Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Albert the Eighth!

First things first, Albert had a quiet night and seems to be stable today. He continued to waver between 0.3 and 0.1 litres of oxygen via the low flow but he steadily resists the complete removal of the oxygen. While he dropped a little on oral feeds (10-15 mls) his digestive system has been coping easily with increased feeds via the stomach tube.

Two days ago we had been told that a speech therapist would come and advise us on his oral feeding. Apparently the speech therapists advise on matters relating to the development of Albert's tongue, lips and mouth muscles, even at this early stage. Given his struggles with oral feeding so far I was looking forward to some positive input from the therapist. The medical advice we received from this therapist was that sucking made Albert 'a bit tired' and he needed more practice over time to get better. Even though her input was somewhat underwhelming, we feel it is very positive that she could not identify any reason why Albert will not improve with time and patience.

The doctor received the Haematologist's reports on Albert's blood today and discussed them with me this evening via phone. It seems that, while Albert is not producing any noticeable level of platelets at this stage, neither is he actively destroying them. In other words, he seems to be holding steady.

[A side note on the measurement of platelets, a healthy person would normally record a count between 150,000 and 450,000 per micro-litre of blood. This is usually represented as (150 to 450) x 109/Litre, and I have noticed medical staff seem to use the raw number in the parenthesis as their shorthand for the current measurement. So a normal person would usually register a platelet count of 150-450.] 

The doctor seems happy with just below 100 as a comfortable minimum, but he now seems less concerned about Albert having been as low as 33. When I expressed doubt about his confidence the doctor mentioned that one curious result of the haematologist's report was that Albert seems to have much larger platelets than average. According to the doctor the larger platelets usually break down into smaller platelets in time. He claimed that, even thought Albert's platelet count may be low, his larger cells will do more work than average and thus the low count may not be as much a worry as we first thought. It would be nice if this were an established fact but it sounds a bit too much like an unproven theory to make me happy. He did point out that, even when Albert's count had dropped as low as 33, he had not show any symptoms of distress or signs of bleeding. The staff would normally watch for small pin points of blood appearing beneath the skin as a sign that the levels were beginning to get too low. No such symptoms have been observed in Albert so far.

My doubts were further heightened when the doctor told us that Albert is to be transferred back to our local hospital tomorrow. The poor doctor was subject to approximately half an hour of rapid fire questions concerning the local hospital's monitoring plan, available specialists and capacity to respond to emergencies of various kinds that are possible for a child in Albert's condition before I was satisfied the right decision had been made. The bottom line is that Albert's condition is serious, but no longer critical. The problems he is battling seem likely to take weeks at the very least, possibly into months, and the specialised children's hospital must consider more serious patients who desperately need the bed.

God willing,  dear friends, Albert will be transported by ambulance to our local hospital to settle in for the long haul of recovery. The ideal from now on is that Susan will visit the hospital at least twice daily to attempt feeding and provide as much extra milk as possible for the bottle and tube feeding. The hospital is about 20 mins drive each way so this will take up a lot of travel and time in Susie's day for some weeks at least. Thanks to a flexible work arrangement, I will be able to be of help three days of the week (and weekends), which is a good thing.

I cannot go another day without acknowledging the amazing effort of so many people to provide practical help over the past week. The meals each day have been delicious and have allowed Susan to save her energy for recovery and for the gruelling schedule of travelling, expressing and generally dealing with the emotional turmoil of seeing her dear child in such a state. For the record, I did plan to cook, but that seemed to increase her stress levels! ;) To the people who have provided SO much in the way of practical help, babysitting, groceries and so many messages sharing our joy, we are at a loss as to how we could possibly thank you all sufficiently. We hope that we are soon able to share the joy of Albert with you all as he recovers and blossoms!

On a personal note, I would like to thank the beautiful people at Notre Dame who stopped to assure me that our precious Albert is in their prayers, the person who left chocolates (my wife thanks you!) and all of you who generally shared my joy in being a new father! A special thanks to the students who began classes with me this week and smiled patiently as I bumbled through our opening lectures on very little sleep, emotional exhaustion and a migraine that had finally caught up with me today after a week of running flat out. You reminded me today, dear students, what a great privilege it is to teach Scripture, and to learn more from your comments and questions every lesson.

1 comment:

chimakuni said...

Continued prayers, Peter! You make us better people by your love for others ... glad to get the update on little Albert! He is so darling - I bet the other children are anxious to play with him...