Vulnerable.

That is the best way I can describe Kendall right now. Very very very vulnerable.

Sometime yesterday morning (while i was home with the big girls and Ben was up here with Kendall), she started showing us signs that she was not tolerating the infection well. But they were soft signs, things that could be ignored or explained away. Even I myself, without laying eyes on her, wasn’t hearing the concern in Ben’s voice. But walking into the room and seeing a much different Kendall than the one I’d left the day before quickly started changing my mind. Doctors were in, plans discussed, Operating Room called.

By the time we decided the pull the line and were waiting for surgery to come up, I was MORE than ready to get it out. Pulling the line almost always equals swift and drastic improvement. We signed consent, had a surgeon who seemed to really understand our concern regarding preserved line sites, and kissed her goodbye at the door. They let us know as gently as possible that she would likely come upstairs still intubated to give her a little break. I had already assumed that based on how horrid she was breathing prior to going down for surgery. As an experiment, I was cranking her oxygen to figure out just how many liters of support she needed to get up to “normal” numbers (98-100). I topped out at 10. That is insanity, especially for Kendall who RARELY shows “desats” or low sat numbers.
What I was not prepared for was that she would come back from the OR 280 times WORSE than she had gone down in. They believe that pulling the line caused the bacteria to “shower” or piss off the leftover bacteria in the body, as well as taking her off her pressers to switch over to her new line caused her to lose a TON of ground. We had easily 20 people in the room at one point, all working to get Kendall switched over and comfortable on the ventilator. But it wasn’t happening. And the respiratory tech was looking panicked, and the doctors were sounding stressed and I wanted to throw up from where I was huddled in the back of the room.

Oh my baby girl this isn’t what I had thought it would be like for you and i know you are tired but please please please keep on fighting because i know you can.

And finally I had to leave the room. The panic rising up in me was overwhelming. I know she has been very very very sick before, but the possibility of actually losing her has never ever ever been so very real. And I hated it. I was too scared to be mad. Really I couldn’t even find words to pray – just “Jesus be in there with her when I can’t. Be the breath she needs and be her heart cause hers isn’t wanting to pump at all right now and be in those doctors’ minds and hands and just please FIX HER and make this all go away”. I tried to tell Kendall to just slow down and breathe with me. Be like baby whales who float on their mommy’s tummy until they are strong enough to swim up to the surface and take their own breaths. I will tread water for you for however long it takes my baby, float with me, let the waves rock us back and forth and back and forth and follow my rhythm, in and out and in and out.

I tried to picture where she was at – and I got the most beautiful image (probably planted there from a text that I very quickly skimmed) – that she was sitting and talking with Jesus. That she wasn’t here, where her body was failing and being put through so much – she was in the most beautiful place you can imagine. And I tried to tell Jesus – “look, this is awesome but I NEED HER, her job here isn’t done, so please just tell her what she needs to come back here to earth and do and then send her back to me!” I’m not sure He heard me. But I knew she was happy and safe for that time. And as I wavered back and forth between that image and my own attempts to channel her to breathe breathe breathe with me, I suddenly started to feel the gnawing raw pain in my gut be replaced with peace. And this was by no means a quick thing. They worked to stabilize Kendall for almost 5 hours. This was a very very slow and creeping sense of peace. I didn’t have words to utter. Couldn’t walk down to her room couldn’t stand to hear the alarms anymore signaling that she needed help. Because they were already giving her help, there was not much more to be done. That is a pretty damn scary feeling.

I’m not sure I can describe to you exactly what is going with Kendall’s medical picture without scaring some of you deeply.  Know that at this point, as I write this, she is MUCH improved over last night, and honestly that is both saying a helluva lot, and not saying much at all. Her heart was very close to giving out last night, and right behind it are her lungs, kidneys, liver and brain.  She is in cardiogenic shock, septic shock, has ARDS (whited out lungs) again, is in both respiratory and metabolic acidosis pretty badly, kidney failure,  and everything we do to try to fix one of these issues affects one of her other issues. She was so vulnerable all night – every little thing was making her go backwards and it all kept being so damn scary. (sorry – i’m swearing a lot in this post. it’s kind of all I have words for right now) They had an attending from the Cardiac ICU come up who decided to test Kendall by taking her off the vent so we could suction her lungs, and ended up hand bagging her for ten minutes while we watched her oxygen saturations go lower and lower and lower and I think finally when she was around 40 she put her back on the vent and made her suggestions for “last ditch” meds we could try. Still, the vent settings only got her back up to 60’s for a long time, then slowly into the 70’s where she hung out for another few hours. She has a patch on her forehead and a patch on her back that tell us how her organs are perfusing (receiving oxygen), and those numbers were in the 60’s also (ideally much closer to the 90’s). It is all just so scary. I dont know what to think or feel when I hear words like “last ditch” and “ now we just have to wait for her body”.

So my parents came up and Ben and I and they would take turns talking to her on the side of the bed, praying over her, wandering the hallways praying our silent prayers and not wanting to say any words out loud because all that were left were scary words. We all knew what numbers on the monitors we needed to see so we would tell her to bring this number up or take that number down and finally around 4 am she started to listen to us, just a little bit, but enough that we could all breathe again. I could not would not leave her bedside. i NEEDED to see her numbers making the major turns they took last time when she was floating away from me. I needed to know she would come back and do it soon. I did not get the loud and huge answer i was hoping and praying for. But I got small little steps. Her HeartRate came out of the 190’s, her fever came back down, her sats climbed into the 80’s. I slept for about an hour in the chair at the foot of her bed before it was time for morning rounds.

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And the morning doctor came in and started changing things and that horrid alarm that goes off when a ventilator is not happy with its results kept dinging and dinging and i wanted to know what the hell he was trying to do – but it turns out he was making GOOD changes. Kendall climbed into the 90’s for her sats and her blood pressure ever so slowly has come back up above 100 so maybe now we can get some of this fluid to MOVE.

Unfortunately he also made her breaths much more forceful than she was handling last night, so there is some talk that we may need to switch Kendall to an oscillator vent this afternoon. I am not the best at describing ANY of this mechanical ventilation, but basically the oscillator would allow us to more gently open up her lungs vs the major push pull (like blowing up a balloon really fast and hard then letting it all out) that she is getting on the regular vent. I have asked everyone who will listen if this is a step backwards and am reassured that it is a step sideways, and one that could possibly help her turn the big corner that much quicker. she will remain acidotic as long as her kidneys aren’t working and her lungs are oxygenating quickly. If she’s acidotic, she cannot fight the infection and her heartrate will continue to be fast to compensate. If her HR stays too fast she risks cardiac failure. So you see the ugly cycle she is stuck in.

I wish this was full of more good news. It’s not BAD news per se, because there are some steps forward. But it’s not as GOOD as I had hoped it would be this morning.  Again our wise nurse reminded me “she didn’t get sick in two minutes, she’s not going to get better in two minutes”. While I feel it’s splitting hairs about the two minutes to getting sick thing (It was probably more like 7 minutes that she went from fine to oh-crap in) – she has a good point. It is requiring me to be patient. Wait on the Lord and renew my strength, renew Kendall’s strength. More waiting. More baby steps.

But we will take baby steps – baby forward progress steps. Heartrates that slow into the high 160’s, and then the mid-160’s and then the low 160’s. CVP’s that stay closer to 12 than 24. Blood pressure numbers in a nice high range but not too high. 110/60s would be nice. A temperature that goes afebrile and stays down there. (she’s 37.8 right now, which is the lowest she has been since coming to the hospital. Technically afebrile.) Urine that keeps coming slowly but surely. 10cc an hour, then 15, then 40.

Just keep doin what you do, KQ. We all got your back. Let the medicines do their job, let the ventilator do it’s job. You take that rest. You go see the world while you are drifiting at sea. I am holding on to you through that cord that attaches us, invisible and strong. Learn what you need to learn about what your mission here on earth is. I cannot wait to hear it.
Keep takin those baby steps, baby girl.

 

Keep on Keepin On.

T

Head to Toe, Part 2.

So when I left off part 1, I had just crashed on the couch and Kendall was stable-ish.

She continued to need high doses of the pressers (medications that work to keep your heart pumping and to keep your veins constricted enough to hopefully keep the blood/fluid in the veins and out of your tissues), and was receiving multiple units of FFP and cryo throughout that night. FFP and cryo are blood products that are specific components of your blood designed to help/aid in situations like DIC.

I was awake by 6 – just not able to sleep, too much activity going on, too worried about everything. We met the doctor who i will forever be grateful to for saving my baby that morning. He told me she was better, but nowhere near out of the woods. He explained to me that the septic shock had sent Kendall’s organs and vessels into a tailspin and that all the medications were working to try to keep her heart effectively beating and stop pushing everything out to her tissues. Her labs were “a mess”. She was in severe lactic acidosis which was causing some respiratory issues (for those who know, her levels were in the 40’s.). Everything we were trying to fix was just making something else worse. Dr. S did an amazing job of explaining to me what i needed to know, but making sure not to overwhelm me with things I didn’t need to know right then.

It was blatantly obvious that Kendall’s already crappy veins were not going to handle the stress of having all the multiples lines running into them. We had bi-fuses and tri-fuses everywhere, and still were having trouble having enough spots to run in all the life-saving meds, antibiotics, fluids, etc that she needed right then and there. Kendall was put on the schedule to go have a PICC line placed, possibly two. We were unable to touch her central line at that time because it had a quad fuse (four lines) lumen coming out of it running the pressers and steroids that were all that was keeping her semi-stable. Her arterial line was precarious, but oh so necessary, and only certain things were able to be run into that line. They were also running constant blood pressures off of that line because we needed to make sure the meds were doing their job. Another value on the monitors that we’ve been watching all week has been her CVP – central venous pressure. I don’t fully understand why our doctor was so worried/upset over this number, but i know he was. It somehow indicates the backup of blood in the liver because the heart is getting overstressed, blah blah blah. Anyways, we were hoping for a 7 – that is apparently “normal” in most normal folks. We were in the 100’s.

anyways – going down for a PICC line was a necessity. By this time we were having to use some strong sedatives and pain meds to keep Kendall in a calmish state, but trying to balance that with not suppressing her vitals any further than needed. When they were about to take her back for the PICC she was starting to hallucinate and kept telling me and her nurses to “get dat! get dat sing mommy! it’s right derrr!!!!!” reaching for some imaginary thing in the air above her. She was talking very strangely – and by that I don’t mean what she was talking about, but rather how her voice was. It was like there was so much pressure everywhere, she could only use single syllables in place of words. Luckily once she came upstairs from the PICC procedure, she was mostly conked out for the afternoon. But had started to be oh so very puffy. Almost unrecognizable.

Throughout this afternoon and evening, her doctor kept coming in her room, checking the big lab/trends board, pacing, thoughtfully pondering the numbers on the screen, then pacing back out of her room. Things were changed and tweaked, labs were being constantly ordered and then more things were tweaked based on those results. This board thing is amazing. It spoiled me. It is a 42 in flat screen TV that is touch screen. So you can tell it you want to see all the lab results for the last 24 hours, or you want to read the culture reports, or you want to see a graph of her fever curve and I’s and O’s (ins and outs, or how her fluid status is). For a micromanaging lab hoarder like myself – it was a dream come true. I was able to see within minutes how bad her labs were, or what the doc was worried about or if her acidosis was resolving. (They told me later i’m not supposed to actually touch it, but since I managed to not break it – yet – they were willing to overlook it!)

Kendall ended up needing a full blood (PRBC) transfusion at this point, and ended up getting two full units. Considering the absolute FIGHT we had to go through to get Kendall one a few weeks ago, I knew things must be pretty bad. however, I did find it mildly humorous that the doc referenced “the anti-transfusion movement” going on at our hospital. He was seriously just an amazing doctor – he could make me laugh or at least smirk even while telling me absolutely horrible news about my child and her medical status.

I know this is kind of getting disconnected here – but it was a long crazy week! By that afternoon, Ben was up there with me, and the girls had gone to a friends house, all together, which was a huge relief. I remember that we were both exhausted and decided we would take turns being up with her and sleeping. I took the first shift, mostly because I could not keep my eyes off of her and the monitor. My mom sense was still on extreme high alert, and even though I was exhausted i could NOT let myself rest. At around 2 I think I finally came and crashed on the couch again, and Ben got up and stood bedside with her for a few hours. I know I could hear her all night whimpering and thinking – I don’t think she’s breathing right – but I could hear Ben trying to get her morphine so I thought maybe he was on the right path. i was back up again at 6:30 and saw that he had made her wear her oxygen again. In spite of that, and at 2 Liters of support, her saturation numbers were crappy. She was in pain, grunting and struggling to breathe (even though it was hard to tell because she was so pudgy from all the fluids), and very mad at the cannula on her face. she kept tearing it off and would drop to the low 70’s for her sats. The doctor and ANP’s (nurse practitioners, huge in Kendall’s care here in the PICU) were in and listening to her, and all commenting on how clear and fine she sounded, but could not figure out her crappy sats. After an hour or so of this and watching her decline so quickly, a STAT chest x-ray was ordered. Within fifteen minutes of the x-ray machine pulling out of our room, they were in with a machine setting up to start Kendall on bi-pap support.  This all took a while to actually get set up, but by the time they did, Kendall was having none of the huge mask on her face. she didn’t have a ton of strength left to fight us, but she was crying which was making the pressure monitors go nuts, and her sat monitors go nuts from dropping. The respiratory tech was in here constantly trying to mess with the settings, turning this, tweaking that – nothing was helping. Morphine and Ativan were given, and the crying stopped, but she was still struggling for breath.

Dr. S came in with the whole team and explained to us that she was still working very hard, sending herself into a respiratory alkalosis (worse than the metabolic/lactic acidosis we were still struggling to correct), her blood gases (which i still don’t have a good working knowledge of what’s what) were crapping out, and that we probably needed to discuss intubation. We came up with a plan to give her an hour to prove to us she could turn it around.

I think I knew in my mind we were headed there. His words did not come as a surprise to me, but rather almost a relief. I was watching her work so very hard to breathe, and I was nervous and i was scared that soon there would be nothing left for her heart and lungs to do. I’ve seen this kid deal with pneumonia after pneumonia, i’ve watched her choke on her food and have scary moments. I’ve watched her go slowly septic and look pretty gosh darn sick. But I have never stood there helplessly watching her try to slip away from us, unable to do anything about it. I felt confident in the plan to give her a chance though, because if anyone could pull herself out a tailspin, it would be kendall. Our nurse Rachel was in there the whole hour and fifteen minutes of the “trial”, her concern for Kendall evident on her face.

And finally, i saw the team gathering outside her door and I knew. I knew what the answer would be.

“I think it’s time we give her the break she needs. It’s time to intubate her.”

to be continued…

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