As Promised

I have been writing this post off and on since July. Where did the summer go?! And now we’ve already been in school a few months?!

Since our last hospital stay WAY back in May, life was overall good for Sam until August hit. He was mostly healthy and doing all the things. And when I say, all the things, I mean ALL the things. That being said, I will update on the not so great stuff and end with the great things we did this past summer.

I think the reason I have been struggling to continue writing this post is because I was so excited to have only good news. I’ll try be a bit brief with the not so great stuff so we can focus on the super fun summer we had with Sam.

We’ve known since Sam was a baby, he “might” need an eye surgery to correct his lazy eyes. Yes, that’s plural for Sam. We have tried patching off and on over the years. His ophthalmologist let us know at his last appointment, Sam will need the eye surgery. We plan to schedule this after Christmas.

One of Sam’s many specialists is immunology. He only has this appointment once a year now. To make a long story short, one of his labs was very off at his last appointment. Both his immunologist and pediatrician thought the off labs might be the “c” word. Thank you Lord, after oncology looked over his labs, they were reassured cancer was not the case. This left everyone scratching their heads on which specialist we should see. It was narrowed down to nephrology. Thankfully, this is already a specialty Sam sees because of his hypertension (high blood) issues.

We had our appointment with nephrology and did lots of other testing to hopefully rule out chronic kidney disease (CKD). At this appointment, his nephrologist said, either way they would have to treat the way off lab results as they are at “too dangerously of a high level”. Unfortunately, we did recently find out Sam has CKD. The CKD is in the early stage so that is a bonus. We will have to see nephrology more often now so they can keep a close eye on his kidneys.

In the past month, Sam has also had a few seizure like episodes. He saw a neurologist for this and confirmed the episodes were likely seizures. He prescribed Sam a rescue med for if the seizures last more than five minutes. He will have an MRI and EEG done soon to rule anything serious. We are confident and praying there is nothing serious.

Sam will have endoscopy to check on his esophagus and tummy. We will be able to coordinate his MRI with the endoscopy. I try very hard to coordinate sedation procedures/surgeries when I can with this complicated little man! Just call me the CEO of Sam Inc.!

Sam gets poked a lot as is, but the past few months have been more than normal. He was pretty sick for a week in October so this made for even more poking. Thankfully we were able to schedule an appointment rather than having to take him to the emergency room like normal. After all the testing, he ended up being super constipated and had tracheitis. He was pretty miserable for about a week, BUT we stayed out of the hospital!

We will shoot for the Spring to go to Cincinnati again and hopefully get the hole in Sam’s airway fixed. Sam’s pulmonologist suggested we wait till after winter to go. Cincinnati thought that was a good idea too.

Now, let’s move on from the cruddy stuff and into the good stuff! My mama heart was full with the many firsts Sam had this summer.

Fun at Como Zoo.

He was finally cleared by his doctors to go back to school. He started summer school two days a week and loved it.

Sam had only been into a store one time in his life and it was brief. We decided to go big or go home for his first real trip to a store. Yep, the Mall of America. He was mostly in awe of the lights and high ceilings. We went to a dinosaur exhibit next to the mall. Let’s just say the mall was much more interesting.

We celebrated Sam’s fifth birthday! Swimming isn’t the best birthday activity for Sam, but he loves the water so much! If he didn’t have a trach, I’m pretty sure he would be in fish in the water. Some day!

Before Sam was born, we spent A LOT of time at our family cabin. Since he’s been born, we have brought him on a day trip once, there and back. Traveling with a medically complex child is no joke. Being on a lake with a child with a trach, again, no joke. It always feels a little odd when someone asks what would happen if Sam fell in the water and our response is, “He would most likely die.” We were also able to go to a friend’s cabin twice.

Thank you to all of you who have collected pop tabs for us! We didn’t turn them in last year because of Covid, but had a lot to throw in the bin at the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Sam thought it was pretty fun to throw the pop tabs in the big bin. Although, they probably wouldn’t admit it, I think Will and Abby thought so too.

We took a spontaneous trip to Duluth. This was a really big deal for us and we were so glad we did. We had a blast!

Sam’s first day of Kindergarten! No words from this mama for this emotional day.

Another spontaneous thing we did was go to a Gopher Football Game. Sam didn’t like when anyone scored a touchdown. He got pretty scared with all the yelling, but overall had a great time.

He, of course, loved the apple orchard.

Sam’s first time EVER in a grocery store! I wondered what people were thinking when I was overly excited to put him in the cart. It’s funny what we take for granted sometimes. I remember when my other kids were little I was happy to leave them at home when it came to grocery shopping.

I can’t imagine what people were thinking when we taking all the pictures.

We were hoping Sam would be over his sickness before Halloween. He was back to himself the day of Halloween! He has been out on Halloween, but hasn’t been trick-or-treating before, partly because of being immunocompromised and partly because he can’t eat the candy anyway. I thought he would get a kick of people putting something into his bucket. I was wrong. The first house we brought him to, he tried to go inside. He got pretty sad when he realized we couldn’t go inside. This is where it’s okay to laugh. We did. We’ll try again next year! We had one neighbor who had bubbles and something else for Sam knowing he can’t eat the candy. That little gesture made my heart flutter.

We all have stuff, stuff that makes life hard. We can make a choice to see the beauty or focus on the pain. The enemy likes us to focus our time and energy on the pain. I believe when we see His beauty in the pain, our strength gets stronger and our hearts get happier.

Sam Strong and Faith Over Fear!

Covid and Then Some

April was not so fun in this house, but thankfully we have all recovered. Most importantly to us, Sam is okay and we kept him out of the hospital.

It started with me not feeling too great. I already tested negative for Covid earlier in the week because we knew we had been exposed. When I started feeling cruddy, I tested again. Negative. Whew.

I had several rough days. Thank you Lord for home care nursing! On a normal day with Sam, we are incredibly thankful for our home care nurses. When he gets sick, even more grateful. Add me getting sick on top of all that. Home care nurses. No words.

Sam tested negative too, but then started getting sick a few days after I was feeling cruddy. Oh shoot. He was really sick for a good six days. He was on oxygen for four days and all the home therapies we could do that aren’t legal in most homes. We did get very close to having to bring him to the hospital, but we were able to keep him home. Again, home care nurses. Priceless.

About a week later, after I had started feeling better, I couldn’t smell or taste anything. Wait a minute!?!? I went and tested again. As I suspected…positive for Covid. What?! Those of you who have experienced these symptoms of Covid can understand how annoying it is! I’m happy to say it didn’t last too long.

Sam’s pulmonologist sent a nurse to the house to test Sam. Positive. Bummer. There was a lot of praying on my part, that he would be okay and we would be able to keep him out of the hospital.

Sean tested positive. The next day he started feeling cruddy. He was all excited to be able to get some things done around the house, but he was down for the count for almost ten days.

Will and Abby both tested negative, but had to do distance learning until their quarantine was up. Have I ever mentioned how much I love distance learning? Oh yeah, cause I don’t, not even a little. Because Abby ended up testing positive, she was able to go back to school a few days before Will. I’ve stopped trying to make sense of all the Covid rules.

During all this hoopla, I found out my grandma passed away. She was ninety-five, went peacefully, and although she was dealt a hard hand of cards in life, she lived a good life. Her legacy? She loved Jesus, taught us to pray, read our Bible, and have a relationship with Jesus.

Towards the end of her life, she could barely speak. I know she recognized us when my sister and I saw her for the first time in a long time. She clearly said two of my four children’s names. It wasn’t by chance she squeezed the two names out I have fought for on my knees in prayer countless times the past four plus years. I believe it was her heart that said those two names that day.

We didn’t get to go to her funeral, but this is where technology is a blessing. Thank you to my brother-in-law who held his phone up the entire funeral service so I could “be there”.

Me, and how I remember, my sweet Grandma.

While Sam was sick, he was scheduled to have an upper endoscopy to check on his esophagus. As we suspected, surgery needed to be rescheduled.

To recap, Sam’s last dilation was in January. His surgeon told us, when Sam can go for six months without a dilation, he’ll give us the “a-okay” to go to Cincinnati.

Tomorrow, Sam will have his rescheduled procedure. It’s been almost exactly four months since Sam’s last dilation. We are hoping and praying, he will not need to be dilated.

Sam Strong.

Faith Over Fear.

The Extra Chromosome

Today is World Down Syndrome Day. With Sam’s complex medical needs, this has only been another day to us. 

Sam has an extra chromosome.

Sam can’t eat anything by mouth. One hundred percent of his nutrition is via a feeding tube. He breathes through his neck. His current list of diagnoses is longer than I thought could be possible.

If I could take away all the pain and suffering he has gone through, I would.

There aren’t any easy days with Sam, but the beauty of his captivating personality and infectious smile make every day worth it.

I know without a shadow of a doubt, the part I would keep is the extra chromosome.

If you were to take away Sam’s extremely high medical needs, he is the most happy-go-lucky little guy. He smiles with his entire body, from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, and lights up any room he enters.

There are no, “buts” on my love for Sam. I love him unconditionally. Period. End of sentence.

I would give anything to have a healthy little boy with an extra chromosome. Given the chance, I would not take that part away from him. 

He makes me better.

I believe people who have an extra chromosome give us the tiniest glimpse of God’s love for us. The love in my little boy’s heart makes my heart want to explode simply thinking about it.

Sam has an extra chromosome and I am grateful for it.

Today, like any other day, I celebrate Sam’s extra chromosome.

Dilation #5 Update

I suppose no news is good news, right? For the most part, yes.

Sam’s dilation went very well. His esophagus was very narrow, but not as narrow as the last time he got dilated. Good news!

Again, we wait. If symptoms begin, we call surgery and they get Sam on the schedule. Generally, his symptoms consist of retching (throwing up), which start to become more frequent and violent as time goes on. Eventually, he’s not able to control his secretions, so he spits a lot too. Basically, he still creates secretions (spit), but if his esophagus is narrow enough or closed, there is no other place for the secretions to go except out his mouth. This makes for a very nauseous little boy. Poor guy.

After Sam’s dilation, his surgeon discussed WHEN Sam is able to go three months without a dilation, then he’ll plan to get Sam on the schedule to look at his esophagus. If things look good and open, we wait again. When Sam can go for at least six months without a dilation then his surgeon will feel good about us planning another trip to Cincinnati to hopefully get his airway fixed.

Sam also had a granuloma cauterized or how I like to make it more visual for you, the extra skin on the hole in his throat, sizzled off by a fire pen. This went well too. Although, it was a lot to look at after. For the next week or so, we cleaned gross puss and what looked like black soot around his trach site. Yuck and again, poor guy! Thankfully, it all healed very nicely.

The day after Sam’s dilation he seemed like he was recovering well. When he woke up the next morning, things went south very quickly. He ended up with a tracheitis. He had a couple of very rough days. We were able to catch this right away and treat the nasty, airway bacterial infection. Along with our hard work and the antibiotic nebs, like magic, Sam was back to his lively self in no time. Thank you for home care nurses!

Except for the spitting. No, not another thing, little buddy. His demeanor was back to his norm, but he wouldn’t swallow his secretions. Per Surgery we should bring him in to be evaluated in the next couple of days, unless things got worse, which for Sam means going to the ED (Emergency Department). Not the dreaded ED. Besides him not swallowing his secretions, he seems totally fine. Sometimes I wish they had another place for complex kids to go in these situations.

The next day, after talking with Sam’s Pulmonologist, she too thought he should be evaluated. Bummer.

We had planned to take him in early the next morning, knowing the less busy times of the ED. Sam had different plans. Good plans! When he woke up, the spitting had stopped!!! Thank you Lord!!!

Sam has been back to his spunky self, continuing to teach us what life is all about.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Dilation #5

Sam will have another dilation tomorrow. Yes, he’s had WAY more than five dilations, but I started the count over after his last major surgery. We are hoping and praying he won’t need as many as the first time around.

In the four plus years, Sam’s had a trach (breathing tube) and feeding tube, he hasn’t had to have a granuloma cauterized (burned off), which is pretty good. This is basically skin starting to grow where it shouldn’t. Before the dilation, he’ll have a tracheal granuloma cauterized. Typically, this can be done in the clinic, but Sam’s ENT thought it would be better for Sam under anesthesia, also knowing he could do it alongside one of Sam’s dilations. We were very thankful for this. Sam’s nurse and I were not looking forward to having to hold him down for that procedure!!

We are also thankful, Sam will get his feeding tube changed in surgery tomorrow. As I’ve said before, this is a procedure he gets done routinely every two to three months. It now takes three, sometimes four of us to hold Sam down. As soon as he sees an x-ray table now, his little body clenches me with fear. We have to literally peel him off of me, to get him on to the table. It’s a fairly quick procedure, but I’m sweating by the time it’s over. Sam’s one tough cookie, so when he’s sobbing hysterically throughout the procedure, we know it must be painful.

We are thankful to be able to knock out three procedures in one tomorrow!

We’ll take some extra prayers tomorrow for Sam’s Surgeon, ENT, and anesthesia team. Pray for a smooth and quick recovery.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Another Dilation

On Monday night we strolled Sam down to surgery again. They discovered his esophagus had narrowed down quite a bit since the last dilation done, only about a week prior. It wasn’t as strictured as the the first time, but enough to have it difficult for things to pass through. They dilated again.

He rested overnight and started feeds the next day. He’s on day two of feeds. The feeds were going well, up until later this evening. We decided not go up on his feeds at the designated time, and try keep them running at the slow rate they are. He’s sleeping well now, without any symptoms. Let’s hope, pray, and believe he can continue to go up on feeds without having to stop them.

Sam’s Surgeon has decided to schedule another endoscopy for early next week. He will take a look and dilate his esophagus again if needed. For whatever reason, Sam’s esophagus thinks it needs to close up post surgeries. We may have to continue this process, which is not new to Sam, but not fun for him either. Pray his esophagus stays open and will need minimal dilations.

Home. I’ve decided not to bring it up anymore. Sam has a great team, who has his best interest at heart. Home will happen when it’s best for Sam.

Faith Over Fear!

Sam Strong!

Superman Sam Update

For most part, we’ve been able to manage Sam’s pain. When the morphine wears off, he’s not a happy camper. The Intensivist went up a little on his morphine today, but he’s not quite to the full dose. Pray we can go down, not up.

He had another good night until they had to put a permanent cath in him because he went for a second time without peeing. Bummer, but not the end of the world. The rest of his night was good.

We tried yesterday and today to wean him off the oxygen, but that didn’t go so well. We’ll try again tomorrow. Because of Sam’s pain, he’s been on scheduled morphine, which can mess with oxygen levels and the bladder.

Sam had a very major surgery on Wednesday. All of what’s happening is not out of the norm. Although, it’s not fun to watch, all of the docs are happy with what they are seeing so far.

We are not out of the water for leaking. Keep praying for no leaking.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Overall, Things Are Good

Sam had a pretty good night.

He hasn’t been awake too much today, but when he is, he’s pretty ticked off. Pray for pain management.

From a surgical and PICU standpoint, things look good.

He hasn’t peed yet so we’ll take prayers for that.

Continued prayers for no leaking.

It’s so hard watching him have to go through all of this. My goodness, this little guy is so strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Sam Strong!

One Hurdle Cleared

THANK YOU for all your prayers! After over a SEVEN hour long operation, everything went a-okay.

Exhausting. It’s like you hold your breath for seven hours. Exhale.

And now for the next hurdle…recovery. The next few days will be an even bigger hurdle to jump.

Remember to breathe.

Please pray for no post-operation complications, specifically, no leaking.

Faith Over Fear!

Sam Strong!

We’re home, but…

…there are more curve balls.

Overall, Sam is doing good. We are both happy to be home. There was a day when the hospital felt like home to Sam and almost for me, but that feels like a very long time ago. Thankfully we were only there for one night.

One thing I’ve learned living in this small world of a mentally complex child for the past four years is, when there’s more than one type of doctor in your child‘s room giving you news, it’s probably not going to be good.

And it wasn’t.

The hospitalist, a pulmonologist, Sam’s gastroenterologist, and his main surgeon were in the room. Let’s just say the hospitalist was not a young buck. She had clearly been practicing medicine for a very long time. When the conversation was over, and she said, “Wow, I’ve learned A LOT today!”, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I laughed, of course.

Sam did not need a dilation. There was a much bigger problem found. Basically, Sam’s stomach is in his esophagus and the rest of his gastrointestinal organs are pushing up into his chest. Sam’s gastroenterologist was able to fix the problem temporarily using the scope.

He won’t be able to have his airway surgery in Cincinnati yet. We have A LOT to figure out between Sam’s doctors here and Cincinnati.

We are hoping the temporary fix will stay until we decide what the next best steps for Sam will be.

Don’t worry, as always, Sam will knock this curve ball out of the park! Making it to first base will just fine too.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

There’s no place like home.