Building A Team

Hello all! There are many things happening right now, in April, and much to look forward to in the next few months! I’ll tell you much more about them in just a bit. March, on the other hand, was a heavy month. The heaviness was caused by the passing of three people in a short span of time. It weighed heavily on my mind but even more on my heart. It started with the sudden passing of my 33-year old cousin. Then, about a week later, my uncle who had a single lung transplant last year, passed away as a result of an infection. Finally, a week later, another young child we knew from the hospital who had a heart transplant, passed away. I could say many, many more things about these three people and how each death affected me personally, as the words have been forming a web of thoughts in my mind, but the heaviness feels too much for this forum.

Amongst these dark clouds, life continues on. Hana had another check-up with the heart transplant team. She got a clean bill of health and they came up with a new steroid taper schedule. As I made the prescribed decreases in her steroid, Hana ate less, whined more, experienced intermittent diarrhea and seemed more tired. Finally, last Tuesday she just didn’t want to get out of bed. She would go to the bathroom and go right back to bed. She would sit up to take her medicines and go right back to sleep. The transplant team at Stanford decided they wanted her to come in. My heart always sinks when I hear this. It means the possibility that this is something serious.

She finally did get out of bed at 1pm in time to go to Stanford. Right before we were about to get in the car, Hana had a massive vomit. I haven’t seen anything like it since before her transplant. My heart sank again that day and I hoped it was just caused by the chocolate ice cream and glass of milk that she chugged. The first words out of Hana’s mouth when she woke up at 1pm was, “I want chocolate ice cream.” Now, this is such an unusual request that I decided to grant it. In addition, I rarely give Hana a glass of milk to drink. So there you have it.

They did an echocardiogram at Stanford and everything looks the same. This was very reassuring. Plus, she was eating a little bit and her energy was a little better. They decided that her symptoms were probably caused by weaning off the steroids. They could still be caused by an underlying GI virus, but time will tell if going back up on the steroids does not alleviate symptoms. It did not seem to be caused by rejection, which is what had everyone worried.

I am happy to report that in the last week Hana has greatly improved. Her energy and mood are much better. She is eating more. She has lost some weight and is looking a little skinnier than usual but I expect that to improve. We will try tapering again in a couple more weeks, but even more slowly. Hopefully she can be off the steroid in time for her next biopsy on May 7th. I guess they see an increase in rejection when patients go off steroids and since Hana has a history of this, we need to hope and pray that she can handle this with no more episodes of rejection.

Other than this fun, Hana has been enjoying Forest School two days a week, dance class and swimming. She also loves going to the playground, playing with friends and checking out tons of new books from the library. For the rest of the family we are all doing well. We got to enjoy a weekend near Lake Tahoe recently and Hana got to play in snow for the first time. Corrina is going to have her first birthday soon! Paul has been busy with work and some golf. I have been working on a few stealth projects.
img_6367

One of my not-so-stealth projects is building a team for the upcoming Summer Scamper on Sunday, June 24th in Palo Alto. This is the race event that benefits the hospital where Hana is treated. I have registered our team, Hana’s Heart. This year, we want to dedicate the race to the family and donor of Hana’s heart. Our whole family will be walking again in the 5K. I decided to stick with the family again this year instead of running. Hana will be participating in the Fun Run for 3-year olds! I think she is going to be very excited. If you want to join our team, please sign up by going to the Hana’s Heart team page and clicking on “Join Team”. This year, if I can get my act together, we are going to do t-shirts and hopefully a team picnic after the event. I have no excuse like last year (“I just had a newborn”) to get things done!

Look for more about the Summer Scamper and the Hana’s Heart team in the coming weeks.

April is National Donate Life Month! If you aren’t a registered organ donor, do it now!
NDLM-2018_FacebookCover_web

I’ve decided to make myself an advertisement for Donate Life and raising awareness about the importance of organ donation. I’ve made and am making some t-shirts to wear, especially when I am out for a jog. Check back for updates on how that is going!
img_6351

Here are some recent photos:

Hanas-Heart-8212Hanas-Heart-8251Hanas-Heart-8304Hanas-Heart-8343

img_6197img_6165img_6154img_6223img_6123img_5988img_6006img_5955img_5928img_5850img_5805img_5647img_5566img_5520img_6327img_6315img_6291img_6274

Hanas-Heart-8281

And don’t forget, register to be an organ donor! Tell your friends and family too!

The Donor Family Letter

Today, when my phone rang and when I saw the phone number come up, a little gulp of fear surged through me. It was Hana’s Nurse Practitioner and I was sure she was calling with biopsy results except that it seemed way to early, at 10am, to already have results. Nancy sounded cheerful and immediately said she had more good news. Hana’s biopsy result was a 1a, which is essentially no rejection. I felt incredibly relieved and said “whew!” Out loud. Her next biopsy is not until early May. We will begin to taper her steroids. We also discussed flu precautions, which has me slightly terrified this year. They had no additional precautions than the ones I’ve already implemented. Anyhow, we have reason to celebrate such good biopsy results!

On to the big news that Nancy gave me yesterday. After discussing Hana’s biopsy yesterday Nancy’s said she had more good news and then she said, “You have a letter from the donor family.” And then she handed me a plain white envelope, very thin, which appeared to have one sheet of a typed letter inside. I immediately started crying. I took the letter feeling like it was the most precious paper I had ever held in my hands.

I felt so many things at once that I can’t even really identify them all. They were just very very big emotions. Not since we received the call that there was a heart for Hana have I felt like this. I felt intense gratitude, relief, excitement. I felt the intensity of loss, grief, suffering. I even felt love and hope and desire. Of course, I did not open the letter until Paul was home. I cried on and off throughout the rest of the day. I waited. This is one reason why I did not mention this yesterday – I still had not opened the letter.

The letter was short and heartfelt. The donor was a boy, a little younger than Hana, who died unexpectedly. He had a contagious smile and was full of life – running, jumping, chasing. He was an only child. The parents said they think every day about the recipients who received his gifts and would love to hear how they are doing. We have decided that we are not going to post any identifying details that were shared by the donor family. As much as we love and appreciate all of the readers of this blog we want to respect the privacy and anonymity of the donor family.

It has been very emotional and we are still processing it all. I am incredibly grateful that the donor family reached out first. As much as I have wanted them to know our gratitude for their choice, it just never felt like it was the right time. Not just yet. Now, it feels like the right time! In a few days, after a bit more processing, Paul and I will write a reply. I hope we can somehow find that words that might begin to express how we feel. I hope we can perhaps offer some solace knowing that their son’s heart beats within Hana and explain how much she loves life. I hope we can continue to be the best stewards of this most incredible and amazing gift for Hana.

Thank you donor family. You are in our hearts every night.

With Love,

Kathleen

Finally, Another Biopsy

Today, Wednesday, Hana finally had her follow up biopsy to the 1b result she got back in November. They wanted her to have her follow-up biopsy a month later in December but Hana was sick and so it was canceled and couldn’t be rescheduled until the end of January. We got to go to the brand new hospital, which is right next door to the old hospital. It is beautiful and new and fun for the kids. Biopsy days are always exhausting for me. Its the preparing, getting up early, packing, figuring out care for Corrina and then there is the mental and emotional drain, which is probably the most exhausting. This time, my mom was here for the biopsy. She and Corrina came with us to the hospital, which makes things easier for us.

When Hana’s biopsy was over and she was in recovery but still asleep from her anesthesia, they called me back to the Consultation Room to talk to the surgeon who did the procedure. They almost never do this for routine biopsies so I started to get really worried that things had not gone well. I sat in the Consultation Room for a long time trying to calm my fears. I had Corrina with me while my mom went back to the recovery room where Hana was waking up. After 20 or so minutes someone finally came in to tell me they had talked to the surgeon and she had to go and would talk to me later. I was relieved because I was almost positive that this meant everything was fine. But for twenty minutes I was pretty stressed.

Hana’s Nurse Practitioner came out to talk to me and was looking for a private room, which made me nervous again because they don’t do that unless they have some kind of news. We found a empty sitting area and went over Hana’s results so far. Her heart pressures are improved since her last Cath Lab procedure and are in normal range of a transplanted heart. Her echocardiogram also looked fine. So that’s reassuring. That is all good news. Her biopsy results should be in tomorrow (Thursday) so we will know if they are seeing any rejection. Then, Nancy told me she had more good news. I couldn’t imagine what this could possibly be. Unfortunately, I will have to keep you all in suspense for now. More on that in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I want to introduce you to two special boys that are the sons’ of a childhood friend of mine.27605374_10155962716568830_1905743854_o

Michael and Jon Dougherty are participating in a fundraising event through the American Heart Association. They are doing a jump rope event where they learn to jump rope, learn about their heart and raise money to help kids with special hearts. Both boys have chosen to jump in honor of Hana. If you feel moved to do so, you can choose to support their fundraisers by following these links:

Michael: http://www2.heart.org/site/TR?px=6657997&pg=personal&fr_id=3191&et=9-2w0hbcXW7w9L1KXVB1_g

Jon: http://www2.heart.org/site/TR?px=9303519&pg=personal&fr_id=3191&et=dhLUceL_IFTUNNl2ChGSDw

Stay tuned!

Happy New Year

I know, I know, this update is long overdue. I’m sorry. I’m tired. It must be having a baby that makes me too tired to keep my eyes open too long as soon as I sit down. Actually, I’ve been tired mostly because I spent almost the entire fall season sick. Since we got back from Hawaii in mid-September and we all contracted RSV, I’ve had a nearly non-stop flow of bad colds, with a week in between. Luckily, colds I got that the kids did not get first, I did not spread to them. Corrina got the croup right after Thanksgiving which spread to me and then Hana. It took me the longest to get well (five or six weeks), even Hana got better long before me. This is not bragging (but may sound like it) but I’ve had people say to me, “I don’t know how you do it. How do you do so much?” Well the answer is, I don’t, I hit a wall. Because my body obviously told me I was doing too much and I needed to take better care of myself. I also struggled a lot this fall with anxiety or maybe you would call it PTSD having to do with all we’ve had to deal with Hana. Dark thoughts kept creeping into my mind and it took a lot of energy to overcome them. Maybe I’ll say more about that later. This has been too much about me already. Now, more about Hana.

Hana is doing GREAT! She is LOVING life. Truly. She goes to Forest School two mornings a week for preschool. This is 100% outdoors in Golden Gate Park in the woods. They climb trees and play with sticks and dirt and pinecones. She loves it. I would have loved the idea of it even if she weren’t immune suppressed but its an added bonus that she is less at risk of exposure to other kids’ germs. The teachers are amazing too. If you are wondering what they do in the rain, they stay outside and play in the rain and mud! I dress her with a base layer of wool long underwear and she has good rain paints, raincoat and boots.

Hana started swim lessons this fall too. She also really loves swimming and is so excited that she is will to sit poolside for 30 minutes (with a stack of library books), while I take Corrina in for her lesson first. I think its amazing that, after nearly nine months of not being able to even take a bath submerged in water, that she loves swimming so much.

Lastly, the latest addition is that Hana started taking dance class. I was not going to add another activity but she was asking to dance all the time and when I showed her a few preschool dance videos (check out Petite Feet on Amazon streaming video) she fell in love. So she started a ballet/tap/tumbling class with just the right mix of structure and age-appropriate fun and she loves it! She is very motivated and driven all on her own. I think she actually would enjoy a more focused class, which surprised me, considering her age, but its more than good enough for now.

In between all these things we try to make it to the playground, the beach, the Children’s Creativity Museum (if you go, check out their Sketchtown exhibit, its amazing), the Bay Area Discovery Museum, the San Francisco Zoo, and the California Academy of Sciences. We keep fairly busy. I think I may be trying to overcompensate for all the time Hana has had to spend stuck in the hospital. But its now winter/rainy season here in San Francisco during one of the worst cold & flu seasons in a long time and we are hibernating a little bit to keep away from the germs. So, I think we will have plenty of inside play time.

Unfortunately, the last cold caused Hana’s biopsy in December to be rescheduled. She got a 1b, which Stanford treats as mild rejection (other transplant programs treat it as no rejection) in November and was supposed to get another follow up biopsy in December. Now, that’s rescheduled for the end of January. The theorize that the 1b was a reaction to the RSV in September. This is why it is so important for her to stay healthy.

Okay, now I’m frustrated because the rest of this post got deleted somehow. Oh well, I think you got the main points! Happy New Year!

Why We Scamper

The Summer Scamper is just a couple days away! This big fundraising event for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital has the slogan “Why We Scamper” and this week I’ve been taking that to heart and really contemplating, more than usual, what that means to me, especially one year post-transplant.

When you have a baby your life changes, you change, and parents everywhere know this. The person they were before that baby was born is not the same person afterwards, you can never unknow what it is like to be a parent. It was the same when we so suddenly learned about Hana’s heart condition. Bam! All of a sudden, in an instant, our lives changed forever. I have changed from the person I was before, I can never unknow what it is like to have a child with a life-threatening condition. Maybe if you know me fairly well you may not necessarily see these changes, but something fundamental shifts deep inside. I can’t even really explain, with words, what this means. What I can explain is that amazing people were able to save Hana and give her a second chance at life. So, when asked, “Why we scamper?” its because for me, that second chance and the amazing people who gave that to her, touches a place deep down inside where the shift occurred, a “something” I can never unknow.

The Summer Scamper is about kids, of course, but behind all that are the people that save the kids. Some of these people are the amazing doctors, at the top of their game, in an elite class. If they were professional athletes they probably would be famous and get paid lots of money. They have dedicated so much of their lives to saving the lives of kids. It has been a very humbling experience watching (of what I get to see) them work. So, I Scamper for them too – so I can support their dedication to saving the lives of kids.

Lastly, I Scamper for all the kids who are no longer here with us. Well, for the families too, because if there is anything that might create another fundamental shift deep within a person, it might be losing your child. I have seen these parents (and grandparents) and the pain in their eyes shows that it runs to a deep, deep place. So in what small way I can, this is my show of support for them. To honor their pain, I feel like we should not take for granted the life we have. So, I Scamper in gratitude for life.

Please consider supporting our Scampering by donating to Hana’s Heart Scamper team:
https://my.supportlpch.org/fundraise/team?ftid=116471

Here are some images from this past week:

Our amazing Hana’s Heart Scamper team, besides me and Paul, includes: my best-friend Suzanne and her two kids, Delphi and Travers (they are doing the kids Fun Run), our friend Megan who came to the hospital every week to play with Hana, our friend Katie whose daughter, Maya, also has dilated cardiomyopathy and lastly, my friend Brenna who I’ve known since I was a little kid, is participating as a virtual runner!

To sum up Why We Scamper, its for videos like this (Hana leaving the hospital after her transplant. After seven months in that building, she finally got to walk away and leave it behind her):

Hana’s Heartversary

On Sunday two weeks ago, May 28th, we celebrated Hana’s very first Heartversary – one year with her new heart.
Heartversary-6217_web
It turned out to be a wonderful celebration! We invited some of our local friends and supporters for a big picnic in Golden Gate Park. We were even lucky enough that some of Hana’s medical professionals came! This was a party to celebrate life (Hana’s) to give thanks (to you – all of our supporters) and to commemorate the donor. I think its this last point that really has me thinking these days. It has been a year since the donor family lost their small child and made the courageous decision to donate their heart. Not a day passes where I don’t stop and think of them, hope they are able to find some peace and maybe some solace in their decision.
Heartversary-6272_web

I wish we could have had a chance to have all our family, friends and family from everywhere come to the party. You are what has carried us through! On that note, you may wonder how we managed to pull off having a huge party with a four-week old baby. Our local village here in San Francisco is that answer! A small group of our friends rallied together and took care of all the party details, I just took care of all the big things before the arrival of Corrina. It was amazing. All Paul and I had to do was just show up on the day of the party! Balloons, tents, chairs, tables, food, drinks, a cake, picnic blankets all just showed up at our reserved party spot and all of these wonderful woman (it was mostly the woman, but I know the husbands helped too) have their own toddlers to run after! This is such a perfect example of how important our village is and what an impact they make on our lives.

For our family, life is moving along, especially with the addition of Corrina to our family. Hana is doing great thanks to the medical professionals who dedicate their lives to these kids. This past week she had her one year clinic visit. Coincidentally she was checked out by the original director of the heart transplant program (now semi-retired). There was a tiny bit of concern over Hana’s persistent cough and runny nose (they are thinking possibly allergies) although it doesn’t seem to bother her at all and her lungs sound perfectly fine. We were able to drop two of Hana’s medications – Valcyte and Amlodipine. As long as Hana’s blood pressure stays within normal range she can stay off of the Amlodipine. Hana’s weight gain has been good (thank goodness for all the great summer produce!) She has her annual biopsy in a week, which will be more invasive than any other biopsy since they will look at both the right left sides of the heart (its normally just the right). It will be an all day affair at the hospital. Let’s hope and pray for zero rejection and ideal heart pressures.

I can’t believe it has been a year already. Thank God. What a miracle.

I’m sorry this update is getting posted so late, it has been really hard to find time to sit down at the computer when you have a newborn (and you don’t fall asleep). Corrina is six weeks old today!

I do have something exciting to share in the next or so. It brought tears to my eyes. I hope you like it too!

Heartversary-6220_web

Heartversary-6240_web
She picked out her outfit for the day.
Heartversary-6264_web
Hana is signing, “Good Job”.

Heartversary-6269_web

Heartversary-6281_web
This amazing cake was made by our friend Carole! Amazing!
Heartversary-6287_web
Our friends Isai and Alison from Tamalitos Catering did all the food.
Heartversary-6293_web
Take a heart. Sign your name. Say a prayer or well wish. Drop it in the frame.
Heartversary-6298_web
The cookie decorating bar.

Heartversary-6300_webHeartversary-6303_web

Heartversary-6317_web
This is The Amazing Rachel, our kid entertainment. She was truly amazing!

Heartversary-6326_web

Heartversary-6338_web
Grandpop helps Hana fly with her butterfly wings (Thanks to the Amazing Rachel).

Heartversary-6360_web

Heartversary-6368_web
The Amazing Rachel had all the kids captivated.

Heartversary-6379_webHeartversary-6386_web

Heartversary-6401_web
Paul says a few words of thanks before we cut the cake.

Our great party planning crew!

No Word Yet

Things have been really good. Hana is making progress in her feeding therapy – we’ve dropped another feed and she continues to eat and drink more. Her Prograf levels are within the goal range (finally!). She is happy and we are making it out for trips. Unfortunately, the team at Stanford has decided that Hana is not allowed to be at home full time yet, they want her drug levels (Prograf) to be stable. We are not taking Hana to get more blood work until next week, because this week was stable they will make no changes. So, the soonest they would get another drug level would be next week with her blood work so it seems the soonest we would be allowed to take her home permanently would be next week.

I am so disappointed with this, but trying to just move on.

Things at the house are coming along. Unfortunately, our garage was burglarized. It seems when you are having your house painted (which we are, we need to get it done before Hana can be at home permanently) and there is scaffolding up it is like posting a big “Welcome!” sign for thieves. It is hard to say what was taken because I don’t know what was where anymore but for sure a PlayStation and the painter’s tools were all stolen. But the house is looking great and everything with the paint job should be done this week.

Another unfortunate incident is that our bike at the Ronald McDonald House was vandalized. As far as I can tell only the front wheel was stolen. It is almost a guarantee that someone at the Ronald McDonald House is the one who vandalized the bike, because the area is only accessible to residents. I also think I know who did it and the kid from the family has since gone back home. This is hard for me to swallow.

But again, we are trying to move on.

Things inside our house are slowly getting done. Things are getting organized and cleaned, bit by bit. It kind of feels like we are just stuck in between moving – we can’t really move out or move in to any place. I get very sad when it is time to pack up for the night and go back to the RMH. I especially hate leaving Poppy. Hana seems to really enjoy having Poppy around and I just can’t wait for our family to be a complete unit again!

We’ve been trying to have a lot of fun with Hana. She still has to endure days where we get chores or errands done and certainly where we spend most of the day at the hospital for appointments. In between we try to go to the playground, pool or the beach. We had a great time over the weekend taking the Roaring Camp train from Felton to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. We had Hana wear her mask the whole time (with a few breaks when we could be away from people) and I was constantly wiping off her hands, but it was great fun!

Tomorrow (Wednesday) Hana has another clinic visit. I’m going to advocate again for them to let us move home, but I’m feeling kind of defeated. Still, we are very grateful and loving life outside the hospital!

Hana-5580_web

Hana-5590_web