Charlotte's Journey Home

Just a Regular Kid, Sort Of


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Shabbat Shalom (#CHDAware)

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When Rabbi Conover asked yesterday what she could do for us, Philippe had the genius idea to ask her to help us celebrate Shabbat. Thanks, Phil, for realizing that bringing our family tradition to the hospital would make us all feel more at home. Charlotte sat up voluntarily, smiled at the sight of the candles and challah and we all benefitted from the rabbi’s blessing and the light she always shines on us.

Somewhere my father is smiling on us. I know he is. And in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia and Georgia, I know the rest of the family is, too.

Charlotte’s interventionist cardiologist stopped by to say hi as we finished. Both he and our nurse said, “I smell challah. Sorry to have missed your celebration.”

Shabbat Shalom, ya’ll.

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The Wait Begins (#CHDAware)

Update #2: Phil and I are now up in the family great room at the Regenstein cardiac care unit, waiting. My brother is keeping us company.

We arrived at the hospital at 6:20 and begin preparing. Dr. Backer came in and greeted us. And the nurse had to do the antibacterial wipes again. That caused quite a bit of drama, but once it was over the anesthesiologist came in and gave Charlotte a shot of Versed.

By the time they took her back she was relaxed and giggling, and as Hal said, fittingly talking to us as they rolled her away, asking the anesthesia team about the bar code don’t and telling me how she knew about it.

The surgery will take 5 to 7 hours. Please forgive us if we don’t respond individually to each email or text to be a long day.

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Ready, Set, Wait….

When our phone rings at 1:22 in the morning, we answer it. Largely because Philippe’s mom is not doing well.  This morning it was a call from the CCU (Cardiac Care Unit) telling us that Dr. Backer, Charlotte’s surgeon, had to postpone the surgery until tomorrow (Wednesday) because an emergency had come up.

I listened, took mental notes, and hung up. Philippe asked me three times if I was sure of what I heard and if I was sure that it really was the CCU. I thought, “Because a prank call at 1:22 in the morning would be so specific as to cancel your daughter’s heart surgery?!”  But, I pulled the number up on caller ID and dialed it. Maybe the night nurse thought I was nuts, I don’t know. She found the gentleman who called me and he confirmed that I had heard correctly.

We rolled over and went back to sleep. I drifted off doing a mental inventory the fridge to plan dinner and realizing that I could pick my brother up from the airport. (We found out he was coming a day or two ago.)

At 7:30 a.m. Charlotte padded into the room and said, “Mommy, what happened?”  I asked her to crawl into bed with me (Philippe had left for work) and I told her. Her immediate reaction was to whimper and crumble. Poor sweetie, such a big change of plans. Once I got her attention, I told her that we could have a real vacation day with no worries or concerns or pain. AND, she got to have a real visit with her uncle. And, by the way, was she ready for breakfast.

I also told her that in 2007 we had taken her to the hospital, waited for several hours (without breakfast or lunch) and then got sent home . That surgery went swimmingly, I told her. So this delay seemed right to me.

We had a great visit with my brother, who now really needs to learn to play Blokus. Everyone is asleep now and getting rested to try again tomorrow.

Our hearts go out to the family whose emergency delayed Charlotte’s repair. We don’t know know who they are, but we know we have something in common.

Side note:

Because this is Heart Defect Awareness Week, Saving tiny Hearts Society will have an ‘About Us’ table along with our ‘Make A Valentine For Kids in the Hospital’ Station at Lurie Children’s tomorrow in the cafeteria around 10:30/11. Dr. Wax plans to come and do magic tricks. This event is a great way to meet families, see doctors and nurses and should end in the early afternoon.


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Throw-Back Thursday, Or Countdown & Flashback to Surgery

Charlotte has been counting the days until her surgery. Last week, nearly every ride to school started with “20 days,” “19 days,” etc. Phil’s theory is that she is putting her life “on hold” until it is over and so that’s why she’s counting.

Another theory (mine) is that counting is her way of controlling the situation. In addition to counting, she came home one day last week with a sheet of paper on which she had written “Hospital Schedule, Day #1.” It was precious:

9:30 Wake up

9:31 Kiss m&d

9:45-11:30 Surgery

11:45-1:30 Watch a movie

I thought about this for a few days and then asked her about it.  She said it made her feel better to have a plan for the day so she wouldn’t get bored. I explained that the surgery would likely take more than an hour and forty-five minutes (Dr. Backer is a genius, but not a magician!) and that she might not be up for a movie afterword. She was, in a word, crushed. Until I told her could watch two movies on day two.

This morning Charlotte didn’t count down, so I did. I mentioned that in two weeks from today, the surgery would be over and she would be recovering. We talked about how day #1 of recovery might be the worst of it, like when you fall and the next day you feel really achy. Then she changed subjects (let’s face it Hasbro’s Equestria Girls is ever-so-much more exciting!).

In honor of Throwback Thursday, pictures of Charlotte on Day #1 of Recovery in 2005 and 2007.

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Cheating a little here–this may be just hours after the surgery.

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And this cute photo is day #2 of recovery in 2005. Her little scars ended up being so tiny that they were eventually covered with Snoopy bandaids.

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Day #2 2007

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MICkey button saga

The overdue promised update on the two recent replacements of Charlotte’s MICkey button:

As the cardiac surgeons prepared for heart surgery they removed Charlotte’s MICkey button and replaced it with a Foley catheter. I’m not really sure why. It seems this is just what they always do. Logically, Charlotte only needed “egress” from her stoma for a day or two, and she definitely needed the gases to be able to flow freely out. Also, the Foley eliminates any concern about an extension tube coming out or the button itself getting yanked by accident.

In any case, as soon as Charlotte was able to take food by mouth, our PICU nurse replaced the Foley catheter with a brand-spanking new MICkey button. We get a new one every 3-5 months and we were due.

The new button seemed just like the others-it was a little loose, a little twirly in the stoma, and occasionally looked like it was really sticking out far from her tummy (they’re supposed to lie pretty flat on the belly).

A week after the surgery, Charlotte’s babysitter Jenna called me at work, worried that the button looked like it might fall out. She saw a lot of leakage between the button and Charlotte’s tummy. Since we hadn’t really experienced that before and Jenna know what the button usually looks like, I had her tape it down and I immediately made an appointment with the pediatric surgery clinic.

At clinic on Friday March 30, Teri, our surgery APN, measured the length into Charlotte’s tummy (pretty weird—she had a measuring-tape type thing that she stuck into the stoma. I did NOT watch) and decided that the button we had was too long. We (Teri and I) now think this may have been a problem for a long time given that we haven’t taken this measurement in a year. She put in a new button and we were on our way.

All this took, by the way, 10 minutes.

I got home and found that it was very difficult to put the extension tube in or take it out. We had to really push on the thing. The whole weekend was rough—Charlotte didn’t want us to touch the tube because we had to fight so hard to get it in or out. But, we did have to take it out for a bath a few times. We lived like this until Wednesday when I got quite fed up.

So, during our Cardiology check up, I discussed it with the Cardiology APN, Debbie. After a quick phone consult with Teri, we realized that the button itself was likely defective and we made an appointment to have it replaced.

Charlotte and I left Cardiology, went home for nap and lunch and returned to the hospital. Teri replaced the button and we were, again, on our way. But, yes, we did spend ALL day in the hospital on Wednesday.

The new button is perfect. Hopefully it will last for several months!


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Heart Update

Charlotte had her first post-surgical cardiology visit with Dr. Young.

Dr. Young was quite pleased with her progress: She’s gained weight since her surgery (at the pediatrician’s last week she topped out at 26 lbs.). Her heart sounds good and there is only a slight “swish,” mostly the sound of blood through the conduit. No regurgitation sounds. And, her chest x-rays looked good.

Princess Charlotte getting ready for her x-ray.

Charlotte was a trooper–she smiled for the camera during her x-ray and most of her EKG. My secret weapon? The camera. Little Miss Diva-in-Training loves having her picture taken. So, we explain that the x-ray machine is a camera and so is the EKG machine.

Also, having a wonderful technician who thinks to have Charlotte help put the stickers and lead on. Pure genious.

Finally, a smile. That wasn’t so bad, was it Charlotte?