Fluoroscopy Results

I started typing this post on June 28 (it has taken me forever)…which was the 5th anniversary of the day Zack came home from the hospital after his first two abdominal surgeries.  It is funny to me the things my brain decides are important and need to be stored forever, like this date, and the things it decides are not, like how convert fahrenheit to celsius.  This is not totally random as I just returned from visiting my sister in Egypt where the temperature was 45 ° celsius and all my brain could figure out was that it was over 100 ° fahrenheit.  I’m so totally off topic….

On the anniversary of this occasion, I thought it might be fun to see what Zack looked like on this date five years ago.  Here he is on the drive home from the hospital.

Such a crazy scary time in our lives and the beginning of our journey into medical oddities.  It was fitting then that, on this day five years later, we found ourselves meeting with Zack’s surgeon to talk about his crazy intestines.

If you are following Zack’s story, you will remember that he had a fluoroscopy test done the last day of May.  We got the results from Zack’s GI doctor mid June, but I was away.  Our GI’s advice was to have Zack evaluated by the surgeon for consideration of correcting the narrowing seen on the imaging and to get him back on their radar…and so we did.

Zack’s surgeon and I talked for quite a long time about quite a few things.  He confirmed that there are indeed two areas of narrowing in Zack’s small bowel.  One is very near his stomach and I totally forgot to ask where the other one is.  Strange for me, I know.  For some reason, I was completely freaked out that there was a narrowing by his stomach.  I could not figure out how they would fix that and allow it to heal and still be able to feed Zack.  All that worrying for nothing (I need to quit with the worrying) as the surgeon said it is in a spot that is able to be fixed.  The issue is figuring out what our threshold for fixing it is.  I told him that Jim and I do not want to fix it until we have to and so that is our plan, for now.

One of the things Z’s surgeon said is that the narrowing could be from adhesions.  In all of Zack’s previous surgeries, he has had little to no adhesions.  His surgeons have all been surprised by this given the child has had 10 abdominal surgeries at this point.  However, it would not be surprising if this is the case now.  His surgeon said that the next time Zack is opened up, it is not going to be a little surgery.  I did not ask many questions about that because I did not want to think about it yet.  When your child has wonky things going on, sometimes it is best to try to just deal with today.  If you know me, please stop laughing now.  I realize I am almost certainly the worst at this, but sometimes I CAN actually do it.  Usually when thinking about it overwhelms me.

We also discussed how long it took for the barium to come out of Zack’s ostomy.  Although the radiologist suggested it was slow motility, it was actually showing Zack intermittently obstructing.  Z’s GI here and his surgeon in Boston have said this all along, but now we have proof.  Actually, Jim and I see proof quite often when Z goes 8-9 hours with no output, has belly pain and a distended tummy.  Proof means nothing though when nobody can say why it is happening or what the heck to do about it.  Since it has been resolving on its own, we do not need to do anything…but it is still not normal.

This not normal stuff is what has been bothering me for a long time.  I spoke to his surgeon about when we began this journey and how it was to give his colon a rest with the hope that it would begin to function properly again.  Instead, it stopped functioning altogether.  That was “fine” because a person can live without their colon.  At that time we also knew that his small bowel was functioning properly.

Since that time his small bowel has been having issues. First with the obstructions which were mechanical in nature, so fixable and not expected to be related to bowel function.  Then the prolapsing began and it was intense and severe.  Up to nine inches of intestines out daily from November 2013 until June 2014 with a few weeks breaks with revisions.  Pretty significant prolapsing again after each subsequent surgery until July 2016.  Since that time Zack has “only” had on average 3-4 prolapses a month, but prolapsing intestines are not normal.  Lately (the last few years), he has been having these intermittent obstructions and belly pain.

I went over all of this with his surgeon and told him my fear that his once seemingly normal small bowel is now having issues.  He was sympathetic and agreed that Zack’s small bowel is indeed having issues.  I told him I was worried that what happened with his colon might happen with his small bowel.  He said, “Don’t go home and google this, but that can happen.”  He also said that it would be extremely rare.  I have tried not to think too much about that, but I’m thinking about it right now! We talked about this for a bit and about the fact that there are lots of “heavy hitting things” we have not tried yet up to and including small bowel transplants.  He was in no way suggesting that Zack needs a small bowel transplant, but just the fact that we were talking about small bowel transplants as an extreme option for my child was surreal.

When Zack talked with his surgeon, his surgeon asked me if I felt his speech was less clear.  I told him that I had noticed that since I returned from my trip, but thought it might just have been because I had been away from Zack for a few days.  That got him asking about Zack’s speech, his school year, and a couple of other things.  Then we talked about what genetic testing we have had done so far.  Zack’s surgeon thinks that whatever is going on with Zack is going on cross systems in his body.  His Kennedy Krieger doctor has been saying this all along.  He said that genetic testing has improved a lot in the 6 years since Z’s last test and suggested we do a much more involved test.  We have a referral in for the geneticist to begin that process in the near future.

We also discussed having Zack more closely followed for now.  Those narrowings in his intestines are still problematic.  Both his GI and surgeon want us to bring him in for an urgent fluoroscopy if his pain returns and we have instructions to have a low threshold for waiting to come in for that.  His surgeon will be out of the country next month.  However, he has left instructions that he is to be contacted directly if Zack comes in to the ED.  I am hopeful that will not happen.  We will see him again once he returns at the beginning of August.

Jim and Zack both reported that Z’s belly did pretty well while I was gone.  It hurt quite a bit today. I told Zack that maybe I should go back on vacation so that his belly would stop hurting.  But seriously, we have noticed that Zack has not prolapsed since his fluoroscopy and that his belly pain has been less as well.  I told both doctors that Jim and I have noticed a difference in pain and prolapsing after these tests.  Although it does not make sense, it could be that the barium is opening up a partial obstruction. It is out of the box thinking and clearly I am not a doctor, but somehow he feels better for a short time after having fluoroscopy studies.

Whew.  That is a lot of information.  Thank you for sticking with me through this long and involved post.  Sometimes writing this blog is a great way for me to brain dump all of the things I just learned.  It helps me process them, although whether I process them accurately remains to be seen.  It is immensely helpful to me, however, when I look back on my posts.  I am able to remember details that would have been forever lost in my brain and replaced by random dates and phone numbers and songs from the 80’s.  It also helps keep my family happy and updated and off my back….just kidding…mostly.

I leave you with a few pictures of Zack’s summer so far.  We are looking forward to a relaxing summer of playing outside, days at the pool and quiet intestines!

Zack and his pup.

Brown belt promotion.

Hug your babies!




Capernaum Prom

He may only be eleven years old, but tonight Zack attended his first ever prom!  Crazy, I know…and super fun.

For the past year Zack has been attending a Young Life Club at our church called Capernaum.  Taken directly from the younglife.org web page: Young Life Capernaum gives young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the chance to experience fun and adventure, to develop fulfilling friendships and to challenge their limits while building self-esteem through club, camp and other exciting activities. Without a doubt, club night is Zack’s favorite night of the month.

When Zack began attending Capernaum, we had no idea about prom.  We began hearing about it as the year progressed and thought it would be a fun thing to do.  We also imagined that it would be similar to most of the other meetings of the year with a little dancing mixed in…..WRONG!  This was a full-out PROM people.  The rest of this post will just be videos and pictures of Zack’s amazing night with a few comments thrown in to make things more interesting!

While I CAN tie a decent tie, my skills are a bit rusty now that our older boys are grown.  Jim was away on business this week, so our neighbor kindly offered to help make sure Zack had a good-looking knot.  Thanks, Bill!Zachary’s Grand Entrance!  This was how all of the participants were announced.  Zack definitely felt like a VIP tonight.  Zack was escorted by his buddy, Dan.  Or as Zack likes to call him, “My life-long best friend.”

The amazing Elizabeth, Capernaum Leader and dear friend.  I am still in awe thinking about all of the work that went into this night!

The kids were treated to limo rides.  I am pretty sure my son thought he was in heaven.  And really, tonight was a like a little taste of heaven on earth.  It has been a really hard year for Zack, in many different ways, so being loved on and treated with such kindness was just what this kiddo needed.  At bedtime he asked if he will still be a VIP tomorrow.  I told him he will always be a VIP to me.  He asked if that meant I would buy him a limo…

Zack, Dan and their buddy Jake.

Zack with sweet Abby.  We love her.

The face of a child in awe and wonder.  I mean, come on!  That is pure joy right there.  I hope he has this look on his face often over the course of his life.  Like his flower?  They thought of everything….goodness knows his mama did not think of that!

Photo booth with his BFF.

What dance would be complete without a conga line?

Zack busting out his moves with his buddies who graduated from high school just last night.  Can I just take a moment to tell you how amazing these guys (and girls) are?  Their hearts for people with disabilities is something beautiful to see.  The way they love on these kids, enjoy hanging out with them and encouraging them is truly remarkable.  I cannot even begin to describe how it blesses us.

Zack only allowed me to dance with him twice tonight.  And so it begins….those teenage years are almost here.  I will take what I can get, even if dancing means I hold his 60 pound body and jump around while he sings.  I am pretty sure that counts as an extra workout, right?  Happily, he did agree to take a picture with me and ended the night giving me great big hugs.  I guess I will keep him around a little bit longer.

And there you have it, Zachary’s first ever prom.  It was definitely a night to remember.  Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make it such a special night!

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn

Fluoroscopy and Zack’s Intestines

Over the past two weeks, Zack’s intestines have been a real pain in the gut.  He had been having some intense belly pain and little output.  He did not have distention or vomiting, so I was not overly concerned when it started.  But then he started missing school.  Three different days over the past two weeks.  The pain kept him home and on the sofa or on the floor – see the picture below:

As you may know, Zack does not nap and he does not sit still…unless he feels pretty lousy.  The other concerning thing about these pain episodes was the sheer volume of output that occurred once it resolved.  Seriously.  When Zack loses fluid that quickly his sodium levels tank fast.  He looked terrible.  Luckily, his doctors have armed us with rescue doses of his electrolyte replacement and we know to pump it into that little body of his.  This seems to work, but it still takes a lot out of our guy.

The last time this happened, Zachary’s school nurse said he really didn’t have any bowel sounds or very, very faint ones.  He was very uncomfortable, so we reached out to his GI doctor about our concerns.  He decided that Zack should have a baseline fluoroscopy to see what was happening.  Our plan is to have an urgent fluoroscopy the next time he has that intense pain.  The problem is that we live a little more than an hour away from Walter Reed in normal traffic.  Getting him there while the obstruction is in full swing could be hard since, so far, they seem to resolve on their own.  If we can see what is happening in the middle of the intense pain and compare it to his baseline fluoroscopy, maybe we will glean some new information.

Today Zack had his baseline fluoroscopy.  He has had many of these done in the past, and we have never before seen anything that helps explain his pain.  When we went in this morning, I prepared Zack that this would likely be our outcome once again.  He asked the radiologist to, “Please find the reason my belly hurts.”  A tall order for sure.

Surprisingly, we actually found some issues today.  There was some bowel dilation shortly after the stomach with a transition zone or narrowing of the intestines right after that.  For awhile we thought there might be two spots, but I think it was decided that we were looking at the same spot from different angles.  I’m not really clear on that.  After that spot, the barium made it through the intestines appropriately until the end by Zack’s stoma where it pooled for an extraordinarily long time.  It took five hours and thirty-five minutes for the barium to come out of Zachary’s stoma.  The radiologist said she had not seen it take that long to come out of a patient since she was a fellow.  I did not ask her how long ago that was…it seemed inappropriate.

The radiologist felt that the pooling of the barium in the spot near the opening of the stoma was most likely due to dysmotility.  I do not think that is the case – and, as you know, I spent many years in medical school….  It feels wrong to disagree with a doctor, but let me tell you why I do.  First, I cannot let myself even entertain the thought that Zack’s small bowel has poor motility now.  I just can’t.  Second, Zachary’s ileostomy has so much out everyday and usually so quickly that this does not even make sense.  If his motility was slow, I do not think we would have this volume everyday and struggle so much with low sodium issues.

My theory is the same as his surgeon from Boston and possibly his GI here.  I should ask him. I know we all agree he is intermittently obstructing.  I think his stoma is prolapsing internally.  Meaning, I think it is getting stuck on itself near the opening and preventing output from coming out from time to time.  His stoma was pretty swollen once the barium went in and was trying to prolapse, but did not.  It goes along with my theory and I want it to be right.  So there.

So what does all of this mean?  I actually have no idea.  I know that according to our visit today, it appears we have two separate issues going on.  I know that nobody wants to operate on Zack unless absolutely necessary, but the dilation and narrowing of the intestine seem like a potential surgical issue.  When Zack and I left today, the GI team was meeting in radiology for their weekly review of all the pediatric procedures completed there this week.  I know Zack’s GI will be reviewing the results.  I have no idea what to think or what to expect.  My guess is that as long as these things continue to resolve on their own, we will wait and see.  But really, I know nothing. Welcome to my world.

As always, though, my hope is that Zack’s doctors will help turn this face:

Back into this face:

Just to clarify (and to keep from freaking anyone out), at the moment he is fine.  I will update with more information when we figure it out.

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn



Special Olympics 2018

Before I tell you all about Zack’s amazing day, a health update.  This last month has been rough on Zack.  His belly has hurt since his surgery and for no discernible reason.  He has been consuming a LOT of Tylenol and Motrin.  A lot.  The good news is that those medicines help with his pain and he has not needed to be seen for anything stronger.

He will tell you that his g-tube still hurts.  I am sure that is true, but nothing is visibly wrong with it.  Sadly, we think his keloid is growing back and that stinks.  In addition, he prolapsed 4 times last week alone.  Prolapsing hurts and gets in the way of things Zack likes to do.  He does not like that.  Last Friday we had an impromptu neighborhood picnic and he did not want to miss it.  He was in pain in the shower and mad about missing fun, so he took the handheld shower head and pushed his intestines back into his body.  Because why not?  That did not feel super great, so I don’t think he will do that again.  I hope….

All of the belly pain has meant he has not been eating much.  Because Zack’s doctor increased his feeds, he has not been losing weight which is good.  But he is not gaining weight at the moment like we had hoped.  Thank goodness for feeding tubes.

Enough of the medical stuff….

Zack woke up this morning at 6:20 a.m. ready to get on the school bus, which arrives at 8:27.  Why?  Today was the Special Olympics and it is one of Zack’s favorite days of the year.

Getting greeted by cheerleaders.

This year, several of Zack’s classmates and their homeroom teacher came along to be his cheering section.  As usual, they made some awesome signs, offered lots of encouragement, and were super kind to brave the extremely frosty morning. It was 38 balmy degrees and windy as all get out at 9:30 a.m. when they all arrived.

Mrs. Solomon – Zack’s Homeroom Teacher

In addition to Zack’s classmates, Zack had several other people in his cheering section.  Mr. Tozer, his coach, has been helping Zack for the past three years.  He really knows how to motivate Zack to do his best.

Mr. Tozer coaching Zack before his tennis ball throw.

Zack’s grandma and cousin, Kelsey, were there today as well.  Kelsey has such a kind and compassionate heart for Zack.  She also helped me corral him and that is a true gift given the amount of energy Z had today.  Grandma is one of Zack’s biggest supporters and comes to the Special Olympics every year.








Zack also had his buddy, Dan, there to cheer him on.  I’ve written about Dan before.  This young man truly has a gift with children and especially kids with special needs.  Zack lights up when Dan is around and is always asking when he can see him next. Zack also says that Dan is his best friend because he listens to him and is kind and likes to play Lego. His parents have raised an exceptional young man!
Some other fun pictures:

Zack and his buddy, Jake, getting their tennis throw medals.

Long jump

Zack’s long jump video


100 Meter Dash

Home with his adoring fans.

And that, my friends, is all the typing these fingers can handle for one day.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn




You Know You Are In Trouble When….

You know you are in trouble when your sister hears from someone else what is happening with your child and reprimands you AGAIN for not updating your blog….I really think she needs to get on Facebook to hear all the most current info.  Because she is extra amazing, I will indulge her request.  But first…enjoy this photo of my two sisters and Zack.  Carie (on the left) lives overseas and came back for a quick trip a few weeks ago.  We all spent the weekend together at Becky’s house (on the right) and Zack was able to debut his new shirt. I’m sure they will both be thrilled that I posted photos of them.  Sisterly love?

Enough of the family stuff.  When I last posted, Zack had just returned home from his hospital stay. We had been told that his surgery site would be painful and I wrote about how it really was not painful at all.  Yeah, why did I do that?

A day or two after getting home, Zack’s surgical site started looking very angry and red.  Then it started weeping.  Zack started having lots of pain.  Soon there was pus.  It was gross and evidently infected.  We headed back to the surgeon and Zack was given antibiotics which we knew would help him feel better right away.  Except they did not.

We could tell that the infection was looking better, but Zack was not feeling better.  His g-tube just kept hurting.  The pain was pretty intense and kept us from attaching him to feeds and his CeraLyte.  We could tell he was losing weight and beginning to have headaches and look unwell  Even worse, it kept him from sleeping.  Nobody in this house does well without sleep.  Nobody.

Last night was the last straw.  Zack did not fall asleep until a little after 2 a.m.  We disconnected his feeds, gave Motrin, rubbed his back, rubbed his belly, and prayed like crazy that he would just go.to.sleep.  Today Zack was scheduled to have some benchmark testing at school, but he was exhausted and I let him sleep until he woke up. I am happy to report that I took him to school in time for the test.  While he was at school, I tried to reach his surgeon and texted his GI.

Zack’s surgeon had us come in and decided that they would take out those pesky plastic bolsters that were placed for his g-tube to sit on while the incision healed.  They were sutured to his skin in four places surrounding his g-tube and we were pretty sure that they were the cause of all the pain.  You know, the pain the surgeon warned us about…that I said he didn’t have in my last post?  Just reminding myself that I said that.

Because of Zack’s angry badger history, they had an OR scheduled for Wednesday in the event that he was unable to handle the procedure.  It was only four little sutures, but things smaller than that have caused him to lose his mind before.

I am happy to report that Zack did incredibly well today.  He was able to have his sutures removed with the appropriate amount of pain.  Before we left, we made sure we could get Zack’s g-tube extender placed without too much pain.  We were also able to see one of his Wound Ostomy Nurses who helped form a barrier between the wound and his ostomy belt so that it would not rub on the raw skin.  And most importantly of all, he was cleared to participate in all of his normal activities once again.

Jim and I knew that Zack had lost weight and we were curious to see how much.  As part of Zack’s vitals check he was officially weighed.  Turns out he has lost between 3-4 pounds depending on which scale we use.  We look forward to getting calories and sodium into him tonight.  We are also hoping his appetite returns quickly. Pain and low sodium can result in decreased appetite.  Over the past few days he has eaten so little it is amazing he has any energy.  On Saturday his entire caloric intake consisted of half of the crust off one piece of pizza.  Yesterday he had a few bites of cereal and a few bites of ramen.  Tonight he actually ate two forks full of noodles and a jello cup.  Baby steps.

On Friday we will see Zack’s surgeon on more time to make sure he is continuing to heal.  I am sure that he will…..

I leave you tonight with a photo I just found on my phone.  I love finding surprises like this, but I am not so sure if Cap loved having his picture taken!  He seems to be saying, “Save me from all the love!”

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn


Surgery #10

Quick update.  Zack started complaining of g-tube pain in school on Tuesday.  His school nurse told me his g-tube area looked swollen.  Being an awesome mom, I told her it always looks that way.  I was wrong.  She was right.

That evening Zack was in a LOT of pain.  We spoke with our friend who suggested contacting his doctor and taking him in to the ER.  We texted Z’s GI doctor who suggested the same thing, but at that point it was 11:30 p.m. and Z had finally fallen asleep.

Yesterday I figured I could probably get an appointment and avoid all the germs in the ER.  Wrong.  Off we went.  Saw Peds right away and the surgery team came quickly as well.  Did a contrast study to show g-tube was placed right and noticed the balloon looked defective.  Z still in pain, so we decided he would come back in the morning to have the area numbed and to get the tube out and a new one resized.

Today started off that way, but our GI nurse extraordinaire suspected it was actually stomach mucosa.  Doctors came in and agreed.  Surgery called again.  Several hours later it was determined that this needs to be fixed.

Currently we have three different scenarios of what will happen.  The easiest involves an overnight stay.  The more complex a stay of 4-5 days.  Zack will be admitted in the morning with surgery being an add on late in the day.  We will keep you posted (Dad, Carie, Sandy).

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn

Rare Disease Day

It’s Rare Disease Day.  You may be wondering what the heck that means.  What is the purpose of Rare Disease Day?  According to rarediseaseday.org:

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year. The main objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.The campaign targets primarily the general public and also seeks to raise awareness amongst policy makers, public authorities, industry representatives, researchers, health professionals and anyone who has a genuine interest in rare diseases.”

In honor of the day, Zack decided he wanted to paint his face like many other people with rare diseases are doing.  He is hoping that his friends will ask him what his face paint is for so that he can explain rare disease day to them.  He wants his classmates to know that rare diseases affect a lot of people.  In fact, 1 in 20 people will live with a rare disease at some point in their lives. He wants them to know that there are many different types of rare diseases, many go undiagnosed (Zack), and many have no cures.  If you live near us and see Zack today, be sure to ask him about his face!  Just look at that cuteness:

I hope that seeing Zack will inspire you to read about rare diseases here. Chances are you know someone besides Z with a rare disease.  Maybe this will give you a better understanding of how families like ours live.

I am finding it hard to find a way to segue into my next topic.  Please forgive me.  My brain is tired.

Zack is currently doing about the same medically, although these past few days have been a bit challenging.  His belly is currently distended and painful.  He is able to eat and go to school and play, so it is not a medical emergency.  However, his stomach is noticeably bigger and his output is noticeably lower.  I spoke via text with his doctor for our monthly Z update and told him my concerns.  He agreed with my suspicion that Zack is probably having an intermittent partial bowel obstruction.  This is not new for Zack, sadly. My concern is that partial bowel obstructions can lead to complete bowel obstructions. Jim and I feel confident that he is doing okay for now.  My mama radar is definitely on alert, but at a low level.  I’m hoping it stays that way.

Speaking with Zack’s doctor is always reassuring and having him agree with my (our) assessment helps ease my anxiety. I wish it could help Zack feel better as well…but I will take what I can get. Zack’s doctor reminded me that given his surgical history, we do not really want to mess with him – unless it becomes worse.  Jim and I totally agree. The lesson here?  Go out immediately and buy stock in Tylenol and Motrin.  We are single handedly increasing their value.  You are welcome for the tip.

In addition to his belly, Zack is continuing to have a hard year in school.  His ADHD medication continues to be an issue.  Between the Quillivant debacle and trying to appropriately dose his new medication, his ability to focus has been severely affected. He is struggling in many areas, but especially in math.  We had an IEP meeting today to discuss many things.  Hopefully we have come up with some new ideas of ways to help Zack be successful in school.  Watching him struggle is hard and frustrating and exhausting.  Jim and I continue to advocate for him and appreciate all of the ways his school is trying to help him.

Although all of these things are challenging for Zack, he continues to meet each day with a smile.  I am constantly amazed by that and grateful to be his mom.

Hug your babies,

~ Dawn



A Different Kind of Post

Yesterday I encountered a situation so foreign to me, that I actually had to pinch myself to make sure it actually happened.  I was going about my day when I received an email from a stranger telling me that she believed one of my photos from my blog had been “stolen” by a person on Instagram who was claiming it as their own.  She sent me a screen shot of the Instagram post and my blog with the same photo.

Being rather leery of emails from strangers, I was hesitant to believe her.  After some digging, however, I found that it was actually true.  Admittedly I was angry and also found myself speculating about the identity of the Instagram account owner.  The account showed a young woman from the UK who claimed to be ill with a number of different ailments.  My mind immediately wondered if this was true or if it was perhaps a big man in a thong in Bermuda.  I am just being honest.  It was not a kind thought and I am not proud of myself for thinking it, but who knows what is real on social media these days.

I do not post pictures of Zack’s ileostomy.  It is private and a line I choose not to cross.  There may come a day when he and I decide together to do this, but I cannot currently think of any reason to do so.  This particular picture showed Zack’s ileostomy bag full of blood.  It is an old picture taken over three years ago. It is faceless, shows no skin and could be anybody.  Still, to see his picture being claimed by a stranger to show others how ill she was really upset me.

I contacted Instagram and they removed the photo.  My sister and Jake contacted the account owner and expressed their “unhappiness” with the situation.  Let me just tell you, Zack has a great many people looking out for him!  However, Jim and I decided not to contact her right away, but rather sit with our thoughts for a bit and pray for her.

As I have done that, I have felt my heart soften for this person.  If indeed she is the young woman shown in her profile picture, she is very young.  Clearly, my photo is not the only photo she has used in this way.  Her cry for attention is loud. What causes a person to steal a picture of a sick child, put it up and Instagram and claim it is a picture of their current situation?  Is she lonely?  Suffering from a mental illness?  I recently read about an illness called factitious disorder where people do this very thing.

While I am not happy that Zack’s picture was used in this manner, I find myself worried about this stranger.  I hope that she is able to find the help that she needs to get better and to understand her worth.  I hope that she is surrounded by people who love her and encourage her.  I hope that she will come to know how much God loves her.  I think I will be praying for this young woman for a long time.

~ Dawn

Zack, Cap, and Life

Look at these two.  Can you believe the cuteness?  I like posting happy picture likes these on Instagram and Facebook.

A cute young man and his beloved pup, sitting together so nicely on a long car ride.  The pup looks adoringly at the young man. I’ve been instructed to call him this from now on. The young man telling his pup all about his new game….

But here is what the picture leaves out…This week was a tough week for both Zack and Cap.  Let’s begin with Zack.  Christmas vacation officially ended January 2 around here.  After almost two months without a prolapse, I received a call from school that Zack was prolapsing, there was blood and he had belly pain.  Belly pain is not surprising.  Anytime one’s intestines burst forth from one’s body there is bound to be pain.

While we do not know why Zack began prolapsing again, it is not really surprising.  The almost two month break is the real surprise.  Interestingly, this time his prolapse followed a day where Zack had over five hours of no output.  A new hypothesis of mine is that Zack’s belly issues are cyclical in nature.  I realize that I am not a doctor, or a nurse, or medically trained in any way at all.  Since everyone else is stumped, I figure that I have just as much of a chance at being right as they do, right?

For the rest of the week, Zack had periods of belly pain.  Over the course of forty-eight hours, we changed Z’s ostomy wafer and bag NINE times.  NINE!  We have heard of mythical people whose wafers last three to five days and we aspire to become like them.  Sadly, Zack’s have historically lasted for just one day.  On rare occasions they last two days and we celebrate.  Really.  Going through a few wafers a day happens more than we would like, but three wafers a day for three days is crazy even for us.

Over the course of those three days, we experienced some crazy things.  Zack’s bag fell off in Jake’s room on the carpet.  After extensive carpet cleaning this remains:

Try not to be jealous.  To be fair, Jake and Zack were in engaged in an energetic dance party.  We are pretty sure that Zack’s bag was accidentally knocked off in all the excitement.  We have lived in our house for six years now.  It was almost time for new carpet anyway.  Almost.

On Saturday night, Zack’s wafer exploded from too much output.  Exploded is misleading.  He had a significant amount of output.  The output ate through the glue that holds his wafer to his skin.  This has happens from time to time. To protect Z’s bed, we keep a plastic mattress cover under Zack’s mattress pad and sheets.

Until now, this has worked pretty well.  Sadly, we did not realize there was a tiny hole in the plastic.  When Zack’s bag exploded, there was over 600 milliliters of output in his bed.  We have no idea how long Zack slept in that mess before he woke up. Stool from an ileostomy is corrosive and can cause damage to the skin in a short amount of time.  Zack’s belly and back were a mess and painful for a day or so, but looking much better now.

Stool trapped under a plastic sheet on a mattress can cause damage to a mattress in a short amount of time as well.  I could add more details to the horror, but let me end this gross story by saying that Zack will be getting a new bed.  He is turning eleven in a few days and outgrowing his twin anyway…at least that is what I am telling myself to feel better about the bed carnage…do not remind me of the carpet…this is getting expensive!

Now, on to the furry one.  Over the past two weeks, this pup has overdosed on ADHD medicine.  He had his stomach pumped, got three doses of activated charcoal and spent the day in the hospital.  Upon returning home, this cute boy was urinating every ten minutes.  Seriously.  Turns out he had some kind of bacterial infection.  He is now finishing a course of antibiotics and doing a lot better, thankfully.

However, the morning of the bed disaster?  Once we got Zack and his room under control, we took Cap out of his kennel to go outside.  We got down the stairs, reached for the leash and that was all she wrote…his bladder was done.  All over the Turkish rug.  That we actually purchased in Turkey.  The one that you cannot just steam clean.  Good thing everyone loves this pup so much.

These pictures of Zack and Cap and their adorableness got me thinking about life and what we/I share with others.  It is easy to share happy pictures.  But everyone has their stuff, everyone.  Ours is chronic illness and an insanely curious puppy.  I love sharing our happy pictures with you, but I also like being real with people. That is one of the reasons I write this blog.  I guess my real update for the month is that we are doing our best to enjoy life.  Trying to find the humor among the literal poop that happens in our day and working hard to keep Zack stable.  Here’s to 2018.  May it be as kind to us as 2017 and may this be the year someone figures out Zack’s intestines.

Hug your babies!

~ Dawn

Doctor Visits, Puppy Updates, and Zack!

Hello Blogosphere!

It has been so long since I have updated that I feared I might have forgotten my password.  In reality, I have been struggling with if I want to continue to update this site while Zack is doing well.  It takes time and brain power and there is just so much one can talk about when life is humming along.  But then I remembered that the reason I started writing in the first place was not just because of Zack’s colon.  Rather, I started writing to share our experiences of working through life with a special needs child and everything that entails.  My hope was that someone might stumble across this blog and find something helpful in their own journey.  Zack’s colon just turned out to be an attention hog and shut out the other areas that make our life unique. Even though things are a bit calmer on the colon front at the moment, I still have things I want to share about navigating through this crazy special needs world.  So, for now, I have decided to type on…..

When I last posted at the end of September, Zack was getting ready to have some doctor appointments.  His first visit was to his Developmental Pediatrician.  Jim and I always have a lot of questions for this particular doctor.  I mean, she is the expert and we crave information. Information is power, right?  Except when there are no clear-cut answers.  Just like with his colon.  I just cannot let that be. It’s a character flaw I suppose.  Or just another way I am learning that in somethings only faith can give me peace.

At this particular visit, we discussed once again how Zack’s uniqueness is most likely linked to his chromosomal abnormality.  Because there are so many aspects of his body that work differently than his typically developing peers, this makes sense to us.  We also talked about the dreaded questions.  What will Zack’s life look like when he is no longer a child?  Will he be able to graduate from high school with a diploma or a certificate?  Will he be able to live independently?  Will he be able to handle bills?  Will he be able to have a family?  Support a family?  How do we plan for all of these different scenarios?

The answers to those questions are not ones I want to share here.  I do not believe in sharing predictions about my son’s future at the tender age of ten.  Rather, I want to allow him to grow on his own and let his body and brain (and God) decide how his story will play out.  But I am still a planner and a realist, so we talked about ways to help Zack develop into the best Zack he can be.  We discussed ways to help him become more independent and some important life skills that we need to work on in the next few years.  We talked about services that are available to families with kids who have special needs and how to apply for them.

One of those services is a grant program called LISS or Low Intensity Support Services.  This program provides funding to children with severe chronic disabilities, both developmental and physical, that are likely to continue indefinitely.  We were able to apply, but sadly were not chosen to receive the grant.  The selection process is completely random, by design, and occurs twice a year.  We plan to apply again in the spring and are crossing our fingers that we will eventually be selected.  The grant can be used for things like respite care (Oh, to dare to dream..), social skill opportunities (karate), medical equipment and other things.  We have been eligible for this grant all along and did not know it!  The important thing is we know about it now and that is why I am sharing it here.  Maybe someone else can benefit from this information as well.  It may just be a Maryland program.  I briefly researched this (like looked at one google search page) and could only find information about our state, but I’m betting other states have a similar program.

When Jim retired from the Air Force, we lost our respite care benefit.  We have wonderful health care overall.  I feel guilty even complaining about respite care.  However, Zack’s care is a bit tricky and not many people are comfortable caring for kids with ostomies and g-tubes.  Even family members who love our kiddo have to team up to help us as it can be overwhelming for one person to figure things out.  If we are lucky enough to eventually be selected for this grant, Jim and I might even be able to leave Zack for more than a few hours. Life goals…..

Zack also had a check-up with his GI doctor and things went really well.  Zack really likes going to Walter Reed and seeing his favorite doctors, nurses and social worker.  We learned that Zack’s weight has plateaued this year.  While that is not ideal, he has grown two inches in height which indicates he is doing better.  Jim and I are once again grateful for Zack’s g-tube as we can play with the amount of formula we give him overnight to encourage more weight gain.

While we were in with Zack’s doctor, a new GI fellow popped in to say hello.  Zack did not recognize her and, in true Z fashion, asked if we knew her.  It was a bit embarrassing, but she was very gracious.  She told Zack that she used to help take care of him on the ward as a resident and that he inspired her to go into Gastroenterology as her specialty.  I guess she really said that my pictures of his 9″ prolapses inspired her, but we will just go with Zack’s cuteness inspiring her.  Hearing that was such a blessing.  Knowing that Zack’s illness helped someone decide to want to help children like Zack…..it was very humbling.  Hopefully one day Zack will understand what that means as well.  Who knows, maybe she will be the one to finally figure his intestines out.

Several other great things came from our visit that day.  First, Zack was able to get his blood work done in the office with minimal fuss.  He was apprehensive and a bit uncooperative at first but, once he remembered that he would be rewarded for doing a good job, he held it together and even helped the nurse find his “good vein”.  This is a huge improvement and something we have been working on weekly at therapy for over a year.  Secondly, because we are managing so well at home we do not need to go back for 6 months!  Six months people!  I do not think this child has gone six months without being seen for GI issues since he was two years old!  It may even be longer than that!

November was a wonderful anomaly around here.  Zack did not prolapse once.  He did not have any obstructive episodes and needed minimal pain medicine.  This must be what “normal” ostomies are like.  It was delightful.  For the past two days, however, Zack is once again asking for Motrin and Tylenol for belly pain, not eating his breakfast or lunch and going back to his belly baseline.  Thankfully, the obstructive episodes and prolapses have not yet returned.  Fingers crossed….but we expect they will be back soon as well.

Now for the fun stuff.  Because Zack has managed to stay out of the hospital for quite some time now, we decided we needed a little more excitement in our lives and added a new family member.  I introduce to you, Captain Awesome Penrod, our new Golden Retriever puppy.

He’s a big, smushy, furry ball of love AND teeth.  Let’s not forget about those puppy teeth.  I hope that it is obvious that the small blonde one named the pup.  We could not talk him out of it and then the name just seemed to fit – both the dog and Zack.  We call him Cap and our vision for him is to train him to be a therapy dog and to one day be able to take him to visit children in the hospital.  Therapy dogs make/made such a difference for Zack and we would love to give back in that way.  He’s a pretty mellow pup, so we are hopeful.

We are also hopeful that Cap will help Zack with several things.  First, we hope that Cap will help Zack with his anxiety.  We have found a few people who are willing to help train Cap to recognize when Z’s anxiety is ramping up and to help calm him.  Of course, Cap will need to be much older than three months to start that training.  Second, we hope that Cap will be a good companion for Zack.  Third, we hope that our pup will help nurture Zack’s sense of responsibility as he learns to care for Cap.  No pressure, pup, but we expect great things from you!

In addition to the excitement of our new puppy, we also have a new celebrity in the house.  Zack made his TV debut tonight.  Take a look!

As the Christmas Season rapidly approaches and all of my cards are sent and all of my shopping is done (in my dreams), I am stuck by how lucky we are to be in this season of relative good health.  It has been a long road of illness for Zack and I am so incredibly thankful to have a Christmas where we can all relax and not worry about hospitals.

Although this year is a good one in our home, I cannot help but stop and think of some special friends that are struggling this year.  I think of our friend, Jim, who went to heaven just a few days ago after a long medical illness and his family who will have their first Christmas without him.  I think of our friend, Emmy, who just went through her second bone marrow transplant and is hoping to be able to be home for Christmas.  I think of our friend, Ryan, who is kicking cancer’s butt and just entered the land of ileostomies.  I think of my friend’s daughter whose family is trying so hard to find answers to her intestinal issues.  I think of our friend, Kayra, who lives in Turkey and has been sick for so very many years and just wants to be a little boy.  I think of my friend, Stephanie, who is missing her beautiful boy, Logan, as the one year anniversary of his passing is quickly approaching. I think of one of Zack’s doctors whose son passed away.  While Christmas is and should be a joyful remembrance of Jesus’ birth, my heart is heavy with prayers for my friends and I am reminded that, for some, Christmas can be a hard time of year.

Wherever this Christmas Season finds you, I hope that you will find the time to slow down and treasure all that is important to you and that you find time to hug your babies!.

~ Dawn