Unfortunately after the procedure, his Lactate levels rose to fatal levels and his belly became super distended. He was given two blood transfusions to neutralize the lactic acidosis. They did xrays and u/s on his belly and thankfully found mostly trapped air as opposed to necrotic or twisted guts. They ran a tube into his stomach to relieve the pressure.
Once again, I was shocked by how bad he looked. Add to that the fact that he was paralyzed and heavily sedated. I asked the nurse how long it would take for the meds to wear off. He said it would be a few hours, but that as soon as he twitched, he would hit him with more drugs. He was suffering from reprofusion injury which was quite painful. He said it was like the pins and needles your arm feels when waking up, but it would be his whole body inside and out. I can't think of a more terrible thing for my tiny son to endure.
When Linus would come to he was so sad and in so much pain. He would cry and cry and there would be no sound. His body would rock from the force of his tantrum. He'd be bright red and shaking his fists, but the vent tube made his fits completely silent. It broke my heart. Here he was screaming and no one could hear a thing.
The next week is kind of a blur. I was going back and forth between the two hospitals to spend time with my wife and all 3 sons. I had to make sure both milk banks had breast milk for my boys. I slept a little here and there. I slept in the CVICU waiting room, several rooms at the Ronald McDonald House, Trina's room and the NICU waiting room. I'd wake up and have to look around to try to remember which hospital I was at. I was running on coffee and fear.
It seemed that every day there would be a new complication with Linus and his doctors were in two very different camps regarding what needed to happen next. He was getting daily echocardiograms and they showed VERY slow but steady progress in his left ventricular function. I was warned several times that he was still critical and not to be surprised if he was in open heart surgery by the end of the week.
I had one doctor, lets call him Dr Pessimist say that if they stopped the prostaglandins (PG) and let Linus's PDA close, his left ventricle (LV) would fail under the heavy workload. I also had the cath doctor, who we'll call Dr HappyDance, who said that he thought as soon as the PDA closed and the LV had no more crutch, it would really shine and show us what it had. They stopped the PG and his LV continued to make it's painfully slow progress. He was also able to shed his many medications one at a time over the next few days.
Then came the jaundice. As far as backslides go, this wasn't a bad one. It was just one more thing piled on top of so many other "things". A few days under the lights and he turned right around. When they dropped a feeding tube down his nose and started giving him tiny amounts of breast milk, I almost cried. My poor baby had been on IV nutrition only and finally he was getting the good stuff, even if it was just a bit.
The next bit of bad news was that they saw a "blip" on Linus's echo and thought it was a blood clot in his LV. If this clot broke loose it could cause a major stroke or death. He was started on blood thinners to break it up. The next day I see Dr HappyDance at the bedside and he tells me how great he thinks Linus is doing. Sure, his progress was slow, but it was steady. He's a little guy and he's taking his own time to heal, etc. I said "Yeah, but now with this clot, I'm so worried" He says "There's no clot". Huh? He goes on to say that he doesn't think the blip was a clot, just a blip. Apparently Linus's blip was the topic of a heated "discussion" at bedside earlier and it was decided that they needed to do a TEE to determine what the blip was. The next day he was taken off his breast milk and sedated, again, to preform the more invasive, more accurate test. The blip was a blip. No clot to be found. That's another point for HappyDance.
Preparations were made to extubate Linus. Then Dr Pessimist said there was no way Linus could be extubated because the stress of having to breath on his own and have his LV pump all of his blood unaided would be too much for him to handle. He made it through several support trials where he still had the ventilator tube in, but was breathing on his own for 4 hours at a time. They planned on removing his vent the next day. Unfortunately Linus threw a huge fit and extubated himself in the middle of the night. He was so worked up that he had to be reintubated after only 30 min. Then his next set of bloodwork showed that his hemoglobin was really low meaning that his blood was carrying very little oxygen. Basically his ineffective heart was carrying ineffective blood. No wonder they had to tube him again. The next morning he had his 3rd blood transfusion. I was afraid Dr Pessimist would take this as a sign that he was right and keep him on the vent for even longer. I didn't want this for Linus and he absolutely hated that damn tube. He had to be sedated at least once a day when he got agitated and started pulling on his tube. They even put him in little soft restraints to keep him from tearing at it. Luckily cooler heads prevailed and he was extubated two days later. He was tubed for a total of 16 days. Two days later I was able to hold him for the first time ever. It was pure heaven for me. I cried like a baby.
After a few days, they gave him his first few cc's of breast milk by mouth. His first taste of food came 20 days after he was born. Not long after that he was weaned off his heater and could maintain his own body temperature. Then came the big news. He was healthy enough to moved out of the CVICU and down to the regular "heart patient" floor. We were both excited and nervous. Although we were glad they thought he was well enough to leave, we would miss the comfort of knowing a nurse was staring at him 24/7. On the floor he'd be in his own room with the nurse's station down the hall.
Linus moved downstairs and into his private room equipped with a TV, a PS3 & a full sized shower. He didn't use these things much, but they were nice to have. His personality started coming out a bit now that he wasn't so manipulated, bothered and sedated in vicious cycles. His time with a tube stuck down his throat caused his voice to sound like someone who's abused cheap liquor and cigarettes for far too long. It was raspy, but I loved being able to hear him. I started dreaming of a day when he could come home.
Then the next bombshell hit. They had decided to go back in and balloon his valve again. We were about to have to start all over. To be continued...
Full body restraints.
Tiny soft cuff restraints.
Holding Linus for the first time.
Looking at his mobile in his big boy bed in his big boy room.
So happy to be in his mother's arms and not in the CVICU.