Day +126: We had some wonderful family time in Tahoe this past weekend. There were some experiences that showed me the love and generosity of others. I’m thankful for my mom, aunt and uncle, but also a few strangers who touched our lives. It still amazes me how God works through people, especially when they probably don’t even have any idea. So just remember, you may never know how your small (or big) gesture can affect someone.
As for an update on Kiira: Kiira developed a rash on Thursday that’s gotten worse. There are no other symptoms and it’s not itchy, so it might be Graph vs Host Disease (GVHD), which means Miia’s cells are attacking Kiira’s body. Though it can be a bigger issue, it’s a sign that Miia’s cells are effectively working in a Kiira’s body. They aren’t doing a biopsy to confirm it, but it’s somewhat typical as you wean off immunosuppressants. We hope it doesn’t develop into the gut or liver, but in the meantime, we are treating the rash.
Today we drew Kiira’s lab to recheck her CMV. I didn’t realize not all lab techs can draw from a central line, so it meant getting poked. There is a class I can take to teach me to draw blood from the lines, which I might do. It’s pretty amazing all that I’ve learned as I care for Kiira. I feel like I’m getting my nursing degree after all.
Thank you for your continued prayers. Kiira is still doing great and these little hiccups don’t seem to affect her at all.
Day +118: The last week has been a whirlwind–two Thanksgiving meals, Christmas decorating, unpacking/reorganizing the house, visiting friends and family, and back to school/work this week. The girls all have a lot of fun together and I love watching them play and help each other out. It’s also been an adjustment, understandably. The girls had been without me for 4 months and now they have to get used to another parent around, but also want to be with me nonstop. We’ll get adjusted soon enough, but I’m just glad they show Kiira so much love and that we are all back together again.
We did find out Kiira’s CMV is back, so please pray that it goes back down on its own now that we are weaning off the immunosuppressants. We will retest it again next week. We also start feeding therapy soon since she still isn’t really eating. I’m hoping it will come back to her quickly after a few sessions.
Over Thanksgiving I spent a lot of time thinking about how thankful I am for so many things. I’ve had amazing friends, family, and strangers show us support and it has really helped our family endure the hardships EB brought upon us. I’m thankful Kiira had 2 opportunities do a BMT, both covered by insurance. I’m thankful that though we had to do it twice, both times Kiira had no real complications. I’m thankful Kiira has had no strictures in her esophagus or infections in her skin. I’m thankful for my husband who did an incredible job holding down the fort here, but being so supportive of me from afar. I’m thankful EB has caused no developmental delays in Kiira. I’m thankful Kiira’s sisters love her and push her to achieve more rather than treat her differently. I can go on and on. God has provided in so many ways, through so many means. And though we still pray for a cure for EB, we are thankful we aren’t on this journey alone.
Day +110: 2200 miles, 33 hours, 9 states traveled and we are finally home.
Day +107: Yesterday we drove through Kansas to Colorado and hit a snow storm. Accidents were happening all over and sometimes it was hard to see, but thankfully we made it safely to our hotel and had a restful night.
Today we wiped the snow down from the car and headed through Colorado to Wyoming and finally Utah. It was sunny, but temperatures were in the 20s and we are not very prepared for such cold conditions.
We are taking a driving break tomorrow, but Kiira is so good in the car that it makes these drives much easier. We love exploring the beautiful country and glad that this road leads us home.
Day +105: Today we left Minneapolis behind. It was hard to say goodbye, although I know I have so many great things back home, including my other two daughters. Also, a road trip is never complete without some bumps along the way.
Getting out the door took longer than expected and then in the 10 minute drive to the hospital for a quick lab draw, I got a call from our credit card company that there was fraudulent activity so we don’t access to that card this week. As I was finishing the call, Kiira’s gtube got stuck in her seatbelt and completely pulled it out of her stomach. It’s the first time in nearly 2 years that it’s ever happened and we all kind of freaked out, especially since it hurt Kiira. In the next 10 minutes that it took to be seen by the nurses, the hole had closed up too much to put it back in. They discussed sending us to the OR, which meant we would not be able to leave today. Fortunately, two specialists used dilators to make the hole big enough to fit the gtube back in and an hour later, we were finally on the road. It was a bit traumatic so Kiira fell asleep almost immediately. We made it to Kansas, hours later than planned. However, our dear friends had a warm meal ready for us, and a fun place with 3 girls for Kiira to run around with after being in the car for 7 hours.
Tomorrow we have a 9 hour drive to Denver, hoping to avoid the impending storm coming in.
Thank you for all your prayers over the past several months, or even years. We couldn’t have gotten through this without them!
Day +103: Kiira’s 100 day engraftment came in. She is 100% CD3 and 92% CD33/66 (types of T cells). She is also CMV (virus) negative again. All of this is great news!
Last night we picked up Jason from the airport and Kiira was thrilled to see her daddy. She wanted him to read to her and do everything for her. I’m glad she fell back into routine with him so easily. Aside from a couple day visit in October, it’s been over 3 months since he and the girls went home and it’s wonderful to be together again.
Today we had our final appointment in the clinic, a full 9 hours, and we had a mini reunion with EB families in the area. People from around the world come to Mn for treatment and we all have an incredible bond because of EB. I wish Kiira could’ve been down playing with the other girls, but she was getting MSC cells from Miia (2 of 3 sets), inhaled antibiotic, and a flu shot. We said our goodbyes to the doctors who have been an enormous help to us over the last 2 years. We will see them again in January, but this has been our home and Kiira gets so excited to see them. When we told her we weren’t going to the hospital anymore she said, “awwww” in a tone of disappointment. The day wouldn’t have been complete without more music therapy too.
I wasn’t sure about going through a BMT a second time, and how it helps her skin is still to be determined, but now it’s coming to an end and I’m confident we made the right decision. I’m thankful for the experience and God’s provision for our family as we navigated through this challenge. We head west on Wednesday to rejoin our family and friends early next week!
Day +96: Today is engraftment study day! The clinic drew 21 vials of blood for a variety of tests, including the 100 day engraftment test to see how many donor cells Kiira has. We are hoping it’s still 100% donor! We also found out that Kiira has 7% of Miia’s cells in her skin. This amount isn’t significant, but it’s good to see that some is present.
We spent most of today’s appointment discussing our plans to go home next week. After we get results from today’s test (late this week), we’ll plan on weaning off the immunosuppressant and the IV magnesium. We can also drop off the anti-fungal and anti-viral drugs in a couple of weeks. However, they decided to give Kiira the inhaled antibiotic that requires us to go in once a month for treatment and we start that on Wednesday, along with our flu shots. It’s possible we can switch back to an oral version in the future, but the team is being extra-cautious with Kiira’s immune system, which I appreciate.
Kiira continues to do well. Her favorite new saying is, “That’s silly mama!” and she runs around, purposely standing precariously on things like books. It makes me anxious, but she gives a sly smile, like a typical 2-year old who knows they’re not supposed to do what they’re doing. Let’s just hope the BMT is working on her skin fast enough to keep up with this dare devil.
Day +91: All went well today in the OR. Kiira had a biopsy on her leg and they ended up doing an echocardiogram in recovery, which was planned for Monday so it was nice to get it out of the way. After a short nap today, she ran around nonstop for hours, as though nothing happened today. She wore herself out and was in good spirits.
Thank you for your prayers!
Day +89: Last week Kiira had a swallow study. It did not show any strictures in the throat or upper esophagus, which is great, but she is still choking on soft solids such as avocado. Our next step is to resume feeding therapy when we get home and hopefully she will pick up the proper eating technique quickly.
Today’s clinic appointment was quick and uneventful. Kiira’s white blood cell count’s are back to normal and CMV (virus) is still detectable but below the treatable amount. We are staying off IV meds and can plan to go home in two weeks.
On Wednesday Kiira will go into the OR for a skin biopsy to determine if she is producing any collagen VII yet. It is a routine procedure but prayers are still appreciated.
My aunt left yesterday after a 10 day visit. It was so nice to have an extra set of hands to entertain Kiira. I even got a night out with a friend which was so nice. Thank you for your help! Jason will arrive in two weeks to drive home with us. It is hard to believe we are wrapping up everything here and we may have had to do the BMT twice, but it could not have gone any better both times and I’m so thankful for that!
Bandages: Kiira is still using bandages donated 2 years ago by many of you (and still have plenty of most things). We cannot express our appreciation adequately in words. Our insurance still doesn’t cover them and they can cost thousands of dollars a month. When Kiira was born 2 years ago, I was so stressed about providing her with what she needs to reduce wounds and infections, but God used a number of people who came to Kiira’s aid and subdued my worries for over 2 years! We learned how to reduce waste and reuse bandages when we can, but I felt like we witnessed a miracle of never-ending supplies. We have even sent some overseas to help others in need of bandages, because unfortunately not everyone has those resources. Without a cure, bandaging the skin is the only protection we can provide to those with EB. Several organizations and fundraisers rise up to help support those families, like debra.org and IrefuseEB.org, but many families still have to do fundraising on their own to cover supplies, copays, lost wages due to so much time off to care for a child with EB, special clothing, and so much more.
Thank you for blessing us. It helped Kiira be as healthy as possible and relieved so much stress for our family. Thank you!