This week was another one of those weeks when you can feel yourself age. People look at you and say, “you look tired.” 2 weeks ago Shira started to get fevers off and on and by last Friday Shira was definitely sick. Last Saturday Shira crashed hard (lost her vital signs) from a mucous plug. There is always a fine line when working on a child in this type of emergency situation. These crashes are also known as extreme bradychardia. One minute you look at your child and they are smiling at you and the next minute there pupils are dilated and they are struggling with all their might to breath. If you don’t get your child breathing chances are by the time the emergency services show up at your door and start CPR or intubate your child they are going to have brain damage so I have made it a priority to become an expert at resuscitating Shira when in respiratory arrest.
I have heard enough stories and paid close enough attention to the bad experiences of other families with SMA Type 1 children to really put some effort into becoming proficient in resuscitating Shira. I haven’t had to give chest compressions to Shira because her heart has never stopped from these episodes but her saturation levels have reached into her 60’s for her heart rate and as low for her oxygen which is all very bad. You have to work fast and I have to say it’s terrifying watching your child slip away before your eyes. We have been to this place with Shira many many times and I know how she is going to die, I understand what it’s going to be like I just want to be there holding her in my arms. I don’t want to be away from her when this happens. When Shira was in respiratory arrest this time we worked on her hard and fast and there is a fine line as to how hard you can work on a child before you create other complications like vomiting. Unfortunately my over zealousness in this situation caused me to make Shira vomit which meant I had to quickly open her g-tube turn her on her side and deep suction her orally. So the poor kid was now in respiratory arrest and possibly aspirating vomit which can lead to bacterial pneumonia and serious complications and or damaged lungs and possible death. All us SMA parents are scared of the complications vomiting can bring. I stabilized Shira quite quickly but needless to say the poor girl was wiped out.
Shira’s saturation levels returned back to baseline of 100% for O2 but her heart rate was in the 160’s. We chose to stay home until morning so we spoke to the pediatric intensive care unit and told them we would hold off until morning and see how things go. The next day (I believe Sunday) Shira was on day 3 of fever and still had a very high heart rate. We didn’t want to chance the high heart rate was brought on by complications due to aspiration of vomit so we called the ambulance and headed into the PICU. The PICU was totally empty which is nice so we didn’t have to worry as much that Shira could contract other diseases. Shira was tested for Respiratory Synctal Virus (she had this at 6 months and 3 years of age and both times it was very very bad!) H1N1 and influenza A and B and all tests came back negative.
While in the PICU we also had a lot of blood work done on Shira to check how her diet was affecting her as well as her blood gases to check how well she was being ventilated.
It turns out Shira’s diet is spot on but she was over ventilated which was causing extremely low CO2 levels. We also have made arrangements to meet with an RT that will be bringing over a bunch of new bipap masks so we can replace the mask Shira has used since she was 6 months old.
While in the PICU we give Shira Chest Physio Therapy sessions every 4 hours or as needed around the clock; sleep deprivation torture won’t work on me anymore so if I get captured by extremists of some kind they will have to tickle me or something instead. While I hate to be in the intensive care unit with Shira I do enjoy the staff there and the support they give us is second to none! You get the full attention of 3 nurses and 1 doctor and there is no messing about it’s serious business in the PICU. We are very grateful to all of the staff and Dr. Jeff and Dr. Amanda (as Shira calls them). It’s a good feeling to have a team behind you that when things get at their ugliest you have a place to go and know Shira will be well taken care of. It’s amazing the work the PICU staff does on a daily basis, real life and death work!
So after 5 tiring days we are back home and thankful that our Sweet Pea is still with us, laughing, playing, singing. Shira teaches us how fragile life is and we give thanks for this life and time we have together as a family.
Sammy is doing well but the signs of stress are sometimes evident but all in all he is doing quite well. His teacher at school is an amazing person and very nurturing towards Sammy and what he has to live with and she gives him extra attention which we are so thankful for.
We are still downstairs as Sammy just has a nasty cough that isn’t going away and we just can’t take the chance that he might catch something else and spread it to Shira so we are down in Chez Shira for a while.
Shira is able to come off bipap now after his illness so today we went out for about an hour to get some fresh air and play with Sammy and some other kids at the park. “And that’s all I have to say about that.”