A co-worker of mine has a 4 year old boy who is very ill in the ICU and has been for the past week and a half. Now, before I delve into the story of why he is there, I just want to ask all of you out there to pray for him as he will be entering into surgery today at 7pm Santiago time (which is the same as Eastern Time in the US). If you aren't religious, please just keep him in your throughts and send both him and his mom lots of buenas ondas (good vibes) and fuerza (strength). Please keep him in your thoughts and hearts throughout the day, this evening, and rest of the week because even if surgery goes well tonight...this won't be the end of the tough road.
Joaquin has a rare disease where the HPV virus (yes the one that can cause cervical cancer) is actually active on his vocal cords. No one knows how he got it and I’m not even sure how Silvana (his mom) found out about it in the first place. In any case, actual warts grow on his vocal cords and depending on the size of the warts and the strain of the virus that a person has, surgery to remove them might or might not be necessary. Joaquin had his first surgery in early May to remove the warts that had already installed themselves, making his voice crack and be very soft for a 4 year old. The surgery went well and they biopsied the warts to see which strain of HPV that he has—turns out, he has one of the worst strains, the ones that cause cancer. All of this means that he will have to have medical controls for life in an effort to stay on top of the situation and if any more warts grow...all of which will have to be eventually removed.
His recovery after the surgery had been steady and quite quickly, although of course his vocal cords still had some recovering to do. On July 5th, he became very ill with what seemed like a terrible cold except that his mom noticed that he was barely breathing. So at 4am, she rushed him to the hospital closest to her house to see what was wrong. Turns out that in addition to a new wart (or perhaps multiple) popping up again, his airways were so inflamed that his literally only had the size of half of a straw to breathe through. He was immediately tubed and sent to the ICU where he has been every since, with more and more tubes and wires connecting to his body day after day.
On top of the warts coming back, the doctors realized that he was sick with the H1N1 (Swine) Flu which was reeking havoc in that little body. It caused him to come down with pneumonia and then bronchial pneumonia within 2 days time of actually being in the hospital. While the swine flu may be nothing more than the normal flu for healthy people, for those with already-existing sickness or those with low immune systems, it is terrible.
Last week, he was starting to get better on Wednesday and Thursday and had a fall on Friday where he just got worse all of the sudden. Luckily they were able to get him stabilized on Saturday and all throughout the weekend he was making good progress. Tuesday (yesterday) was somewhat of the defining moment as the doctors took him to the operation room to see how his throat was progressing and see if they could take him off the artificial ventilator which has been breathing for him all this time. They also wanted to see how big the warts are to decide if surgery was necessary right away or if it could wait so that he could be transferred to Clinica Las Condes which has better technology for the surgery. The poor little guy has not only been connected to the machine that breathes for him, but on heavy medications such as morphine and anti-virals against the swine flu in addition to being paralyzed and sedated most of the time. He can only be fed through his IV because with the paralysis and sedation, his stomach and intestines cannot digest food. Nurses come in daily to do physical therapy so that his little limbs do not atrophy but he is already showing signs that it is increasingly difficult to move with every coming day. So getting him off the ventilator and the drugs are a high priority because if not, they can leave terrible after effects.
Yesterday we got the unfortunate news that Joaquin must be operated on as soon as possible, that there are no chances of him being transferred to the other hospital and that today, at 7pm, he will go into surgery. It is a delicate surgery not only because of this critical condition of not being able to breathe himself, but the doctors must be meticulous and right-on when they are removing the warts as interference with the vocal cords can cause him to lose his voice. As long as removing the warts helps with the inflammation and opens his airways a bit more, he is “good to go”. But, in the event that it isn’t enough, they will perform a tracheotomy. Can you even imagine that? A 4 year old with a tracheotomy just to breathe. It just breaks my heart to even have to think that is an option—at least it is the last resort.
So that is why I am asking for your support.....for your prayers, thoughts, strength, peace, faith, hope and anything else you can send your way. If you want to put a link to this post on your own blog to help spread the word, feel free. Or email your friends and family and ask for their support. Anything to get more and more people to be thinking about this little guy and his mom.
The one beautiful thing that I have seen come out of this whole situation is the unity and caring that has come from my place of employment. I have never seen a group of people, all unrelated (in the sense of not being a biological family) come together like we have at my work. We get together every morning at 9am to pray for Joaquin and Silvana...most people are Catholic, but those of us with other beliefs still go and we do our special thing silently while the rest of the group prays aloud. We started a chain of prayers to do on our own time at 8:30am and 8:30pm every day. We set up a schedule of who would go visit Silvana in the hospital over the weekend so that not too many of us would show up at once and overwhelm her. When Joaquin had his fall on Friday, we immediately got together to pray once again and send all the strength that we had. Many tears were shed and you could just see on everyone’s faces that they are in that room because they are genuinely concerned, not just because they “should” be there. Yesterday we did the same before the doctors took him to the operating room and today we will do the same. The support isn't just emotionally and spiritually (although sometimes this is what matters most), we will also be helping with the medical bills because we know that between the previous operation and the 10-day-plus stay in ICU plus this second operation will max out Silvana’s insurance coverage. We have already decided on paying for a separate nurse to care 100% for Joaquin when he leaves the ICU and is in the normal part of the hospital that way he has all of his needs met immediately and Silvana can rest assured that the worst has passed. I have never seen such support and it makes me proud to work with the people I do because I know that we are really there for each other.