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Just Another Surgery

Tomorrow, Sam will have his forty somethingth surgery. I thought this string of texts between Sam’s teacher and I was kind funny and also shows our perspective on surgery.

Me: Hello! I just wanted to let you know Sam will not be at school this Thursday (10/3) or next Wednesday (10/9). He has a pre-op and then surgery next week. He usually recovers very quickly so hopefully he will be able to be back at school the next day!

Sam’s Teacher: Wow. Ok.

Me: Lol. After sending that…I realized not everyone thinks surgery is no big deal. My world is a bit skewed. 😂

Sam’s Teacher: Perspective is everything.

Me: It sure is. 😊

Me: And attitude. 😃

Sam’s Teacher: Amen.

When Sam was in the hospital a few weeks ago, his GI doc thought it would be a good idea to scope him after he was feeling better. They will look to see if his esophagus is stricturing again. Let’s just say, based off Sam’s symptoms, all of us will be a little surprised if Sam does not need another esophageal dilation.

Once GI is done with their part, Urology will step in and do theirs. This is the 2nd of Sam’s new diagnoses I was talking about that would need surgery. The doctors assumption was correct, Sam would be having surgery in the near future. We did what Urology said, and asked to have them scheduled as well. Quickly, the surgery with both docs was scheduled, which meant we would need a pre-op exam before then. How many times does one have to have surgery in order to get a free pass on pre-op’s?! Just kidding. Thankfully, Sam’s pediatrician almost always finds time for him in her busy schedule and we got the pre-op done.

Even though surgery doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, it doesn’t mean we don’t get nervous. The easy part comes from knowing how to prepare and what to expect before and during. We know how many hours before to stop Sam’s formula and when to start and stop the Pedialyte, exactly where to park, where to go, where the bathrooms are, what the doctors, nurses, surgeons, and anesthesiologists will do and ask, and where to get something to eat. Although a little nervous, we will leave the outcome to Him.

Don’t forget to say an extra prayer for Sam tonight and tomorrow!

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Image result for it doesn't get easier you just get stronger

Home

I cannot believe I did that for over seven months. That was an awful long four days. It’s definitely harder now that Sam is older and much more aware. At the beginning of Sam’s life, the hospital was his home. Thank God, the hospital is no longer his home, but he is fully aware of that.

Initially, they kept Sam for dehydration. Sam’s trach culture came back with an active tracheitis. Not surprising. That’s the cursing of having a trach (breathing tube). I often describe having a trach as a blessing and a cursing all in one. Essentially, Sam caught a cold and that cold turned into tracheitis. First there’s a flood of secretions, then it’s hard for him to control all of them, and that leads to almost constant retching. Usually we can run his feeding pump at a pace with Pedialyte that’s just enough to keep him hydrated. Not this time. So, I guess this is a classic example of it’s never “just a cold” for Sam.

Thankfully, Sam is on the mend and nearly back to himself.

In the past three months, Sam has been given three new diagnoses, two of which will need surgery down the road.

I’m not gonna lie, and tell you I wasn’t a bit overwhelmed after spending four days in the hospital and also learning of another diagnosis that will need surgery.

The second of the three diagnoses we found out two weeks prior to Sam’s hospitalization. We were referred to a new specialty. The doctor came into the room and jokingly said, “Well, I looked over his charts and see his one hundred fifty surgeries.” I responded with a sincere smile on my face, “Well, he hasn’t had that many, but yes, it’s been a lot.” He smiled and said, “Let’s take a look at him.” It only took him a few moments to feel and diagnose Sam. The doc nonchalantly said, “Make sure they schedule me in on the next surgery and I’ll snip, snip. My part should only take about twenty minutes.” He had some very kind words and walked out of the room. Sam’s nurse and I instantly laughed how the doc assumed Sam would be having another surgery sometime in the near future. Laughing is better than crying.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. Sam gets sick. We end up getting admitted to the hospital. While we were there, Sam wouldn’t let me put him down. Except for at night, it was him on my lap sleeping, crying, or retching. Through all this I noticed a clicking in his left hip. I brought it up to the Intensivist (cares for seriously ill infants and children or those who need a high-level of monitoring in a specialized inpatient unit). He said he could look, but he’s not the expert in that area. He tried to call an orthopedic doctor/surgeon to see if he/she would take a look, but was told they do not come up on the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) floors and it would need to be an outpatient visit. After the third day, the clicking turned into a popping sound and seemed to be much more profound as time passed. I kept telling myself it was in my head until it got to the point you could actually see his hip almost jolt in and out of place. It sounded and felt yucky. After showing the Intensivist again the next day, he thought he would try orthopedics another time in hopes a different doc might be on. He said he would try work his magic. To my surprise, his magic worked, an orthopedic surgeon came and checked Sam out.

It wasn’t long before she diagnosed Sam. The resident doctor with her quietly said something almost under his breath to the orthopedic doc after feeling Sam’s hips. She quickly nodded her head at him and returned talking to me. That’s when I knew it wouldn’t be great news. Basically, we know Sam will eventually have another surgery that will leave him in a body cast for up to four months. Wah. Wah.

He was sent home with a brace to wear at rest until we could be seen outpatient at the specialty clinic. I’m not so sure the doc was fully aware of how active Sam is. The brace wasn’t so bad when Sam wasn’t feeling great, not so much now. We’ll do our best until then.

Sam was elated to be back at school last week and sounds like everyone was happy to have him back. I believe Sam will be stay healthy and stay in school where he is thriving. Believe with me.

We continue to be Sam Strong have Faith Over Fear Always.

Sam
Home from the hospital and feeling better.

 

 

Admitted.

In the two and a half years Sam has been home from the hospital, we have made many trips to the emergency department (ED). In those two and a half years, we’ve always been able to go home, which according to everyone here is just shy of a miracle given Sam’s history. Although we love the people here, we do everything we can to stay out of here.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a clinic or urgent care for Sam. When things go south, it’s either maintain at home or go to the hospital. And unless Sam’s feeding tube comes out or one of his docs wants him to be evaluated, we do our best to maintain at home.

Poor buddy isn’t feeling so great.

Based off Sam’s symptoms, Sam’s GI (gastroenterologist) doc instructed us to take him in yesterday. I was a little shocked when the ED doc thought it would be best to keep him. I, of course, did not plan for getting admitted. No extra clothes or toothbrush for me. I feel like I have to keep apologizing for my stinkiness. 😂

I thought once Sam got some IV fluids in him, he would perk up and we’d be heading home. Not so much. He’s still the same little lethargic boy we brought here yesterday. He’s not worse, but not better either.

Even after fluids, he’s still not feeling so hot.

They are checking all the boxes and are trying to figure out what’s going on. It could be tracheitis, which doesn’t show up for twenty-four to seventy-two hours. He might need another dilation. It could be just a cold. Although, like I’ve said in the past, it’s never “just a cold” for Sam. There are plenty of places he could have caught something. The two biggies are starting school and being in the ED last week cause his feeding tube came out. School = germs and the ED = even scarier germs. They are also monitoring his blood pressure as it has been elevated. With his history of hypertension, there is concern, but they could also be up because he’s sick. Again, there are so many things it could be. There are usually no easy answers with Sam. He a complicated kid.

Let’s pray whatever it is, it will run it’s course and/or get fixed without complications. As of now, he needs to tolerate feeds before we go home.

As always, staying Sam Strong.

Cincinnati?!?!?!

Bam! Pow! Zap! That’s how the appointment felt. I know things could be so much worse, but it felt like a sucker punch right in the gut. I have no idea what a sucker punch to the gut feels like, but at that moment, I think I did. She could not have given the news in a more kind, respectful way, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was evident by her demeanor from the time she walked into the room she was was uncomfortable. It wasn’t long before it was clear why she was uncomfortable. She was the one picked to share the not so great news. She asked what my goals were for Sam. In every other word, I told her I wanted to get rid of the trach. It feels a bit foggy after that. All I know is she said they were all scratching at the edge of their boxes. They (Sam’s care team) have some things they could try, but they are very risky, and wouldn’t want something to happen to Sam and then regret they hadn’t referred him to Cincinnati. Collectively, all of Sam’s doctors have decided because of his continued complexity, they are not what’s best for him. They referred him to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital’s Areodigestive & Esophageal Center.

Although it felt like a shock, it shouldn’t have been. It’s a subject that’s been danced around since Sam was two and a half months old. And since March, it’s been really danced around. I think we were just in denial. We have so much faith and trust in his doctors here.

Here is a post I started writing before summer started, but didn’t finish…

Sophisticated can be defined as complex or intricate, as a system, process, piece of machinery,  or the like. Quite fitting for Sam. It’s not the first time, doctors have no clue or haven’t heard of some of Sam’s diagnoses. It is the first time though his doctors are not quite sure what to do.

After discussing with gastroenterologists and surgeons nationally, Sam’s docs have come up with a plan. And thankfully, after some discussions, it doesn’t involve going to a hospital out of state. Let’s just say Sam is a rare case. In all reality he has been since the the beginning. He continues to be quite medically complex, but despite his complexities, for the most part, he’s thriving!

Sam had his 23nd and 24th, if I’ve counted correctly, esophageal dilations in the last couple of months. Once again, he made general anesthesia look easy and recovered very quickly both times. It was a little easier to hand him over to surgery the past two times as he got something to help him feel relaxed and sleepy before they poked and prodded at him. Like I said before, as Sam gets older things get harder for him and, in turn, us. He’s starting to remember what happens to him when we go certain parts of the hospital.

Here’s a short story on him getting smarter…

Because Sam doesn’t eat or drink anything by mouth, there’s a bit of a rush to get a new feeding tube in if it comes out unexpectedly. He’s a very busy boy and despite our efforts to to rig ways to keep the tube in, inevitably it gets pulled out once in a while. It doesn’t help he eats fourteen of the twenty-four hours in a day. Backstory…he goes to radiology to get his feeding tube changed every two to three months. He’s had this type of feeding tube for almost two years and it’s always gone fairly smooth when we get it changed. As soon as we walked into the radiology room, Sam instantly became agitated. One thing we’ve all learned about Sam is unless something is really wrong, he doesn’t get upset. It wasn’t long before we figured out what the problem was. He knew exactly what was about to happen to him. I can’t imagine a six inch tube pushed into your stomach and then through your small intestines feels real hot. Poor buddy. Every procedure gets a little tougher as he gets older, but overall, he’s a trooper.

We will be taking a little trip to Mayo where Sam will have a special test (esophageal manometry) done to determine how well his esophagus works. Pediatric esophageal manometries are not done very many places and it’s a relatively new test done at Mayo for a pediatric patient who doesn’t eat or drink by mouth. We are just happy to be able to stay in Minnesota. Depending on the motility of Sam’s esophagus, will determine which surgery will be best for Sam. Either way, something needs to be done as they cannot continue to stretch his esophagus every month. This creates retching and retching means the trach can’t come out. In short, in order for Sam to get rid of his trach, which we all thought would be long gone by now, all of his tummy stuff needs to be fixed first. As Sam’s doctors would say, Sam is complex. He’s never been an easy fix, but they continue to search for answers and we couldn’t ask for a better, more dedicated team.

Sam will have another dilation in July. Continue to keep him and the rest of us in your prayers.

Again, although Sam is a full-time job and then some, he’s doing very well. He’s making some sounds and knows about 15-20 signs. His newest sign is “outside”. Before, he would grab my hand, pull me to the gate, and want me to hold him. I’d pick him up and then he would wiggle his little body to motion me more towards the gate while also getting mad. Or he would just keep pushing me into the gate. We’ve been working on the sign for outside. The other day, he did his thing where he pulls me to the gate, but this time, signed “outside”! We were pretty excited! I wasn’t going to take him outside, but who could resist that?!

To make a VERY long story short, since March, Sam has had four more esophageal dilations, which I think makes twenty-five. As always, he recovered beautifully from all of them. He also took a trip to the Mayo Clinic. He did not end up having the esophageal manometry done there. Although Mayo is an amazing place, it’s not the best place for Sam. He’s a rare case and his doctors want to him to see the best of the best, which for him, is Cincinnati Children’s.

Since the news about a month ago now, I’ve been able to change my thinking from, we HAVE to go to Cincinnati to we GET to go to Cincinnati. Let me tell you, A LOT of negative thoughts were running through my head when I was hashing it out to the big man upstairs. How in the world are we going to get him there?! We’ve never been overnight with him unless it’s the hospital. What if we have to be there for a long time? I don’t want to split my family up again. How is this going to work financially?! Had I of known, I would have saved the money we used to build a deck and used it for Cincinnati instead. What if we go all the way there and they can’t fix him? 

These are all legitimate concerns I still have and there are many more, but since I’ve changed my thinking from we HAVE to go, to we GET to go, and let go and let God, I’m much more at peace with it. My plans are not His and although that can be hard sometimes, my life is a lot less stressful when I can truly accept that. I will always bank on that, although Sam is complicated, he is here.

We have started the process with Cincinnati, but don’t have any details. Again, we will wait, which according to Dr. Seuss is the most useless place. Yes, I agree, waiting is useless so that’s why I choose not to dwell on it. I choose not to wait, but to enjoy the moments I am in right now, like…

…Sam’s doctors okaying him to start school next week.

…being home and able to send my kids off to their first day of school.

…getting rained on the entire kayaking trip we took for the first time.

…going to the great MN get together.

…taking Sam swimming. Shhhhh, don’t tell his docs.

…having a lemonade stand to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.Lemonade Stand

…going strawberry picking.

…being a part of my sister-in-law’s beautiful wedding.

That is what life is all about.

 

 

 

Grateful

My heart could not be more full. We walked to raise money for a charity who gives families a home-away-from-home when their child is experiencing a serious illness.

Put yourself in these shoes. You’re watching your child fight for his/her life. It doesn’t matter what is it or how they’re fighting. Bottom line…they are fighting to stay alive and it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life.

During that time, someone comes in and gives you the simple things in life, like a homemade dinner, a hot shower, or a place to step away without feeling like you’re in a hospital. When you’re watching your child fight for their life and you are able to access these things that seem so simple, but really are not, it means the world to you. I speak from experience.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the Ronald McDonald House Charities and how thankful I am to be able to give back to them.

Our team, Sam Strong raised $2,285 for the Ronald McDonald House Charities – Upper Midwest! Thank you to all who donated!

2019 RBC Race for the Kids Family Walk
Team Sam Strong
2019 RBC Race for the Kids Family Walk
Award for the largest team! Go team Sam Strong!

We also won an award for being the largest team! I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Winning this award is evidence of the amazing support system we have. I feel so blessed. Thank you to everyone who gave up a their Saturday and endured the humidity for Sam, our family, and this incredible organization.

3rd Annual Ronald McDonald House Walk

“This is the house that opens its arms, that feels like home, that embraces the children, that comforts the parents. This is the house where families meet, to eat and sleep, to find their strengths and dry their tears, to look forward with hope to better years.”

I never knew the impact of Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Charities until life threw a curve ball at my family. If you don’t already know, RMH Charities provides a home-away-from-home to keep families close during a child’s serious illness. For over seven months, they did just that, and more for my family. Please consider donating or walking with us.

Click here for more information on donating and/or walking. 

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Happy Birthday!!!

Happy 3rd birthday to my sweet, miracle boy! Many didn’t think you would make it home. Although you are still very medical, you are thriving. Hospital staff continue to be amazed at your progress. Thank you for the joy you bring into my life and so many others. Thank you for reminding me daily how precious life is. Thank you for being so strong for all your little body has endured. Thank you for inspiring me to do better every day.

To the medical professionals who didn’t think Sam would make it home from the hospital. Thank you for doing everything you could to keep him alive. Thank you for losing sleep over my little boy. Thank you for talking with us, not at us. Thank you for looking at Sam as an individual and not just a little boy with Down Syndrome.

To the family and friends who continue to stick by us. We couldn’t do this journey without you. Your prayers and continued direct support are a constant reminder of the good in a chaotic world. We are where we are mentally, physically, financially, and emotionally because of people like you.

To our Heavenly Father. It’s because of your love I make it through each day with a smile on my face, even when it’s hard. Thank you for promising to stay with me in the storm. Thank you for giving me a heart of gratitude or a glass half full mentality, no matter the situation, even though I know it sometimes annoys people a little. Thank you for your grace and mercy.

I joke my life seems to have a timeline, BS (Before Sam) and AS (After Sam). Ironic, I know. My friends and I have had some good laughs over that one. It’s weird how life can seem to stand still and fly by at the same time. These last three years have been the longest, shortest years of my life, if that makes any sense at all. We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how we deal with the cards we are dealt. Shortly before we knew Sam would come into our life, I bought this sign for our house. When Life Gives You Lemons Make LemonadeI’d be lying if I told you I haven’t had tears streaming down my face, while looking up at that small decor in our home. That silly little sign has given me hope on days that felt hopeless. No matter what you are going through, I hope you can make some lemonade out of lemons. All you need is a little sugar.