The past 10 days have flown … and i am pleased to say its because we have been having a great time!! The Graft Versus Host Disease, so far, is responding to high dose steroid treatment and the rash has gone. It comes back a little bit now and then but applying steroid cream seems to calm it down. The treatment started at 2mg per kilo (seth’s weight) of Methalpred. He is now on 1.5mg per kilo which will be reviewed again in the consultant meeting on Tuesday. HHV6 Seth has been on treatment for Human Herpes Virus 6, which is a drug called Foscarnate. He tested positive for this and the level was 10 to the 5 in his blood. A week later he is now 10 to the 3. So it is improving. Another positive thing is that he has had no temperatures and he has not been symptomatic with it. Immunology The doctors are happy with his immune system so far. He still needs to be kept away from busy places and children. But we are able to take him to the park everyday and he went to the local museum during the week. Which he loved as there were Dinosaurs and fish like Nemo.
So since my post yesterday there have been a few changes…….
Seth was on the CPAP machine again for 12 hours over night as part of the SCARF research.
He had the most settled night he has had in a while, and today has been maintaining his oxygen level WITHOUT the need for additional oxygen! He has been breathing a lot easier and his chest sounds better. Hooray! Towards the end of the day he did start to breathe a bit harder and needed additional oxygen when asleep. But its an improvement.
His cheeky little character is also coming back a bit and we sat on the floor to play paw patrol again today, although he again tired very quickly. He is just so determined not to be sick!
His hands remain sore but we are now only going to change the dressing every other day, and they have doubled the amount of pain relief he gets when he has a bolus. So that should help him a little with the pain. In addition he has been referred back to the tissue viability team who will know how best to dress the hands and ensure he is getting pain relief.
Fluid wise Seth is still retaining fluids, his genitals are less swollen, but he is puffy on his face and legs, and his belly is very distended at the moment. The doctors are continuing to monitor this closely and treating it with diuretics when necessary as well as giving him the minimal amount of fluid.
Being on the intensive care ward is stressful for Nik and I, and is creating some frustration and conflicting feeling (it may be that we are crazy BMT parents scared at leaving our safe little bubble!). Seth is doing well with the CPAP support and it seems to be helping him to improve. But we also feel like we may be compromising his safety in terms of infection. The nursing staff on intensive care are not BMT nurses and so work differently and have a different understanding to isolation nursing. So having Seth on the ward is a learning curve for them, but he is still not receiving the protective care he would receive on his normal ward. The strict isolation rules seem to not apply as much here, but if he needs it he needs it right? This may be fine and not an issue, but 9 days post transplant Seth is as vulnerable as it gets and we are worried.
Tomorrow we are going to speak with the relevant people to confirm what is absolutely necessary to protect Seth so that we can ensure that is happening. It may be that we are more cautious than needs be and he is already getting the level of protective nursing that he requires. At the minute Nik and I are feeling more stressed than we have throughout this process so we need to clarify and understand and then consider our options. As removing him from the research and back to his ward may be detrimental to his breathing and could lead him to need to be in intensive care, which would not change anything anyway.
Now….about that magic…….
It looks like engraftment has begun, he has some lymphocyte numbers coming up in his blood. At the moment that means nothing as they need to check further to see what is going on. But hopefully it is the sign that the magic is home and beginning to settle. This is good – it what he needs, but it may cause him to go backwards again before he starts improving. The new cells might go to all the areas we have problems at the moment and cause further inflammation trying to fix things.
So today was a good day…..tomorrow who knows were still taking it day by day.
So a few more days have passed and I don’t know if I am saying things are better or worse. It’s such a confusing time at the moment. Somethings are looking better, but then again he seems to be struggling in other ways.
His hair has started to fall out. We’ve talked to him about that and he really doesn’t care. Which to be honest neither do we. Obviously you don’t want your child’s hair to fall out. But we know why it is and it is the least of our worries. It will grow back!!
Seth’s skin is a bit better, a Treosulfan rash is like REALLY BAD sunburn, the skin swells, goes bright red and is hot to touch and incredibly sore, then as it gets better it starts peeling. Ignoring his hands of the moment we appear to have gone through the worst of it and although his legs are stills red and swollen, they are starting to peel and are looking a lot better than they were.
However his hands are still agonizingly painful. He is able to rest when they are bandaged up. However, the minute we take off the bandage to change it the air hits them and he screams in pain. I have started giving him bolus’ of Fentanyl every 20 minutes for an hour before we change his dressing, but it does not seem to help him when the air hits his hands. The sores appear to have got bigger, but they are dry and not weeping. It is the chemo attacking his already damaged hands and unfortunately we have to wait for the effects to go away. We just have to try to keep him as comfortable as possible and infection free until then.
His mouth and tongue are covered in ulcers, but they are bleeding a lot less and 4 times a day mouth cares appears to be enough to keep his mouth clean and free of mucus build up.
As his skin and mouth appear to be getting better, his breathing has slowly been getting worse. His oxygen requirement has been increasing and he is clearly working harder to breathe. Chest X-rays have shown some changes, but only very slight. However, this was enough for him to be suitable for SCARF research being conducted here and at Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is fairly common for children with immune problems to develop breathing difficulties. Sometimes these get so severe that the child needs assistance via intrusive ventilation. There has been some research recently that has evidenced that non intrusive early intervention reduces the likelihood of the patient going on to need intrusive breathing support later on (i think about 60% of the time). The non intrusive ventilation is via CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). We were asked if we wanted to take part in the study, which we thought about and decided to go ahead as the CPAP will give Seth rest to be able to recover and not have to put as much effort into every breath. Once our consent Seth’s name was put into a computer which chose whether he would be part of the control or test group. Seth was in the test group. This means that he has been transferred to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit and for 12 hours a day is on CPAP ventilation. It’s a four-day trial so as long as during that time he does not get to the point where he needs intensive care he will return to his normal room.
Infection wise we still do not know what is causing the high inflammation markers or the high temperatures. However, the marked in his blood have been going down for the last couple of days – fingers crossed they keep going!
In himself Seth is coming back slowly. Yesterday he insisted he was playing Paw Patrol and that he was getting down off his bed to do so. He managed to make it down there and get all the pups in the lookout, however, then was tired and I suggested he got back in bed. It is heart breaking watching him desperate to just play and it be such a struggle for him.
Still no sign of the new cells, but that’s not expected just yet. We could see them anytime from today onwards so – BLOOD RESULT WATCHING is on!!!!
The past two days have been better – starting to go in the right direction. But things could change back very quickly, and might do so when the new cells really start to engraft. We just have to wait and see and take it day by day.