Shunt Malfunction | Part 1

Zion’s shunt malfunctioned when he was 2-months-old, and he needed a second surgery to repair and revise it. I wrote it all down on the following days at home. 1) So we could remember what it was like, if it were to happen again and 2) So we can tell him and others about God’s faithfulness – an Ebenezer in his young life. 

After a scare in the ER Wednesday that turned out to be a virus, I decided to post about his shunt malfuncting back in January.

Zion had his first round of immunizations on a Wednesday – December 30. It was a hard day, really a hard week, as I had to watch him cry so hard and worry if I made the right decision. The week also brought bottle trials as we prepared to leave him for the first extended period of time on Friday for our first wedding. 

By the time Friday rolled around, Zi hadn’t successfully taken a bottle. That morning, before we had to leave, I cuddled him lots and fed him as much as possible. We began to make plans for me to come home in the middle of the day (if he wouldn’t take the bottle, as we suspected). I got home about 4 hours after his last feeding, where Chelsea & my mom were distracting him and holding him off! He ate for a long time; I dreaded leaving again. Just one more long chunk to go, this time it would be about 5 hours. Strangely enough, he slept the whole time. We thought, at first, this was just an anomaly and a good thing! 

When we got home, I fed him. He ate a lot, and following the feeding a lot came back up. This was like projectile spit-up – forceful across the wood floor downstairs. I thought it was weird, but we explained it away thinking he ate too much, too fast. That night, feedings were much more often and by morning, he had two more forceful and large amounts of spit-up. We called the pediatrician and headed to Ames to get him looked at. We were mostly just playing it safe by checking in at the doctor, but our concerns were starting to grow and suspicions of the vaccines crept in.

The doctor didn’t find anything concerning and warned us to keep an eye on him, to let him know if the vomiting continued. But it didn’t. No more spit-ups. Although as the day went on, Zion mostly just slept. By that evening, he was very fussy. We had Adam’s Hunter family Christmas, and he was incredibly irritable all night. He seemed uncomfortable and wasn’t content with anyone holding him, except me. Even then, he was hard to console.

We went to bed Saturday night, thinking a night of sleep would cure the fussiness. But Sunday morning, Z was still fussy and finally fell asleep on me before church – he and I opted out of church that day. When Adam got home, Zi continued to sleep pretty much all day on one of us. He’d only wake up to eat. We could tell he didn’t feel good and seemed to have a bit of a stuffy nose, so we began thinking he had caught his first cold. By the next day, things still hadn’t improved. He was still hard to console and I couldn’t put him down. We also hadn’t seen his smile at all. So I headed back to the pediatrician, this time not for vomiting – but something clearly wasn’t right.

No answers at his doctor visit. On the outside he seemed just fine. Our Doctor measured his head and there was no growth or swelling, no fever. He didn’t think it was his shunt. Doc suggested trying a probiotic and we headed home. 

On Tuesday morning, Adam mentioned seeing someone else for a second opinion. I wasn’t sure.

My mom came over to give me a little rest and agreed that something definitely seemed wrong. When Adam came home for lunch, he said he thought we should call the Iowa City doctors in case it was shunt-related. So he made the call and they instructed us to bring him to the ER entrance when we could. I showered, we packed a bag (my mom’s suggestion) and headed out around 2:30p.

We arrived at the ER around 4:30p and they began to check him out. Right away, nothing on the surface seemed wrong and the nurses made comments like “sorry you came all this way.” We started to worry we’d get sent home with no answers yet we KNEW something wasn’t right. We knew this was not our baby. They scheduled an MRI to get a look at his brain and shunt and I asked if they planned to do blood work. It was up to neurosurgery. As we walked down for the MRI, I mentioned to Adam how I thought his head veins were showing through more. He said he had noticed too and that he’d read that was a sign of shunt failure. My heart dropped and it clicked for us – it was starting to add up and we knew the MRI would be the piece to confirm it.

He cried and hated the MRI but when we headed back to our ER room, Zion was much more lethargic, he’d pretty much stopped the fussiness and was barely moving. They began the process of blood work per request and placed an IV as a precaution. It was when this was all happening, I held him cuddled against me.

Not long after the MRI had been completed, someone from the Neurosurgery team stepped in with news; it was a shunt failure. The words pierced me with fear and the tears flooded. He needed to head into surgery in the next hour. Once the shock passed, we were struck with relief – relief that we had answers, that we had come! 

Adam spread the news to our families and then friends, asking them to join us in prayer as we walked down this road again. It was a quick preparation for surgery and we gave him kisses and handed him to the team to do their work. They were unsure how long the surgery would take because they didn’t know where the shunt malfunctioned and what parts would need replaced. We went to the waiting room with just that.

It was about 8:00p when surgery began, and we grabbed dinner from the cafeteria and waited.

Read part 2, here. 

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