Zero Rejection

The big news today was that Hana’s first biopsy results came back with zero rejection! I hope this is the result she gets for the rest of her biopsies. The big long term problem is actually with the coronary arteries of the heart and is often why a retransplant is necessary. Much of this is not yet well understood so in the meantime Paul and I are going to be making some diet changes. I think we’ve always done pretty well but now we are going to do better. 

The other news today was the result of Hana’s tacrolimus (Prograf, her most important anti-rejection medication) blood test which was even lower than yesterday. This is not good. Her levels need to be within the goal range in order for her to be discharged from the hospital. They keep going up on the dose but her levels go down. This actually means that her kidneys are doing a better and better job – so that is a good thing. So, they have gone up a tiny bit again on the dose and will test again tomorrow. It’s really important to get this right! 

I am impatient to leave the hospital mostly because Hana must get breathing treatments twice a day while she is inpatient. This is because of the construction around the hospital (for the new hospital) and the spores in the air are very dangerous for transplant patients. The breathing treatment involves holding her down in bed and forcing a mask over her face like you are suffocating her so that she breathes in the yellow vapors of amphotericin. She fights and cries and sputters and gags. It’s awful. Of course, she is too young to understand how she is making it worse. 

I really hope she can be discharged Sunday but I’m not too optimistic.

Hana is getting her IVIG therapy today. They are running it over 18 hours instead of 24 so we’ll see how she handles it. Before, when they ran it faster she spiked a fever and everyone got worried so we don’t want that to happen again. Since Hana will have to get IVIG therapy as an outpatient treatment, if it can be done in less than 24 hours then she can go to the short stay unit instead of being admitted to the hospital every time. Hopefully it goes well.

Other than all that we are just waiting around. Hana has started to eat a little. She is definitely showing more interest in food. It makes me want to cry tears of joy. I know a lot of parents stress about their young children not eating very much. Hana has never been an eater. I don’t think she’s ever eaten more than a tablespoon of food (and that was a very rare occasion). I hope she is getting ready to turn a corner!

205 days in the hospital, 14 days with a new heart!

Tired Day

Sleep is proving to be difficult. Hana had fits of wakefulness in the night. Finally I asked for Tylenol and she slept for 3.5 hours straight. There still has been no nap longer than 20 minutes during the day. It is very difficult to get her to sleep before 10pm because of all the care ordered at the end of the day. We can’t let her sleep late either because of all the stuff she needs to do in the morning.

Hopefully we are only here one more week. We still need to get through her first heart biopsy on Thursday and another round of IVIG therapy over the weekend.

The days get to be long when Hana is indifferent to so many things. We took her to preschool and the playroom for a short time each. I also wheeled her around in the wagon around the third floor over and over again.

She’s still pretty cranky. It could be healing from heart surgery or cranky from being tired or moody from steroids! Her nurse again took us over to the fountain in from of the adult hospital. Hana did a lot more walking and almost running and she almost looked like she was smiling! We still hav to be careful of her falling, especially if she tried to catch her fall – she could really hurt her chest incision (hopefully the staples are coming out on Thursday).

Hana got her pacing wires out and her dressing changed. They started to wean her diuretics. Maybe soon she can be off the monitor or portable monitor and we can take her out of the room, off the third floor and maybe even down to the atrium. That would be amazing. But then again, we have had the privilege of so many amazing things come our way!

200 days in the hospital, 9 days with her new heart.


Last night was a bit rough for me – sleeping didn’t go too well, but it didn’t go too bad either. I think I woke up to comfort Hana six or seven times. Part of the problem is the quiet. You hear every little noise when there is no longer an air compressor in your room. Fortunately, we’ve always used Hana’s white noise machine so that has remained a constant. In fact we are on the second white noise machine, the first one got dropped so many times in the hospital. But if I’m talking about quiet and white noise then things must be going pretty well.

We are chipping away at things in order to get discharged. Her cannula sites need to ooze a little less. She is coming down on diuretics which may need adjustment to other meds for high blood pressure (common for heart transplant). She needs to finish her IV antibiotics. They need to get her tacrolimus (Prograf) levels just right. She’s off her oxygen. She needs to get her pacing wires removed. There are a few more things to watch and do later in the week. There’s a chance that she could be discharged next Monday. I’m trying to wrap my mind around that.

Hana has been more attached to me than usual. She watches me like a hawk to see if I’m going to leave. I get it. I don’t blame her for being like this at all. I also feel that she can be guided to trust again. She’s been through a lot and much of it she’s had to face without me or Paul. I don’t let my heart break about that anymore because there’s nothing I could have done to change it and it doesn’t do any good – I just try to validate, reassure and guide her forward. Right now she needs a lot of cuddling and so that is just where she is in the process, I don’t complain because I enjoy it too!

Of course, you can’t cuddle all day, every day. It seems like that would be the best medicine, but sometimes getting up and moving around is also very important. That’s when you have to push tough love because Hana did not want to get up. It was time today for her to really start moving. They turned off her oxygen this morning and Hana needs to work her lungs. A friend (adult) that Hana loves came to visit and that was motivation for her to start playing and talking a little and she even ate a little food! 

In the evening Hana’s nurse, one that she’s had in the past, took us over to the adult side of the hospital to the big fountain. We wheeled her in her red wagon through the empty, Sunday halls to the main entrance. It was her first time outside without the Berlin Heart since mid-November. When we got to the fountain, a place Hana has never seen before, she tried to climb out of the wagon. We helped her out of the wagon and I thought she was going to jump in the pool of water! (She can’t take a bath for at least six more weeks.) Hana has barely stood, let alone walked, in a week but she started walking and almost running around the perimeter of that fountain. She started signing too – water, tree, again, bird, rain – she thought the fountain was rain. She was in awe. She was just amazed and joyous. Her transformation was so amazing, I think we were all teary eyed. 

199 days in the hospital, 8 days with a new heart.

A Long Day

Today has been very busy and has felt long. Hana woke up and seemed pretty cranky, maybe sad and in pain – more like I would expect. 

First, her X-ray showed her pneumothoraces are completely resolved so that was great. They gave her regular nasal cannulas and turned her down to 2L. They restarted her feeds of breast milk at only 10mL an hour. She got an IV that wasn’t flushing well taken out of her foot. She got her leaky arterial line out, they were going to wait another day but they didn’t really want her losing any more blood. Her hematocrit was 21 and her hemoglobin was 7.4 so they gave her a blood transfusion. 

She got two breathing treatments – one she will get twice a day until she is discharged from the hospital, it’s to protect against the spores that may be in the air from all the new hospital construction. To do the breathing treatment, they hold a mask over her face – she does not like that! The second breathing treatment, pentamidine, is supposed to be administered once a month but we think she had an allergic reaction to it. Hana started to get hives on her neck and then her abdomen and back. They gave her Benadryl and then IV hydrocortisone. Then they wrote in her chart to never give pentamidine again. We were worried that the rash was from the blood transfusion but it started three hours after the transfusion started, so they don’t think it was the blood.

Hana’s blood pressure and central venous  pressure has been higher but they think that’s because she has so much more volume from all the transfused blood. She is getting more Lasix and diuril (and therefore more potassium). She looks puffy. She will probably get puffy from the prednisolone that she will need to take for 9 months.

They hope to shut off the milrinone very early Friday morning. After a day off of it she might be able to be moved back upstairs, out of the CVICU, as early as Saturday. Incredible! After that she would be on the floor at least a week before being discharged. It’s crazy to think such a thought.

Today Paul and I started receiving our transplant education. First we went over medications with the transplant pharmacist. It’s a whole new world. At least I understand more about medications in general now. Then we met with the transplant nurse practitioner to start going over care, signs of rejection, who to call, etc. We will have two more education sessions with the NP before being discharged.

Hana drank about 100 mL of breast milk, which I thought was great since she hadn’t had anything since last Friday. She also took her Tacrolimus (Prograf) by mouth again, which continues to be successful, thank goodness. The best thing was I got to finally hold Hana today, it was so wonderful!

Hopefully Hana will be able to get more sleep – it’s hard to sleep in the ICU. She doesn’t seem very happy, more like sad or maybe just in pain, so I hope she continues to heal and fall in love with her own heart. Maybe we could all try to do the same too!

196 days in the hospital, almost 5 days with her new heart!

Better Today

Hana’s fever is down to normal range. They still have her on the cooling blanket. She is still getting two broad spectrum antibiotics, although they switched out the zosyn for something easier on the kidneys. The attending doctors don’t feel like the fever was caused by infection. Attending doctors seem so much more calm about these things than fellows, or at least the newer fellows.

Hana’s CVP is down to about 10, which is where they want it. She is starting to have good urine output. They are still pacing her heart. Her blood pressure has been good. They took out her femoral line and the Foley catheter. Her sedation seems to be in a good place. They started her on Prilosec since she is not getting anything in her stomach.

They will do another echocardiogram today. Her X-ray this morning looked good – a lot less fluid. It’s actually amazing to see her X-ray now, her new heart is so much smaller and doesn’t take up almost the entire left side!

They will most likely not extubate today. Unless they can wean the vent more and if her echocardiogram looks amazing, than maybe. But it’s a holiday and Hana’s had three failed extubations so maybe it’s better to wait until tomorrow when all the normal staff is back and close by.

Overall, they think she is doing really well!

193 days in the hospital, 1 full day with her new heart!

She’s Doing Great

After sleeping for a few hours we got up to check on Hana around 8:30. Apparently, she had tried to climb out of bed! This is actually not good because she needs to stay more sedated and still, especially while having a breathing tube.

In addition to her breathing tube, she has two arterial lines, a 3 IVs, an IJ (internal jugular central line), 4 chest tubes, a Foley catheter, pacing wires and of course her incision in her chest and the two areas where her Berlin Heart cannulas entered her body.

Here’s some more technical stuff.

She is getting morphine, epinephrine and propofol drips, precedex as needed. She is getting IV dopamine to help her new heart squeeze and also milrinone to help with heart function. She is getting magnesium and sodium. They’ve started her on IV Lasix to help take some fluid off. She is getting intermittent IV Cellcept and methylprednisone which are immunosuppressant for her new heart. She is also getting another dose of IVIG, just like she would get before. They’ve already taken her off Nitroprusside and fentanyl. 

Everything is going really great. They have things they are “concerned” about which just means they watch and make adjustments for, but overall they are not concerned and they think she is doing great. Some “concerns” are her CVPs (central venous pressure) which have been high around 14. They want it to be closer to 10. This means there is more pressure on the right side of her heart. This is why she is getting Lasix to offload fluid. In addition, they have her hooked up to a pacemaker. Her heart rate is set to 140. Her blood pressure was low, due to the precedex but is coming up nicely now that they’ve taken her off of it.

Her right heart they are watching closely because of a long ischemic time. This means her new heart was without oxygen for a long time, although within acceptable limits for a transplant. This happened because her new heart came from “further away”. They can’t tell us anything about the donor but this tidbit of information came up because it is part of Hana’s care. She also might need to be on milrinone for the same reason. If her CVPs don’t come down by this afternoon then they will do an echocardiogram. 

For the rest of the day, other than watch her right heart, they will take out her femoral arterial line as long as her radial arterial line seems okay, which I guess can go “soft” after surgery. They will start her on another immunosuppressant called ATG (anti-thymocyte globulin) which will help keep her white blood cell count down. Her IVIG will end (she will probably need IVIG therapy for a year). They are keeping her cool with cold packs because her temperature was a bit high, probably due to inflammation. They will probably start her on TPN, which is IV nutrition, later today.

Her surgery went faster than expected. While she was on heart and lung bypass during her surgery, her lactate never went above 1, which they have seen before. This is a very good thing. I guess your lactate level can go to 1 just getting a blood draw.

Today is the day to rest for us because tomorrow her breathing tube comes out and then it gets hectic! Last night the sounds of the CVICU, beeps and alarms, produced a lot of unexpected anxiety for me. Things can turn quickly here. I keep reminding myself of what is the truth now and that is – she is doing well, so let’s be with that!

It’s a start of a new journey! Transplant is not a cure, it is trading a life threatening condition for a chronic condition. But it is a chance at life! We are still in awe.

She’s Done!

Hana’s heart transplant is done! It went very smoothly with no surprises. The surgeon told us the new heart is working very well. Hana just came up from the OR and is getting settled in the CVICU. We will get to see her in about 30-45 minutes.

We did see her as she was wheeled out of the elevator.

I am on the brink of very overwhelming emotions.

After we see her we are going to try to SLEEP. Hana will be very sedated for awhile. Tonight they will just let her be. She has a breathing tube and will have it for about 24 hours. 

We are so incredibly grateful for this gift of life!

192 days in the hospital, day of transplant!