Our meeting with Daniel's surgeon today gave us some of the peace that we were looking for. We received a lot of the missing pieces we needed about his decline, even though there are still lots of questions that we (and the doctors) will never know the answers to. At least now we feel like we are closer to those answers than before.
It seems that Daniel's lungs just couldn't adjust after his corrective surgery had taken place. Although the surgery was a success, it appears his heart and lungs weren't used to the pulsations that occurred with his new and improved heart function. His lungs began to fill with fluid but not at an alarming rate. In fact, the X-ray they took at 3:00am the next morning was not alarming. The blood gas tests were not even alarming until about 6:00am. In hindsight, he likely had a pulmonary hemorrhage that filled his lungs with blood, in addition to the fluid, making it more difficult for him to breath resulting in the cardiac arrest at 8:00am. Could they have done things differently? Maybe. Maybe they could have put his tube back in sooner, but again--there was nothing alarming that indicated it was imperative to do so at that time.
Daniel's immediate cause of death was abdominal sepsis. On top of all of his other organ issues, his intestines suffered one of two problems. He either had a perforation of an intestine or part of his intestine had become gangrenous and ruptured. We will never know which one occurred, but it was quite obvious that the increased swelling in his abdomen on Saturday and into the night was very serious and sent him into cardiac arrest for a second time. They saw an abdominal issue coming on and performed tests to find a problem, but we are told that the intestines are kind of a "dark horse" in the medical field and there surprisingly aren't many ways to detect these problems early on. They also progress very quickly. The only solution to this problem would have been emergency surgery. We are not so sure that Daniel's body would have made it through the surgery. He was still on a ventilator, kidney dialysis, and heart pacers. It would have been an uphill battle for sure. It would have meant going back on the ECMO machine, more anesthesia, etc., etc. We believe that the Good Lord gave Daniel the easy way out.
Daniel's surgeon was very "human" today, as always. We feared that he might be on the defensive given Daniel's outcome, but that wasn't the case. He answered our questions honestly, thoughtfully and very professionally. We found our peace in attaining knowledge about his condition, even knowing that different steps in his treatment may or may not have affected his outcome. We will never know. The fact of the matter is that these doctors are people. They are not mind readers. They are not perfect. They are not God. We watched them give Daniel everything they could. We felt their pain in losing him.
The most peace comes from the answer to our most important question. We wanted to know if they learned anything, if not multiple things, from Daniel's case that might save the life or lives of future children. The answer was yes. They learned more than a few lessons here. They've already made changes in their processes and in their thinking patterns. They might even name one of their new practices after Daniel. The staff members who knew Daniel, and loved him, have promised us (and Daniel) that his death will not be in vain. He has left a legacy at that hospital that will make a difference.
Now that, my friends, gives us peace...