Happy Birthday, baby girl

February 11th, 2010

Jasmine's  birthday

Jasmine is two years old today.

She may have had a tough start, but doesn’t care at all about that, and is a happy, smart and beautiful girl who didn’t know what all the fuss was about today and just wanted to play with the syringes that are so abundant in hospital.

Jasmine got admitted on Sunday afternoon with a temperature of 40.5 and has been in ever since. So, it was lovely to spend her birthday with the fantastic people who have taken such great care of her since birth. The staff on the ward very kindly surprised her with gifts and balloons and a big chocolate cake and then they discharged her so that she is tucked up in her own bed tonight.

Jasmine's  birthday

We have spent a lot of time on the ward this last fortnight, as all last week she was in with Rotavirus and came home on Friday afternoon only to go back in, 36 hours later, on Sunday. She has been tested and treated for everything, so we are hoping she is on the mend, and we can stay at home a bit longer.

Each time she is ill this side of transplant, there is always the fear of kidney rejection, but that aside, life is miles better without dialysis, though it isn’t yet ‘normal’. Jasmine is on a million meds and a large amount of fluid. Viruses and bugs that ordinary children can deal with, totally floor Jasmine. She needs IV fluids and sometimes antibiotics to recover so that kidney is protected. And she needs her immunosuppressants every 12 hours. But life is better, and will continue to get better as she gets bigger and stronger and learns to eat.

Jasmine has grown about four centimetres since transplant and is so much more energetic with her dad’s kidney. She is a busy little person always experimenting with things around and figuring out how things work, especially medical equipment. She likes to take things apart and put them back together. She laughs a lot and likes to count and babble. She has come a long way since October when I took this picture to show Neil, half an hour after she came out of theatre. She was in intensive care surrounded by the amazing staff who worked really hard to keep her comfortable and sedated whilst her little body time got used to this new big kidney. And one of our lovely nurses from our usual ward talked to me all the time about what they were doing and why. I was so afraid and so grateful that she was there explaining and making it seem normal.

Jasmine's  birthday

Transplant is a life-changing experience in many ways. Our family life is very different and also the way I see things is different now. Though, I was talking to one of the mothers whose child is a teenager and she told me that they don’t tell people that they got transplanted, as they just want to be normal. I understand what she means as sometimes I feel like I am in the middle of a tutorial on dialysis and kidney transplantation. Transplant is an amazing thing so people are naturally curious and want to know all about it. So with that in mind, it is time for us to be normal too, so we have decided to end this blog. We don’t want to write anything that will embarrass Jasmine and we don’t want her to be known as the transplant girl. We want her to be as normal as she can be, in her own extraordinary way.

I have loved writing here. It was something I did to help me through the tough times and to mark the good days, and at the very start when I couldn’t speak on the telephone for the tears that choked me, this blog was a great way to let everyone know what was going on. But we don’t want to put everything about Jasmine online. We want her to decide if and what she shares when she is older.

So thank you for all the kind comments and messages over the past two years, they have been much appreciated and read and re-read. And finally, today and everyday we thank and give thanks for the nurses, doctors and surgeons who have tirelessly and brilliantly taken care of Jasmine and enabled her to reach this day. We are eternally grateful to them.

Neil: Sleepy babies

January 21st, 2010

The girls in their dressing gowns

We had a busy day down at clinics today. When we got back there was a parcel with two lovely dressing gowns for the girls (thank you Sarah!). We gave them both a bath and got them ready for bed. They both look really tired as they had both kept us awake last night as well.

We saw the transplant surgeon who explained what is going on with the kidney dilatation. He said that the dilatation was very mild and not to worry as they will keep looking at the creatinine level, and send us for ultrasounds every three months to check that everything is stable.

Her x-ray on her hips was fine, so that is good. Hopefully she will hop up and start walking soon.

Jasmine has developed a rash on her face. We don’t know whether it is an allergy, or something else. We got some cream for it from the chemist. Jasmine had also recently started a new shampoo, so we have changed back to the old shampoo, in case that had anything to do with it. The other day she tipped her water bottle down herself while we were outside in the freezing weather.

Jasmine’s blood levels required some tinkering too. We are going to give the Magnesium twice a day rather than three times. Her Tacrolimus level is now a bit high, so we are going to give 7 mls in the morning and 8 mls in the evening. Her iron is also a bit low, so she is back on Sytron. I thought that we had seen the last of the Sytron, so had taken the old used bottles back to the chemist. We went to the pharmacy to drop off a new prescription and had to come back in an hour, so we went to get a sandwich, croissant and coffee for lunch.

Yesterday we all went to the dentist. It took mere seconds to check that Calista’s two teeth were in order. It was more difficult to check Jasmine, as she would not open her mouth, and had to be bribed with stickers. Jasmine’s teeth look fine, which is good news. With Jasmine vomiting twenty times a day for 18 months the dentist said she might have had rotten teeth from the stomach acid, like bulimics. Ruth and I both needed fillings – yuk!

Neil: Mild dilatation

January 19th, 2010

 Jasmine asleep on the floor

Jasmine had a busy day today going out and about. She did not go for a nap all day and fell asleep this evening before we could get her into bed. The tape holding the NG-tube down was all loose today, so we took the tube out after her dose of tacroliums. Jasmine did not eat or drink much and Ruth forced the tube back down, to much screaming, in the evening.

 Calista in her pudding suit

Calista had lots of naps today, so was less easy to get settled. She looked very cute in her Christmas pudding sleep suit (thanks to Auntie Zoe).

Jasmine went for an ultrasound scan last Tuesday after clinics, to check whether everything was OK after the stent removal. The consultant was not very reassuring and said that the kidney had some mild dilatation. There was nothing to be done that day, but Jasmine was going to be discussed at length in the next doctors meeting. We spent a few days worrying over the outcome, and being unable to get hold of the doctors. We know that this means that everything is OK and nothing needs to be done, but it is impossible not to worry. Nothing is going to be done surgically, as there does not appear to be any pressure on the kidney itself, which would cause damage over time. We will keep an eye on it, and hope that Jasmine’s creatinine levels stay low. Jasmine also had an x-ray on her hips, as she isn’t walking yet and her joints are very flexible, but due to a mix-up we ended up waiting four hours, by which time our nerves were completely shot.

Jasmine and Calista have colds and keep waking up in the night. Ruth is up at all hours, but doesn’t mind too much (apart from the tiredness) because she has been texting her night time feeding buddy, who is also up feeding her baby.

We finally sold the chaise longue. The lady who bought it was thrilled when she saw it, so it was a pleasure to see that it was going to a good home. We didn’t want want to see it go! It was very heavy, and difficult to carry out of the flat, but that could have been because Ruth was still clutching onto it. It was lovely, but now we have much more room in our flat.

Neil: Feeding schedule

January 7th, 2010

Jasmine had clinics today. We haven’t been to the hospital for two weeks over Christmas and the New Year, which has been brilliant. There has been lots and lots of snow lately. But as we only had a short distance to travel, we had no problems getting to the hospital. We were very impressed with ourselves, until we discovered that half the hospital staff hadn’t been able to get into work because of the snow. There was no phlebotomist, and hardly any patients either!

We saw the transplant surgeon, and he cut the stitches on the stent and pulled it out. It looks good this time, and Jasmine still has wet nappies, so hopefully there is no reflux into the kidney this time, and Jasmine can avoid a surgery. Once the real work was done the surgeon gave us a training session on the different instruments in Jasmine’s toy medical kit. Jasmine has to go back for more bloods and an ultrasound next week, so hopefully that will all be clear.

The speech and language specialist tracked us down specially, which was very kind of her. Jasmine is still only eating a tiny amount, vegetable samosas, Ritz crackers, or panini. She bites with her incisors, and moves food about on her tongue, but she doesn’t use her molars, and hardly ever swallows anything. The specialist is going to refer Jasmine to the eating disorder team at Great Ormond Street. Hopefully, they will have some ideas on how to help Jasmine to learn to eat. Before transplant she vomited every time she ate anything, which has no doubt rather put her off eating. Since transplant she has only vomited when we put too many medicines down her NG tube, or overfeed her.

Jasmine has lost some weight due to her diet. She can move about more easily now, and is trying to pull herself up on things. She wants to be in with everything at the moment, doing the washing up, brushing her teeth, getting in the bath. Jasmine shuffled up to the bath one evening and started pointing and shouting, when we had decided just to wash the girls instead of putting them into the bath. So, I said, “You don’t have to go in the bath everyday, Jasmine”, and she shouted, “Everyday!” and carried on pointing at the bath and her towel. She has a lovely In the Night Garden towel which she won’t let go of, even when she is dry.

Neil: Snappy New Year

January 2nd, 2010

 Calista with her hat

Happy New Year! Last year Ruth let in the New Year after a bit of a discussion and her promising me that we didn’t need to bother. This year she again said that she wasn’t going to stay up. However, at 11:58 pm she changed her mind and jumped out of bed and out the door. Ruth let the old year out the window (we don’t have a back door) and we opened a fresh bottle, cut a cake and hopped back into bed.

The girls were not too impressed with their Christmas hats from their crackers at lunch today! Calista kept hers on for a while, but Jasmine refused. Calista is taking to eating, she ate some crackers, rusks, carrots and roast potatoes. She eats pretty much anything put in front of her, which is brilliant, but a bit sad as it shows us how tough things have been for Jasmine.

Jasmine sucked on a Ritz cracker but enjoys feeding the three of us more than herself. She has however taken to drinking tea from my mug, which is funny. She is so much fun, which is what we needed after watching The Girl That Never Ate on TV the other day. We had been looking at the Graz clinic featured in the program to see what they do when weaning kids off NG tubes. We had forgotten what a long process we went through the last time we weaned her. Some days were just spent giving her milk to drink, a feed could last two hours, until one day she started to drink her milk normally and sometimes would cry for milk as she was hungry. It is a bit disappointing, therefore, that after nine months of drinking milk normally and a new kidney, she isn’t interested in eating or drinking. Hopefully, she will begin to show an interest one day. Until then, we just have to keep trying.

 Jasmine with her hat

Calista has been waking up in the night every couple of hours, so we have been getting less and less sleep, but the last two nights, after leaving her cry for a few minutes, she has only woken up twice which is a big improvement on five times.

Now that the new year is here and we don’t have to wait up to celebrate things, we are looking forward to a few early nights and more sleep. Rock and Roll!

Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day

December 26th, 2009

 Calista in the hotseat

Merry Christmas! We had a lovely day and couldn’t believe it was finally here after all the waiting. It was fantastic to be at home for Christmas. Jasmine got a bit overexcited opening the presents so we had to have a break and lunch and carry on later.

Thanks to everyone, the girls got lots of lovely presents. Jasmine now owns every last bit of In the Night Garden merchandise. And Calista has the cutest range of snuggly things for bed.

We all sat together for lunch, Calista in her new chair. Calista enjoyed chewing on some carrots and parsnips. Jasmine didn’t really want anything. It is going to take a while to get her going, which is a bit tough, but it is a really great day when we have time to think about how to encourage her to eat and drink on her own.

Poor Jasmine was so tired by the end of the day, she had been a bit tired all day, but refused to go for a nap. So she totally conked out during her last feed.

 Jasmine in the hotseat

Today, we were all up at 5am, as Neil and I gave up sleeping at that point. Calista woke up at 11pm, 1am, 2am, I put her down at 3am and then Jasmine woke up at 4am, and then at 5am, we gave up and got up. At 6am with everyone full of breakfast we all got back into our bed and slept until 9.30am. Fabulous! Three hours unbroken sleep, even with little feet sticking in my ribs, was fantastic.

Calista crawls around all the time after Jasmine and can’t bear for Jasmine to be out of her sight.

Jasmine has discovered washing up. I was sitting at the sink with her whilst she did the washing up today as she still can’t stand alone. Every so often she would pull herself up to see better. I think with a bit more washing up she will learn to stand as watching her pull herself up was really encouraging.

Neil: Two weeks off

December 23rd, 2009

Jasmine had clinics down at Great Ormond Street yesterday. We had been booked into the wrong clinic, but still got through in record time. I think that all the other patients were stuck in the snow, so the clinic was very quiet. Jasmine is doing well, and all her bloods are stable, so there were no medicine changes and we get two weeks off. Amazing!

Jasmine’s screening for Epstein-Barr virus was positive last time, so her Azathioprine has been stopped for the moment. This is a very common virus, and stopping the immunosuppression will allow Jasmine to fight off the infection. We haven’t noticed any particular symptoms so far, so hopefully it isn’t making her feel too bad.

During the clinic Calista demonstrated her new motor skills by pulling out Jasmine’s NG-tube. She had got hold of it and pulled it out in a flash. Calista seems to be obsessed with it at the moment, so we keep having to find new ways to hide the tube in Jasmine’s clothes. We didn’t have a spare tube with us, so we had to go up to the ward for some supplies. One of the nurses kindly offered to put the tube back down. Jasmine got a silk tube this time, which is softer on her nose, and lasts four weeks, instead of one for the plastic tubes.

On Monday I went for a second follow up appointment at Guy’s hospital. Everything looks good, so I don’t have to go back for a year! My baseline creatinine level appears to have moved up after the operation from around 70 to 130.

We got all ready for Christmas early, in case Jasmine was hospitalised, or we had a last minute hiccup. Now we are just waiting for the day to arrive! Thanks to everyone who has sent presents for us to pile under the tree.

If you can’t say anything nice….

December 18th, 2009

Our new sofa

… I should not say anything at all, a wise man told me today, in between telling me not to be so moany. Everyone has problems of their own. He is right of course.

I am feeling much better today as I slept well (albeit it, up at 1am, 2am, and 5am for the girls) and Neil let me have a lie in. When I woke up again at 9am, Jasmine and Calista were out of bed and dressed. Neil still can’t pick up Jasmine so she has taken to throwing herself out of bed or off the sofa when she is bored of waiting for me. I haven’t seen her do it yet, but she is pretty smart and does it without hurting herself (!?!).

The community nurses left two big boxes of syringes at the concierge as well, so that is great. We are stopping one of Jasmine’s immunosuppressants as she has a virus (EBV) which GOSH have been monitoring. She needs to fight it off so we will see how she gets on. She looks ok today, but it is a bit of a worry, but GOSH are on the case, and have been looking out for it since transplant, so that is brilliant, they are brilliant.

We have been shopping to St Pancras. Neil and I had half an hour to buy each other gifts, since we never go anywhere without each other, and it is a bit difficult to do secret shopping. It was a bit of a giggle. I am impressed with my shopping, Neil less so, but then he cheated by buying me things on the internet too. Phew!

So, we are all ready for Christmas, including a homemade cake. Neil’s mum has made us a Dundee cake, which was very kind of her, as we were too tired this year to cook our own.

Our new sofa

Jasmine’s latest thing is to shout ‘Have it!’ when she wants something. It is funny and sounds like something a football fan should shout during a match. Calista crawled across the rug this afternoon and looks like a baby commando. We are so impressed!

Dr Jasmine

December 17th, 2009

Dr Jasmine

We bought Jasmine a medical kit the other week and she is obsessed with it. When she wears the stethoscope, which is all the time, she coughs when she puts it on your chest, or foot, or wherever she wants to listen. She is hilarious.

Today Neil took Calista out, and Jasmine and I were alone. It was lovely but weird because for the first time all I had to do was play with Jasmine – no machines, no vomit to clean up, or anything. We did some jigsaws and some cube building and she listened to my chest and coughed to see if it was clear and then we had a drink of water and we put some milk down her tube (she has to push the syringe herself). And even though we had had a bad night – Calista was out of sorts and we were all up until 2am – there was no telly on today, which is what we used to do when we were really tired, as we had to conserve our energies for the medical stuff. Now I can use what energy I have playing with Jasmine and it is great.

The community nurse rang up yesterday to see if Jasmine’s nappy rash had cleared. I really do wonder what these people do all day. Nappy rash! I told her that I really wasn’t worried about Jasmine’s bum and no she didn’t have a rash and that was six weeks ago, and she has had two surgeries since then. So she asked if I wanted anything else, I said that I needed some 5mls syringes. Today, she dropped me off 20 (and that was after I had insisted that I didn’t need her to come round and look at Jasmine’s bum and could she please leave them with the concierge). Twenty syringes is, for us, one day’s supply. So I rang up and had a big fit as I cannot believe that someone would bring me one day’s supply.

I think I have got post-transplant stress. Now that the big things are calming down, the little things are becoming a big deal. It was the same in clinics the other day, we had to wait over 45 minutes before anyone did Jasmine’s blood pressure and weight (which is not unusual in clinics) and you have to have that done first before you go on and see the renal team so you are just stuck in the waiting room, losing the will to live. Anyway, I complained and moaned and generally didn’t behave myself and I have felt bad ever since.

So, when I was moaning today down the phone to another community nurse, (the nurse who had left two – alright 20 – syringes with the concierge had gone home at 2pm), she said that I should get some respite – basically, a nursery nurse would come round to play with Jasmine (Jasmine, only as she is on their chronically ill list – actually the nurse called her disabled, but no one would keep an eye on Calista, as she is not on the chronically ill list). She said that I could go shopping with Calista.

Now, that isn’t my idea of respite, I hate bloody shopping, and it is the usual sort of nonsense we get from the community nurses. My idea of respite would be for me to get an afternoon nap. Or, I would want respite from doing medical stuff, not playing with my child. But, we have been through this argument with the community nurses before so I give up. They never give us what we ask for, only what they think we should have. I won’t even start again with the nonsense they offered us when Jasmine was on dialysis, but it didn’t include them doing anything medical.

And, it was the same after transplant, when we asked them for sterile gauze and sachets of water to wash her wound. Their response was to pester the ward, then our doctors, and then the chemist, and then we got sent round some saline solution and some wound packs which had plastic gloves and aprons in – no sterile gauze or water.

One of the nurses told me once that their job is to support mothers (note no mention of fathers) and save them a trip to the hospital. I would rather a trip to the hospital any day of the week to pick up my syringes and sterile gauze, as I would get what I want and I wouldn’t have to put up with a load of nonsense and find room in my house for medical supplies I don’t want.

Neil has just asked me if I am typing a festive blog and I have said no, I am slagging off the community nurses. Twenty syringes I ask you! I would laugh if I wasn’t so annoyed.

I am so tired. I feel like I have just woken up from some long medical nightmare to see us all with big scars on our stomachs and I felt very sorry for us. I know I shouldn’t, I know it is great that we are all at home wearing our war wounds. But, tonight I feel older and sadder and changed, and sadder still that we had to do it alone.

You always hope that in a crisis people would step up and become great troopers, but they don’t. In a crisis (your crisis) people are stressed and behave how they always behave, but worse, because they are stressed and in shock and tell you that you are so brave, so self-sufficient, so capable, or they are so busy with their own feelings they say horrible things. So, you are left alone to get on with it, in quiet desperation. Whilst everyone is busy stressing and wringing their hands and talking nonsense, you are alone at the sink, scrubbing your hands, or up in the middle of night mopping up puke, afraid, wishing that someone would come and give you some comfort.

We have a week off from clinics, which is great and which is probably why I am feeling the way I do. It is the first time, in a long time, that I have space to think.

Jasmine is looking great, Neil is feeling sore, Calista is chewing like mad on everything, and I am feeling really bloody angry and weepy all at once, but it is time to give her the tac, so the way I feel will have to wait, which is a good thing, hopefully when I get round to thinking again, I will have let it all go.

Christmas is coming, the quorn is getting fat

December 12th, 2009

With my girls

It was freezing and foggy outside yesterday when we took a lot of old medicines round to the chemist. Then Baxter rang up and we are getting our dialysis machine picked up on Monday, which is a bit strange. For better and for worse, that machine has been the centre of our world for the best part of the last two years.

I packed it away a couple of weeks ago because we need the space and I took all our old cartridge sets and mini-caps and drain bags to the hospital so that they could use them for training. Otherwise, the whole lot would have been destroyed as you can’t use them on other patients even if they are sealed (which they are). The whole packet containing 60 or whatever has to be delivered whole so that you can see nothing has been tampered with. Fair enough, if someone delivered me half a box of mini-caps or drain bags or said, “Oh you can have these, they are left over.” I wouldn’t have touched them.

I am starting to really appreciate not having to do dialysis. I feel a bit teary thinking about it. Jasmine just wakes up on a morning now, no vomiting. She always says, “Ahh,” like she is really pleased and surprised to have woken up in her own cot. And then I pick her up immediately and do not have to check for any tangled lines or mop up any vomit. And then I can just carry her into the other room and not have to do any handwashes and disconnecting and getting out fresh caps and worrying all the time about the catheter.

Altogether at last

She looks so much better. Everyday we used to change her clothes at least five times and the cot at least once (if she rolled off the towels we had her lying on so that we could change them quickly and avoid her lying in her own vomit) and we used to constantly mop up the carpet and the floor. All different now. Most of the time we get through the day with the same outfit. Amazing!

We put our tree up and the girls were fascinated it by it. We have put it up on top of lots of dialysis boxes (Baxter don’t want them back either and they are a bit heavy to take to the hospital on the tube for the moment) out of the reach of little hands. And then we decided to take lots of pictures which was funny getting everyone to pose and then laughing at all the pictures.

Us in front of the tree

I love Christmas. Neil always buys himself a huge turkey and hundreds of chipolatas wrapped in bacon, enough to feed the whole street. In contrast, I spend so much time wondering what I should eat, as it should be good because it is Christmas. I get overwhelmed and end up with something ordinary like two quorn sausages or I buy some new style pretend turkey and then Neil and I have the same conversation:

Me: Mmm, taste this, it is just like meat.
Neil: No thanks.
Me: Go on, just a little.
Neil: No.
Me: Go on, go on, you will love it.
Neil: Oh alright.
Me: What do you think?
Neil: Mmm, yes it does taste just like meat, mmm, tasty.
Me: Really does it?
Neil: No Ruth, it tastes like cardboard.
Me: Ah.
Neil: It is horrible.
Me: Ok.

So, I can’t wait to have this conversation and have Christmas crackers and party hats. Although we couldn’t wear them last year as Jasmine screamed and we think they reminded her of the blue hats and scrubs that surgeons wear.

Our tree looks lovely with all the carefully wrapped gifts we have been sent. Thank you.

Us in front of the tree again