Transplant Day 49 and Clinic again

I am trying a short post from my cell phone again. That will explain the crazy words in wrong places.

Patrick was angry with me today. I think he wanted more attention. And I think he wasn’t ready to skip his nap two days in a row. But we made it through.

One of our friends here for to go home yesterday. More of that will happen as families had home for Christmas. That made it so morning med prep wasn’t as quiet and lonely.  A few people were there to say goodbye.

We spent some time today trying to get ready for Brian to come back. He comes in tomorrow. So we cleaned and we shopped.

We had a follow up visit with the transplant team today. I bought Patrick a bag of BBQ potato chips at the store and he are these through the whole appointment.. Spitting them out in a bag while we talked and no one batted an eye.

Things still look really good this week. His output was a bit high yesterday which worried me, but they said it was still very good. The changes today were minor. They are adding a lipid to his formula in the morning to help make sure he doesn’t get a fatty avid deficiency. Also, he has been too dry, so they are adding some extra fluid. Mostly just a recipe change. Well, plus a volume change, but that is still easy so long at his gut is OK absorbing it.

The concern is still making sure his lungs stay clear so no elecare formula for a few more weeks.

After clinic, we dropped off some spare parts (a line repair kit and g tube button) to a family we meet inpatient. Their little girl just got a line and started TPN. So we wanted to give her the makings of a special doll.

The rest of the day included boys clues, a craft, soup for dinner that Patrick ate well, and playing the piano. This was made sweeter as I fit some audience tonight.. The grandparents of the boy who passed away. Turned out grandpa is a  baptist patriot. They came just to listen to the music.

I just crashed helping Patrick sleep
so this is a quick update.  More tomorrow. I have high hopes Brian can fix my internet

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Patrick's Christmas Cookies

Transplant Day 48 and some Christmas Cheer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Transplant Day 46 and Physical Therapy

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Today was a busy day. I knew we’d need to be up early to start out with labs, but last night was another night where Patrick didn’t make it to sleep till midnight. So when he snuggled up next to me and fell back asleep this morning, I didn’t really have the heart to wake him.

At 8, as my alarm was going off after the 3rd snooze, I decided we were going to have to bite the bullet and get up. I could tell that sometime during the night Patrick’s ostomy bag had come loose. Thank goodness I’ve got a good drain system set up so it didn’t make a mess that woke us earlier. But it did mean that we had to start off with a bag change right away.

Patrick wasn’t so sure of me when I put him in the tub without waterproofing his bag.. But it actually worked very well to make it come off quite easily and changing the bag went very smoothly. But we were really pressed for time so when the phone rang to tell me they were showing his nurse up, he was still quite naked and wrapped in bath towels.

We hurried to get a diaper on and wrapped him up in a blanket and the nurse was able to draw his labs. Meanwhile, my phone rang and it was the pharmacy. It’s been one week since discharge. Time for a new shipment of supplies.

When we got through all of that, it was already 9 a.m. I begged Patrick to stay on the bed and watch Blues Clues and let me run downstairs for his medicines alone so it could be faster. He agreed and we were able to get all of his medicines given on time. But in the meantime, he was a lot happier in the room watching TV than he usually is trying to entertain himself while I do up meds in the morning. In fact, he happily stayed and played and watched TV for another hour and a half.

That gave me time to clean up the room a bit and to set up the printer that my mom and dad bought me for my birthday. (I knew I’d want to do Mommy School here so that was one of my first wishes.)

Finally, I was hungry and he needed formula made so it would have time to chill before starting the new batch running and we had to give in and leave the room. Besides, Patrick needed me to buy him new socks. So we went downstairs and got ready and went to Target.

Let me tell you about why Patrick needed new socks as it brings you to the next part of our day. If you are new to our story, you may not know that Patrick has an anoxic brain injury and cerebral palsy. When he was 8 months old, his heart stopped because of an infection and some medication they were using to treat it. It took over 15 minutes of CPR to revive him. The result is that the ends of all of the blood vessels in his brain were deprived of some oxygen. That accounts for a lot of his behaviors and most of his developmental delays and learning disabilities.

When you hear the phrase “cerebral palsy” you probably imagine someone with a very severe case whose body is contorted with muscle spasms: someone who can’t eat, can’t talk, can’t walk, etc. That is what you imagine because that is the presentation that you can’t ignore so you ask about it. But what cerebral palsy really means is that at birth or shortly thereafter, the brain was starved for oxygen, leaving the patient with a “palsy” or lack of control of the muscles of the arms or legs or more. The signal from the brain to these limbs gets confused or altered somewhere along the way causing unexpected movements, often causing the muscles to spasm.

Well, over the past week, I have seen Patrick’s hip and foot of his right foot turning inward. He is becoming more clumsy and having  a harder time controlling those muscles. I started making him wear his walking brace for half to all of the day. (Enter the need for new, longer socks that would prevent rubbing from the brace against his leg.) We’ve been doing stretching, too, and those muscles are much tighter than they have been in years.

Today after shopping and a short nap, I took Patrick for a physical therapy evaluation in the hospital’s outpatient clinic. I wanted to evaluate his recovery and I was especially worried about this problem with his gait.

The news was good. First of all, Patrick is a “rockstar” from the physical therapy standpoint. His incision is better healed, his movement is better, his pain level is less, and his energy is more than most patients at this point. He is really doing remarkably well.

The therapist said that she thinks that the spasticity in his leg is likely a combination of problems: the trauma of transplant, the effect of new medications, the exhaustion of recovery. In other words, she said that it’s probably something that he’s feeling all over, we just are seeing it more in his leg because that is where he is weakest. She said that for every 1 day in the hospital, we should expect 2 days for his body to recover. Considering that he spent 39 days in the hospital, it will be a few months before he is back to full strength.

The prescription is simple. Keep doing all of the exercises we were working on at home for leg strengthening like climbing stairs, squatting and tiptoes, bike riding, jumping. But, for the next little while, have him wear his brace so that while his nerves and muscles are relearning and recovering, we are training his body to move the right way. Patrick is not amused by this prescription. He keeps asking me to let him take his boot off because he feels like it’s in his way.

The therapist said that she is seeing such progress in the area of gross motor skills that, given our insurance policy’s very limited therapy visits, that she feels like physical therapy would not be her focus right now. She recommended instead that we take advantage of the opportunity to work with an occupational therapist who specializes in feeding in kids post-transplant while we are here.

She also said to allow him lots of rest. And I think that I realized today that doing so may require a little more keeping him in our room. When we hit our room, all of the sensory overload caused by the rest of the house melts away. He is happy watching TV and doing crafts. Tonight it finally clicked for him that the tote in the corner is a toybox and that he is allowed to go get those toys out and play with them.

I don’t know for sure. We’ll need to find a balance so he gets social time, too. We both need it. But we both were much happier with some quiet, one-on-one free play time in the room.

We had another special treat tonight. One of the men from our church who helps bring the sacrament has talked for a while about inviting us over for dinner. Well, tonight, we got the chance. That was really such a treat! Patrick had a great time playing with their two little ones (ages 3 and almost 5). I spend some time with some other adults about my age whom I have a lot in common with. And just take a break from all of this medical stuff for a while. But also, without a ton of explanation. He has been visiting for a while now. He was also the anesthesiologist on Patrick’s case the night of transplant. So they know the story and some of the things they should expect. It was good to just be normal for a little while.

We were both sad to see the evening come to a close. But it was bedtime and we needed to unwind to go to sleep here, too. Setting up my printer meant I also set up a place my laptop can sit next to the TV, so we were able to turn on one of the new DVD’s that Brian’s parents sent him. We watched Curious George’s Christmas while I cleaned up the room, prepared feeds, drew up medications, and got Patrick into his pajamas.

He made it to sleep by 10:30 tonight which isn’t the greatest, but is better than midnight. He also is starting to prefer to go to sleep in his bed on his own. He won’t admit that. He would love for me to lay with him. But he has started to do his usual putting himself to sleep routine if I’ll just lay with him for a bit, then tell him it’s time for met o kiss him goodnight. I kiss him and go lay in my bed until he falls asleep. Then I get up and try to get done whatever was waiting for him to rest.

Tonight while I waited, I decided to poke around Pinterest for kindergarten homeschooling ideas as Patrick’s teacher was still sick today and an hour a week of school is certainly not getting him the education he needs or that his little mind is craving. I am thrilled to say that I stumbled across a curriculum that looks like it will pick up exactly where he left off at school and that really fits his learning style. It even has little printable readers. (I’m trying to decide if I print them or see if it’s possible to throw them into an e-reader format to save on printing). I’m excited to grab a little bit of playroom time tomorrow morning so I can get it downloaded and start working on it.

One last bit of news, then I have to post this and get to bed. My eyes are drooping. Patrick’s transplant coordinator called this afternoon. The great news is that his prograf level is finally in range. Just barely, but it’s there. That’s the first time in a week. That means no medication adjustment. It also means that we get to switch to twice weekly labs. And THAT means that we can sleep in in the morning if we’re tired. At least till meds are due at 9.

However.. you probably wont’ get to read this until then because I am just plain too sleepy to go hunt down an internet connection until morning.

Transplant Day 45 and Gingerbread

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Well, it’s about 6 p.m. on a very quiet Sunday evening here in Omaha. Patrick is taking a little time in the playroom and I thought I’d throw out a quick update.

It’s been a simple day. We slept in a little bit because we were told no labs. I had Patrick in the bathtub when there was a knock at the door. It was his home nurse. She hadn’t gotten a change of orders. So while she called looking for those instructions, I got Patrick back out of the bath and dressed just in case. But she got it sorted out and went on her way.

That put us a little ahead of our expected schedule for the morning. We ate breakfast and got meds and then pulled out the Dora Candyland game they have here to play while waiting for our next plans.

I decided that maybe a Sunday morning outing would be a nice change of pace today. The Mormon Trail Center has a gingerbread house display every Christmas. I’d heard about it from more than one of the nurses. So I invited any of our friends at the house willing to be up and out earlier in the day to meet us at 10:30 to go over. (I am still hiding from crowds to protect Patrick from illness with his weakened immune system.)

We don’t have many early risers in the house right now, so only our friend Wendy joined us. Her son is 18 and had a transplant a year ago. So while he slept, she came with us.

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The gingerbread houses were fun and impressive. There were simple displays from scout troops and other kids groups. There were also very elaborate displays with sculpted candy and such. It inspired us to want to set up a gingerbread house making activity here at the house.

Then, we went upstairs in the visitors center and took a brief tour. I should maybe get tired of that, but I really don’t. I see so many parallels between the sacrifices that pioneers made crossing the plains to our life right now. Separated from husband and family. Small living quarters. Nebraska weather. And hard trials. I was really glad we got to go.

And they finished off the tour with this little video about the true and first gift of Christmas, Jesus Christ. I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Now seemed like the right time. I was talking to Brian last night. He’s doing all the grunt work of Christmas this year. Mailing cards, wrapping presents. Meanwhile, I’m here with my little nativity advent tree and only serving Patrick and the other people in the house as my jobs right now. It’s a different Christmas season and teaching me a lot.

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Anyway, we came back to the house and ate lunch, put in some laundry, visited with some of the other kids for a while. Patrick was sent a 12 days of Christmas gift countdown by our church youth group and today was the first day to open a present.

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Then the elders came with the sacrament. Our usual guy was busy this week and so this was a new father-son duo that came to visit. They got a bit lost on the way. It always seems so very brief when there are no meetings around the sacrament. I miss church horribly right now. I’m realizing that I had found a way to work scripture study and prayer into our hospital routine.. But this new Ronald McDonald House routine has been harder that way. Patrick can’t sleep in because of labs and that’s when I was reading before. And with his insomnia, he is up till almost 11. You think finding time to blog is hard? Try finding time for quiet study and meditation when you have a 6 year old who is desperately stir crazy with you in every waking moment.

But I can tell today that it needs to be a priority. Sundays are kind of a day to refill spiritually and I can tell that my lamp is running on empty and there are no meetings of any kind to refill me. That falls to me these days.

There’s no dinner in the house tonight so I probably had better go up and make us some dinner here sooner or later.  But I thought that while I had a quiet moment and an internet connection, it was worth checking in. Sorry about the typos in yesterday’s blog post. I wrote from my phone and I obviously didn’t do a good job proofreading.

Transplant Day 44 and Mexican Night

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Well as the week goes on, I feel bad for feeling so crazed and out of control our first couple of days here. We are establishing a routine and I am finding myself with plenty of time to kill these days. At least the days go quickly.

Yesterday morning started with labs. On the weekend, they have to be drawn at 8:30 but submitted by 9 or the results won’t be back. So we were up and ready early.  The lab draw was done early, though, so we quickly made it downstairs.

In the morning, Patrick has meds at 9. Two of these are stored on a fridge on the first floor so I draw up the room temperature ones in our room then we finish downstairs. Patrick gets borer and wanders off. This time, I brought a little game with me and it went better than usual.

Then, we wash the containers his formula is mixed in and make a new batch for the day. Patrick likes helping me shake the soap in the mixing bottles.

Next, we grab it dirty laundry and poor in a batch. Patrick plays and I get some free time. I had a to do list on my computer but it wasn’t coming yesterday. So I switched over to playing the piano. That created a bit of a sitter in the house and made me wish I had had Brian pack more music.

Patrick wasn’t very happy with me though for directing him to play alone when he was bored. And he got more and more naughty as time wore on.

Finality, we got to our room and he was both dysregulated (out of control of his sensory processing) and feeling pretty disobedient. We ended up sorting down and drawing some house rules. Doors and drawers stay the way we found them. Don’t play with light switches. Leave the wheeled garbage can in its place. Only scam the spot let card I’ve each time we use it. Stay by mom. Listen and obey the first time.

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We free and hunt up these rules and I granted a bunch of stickers to praise him when he kept them. I also cut a “stop” cue or if craft foam and told him that any time I showed it and he stopped what he was doing to come to me, he could have more stickers.  The rest of the day wasn’t perfectly smooth, but we both were trying harder and it worked a little better.

The weather is still warm. Mid 50’s. So I grabbed us sweaters and we tried going to the park again. But we were barely out of the car when Patrick was shivering and asking to go. Guess I underestimated his body mass. So we came back to the house and took a nap instead.

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Then, it was time to start dinner. A few days ago one of the other bonds and I were talking about cooking. There are a lit of Hispanic families in the house right now. I mentioned that I learned to make tingavas a missionary and love it. And somehow decided I should make it on the next day we didn’t have a dinner group.

That was yesterday. I bought some ingredients the day before, but don’t dare take Patrick in a store on Saturday because of immune suppression. So we made a shipping list and a few other moms divided up the rest.

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We spent yesterday evening cooking. I made things. Violeta made rice. Miriam made salsa. Wendy did the veggies and chased Patrick.  We made enough to share and so helped feed 4 other families. They all offered to help pay for it, too, but we have been given some generous gifts this week and it felt good to share. Instead, they helped with cleanup.

Dinner was yummy. It was so nice to have some normal.. To cook and visit and let Patrick play without me nagging him over rules. To eat something different.

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After a few hours running around playing, Patrick stated to complain that it was hard to walk. His cerebral palsy has between especially pronounced odd late. His muscles atrophied while he was in bed and as we work to rebuild them, the spasticity in his leg and hip is coming back strong. I am having him wear his brace most of the day, but his hip still turns. And so by dinner, he was so tired he was falling because he was paying and walking and climbing stairs and made those weak muscles tired.

After dinner, I turned on blues clues in or room and finally convinced him he could stay and rest and watch while I ran around. So he sat in the bed and watched TV while I got meds and formula for the evening.

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We went to bed on time, but chatted with Brian before sleeping.  That made Patrick excited. At 11 I declared I was too sleepy and needed to go to my bed. I think he fell asleep about the time I did.

And now you get a post because I had a bad dream and need to be up to refill formula here soon so I figured it was a good time to write.

I took these pictures two days ago at the park. Just haven’t been able to get them to upload till today.

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Transplant Day 43 and Celebrating 11 years

(Sorry.. Internet connection isn’t doing syncing pictures right now. Will edit and add later if I can.)

Today is our wedding anniversary. The week has been so crazy that I wasn’t sure how today was going to turn out. We got the day off of labs so we slept all the way till 8 a.m. But then when we woke up, getting ready quickly was important. Still have to get meds from the fridge downstairs by 9 a.m.

But the morning routine is getting better. Brian sent a package yesterday and so I opened that while Patrick was in the bath. It had a few thoughtful little gifts in it. It made me really, really miss my best friend. But one of the gifts was a necklace that I have been able to wear all day to remind me of him. I have been so glad that we went big with a Disney trip last year as we’ve had to spend this day apart.

Thankfully, it’s been an overall happy day. A group home nearby comes every day to clean the playroom toys. Today, they were later than usual, which meant that we got to spend the morning downstairs playing. The rest of the house was really quiet so it was a great time to get to be out of the room. That’s how you got multiple blog posts today.

I ordered Brian a pizza and pizza cookie. I really wanted to find a way to send him warm cookies for our anniversary.. And to tell him that I’ve been working on other plans. The pizza place was kind of enough to put a note in the pizza for me, even. Then Patrick and I went upstairs.We stopped by the office because they kept coming and telling me I’d received flowers. (Don’t I have a sweet husband? It’s fun to get flowers in a place where people get excited about them coming.)

Then I made lunch and I fully intended to put Patrick down for a nap. But then my phone rang and it was his homeschool teacher cancelling class today because he had a fever and was going home sick. Then, people started to come inside and tell us what a beautiful day it was outside. Patrick had been begging me to take him for a walk in one of the house’s wagons. So, I gave in.

We had a great time. (And I met my FitBit step goal for the first time in almost a month.) And, yeah, it was so nice that I still didn’t feel right making Patrick go sleep the day away. Instead, I offered to take him to the park. One of the moms here pulled out a local guidebook that they’ve put together and gave me the address of a nearby park. It was only a few blocks away and it was perfect for Patrick’s mood. Quiet. Small enough to not be too hard for his recovering body. He was so happy he was literally jumping up for joy.

Then he got really, REALLY tired. He asked to go back to sleep, but then remembered that he had a $1 bill in his pocket that had come in the mail yesterday and he was dying to spend it. I wanted to do some shopping anyway, so we packed up in the car and we drove to one of my favorite on-a-budget stores: Aldi.

But we didn’t find a way for Patrick to spend his money there. I had, however, noticed a Family Dollar on our drive out and knew that they bring in crazy cheap toys for Christmas. So we stopped there instead. He picked out a remote control car. (Ok ,ok. Not $1. He actually had another $10 that he’d forgotten about so I gave it to him to spend when he spotted this car.) I found a shelf of kid’s knit gloves. I’ve been looking for those EVERYWHERE! Patrick can’t help himself touching things everywhere we go. Kid’s vinyl gloves are not really accessible and also not really comfortable. But little knit gloves? We can stick those in the car and put them on when we get somewhere he might need them. And then, we can bring them home and stick them in the wash. I bought 14 pairs of knit gloves. Some are pink. Patrick insisted. And that’s ok.

When we got back, he really WAS tired. I meant to come back and just cuddle up in the room and watch TV and maybe he’d fall asleep for a bit and that would be ok. But his new car required a screwdriver to get open. And then we discovered that there was a big stack of mail for Patrick today.

Oh my gosh do we feel spoiled today! Savannah, Maria, Emily, and Clarene.. Thank you! Those packages just on time to make today feel a little more special.

And speaking of special, tonight’s dinner group brought along Santa Claus. Patrick was so excited to see him again that he ended up first in line. But then he froze and couldn’t remember what he was supposed to tell him he wanted. He also pulled one of his new favorite tricks on him and pretended he didn’t know his own name. It was a great Santa moment.

Santa brought a bag of beanie bears and Patrick picked one out with polka dots, then named her Chrissy after his favorite friend from school. (Have I mentioned that I taught Patrick about naming stuffed animals this week? He’s received 2 others this week. A stuffed dog he named Cookie. And a purple teddy bear that he’s bounced back and forth between calling Pink and Cute Bear.)

Anyway.. once Santa left, Patrick was for sure ready for bed. We came up to the room and he went and picked out his pajamas. I told him he could start changing while I got meds.. But with the hospital here preferring that we loop his line up instead of down, he accidentally tugged it and pulled his dressing off. I did my first dressing change here. It went ok. Patrick actually did a decent job helping out.. being my non-sterile hands.. a job usually reserved for another grown up. And we managed to get by with the very different dressing change kit provided by a new homecare company.

Then, we make a very quick Christmas ornament, read our nightly scriptures, practiced how to pronounce “Bethlehem”, said our prayers and laid down to sleep. Patrick was out in minutes and is fast asleep now.

So I’m wrapping up this blog post and hurrying off to the kitchen to get some more formula for the night and post what I’ve written. Then, if I’m lucky, I hope to get my husband on the phone for a bit on our anniversary.

11 years is worth some celebration! Especially 11 years married to my best friend. We’ve known each other over half our lives. Howie (or as you know him, Brian) has always been my anchor. He calms me down. He teaches me patience. He has carried me through all of my hardest times. It doesn’t matter if we are right next to each other or oceans apart, we have always been best together. But I sure am excited that there’s only one more week of this particular apart time because I miss him a lot. Especially today.

The week in pictures

So while I’ve got an internet connection, I thought I should probably share some of the pictures that have been taken since we left the hospital.

Transplant Day 42 and His First Checkup

Patrick asked me to take this picture with him and the Ronald McDonald on the wall.

Patrick asked me to take this picture with him and the Ronald McDonald on the wall.

Well, 72 hours since discharge as I’m writing this and I am amazed to say that today it seems we maybe hit our stride a little bit. Amazing, considering how out of control things still seemed last night.

Sneaking back into the room last night after blogging, I noticed the distinct smell of formula and knew that it meant that Patrick’s g-tube had come open and leaked all over him and the bed. That woke him enough that I gave in and crawled in his bed to sleep last night.

At 7, his pump alarmed, waking is both. It was an early morning, but meant we had time to get ready. It took some courage for me to figure out how to get Patrick a bath with his new ostomy without losing the pouch. Yesterday morning, I knew the pouch was about to fall off anyway so we tried it and, sure enough, I had to change the bag that afternoon. But today, we did a bath again and it was ok.

Putting Patrick in the bath helps mornings go much more smoothly than showers. It means I can leave him for a bit. For example, this morning I was able to get the bed stripped so it could be washed. Patrick is chilled so easily right now. I don’t know if htat’s because his hospital room was so hot for a month and the weather outside is so cold.. But he gets shivers all over at the slightest cold. So I’ve started wrapping him in two towels. His calls this his towel dress and it is the highlight of his morning.

Being up early this morning also meant I managed to get a shower in before the nurse came. And, amazingly, Patrick woke up feeling good enough to not need Zofran this morning. That will earn me an extra half hour of sleep every day.

I didn’t feel lost looking at Patrick’s meds this morning. I kind of know what he’s getting and when and how much prep to do in the room before taking them downstairs.  So after labs were drawn, we went downstairs and gave meds and mixed formula. (Which I remembered to make with warm water so it dissolved better.) And then I made pancakes. That felt like quite the luxury. Patrick ate 2 bites. Turns out we don’t love sugar free syrup from IHOP.

Then I glanced at my phone and noticed I’d missed a call when I was in the shower. It was the transplant clinic asking if we could come in early for Patrick’s appointment today.  So, we hurried off to run our one errand of the day, and then rushed to the transplant clinic.

I am used to doctor’s visits where the answer is “you’re doing as well as you can. Nothing can change till after transplant.” Instead, today things were moving. Patrick’s prograf levels were still high this morning, but for fear of swinging him the other direction, they are leaving his dose the same. That means that he gets to take the morning off of labwork tomorrow and have it done Saturday, instead.

Because he is tolerating feeds SO incredibly well, they are said that we can start giving him a break in his feeding schedule. We’ll increase his feed rate by 8 cc’s and he can have 2 hours off. If that goes well, then after the weekend, we’ll go up again and he’ll get 4 hours off. Because of the diproblems with his lungs, they will go very slow in transitioning him to a different formula. So he probably won’t gain much weight in the next little bit because he isn’t getting a lot of fat.. But slowly that can be reintroduced.

Alas, the formula that they often use next has milk in it, so we need to take our time going to a hyperallergenic formula instead.

And that’s that. We came home from clinic and tried to eat lunch. But Patrick was bored and sleepy, so he spent the afternoon napping and I have mostly just spent my afternoon laying here keeping him asleep… though I snuck out of bed to write this blog post.

I finally realized today that I can write the post in a word processor and then just copy and paste when I go in a room that has an internet connection. It might mean some delayed posting, but should be a little more effective than trying to get away in a room with internet long enough to write.

Follow-up added this morning after:

We were woken from nap by a phone call saying that dinner was ready. Patrick was still all over the place at dinner, but thankfully the crowd was small because he’d slept through the start of movie night at the hospital.  Dinner is very overstimulating for him. So we usually retreat to our room early.

Last night, we had good incentive. We’d picked up a Christmas tree earlier and I finally brought it into the room. We set up the Christmas tree and hung the ornament he’s made thus far on it. Then went and made two more. I cleaned out the room a little bit more. I think we may finally be almost moved in. I can’t even imagine moving houses with a kid this age.

And then, we made it to bed. Patrick’s prograf levels must still be high because he just can’t fall asleep at night. Last night, he wouldn’t stop playing with his hands. I was really grateful for the chance to visit with an older transplant patient who is staying here. He explained that the prograf makes his hands shake, hurt, and even lock. Last night, Patrick wouldn’t stop playing with his hands. So I thought to ask him if his hands were hurting. The answer was yes. And so I laid there and rubbed his hands till he settled down. Then I told him I was just too sleepy to stay up with him anymore. I went and laid down and he was asleep in 15 minutes.

We slept in till 8 this morning. No labs today. It felt luxurious. And now we’re downstairs letting him play in the playroom. Which means a little bit of internet time for me.

Yesterday gave me hope. We had some downtime and I think that will get better the more used to this new routine.

Transplant Day 41 and Home Away from Home

Ok – lest there begin to be rioting in the streets, I am grabbing a moment with Patrick finally sleeping. I can’t get my laptop to work inside my room at the Ronald McDonald House and my brilliant husband isn’t here to fix it.. So the only way I can get both internet and a keyboard is to sit in the kitchen.

So – here I am. What can I tell you about the past few days?

Monday morning, Patrick was looking and feeling great. The labs confirmed that Patrick’s medication levels were in the safe range. That meant that it was ok for him to be discharged from the hospital. I’d forgotten what a big feat that is when you are setting up all new home care. All day long I cleaned and packed and then tried to throw in playing and resting time with Patrick. He was excited so he couldn’t fall asleep to nap, but as the day wore on that meant that he was more and more tired, and therefore more and more excited.

The insurance company seemed to throw a kink in things right at the end, saying that Patrick’s formula couldn’t be covered through the home health agency and needed to go through a pharmacy instead. I had some worried conversation and made several phone calls and then finally decided to call directly. It turned out to not be the a problem at all, just needed to be preauthorized. But it created a fair amount of worry for a few hours.

Otherwise, though, we just sat and twiddled our thumbs until late afternoon when the pharmacists and case managers and everyone started to finally come in. I ran to the pharmacy to pick up one last prescription. It sounded easy, but took several phone calls and two trips to the pharmacy to sort it out.

Thanks to that, we ended up not leaving until 6 p.m. By then, Patrick was beyond tired and I was frazzled. We arrived at the Ronald McDonald House right before dinner time. Patrick was really scared about moving out of the hospital. He kept asking me who the nurse was going to be and if we could go back.

We had a mountain of medical supplies arrive as we did that needed to be put away. It took all of Tuesday to get things out of boxes and into shelves and drawers and otherwise in a state where I could work with them. Especially because Patrick was following behind me trying to explore and help as i worked. The room looked like a tornado hit it. I had two huge piles of laundry.  And medical supplies just overflowing.

The medications were especially intimidating to me, when it was time to start giving them I started to really wonder if I’d been paying good enough attention. But we made it through and Patrick slept for the entire night in his bed by himself. It was amazing.

The next morning, we woke early and hurried to get ready so we could get ready to meet the home nurse. We’ll be doing daily lab draws for a while to check his medication levels. They also required that someone come and watch me mix Patrick’s first batch of formula. I guess they have problems with someone mismeasuring.

However, it was nice to have the second set of eyes on the problem as it turned out that Patrick’s formula required 2 liters of water, plus nearly 3 cups of powdered formula and I ended up pouring from one pitcher to another to make the full batch.

After that, the priority of the day was moving day. We went grocery shopping and to get some things from Walmart (including a bigger pitcher). Patrick was so tired after just half an hour shopping that he was hugging me and begging me to go. But it was good to know that we had food choices in the house for him. With his allergies, he needs to have his own food.

We came back to the room and got Patrick as much of a nap as possible, but after about an hour my phone started to ring with different people checking in to see how Patrick’s first day was going. That woke him and then we were up and running again.

Patrick’s medical care is a pretty strict schedule right now.

At 7, I give him an anti-nausea medicine through his g-tube while he sleeps. We get up around 7:30 to get ready for the day. We cover his line and his ostomy to get him into the bath. Then get dressed and draw up the morning medicines. (At least the ones that are in the room.) I open 6-9 different pills and dump the powder out and mix it with water for one medication. Another 2 have to be kept in the fridge downstairs. Then I pack up the materials needed to draw labs off of Patrick’s line.

The nurse arrives at 8:30 and takes a set of vitals and draws labs. Then at 9 we give medications.

His formula has to be mixed once a day. I’m only supposed to put 4 hours’ worth in the bag at a time so we have to refill and reprogram regularly, including during the night (unless I can talk them into a bigger bag with ice with it with next month’s order.)

Dinner is at 6:30 and Patrick loves and can’t focus at all during dinner. He is all over the place when we are out in the house.

His prograf levels have been too high for the past couple of days. That means that he is struggling with insomnia. That is made worse by the fact that I can’t just lay down and sleep in his bed next to him if I’m going to be up doing medicines and refill feeds during the night.

Today, he was dead tired all day which made it really hard for him to focus on anything. We did get the laundry done. We tried to go play in the playroom, but timed it just as the volunteers who clean the toys arrived. So we went to our room and I decided to make him nap instead.

Today during nap, I figured out how to make the door stay quiet enough for me to sneak out and I was able to get out and eat lunch and move along laundry. And that made him rested enough to make it back to the hospital on time for a last-minute invite to go meet Santa.

Patrick was adorable with Santa. He thought he’d be there with his gift, but I explained we were meeting him to tell him what he wanted. So as soon as Santa came up, he told him his wishes.

Then, they gave him a gift. He tried to return it because it wasn’t what he was asking for.

It was hard to drag him away, but his teacher was coming for school today. That didn’t go great with him being tired.. But once we got past that, I was able to see a little more clearly how he was feeling. We finally ended up in the room letting him lay on the bed watching Blues Clues and that went a lot better.

And then tonight, we had a talk about the fact that I’d need to get out of his bed to take care of him but would be back. And, although it took an hour and a half to fall asleep, when he finally made it, he did so deeply and without tears.

And that’s how I’m here writing right now. I’m not doing a great job. I’m fairly distracted.. But at least you know a little bit how things are going. Patrick’s needing pretty constant supervision so even though it doesn’t seem I’m doing a lot as I describe my day, I’m working pretty constantly from the moment I woke up.

We’ll do better with time to establish a routine. And as they get Patrick’s prograf levels in range so he doesn’t feel so crazy.  I just keep telling myself, a new normal takes at least a month.. and more if it’s a big new normal.

Meanwhile, it’s nice to be where there are other moms kind of watching out for us and people cooking for us every evening. Even if it is easy to get stuck talking when I should maybe be doing other things.

Please forgive me for no pictures. I’m realizing now I left my phone in my room and can’t add pictures from it on the laptop. Maybe i’ll add a blog post just for pictures.

For now, though, I’ve got to go get back to the room before Patrick misses me.

Transplant Day 39 – Outpatient we go!

Emily asked me (Brian) to post a quick update tonight.

Emily and Patrick made it to the Ronald McDonald house tonight.  This starts another chapter in the transplant journey.  Needless to say things are a little hectic for them.  Both are excited and nervous at the same time.  But they are doing well.

Here are some pictures of their departure from the hospital:

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