the praying type, please join us in praying for the surgeon and his team and the radiologists tomorrow. We’d love to save this access site. We’d love to get another year and a half or more out of another. And I have this faint little hope that maybe the next line won’t scare me every time someone else flushes it, (and sometimes when I do, too.)

Outpatient

Last entry, I wrote about Patrick coming down with a common childhood illness and how much more complicated that is for him.

Well, as predicted, this illness definitely had it’s impact. The day after that blog entry, Patrick started throwing up. As it turns out, herpangina, better known as Hand, Foot and Mouth is caused by a series of viruses that live in the intestines. Symptoms indicate that Patrick’s was caused by one called “enterovirus.” As a result, Patrick started to lose so much fluid by g-tube that I was having a hard time keeping up replacing the fluid.

By the time Brian got home from work, he was pale and weak, running a fever, and we were worried. I put a call into Patrick’s GI to ask if they wanted to check blood cultures. By the time they called back to talk about putting in those orders, we’d changed our minds and asked if he could just come in for a night of observation. The night went well and Patrick was obviously feeling better with no additional treatment and by morning, we were asking to go back home. (Especially since we’d barely gotten any sleep.)

By early afternoon, we had been officially discharged when we discovered another problem. When I went to connect the TPN, one of Patrick’s lumen’s wouldn’t flush at all. I tried a few times without success. But we were sleepy and his nurse timid. We’ve unclotted lines lots of times at home. He still had one working lumen, so I said “let’s go.” On the way home, I made calls to get the anticlotting agent sent to me.

All night long I tried to work it, getting up every couple of hours to try again. It just didn’t work. By morning, I knew it was a lost cause for my efforts. But by this time Brian was also sick, I hadn’t slept in 2 nights, and Patrick needed rest. So I made phone calls instead of running in. Eventually, we made arrangements to go in to have the hospital staff try to unclot the line. We arrived around 8 p.m., (we asked to wait until we’d at least had Brian’s birthday dinner with his parents)… And the nurse tried all the things I’d tried. Finally, at midnight, we declared it a lost cause and they sent us home.

Patrick’s doctor called the next day to tell me that, as we suspected, Patrick would need a new line. And we went on, finally feeling a bit better, with celebrating Brian’s birthday. We took Brian shopping for a few big wishes, then went out to dinner. That was all the energy any of us had.

I talked to surgery the next day to make arrangements for the new line to be placed. Since Patrick still had sores in his throat and his surgeon was out of town anyway, we scheduled it a week away on Tuesday.

That was a week ago today. The surgery went well. We checked Patrick in at 6 a.m. then talked to the nurses, surgeon and anesthesiologist who’d take care of him. The anesthesiologist said what we all know, “He looks a lot better in person than on paper.” Still, even minor surgeries can be major for Patrick so we didn’t really relax until his surgeon came and told us all was well.

The only complication was that Patrick was bleeding fairly easily. But that seemed to be under control. We came home and I sent Brian off on a business trip to DC the next morning.

His occupational therapist came the next morning as I was trying to find an assistant for the day-after-surgery dressing changes. Since we’ve been specifically trying to help him with those, she volunteered to help. All went smoothly and we were playing with her after when I noticed that I could see blood on the new dressings.

I peeked under his shirt to find that the old line site had bled since the change so much that it had soaked the dressing and was now soaking into his shirt. So his OT made a quick departure as I called the hospital who suggested I change the dressing again and apply pressure. It worked and he went to sleep.

But, come 6 p.m. the same problem came back. I called the surgeon on call this time and got the same instructions. They worked again, but I realized that Patrick needed to be helped to be a little less active until things healed.

Lucky for him, we’d bought a zoo pass the weekend before, so I packed him up and went to the zoo where he’d be strapped down in the stroller for the morning. It worked and we had a great time looking at the animals (I think the zoo deserves a separate post)… He only scratched off his dressing once while we were there, and I was able to get a new one on without any bleeding at all! And I managed to keep the IV tubing away from the stroller wheels until we were exiting, when they got tangled so badly they broke, but fortunately I pulled off a quick tubing change without any incident and we made it home safely and ready to nap.

He seems to be healing just fine from the surgery now… and his sore throat is gone. His tummy even was better for a couple of days. He’s back to losing a ton of fluid again this week which means either the enterovirus is still there… or he’s been exposed to something else… which is possible.

It’s work sometimes to keep Patrick outpatient, but as my next posts will show, it gives him the chance to experience the joys of life, which makes it worth all my work.

Sorry this entry is so long! Between Patrick, Brian and myself being sick at various times and me “playing Florence Nightengale” as Patrick’s case manager put it, this is the first chance I’ve had to catch up stories. I thought I’d start with the medical first so I can follow with tales of fun later.