Category Archives: Great Ormond Street

Do we know those people?

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I find it quite bizarre that it’s been almost 500 days since Rufus donated his cells to Herb. I guess that watching it again on the television made it feel like yesterday. Things have been ticking along nicely since school ended for summer and we are all determined to make the most of the holidays whatever the weather.

On Wednesday last week we had a check up appointment at GOSH. This was our first appointment since the programme aired and was the day after episode 2 was transmitted. To be honest we joked on the way to London about Herb being a celebrity but I don’t think we had any idea what things would be like when we arrived!

First of all we were greeted by a large poster of myself and Herbie at the entrance to the hospital! Although we knew it was there (as a friend had sent us a picture)  it was still surreal to see it!

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Herb, cheeky as ever, suggested he should cover my face as he’d done most of the hard work in transplant! Finally he agreed to pose with me too!  As we left the entrance we were greeted by numerous people (none of which we knew) who told us that they had watched the programme and which bits they had enjoyed and also how great it was to see Herbie looking so well. Herb enjoyed a few high fives with strangers and seemed to love the limelight.

Once in Safari Outpatients we were greeted by Louise on reception who asked Herb for his autograph, she was also in the programme so we asked for hers too! 😂 We also bumped into some BMT friends and Herb enjoyed some table football and iPad time with Ryan (who celebrated a year since his transplant this week.

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One strange thing about going through transplant is that you meet lots of BMT parents and you see their children through the windows of the rooms as you walk through the wards (especially in Robin Ward as you go into Fox Ward daily too to the BMT kitchen and milk room) and you hear daily updates about them from their mums and dads but the children don’t ever meet as they are isolated from each other! I used to tell Herbie about the other children every day. He would often ask how Jacob, & Seren were or whether Mason was having a bath when I went to get our bedsheets or if I knew which game Sebastien was playing on his console. He would ask Helen, his teacher, w hat Milan was learning with her and ask me if he was building Lego. This curiosity about others who have had or are having BMTs continues. I often update him on his BMT buddies, he knows Jacob is starting Secondary school in September, that Seren is doing well  and that Sebastien lost weight like him and needed supplements. He feels sad for baby Jack (as Herb calls him)  when I say he’s back in GOsh. He’s cried about Mason and more recently over Milan and he’s shown a little bit of the green eyed monster when he learnt that Ryan had had his lines removed. It’s a strange thing being part of the BMT family. So for Herb to get to see Ryan and chat was lovely.

As we waited for our turn to see Waseem we saw many of Herb’s BMT consultants (Dr Robert Chiesa and Dr Juliana Silva ) and BMT nurses and they came to chat and say well done on the programme which was lovely. A lovely couple chatted to us, they were there with their young daughter. It seemed that they had watched us in the programme too. They thanked us for doing it and said it had been helpful to them as they were going to transplant too and were, understandably, worried. Dan told them about this blog, I hope they found it and wish them all the luck in the world.

Herb was weighed and had his height (114.8cm)  and BP (105/69) done. His weight had dropped again , 9 weeks ago he weighed 24kg (although it was really 23.6kg without his hoodie but Jinhua let us put the hoodie back on ) , this time he was 23.4kg. The day before we had seen a dietician at home at the request of Waseem.  We discussed what Herbie ate and she plotted his height and weight. Her weight chart showed that he was just shy of the 75th centile and she felt he wouldn’t be able to gain the weight that GOSH wanted him to as boys don’t put much weight on at this age and if he did it wouldn’t be rapidly. She had sent this information to Waseem. He made it clear that he was still worried about the rapid drop in weight and the fact that he was still losing. However, he also decided that there was a risk in doing an endoscopy to check for GVHD & a risk in dropping steroids so we agreed to tentatively drop the steroid and watch carefully. The drop would be from 5mls daily to 4mls for two weeks. If this was tolerated we would drop to 3mls for another two weeks and should that be ok he would hold the steroid at 3ml and begin to wean ciclosporin again. We felt these were sensible steps. The last CD4 count was 80 which is very low for a year post sibling transplant even with steroid and ciclosporin still in place. However Waseem reassured us that these are ‘just numbers’ and that the fact he’s been at school and stayed well etc was a good thing. He felt that his thymus was ‘feeling rather insulted’ by the chemo, micabacterial infection and meds but that it would be ok it just takes time. We do want his CD4 count back up before the winter though to protect him. Bloods were taken to see what was happening with his counts now. Results should come next week. Fingers crossed.

We left outpatients and headed to Safari Daycare to get the bloods done. People smiled at us and we’re very friendly. I saw Keano (also featured in the programme) and his mum in one of the isolation rooms. Professor Persis Amrolia stopped to chat to us about the programme, asking Herb for his autograph and saying he thought it was a good insight. I felt quite pleased that he cited certain things we had said as ‘insightful’. He is such a lovely man.

Then it was time to head to Robin Ward in the hope of seeing a few familiar faces. Herbie was very hopeful that Rehka, Amy or Ella would be there and he would have loved to have seen Maxine or Lucinda or Holly or any of his regular nurses/HCAs. We chatted to Nikki and then the nurses working popped out to see him, familiar faces and all so happy to see him. Sadly Rehka had worked the night shift and no Amy or Ella but he enjoyed catching up.

I also got to catch up with Sharon, Zak’s mum. She is currently in Fox Ward with Zak as he is having his BMT (10 days post transplant as I type) . Herb got fed up of the adult chat though and left the ward and ran to the lifts! So it was hop back to The Lagoon and then home.

So the steroids are currently dropped to 4mg daily and we are watching carefully. Herbie is enjoying the start of the long summer break. We created Summer’s Bucket List. A list of things we all wanted to do before summer left. It’s been such fun so far, after the last two summers off illness and hospital admissions we have everything crossed that 2015 might be better…it’s starting well! I’ll leave you with some of the things we’ve done so far and a quote.

” Aah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility ”

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Egg-sacally what has been going on?

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Wow! Look at that number above. It’s shocking how close we are to a year post transplant and that I’m still writing this blog!

Since the last update we have had a few issues to deal with. I blogged previously about the tummy upset and recovery but you  may recall my last comment (in parentheses ). Well we headed to Easter optimistic of a healthy and happy time but those of you that have followed this journey from the start will know that our boy isn’t keen on the direct route (like his father) and prefers a scenic , often longer and more winding one!

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So basically the upset tummy continued with very little desire to eat and intermittent tummy pain with some sickness. No real pattern, no fever and no other symptoms to get a grip on.  I began to worry that a GVHD diagnosis was likely. Herbie was losing weight too. This was a double edged sword. He’s clearly been over weight for a while due to steroid induced munching but as the steroids halved his constant hunger diminished and his weight dropped. When he started the BMT last May he was around 18 kg, he has been as high as 27kg. This effects his blood pressure (he’s still on amlodipine daily to reduce his BP)  and his fitness levels.

The first week of Easter break started and involved a lot of chocolate. The other three munched their way merrily through tons of the stuff but Herbie still has his in his room untouched. We had the family Easter egg hunt at Dan’s parents house , Herbie dressed as a sheep to collect his eggs ( why not?) and managed to collect a lot.  He smelt the pizza and cakes that were put out for the tea party  but was not able to eat anything bar a sausage roll. He had fun though and was full of energy and loved seeing his cousins as always.

The Easter egg hunt bags
The Easter egg hunt bags

Before Herbie & Lily were initially ill with their mycobacterial infections we spent lots of weekends walking in and exploring the woods around where we live. With Lily initially not being able to walk far and then Herbie it’s been some time since we have visited our favourite haunts.  Dan decided to take the girls and Rufus for a walk in the Wychwood Forest.  Immediately there was protest from Herbie! He was absolutely sure that he wanted to go and he was so enthusiastic that how could we say no?  It was decided that we would all go and that Herbie could walk a little bit and then we would sit in the car (Lily too if she wanted to) until the others got back.

When we arrived at the gate where we would start our walk I suddenly remembered that it was quite an uphill  walk to get to  our favourite spot and that day it was particularly muddy so I knew it would be  tough going.

We set off with lots of chatter and excitement but after a few minutes Herbie started to huff and puff and I realised that we would be back in the car sooner than I had anticipated!

I was so wrong! That boy has such stamina and determination. Yes he got tired, yes he walked slowly and yes it was tough going but he did it and we made it to the flatter part of the walk (with photo opportunities on the way!)

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He did need to sit for a bit to catch his breath and have a drink. Then we walked on to the rope swing clearing.

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Once there  he even got to have  a little swing! We had such a lovely time! Dan had to give him a piggy back  to go back to the car but he did brilliantly. He was absolutely shattered when we got home but we definitely caught a glimpse of our pre transplant life.

Although these positive things were happening Herbie still wasn’t eating much and continued to have diahorrea and we spent most evenings wondering what was going on.  On the first two weekdays in the Easter break Herbie had his gammaplex and Pamidronate infusions for his immunoglobulin therapy and bone density.  These infusions through his Hickman line take hours and end up taking most of the day.  Despite an early start at the JR It was almost two hours before the infusion started and when the boys (Dan & Herb) returned home they were tired and grumpy.  On a positive note though Dan bumped into Dr Kelly , who we haven’t seen for a while,  and he came to see Herbie on Day Care and chatted to Dan.  He’s such a caring doctor. Herbie’s weight was down again but so was his BP which was great.

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The rest of the week was relaxed and Herbie seemed to be vomiting less but the pain in his tummy was requiring calpol at least once a day and he was waking to go the loo during the night even more frequently. The week ended with much excitement as the GOSH publicity department announced on their website that the third series of Great Ormond Street would kick off on April 28th at 9pm on BBC 2! So exciting as Herbie features in episode 1.  The excitement was short lived though as within days the schedulers changed the air dateimage .

Then on Wednesday we headed to London to see Waseem with Herb and Lily after a particularly bad night with Herb who was up loads in the night with tummy pain. On arrival in London he promptly threw up in the car park and announced he felt better! We headed to GOSH feeling slightly anxious.

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Waseem was joined by one of our BMT nurses Hayley. It was so lovely to see her. She was one of the loveliest nurses , always willing to listen and take time with us during night shifts.

Waseem seemed pleased with Lily’s progress and agreed to temporarily stop her immunoglobulin replacement therapy during the summer with a view to restarting in Autumn.  He showed Lily her recent CT scan images and explained them to us. Her lungs are still very abnormal but there was some improvement.  As her lung function continues to improve he is reluctant to stop any of the other meds as she still has cavities in her lungs which bugs would love. We discussed Herb and everything that had happened since our last visit, including the small lymph that was up just where he had it drained last year. It was decided to leave meds as they were right now.  Waseem said it was difficult to tease out whether the symptoms were gut GVHD or down to immune reconstitution  and the burden of micabacterial infection remnants. He didn’t seem overly concerned apart from the weight loss as he now weighed 25.9kg.  It was agreed to monitor and if there was no improvement in two weeks or more weight loss he may need to organise an endoscopy to rule out or confirm GVHD.  He explained that he didn’t want to increase the steroid (the usual GVHD treatment) because of bone density issues and also it suppresses the immune reconstitution again.

We headed to the outpatients ward on Safari for Lily to have bloods and bumped into Amy, another of his BMT nurses, and had a lovely catch up. Again, she was soo lovely during transplant & she also nursed Lily in Robin back in 2013.

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Before we left we met with Cassandra and Rachel from the GOSH publicity team and Ash the photographer. We had publicity shots done and chatted to them all. Three lovely people who even got the kids a gift bless them! The whole programme thing is becoming more real!

We left feeling  hopeful that Herb’s tummy thing was an immune issue and would resolve itself. That was the last time to date that Herb vomited and  although the tummy pain seemed to increase over a couple of days and the restless nights too, suddenly, just as quickly as it started , it just stopped. Last week Herb announced on Wednesday (a week after the appointment) that he wanted breakfast for the first time in about 4 weeks. He’s now eating and drinking more, no diahorrea  and his energy levels are up and no calpol has been needed for almost a week. We are beginning to think Waseem’s hunch about immune reconstitution was correct. (thankfully!) On Friday his teacher met me to say ‘she thought he was in fine form!’

As I type this we are heading into a new week and one that will bring back a few memories. I will blog about that nearer the time.  However one milestone, other than 11 months post transplant, which we hit this week was the anniversary of the Rays of Sunshine wish from last year . Some of you will remember he had a wooden ‘treehouse ‘ .

Here he is on it a year ago pre transplant…

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and yesterday, 11 months post transplant

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He he still has some way to go to get his hair back to the longer length but he’s on his way. This milestone really made me stop and take stock of how far we have come.  In many ways this year has gone by in a blink of an eye. I was thinking of two people as I wrote this…

Angela D, who may not even read this, but who was my BMT  lifeline this time last year. She had been there, done it and got the t shirt and her words often consoled me on days when my brain struggled to process all of the BMT info being thrown at me. She once said to me

” I know exactly how you feel…everything runs smoothly then all of a sudden something sends you on a different path. It’s not easy but remember other children have experienced this before. Put your trust in the doctors”

I have always done that, I have always trusted them and will continue to do so.  Thank you Angela for your friendship (and happy birthday!)

.The second person is Sharon. Her son and daughter both need a BMT and she will be heading to GOSH with her son in June to start. She is in the same place that I was last year but I want her to take comfort that Angela was right, Herbie & I  have  experienced what her and Zak will and next year Sharon you will be wondering how you can already be close to celebrating a year post transplant. Stay strong people.

Finally, what a lovely Easter surprise Herb had in the post from the  lovely Hope. A card , letter and gift! Thank you Hope. Herb says he hopes you had lots of chocolate at Easter and he loved hearing from you again!

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So time to sleep. I have no doubt tomorrow will be full of yogurt, chocolate milk, prawn cocktail crisps and Skylanders after school for Herbie as usual!  He’s getting there,  now if I could just get him to eat his flipping Easter chocolate it might stop calling to me from his room!

 

Oh and another thing…

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So it appears that my posts are like buses! You wait for ages and then two in one week! I realised that I missed out a few things in the last blog that I had wanted to talk about and also an update on Herbie is probably a good idea too. On Thursday I woke to a small face staring down at me  and a voice saying  “I want to go back to school, I feel better now.” We had agreed he wouldn’t go back despite him feeling back to normal but he was having none of it. Dressed for school and insistent how could we say no?  So normal service resumed. I went to the supermarket to get a few things and suddenly felt quite anxious that I was unable to get a signal on my phone. What if the school needed me? What if he got unwell? What if? I needn’t have worried. When I arrived at school at 11.55am he was there, beaming and full of beans. I had a full dissection of his morning and as he sat on the sofa drinking his chocolate milk and eating pretzels he piped up with ‘it’s Thursday isn’t it? Yippee! Fish and chip day!” I was so happy 🙂

Friday was a half day at school for the younger two, ending with an Easter bonnet/Hat parade. Herbie enjoyed creating his hat with big sister Lily and wore it with pride. The day just got better and better with a lovely bag of sweet treats from best buddies Lily & Sam in his draw and then he was chosen as star of the week which meant he got to bring the class bear home for the holidays. I thought he might burst with happiness!

My little Easter Bunny
My little Easter Bunny

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We went back at 1pm for the parade and Herbie ran back into his classroom. He came out moments later leading his class , as star of the week, in the parade. His happiness evident. What a great end to his term! Today he has been totally on form, eating, drinking, playing & happy.

In other news, the BBC Documentary series about Great Ormond Street is closer to airing which means things are stepping up a gear. Catey and Hiral arrived with our footage. We haven’t seen the entire episode as we are not allowed to see the other featured children. As you can imagine we are also not allowed to talk about what is in the programme but I can say two things. I needed tissues to watch it and we are very happy with our representation. I hope that it will be watched by many ( I will post as soon as I know the exact air date) and  that it will encourage people to join the Bone Marrow Donor register and potentially save the life of somebody that finds themselves in a life threatening situation. I also hope that the immunology and BMT teams will be seen for the amazing work they do and the difficult decisions that they are faced with. Parents are hoping that they have every answer but with most PIDS things aren’t that simple. This can be frustrating for the parents but also equally frustrating for the medical teams whose sole purpose is to save lives. So many PIDS are newly discovered, extremely rare and outcomes are hard to predict. The GOSH publicity department have been in touch with us about publicity surrounding the episode. It’s going to be an exciting and strange time.

Herbie asked me about the blog today. He said “if you email the blog to my doctors then they wouldn’t need to see me anymore because they could just read how I am ” It made me laugh that he sees life so simply when his is often so complicated. One thing I have noticed is that memories of transplant are already fading and selective for him. He remembers some things so clearly and fondly. Certain nurses, special times when he got to do something fun. I’m so happy that he is forgetting the less happy times. The only thing he often remembers with a grimace is the weekly NPA “it was every Monday and I HATED IT!”

So we are ready to enjoy the Easter break, despite two days in the JR next week for IVIG therapy and Pamidronate and then the following week a day in London at GOSH. Let’s hope things are back on the straight and narrow for a while.  ( but don’t hold your breath 😉)

Please could you cough in the other direction? Thank you!


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Thankfully I really haven’t had much to blog about recently which is a good thing! However I wanted to make sure that this part of the post transplant journey is still documented!

Herbie continues to attend school most mornings from 8.50-10.30am. He still LOVES it! He’s reunited with friends, teachers & his beloved Sully dressing up costume!

 

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We  had hoped that by now he would be doing mornings only but there have been a few, albeit minor,  spanners in the works.  We were sent an email  on January 19th  containing blood results and a note saying that immunology numbers were low  so we should remain vigilant and not up the school hours until further notice. This came as a blow because we really thought his numbers would be back up.  He was sad that the promise of longer days in school had been retracted  and it was hard on him. That said,  he is clever enough to understand how important it is that we adhere to Waseem’s wishes, however frustrating, as they are all with his best interests at heart. We’ve come too far to start taking silly chances.

School is , as you can imagine, a double edged sword. After all of those months (over 13) of not attending it is an absolute joy to see that beaming face each morning and to watch as he does the normal things. He  is often dressed and ready for school before I’m out of bed! He is keen to read every night and to do his homework. School brings him such joy.

As parents though it’s so much harder. My ‘illness’ & ‘germ’ sensors are heightened. Every cough sounds like a deafening gun shot in my ears and I find that children with green strings descending from their nose send me into a mild panic that I’ve never known before! I’m a primary school teacher for goodness sake, I’m used to the Winter terms being full of classes of children exhibiting symptoms like this but now the goal posts have changed. Now I’m a crusader, I’m always watching for signs of something that, mild and trivial to most children, could be potentially dangerous to mine.

School sent out a polite notice to parents asking for consideration, I was so grateful and happier still to hear that  parents were ringing up to report their child’s absence through illness & citing  Herbie as a reason for being overly cautious.  Still my nerves are on edge. I look at children wondering, have they had chicken pox or been exposed to it?  Did their parents vaccinate them? I never considered this before! When he’s not at school I try to break up the boredom of the day with trips to quiet child free places. These really don’t exist! Home schoolers, Pre schoolers and babies, again with barking coughs and snotty noses are in every nook and cranny.

“Keep him home then!” I hear you shout. Part of me wants to but this is a stage, like every other stage before it, that we need to face sensibly and with as much knowledge as we can. It too shall soon pass!

The medicines are still pretty much the same although we are weaning the steroid. As I type this he takes 5mg in the morning and 3mg in the evening.  We hope to wean off the evening dose very soon and then he will stay on 5mg daily as a holding dose whilst we wean ciclosporin . This is much later than most of the other children that went through transplant at the same time but Herbie’s immune deficiency is rare and as his particular version of it has never before been documented it means they must proceed with caution.

On a positive note, and to prove I don’t wrap him in cotton wool completely, we went to watch the local village panto, Ali Baba. The girls were in it again and Herbie was so keen to go. Thanks to Bryony & Caz Woodruff for ensuring us front row seats so that Herbie could come and see (and not be surrounded by germs!). Also a touching moment during the evening was when Jaimie Bunting, who played Ali’s mum ,(and he looked fab in a dress although the girls did wonder how they would keep a straight face in Geography the following week as he’s their teacher!) called Rufus & Herbie up to the stage for a ‘shout out’.

Herbie loved every minute of the evening and couldn’t wait to get on the stage himself!

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Other highlights have been learning that our fundraising for GOSH continues to grow, putting us in the top 1% of fundraisers

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Herbie continues to hear from the wonderful Hope , who sent a fab birthday card and gift of Moshi gloves and hat etc just in time for the cold snap. Thank you Hope!

We hope to update again with more positive news soon. In the mean time I wish you a happy and healthy February…

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“That was awesome”

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Lots of reminiscing in the first post of 2015. 6 years ago on Monday Herbie literally tumbled into my arms and our family was complete. Born just before the sun came up on a rainy day in January we  were thrilled will our dark  haired little bundle of loveliness. He weighed 7lb 1oz (the same weight as one of our twins (Lily) was at birth although he seemed tiny after Rufus who just shy of 10lb) and was perfect.  )

 

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Last January he turned 5. It wasn’t what you want for your child’s 5th birthday. Having been admitted into hospital five days earlier (with a rash that his consultants thought was shingles) he spent his 5th birthday having a blood transfusion and feeling pretty rubbish. He was thin, tired and although he tried to be enthusiastic about presents and the balloons and cake etc it was obvious that it was to keep us happy.

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Fast forward to this year, on Monday he turned 6! The first difference was that he was at home. The night before he was more excited than Christmas Eve , he couldn’t sleep. In fairness there was more than just the birthday on his mind. More of that  in a minute.

The big day arrived and it really was a big day. Herbie wasn’t just turning 6 but he was returning to school for the first time since pre transplant.  There were a few uniform issues. He no longer fits the school uniform. His age 5 polo shirts were replaced for age 8 ones! His trousers were elasticated!  But he didn’t care one bit…he was going to school!

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The birthday continued with an hour and a half in school (I was in the building as the line safety training hadn’t been given to staff yet) and then we returned home with more gifts to open.  Herbie loved being back with his buddies at school though. Was I nervous? Yes, every cough, sneeze or runny nose around him makes me a little anxious. Was he? Not a bit!

This year candles were blown out and cake was eaten and plenty of excitement was apparent ! He requested a roast dinner with sprouts! Dan made him one of course.  Another milestone met, another sad memory overwritten. As I tucked him up in his bed that night he cuddled me and said “Today was AWESOME”. Can’t ask for a better verdict than that! 

Today we had our first 2015 outpatient appointment at GOSH. As we drove there this morning we found ourselves, once again, thinking about our first 2014 GOSH appointment. We  remembered the shock of the discussion about BMT being the best option for Herbie when he was better. The tears on the M40 as we drove home trying to digest what we had been told. Oh how 12 months changes things. There were smiles, ‘happy new year’ greetings with the now all to familiar staff. We bumped into one of our fab Robin nurses, Lucinda, on our way in. We bumped into Helen, his GOSH teacher, on our way out.  As we waited  Paul Veys came to collect some notes and Herb shouted “I’ve still got my eye on you Paul Veys” making us all chuckle and prompting a mini catch up chat. Then Catey, from the BBC crew came to talk to us about the final edit of the film and what we could expect to see. It’s actually quite exciting!

In the appointment, Waseem was happy with progress. A steroid reduction plan was made and for the first time the hint of a wean time for cyclosporin was released from the bag. It’s a slow process for Herbie but worth it.  All in all things are headed in the right direction.

As we went to make an appointment for 6 weeks time we bumped into Juliet and Sebastien , our friends from our time on the BMT wards. After a catch up with them and Catey, Dollan & Sam from the film crew we had promotional photos taken for the series before heading back home.

We are feeling positive…maybe, at last, 2015 will be a year to remember for positive & happy things. Friday we hit the 8 months post transplant milestone  and next Thursday Herb is T+250! Time is flying!

 

Half a year ago…

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6 MONTHS POST TRANSPLANT

I must warn you that I am about to share some photos that you may find difficult to view. I started this blog when we knew Herbie needed an imminent bone marrow transplant but there had been many many difficult times before then. I’m not trying to shock you, this blog was always meant to be a positive and truthful account of our experiences but  in order to celebrate where we are today it’s important to realise how far we have travelled.

A year ago  our happy 4 year old had spent the day lethargic and with a fever.  He wasn’t able to go to school on the  following day…that’s where this BMT journey began.  We had also had other tough times with our boy, meningitis, lung problems and horrible lumps that needed surgery on his neck.

 

Reasons why we celebrate 6 months post transplant
Reasons why we celebrate 6 months post transplant

So today I reflect once again on the tough times that my youngest boy has gone through , since this time last year alone he has endured a lung biopsy and lung wash, 3 surgeries on his neck, insertion of a peg, insertion of a PICC line and then of a double lumen Hickman line. He’s had daily iv’s since December, he’s had more blood tests than I can count, he’s had skin biopsies , numerous X-rays , CT scans, lung function tests, ultra sounds and taken a mountain of drugs.
I know many children endure the same and worse but when you live through it with your own precious child it engulfs you.

However today’s post is actually meant to be a celebration! 6 months ago today that moment happened, Rufus gave his bone marrow to his brother and Herbie, fresh from chemotherapy, began the journey of the reconstruction of his immune system. Yes it’s been a roller coaster ride, yes there have been times when I’ve thought “when will this settle down” “when will we get home” “when will these meds stop” but here we are, still standing, still positive and still moving on.
Herbie found out this week that he is going to be Angel Gabriel in his school nativity! Dr Waseem says he can go back to school full time in the new year and visit before then. We are understandably nervous knowing what a breeding ground for bugs schools are at this time of the year. So he will be in the play if all is well but if it’s too risky they will record him and project him on a screen. I am so grateful to the teachers in Rufus and Herbie’s classes for making this possible. The inclusion has been wonderful.

In other news we are now weaned off of MMF which is great, one immunosuppressant down. On Wednesday, if their is no sign of GVHD returning, we can reduce the steroid (another immune suppressant ) too. Only by 2ml per dose but we are happy that the wean is slow and safe.
Herbie has had a good week. The steroids make him eat loads and he drinks his 1600ml required daily almost exclusively in chocolate milk and orange juice making his calorie intake rather impressive!

Eating bacon butties with Papa after the hub visit this week.& on Children In Need Day (hence the ears!!!)
Eating bacon butties with Papa after the hub visit this week.& on Children In Need Day (hence the ears!!!)

Bloods continue to make comforting reading

HB 14.3
WCC 10.9
Platelets 167
Neutrophils 9.37
Lymphocytes 0.22

Engraftment 100%
Cd4 220

We will keep on to the next appointment in December which will involve more tests and scans but hopefully good news and stopping of the iv!
Thank you to everyone near and far for every little bit of support so far, it means so much to us all xxxxx

Rockets, sparklers and miles of smiles…

T+176

Since we first heard that Herbie was definitely having a Bone Marrow Transplant earlier this year we have worked very hard to stay positive and focused, not just for our own sanity but for Herbie and our other children.  I can’t tell you how often we have been commended by friends, family, nurses, consultants and total strangers for our positive outlook and our strength.  It’s always very lovely & flattering to hear this but I often think ‘what is the alternative?’ And ‘wouldn’t any parent do the same?’

So here we are , 175 days since Rufus donated his cells. It’s often hard to remember our time in Great Ormond Street in much detail,  perhaps we are already pushing it back to allow new and happier memories.  Some days  actual transplant time seems miles away then suddenly something transports you back there in a second.  That was the case this week.

On Wednesday we went back to GOS for Herbie’s outpatient appointment & Lily came too as Waseem wanted to see her as it had been almost a year since her last appointment. Herbie was thrilled that his big sister was coming.  The mood in the car was happy and positive. We talked about the imminent future, Christmas, birthdays etc with a different , more hopeful tone.  I won’t deny that last Christmas was pretty rubbish despite my efforts to keep the spirit alive,  even me, the Christmas queen, lost the Christmas sparkle. The birthday celebrations got cancelled, the family get togethers only saw some of us and this year we have plans to turn what Herbie & I refer to as last years Hard Candy Christmas (there’s some Dolly Parton for everyone right?’) into something a little more soft and squidgy!

We arrived early and walked from our usual parking space , past Russell Square tube station down  to the hustle and bustle of GOS.

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We were met by Hiral and Charlie,  from the BBC crew,  who wanted more footage , especially of Lily,  for the series. Once we arrived in Safari it was the usual drill. Herbie was called in for  weight, height etc whilst Lily went off to film with Hiral & Dan. His BP was rather high but he was so excitable that Waseem wasn’t overly concerned.

As I had been checking in I felt a hand on my arm and it was Vicki, Jack’s mum , who we seem to bump into every appointment now. Looking at the gorgeous Jack it’s hard to believe that I started reading their blog almost a year ago  and  what has happened to us all in that time. It’s funny how people you hardly know seem like old friends, bone marrow transplants do give you a bond with those you share the journey with.

We went into see Waseem.  He looked genuinely pleased to see Lily & Herbie looking so well. It was agreed that Herbie would restart the wean of MMF that was stopped months ago and if that went to plan in two weeks we would drop the steroid (prednisolone ) by another 2ml per dose. The steroid creams were to be used every other day  & in December we would repeat scans etc  and hopefully stop the Micafungin iv. We were more than happy with that plan. Herbie asked again about returning to school and Waseem said he thought he could do a few hours here and there , hopefully be in the Nativity, with a view to proper reintegration in the new year.

Lily  looked well and he was pleased that there had been improvement in her  lung function. He said that for now the BMT was on hold. Music to our ears!  He was very pleased to hear that she did PE had managed no days sick from school, was off on an adventure weekend and had  played a gig on Saturday!

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Both children needed blood taken, for Herbie this is easy using his Hickman but Lily had peripheral bloods taken using a little numbing spray.  Hiral and Charlie were filming  this with a new member of the crew!

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Before we left for home Herbie and I had another job to do.   We returned to Level 5 to Robin and a Fox Wards with cards and magazines for two BMT buddies.

Our BMT buddy Milan,  who  came into transplant about 2 weeks before we did in April this year, is still in his same room in Fox and has been now for nearly 7 months.  I’m sure you will read this and be touched by the thought of this, a young boy, the same age as  Ru, being stuck in isolation and unable to go home post transplant. I can assure you that once you have been in their for ten weeks you feel nothing but admiration and love for these people. His wonderful parents, juggling work, hospital and another child whilst maintaining  positive outlooks and  determination.  We know how tough that is for ten weeks let alone 7 months.  It was great to hug his mum and catch up, although we couldn’t obviously go to see Milan himself. I just wanted his family to know that we think of them.

Just to prove how special they are, they gave Herbie a gift too! Still thinking of others!  Herbie was thrilled when we got to Robin to see Rehka through the window, he shouted at her and suddenly she burst through the door to see him, closely followed by Ella, another of his favourites. It was wonderful to catch up with them and we all had hugs.

Yay! Catching up with  Rehka & Ella
Yay! Catching up with Rehka & Ella

Herbie gave them the card and magazine for Jacob who had his transplant in May like Herbie but has recently returned to GOS following a bout of illness.  We didn’t want to disturb him or his mum as we know things are a bit tough right now but I was thrilled to bump into Lucy, his mum , on the way to the lifts and catch up. Another strong family, juggling work, two other children and being away from home.

Finally, after goodbyes , promises to return to say hi again soon and messages of  support,  we left. Herbie was thrilled with his gift but I knew we were both thrilled about having the luxury of leaving to go home…being back there brought it all back.

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We travelled home and got back in time to run indoors for coats etc for Guy Fawkes /Bonfire night celebrations. I quickly opened the post and was emotional to find this letter confirming guest entry for us all to Camp Bestival 2015!

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Then it was off to Dans parents house for the family fireworks and. Herbie’s first family get together since March. He was thrilled and so were his cousins and friends.

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So after a fun packed day we move forward into the next phase of recovery. Weaning off of more meds,  gradually visiting school and hopefully an immune system that works properly.

our thoughts are still with our BMT friends, Milan, Jacob, Jack  and Erin and their families who are having tougher times.

It just shows how fragile each stage of this process is…

 

Bloods…

HB 15

WCC 9.12

Platelets 166

Neutrophils 8.30

lymphocytes 0.18

 

Oh and if you are feeling a little bah humbug about people getting festive a little early think again, they may have reasons for it that you have no idea about.  Everyone deserves to decide when they want to start feeling Christmassy whether it’s November 1st or Dec 24th. X