Surgery #9 – I’ll Be Home For Christmas…

Ah….the ever-changing plans of Mr. Zack Penrod. ¬†After planning to be gone for Christmas, packing all of our gifts, arranging hotels and wrapping our minds around celebrating in a new place, we are back home. ¬†I have to say, there really is no place like home. ¬†Our beds are cozier, the food is better, we have more space and we can lounge around all day in our pajamas (well, we¬†could…).¬†

Zack has been feeling OK since his discharge. ¬†He did not feel great on our ride home. ¬†He looked sick and his stomach was hurting. ¬†When we stopped for lunch, he asked Jim to carry him and he barely touched his food. ¬†It was his first day off of pain medicine and fluids so this is not really surprising. ¬†We may also have forgotten to pack Tylenol….not that we would have done that after all this time. ¬†Sigh. ¬†Poor Zack.

When we got home, Zack’s friends were outside and gave him a cheerful welcome home. ¬†Zack managed to stay outside for about two minutes before declaring he was cold and tired – it was 62 degrees. ¬†He has been sleeping sitting up (his belly pain position) since we got home. Luckily for Z, we actually have pain medicine at home AND give it to him when necessary.

Yesterday was a little better.  We finally made it to Sports Clips for a much-needed haircut.  In between turning pale and not being hungry, he had several bursts of energy that were so amazing his brothers declared themselves in time-out to escape the craziness.

We are working on figuring out this new mucous fistula.  Unfortunately, it sits at the bottom of his abdominal incision right where the waistband of his pants hits his belly.  His surgeon said she put it there to cut down on the prolapsing risk.  Another thing that might prolapse?  Awesome.

Our biggest issue at the moment is keeping up with his crazy output.  We have to start giving him bolus fluid doses through his g-tube to keep up with his losses.  He currently has his dehydrated look going on, but we feel confident we can handle it here at home.

We also had our first visit from Zack’s new Home Care nurse. ¬†His PICC line dressing needs to be changed once a week. ¬†Since it is a sterile procedure, I am not qualified to do it by myself – thank goodness. ¬†I am sure I could learn. ¬†I have been told that some families do it themselves. ¬†I am just grateful that someone else is doing it for him as I do not feel comfortable messing with a line that ends right near his heart. ¬†I would much rather have someone take over that responsibility!

Now that we are home, this family of mine actually expects our Christmas traditions to happen. ¬†You know, the food part. ¬†Trying to pull together all of the things we do for Christmas would be pretty hard, so we took a poll and picked some of our favorite things. ¬†Today we will make two Christmas goodies, have our normal Christmas Eve fondue before church and homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning…or candy from our stockings. Come on! ¬†You know this happens!

Our awesome next door neighbors have invited us to share their Christmas dinner with them.  I am not sure who is more grateful for the invitation, me or my guys.  Thank goodness for friends who see our weary faces and extend kindness.

Do not let our lack of energy fool you, though. ¬†The Penrod family is counting our blessings this Christmas. ¬†We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love so many have shown us. I get teary even thinking about it. ¬†Santa coming to visit Zack on the fire truck, classmates cheering for Zack, friends giving Zack encouragement, invitations to dinner, packages and cards arriving at the hospital, doctors and nurses working hard to get us home for Christmas, all of these blessings….we are so thankful.

So while Zack may not back to normal, he is incredibly happy to be home and counting the hours until the “jolly old guy” arrives. ¬†He wants to be allowed to sing tonight at church because, “Ms. Judy is counting on me to be there to sing to all the people about baby Jesus!” ¬†And that, my friends, is the real joy of Christmas. ¬†The birth of Jesus. ¬†I am so thankful that we are home and that Zack will get to sing tonight and share his joy with others. ¬†May we all have such childlike faith!

Merry Christmas!


~ Dawn


Healing – Two Weeks Post-op

Sometimes it is hard to gauge just how difficult surgery can be on Zack’s body. ¬†He is usually cheerful and energetic. ¬†This time our little monkey was acting better IN the hospital than at home. I think sometimes we underestimate pain control. ¬†We have great pain control in the hospital, but at home we rely on Motrin and Tylenol. ¬†Last week Zack could have used a little more help in the pain department. ¬†His staples were really bothering him and his wafer would NOT stay on which caused his skin to hurt… a lot. ¬†He was really just a mess. ¬†Who can blame him?

This is how our guy looked for most of the week:


There he sat, on the sofa, for hours a day. ¬†Doesn’t he look pathetic? ¬†He started to perk towards the end of the week, but only once his dad got home from work.

Because of our wafer issues, Zack’s surgeon took his staples out a few days earlier than planned. ¬†THANK GOODNESS! ¬†Getting the staples out helped Zack feel more comfortable moving around. ¬†Our ostomy nurses helped me brainstorm new ways to keep that darn wafer stuck on his body and we finally found a winning combination of things that worked.

For those of you who know what the heck I’m talking about, we used gobs of stoma paste around the center of his wafer¬†as well as lots on his staple line to fill in the gaps. ¬†We kept Zack lying down for five minutes before allowing him to get up and then we put his tightest stoma belt on for a few hours to help the paste cement. ¬†This combination of things allowed his wafer to stick for a whole day! ¬†That meant Zack actually slept through the night. ¬†Sleeping through the night has helped everyone have a better attitude, not just Zack. Not that I would ever be grumpy…..

I think we are now over the worst of the post-surgery yuck.  Zack has not been asking for pain medicine as often.  He has several good hours during the day where he plays pretty normally.  He does tire out pretty quickly, but we are only 14 days out from some pretty big surgery.

Zack is excited because he can now take an actual bath and go swimming again! ¬†He is still restricted in his activities for another two weeks, but he was able to go swimming at his BFF’s pool today (Z seriously calls his buddy that). Getting back to normal is good for Zack’s spirits.

After swimming with is buddy, Zack came home and rested for a few hours before begging to go outside and play with the neighbors. ¬†We live on a cul-de-sac that has about ten boys Zack’s age. ¬†Today was one of the hottest days of the year. ¬†Zack is at more of a risk for dehydration than other kids because of his high ostomy output. ¬†So what did we decide? ¬†We decided to let Zack off house arrest and play outside. Parenting at its best. ¬†Feel free to take notes.

The kids in the neighborhood are all so protective of and kind to Zack.  They were playing a game they invented that was part lacrosse, part soccer.  Although the game looked really fun, it was definitely not on the approved activity list for Z.  The boys thought a little bit and then decided that Zack should be the referee and help keep time. Zack was thrilled!

Here is Zack giving the ready, set, play signal:


After a few minutes of standing in the sun, Zack realized he needed a break and continued his job as an armchair referee:


We are so glad that Zack was able to play today, but we are still super cautious about his activities.  Jim and I are worried about his new stoma.  There is a significant difference in the size of his stoma between lying down and standing up.  It is not yet prolapsing, but we do not think it will be long until we are back to that again.  Sigh.

Zack lost five pounds while in the hospital.  His cute little chub is gone and he is back to being pretty darn skinny.  He was 50 pounds when he was admitted and right now he is 45 pounds.  Happily, his appetite is starting to return.  We are also pushing the formula feeds at the moment to try to get him back to his 50 pound mark.  Our doctors tell us good nutrition helps aid healing and we are all about that!

We are still waiting for our phone conference with all of Zack’s doctors. ¬†We have made our own “plan” for what we are going to do if it prolapses before we are able to talk to everyone. ¬†Zack is currently scheduled for more testing at the end of August, you know, right when school starts… because that is how we do things around here. ¬†Actually, to be fair, he was originally scheduled to have the tests the first week of August, but that had to be rescheduled due to his most recent surgery. ¬†Jim and I are doubtful the stoma will hold on that long. ¬†Hopefully we are wrong….

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn

Pain Stinks

If your child was in pain every single day for years, what would you do? ¬†I like to think that I am a pretty level-headed person (my sisters may not leave any snarky comments). ¬†I am usually able to reason things out in my head and understand what is happening. ¬†I am usually good with greeting each day with a renewed spirit, ready to tackle whatever comes my way. ¬†I am usually hopeful that tomorrow will be better. Usually…. but not today.

Last night was brutal here.  Zack actually pooped for the first time in over three weeks without an irrigation.  Yay.  It hurt, he needed pain medicine, but then he started to feel better.  He was still complaining that his tummy hurt, but went to bed on time.  Around four this morning he started crying.  He said his pain level was a ten.  He was saying his intestines were going to explode.  He was sweating and needed me to rub his belly.  He said he needed his surgeon to fix him.  Basically, the child was a mess.

He eventually went to the bathroom again. l will spare you the ugly details, but it was not fun.  By the end he was drenched in sweat, felt nauseous, was too exhausted to get up off the bathroom floor and his belly still hurt.  This is not a new thing for us, sadly.  We have had a bit of a reprieve from this particular pain over the past few weeks, but it was replaced with irrigation pain and craziness.  I was hopeful that this pain was gone now.  To have it come back with a vengeance is not cool.

This morning Zack did not want to get up for school, so I Iet him sleep. His little body was exhausted.  When he got up he did not want to eat breakfast because his tummy still hurt.  He did not want to go to school and that is not like him.  I was able to talk him into trying school with the promise that he could call me and I would pick him up anytime he wanted.  We will see how his day plays out.  Often he just stays at school in pain.

Today I feel frustrated. ¬†Today I feel angry and want to scream, “ENOUGH!” ¬†Today I want to say to our doctors, “Do whatever you need to do, but make him better.” I am sure they feel the same way. ¬†Today I feel sad for our friends Logan, Eden, Blake and many others who have are in pain everyday, too.

To answer my own question from the beginning of my rant. ¬†How will I handle Zack’s pain today. ¬†First, I am going to let myself have a few minutes to be upset…just a few. ¬†Second, I am going to take a long hot shower and pray that my attitude changes. ¬†The last thing my child needs is for his mama to be upset. ¬†Third, I am going eat some chocolate (it makes things better, you should try it). ¬†Fourth, I am going to get back up and keep on doing what I do every single day. ¬†Fight for my boy. ¬†It’s okay to be sad and angry for a minute or two, but I will not let this silly colon take any more joy from our day.

We head to Ohio on Monday.  Surgery is Tuesday at 11:30.  We will keep you posted.

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn

Welcome March!

Ah, March…one day closer to St. Patrick’s Day, one day closer to spring. ¬†More importantly (to me), Zack made it through the entire month of February without being hospitalized!¬†¬†I am so excited! ¬†Zack has been in the hospital every month since June of last year. ¬†Let’s review. ¬†It will be fun, I promise. ¬†June 18-23 – surgery in Cincinnati, July 13-15 – testing in Cincinnati, August 19-22 – small bowel obstruction, Walter Reed, August 25-27 – intestinal prolapse gone wrong, Johns Hopkins, September 6-16 – reconnection surgery, Cincinnati, October 15-24 – figuring out Z’s pain, iron replacement, NG tube, stricture, Walter Reed, November 10-12 – stricture dilation, Cincinnati, December 1 – stricture dilation and scope, Cincinnati, January 27-30 – testing, Walter Reed.

See, I told you that would be fun. ¬†Zack and I have been giving one another high fives to celebrate and doing our happy dances. ¬†I would show you my happy dance, but it would blind you. Instead, I’ll treat you to this little gem. ¬†Zack doing a happy dance in the basement to one of his favorite songs, “Cray Button”. ¬†He likes it because it was his big brother’s favorite song at one point and let’s face it, big brothers are cool.

The good news does not stop there. Tomorrow marks two weeks since Z began taking steroids. ¬†At first I was worried nothing was happening. ¬†However, slowly but surely we are starting to see some changes. ¬†Zack’s pain level has significantly decreased. ¬†Since starting the steroids, Zack has only woken twice from pain. ¬†That means he has been sleeping through the night like a real boy! ¬†It amazes me how much sleep he requires, but he is making up for a LOT of lost sleep. ¬†He still asks for Tylenol every day, but he is down to asking only once a day instead of multiple times and he is no longer having pain after eating. ¬†His stomach is still bloated¬†after eating, but that is better than being distended all the time. ¬†In between meals, his stomach size will sometimes even decrease. ¬†Our goal is for it to be “flat as a pancake”. ¬†While we are not there yet, it is improving.

We are also starting to see signs of one of our favorite side effects of prednisone…our boy is HUNGRY! ¬†What? ¬†Zack is actually asking to eat meals and between meals he is asking how much longer until the next meal. ¬†Today I looked at his face and had to do a double take. ¬†He looks so different to me already. ¬†His little arms and legs are starting to look as if they have some meat on them rather than being all bone. ¬†We are all anxious to lose the NG tube and hope that will happen real soon. ¬†I am concerned about what will happen once Z is off the steroids and his appetite goes back to normal, but that is something we can address later. ¬†Check him out!


We are still having some issues that concern us. ¬†Zack was unable to stool on his own for over five days. ¬†He asked to be irrigated each of those days because things were “stuck”. ¬†He had a lot of pain leading up to each of the irrigations and we did not care for that. ¬†In addition, Z has had several days of bleeding and that is always freaky. ¬†Z’s doctor reminded me that just a little bit of blood can look like a lot, so I try to remember that when bleeding occurs. ¬†We are a bit worried because his body should be able to get things out on his own and yet he is still unable to accomplish this. ¬†Zack was able to get things out for two days, but it was straight water with no substance and that is not normal either. ¬†We are now back to not stooling without irrigation. ¬†Something is not right about this and we are concerned that surgery to correct that obstruction is looking more likely. ¬†Have I mentioned that we dislike surgery?

One of the theories Z’s doctor has put forth is that perhaps there is more than one issue going on in that little body. ¬†Perhaps the obstruction is one issue that might need to be fixed surgically and the motility and colonic distention might be another. ¬†That is one of the reasons we are changing just one thing at a time, so that we can keep track of exactly what happens with each drug or each treatment. It takes a bit longer to do things this way and we have already established that I am not a patient person. ¬† However, watching how Zack responds to these things has led us to believe that the more than one theory is most likely true.

I believe that we will continue with the steroids for the next week or two and then see how Zack’s body is responding. ¬†I find myself analyzing every little symptom and sign and willing them to be good things. ¬†I have a personal idea of what I think will happen and Jim and I have discussed different scenarios and outcomes. ¬†The reality is that we just have to wait and see what happens next. ¬†Darn it. ¬†You would think I would have learned patience by now for goodness sake.

So, welcome March!  May you be as good to Zack as February.  Come on steroids, do your thing.  Good luck Dr. O and Dr. D.  We are counting on you to do great things for our guy.  No pressure.

~ Dawn

Getting Stronger

What do you do at 5:30 a.m. between the time the med student checks on your son and 6 a.m. when the head resident and team arrive and yet again for an hour before your actual surgeon arrives? ¬†Why, hunt and peck a blog post on your Kindle Fire because you can’t get WiFi on your laptop. ¬†It’s loads,of fun and not at all frustrating…..

Yesterday was a much better day for Zack. In the morning, his surgeon had the IV in Z’s foot removed, changed his dressings and got him up out of bed. That was hard work and our boy spent the rest of the morning zonked out in his chair.

When his daddy arrived, we took our Zack for his first walk. Our nurse helped as it took all three of us to handle all the wires and tubes and Zack. He was pretty shaky, but we managed to make it from his bed to his door before rewarding him with a ride in his car.  Getting back into bed was a bit rough, but daddy set up the Wii and all was right with his world again.

Zack was doing so well that the Pain Management Team decided to take out his epidural and catheter. A PCA was added for pain control which allows Z to push a button to receive morphine when he has pain. All was well with the world until we thought going for a third walk of the day was a good idea. Oh my! ¬†Let’s just say that was a bad idea.

Zack learned that pushing his PCA button when his pain is small is better than waiting for big pain. Big pain is a LOT harder to fix.

Overnight Zack had a few strange heart rate issues. Our nurses said not to worry. Our surgeon thinks it is probably no big deal, but since we are here already, Zack will be getting a visit from the cardiologist today. I’m pretty sure it is just to make me feel better. I’m OK with that.

Today Z has only had one major pain incident. It was quickly controlled. He is happy and much more like himself. Our doctor has said we may get to go home either tomorrow or Thursday.  We are all pretty happy about that!

I’d love to add some photos, but I can’t figure that out on this thing. I promise to add extra in my next update. I apologize in advance for any typos I miss in this post. I love my Kindle, but typing on it is the opposite of fun! ¬†I look forward to posting that Zack is home soon!

Zack’s Surgery Update – October –Surgery #3


Friday Morning.¬† 5:30 a.m.¬† Don’t we look chipper?¬† Our son, Jake,¬†created an event on Facebook called Blue Friday.¬† He invited his friends and¬†my friends, and they invited their friends, to wear blue on Friday to help¬†remind people¬†to pray for Zack and his surgeons.¬† Our family was overwhelmed with the response.¬† Thank you to all who participated.¬† Jim and I wore blue as well.¬† Here we are just before heading down to surgery Friday morning.

Zachary’s surgery ended up taking 3 hours.¬† I was fortunate enough to be allowed to go all the way into the OR with Zack and to stay with him until he was asleep.¬† I was amazed at how many people were actually in the OR.¬† Zack had two anesthesiologists.¬† One worked the general anesthesia aspect and the other worked on Zack’s epidural.¬† Zack’s surgeon was there as well as his residents.¬† The head of pediatric surgery was there.¬† Our GI doctor was there and a host of other people I should probably know, but they were all masked up.¬† I felt confident he was in great hands as I left, but it was still hard to leave.

During the surgery, our GI doctor came and gave us a little report.¬† It was comforting to get some news that way.¬† The head OR nurse called and let us know that surgery was going well and that Zack was stable.¬† She called again to let us know they were getting ready to close and things were still going well.¬† Happily, Jim and I were able to wait in Zachary’s room.¬† I was able to shower, we were able to eat breakfast and just hang-out together in private rather than in the big OR waiting room.¬† I appreciated that because I find that waiting room incredibly stressful.

When Zack’s surgeon came to get us, he looked happy.¬† That helped me relax right away.¬† He explained that when they opened Z up there was very little scar tissue.¬† This¬†was great news as this was his third surgery and we still have another big one in a year to reattach his intestines.¬† He explained that Zachary’s stoma was being encircled by his bowels and those bowels were intermittently constricting the flow of his intestinal contents.¬† He said this is called an internal hernia.

The surgery team took the bowel loops out to inspect them and then “took down” Zack’s ostomy.¬† This involved disconnecting his stoma, cutting about 1 1/2 ” of small intestines off, and sewing up the ostomy site.¬† They then decided to make another ostomy site back on Zack’s right side.¬† They placed it just beside and a smidge below his mucus fistula so that they could save that as well.¬† If you’ll remember waaaaay back to June, his original loop ostomy was very similar to this.¬† A good thing about this setup is that his mucus fistula will now be contained in his ostomy bag again.¬† This makes our maintenance time much easier at home and at school and every other place we go.¬† Zack’s mucus fistula is incredible itchy on his skin and he was forever scratching at it and pulling off his bandages.¬† This will no longer be an issue.¬† Yay!

We met Zack just as he was being moved into the PICU.  He had a lot of tubes in a lot of places, but we expected that.  Here is a picture:


The black thing in the upper left corner is the bag containing his epidural meds.¬† His epidural wire is yellow and taped down his back.¬† He also has a catheter for urine, and another IV in his left ankle.¬† When we first saw him he was also hooked up to an oxygen mask, but that was disconnected pretty quickly.¬† I don’t know if you can tell in this photo, but he is pretty pale.

The rest of Zack’s day was spent waking up from anesthesia.¬† His pain was well controlled, happily.¬† One of the reasons we decided to use both general anesthesia and an epidural is because of the amount of pain Zack was under in June.¬† He had to stay in the PICU so long because of his pain.¬† We are glad we decided to try this combination as it worked really well yesterday.¬† Just look at this face:


So, maybe he doesn’t look happy, but he is asleep and we will take that!¬† He continued to do pretty well through the night.¬† He woke up once an hour or so asking for pain medicine and was given Tylenol.¬† His surgeon was in this morning at 7:15 and I mentioned his pale complexion.¬† He wasn’t worried as Z wasn’t in much pain.

At 4:00 this morning, Zack’s epidural bag started beeping every few minutes.¬† The PICU team said it was because the bag was getting close to needing to be changed.¬† Around 7:30 the team changed out the epidural bag.¬† At 8:00 (ish), Zack started complaining of pain and was soon crying out in pain.¬† His nurse and I thought it was strange timing as they had just changed the epidural bag, so we gingerly turned him as he screamed and saw that his back was wet.¬† His nurse paged anesthesia.¬† The PICU doctor ordered morphine.¬† The morphine did nothing.¬† He was given another dose of morphine and started to calm down.¬† We were still waiting for anesthesia.¬† The PICU team decided to add some Toradol as well.¬† Zack began to calm down, but was still in pain.

When anesthesia arrived and looked at his epidural, they decided that it was not leaking.¬† Their assessment was that Zack’s original bolus from surgery yesterday was wearing off and that he needed a higher dose today.¬† They upped the setting on his epidural and said they would be back to check him tomorrow.¬† I’m still not convinced that all is well with that epidural, but I’m not a doctor and time will tell.

Zack started calming down.¬† He still did not want to be touched or wear clothes or to have anyone touch his bed.¬† He was still crabby.¬† He kept telling his nurses not to mess with him.¬† He told the doctors that he did not feel like speaking and to please leave him alone and to stop bothering him.¬† If you know Zack at all, you will know that this is not like our boy.¬† He also told everyone that he wanted to go back to 3 West – the pediatric ward.¬† He said he wanted to go back where he didn’t hurt.¬† So sad.

The PICU, the surgeon and the ward staff all decided his pain could be managed on the ward and we were on our way back.  Before we left the PICU though, we managed to convince Zack that he had to at least wear his gown.  Whew.

Once back on the ward, Zack’s pain was still pretty high.¬† He received another dose of Toradol.¬† The nurses explained that it is like ibuprofen on steroids.¬† He also receives Tylenol and can get morphine as needed in addition to his continuous epidural.¬† He was still grumpy, but after a little nap he began to feel a little better.¬† His respirations were still high, as was his heart rate, but when I left tonight he was playing Wii with his daddy.

It’s Jim’s night to hang with Zack.¬† I’m hoping they both sleep well and that the¬†pain is better tomorrow.¬† Zachary’s ostomy seems to be working really well.¬† I’m still a bit concerned about his coloring.¬† The doctor ordered more blood work tonight as well in the morning to monitor electrolytes and other things.¬† We will see what those show tomorrow.

Zack has still not gotten out of bed.¬† Today was too crazy with pain.¬† Hopefully the nurses can help us figure out how to get him out of bed tomorrow.¬† Remember, he has an IV pole, an epidural, an IV in his ankle with an IV board attached to it as well as a catheter and bag.¬† I’m sure it can be done, but it was too much for us to figure out today given his pain.

Big picture though, things are looking pretty good.¬† The surgeons were able to find the reason for his obstructions and fix it.¬† His ostomy is working properly.¬† This is better news than we have had in over 5 weeks.¬† We are hopeful that Zack will improve each day and that we will be home soon.¬† I’m still a bit hesitant to believe that given our track record, but I’m still hopeful.

Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes!¬† I’ll try and update as I can.¬† Our new laptop is not connecting with the Walter Reed wireless for some reason, so I have to wait to post until I’m home.¬† As I’m sure you can imagine, I’m pretty tired.¬† I promise to try and update regularly, but hope you’ll understand if there is a delay from time to time.¬†¬†¬†Until then, give your kids lots of hugs and enjoy having them home and healthy!


What On Earth Happened? — Surgery #2

You may be asking yourself, “What happened to Zack?” ¬†I thought he was doing so well. ¬†He was doing well. ¬†He had more color, he had spunk, he was smiling, but it was all because he had a tube in his intestines diverting fluid from his obstruction. ¬†His happiness was dependent on the tube. ¬†And then it fell out.

How does a tube fall out of your body? ¬†Well, Zack’s tube was sutured to the wafer of his ostomy bag and then secured with steri-strips. ¬†It was quite the invention and it worked really well for 48 hours. ¬†Eventually, the steri-strips just couldn’t hold the tube and it literally fell out of his abdomen while he sat playing a game on the computer. ¬†His surgeon decided to see what would happen if we just left it out. ¬†As we feared, Zack’s intestines did not drain. ¬† He began to need to be drained again and he began to be uncomfortable again.

On Monday, Zack’s surgeon began saying that our plan was changing. ¬†No longer was there talk of us going home. On Monday night at 10:30 p.m. as he was draining Zack’s stoma, ¬†he said Z would have another surgery within the week to fix the problem. ¬†Tuesday morning rounds came and he told me that Z had been added to his schedule and would be having surgery in a few hours. ¬†My head started spinning. ¬†That wasn’t next week! ¬†He felt that Z’s intestines were no longer tolerating the draining well. ¬†He did not feel comfortable sending us home to drain them when they were so irritated as there was a chance we could puncture his bowel. Most importantly, Z’s condition without the tube was not going to get better.

The procedure was explained. ¬†I signed consent forms, called Jim and our family and then sat down and tried to make sense of what I had just heard. ¬†The surgeon said that having surgery 2 weeks out from your original surgery is really bad timing, but that it could not be helped. ¬†He wanted to do a laparoscopic procedure, but felt it would end up being an open abdominal procedure. ¬†He told me that he would open Zack, see if he could isolate the kink and fix it without cutting his intestines. ¬†He also told me that this was probably not possible. ¬†He also needed to redo Zack’s ostomy and he would probably now have two separate stomas instead of one stoma. ¬†We met with anesthesia and off we went.

Let me tell you, waiting for your child to come out of surgery is torture.  How are they doing?   Is everything going according to plan?  So many questions. Time feels as though it has slowed down and almost stopped. It was supposed to be a 3 hour procedure.  At 4 1/2 hours the doctor finally came to get us.

The surgery was an open abdomen surgery. ¬†15 cm of Zack’s bowels were taken out because they were just too dilated to save. ¬†The new end was attached to a new stoma on the left side of Z’s abdomen. ¬†This new stoma is the ileostomy. ¬†The “old” stoma was fixed so that there is now only one hole that leads to the large intestines. ¬†The large intestines are now completely cut off from the small intestines. ¬†The surgery scar is right down the center of his abdomen around his belly button and a little bit down. ¬†It was a pretty involved surgery. ¬†When the surgeon came to get us, he told us that Zack was going to be spending the night in the Pediatric ICU because he needed a blood transfusion. ¬†He had lost the normal amount of blood for the procedure, but his hematocrit was low to begin with and he was pretty pale. ¬†Turns out he hasn’t needed that yet…..

Once in the PICU we realized that Zack was in a LOT of pain.  Pain medicines were started.  He got Dilaudid, Ketamine, Tylenol, Zofran, more Dilaudid, and Fentanyl.  The boy was drugged and nothing was touching his pain.  Our night was miserable.  Seriously.  He did sleep for an hour between 2-3, but the rest of the time was in major pain.  I did not like that.

The pain continued this morning and the pain management team suggested doing an epidural. ¬†Jim and I signed the consent forms, but when anesthesia came in and said we would have to do it under general because the “stuff” draining from his NG tube put him at risk for aspirating, we reconsidered. We consulted with the team from anesthesia, the PICU doctors and our surgeon. ¬†In the end, we decided that we just couldn’t put Z under general again. ¬†His body doesn’t react to things in a typical way, our hospital stay has not been typical and we didn’t want to subject him to the risks of another procedure so soon.

The new plan was/is for pain control using Toradol, Ketamine, Zofran, Dilaudid, Tylenol, and Fentanyl as well as battelfield acupuncture.  I had never heard of using acupuncture in the hospital before, but it was offered as an option and it sounded like a great idea as the other options were not working well.  I found this article for those of you who want to know a little more:

Here are two acupuncture photos for you:

Sorry this one is blurry.  You can see the one in his forehead and some on his ears.  He slept through the whole thing.

Shortly after making our decision, Zachary fell asleep. ¬†We don’t know if the drug dosage was finally large enough or if he was just totally exhausted, but he slept for 3 hours! ¬†We were thrilled because he needed a reprieve from the pain. ¬†During that time a glorious thing happened…..his ostomy started to work! ¬†I did a little happy dance and we texted our GI, took pictures of the output for him (no worries, they will NOT be on the blog), and told the nurses – they clapped. ¬†It’s a big deal. ¬†It works and is a huge step toward going home.

Zachary is still in the Pediatric ICU tonight.  He has tubes and wires and drains everywhere.  Here is a picture of his IV pole tonight:

It’s a double-decker rack. ¬†As crazy as this seems to me, the nurses have told us that some people have two racks filled with medicine. ¬†I hope I never have to see that! ¬†In addition to all the pain meds, Zachary has an antibiotic called Zosyn, TPN with Lipids, and fluids hanging. ¬†I get a headache trying to figure it all out. ¬†I’m glad it isn’t my job! ¬†To get all of that into his body, the nurses added another IV with two “ports” to his right hand. ¬†Here’s a photo of that:Th

As you can tell, he’s been through a lot these past 17 days. ¬†We are beginning to see signs that things are headed in the right direction. ¬†Our surgeon has cautioned us that Zack’s body doesn’t work like one might expect, so we can’t say for sure when we can come home. ¬†We have one more night in the PICU, at least. ¬†The drugs he is on now can not be taken to the regular ward, so his pain will have to be controlled by other drugs first.

Once back on the ward, we have to start disconnecting tubes and introducing fluids again before he can eat. ¬†In addition, Zachary’s white blood cell count has elevated. ¬†It could just be from the stress of the surgery or it could indicate a beginning infection. Since he had a bowel reconstruction, it is considered a “dirty” surgery and at more of a risk for infection. ¬†He’s already on a big antibiotic in hopes of squashing this, but will be monitored closely for the first 5 days after surgery.

There you have it. ¬†I’ve typed as much as I can. ¬†My eyes are stinging. ¬†Jim and I would like to thank you all for your prayers, meals, gifts, calls, texts, visits, etc. ¬†Please continue to pray for Zack as he works to get better. ¬†We can’t wait to go home.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few fun photos of the days before this surgery:

Zack and Laura Lee the Golden Retriever therapy dog. ¬†She looks a bit like our dog, Rugby, and was very patient as Zack patted her head over and over. ¬†I’ll remember these dogs as one of my favorite things about being here.

Finally, a photo that makes me smile. ¬†Zack’s teachers came to the hospital to visit and to bring him his graduation cap and certificate from preschool. ¬†We’ve got a lot of healing to do because we’ve got a big year coming up!¬†We can’t wait to see you all at home soon!