Thank you, Transplant, for waiting two more days

25 Aug

Five months ago, to the day, Jody was officially listed for his new lungs.  When that happened, there were two things I feared transplant would interfere with: Our oldest daughter’s birthday, and her first day of Kindergarten.  Obviously there were other things I preferred not to miss, but those were the biggest.  I naively assumed he would have been transplanted by now, so as the time drew closer I felt nervous that my fear might actually become reality.  Today I’m happy to report that it didn’t!  Thank you, transplant, for waiting at least two more days.

Tabitha's 6th Birthday

Tabitha’s 6th Birthday

Since I normally blog about sickness, and heavy-to-read topics (and there will be a little of that in this post too), I thought I’d change it up a bit and add some fun and lightness into this post.  Since February, when we took our girls to see Disney’s Frozen movie, Tabitha, our oldest, has been obsessed with the movie.  She’s been talking about her “Frozen” birthday party for months.  Because there are so many unknowns in our lives right now, and despite the fact that she has had a birthday party each year, we decided to forgo the party this year.  Tabitha had a hard time accepting and understanding this so we promised her a Frozen Fun Day at home instead, just the four of us.  The hardest thing for me about not having a party was not making her a nice cake, something I have always done and enjoyed.  As Tabby’s birthday grew closer, I

Tabitha's "Frozen" Cake

Tabitha’s “Frozen” Cake

said, “the heck with it,” and decided to go for the cake I had been planning to make, knowing it would never get eaten by our family of four, but not really caring.  Having no training in cake decoration, only learn-as-I-go experience, I’m happy with how the cake turned out.  More importantly, the birthday girl loved it!  We had a great day celebrating Tabitha’s six years of life, thankfully together as a family, and in the end I don’t think she was too bothered by the fact that she didn’t have party.

6th Birthday, Ice princess, Tabitha.

6th Birthday, Ice princess, Tabitha.

Frozen Fun Day completed (thanks again transplant for waiting), today marked another milestone, Tabitha’s first day of Kindergarten.  She was very nervous about this, especially getting on the bus, but thankfully, it went well.  I didn’t even shed a tear until after the bus pulled away.  Here are a few of my favorite shots from the morning.

1st Day of Kindergarten

1st Day of Kindergarten

I’m so relieved, and thankful, that we got to experience these important days with Tabitha.  I’m also grateful that Jody was out of the hospital and well enough to spend this time with us.  Last week, after four days on IV antibiotics, he seemed to be getting worse and we questioned if he might end up admitted.  He felt achy and extremely fatigued, more so than normal.  He spent most of the week in bed sleeping and joked that he felt like a newborn, basically just eating and sleeping.  We figured he might have picked up a virus and needed to do what his body was telling him to do to fight it off.  We’ve been told that for people with CF, especially end-stage CF, a simple virus can hit them hard and take a while (even six weeks) to go away.  Thankfully after three days of rest, he seems to be feeling better.  I never quite feel like he’s off-the-hook when it comes to bacteria and viruses, but I’m glad to see him up, moving around, and spending time with us again.  I would like to ask for prayers that this continues.  Our youngest daughter woke up this morning with a nose that’s running like a faucet, probably a viral infection that will just take time to go away.  Jody can’t afford to get this.  I can’t afford to get this (I need to be healthy and ready to be at his bedside when he gets his new lungs).  Please pray that Piper doesn’t share her sick germs and that her symptoms disappear as quickly as they came.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures (click them to enlarge) and a slightly different, more fun and easy-to-read post.

 

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Five Dreaded Words

16 Aug

“I think I’m getting sick.”  Those are some of the most dreaded words for a CF wife to hear.  There is a lot of physical, emotional, and financial stress behind those five words (physical, as in coordinating childcare, getting things done at home, rotating between home, hospital, and work, etc.).  When Jody speaks those words I’m usually not surprised and often it’s something I’ve wondered about myself.  It takes a conscious choice however, to move from denial of another infection to accepting the inevitable, and seeking treatment. This begins by making a dreaded phone call to Jody’s CF team, alerting them to his symptoms and our suspicion of another infection.  Such was the case this week.  We enjoyed the entire month of July free of infections and hospitalization, for which we are oh so thankful!  Suspecting our infection-free period was coming to an end, Jody made that dreaded phone call this Tuesday and was seen in the CF clinic on Thursday.

As a result of Jody’s complicated (antibiotic) allergies with anaphylactic reactions, we have been told in the past that he is no longer allowed to start IV antibiotics from home.  Instead, his team feels he needs to be monitored closely, in a hospital setting, to ensure his safety when initiating these powerful drugs.  Because of this, we left for our Hopkins appointment on Thursday with our bags packed, prepared to stay, but hoping to return home.  And that’s just what we did!  Surprisingly enough, Jody’s doctors decided to put him on the same antibiotic regimen they used in June (Zyvox, Zosyn, & Colistimethate), and felt he could begin them from home since they were well tolerated before.

Jody's "Luggage" (O2 tank and a continuous IV pump).

Jody’s “Luggage” (O2 tank and a continuous IV pump).

Yesterday morning all of his supplies were delivered.  I inserted and dressed the needle in his chest (he has an implanted port for medication administration), and with the Epi pen nearby, he began all of his antibiotics, thankfully without any difficulties or reactions.  For the next two weeks (at least), Jody will have some extra “luggage” to carry around, as he puts it, referring to a continuous IV pump used for one of the three above drugs.

Jody's continuous IV pump

Jody’s continuous IV pump

The advantage to this pump is that he doesn’t need to wake up early and during the middle of the night to give himself his medications since it will do it automatically while he sleeps.

We’re really glad Jody was able to avoid another hospitalization.  I work 24 hours this weekend and it gives me much peace of mind to know that he will be at home, relaxing, instead of in the hospital where I would be missing out on his care and physician visits.  Still I wish I could be home with him this weekend but such is the life of a CF wife.

Completely off the subject, the wait for transplant continues.  August 25th will mark five months of being active on the list.  After getting the first call for his new lungs only a month after being listed (which turned into dry run 1 of 2) we naturally assumed transplant would happen sooner rather than later.  Honestly, for a variety of reasons, we truly believed it would happen in June or July.  Our oldest daughter turns six August 24th, and will begin kindergarten the next day (8/25), so we are now hoping that transplant will at least hold off for this, especially since she has a lot of anxiety about starting school.  It’s hard to think that because transplant hasn’t happened yet we will miss out on a lot of her kindergarten experience when the time does come, and it also poses a lot more work for our parents, who do not live in our school district, and will need to transport her to and from school everyday.  Our youngest also starts preschool in the beginning of September so she will need to be transported back and forth as well.  This is one of the reasons we hoped transplant had happened already.  On the flip side, we understand that in order for Jody to get his new lungs it means the loss of another life, and that’s not something we want to rush, especially just to make our schedule more convenient.  Schedule aside, Jody is ready for his transplant.  He’s tired of the hassles of Cystic Fibrosis, the struggle to breathe, the inability to do the things he enjoys, and of the need for continuous oxygen.  While we may not understand it, we trust that God’s timing is better than ours, and hold firm to the belief that Jody will get his new lungs in God’s most perfect time.  Until then, please continue to keep him, and our family in your prayers.

 

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Rare Moments

18 Jul

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve given you an update on Jody and often no news is good news.  June was a rough month for him, spending a lot of time in and out of the hospital or home sick and on IV antibiotics.  Typically when Jody finishes up a three week course of these antibiotics (assuming he’s been on the right combination of them), his energy returns and he starts feeling a little better.  Usually his PFT’s (lung function studies), improve slightly as well.  This go-round was no different.  In July, the girls and I appreciated seeing him spend less time in bed sleeping, and more time awake and active (as active as one can be in end stage lung disease where every activity takes your breath away).

One day this month the four of us even spent a relaxing day at a friends in-ground pool.  Although Jody was tied to his O2 tank, he could leave it on the side and at least stand in the pool, by the edge, and get wet.  The girls enjoyed having him there, even if he couldn’t swim with them, or throw them in the water like old times.  That day Jody took his afternoon nap on a lounge chair under an umbrella, while the girls and I enjoyed a rare (as of late), fun summer afternoon.  While it seems everyone around us is enjoying summer to the fullest, free and unhindered by disease, we are learning to be thankful for these rare days, hours, and moments when we can forget about the past and future, so full of uncertainties, and focus on the present.  Moments like these are good for the soul.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and this is especially true when speaking of Cystic Fibrosis.  We’ve noticed a pattern for Jody where after about three weeks of IV antibiotics he starts feeling pretty good, but sadly it only lasts about three or four weeks.   Soon “good” turns into “okay,” and okay turns into “lousy,” and lousy turns into a hospitalization.  Yesterday Jody had a routine check-up in the CF clinic and we could classify him as being in the “okay” category.  He’s been feeling a little more short of breath, his lungs are a tad more junky than normal, and his PFT’s are a little down (not quite as bad as they were in June).  If left untreated, the chances are Jody will quickly move from “okay” to “lousy” and I already told you where that will land him.  Hoping to prevent this, the doctor ordered oral antibiotics (in addition to the ones he takes daily to hold the chronic bacteria in his lungs at bay).  She also wants him to increase his oxygen to 6L with activity (showering, taking care of our girls, climbing steps, etc.).  The fact that he is now requiring 6L of O2 should bump up his score on the transplant waiting list.  More oxygen requirements also means bigger, less convenient tanks for going out.

We had been hoping to go out for dinner to The Cheesecake Factory at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor following Jody’s appointment, if he felt up to it.  The last time we did this was a little over a year ago to celebrate a good appointment.  We knew this wouldn’t be a celebration, but rather, one of those rare times when we live in the present, forgetting everything else going on in our lives, and enjoying the simple moments in life.  And so we did, big oxygen tank and all!  We even took a very short walk after dinner.  I have been working on contentment, in suffering and in waiting, and as we stood there, overlooking the harbor, hand in hand, oxygen along side, I felt content.  I felt thankful, for the health Jody does have, and for the oxygen tank which allowed us that moment.  A positive attitude and contentment in this situation doesn’t come easy; those “lousy” days get the best of me sometimes, but I think it’s those few “good”, I mean really good, days/moments that get us through the bad.  It’s also the hope that eventually, after transplant, the lousy days will be few and far between as they are replaced with days filled with pure goodness.  Until that time comes, we’ll continue to relish the rare moments in our present life that make it enjoyable and endurable.  I hope you will too.

 

 

 

Mark Your Calendar

9 Jul
Save the Date

Save the Date

October 11th, 2014.  Mark. Your. Calendar.  This is the date that has been selected for our biggest fundraising effort to date, including a live and silent auction.  We are super excited for this day, and hope you will join us.  This event has the potential to make a big impact in pushing us closer to our fundraising end goal, but we can’t do it without your attendance.  Please mark Oct. 11th on your calendar and plan to attend.  This event includes family fun, so bring your whole family with you.

This auction is three months away and preparations are in full-swing.  We are now accepting donations of items and/or services as well as auction sponsors.  Perhaps this is something you can help us with, and here are some examples:

  • A themed gift basket
  • A service: photography, lawn mowing, snow removal, hair cut/color, or maybe you enjoy cooking and would be willing to auction off 12 homemade meals (one/month for a year for a family of five or less).  The sky is the limit.
  • An item:  Are you a talented artist, a business owner, a vacation holder, an antique collector?  If you have an item that you believe would do well at an auction, we welcome your gift.
  • An experience: Do you love to entertain?  Could you host a dinner party in your home or backyard?  Perhaps you have your pilot’s license and could offer a short flight experience.  Think boating, ballooning, ziplining, a limousine ride, the possibilities are endless.  You may not be able to provide this service yourself, but would you be willing to purchase this item and donate it as an auction item?
  • Event sponsor: For a minimum donation of $250 your business name and logo will appear in the event catalog and other promotional materials, as well as recognition from the stage during the live auction.
  • Family Fun help: Part of this event will include family fun time.  Are you a face painter and willing to offer your time?  Could you set-up a fun photo booth?  Is there a practical service you can offer to kids on the day of the auction?

We are anticipating a lot of out-of-pocket expenses associated with Jody’s transplant and recovery so you can imagine we are hoping this auction will be hugely successful.  In order for that to happen we really need your help.  Please SHARE this event, and encourage others to attend.  Additionally, if you know of someone (your boss, family member, or friend) who you think could donate something for the auction, please contact jamie@supportjody.com for an auction donation form.  If you follow our Jody Needs Lungs Facebook page you will soon begin to see information posted on businesses and items that have already donated.  This info will also be able to be viewed under the “Auction” tab on our website, JodyNeedsLungs.com.  We are so thankful to each of these people and business who were touched by our story and moved to help.  We hope you will too.

Auction Promo front

Auction Promo back

* Donations are not tax-deductible*

Dry Run #2

26 Jun

This isn’t exactly the blog post I was planning to write this morning.  I wholeheartedly expected to announce today that Jody got his new lungs.  Instead I’m telling you the story of another dry run.  In case you missed the last one, here’s the story of our first dry run, reading that one will help you understand this one a little better.

Yesterday, June 25th, marked exactly three months that Jody has been active on the national lung transplant waiting list.  When that happened, I remember his doctor speculating he would be called within three to six months of being made active.  He was called after only one month of being listed, and now again at three months.  Here’s the story of our second “dry run”.

Last evening at 6:45 pm, our phone rang.  Every time this happens I find myself holding my breath wondering if it’s “the call,” and time to jump into action.  Usually it’s not, but this time it was!  When Jody answered, it was a transplant coordinator from Johns Hopkins.  She called to say that Dr. Shah (the surgeon who will be performing Jody’s transplant operation), wanted us to know that there was a potential donor.  We were told not to come in yet, but to begin preparing just in case.  She promised to call back either way.  I began to start packing things for our girls, tidying up around the house, and Jody hopped in the shower (because who knows how long after transplant it would be until he could shower again).  At 8:00 pm, the transplant coordinator called back to say, “It’s a go!”  In other words, this is it, this donor is for you (Jody)!  She told us that we didn’t need to be there until midnight, and that surgery would be tentatively scheduled for 4 am 6/26.

You might be wondering about this big gap in time so I’ll explain my understanding of the events (and this may not be 100% accurate because often information is purposefully left out, and we have to read between the lines).  Between 6:45 & 8:00 pm, I believe the surgeon and his team got word of the possible donor and began reviewing this persons medical records to know if “on paper” the donor was a perfect match.  We did learn that the donor was 40 years old and that his/her lungs were not considered high-risk lungs.  Once this donor was approved on paper, we received the second call, telling us to be at the hospital in four hours.

I would like to pause here to clear-up a common misconception.  People often choose NOT to become organ donors because they fear they will be taken off life support prematurely so that their organs can be donated.  This is just plain false, and quite honestly an uneducated argument!  When tragedy strikes, and people experience brain death, it’s only a matter of time until their organs begin to shut down and death is imminent.  In the case of Jody’s potential donor last night, the family would have been told that their loved one was not going to survive whatever it was that caused this tragedy, and that death would be soon.  They were most likely given the option to wait it out until the end, in which case the organs would have been unusable (and would probably have been a matter of hours to a few days), or to make the call to stop life support, thereby avoiding the death of their loved ones valuable and viable organs.  They would have been given the option to donate their loved ones organs so that hope could come from their tragedy.  Let me be blunt, sadly, organ donation or not, this person would not have survived their injuries.  People are NOT taken off life support for their organs if there is ANY chance of survival.  Please make sure you are properly educated before you make the decision not to become an organ donor.  In this case (and any case of organ donation), I’m thankful the family made the selfless decision to give life (because even though it didn’t work out for Jody, I’m sure others were blessed with this persons life-giving, life-changing organs).  This family has been heavy on my heart, and I am keeping them in prayer because even though they are giving life to others, they are grieving a terrible loss of their own.

Okay, now that I have stepped down from my organ donation soap box, I’ll return to our story.  Up until this point I believe the donor was being kept alive and on life support.  Once it was determined on paper that the lungs would work, and we were notified, a transplant surgeon (not Dr. Shah himself), and a cardiothoracic fellow (doctor) flew out to wait for and personally evaluate the lungs once they were harvested.  This sounds fast and simple, but it takes time and patience.

Final goodbyes before transplant

While all of this was occurring, I was so thankful for the time we had to prepare.  This was exactly what I (and probably some of you), had prayed for.  We had time to pause and think without rushing around like chicken with our heads cut off.  By 9:10 pm, my Mom had come and gone with our girls, but not before we took a family picture.  At 10:05 pm we hopped in our van to head to JHH.  Ironically, when Jody started the ignition, the first words I heard playing on the radio were, “Tonight’s the night.” Words from the Toby Mac song, City On Our Knees.  I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a sign.  Apart from the pouring rain, our drive to Hopkins was seamless, the complete opposite of our last stress-filled dry run.  Because it was later at night, we hit no traffic, it was great!  We arrived at JHH at 11:35 pm.

Since the admitting office was closed, upon arrival we were instructed to go to 10W (the cardio-thoracic post-surgical progressive care unit).  This is also the unit to which Jody will be transferred once he is moved out of the ICU following transplant.  Once there he was told he would have blood work done, an IV started, an EKG, and be placed on a cardiac monitor.  At 1 am a cardiothoracic resident came in to review the procedure, answer questions, and have Jody sign consents for surgery.  The team of physicians who had flown out to get the lungs were not back yet, and surgery was still tentatively scheduled for 4 am.  At that point we knew this could still turn into a dry run.  In fact, we were told that Jody may even be taken to surgery, put to sleep, only to wake up and be told the lungs were not good, and that the surgery never happened (imagine the disappointment in that).  Despite that risk, we believed that this was the real deal.  We felt relaxed and actually dimmed the lights in the room in an attempt to get bits and pieces of sleep.  At 2 am the same resident who had signed consents with us opened the door to Jody’s room and instantly we knew.  His face said it all, no words were needed, but he spoke something like, “I’m really sorry guys, we can’t use the lungs.  There were nodules on them and Dr. Shah doesn’t feel comfortable using them.  It’s not worth the risk.  You are free to sleep here or to go home, I’m really sorry.”  Unlike last time I was stunned.

Everything about this dry run was perfect, exactly what we had hoped and prayed for.  In fact on the way home (at 2:15 am) we were debriefing and Jody asked me what I would do differently the next time, and I couldn’t think of anything.  It was fabulous to have the advanced warning and so much time to prepare.  The drive was uneventful.  Since it was late at night the hospital appeared empty and quiet.  One word to describe this entire experience is calm.  We were prepared and relaxed, unrushed, and unlike our last dry run, everything flowed smoothly and calmly.  Even the timing seemed right, my FMLA at work has now been renewed for another year, and this would allow Jody to be home for our oldest daughters 6th birthday in August, and first day of Kindergarten the day after that.  I guess because it felt right, I believed it was right.  But I was wrong.  After our last dry run I was relived, I just wasn’t ready, this time I felt genuinely disappointed, Jody too.  We left bummed and emotionally drained.  This time when we got in our van, the first words of the song we heard playing on the radio were, “And I’ll praise You in this storm…” (Praise You in This Storm, by Casting Crowns).  I had to stop and say, God I don’t understand it, I’m disappointed, but I trust You and your timing, so I’ll praise You regardless.

We’ve now experienced both a bad and good “dry run.”  Who knows what the next call will be like.  Hopefully it won’t end in me writing a Dry Run #3 blog post, but rather in my making that long-awaited announcement that Jody did indeed get his new lungs.  Until then, continue to pray that the next call will not hold the stress and craziness of dry run #1, but instead would be covered in the peace and calmness of dry run #2.

 

Home After Short Stay

19 Jun

The last few days of medication changes for Jody went off without a hitch so he was able to be discharged yesterday (woo hoo!).  One thing we found out since my last post is that when he was in the hospital last week he apparently tested positive for the Rhinovirus (the virus which causes the common cold).  This could also explain the excessive fatigue he was experiencing.  Most likely it was a combination of both this virus and the antibiotics which were not effectively fighting the bacterial infection in his lungs.  In Jody’s case the Rhinovirus could take up to six weeks to go away, but the bacterial infection should start to improve.  In fact, Jody’s PFT’s  (lung function studies) yesterday showed an increase of five percent from a week ago (22% then, 27% now).  Hopefully things will continue to move in the right direction.  He does already seem to have a little more energy than last week so I’m thankful for that.

Thank you for the anniversary well wishes.  We were able to make the most of it despite our surroundings.  It was nice to simply spend the day together (without the kiddos).  Jody could have been transplanted and kept sedated on a ventilator in which case the day would have come and gone without any form of celebration whatsoever.   We’ve decided that since this anniversary was especially low-key, we’ll just have to celebrate our 10th in a BIG way!

Celebrating 9 years of marriage, hospital style.

 

 

Hotel Hopkins Celebration

17 Jun

Well, my gut feeling was right.  Last night Jody was re-admitted to the hospital which means we’ll be celebrating our 9th wedding anniversary (today) here at Hotel Hopkins.  Jody joked that it’s too bad he can’t get a pass to take his IV pole and go to The Cheesecake Factory for a date.  In due time I guess.  We’re just thankful to be together.

The reason for this admission is because Jody simply isn’t improving on his current antibiotics.  His sputum culture from last week is showing that one of the bacteria in his lungs is resistant to Meropenem, one of the three antibiotics he is taking.  This would explain why his condition isn’t improving.  Let me explain this process a little more for those of you non-medical readers.

Every time Jody is admitted to the hospital (and usually even for routine clinic visits), the doctors request that he give them a sputum sample from his lungs.  This sample is then sent to a lab where (in Jody’s case) it grows bacteria.  Once the bacteria is identified, further testing is done to determine which antibiotics will be effective in treating the bacterial infection.  This process (growing bacteria) is slow and the final results can take a week or more to come back. Until those culture results are finalized, choosing the right antibiotics can be a bit of a guessing game.  When Jody was discharged last week the final results of his culture were not back yet so he was started on a combination of antibiotics that have worked for him in the past (since the bacteria in his lungs is usually the same each time).  In my last post I mentioned that Jody didn’t seem to be getting better and that I questioned if he was on the right antibiotics.  It turns out he wasn’t.  Because of Jody’s allergies his team of physicians have decided against allowing him to start IV antibiotics at home.  Instead, he was asked to come into the hospital so his medications could be changed and doses adjusted under supervision.  The plan is to continue the oral Zyvox, switch the IV Meropenem to Zosyn, and increase the dose of IV Colistimethate (I’m including these names more for our records than because I think you care about the specifics of his antibiotics).  As long as these medication changes are well tolerated, he should only be in for a few days.

Now, a message for Jody:

Jody, since this is our anniversary and all, I’d like to say that you are awesome!  I have watched, countless times, as you’ve gotten stuck with needles, big and small, had nearly every square inch of your body poked and prodded, been tested, xrayed, endured great pain, felt lousy, struggled to breathe (and continue to do so), given up things & hobbies that you enjoy, sat on the sidelines, pushed yourself and fought… and continue to fight, all because of Cystic Fibrosis.  And what I find most inspiring is that you do it all without complaint.  I know it can’t be easy to walk in your shoes, but you keep going, putting one foot in front of the other, and you keep your head held high.  You impact people wherever you go.  You’re climbing this mountain with great determination and perseverance, and I know your efforts will be rewarded.  I’m so blessed to walk this journey with you, thank you for choosing me.  I’m leaving you with a song* that speaks to where we are in life right now, and I hope it will encourage you in the fight to know that I will always be by your side.  Happy 9th anniversary, I love you!

P.S.  If you’re a reader who enjoys pictures, you can sneak a peek of a few more wedding photos by clicking here.

 

*Angel By Your Side – Francesca Battistelli

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