This morning when I arrived to the NICU, the GI nurse practitioner came to speak with me about Olive's pH test results. She told me that she was, in fact, refluxing.
Here are two things that will help with what I am about to explain about the results:
1. Sometimes Olive has these coughing fits ranging just from a few small coughs to coughing until she's gagging.
2. Sometimes Olive desats (drops her oxygen levels) or her heart rate. These are more concerning.
The correlation between coughing and refluxing was 100%. This is good because it means she's protecting her airways when she refluxes!
The correlation between desating/heart rate dips- only about 20%. Which is... Well. Hmm. It doesn't give us a clear idea as to why she's still desating and having heart rate dips.
At first the nurse practitioner led me to believe that because reflux didn't seem to be the reason for her desating/heart rate dips, she may not need the Nissen Fundoplication (or a surgical procedure to wrap part of the stomach around the esophagus, this stopping reflux from happening). I was a little concerned with this because if it wasn't recommended, what would happen next to help her get over this hump?
So she would just receive the g-tube, or surgically placed feeding tube that feeds directly into the stomach. The reason for the g-tube would be because even without reflux, Olive is aspirating and cannot take a bottle at this time. This was proven when they did the modified barium swallow study (see explanation below).
Aspirating means it's not safe for her to come home due to many factors including the heart rate drops and desating. It also puts her at a higher risk for pneumonia.
After further discussion, the doctor reviewing her study feels that the reflux was happening enough it is at risk of damaging her esophagus. Also, since she is having to work double to protect her airways (the coughing mentioned above), her lung development is at a stand still.
There is a chance she can outgrow all of this, but honestly, it could be months (or even years) without intervention. Without her being able to take a bottle safely, she will need a feeding tube, and in order for her to come home, she will need the more permanent feeding tube rather than one that can be pulled out of her nose so easily.
The positives are- there is high expectation she will come off of oxygen soon after. They have also said she can go home on oxygen if that is the only thing keeping her in the hospital! This means we may finally have a plan for discharge! After the surgery she may take a few steps back, but we know the accelerated steps forward will be more than worth it!
We also won't know a specific date or timeline of discharge, but we will finally have direction whereas the past 2 months have been very up in the air.
The things I will ask of you all is this- pray with us, but please don't send us information you googled about this procedure. It is something we were advised not to do from the beginning and it has kept us at peace about the decisions. We would rather pray and discuss with the various doctors.
We do not have just one or two doctors helping us with this decision. We have an entire staff (nurses, respiratory therapists, neonatologists, specialists, nurse practitioners) as well as other parents who have already been through these procedures with their children.
We also believe in the peace that surpasses understanding and will not make any decisions without having this peace.
Thank you all so much for standing with us in agreement for Olive's full healing. We 100% believe for a miracle always, but are so thankful for medical miracles everyday!
*In a modified barium swallow, you ingest foods and liquids containing barium sulfate, a contrast dye that sharply outlines your mouth, throat, and esophagus on x-ray film. Using real-time x-rays, or fluoroscopy, a physician and a speech pathologist observe the movement of the barium through these structures on a television monitor. Modified barium swallow is specifically aimed at evaluating the swallowing process in individuals who have difficulty speaking or swallowing food without inhaling, or aspirating, it into the windpipe.