A Day of Rest

20130630-170421.jpgSunday is a day of rest for all of us and our lil’ Mama’s boy is getting love double time from mommy today. It’s so hard having Daddy gone but we know the time will fly by for all of us! We are so thankful for FaceTime and picture messages. It makes it easy for us to document everything for Daddy while he is gone. Also the nurses are so amazing and make it hard for mommy to feel alone. Please pray for Jeff as he goes back to work tomorrow. He is looking forward to having it keep him busy and distracted while he is away but will be missing us terribly! Our family feels very spread out and we can’t wait to all be under one roof again!

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A note from Owen

20130628-173454.jpgHi heart family!

I was just telling my new heart bear about my day and wanted to share it with all of you too! Today has been much better than yesterday. I’ve had a lot of gunk in my lungs and the doctors really want to get it out. Yesterday they gave me a new inhaler medicine, did a lot of chest percussion and made me lay on my tummy. It worked a little too well and I had a hard time breathing! Some of the gunk plugged my lungs and the respiratory therapist worked really hard to get it out. It was scary for mommy and daddy but I pulled through like a champ. They needed something called late night “happy hour” to recover though. Today I am feeling like my old self again. I’ve been awake a lot and playing with my lil’ red dog. I am working hard to wean off the ventilator too. They had to add back some support after my little episode last night. I am spending some time on my tummy and I am getting my lung medicines. I asked them to be a little less aggressive today cuz’ it works better for me.

I have really great news I have been dying to share. Dr. Tran from oncology came to visit us today. He told mommy and daddy that my tumor thingy didn’t grow and I don’t have to get rechecked for 6 more weeks! The doctor was really nice but I’m really really really happy that I don’t have to see him again for awhile.

Daddy is going home tomorrow and we’re all very sad but we know he will be back every weekend and come any time if I need a procedure. I can’t wait for us all to be home in my new room even if it is yucky hot there!

I hope everyone has a great weekend. I’m gonna go have Daddy hold me for awhile.

Love, Owen

Heart Brothers

20130627-145154.jpgOn May 15, 2013 at 12:41AM a lil’ lion roared into this world. We named him Owen Thomas Vatter. On May 15, 2013 at 12:41AM a medivac landed with Evan Podsiad. They were both admitted to CHLA on the same day. These two heart warriors didn’t know that they would soon become best buds! Evan is an incredible 13 year old boy that has stolen our hearts and has become a huge part of our daily therapy. We talk a lot about the similarities between the boys with Evan. Owen’s blood type is A negative and Evan is A positive. Evan decided that they are blood brothers because opposites attract and the “A” stands for Awesome!

When we were transferred to our new room about 4 weeks ago Owen and Evan became neighbors. We spoke with Evan’s parents a few times in the halls and had an instant connection. Then we met Evan and it sealed the deal. We would knock on our adjoining wall throughout the day and have chats in the halls whenever he went for his daily walks. On June 15th Owen and Evan celebrated their One month-aversary at CHLA together. Evan walked the halls handing out beaded necklaces to the nurses and patients and made sure to stop and give Owen and his giraffe one. Every day Evan stops by at least twice to say hi to Owen. He encourages Owen to breath without the machine and asks a lot of questions about his care. Owen and Evan are helping each other through the long days in the CTICU.

Yesterday, Owen and Evan celebrated their 6 week-aversary together. Evan made Owen a number “6” out of Legos and couldn’t wait to give it to him. He came over twice and both times Owen was busy traveling or recovering. Evan was so bummed that he couldn’t see his buddy. At about 8:30 they were able to be together for their 6 week-adversary photo shoot! We all had a blast! We know that these two are going to be best buds and Evan will teach Owen a lot of cool things. Especially how to put together amazing Lego worlds.

20130627-145143.jpgEvan was recently diagnosed as one of one thousand known cases of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia/Cardiomyopathy (ARVD/C), an extremely rare cardiac disease. He is in the Cardio Thoracic Intensive Care Unit awaiting a heart transplant – the only treatment for his disease – as there is no known cure. ARVD/C causes gradual degeneration of heart muscle and results in weak scar tissue that cannot pump blood as effectively as healthy heart muscle. In short, Evan’s heart is simply giving out. His condition is so severe that he was given priority on the national donors’ list. He was evaluated by the medical staff and is an excellent candidate, both physically and psychologically, for transplant.

Please continue to keep Owen and his buddy Evan in your daily prayers! We have not received any updates on his tests from yesterday and thank you for your continued prayers as we await results.

To learn more about Evan you can visit his website at www.thebeatgoeson4evan.com

Six Weeks

20130626-165820.jpgOwen had a party with his buddies this morning for his 6 week birthday! Then it was off to get his new picc line. He did very well but needed a paralytic to stay still. He’s been very sleepy and calm since coming back to the room. We just returned from traveling down for his CT scan. They took images of his abdomen, chest, and heart. We most likely wont have results on everything until tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers and please keep them coming!

Good Night… Sleep Tight

20130625-220433.jpgNight night heart family! Tomorrow I turn 6 weeks old and I have a very big day planned! I have to go see Dr. Stanley in the old hospital so he can put a new picc line in. Mine has gotten old and is giving the nurses some trouble. It gives me my meds but wont give them my blood. The people from the lab have been coming twice a day to stick me to get my blood and Mommy is getting really sad cuz’ I have lots of little bruises now. I also have to get another cat scan on my tummy and my lungs to make sure my neuroblastoma thingy hasn’t grown and isn’t causing any more trouble! Please pray for us as mommy and daddy always get nervous when I go on road trips. Sweet dreams friends! Xoxo

Something’s Missing

20130624-181757.jpgHappy Monday Heart Family!

Something’s missing… Can you guess what it is??? Look closely… It’s my lil’ belly button! Mommy came in this morning and found me all sprawled out and it was missing! She says my belly is a lot cuter without that crusty thing.

I’ve become a little fickle… Somedays I love to be swaddled other days I like to let it all hang out. Now that I have everyone on the floor in love with me I’m starting to show them my true personality! I’m working on my breathing today and the doctors say I only have about a week more on the ventilator and then they’re going to take it away. Mommy and Daddy say that I have to work really hard so that I’m ready! Wish me luck! I’m gonna have to start my workouts again this week. Lets pray my X-ray looks better as well as my echo! I’m ready to show Mommy and Daddy my whole face without this silly tube!

Shoe Box

20130622-175348.jpgThere is a nursery rhyme that starts out with, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe”. I woke up yesterday saying it over and over again only with a slight twist, “There was an old lady who lived in a shoe-BOX!” In just 37 days I have aged a lifetime and have managed to find comfort in my shoe box size surroundings.

July 10th marks 5 years that Jeff and I have been together. Our lives have been incredibly blessed. We both grew up having everything that we needed in safe and loving homes. When we moved out on our own we were both very successful and lived in homes by the beach enjoying everything that the “Orange County” lifestyle had to offer. When we met we went on incredible dates, vacationed, and spent a lot of time outdoors. Then when we bought our first home we were able to find a place that was everything we ever wanted. It had 3 huge bedrooms, a huge entertaining kitchen, a beautiful pool, in a great community and there is LOTS and LOTS of room for all four of us to have our space.

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Owen has a beautiful nursery to come home to. He even has his own bathroom! The living room is full of swings, a pack and play, a rock-n-play, a bouncer, anything a baby could want. If you know me we have all of those things and it still doesn’t look cluttered. However, since the second we became a family of four our surroundings drastically shrunk! Not in the way you would think of when a baby is added to a family. Our surroundings have literally shrunk. We now live in a 350 square foot room, with a queen size bed, a single sink, and a tiny TV. When we are not in our new “home away from our very large home”, we are at the hospital in an even smaller shoe box. I apologize for whining about some serious first world problems. We are blessed to have a roof over our head and a hot shower every day. We are so grateful that Owen has his own hospital room and we have privacy during the long days. This experience has humbled us beyond measure and made us truly realize how blessed we are.

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The material things are only just a start to the blessings that we have received. The love from our friends, family, neighbors and strangers from all around the world has shown us the true meaning of being blessed. In February we started Owen’s blog as an effort to tell his story, educate people on Truncus Arteriosus and be able to tell all of our family updates in one location. In my first post I said, “We knew that when we decided to have a child it would take a village to help us raise him. We never knew how large our village was.” Since sharing Owen’s Journey in February, his story has reached over 18 countries; he has 680 friends on Facebook, and many many more from word of mouth. He had 70 preschoolers praying for him together during class. He receives video messages of prayers and healing from his favorite heart buddies. He has fellow patients and other “regulars” within the hospital checking in on him daily, offering huge smiles and including him with their nightly prayers. A dear friend of ours ran a marathon in honor of him and won him an awesome medal. A 5k team has been started in his name. Incredibly generous donations have been made in his honor to both Hopeful Hearts Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House Charities. We have received generous care packages and hundreds of notes of encouragements via text, his blog, and Facebook. He even gets well wishes from his furry fans! Our village has shown us the true meaning of kindness and love. Thank you from the depths of our hearts for being there every step of the ride. The days are long and the nights are even longer. You are the medicine for the soul that we pray for each day.

In addition, God has surrounded us with perfect angels each day that are becoming sweet friends. These angels come to Owen’s bedside dressed as nurses, respiratory therapists, nutritionists, doctors, surgeons, social workers, and chaplains and do so much more than just work to heal Owen. They educate us, check in on us, cry with us, laugh with us, and wrap us in hugs daily. Their friendship and love for our family will be forever cherished.

When we learned about Owen’s condition we mentally prepared ourselves for 2-6 weeks in the hospital. We have been in Los Angeles for 6 weeks and unfortunately Owen has a long recovery to go before we hear the words discharge. This is incredibly discouraging. We heard from a fellow heart mom that when you are in the hospital the word Home is as bad as the worst four letter word. It will poison your days and make them that much longer. The longing for home will cause a home sickness like you could never imagine. It will suck the positive right out of you. We miss our home and our old “life” desperately but each day we are learning that Home truly is where your “heart” is and our heart is all wrapped up in our sweet Owen. We are getting better every day at waiting for the doctors to tell us when we can go home. Instead of begging and pleading for them to tell us when the light at the end of the tunnel will be, we are spending our days learning about Owen and continuing to do all that we can to be his parents. Jeff and I are getting better at changing diapers around all the wires and lines and Jeff changed his first poopy diaper solo yesterday! We are going to be more than prepared when the doctor finally says it’s time for you three to do this on your own!

20130622-175338.jpgWe were told at the beginning that Owen is the driver of his recovery and the rest of us are his navigators. We have learned that Owen is an incredibly SLOW driver! The past four days have been spent by Owen’s bed waiting and hoping that the new things that the doctors are trying work. His main hurdles in his recovery are his respiratory and digestive tract.

We’ve had a huge change in the diet arena. Owen’s nutritionist is trying a new “recipe” for our little one. It appears that the Enfaport worked for the chylous effusions however, his tummy was not a fan of it. In an effort to find a food that he can tolerate and give him all the goodness from breast milk, she has created a feed for him using my milk and a low fat chylous friendly formula. The breast milk I am producing is being emulsified by separating the fat out of it. The skim milk is fortified with amino acids and Vivonex formula. The high fat milk is then frozen to use later and make him nice and chunky! He seems to be tolerating it very well! He is still intubated and having an increasingly tough time handling the tube in his mouth. He has a very sensitive gag reflex and when he moves or gets angry he gags and throws up. He now has an NJ feeding tube. This means that the tube passes his stomach and goes directly into his intestines.

In regards to his breathing he is still on high support on the ventilator. They are slowly weaning the rate and it appears it is going to be a long process. He received an echocardiogram yesterday and it showed moderate stenosis at the site of the TAPVR repair. This could be contributing to the difficulty he is having weaning from the ventilator. He will be receiving a follow up echocardiogram on Thursday to see if there is further stenosis. If there is they will have to take him to the cath lab for further investigation and see if it will require surgical repair. This is NOT something that we would like to have happen as it is a major surgery. In regards to his neuroblastoma, we are in wait and see mode until his follow up cat scan on Wednesday. His favorite fellow will be on and we feel good about this transport.

Please continue to keep our family in your prayers. We ask for prayers of continued healing for Owen’s lungs, that the stenosis in his pulmonary veins does not increase, that the neuroblastoma does not grow and is isolated to his abdomen region, and that he continues to tolerate the new food and gain weight. We also ask that you pray for Jeff and I as we are tired and realizing that God’s plan for us is complicated. We ask for clarity in Owen’s recovery and peace in our hearts as we endure long days of waiting.

Many of you have asked questions about Owen’s Supracardiac TAPVR heart condition that was repaired along with the Truncus Arteriosus. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has a great webpage explaining TAPVR and can be found at: http://www.chop.edu/service/cardiac-center/heart-conditions/total-anomalous-pulmonary-venous-return.html

Where’s Owen?

20130617-185806.jpgOur little man is feeling much better today! He was very gassy yesterday and hard to console. They tried a few meds for his tummy and by this morning he was back to our sweet happy baby! They started him back on the Enfaport yesterday and his X-ray looked a little better today. If it continues to get better it will be ruled as chylous effusion and he will avoid getting chest tubes. While I’d love to have him fed breast milk, I’d love for his lungs to clear up and to have him breathing on his own even more! I hope this formula does the trick. We had a meeting with oncology today and they are cautiously optimistic that the mass in Owen’s belly is Stage 1 and will regress without intervention. He will be very closely monitored and will have a CT and follow up urine next week. If it grows or the levels in his urine increase they will have to do intervention.

Thank you for riding this crazy ride with us. Please keep your prayers coming… They’re working!