Friday, June 24, 2011

Day One

From Matthew:

Before I forget all of this I want to write it down. The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind. Wednesday evening we took our son to the hospital, to deal with what we assumed was some kind of superbug.

Tonight, our son is in the PICU at Texas Children's. Today he had brain surgery, the second neurosurgical procedure he has had in as many days. Kara and I have slept less than five hours in the last the past two days, pockets of one hour naps sprinkled through the night and the day. Things still feel unreal, like I'm dreaming and someone, sometime, is going to wake me up.

So I wanted to write down the timeline, to keep things straight.

6:00 pm: Kara finishes at the peditrician's. James' sickness is "unusual" so she's sending us to Children's for observation. No one is worried.
7:00: I arrive at Children's after stopping by the House to pick up some things. I go to the room but no one is there- they'd assigned one and put it in the system before James and Kara got there, I go to admitting and of course just miss them headed in.
7:30 We meet up in the room.
8:00 James is seen by the intern. The intern notes that James appears to have a stiff neck. We are surprised, and worried he may have meningitis. The resident mentions hydrocephalus as a possibility. We're upset, but it's a long way away. A plan is made to send him for a CT scan.
8:20 We go and get the CT. We're escorted by two paramedics who basically walk after us since I'm carrying James. Kara jokes that they should be called "ambassadors" of the hospital. They say we made their day. Everyone is laughing.
8:45: James gets his IV. The IV team at children's is efficient and very nice, we're pleased, as he had a difficult time getting an IV a few days before at Medical City. James still has that IV.
9:15: The resident comes in and informs us that James has hydrocephalus. We are very concerned, ask a lot of questions. The idea of a shunt in his head forever seems daunting.
9:45 We meet with the neurological PA who talks to us about his scan. Compared to a scan he had 2 month ago, this one is not good.
10:15: The neuro PA comes back to inform us that James' scan shows a "mass" of cells, which may be nothing, and may be a tumor. We are devastated, but we pray for mere hydrocephalus. Superbugs are a welcome, even preferred cause of anything.
10:45: Per the neuro PAs instructions we move to the neurological ward.
11:15: Orientation finishes in neuro. The PA comes back to talk to us about hydrocephalus and to check James out. His heart rate stops dropping, below preferred levels. The PA orders us to be moved to ICU.
11:35: The PA talks to us about possibly putting in an EVD (external ventricular drain) as a temporary measure to take care of James' hydrocephalus, mentions we may have to of conditions worsen.



12:10: We arrive in the PICU, our new home. We meet our RN, who has been with us since and is fantastic.
12-9: We enter into a holding pattern in the PICU of uncertainty- waiting to see if James will become critical enough to justify the EVD. James is fussy, and we now know, in a lot of pain. We never know exactly when anything is happening as we're holding until the morning. We know that the results of an MRi will be critical to determining our future course. We pray. We hold James' as it's the only way he will stop crying. There's a need to get blood and he won't bleed enough. We see our friends from the IV team again who put in another IV. They wonder how on earth we went from general admission to the PICU in 4 hours.
9:00: We see our neurosurgeon and his team. The explain that the plan is to put in the EVD and then proceed with the MRI. The EVD will buy time to consider the next steps. I comment on his suit, which is a very expensive and very aggressive union of pinstripe/plaid. It looks like fun.
10:00: James gets a breathing tube and the EVD procedure begins. I want to stay to watch. it is hard to imagine leaving him, even though I know I am powerless. I am terrified something will happen while we're gone. They kick me out. I'm thankful.
11:30: We return. The EVD procedure went well and James' pressure is improving. We are thankful and wait for the MRI.
12:15: James goes to the MRI. The staff is wonderful and he seems well. He has to go under for the MRI in order to keep him still.
1:30: After a hurried (literally- we ran from the cafeteria back to the room) lunch, we receive a call that the MRI team has ordered additional pictures of James' spine. We are not encouraged, and afraid of why they need information.
3:00 James returns from the MRI.
4:00 Our neurosurgeon returns. The film he puts on the screen is entitled "8 month old with hydrocephalus and brain tumor" Kara immediately asks about the tumor. I know I asked questions but I remember very little of the next few minutes. I couldn't believe it. I remember sitting at James' bed and holding his hand, hoping we'd wake up. The plan is to treat the ydrocephalus with a ventriculostomy and get a biopsy.
5:00: Kara, who is infinitely more wise than I, institutes a no-crying, all positive attitude in James' room. It is ok to cry. But outside. James is extubated, and seems more himself. He is visibly more alert with the pressure relieved.
6:00: I lock myself in the bathroom and cry uncontrollably for ten minutes straight, curled in a ball in the corner. I wonder when we wake up. I curse god, myself, medicine.
8:00: James starts to smile and play. It is a HUGE relief to see him so happy. He is such a joyful boy, he always has been.
9:00-12: James takes a well deserved nap before remembering that he is awake, and for the first time in who knows how long, not in agonizing pain.

12:00-8:00 With limited interruption, James plays. Even though we are exhausted, it is amazing to see him so happy. He's grabbing at his lines, very disruptive. We don't care. We're relieved to have our wiggeworm back. The nurse says that EVD patients don't often behave that way. As always, James is a trendsetter.
8:00: We hear that the surgery will be at 9.
9:50: Anesthesiology arrives, a sprightly grandmother who likes to share, which is nice.
10:10: The surgery is waiting on consent.
10:50: Our neurourgeon arrives to provide consent forms. We listen. They take James back and we follow as long we can. We kiss him goodbye and save our tears for when he gets rolled away.
11-2: We wait on the results of the surgery. The OR calls several times and lets us know what is going on. The surgery appears to be proceeding smoothly.
2:30: James returns to us in the PICU, tired and a bit groggy but otherwise well. His cranial pressure is much lower. Our neurosurgeon provides his report- the surgery went well, the ventriculostomy was an apparent success and they obtained a biopsy. The biopsy confirms that the tumor is not one which can be treated with merely chemo or radiation and will require a surgery to remove it over the weekend. It is a blue-cell tumor- either a raboid (sp) or a blastoma or some sort. We expected this, so much of the shock of yesterday is worn off. We try to have faith in our plan, god, and our little boy.

We are exhausted. Starbucks is a constant companion. There's one in the building. I cannot express in words how grateful we are for the loving and faithful support of everyone. I never knew how many friends we had until now. James is loved and blessed in more ways than I can imagine. Thank all of you, always.


  1. I will be praying for your family and your beautiful little boy!

  2. Sending lots of prayers to your family and that beautiful baby boy!!!

  3. Praying for all of you. As a cancer survivor I know the shock and how fast everything goes. May the Lord make His presence there evident and give you His peace and wisdom as you proceed on this journey. Sending love and hugs. Praying you get sleep. Do not fear, but trust in the Lord. He is faithful and is able to carry you and James through this.

  4. Thank you all so much! We appreciate your prayers so much.

  5. Melissa: Thank you so much for thinking of us. We are lucky to have a lot of folks in our corner.

    Brandi: Thank you. He was very beautiful.

    Beckye: While the things didn't go the way we'd hoped, I still believe God did what he could for us, though I do not understand it yet.