Almost exactly one year ago, Jim and I took Zack to Boston’s Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation in hopes of learning some new ways to manage Zack’s intestines. We left with a game plan that included a number of recommended tests. Together with his doctors, we have spent the last year getting those tests completed, except for one – manometry testing. Sadly, Walter Reed no longer performs the test, and our insurance would not allow us to have it done in Boston. And that is how we find ourselves here today at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. in the middle of Zack’s 5th round of manometry testing.
I am going to be completely honest. I did not want to put Zack through this again. We have done manometry testing at two hospitals with four different results. We know his intestines are wonky. Why put Zack through such an invasive test again? However, people who are way more knowledgeable about intestines explained that getting another snapshot/data point would be helpful in determining a path forward. With much grumbling and complaining on my part, I finally worked through my dislike of this plan and got myself on board because I needed to be 100 percent in or Zack would sense my fear, and I would never be able to sell the plan to him.
Children’s performs the testing a bit differently. Instead of an overnight admission with scopes and catheter placement on day one, and testing and discharge on day two, this admission last four days. On day one, Zack headed to the OR for endoscopy, biopsies, and manometry catheter placement – both antroduodenal and stomal. This means that woke up with a tube placed in his nose, down into his stomach, and into the first part of his small bowel. He also had another tube threaded through his stoma into his small bowel as well. These tubes have sensors placed several centimeters apart that record the strength and coordination of intestinal contractions.
Zack is a very active child. He never sits still. However, having a tube in his nose and one in his stoma changes Zack. He sits extremely still and is pretty sad. The nose tube stayed in place nicely for the duration of the testing and the doctors were able to get some good data. The stoma catheter was more problematic. There is no way to secure it to the internal intestine or to the outside of his body because of his ostomy bag. The doctors were able to rig his bag to accomodate the tube, but it was pretty messy. I would paint you a picture, but there are some things that are just better left unsaid. Let me just say that it was a very long night for Zack, the nursing staff, the resident, and the laundry room.
Children’s testing protocol has antroduodenal and stomal testing lasting 24 hours, so day two was spent finishing the first round of the test. The plan was to finish the test and head back to the OR for a colonoscopy, biopsies, and placement of the colonic manometry sensors. However, there was miscommunication between the teams and anesthesia was not onboard with taking him back to the OR. That meant that Zack had a free evening to investigate the floor, head to the outdoor Healing Garden, and relax. He was not thrilled to learn that he was limited to a clear liquid diet, but he managed to eat 4 packages of jello and a bowl of chicken broth before being NPO again.
One of the things we have been very impressed by this admission is the Child Life Program. Their intake process flagged Zack. I’m sure it was mostly because he is so cute… but also because of the level of his medical anxiety. They coordinated with a special program they have in place that involved the neuropsychology department coming up with a plan to alert everyone involved in Zack’s care about how best to help him through this admission. Overall, it has been a wonderful help. The Child Life staff has advocated for Zack and alerted the staff to his unique needs. They have intervened when Zack needed a moment to process next steps, they have asked for Barney the Golden Retriever therapy dog to come sit with Zack when he was upset and when they felt he just needed a friend, and they have made sure the teams know to talk about medical issues with us outside of Zack’s room. I wish all hospitals had such strong Child Life programs… .
Transport is here to take Zack to the OR. Signing off for now….
Hug your babies!