Miracles Still Happen

We went into Sam’s procedure with high hopes and low expectations. After what happened in Cincinnati, the odds of the surgery working were not in Sam’s favor. Here’s my analogy. Let’s say you get five sutures (stitches) in your airway. Within minutes of waking up after surgery, you start throwing up every fifteen minutes. The pressure from throwing up is most likely going break open all of the fresh sutures that were just placed. It makes sense that everyone had very low expectations, that few, if any sutures would stick.

When Sam’s ENT came to talk to us before the procedure, he told us he spoke with the ENT who did the surgery in Cincinnati and heard what happened. I told him, my hope and dream is that at least two sutures stuck. High hopes, low expectations. He responded, ”We’ll see.”

We’re getting close to seventy times I’ve had to watch my little boy get put under sedation. At this point, we have a pretty solid routine. We see all the staff who need to meet with Sam and I before surgery, they get vitals, we go over ALL his meds and records with the nurse for the umpteenth time, I make sure the right labs will be drawn so Sam doesn’t have to get poked more, sign all the paperwork, make sure Sam gets Versed, keep snuggling my poor, very stressed out little boy, and then give him one last kiss before they roll him back to the OR. I take a deep breath, say a short prayer, and the nurse (or Sean, depending on who’s with me) and I walk to the cafeteria to get something to eat.

We go back to the waiting room, eat, and depending the the procedure, wait. This time, I look at Sam’s nurse and start praying. Let’s note, I am not always good about praying before meals. “Lord, bless our food and I pray two of the sutures will stick. It would be really great if three of them stick. And if your having a really good day, please make all five of them stick.” Sam’s nurse responded, “Amen.” We started eating our food.

I think I forgot Sam’s previous procedures usually have two to three doctors doing something or a surgery that takes longer, because I had only two bites and Sam’s doctor came into the room. He said, “Well…two of the sutures stuck. And actually, three of the sutures stuck. And actually, all five sutures are still in tact.” Instant tears from me and Sam’s nurse. I had the same feeling in my heart, mind, and soul on the day the doctors told me they were able to attach Sam’s esophagus. Pure shock. An absolute true miracle. Thank you Jesus. Sam’s ENT had already called the ENT in Cincinnati to let him know, and his response was, “Wow.” Enough said.

He has no idea the greatest news we just got!!!!!

Sam always has to throw a curve ball somehow. We were cleared to leave at about 12:30pm. This would have been record timing for a procedure with Sam. We started packing things up and the nurse came into the room. “Sorry, I can’t let you leave, his potassium is 8.3.” What does that mean?! Apparently, that is heart attack level. If I’m being honest, I had zero worry. Sam. They checked it again right away. It did go down to 7.4, but that is still very high. Lab came to draw blood from his other arm. Even after being put under, it still took three of us to hold him still. Poor buddy. The nurse laughed at me when I put the call light on to show her the new results on my phone. “4.1”, I told her, “We can leave, right!?” “Yes, let’s get you guys out of here!”, she said.

We have been waiting for this since Sam was two months old. He had the surgery done twice here and it failed, likely because of his retching.

We really needed a big win. Thank you Lord.

Now what?

This is the first MAJOR step in being able to remove Sam’s trach (breathing tube). LIFE CHANGING. Sam still has A LOT to overcome, but this surgery is a HUGE win. He will have a swallow study and see his GI (gastroenterology), ENT, and pulmonology. And then hopefully, he can start feeding therapy!!!!!!

Thank you for your continued prayers. I truly believe they have brought Sam to where he is today.

SAM STRONG

FAITH OVER FEAR

Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” I find so much peace in this. When I wait on Him, it’s not a waste of time. It might be incredibly hard, but it’s not a waste of time. The more I wait on Him and not me or others, the more He seems strengthen my heart.

More on Cincinnati and Update

King Sean and Prince Sam

Before Sam’s surgery, we had some fun at the Cincinnati Zoo again. Sean was nervous about Sam and being around all the people, but it was nice to be able to do something “normal” with Sam since we had to have him in a bubble the month prior. Doing normal things with Sam always tugs on my mamma heart. Sam was more interested in trying to pull leaves off trees, and snatching my sunglasses off my face to throw in the ostrich cages. And, of course, his nose (filter for his trach) went flying too. So, if you go to the Cincinnati Zoo anytime soon and see the ostriches wearing sunglasses…

Our hotel didn’t have a bathtub so we had to improvise. Sam thought taking a bath in the kitchen sink was great. It was a lot less stressful for Sean and I too, because Sam LOVES the water. If he was able, I think he would have his head under the water all the time. He has no idea what would happed if he completely submerged himself in water. He is very brave around water and is constantly trying to put in head under, which makes bath time and water in general, pretty stressful for us. My heart skips a beat when I think of Sam without a trach and the day he can completely submerge himself in water. I think he will be a fish. Oh happy day.

When we knew we had to cancel our flight home because Sam was misbehaving, I instantly started looking for one way flights. It was not looking good.

We found out on a Wednesday evening, Sam would be discharged the next morning. The soonest flight out I could find was on Friday morning at $835 a piece! Not happening. The flights for the following week weren’t much better and we did not want to be stuck in Cincinnati any longer. Will and Abby were perfectly fine at home with my niece holding down the fort. I think they would have been happy if we were gone longer.

We decided to keep the rental car and drive home. We quickly packed Sean’s things at Ronald McDonald House (RMH) after Sam discharged, but couldn’t pass up the free toy from RMH for Sam. Of all the toys, he picked the doctor set.

Sean and I had to play a little Tetris to make everything fit in the SUV, but we did it. We were definitely homesick.

Sam does not travel lightly. And there were still six boxes waiting at the hotel for him!

Two days later, we made it home. Sam did surprisingly well with two full days of driving in a car. Sean and I were exhausted and very happy to be home. Sam was happy to see his siblings.

It has been almost six weeks since Sam’s surgery. We wait one more week to find out if the surgery worked or not. When I asked the doctor in Cincinnati if he thought it was a zero percent chance the surgery worked because of what happened, his response was, “The only person who knows that, is not in the room right now. We just have to wait and see.” Hmmmmm. Faith over fear, Jamie.

Sam’s ENT trained under the ENT who did the surgery in Cincinnati. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel back to Cincinnati for Sam’s bronchoscopy to get the news. Our expectations are low and our hopes are high for the news. It’s yet another sedation for Sam. Prayers everything goes smoothly next Friday.

Like my friend said, ”I figure no news is good news.” Yes, since we’ve been home, Sam has been doing great. We’re still moving slowly on his feedings, but he started at twenty-four hours a day six weeks ago, and is now down to eleven hours a day! And barely any retching! Progress!

He has had zero signs of intussusception. We’ve all questioned if the intussusception was happening longer than we think. It’s a hard thing to catch because they can only see it on ultrasound or x-ray when it’s happening. It’s likely the other feeding tube (j-tube) is what was causing it, which then makes its less likely to happen again. Continued prayers Sam will not get intussusception again.

And BIG Happy Birthday to my sweet boy today!!!!! We’ve kept you alive for six years now! Everyday we get with you is a blessing we didn’t think we would get from day one. I’m incredibly thankful we live where we do, knowing in many other places, you would not have made it past the first day. Keep doing what you do best, by making other hearts a little bigger.

Faith Over Fear!

Sam Strong!

Another Complication

Sam has intussusception again. I don’t have the energy to go into details of his day yesterday, but if you could guess, it wasn’t great.

We had some hope during the day yesterday we wouldn’t have to change our flight, but by the evening, we knew we would be staying longer. Hopefully not too much longer.

We’ll find out soon if he’ll need surgery or not.

I’m not really sure what to ask prayer for. Whatever will make Sam feel better the quickest and get us home the soonest. And so much more.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Rough Go

He had a few moments of slight smiles yesterday, but overall, Sam has been pretty miserable. He threw up and retched about every half hour throughout the night, if not more. It will be a miracle if this surgery works. And it WON’T be Sam’s first miracle!!!!!

The doctors said if he can get the nausea and vomiting under control, we can leave later today. This hospital is awful nice and they do things very well, but it’s not home. I don’t like hospital stays, but when we’re home, I know the system and almost everyone knows Sam. There’s a lot of comfort in that.

Please pray Sam will not have anymore nausea, vomiting, and for no other complications. Let’s get this sweet boy out of here!

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Airway Surgery

Sam is out of surgery and doing well. Pray for a smooth recovery and NO retching. No one knows for sure, but it’s highly likely Sam’s retching was what caused the previous surgeries to fail.

They told us surgery would be an hour, to an hour and a half. We waited for two. This kind of extra waiting is always hard. A half hour can feel like it does to a toddler, which feels really, really long. Breathe.

We weren’t planning on it, but we will be staying overnight so they can keep a close eye on him. Pray Sam will behave himself so we can go back to the hotel tomorrow.

Now we wait some more. Typically, patients come back six to eight weeks later to find out if the surgery worked or not. Sam’s new ENT in Minnesota trained directly under the ENT who did Sam’s surgery in Ohio. Thankfully, we will get to do the follow-up at home. Traveling with Sam is an experience we don’t want to do often.

We will wait patiently until July eighth to find out the good news.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Less Than One Week!

We are less than one week away from surgery!!!! Sam is doing great! He can’t be school, but we are doing our best to keep him busy. With the help of his teacher, his nurses are doing a great job of bringing some aspects of school home. Have I ever mentioned how thankful we are for our home care nurses? Incredibly. And, of course, the beautiful weather helps. Sam LOVES to be outside.

I am so excited and nervous all in one for this surgery. It’s THE surgery that’s been in the making for over five years. It’s been done twice unsuccessfully here, but never at the place we were referred to a few years ago. We’ve had it planned in Cincinnati twice, but didn’t make it due to Sam being Sam. He was sick the first time then needed a major surgery the second time, because essentially, his organs were moving up into his chest which ended up being an over two month stay in the hospital for him. We are ready for this surgery!!!!!

If the surgery works, it would mean eventually, Sam could be decanulated (get rid of trach/breathing tube). Game changer. It makes sense why all of Sam’s doctors wanted to keep him in a bubble until this surgery. If you know me, staying in a bubble is not something I do not do very well, but I have been a good girl.

Of course, Sam had to ruffle everyone’s feathers a little bit. Long story short, Sam’s pediatrician was concerned about a medicine (steroid) he has been on for the intussusception. There is a low risk it will be a problem, but steroids can hinder the healing process. The surgeon from Cincinnati called me to discuss the situation and still feels because of Sam’s complicated history, already having to cancel the surgery twice, and the low risk factor, we should still proceed with surgery, but wanted us to be aware and not have this conversation the day of surgery. Your the expert! What would you do if it was your child?!?! I don’t like to ask doctors this question, but in these situations, I usually do. Everyone agreed, we have Sam in a healthy spot so let’s do it!

So far, Sam has stayed healthy. Prayers for continued health, flawless travel, and a successful surgery for Sam.

Sam Strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Update

I’ve been working on this update for a while, and now Sam’s landed himself in the hospital. It would have been a year in May without any unplanned hospital stays. It’s a bummer he didn’t make it to a year, but ten months is a lot to celebrate!

As of now, we know he has a Tracheitis and what looks like a stomach bug. We are still waiting on some labs and a culture. We came in yesterday morning and he was quickly admitted. He’s already made a drastic improvement since he’s been on the IV fluids.

Now for the update I’ve been working on…

We obviously had an eventful December. Who am I kidding, it’s always eventful around here. Sam is generally busy with doctor appointments, but sometimes his many specialties seem to lump together.

We were very happy to hear although his uric acid is still high, since he’s started the new med, it’s significantly lower. We will continue to see nephrology more often to draw labs and get urine samples to stay on top of his chronic kidney disease.

He’s, of course, is a champ at blood draws and it’s been a comical experience each time trying to collect a urine sample. Each nurse who has been with us for these appointments has their own humorous story of collecting a urine sample with Sam and I.

His orthopedic doctor confirmed he still has developmental hip dysplasia. Once a year, he gets x-rays to check on his hips and she gives us the results right after. I’m always amazed at how she remembers specific details about Sam and our family. It makes my mama heart full. It’s a waiting game on when this surgery will happen. The longer Sam can wait, the better it will be for him.

It usually takes at least three or four of us to hold Sam down when he gets x-rays, but I was able to do it myself. I’m always very honest with him on what’s going to happen. He has A LOT of PTSD when it comes to x-rays. I tell him over and over again, “No owies, no owies, no owies…” For some reason, he actually believed me this time and I was able to hold him myself. Success.

We learned before we went to Florida, Sam’s MRI did show some heterotopias spots, and they might or might not be related to his seizures. The bottom line is that there is no big concern for the seizures. Thankfully, he has not had one since November.

His EEG was much more successful than we gave him credit for. Sam’s nurse and I thought there was no way this was happening when we walked in and saw the amount of cords that needed to get glued to his head. Not only did it happen, he did fabulous. We concluded, the tech who did the EEG, did not fully understand the small miracle that took place in the room that day.

Sam’s other specialties were uneventful. Always a bonus.

I’m excited to announce, we will be going to Cincinnati Children’s in May for Sam’s laryngeal cleft repair!!!!! If you’ve been following, this is three plus years in the making. We’ve had to reschedule twice due to Sam getting sick and having GI (tummy) complications.

Prayers for peace, comfort, easy answers, and a short stay for Sam!

Sam strong!

Faith Over Fear!

Procedures

Overall, Sam’s procedures went well. When we checked in, there was gal training, the receptionist told her, ”Sam is a frequent flyer here.” He put on the charm for the gal training and she was, of course, taken, ”That smile,” she said. “He just made my day.” Yeah, he does that.

The PTSD unfortunately kicked in way before we saw the purple pj’s. As soon as we walked through the second set of automatic double doors, he knew exactly where we were. Poor buddy, became instantly stressed, but made sure he brought on the charm for a few minutes to show off how, he knew without being told, to step on the scale and then pointed to the place on the wall where he would get measured. He bounced off the scale and stood under the wall chart to be measured. Many familiar faces said, ”Hi Sam!” in the process.

The purple pj’s came into play now. The stress level was pretty high at this point. So thankful for the nurse who thought of and agreed to wait for the Versed to kick in until we put on the dreaded purple pj’s. Later, the anesthesiologist said, ”Just leave him in his diaper!” That’s exactly what we did, even after the Versed kicked in.

“I know what’s about to happen to me and I don’t like it.”

Oh boy do I love and hate Versed all in one. It takes Sam’s stress away almost instantaneously, but also makes him really loopy, which can be a little creepy to watch your baby experience.

The MRI results we don’t know yet and the ENT portion went well. Sam’s ENT is a bit new to us. He was very excited to look inside Sam’s airway as he hasn’t yet seen it. He confirmed Sam has a Type II Laryngeal Cleft. Shoot, it’s still there. Sam’s previous ENT is getting close to retirement and moved to Arizona to help start a new program. Although we were very sad to loose him, the transition has gone very well. His new ENT trained closely, and is on a first name basis with the Sam’s doctors in Cincinnati. Bonus.

We felt like a deer in headlights with the GI portion, but for the most part, we got it all sorted out the next day. Unfortunately, they placed a gj-tube in Sam again, which is a more complicated type of feeding tube then Sam’s had for a while. Sam did not need to be dilated and there weren’t any clear anatomical answers for his GI concerns. We will wait for the biopsy results.

“Glad that’s over.” He didn’t even seem to notice how they snuck on the the purple p.j.’s during surgery.

Now let’s hold onto our seatbelts, and pray nothing holds us back from getting on that airplane next week! The planning and preparation for traveling with a kid like Sam is insane, but what a privilege. Thanks to our friend who nominated us in 2019, the MN Vikings, and the Best Christmas Ever, we’re spending Christmas on the beach!

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!

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!

HOME!

After seven days, Sam was able to come home! We are very thankful he is feeling better and it was a short stay, in our world.

If I added correctly, Sam has spent ten plus months of his life in the hospital and he’s only four. That also means he’s spent much more of his life at home. I’m not discounting the time in the hospital. I’m also not saying tears aren’t shed from exhaustion and other things on my part and pain and exhaustion on his. I’m not saying this isn’t REALLY, REALLY hard. I’m not saying to ignore the bad, but in my experience when we focus on the good instead of the bad, it’s harder for the negative to steal your joy.

FaceTime allowed me to stay on the phone with my daughter, off and on, for over three hours to “help” her bake a cake. She had some bumps along the way, but she didn’t give up. It was still pretty good four days later, when I was home to try it. I was a proud mama.

Every time we’re here, most of my family adapts with ease.

Every time we’re here, we meet more great nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, etc.

Every time we’re here, I learn new tricks to help Sam and I adapt to living in a hospital.

Every time we’re here, Sam steals more hearts.

With an IV in, Sam can only use one hand. I get mesmerized by how he uses his one hand to play when he starts feeling better. The smarty pants even uses his mouth to push toys and objects in place.

This is the life of Sam. We didn’t choose it, but we have learned to adapt, be flexible, and make lemonade out of lemons. And this guy is SO worth it all.