Time for a Zack update. I’m tired, so I don’t know how fun this will be to read.
For the past few weeks, Zack’s belly has been hurting. While Jim was away Zack had two episodes of pretty intense pain that were fairly short in duration. He was having his usual lack of output during the day along with a swollen stoma and prolapse thrown in to the mix. Adding to the fun was a lump that randomly appears next to his belly button.
Additionally, Zack has been suffering from some pretty intense anxiety. He is worried about dying at night. The worry is so great that it keeps him from falling to sleep. Seeing him so scared and being unable to calm him is pretty hard.
Last week Zack had a hard day with belly pain, distension and lack of output. He thought he needed to be hooked up to his feeds because he was soooo hungry. Turns out he actually had a belly ache. Once we attached him to his feeds, he began crying in pain. Jim and I felt he was OK and got him ready for bed and then things went a bit wonky. Zack was so upset about dying, convinced he was low sodium and worried about his belly that he actually asked us to take him to Walter Reed. Zack NEVER asks to go to the hospital. Jim and I were still not positive he needed to go but, because Zack is almost always right, off we went at 11:30 at night to the ER.
Zack did well until the staff began discussing getting blood for labs and then angry badger made an impressive return. Jim says angry wolverine is a more accurate description. Jim needed to restrain him. The staff discussed giving him ketamine or ativan to calm him down. I left the room because it was too upsetting to see him like that. The staff and doctor were so incredibly kind and tried really hard to help Z feel more comfortable. After about 45 minutes of fighting, Zack was able to calm himself down and no ketamine or ativan were needed. He was then able to ask the nurse if she could use a butterfly needle to get his labs and even helped her find the best vein. All labs and x-rays came back within normal limits.
The doctor said that his belly symptoms were consistent with an intermittent obstruction. These happen to him most days, but this one was particularly painful and his belly was distended making it a bit more intense than our average day. As soon as his output started back up he felt much better. Also typical for him. So basically, more of the same crazy we have every day with some major anxiety added on top for fun.
The next day, Zack’s GI doctor and I spoke. We know that Zack has narrowing near his jejunum and another 20 cm in from his ostomy. We know that surgery would probably fix that issue, but not address the underlying issue – which remains unknown. Given his history and our desire to NOT have more surgery, he came up with a three-part plan to try to help Zack. The plan is not found in any medical textbook as we are trying to find things that work specifically for Zack’s “unique” body. The first idea was to try to simulate the relief Zack seems to get with barium by essentially doing a Miralax cleanout once a week. We are on our second attempt and the reviews are mixed. Barium seems to give Zack relief for about a month. The Miralax lasts about a day.
We did not see any improvement the first week. Zack’s belly hurt the very next day and there was not any real noticeable difference in his output. We gave Zack his second dose this past Sunday and still did not notice much of a difference. Zack’s stoma has been just as swollen and his belly still hurts. However, although his output was still low today, he actually had output. Zack also asked us to give him more Miralax to help his belly feel better. So, maybe there is hope? We will continue this for a few more weeks.
If the Miralax trial does not do the trick, our next step will be to try to stent open his stoma with a red rubber catheter. Of course, Zack would need some sort of light sedation for that and well……
Our third option is to do more scopes and get full thickness biopsies to look once again for eosinophils. If we find those again, we would do a trial of steroids and if we see improvement in his belly, redo the scopes to try to prove the steroids are helping. There is much more to all of that, but the gist is to try to figure out if we are actually dealing with eosinophilic ganglionitis. Yes, we have been trying to do that for a few years, but were waiting for Zack to be a bit sicker. He still is not really technically sick enough, but it is time to try. Isn’t that nice?
In the meantime, Zack’s anxiety has been getting worse. As I said before, Zack has become so worried about dying that bedtime is just not happening. Jim and I found ourselves getting upset with Zack and frustrated with our lack of sleep rather than seeing that our child was/is actually really scared. Today we met with his psychologist and had a telephone consultation with his developmental pediatrician. Jim and I feel much better after speaking with the two of them and have a new game plan there as well. Starting tomorrow we will be switching up some meds and adding some new ones. We are also working on ways to reassure him, working on ways to help him process his thoughts and feelings, and working on ways to help distract him from those moments which are overwhelming.
Zack has also rekindled his love of watching Miracles From Heaven. It is a movie about a little girl with intestinal issues that are different from Zack, but similar in many ways. He seems to really like seeing her get an NG tube, a feeding tube and, of course, seeing Dr. Nurko make a cameo apperance. He wanted to know why God healed her and if He could heal him. He also started asking me questions tonight about what happens when you die, if you still have a family in heaven and how God heals you in heaven. While those may seem like heavy questions for an eleven year old, I prefer to see it as a good sign that we may finally be getting to the root of his anxiety.
I have several friends with kids who are chronically ill. They have reached out to us and I cannot tell you how much that means to us. While I am sad to learn that their children also suffer from anxiety over medical issues, it is nice to know we are not alone….because in the middle of the night it sure feels lonely. I hate that kids who are sick struggle with these issues. AND I am also so grateful that the doctors who care for them take this seriously and are compassionate and kind.
Lest you think all is doom and gloom around here, Zack does have some fun things happening. His Aunt Carie is in the States for a few weeks and we have some shenanigans planned with her. Tennis is in full swing (ha!) and Zack has actually been hitting the ball OVER the net this year.
Our neighborhood is full of boys and Zack has been enjoying playing with them and I love watching that. Captain Awesome is set to start some new training to hopefully learn how to be a support to Zack and Z is thrilled about that. We have also managed to hit two carnivals this summer. At the last one, Zack met up with his cousins and that always make him happy.
Tonight we made a new summer bucket list and we hope to start marking things off. High on his list are going to the beach, making slime, going to Hershey Park and playing with Jake. We still have another month to make all of that happen, right?
Hug your babies!