Judah’s first chemo

Judah’s first chemo is this morning. Please pray that is all goes smoothly, that he has little side effects. Pray that he isn’t scared.
He will have blood draws at 7:45 then meeting with the dr at 8:00 then chemo from 9-11.
Thanks for the prayer support! Love you all.

Judah got a little sick in the middle of the treatment but was ok by the end. They gave him zofran for nausea and we will continue that every 8hrs for the next 48 hrs. Thankfully, his immune system will not be compromised until next wks treatment but we are having to learn a lot about germs, infection, and how to protect our little family. If one of us gets sick after next week, we will have to go stay somewhere else. Gotta keep the germs away as much as possible. Investing in hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes, haha!

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baseline testing

We got to go to our home away from home as a family last night for the first time in almost a month! Judah got to take a real bath for the first time in over a month. We had dinner together, watched a movie together, read stories together and then went to bed! It was surreal and lovely and we thanked our precious Jesus for such a sweet return.
This morning we are back at Vandy for Judah’s baseline testing. Basically, they are checking kidney function, platelets/red/white blood cell counts, and liver functions. He will also have his hearing checked as hearing loss is a possible side effect of his chemo.
He wasn’t thrilled to be back here and when the nurses accessed his port, drew blood and injected the medicine for testing he was even less thrilled! It was pretty awful because the medicine had to be injected into a vein, not the port, but most of his easy veins were blown from previous ivs. It took them a good while but after they got it, it was smooth sailing.
Now we are just waiting for the 2hr mark to go get ckd again. Should be done around 1 today.

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Port Surgery, Post Surgery, and Discharged! What a day!

Judah has been taken back to surgery for his port placement. He was pretty upset when they wheeled him off. Prayers for comfort for Judah and steady handed Drs!

Judah is out of surgery and everything went as planned. He now has his port in place for chemo.
Please pray he bounces back from anesthesia quickly and his recovery continues to make steady progress. We are also hoping to get discharged soon and hope the feeding tube comes out.

Also join us in prayer for a definite plan for his OT/PT/Speech. Right now we don’t know where we are going or how those appts will look. We also need a plan for chemo if we get to come back to Knoxville for his therapy. Pray for clear direction.

We are officially discharged from the hospital!!!
We will be coming back tomorrow for baseline testing and then Wednesday is our first Chemo treatment but after that we get to come home to Knoxville!
We have been working hard for a week to figure out where we could do Judah’s pt/ot/speech and after giving up on Knoxville, I woke this morning and felt the urge to call East Tennessee Children’s Rehabilitation Center and just tell them our story in hopes they would change their minds about speech (it was wait listed for 6 months). They listened and then said that our oncologist could call and talk to them and of they felt Judah’s case was immediate enough they would move him to the top of the list.
So at 10am this morning I told our Case Manager, who told our oncologist, who agreed Andrew some calls and then after hrs of back and forth we got the word that they had agreed to take him!
So now we get to come home and do pt/ot/speech and Chemo in Knoxville! We are so grateful that we will be home, surrounded by our community, friends, support system. Thank you for your prayers. Keep them up. We have a long road and it is really just beginning. God is directing our path and we are finding that though this isn’t the rd we would choose, our sweet Jesus will not abandon us and will continue to go before us and behind us.

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Port Surgery tomorrow

Judah’s had a good couple of days.

As I sit here typing this, he’s snuggled in his hospital bed playing. That’s a big deal because he used to do that every night when we’d put him to bed but hasn’t since the surgery. We’d put him in bed around 8:30 and he’d lay there reciting the dialog or humming the theme music to his favorite movies or acting out fighting scenes from his Next Avengers cartoon until usually 9:30 or 10 (we’d only have to tell him to be quiet 3 or 4 times before he’d hush). He’s not quite back to his chatty self at the moment but he’s over there swinging and punching his way through some imaginary fight scene.

Judah got to spend yesterday afternoon and most of this morning with Papa Doc and Mumzy and got to spend this afternoon with Mimi and Papaw. A friend from our church who’s been through chemo before came and visited and showed Judah her port so he wouldn’t be scared of tomorrow’s surgery.

Most importantly, Judah has spent the last two days eating! He’s had three full meals a day for two days now and has eaten almost all of them. The docs still insist on giving him tube feedings at night but I feel like he’s getting the calories he needs now during normal eating. There is a chance he’ll get to go home tomorrow after his port surgery so we’re praying for a quick recovery so everyone will feel comfortable sending him home! The first chemo treatment will be on Wednesday so we won’t have time to head all the way back to Knoxville but at least he’ll be out of the hospital.

We also hope to get a few more details ironed out about his physical/occupational/speech therapy tomorrow so prayers for God’s guidance in that area are also appreciated.

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judah eats more food

Judah had a good night and woke this morning hungry. He ate 3 pieces of bacon, 2 strawberries, 1 container of blueberry yogurt, and 3/4 a carton of milk! Off to a good start! Keep praying he continues to improve and the tube comes out!

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real food and we get out of the PICU!

Judah got to try some yogurt for the first time since the surgery! Swallow study this afternoon will tell us if he can go back to eating regular food.

Judah passed his swallow study so he gets Chic-Fil-A for dinner tonight! We got to drive him around the hospital in a wagon with no wires and no nurses and he got a couple of stuffed animals from the gift shop. His speech is getting better his strength is growing and he’s in a better mood. Thank you for your continued prayers and praise Jesus for a happy and healing little boy!

What a day this has been! Judah wakes talking, plays hard, eats yogurt, passes his swallow study, gets out of the PICU for a wagon ride, and then comes back to his room for some Chic-Fil-A only to be told he will be moving to the floor soon!!! Praise Jesus for such a wonderful, hope restoring day.
Thank you for being a praying people.
He is now comfortably resting!

http://youtu.be/HKGV2TTXU8o

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Still here…

Still in the PICU.

Judah had a couple of naps today and during each of them he had a “desat”. That’s med-speak for his blood losing it’s oxygen saturation level. I put it in quotes (and yes I’m a little bitter) because I don’t actually believe either of the occasions were a real loss of oxygen in the blood but false positives inherent to the way this is measured. I made my case to the docs but out of an abundance of caution they took him off the list to move to a normal hospital room and decided to keep him in the PICU. We’ll pester them again tomorrow.

Otherwise he had a fantastic day today. He said a bunch of words today – honey, piglet, owl, brave, stuck, rabbit, bubby, my sister and parasaurolophus. None of them are perfect but the speech therapist says that his lips seem to be functioning well but his tongue’s not all there yet. He was super active, fighting dinosaurs with me (matthew), kicking his feet, sitting up on his own and batting both arms at a balloon. The PT/OT people had him up walking though not really holding his own weight up and he actually interacted willingly with them.

The next 6 days are likely to be frustrating and hectic. Judah’s oncologist wants to start chemo as soon as possible. While his tumor is the lowest grade and slow growing, it’s location means that any growth could have potential long term complications. So chemo starts Wednesday. Monday morning he’ll have his port put in (yes, another surgery with anesthesia), Tuesday he’ll have a bevy of tests to get some baselines before he starts chemo. Wednesday he gets the first treatment, followed every Wednesday for 10 weeks, then a two week break, then 4 weeks on and 1 off for a year.

Our problem is therapy. We had hoped they would be able to work something out were he could get pretty intensive outpatient therapy at Vandy but it’s not going to be ideal. For one they don’t have speech therapy so we’d have to find some place else for that. Second they would be wedging him in wherever there are openings in whomever’s schedule had an opening so there would be no routine or chance for a therapist to build report with him. It would be a different therapist at a different time every day for weeks and probably only an hour a day. There are other therapy centers that offer all three types, O/P/S, but they don’t take insurance and while their rates are lower than places that do take insurance we’d still be paying a ton out of pocket for the amount of therapy he needs.

Judah’s becoming more like his old self everyday but still needs lots of prayer. Prayer for continued healing, prayer for him to have patience for the dozens of people poking and prodding him and making him do stuff all day, prayer for a working therapy plan (and a way to pay for it), prayer for yet another surgery, prayer that chemo has few if any side effects and that it is effective in stopping the tumor permanently, prayer to get out of the PICU, prayer to get out of the hospital, prayer that Wendi and I have patience with the docs, nurses, bureaucracy and insurance companies and prayers for a long road ahead.

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sleepy and sore

Last night was a long night. Judah has been having a lot of breakthrough pain and its keeping him awake and grouchy. It would make me the same way. He trying so hard to be brave and we are very proud of him.
He was approved to move to the hem/oc side of the floor yesterday but there weren’t any beds and as of this morning, there still aren’t any. We are so ready to get all these wires off and have more freedom.

Prayers are needed for:
-Pain management
-Moving to the hem/oc floor
-Continued healing of swallowing mechanism (we are hoping he can pass a swallow study before discharge so he doesn’t have to go home with a feeding tube)
-Continued healing of connection between what he knows and what he can say
-Healing of speech
-Bravery and strength during PT/OT

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waiting for significant change is hard

They prepared us for all of this. They told us he may lose his ability to talk or swallow or breath. I (wendi) was like the mom on the play ground who refuses to believe HER CHILD would ever hit another child. And now, here we are, 1 wk post-op and he is doing better but he isn’t better. He can’t/won’t talk. At first Matthew and I convinced ourselves it was his sore throat from the ventilator. Then is was all the sedation. Then his lack of natural sleep…Now, we don’t know. He can’t/won’t swallow. He will cough, clear his throat and then, instead of swallowing, he holds it in his mouth. We have to use the suction and clean it out. But he is breathing like a champ! The apnea seems to have gone away for now and that is a HUGE answer to prayer. So maybe 1 out of 3 ain’t too bad.
It seems bad though. I spent the evening here with him last night. I climbed in his bed (against PICU rules) and prayed to my God for healing. My child, who loves language and speech, and the art of pronunciation, will only, for now, communicate in grunts and swats. I prayed that God would give him back to us the way he was before the surgery. After all, He created him. That sweet little voice with big, big words was hand picked by our Savior for Judah. And I just want to hear it.
We spent yesterday afternoon pestering him by mispronouncing dinosaur names. Foolishly, I thought that if I irritated him enough he would just shake out of it and correct me.
They say it will take time. That he is improving slowly. That it may take a lot longer than we originally thought but “let’s give him the time”. Now they are talking about sending him home on a feeding tube. He isn’t showing any swallowing improvement. No talking improvement. What a thing to say in passing. Like it is of no real consequence how he goes home.
Judah is strong and strong-willed. Qualities both Matthew and I have. He will fight. He’s been in the PICU for over 2 wks now. His little spirit is so depressed. I refuse to believe that a broken spirit, feeding tubes and no communication, from the joyous, giggly, imaginative boy who LOVES to communicate, are part of God’s plan.
I finished my prayer last night begging God to do a glorious work in Judah. And restore his talking and swallowing. Do it fast. Cause, for no better reason than we are drowning, hope is harder to cling to, and this waiting for a significant change is so hard.

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this coming year will look, ummm, hard

We expected a relatively quiet day in which Judah would just be getting better but not much change or news would come our way, but no such luck.
First of all, we moved rooms again. No medical need for the move, just needed to shuffle some patients around for better nurse coverage.
Second we met with the oncologists about the chemo plan. We had previously discussed some of it in a hypothetical way so there weren’t any big revelations but it’s still scary. Since the tumor is low grade the chemo will be fairly low grade as well. He’ll be on it for a year, going in about once a week for treatment which takes a couple of hours. They’ll give him anti-nausea medication before the treatment to try and cut down on the side effects. He likely won’t lose all his hair but it may thin a little. He should still be able to go to pre-school in the fall. Because the medicines knock down the white and red blood cell counts he’ll be slightly more susceptible to colds and other infections and will tire out faster than he would normally. There’s an 85% chance that the year of chemo will stop the tumor from ever growing again. The scariest parts are the “possible but unlikely” side effects like liver damage, hearing loss, kidney damage, needing blood transfusions, etc. It’s also disheartening that the chemo won’t shrink or destroy the tumor that’s left in there, it only kills the parts that might still be growing. That means that any symptoms he currently has as a result of this tumor are likely permanent. We’ve yet to see him fully recovered from the surgery so we don’t know what symptoms may have been relieved by the surgery but the symptoms that could stick around are things like central sleep apnea, balance and coordination issues, troubles swallowing and managing secretions in the mouth and nose, and nystagmus/strabismus – a couple of eye related things he developed a few weeks before the diagnosis.
I (matthew) worry a lot about his spirit and his psyche through all this. He’s just gone through this major traumatic event, spent weeks tied to a hospital bed, days in pain and will soon start a treatment that will make him feel sick and tired for a solid year and there’s just no way he can understand all that. No way to help him grasp that things would have been much worse if we didn’t do all this. It’s just hard to feel like a parent at all when you’re powerless to protect your child or to help him understand things. Mentally I’ve always known that my job as a Christian parent was just to keep my kids alive and do my best to show them Jesus in my life. That at some point no matter what we did right or wrong the sin nature in them would break them like it does all of us and that brokenness would lead to (or, Lord forbid, away from) the Cross of Christ. I knew, in my head but maybe not completely in my heart, that ultimately my role in Judah’s life would have to be yielded up to the business God had with him. I just didn’t expect to so soon come to the point where I had to completely yield it. Where I’d be powerless to affect the direction, the quality or even the duration of Judah’s life.
The best I can do for Judah at this point is to keep praying that God be very close, very real, and very obviously present with Judah (and us) through this. That He keep protecting his mind and spirit, keep healing his body, keep showing the strength of His Mighty Hand through our family. And I can keep asking, begging even, all of you to pray likewise. And I’ll keep doing those things for the next year at least.
The last update is that the neuro docs are leaning towards putting in a vp shunt. That is essentially a permanent drain in his head that syphons off the excess spinal fluid when the pressure builds up and dumps it into his stomach. It sounds scarier that it is. It will be basically invisible, running under the skin of his scalp down the neck and into the body. It’s still another surgery and more recovery but it’d get him out of the ICU and ensure that he never has hydrocephalus problems down the road. So please pray for a clear direction on that.
Thank you all for your continued prayers. Judah is getting better. It’s just going to take a little time.

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