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Happy Zeb just days before becoming ill
The (relative) Calm Before the Storm
On October 4, 2017, Zeb began the day on the grouchy side, but his parents didn't take much notice until he emptied his stomach over the breakfast table. Twice. For a baby who rarely even spits up, this was a red flag. His refusal to eat solid food, something he’s come to relish, raised more red flags.
By the weekend, Zeb had shown no signs of feeling better. Fortunately, Meagan was able to contact an afterhours nurse to make an appointment with a local pediatrician for the following morning. In the meantime, Zeb was listless, running a low-grade fever, and continued vomiting a couple times a day. The pediatrician ordered a complete blood panel and a flu test. The test results showed that everything was normal. They scheduled a follow-up appointment for five days later, but two days later Zeb had lost all interest in the world around him. He stopped sitting on his own and wouldn't even hold up his head. His eyes had a vacant look, and all he would do is nurse and sleep.
Meagan consulted another pediatrician, but with the same results. All the tests showed things were normal. Caleb and Meagan decided to take Zeb to a pediatric urgent care clinic. Zeb’s condition was serious enough that the urgent care facility did little more than glance at him before ordering an ambulance to send him to the emergency room at Levine Children's Hospital in uptown Charlotte.
The Bomb Drop
Thus began another round of testing, another group of doctors wanting a recap of the previous twelve days, and more tests showing all was normal. Everyone assumed the problem was with Zeb's gut, and the head scratching continued. Finally, a resident pediatrician noticed Zeb’s head seemed larger than it should be. As a matter of course, a measurement had been taken when he first arrived at the hospital. By now, it was twenty-four hours later. A second measurement was taken, revealing that Zeb’s head had grown by four centimeters! Suddenly, the pieces started coming together. A CT scan showed that in the center of Zeb’s brain was an egg-sized mass. It was not clear whether or not the mass was malignant, but it was blocking the proper flow of spinal fluid to the rest of his brain, which explained his strange symptoms. Zeb was whisked away for an emergency procedure to install a drain in his head to relieve the pressure. Shocked, Caleb and Meagan were left in the waiting room where together they wept.
Zeb with big brother, Jude
Bomb No. 2 Dropped
Not long after the drain started working, Zeb’s overall responsiveness improved noticeably. He slowly regained his former cheerful, alert playfulness, just in time for an MRI, followed by surgery. During surgery, the doctors took a biopsy of the tumor and installed two drains: one to replace the external drain and act as an internal bypass for the spinal fluid, the other as a temporary drain on the tumor itself.
The biopsy results came several days later and the news was not good. The tumor is malignant and aggressive. Chemotherapy had to start soon.
Six days after having been admitted to the hospital for what was thought to be an infection that would run a short course, Zeb was released from the hospital for a few days’ respite before embarking on the long road of cancer treatment.
The goal is to shrink the tumor as much as possible with the drain and chemotherapy so surgical removal will not result in too much blood loss, a very real possibility for infants, whose blood volume is not high to begin with. Once the tumor is removed, Zeb will receive another series of chemotherapy treatments, after which, hopefully, he will be free of cancer.
The Best Laid Plans…
On November 1, 2017, Zeb was again admitted to Levine Children’s Hospital in uptown Charlotte to begin his first round of chemotherapy: three days of chemicals with a return home on the fourth. Unfortunately, on the morning of the fourth day, the neurologist was not happy with the amount and rapidity of fluid build-up in the drain bladders installed in Zeb’s head. On the morning of the fifth day, Zeb was back in surgery to install a shunt to drain the fluid into his abdominal cavity. A day or two later, they returned home.
Unfortunately, being home didn’t last until Zeb’s scheduled stem cell harvesting procedure. Early on November 11, 2017 Zeb was battling a high fever and returned to the hospital where he remains three days later. However, we praise the Lord there are encouraging indicators of improvement.
The saga continues, as will God’s mercy and grace. The outpourings of love and encouragement have been numerous and humbling. God does not promise a life of ease, but he does have in store the best for his children, even when his best is a hard providence. Some who know me probably wish I would stop already with the following C.S. Lewis quotation, but the older I get, the more appropriate it becomes to me. The quotable Lewis once said:
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Oh, how true.
Thank you for your interest in the story of our beloved Zeb.
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