Monday, November 1, 2010

Linus's Story: Part 2

I don't remember much of what happened when Linus was in surgery. A numbness had taken over. I was happy for it, though, because it beat back the cold chill of terror. We were told that someone from the cath lab would call and give me an update every hour or so. We received one call in almost 4 hours. I wasn't mad, I wanted them focused on him, not us. I finally got a call telling me that the doctor would meet with me in a consultation room to debrief me on the outcome. I'll save you from the "boring details" but basically he said the procedure itself didn't go as planned, but the outcome was good and that was what mattered. They had taken the .5mm hole he had in his aortic valve and stretched it to almost 5mm. He said that 50% of pediatric heart patients need a 2nd procedure before they turn a year old and since Linus required his first one at under 2 days of age, he would definitely be in that 50%. His left ventricle had been pumping against a closed valve and had sustained a decent amount of damage.

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...


My tiny fragile boy.

Those pleading looks shatter me.

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.

21 comments:

Pyjammy Pam said...

What a brave little Linus you have! I don't think you'll have to call him Whinus like we do. :P Love, love, love the pictures! I hope he continues to improve, maybe a bit faster so he can be home with his mommies and brothers.

Kara said...

That last picture is absolutely PRECIOUS. Praying for all of your sweet babies.

nutella said...

I'm so sorry I haven't been commenting, but I've been reading along and hoping for all of you. Your boys are so very lucky to have you and you are doing a wonderful job. Linus is such a trooper and I hope when he's a running laughing toddler all of these painful days are nothing but a distant memory for you and a scar to be proud of for him.

Little monkey said...

He sounds like he is a fighter. This post made me so teary! What a brave little boy!

Jen said...

You guys are an amazingly strong family! Poor little Linus is having to be such a fighter and I cannot even imagine the exhaustion that the mommies have. I hope that he continues to improve and make those baby steps to a full recovery.

Laurie said...

Ah, I'm crying at my desk. I made it through the whole post without a tear and lost it when I reached the pictures. I am in awe of Linus' strength. what an amazing little fighter you have. He is so beautiful.

N said...

What beautiful pictures, what a beautiful and brave little boy. (And brave mommies.) I can only hope that this go-round is much easier than the last one. Keeping you guys in my thoughts.

yvette9995 said...

Crying like a baby here (5 months preggo hormones don't help, but I think the tears would have come anyway.) Thanks so much for sharing your story. wishing all the best for Linus and the rest of your beautiful family.

Lucy said...

That is insane. So sorry you had to go through all this! You're one strong chick!!!

Nicole said...

He is just beautiful.

tbean said...

wow. You have been through SO much, as has Linus. I think of him often and hope for continued recovery and health to come.

H2 said...

AHHH I hate "To be continued"! As always, we love hearing about the boys. Linus is always in our prayers (as are Dex and Simon). I just got back from Vegas and I'll email you tomorrow. *hugs*

Next in Line said...

Sweet Linus. I can see where he gets his strength from. What a time for you two mamas.

Chrisje said...

Keeping fingers crossed (and sharing your tears) on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - all has been said in the other comments, and more words don't get you your son home any faster.
Wishing you all lots of courage to hold on and looking forward to reading "home coming 3", hopefully soonish!
Warmest regards, Jade

Sabrina said...

Goodness, what a tiny little warrior! Praying for little Linus as he continues to fight this battle, and for better news around the bend!

JB said...

You guys have been in my thoughts. I am a NICU nurse and have done a little PICU work as well. I am sorry you have been on such a rollercoaster...hang in there. I see miracles happen every day!

Carrie said...

man that kid has been through so much in a short time. and so have you ladies! I am really praying that everything turns out ok and that he continues to improve. thanks so much for sharing your story and especially the pictures. your boys are just the most angelic looking little loves!

Anonymous said...

I love reading your story and look forward to the next installment. Your love for your sons shines through in your words and photos. You are a blessed family.

Michaela said...

Wow, I admire your strength and absolute love for your (not so little) family. I wish you a lot of strength to keep going and that Linus will be home soon. :D

poppycat said...

I'm crying my eyes out thinking about my own babies and how heavy all of this must be for you.

Wishing all of you strength, health and happiness.

jade said...

I already left a comment on this post, but just wanted to say that I think about you a lot.
Sending you plenty of positive energy from far away (am sure you're getting plenty from close by as well),
regards, Jade