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Day 92: Leaving Seattle. Again. 

Tonight we set out on our journey home after exactly four months in Seattle. As Idan pointed out to us, we arrived on June 19th and we are leaving on October 19th. We never imagined heading home so soon, and we are fortunate that everything has gone relatively smoothly until this point. 
We still have a long road ahead of us. Idan’s ANC is still causing trouble by dipping low every week or so. This means we need to monitor his neutrophils closely and give him GCSF shots when they drop to the 500 range. After getting a shot last Monday he went only one week before needing another one this past Tuesday. Luckily for us, Idan is a super super champ when it comes to needle pokes and would put to shame most adults to shame with his courage. Going forward, we will be doing these shots at home ourselves, as the set up in NYC is a bit different. 

We will still have to go to Idan’s NYC doctor once or twice a week for check up and blood draws and monitor everything closely. Idan’s immune system is still a long way away from fully reconstituting, so we will continue to be in isolation for the next year. 

Speaking of blood draws, Idan got a special treat this past week. As you all know, Idan is obsessed with playing doctor and performing procedures and blood draws on all his stuffed animals. This week, during his last poke for a blood draw at the clinic, the nurse asked him if he wanted to connect the vial to the vacutanor himself. Idan is an expert. He knows from practice how to insert a vial into a vacutanor and draw blood as he has done it a million times on his “friends.” With a bashful smile, Idan grabbed the vial in his right hand, while the butterfly needle was in his left arm, he stuck the vial into the vacutanor and drew his own blood. He got to do a 2nd vial too. He could not have been happier. 

Tonight we begin the long journey home and hope to avoid sneezing people at the airport. This time tomorrow, we will be tucking Idan into his very own bed. Goodbye Seattle, hello home sweet home.

Day 85: It’s been an eventful week – oh, and we’re going home!!!

Let’s start with the good: On Tuesday, Idan had his central line removed. This is a big deal, a very big deal, and we are very happy to say goodbye to that line. The central line is a long tube that was placed into Idan’s chest on July 11th for the purpose of drawing blood and delivering medications and fluids without having to place IVs – not to mention delivering his new stem cells from his donor on transplant day. The central line is a necessary evil during transplant. Not only has it saved Idan from (taking a guess) hundreds of needle pokes over the past 4 months, it has also delivered some of the more toxic meds like chemotherapy in a safer way. However, the central line poses a significant risk of infection and was a constant source of stress. Did we mention it is a long tube that hangs out of Idan’s chest? Yup. It requires constant vigilance to make sure the line stays clean, and does not get pulled, kinked, or damaged (boys will be boys). Every night before he took a shower (baths were not an option for Idan), Idan’s line had to be meticulously wrapped in a special way so it did not get wet. Once outpatient, Akiva and I needed to flush the line ourselves every single night. Perhaps the most difficult of all, though, was the dressing change. At least once each week, Idan would sit patiently on Akiva’s lap for about an hour while I cautiously replaced the dressing over the line. The last few dressing changes have been especially difficult, as Idan’s skin under the dressing became more and more raw. He would scream in pain when we started the change, but somehow he would muster up enough courage to sit still through the pain. It was emotionally draining for all of us to complete that important task every week. So on Tuesday, the three of us marched gleefully into the hospital at 6:00 a.m. to remove his line. Idan did very well through the procedure and was thrilled to have no more dressing changes. He was especially excited when he discovered a “cool” coincidence on the way to the hospital that morning: “Mommy, do you know what’s so so so so soooooo cool?? My central line surgery to put in the line was on July 11th, and my surgery to remove the line is on October 11th – the same day!!!” Idan’s world lately revolves around numbers, so we were very happy he found some symmetry (we often hear how children get attached to their lines as though they were limbs, and that the removal of the line can be traumatic – thankfully, not for Idan).
Taking a step back – why the line was removed. Idan is doing very well. He does not receive any medications or fluids intravenously, and he tolerates blood draws (and all other pokes) very well. When balanced with the risk of infection that a central line poses, we all decided that the time had come to take it out. Importantly, Idan’s team of doctors thinks he is ready to go home to New York, and we all felt more comfortable making the trip home without the central line in place.


In the spirit of saving the best for last, we have had some unsettling blood tests lately. Idan’s ANC (absolute neutrophil count) is still dipping every couple weeks, which is concerning because it should have “recovered” to a more stable and higher level by this point. The cause can be anything from a virus to a drug side effect to graft failure, but none of the tests ran over the past few weeks have been able to pinpoint the cause. In the meantime, Idan is getting an extra shot called G-CSF every time his ANC drops below a certain level, and we just have to hope it eventually recovers. The second unsettling test was his latest chimerism results. The chimerism, which indicates how many of Idan’s cells are comprised of donor cells versus his own cells making a come-back, was tested three times. The first time, Idan’s t-cells were at 92% donor, and by the second time, they went up to 96% donor. When we tested them on Monday, however, they dropped slightly to 91% donor. Normally, this would not raise too many alarm bells, but Idan has Hyper IgM, which we are learning can make it difficult for even a good graft to stick, and he has a history of rejecting his graft. So, in the words of Idan’s transplant doctor, the results are not necessarily worrisome, but they are unsettling. We are going to follow it closely and hope it stabilizes and that Idan’s old immune system does not make an unwelcome come back.


And now, for the best news: We are leaving Seattle next Wednesday and will, at long last, return home. It has been quite a journey here in Seattle, and we’ve had our share of ups and downs, but we feel incredibly thankful for the good fortune we have had out here. The Seattle Children’s Hospital and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are two exceptional centers that have treated Idan with incredible skill, but also compassion. The community here has welcomed us and taken us in for the second time, and once again made us feel like home. And the city, this wonderful beautiful city, has been an oasis in a time of immense pain, stress and uncertainty. But we are overjoyed to be going home – back to our family, our routines, our lives. We still have months of recovery and isolation to go, and just about anything is possible at this point, but we rejoice for being fortunate to have been able to make it to this point with a happy, healthy Idan.

Day 75: Shana Tova!

We wanted to take a break from our regular updates to wish everyone a very happy, healthy and sweet New Year!Tonight marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holiday celebrating the new year, 5777. Quite unlike the usual new years’ festivities, which may involve boisterous parties and champagne, the Jewish new year is typically celebrated as a community in the synagogue and then at home with family and friends. It is a time of reflection on the past year and of contemplation of the next. The next ten days are referred to the “Ten Days of Awe,” culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

In the spirit of this holiday, we reflect back on this past year and think about our hopes for the next.

Last Rosh Hashanah, we were in New York with family, praying for Idan’s first graft to stabilize to avoid a second transplant. We had just launched the Hyper IgM Foundation and began what would become the most important work of our lives.

Over the next year, we watched Idan’s graft and chance of a cure slowly slip away. We made the very difficult choice to undergo a second transplant. Once again, we uprooted ourselves and relocated to Seattle. Idan had his second transplant, and, after an exceptionally difficult summer, we now have hope that our little boy will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah for many years and decades to come.

Through our work with the Hyper IgM Foundation, we have connected with patients and physicians around the world to advance research, improve outcomes and even explore new ways to cure this rare disease beyond the risky bone marrow transplant. We have seen tremendous progress on each of these fronts, which I personally credit Akiva’s gargantuan efforts in this regard. We have also suffered unspeakable loss in our patient community, as three boys with Hyper IgM passed away in the short span of just a few months due to complications following bone marrow transplants that were meant to cure them.

It has been a year of heartache and grief. But it has also been a year of hope, of progress, of joy. We hope this coming year will bring the cure we have been waiting for, and we will keep fighting and raising awareness for Hyper IgM to make sure that every child with this disease has hope for a long and healthy life.

Importantly, we wish all of you, who have held our hand, who have encouraged, supported and listened to us, a very happy and healthy New Year. May you and yours have a meaningful and sweet year, and may you all be written in the book of life.

All our love,

Amanda, Akiva & Idan

Day 74: Busy/stressful week, but fevers appear to be gone. 

It has been a while since we posted, and a busy week since we got out of the hospital. As you recall we got out of the hospital the Thursday before last because Idan went 48 hours with no fever. The day we were discharged though, his ANC was very low (in the 400’s, but it should be over 1000) and he needed a GCSF infusion to stimulate the neutrophils growth before they let us go home. The next few days were very stressful as Idan kept running warm at night before he went to bed, and we thought we would have to get admitted again. His temperatures flirted with but never quite reached the level of readmission. With the doctors’ permission, and to reduce our own stress levels, we started to wait until he was asleep to take his temperature, since they always went down once he was settled in bed. His temperature seems to be back to normal now, but we do not know what caused the fevers in the first place.

This past week was also a very busy week as we began our “Day 80” evaluations tests. This work-up is essentially a repeat of all the pre-transplant tests we did, and the purpose is to get a status report of Idan’s overall health at approximately 80 days post-transplant. On Thursday at clinic his ANC had dropped below 1000 again and they had us come in again today to recheck his ANC to make sure he did not need another GCSF shot. Luckily it was back up above 1000 so we will check it again on Monday. Still since something strange might be going on in his marrow, and in order to rule out issues we decided to move up his bone marrow aspiration and biopsy procedure (part of the Day 80 evaluation) that was scheduled for next Friday to this Tuesday. This will give us a better idea of what is going on both with his ANC and his temperatures.
Still, despite the 5 day hospital stay and the many appointments we have had, Idan has been feeling well and enjoyed the long visit he had with his grandparents. He got to enjoy many adventures between and after appointments and a lot of play time with them. He is looking forward to to his aunt (Doda Chana) visiting next weekend, and for another visit of Amanda’s sisters the weekend after.

Day 64: Just when we started to feel homesick, Idan had some surprise visitors :)

Well, it finally happened. After three months, a wave of homesickness came over me like a dark cloud last night. This hospital stay marks Idan’s fifth. It’s the third one where we are searching for a diagnosis. With every hospitalization comes the fear of not knowing what happens next, what side effects will develop, what tolerance Idan will have for the pokes and probes, and of course, the enormous amount of energy it takes to put a smile on our faces and all push forward together through the raging fire of illness. So when I took a break and went back to our Seattle apartment last night, I broke down. It all came flooding back to me the second I opened the door to the apartment. The wave of sadness at the realization that Idan, who has been looking forward to his grandparents visiting from Israel since before we even left for Seattle, is now confined to a hospital room during part or maybe all of their stay. The frustration of coming so close to getting to go home to New York, to not knowing how this set back will affect the length of our stay. The worry and exhaustion of not knowing why his fevers are persistent and sneaky, as though playing with his little heart strings. The hour Akiva and I spent pleading with Idan to take his oral meds without vomiting, trying desperately to undo and reverse the negative association with taking medications in the hospital, after finally getting him past it not so long ago. How cold and empty our apartment seemed last night without the sound of his chatter and giggles filling the rooms. It felt like hitting a wall. 

I broke down so I could put the pieces back together. Remind myself of what we are doing here, remember our strength and all we have been through since the day Idan was intubated in 2013. Piece by piece, reminding myself of all the lows, and how those very same lows led us to all the highs. Idan’s graft is excellent and he is in good health (fevers notwithstanding), and every time he gets knocked down he keeps getting up. It’s no coincidence that Idan keeps singing these lyrics from a Pink song: “You gotta get up and try, try, try, you gotta get up and try.” His resilience astounds me and gives me all the reassurance I need to get up and try. 
Today, Idan’s temperature is *hopefully* showing signs of lowering, and his C Diff appears to be in check. And just in time to really raise our spirits, a couple of surprise visitors showed up at Idan’s door this morning – two of Seattle Sounders’ soccer team players. Idan was jumping up and down with excitement! He asked them a bunch of questions (mostly about numbers – how many players on the team, what player has the highest number, you get the picture) and showed off the soccer field he randomly decided to build with his Plus-Plus yesterday. The soccer players were very sweet and found all his questions pretty amusing. Yes, we’re all starting to feel homesick, but it was a great reminder of how incredibly lucky we are to be here in Seattle and at such a great hospital.

Day 63 – Persistent Fevers:

14329953_1388297231200240_5801254640634437046_nWe have been in the hospital for 48 hours at this point and have not figured out the cause of Idan’s fevers. The first blood cultures taken Sunday night have not grown anything at this point. He spiked another higher fever this afternoon of 101.7 and they took another set of blood cultures to test. This means that we are in the hospital for another 48 hours at the very least, and with every temperature over 100.3 that clock will get reset. Idan continues to get IV antibiotics until the fevers go away, even if the cultures continue to be negative.

Sadly, the side affect of this IV antibiotic has been very loose stools and the return of C. Diff which is not very fun. So we started treating him today with Flagyl again to get rid of the C. Diff and that will continue for another 14 days. Idan is still in a good mood and mostly has had energy but the hospital life (tethered poll, frequent vitals) is starting to take a toll again. In addition, having C.Diff means that we are in contact isolation again so he loses his right to walk the hall or check out the roof garden.

Amanda and I are of course concerned that no cause has been found yet, and are hoping, like our doctor, that this is just a virus that needs to run its course. If fevers continues for two more days or if other symptoms present they will probably order more tests (like a CT and some fungal detection tests) to rule out other types of infections.

We are happy that Idan’s grandparents are here this week so they can help entertain him during the long days in the hospital. We really hope that the fever goes away for good and we can hopefully get out for the weekend, but we are not holding our breath. Hoping for better news soon! Thanks for all the good wishes!


Day 62: The best laid plans… Back in the hospital for a fever. 

So after our very happy post last week, we are having a bit of a set back. Last night, Idan spiked a fever of 101.3, so we had to get admitted back into the hospital for observation. One of the many precautions we take post-transplant is to take Idan’s temperature twice a day. For the last few nights, Idan has had higher temperatures in the evening, high enough on Saturday to prompt us to call the the doctors and pack our bags to go in. Each night it had climbed to 100.3 but then went back down to normal during the day. We had a feeling something was going on but it took a couple of days to present with higher fevers. On Sunday, it finally did, with a fever of 101.3. Not high for healthy folks, but alarming for transplant patients.
We were admitted to the hospital late Sunday night, and have been told to expect to stay at least 2-3 days. When we arrived late last night, they took blood cultures and CBC’s. With transplant kids they don’t wait to find out and they started him immediately on IV antibiotics while we wait a couple of days to see if his blood cultures grow anything. We do not know the cause of the fevers yet.

Now we play the 48 hour vitals game. We need to go 48 hours without spiking a fever. So if he stays below 100.3 for that long they will let us know. He last spiked a fever at 4am, so we reset the clock at that point and hope for he best. Hoping this is not anything major and just a small virus or bacterial infection that can be treated well with the IV antibiotics.

We are happy and thankful that Idan had been feeling himself and is happy, energetic and has no other symptoms. His grandparents are arriving today for a planned ten-day visit so he is excited for that and they will help entertain him.

With any luck we will get out before the weekend and Idan will be able to share his favorite Seattle spots with them.

And on the bright side, we finally got that room with a view we always wanted.

Day 57: Chimerisms are up!! Excuse us while we do another dance of joy.

The greatest joy in my life as a mom so far may just have happened a short while ago. After putting my phone down following a conversation with the clinic, Akiva and I walked into the living room to find Idan reading a book sweetly to himself. We shared with him the good news that his donor cells have continued to grow and now he has ***even more*** healthy cells than he did before. 96% donor T-cells (up from 92%), 100% donor myeloid cells, and 95% donor NK cells (up from 89%), to be exact. His facial expression went from “why are my parents acting like fools” to comprehending that he is one step closer to his dreams coming true. 

At the ripe old age of 4, Idan knows what it means to have Hyper IgM. He hides behind us if we are outside and children walk by. He sits down on chairs with his hands on his lap at all times so as not to touch anything. He dislikes watching videos of concerts and other activities where there are large crowds. He looks sadly at children playing – in the sand, on the grass, on the playground, in a swimming pool. He quietly asks if he’ll ever be able to go to a real school. Today, we got to tell him that, one day in the not so distant future, that will all change, and we get to really believe it. 


We still have a long and treacherous road ahead to make sure that Idan stays healthy and that GVHD does not develop, and we will not know for certain whether Idan is cured until we can put his new donor cells to the test. But we do know one thing that we did not know the first time around – Idan has a great graft, and his chances at a cure are looking better every single day.

Day 49: No more IV meds, and other fun updates!

14184479_1375551709141459_571277656164902772_nIt’s been an eventful few days, all in a good way. On Sunday night, we heard the wonderful news that Idan’s new cousin Lia was born! With the help of FaceTime, Idan was able to welcome Lia to the family less than an hour after she was born. It was pretty special to see Idan’s face light up as he met his cousin for the first time. We have missed too many family occasions and celebrations to count, so it was that much more meaningful to be able to share this beautiful moment with our family from the other side of the country.

And we reached a small but significant milestone today. Idan does not need to be hooked up to the IV anymore at nights! As you recall when we first got out a month ago from the hospital, we still had to hook Idan up for 10 hours at night to an IV fluid bag that contained magnesium. We have been trying for the past month to transition the IV fluids to an oral med. First, Idan had to be able to drink 50 oz of liquids during the day to show that he didn’t require additional fluids at night. Over the last few weeks, as Idan began reaching and eventually exceeding his oral intake goal of 50 oz of water each day, we have been able to gradually go down on the amount of IV fluids (from 750 ml to 180ml, then 120ml and then 60ml) and we were able to shorten the length of the infusion from 10 hours to 3 and then 2. Next, Idan had to demonstrate he was able to tolerate oral magnesium (which can be pretty harsh on the stomach). After two weeks of experimenting and pulling back when necessary, Idan is finally tolerating the oral magnesium in a high enough dose that the clinic felt we can stop the IV altogether. This is huge news for a few reasons. First, quality of life for Idan and for us. Idan never liked sleeping with a tube connected to his line, and we never enjoyed playing nurse and disconnecting the tube in the middle of the night without waking him. Second, every time we need to access his line it increases the chance of an infection. So the less going in and out, and the less we mess with his central line in general, the better (we will still need to flush both parts of the line once a day with saline and heparin). Lastly, and most importantly, this is one less thing holding us back from getting out the central line in 2 months and hopefully getting to go home to NY. We hope he continues to tolerate the oral magnesium he gets and that his levels stay high enough without the IV dose.

In other news, Idan still has a mystery cough, but it seems to be limited to the night and morning. In the last few days, it has not been as bad as it was last week, so we are hoping it is almost clear. We will see. Idan will still wear a mask in clinic until he is done with symptoms, and of course this means that Idan has added several masks to his play doctor kit 🙂

This past weekend, we had lots of fun exploring the parks in our neighborhood, which were full of surprises. On Saturday, we discovered new trails in Magneson Park that we never knew existed. On Sunday, we went to Ravenna Park, about a ten minute drive away, and it felt like we stepped into Narnia. One minute we were standing on a large lawn overlooking your typical picnic table scene, and the next minute we descended down several flights of stairs only to find ourselves standing in the middle of a beautiful lush forest surrounding a ravine (that has to be a metaphor for something, right??). Thankfully, Idan has gone from having only enough energy to walk a few minutes outside (after a month in the hospital) to trekking an entire hour around in the park (with stairs and hills and bridges) and can enjoy these wondrous new places. Amazing how, as isolated as Idan is and with everything he has endured over the last few months, he is having adventures and seeing nature in a way he would rarely be able to back in our ultra-urban enclave in NYC. We always said Seattle is a place of healing, and feel grateful every day for these beautiful surroundings.

Idan is most looking forward to his upcoming visitors. This weekend his NY grandparents will be coming out and the week after his grandparents from Israel will be visiting for 10 days. He is very excited to see everyone (as are we!!) and we hope he continues to feel well and can enjoy this time with family.

Day 44: Mystery cough:

IMG_4960Just a quick update on Idan’s strange cold symptoms. He has had a cough since the weekend. It is most pronounced at night. During the day he seems totally fine with just a few coughs here and there. Monday morning they did nasal and throat swabs for viruses and all came back negative. Monday night, he spent the whole night coughing and then was fine during the day. So on Tuesday morning we did an X-ray to make sure there wasn’t something else going on and the X-ray was clear as well.

The BMT team thinks this is probably a respiratory virus (notwithstanding the viral panel coming back negative, which only means he doesn’t have a virus they can test for), so we are in isolation until his symptoms go away. This means Idan has to wear a mask when he goes into the clinic and to the hospital for tests. The purpose of the mask is to alert other immune compromised patients to the fact that Idan has a virus of some sort and to steer clear (we have avoided people with masks and appreciate this system very much!). As it happens, Seattle is one of the few centers that does not require its immune compromised patients to wear masks all the time, only requiring it when the patient has a respiratory virus. It was not easy convincing Idan to wear the mask, which, if you’ve ever worn a mask before you would understand why. We tried to explain to him how easy he had it compared to all the other transplant kids out there who always have to wear the mask. But that logic dos not work so much for him. What did work was the epidemiological explanation of how the virus might spread, and how we do not want to get anyone else sick at clinic. I guess we need to know our audience 🙂

The BMT team thinks that this virus will either go away soon or present itself (get worse or give Idan a fever). First sign of fever we will get admitted to the hospital again for a few days, so hoping it does not come to that. Hoping it goes away and does not get any worse.

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