Happy To Be Home

This update is long overdue, so I apologize. We have been so busy and exhausted! In between organizing and unpacking, we are still going to appointments down in Palo Alto, picking up meds, walking Poppy and trying to enjoy our freedoms. But there are lots of good things to update to share!

First, Hana had a birthday and turned two a week after we moved back home. She had a good day and I took her to the open gym session at the gymnastics place where she could climb and jump (after that much of the day was spent preparing for her birthday party the next day). We got an ice cream cake and she actually ate some. The day after, Saturday, we had a birthday party for her on the beach in San Francisco. We invited some of her friends that came to visit her in the hospital. She was VERY excited and had a really great time. I don’t think she understood it was her birthday but she loved being by the ocean and having lots of other little kids around. A bunch of our friends pooled together and bought Hana a toy kitchen. This was always her favorite thing to play with wherever she went (preschool, hospital playroom, hospital gym, RMH playrooms). So, when she got back from her birthday party on the beach her play kitchen was all setup and waiting for her. She LOVED it. It was a great day in the life of Hana!

Second, another of Hana’s nurses at the hospital won the Daisy Award for her care of Hana! Jenny made wraps for Hana’s Berlin Heart dressing which we used instead of the ace wrap. It was better for Hana’s skin, did a better job keeping things in place, was more convenient and more comfortable. Jenny shopped for fabric, made a bunch of prototypes, and sewed a bunch of wraps for Hana in her free time. I was incredibly touched by her dedication and generosity. I think it was very rewarding for Jenny as well. Hana and I made a special trip down to the hospital so that we could be there when they surprised Jenny with the award. It was really great to be a part of it. We really had so many great nurses in the hospital and I am very grateful to them.

Third, Hana had another Cath Lab/Biopsy last week. Last time, she spiked a fever and had very rapid breathing and ended up in the Emergency Room and then was admitted overnight at the hospital. This did not happen this time. Hana’s anesthesia took a long time to wear off and she was kind of like a happy drunk for several hours. She would get up and stagger across the room and then fall on her butt and then laugh at herself. It was pretty funny but I could not take my eyes off of her so that she didn’t hurt herself! She eventually became very irritable. The good news is that the pressures in her heart are WAY down, so much that they thought maybe she was getting too dehydrated (but her BUN and creatinine look normal). She also got another zero rejection back from her heart biopsy! So this is all great news. The only bad news is that two of the vials of her blood for testing clotted so we couldn’t get comprehensive blood work that week (and Kaiser messed up and didn’t have the lab orders in their system for us to make it up a couple days later).

Fourth, Hana’s clinic visits have been going well. She is doing great. They continue to wean her steroid but go up on her blood pressure meds, as her blood pressure remains too high. As standard protocol, they started her on Lipitor as a prevention against coronary artery disease which is the most common reason that someone needs another transplant. We keep dropping her tube feeds and last Friday they decided to drop the last feed, which she was getting at night while she was sleeping. So, her NG tube would only be used for giving her meds and the plan was to slowly introduce more and more of her meds by mouth instead of through the tube. Well, last night (Sunday night or early Monday morning) she somehow accidentally pulled her own NG tube out! We decided to leave it out and just cold turkey see how she would do on taking every single one of her meds by mouth. She gets 14 medications and most of them she gets twice or three times a day. It was a struggle and we had to hold her down for a few but she managed to get all but one medication down (and that one was just Lasix which she immediately spit all of it out). We ended up redosing. In the evening Hana did MUCH better and only really struggled for one medication. She drank and ate more than I have seen her do. I wanted to cry tears of joy! I was so proud of her. We did a lot of celebrating when she finished that last medication! Hopefully, she can keep up the good work on the medications and eating and drinking and the NG tube can stay out for good!

Lastly, I wanted to mention two things that don’t qualify as good news. First, it has been a bit of an adjustment for me to being out and about in the real world, full time. In general (friends and family excluded, of course) people are not nearly as nice as they were in the hospital or the Ronald McDonald House. Of course, this sounds pretty obvious but when you have become so accustomed to it for nine months, its a little surprising. Many of the same challenges still exist yet no one is trying to help you or accommodate you. Not that I expect special treatment, but actually, I guess I do for some things. Sometimes special treatment is appropriate and people at the Ronald McDonald House and the hospital understood that. Stress, fatigue, worry, heartache, etc. is what you deal with every day and besides that a million details to track. I find myself getting frustrated trying to get the many small things done regarding Hana’s care. So, I really appreciate those people that are trying to smooth the road for us.

The last thing I’ll mention is that Sunday morning my grandmother passed away. She was 97 and had been in relatively good health, but lately she had begun to experience some heart problems. She died peacefully and full of love. While she was not perfect, she was an amazing grandmother and such a force of love in my life. She saw a lot in her 97 years but I think all of this that happened with Hana really shook her up and maybe there was a ripple in her resiliency. The day we got the shock of our lives when we learned of Hana’s heart condition was also my grandmother’s 96th birthday. I thought of her often when I needed to find more energy and strength to keep going. She used to tell me stories about her neighborhood growing up in South Philadelphia and how people took care of each other. I’ve thought of that picture she painted often, letting others into our lives to help take care of us. I’m glad she got to spend time with Hana (before we knew about Hana’s heart) and I’m grateful she waited until Hana got her heart to conclude her time on this earth. I will miss her terribly.

Thank you for taking care us!

7 thoughts on “Happy To Be Home

  1. What a wonderful end to a challenging year. A birthday party by the ocean with friends and family and doggie and a joyous mom & dad. The pictures of Hana say it all about her health and happiness. Congratulations to all who were part of this amazing journey for this precious child.

    My condolences to you and your family on the the death of your grandmother. Her birthday dates and your memories of her will forever be in all of your hearts.

    Love to you, Hana and Paul.


  2. It is so nice to hear how well things are going. Thank you for all the wonderful photos of Hana’s smiling and joyful face. She’s an inspiration. And that photo on the sidewalk looks like she is busting a Michael Jackson move. You go Hana!


  3. Heartwarming to see the pictures of Hanna! She seems full of joy, even though she has and continues to go through a tougher than most other children. Life is full of possibilities and miracles. Enjoy the blessings, the difficulties will pass.


  4. Kathleen I am Nicole Martucci’s mom (Charlotte’s Mimi). Nicole shared your blog with me and I have loved following along. You don’t know me but as a mom and grandmother I am truly touched by Hana’s story and your beautiful way of writing. Hugs to everyone! Barbara Beebe


  5. How wonderful that Hana made it home in time for her birthday. You do not know us, but, my family has followed your blog and we find your journey so inspirational to us. Your story has put life in perspective in so many ways. We are so happy Hana and her family are back home. Thank you for sharing this journey. Love from New Jersey.


  6. Gee, even MORE folks have been following the blog on Hana! Thank you to all of you for showing support to our family. There are hundreds of you out there, maybe a thousand. We know you are from all across our country and from other countries as well. And I’ll bet there are many more following Hana’s story but have not commented on the blog. We thank you too. It is great to know that there are all of you out there, if we know you or not, lending a hand to Paul and Kathleen, praying for Hana, sending well wishes and kind words of encouragement – for over a year now!
    I know that our family would love to hear from you, especially on news of spreading the word of how important it is to become an organ donor, bone marrow donor and support medical research whenever possible.


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