In the days immediately following transplant Alan did very well, considering the major surgery he had just come through.
After just a few days there was talk of moving him from ICU to the regular floor. But about this same time, three or four days after transplant, Alan's progress began to slow. He started having fevers and trouble with his lungs, and the move to "the floor" was postponed.
Family and friends brought this need to God in prayer, like they have done many other times on Alan's behalf, and in another day or two, Alan's lungs had improved and the ICU and transplant teams again began discussing moving Alan to "the floor".
And then the fever came back. And once again, the move was cancelled. By this time, it was definite that Alan had an infection of some kind, but it couldn't be identified or pinpointed to a specific location in his body. That would take time.
Also by this point, Alan not only had a mystery infection, but he had fluid in his right lung. He was scheduled to go into the Operating Room the next day for a scope and a fluid sample unless there were specific improvements.
Sure enough, the next day Alan showed just enough improvement to avoid the procedure. Prayer again? I'm certain! In fact, Alan was looking good again on all fronts. Good enough that the family who hadn't left our side in a whole week (other family was just as invaluable - taking care of Dale!) decided to head home for a couple of days. The family keeping Dale needed to be relieved to return to work. They planed on taking the opportunity to do some laundry and check in at work before coming back to Alan. Although Alan still had quite a bit of recovery still ahead of him, things were looking pretty good, and it was going to be down to just me and Greg for a couple of days.
One year ago today, about 10:00 on that Monday morning (January 7th), Alan's transplant surgeon and other doctors came in for rounds. There weren't any major changes at that time, and they all gave nods of approval at Alan's progress. Soon after that Alan's nurse came in and gave Alan some medication through one of his IV lines before going in to see another patient.
She hadn't been gone long when something about Alan caught my attention. Something wasn't right. His breathing was labored and shallow, his color was a little unnatural, and he had a strange look in his eyes.
For a moment or two I paced between Alan's bed and the door to his room, looking for our nurse, but the hallway was empty.
I didn't know what was wrong, but I was growing more nervous by the second, and although I didn't want to leave Alan's side, I was more afraid of not getting the help he needed. Thankfully, that was the moment Greg came into the room and he turned right back around to get a nurse.
When the nurse came in and saw Alan's condition, things started happening very fast. For the next hour, 11-13 medical personnel were in Alan's room at all times. Greg and I sat off to the side, out of the way, watching and listening in awe.
We are so thankful that we didn't know and understand then what we know now.
We would have been terrified.
Alan was in septic shock.
At the end of the hour, the baby who had been giving little smiles and waves just that morning was sedated with a breathing tube and several other new pieces of medical equipment. The floor was littered with dozens of wrappers and packages that had been hurriedly torn open and tossed aside, their contents used to rescue Alan from the bacteria wreaking havoc in his body.
The infection that had only been a mystery before had suddenly revealed itself. It was living and growing in Alan's central line - a major IV in his neck. When the nurse had given the medication that morning, it set off a chain reaction that she later described to us as being "like a bomb going off in his little body."
Alan had a vicious bacteria growing in his blood. His had pneumonia in his right lung, which was also partially collapsed. The right side of his diaphragm was temporarily paralyzed from surgery. To deal with these issues, in addition to just having had a transplant, Alan was seen by a hepatologist (liver specialist), a transplant surgeon, a pulmonologist (lung specialist), a nephrologist (kidney specialist), a physical therapist, respiratory therapist, infectious disease, the ICU resident, and his nurses. For at least 24 hours after the septic shock there was a nurse in Alan's room at all times.
The doctors cautioned us more than once that Alan was "a very sick little boy", a phrase we would later come to identify as one carefully veiling a more serious message. They prepared us for a long slow recovery. Once again, the prayer warriors went to work.
And just one week later, the doctors shook their heads in amazement, their smiles wide as they entered the room to see Alan sitting up, playing. One commented, "you don't see that every day". Another called him their "star". The Great Physician had taken modern medicine and gone a step further. God's healing in Alan's life was obvious.
Later that very day Alan was finally transferred to "the floor", and just 3 days later he was dismissed to the Ronald McDonald House!
He still had a long road ahead of him, but the leaps and bounds he had made in just over a week were amazing!
While staying at the Ronald McDonald house during the next month, Alan had blood work and was seen twice a week in clinic. We spent our time learning the dozen new medicines, doing our best to get Alan to eat, and trying to teach him how to sleep again. He was readmitted to the hospital once for a biopsy.
Finally, on Valentines Day, after 7 weeks away, Alan came home and ate supper in his own chair, and slept in his own bed.
He had a new liver, a new scar, and a new lease on life. Or so we thought. Little did we know that some of Alan's scariest moments were yet to come.
Click here for Part 4