By Gary Peterson
Contra Costa Times
POSTED: 08/14/2013 07:23:37 PM PDT
SAN FRANCISCO — The good news is that 2-year-old Matthew Ouimet was discharged from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital on Wednesday afternoon, 73 days after receiving a life-sustaining kidney and liver transplant. The better news is that after next week, he may not be coming back.
“It’s awesome,” said Kristi Ouimet, Matthew’s mother, from her son’s hospital room. The room was busy and happy. On a grease board, next to the notation “Today’s goal:” someone had written, “Go home!”
“It’s doubly awesome,” Kristi said, “because for 25 months, this is all we’ve known.”
“Me home! Me home!” Matthew excitedly told family members as they waited for the discharge process to play out. He played and giggled with his sister Molly and brother Patrick. He watched cartoons on an iPad and posed for lots of pictures. And he had perhaps his final dialysis treatment
There was concern that even after Matthew’s release, he might have to return to UCSF to continue dialysis treatments. Harmful oxalates, crystals that can accumulate in small organs such as the kidneys, were created by his original liver and are still present in his system.
“We have some tests that are currently pending,” said Dr. Marsha Lee, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at UCSF. “We won’t have the answer to that until the tests come back. (But) we’re optimistic he won’t need any further dialysis for oxalates.”
Matthew’s kidney, she said, is operating at about 35 percent of normal and should continue to improve.
The news excited the Ouimets, who already were in a celebratory mood. Matthew’s father Kelly Ouimet described himself as giddy and anxious.
“We’ve waited for this for so long,” he said. “Kristi has worked so hard to get us here. I want them home. And I want them to feel like they’re home.”
Kristi Ouimet said she had to stop herself from thinking too much about the day Matthew would be released, because there were moments during his rocky recovery she wasn’t sure that day would arrive. Matthew was beset by waves of complications that required follow-up surgeries and a return to ICU. He suffered a series of small strokes that resulted in weakness in his right arm, which has responded well to physical therapy.
“I had a doctor tell me,” Kristi said, “‘All of the things that have happened to your son have happened to my patients. But I haven’t had all of them happen to the same patient.'”
Kristi, who spent every night in the hospital with Matthew, said she kept telling her son, “I’ll stay with you, and you stay with me.” She posted frequent medical updates on Facebook, consciously keeping the tone positive.
“I was hurt, disappointed, frustrated,” she said, “but
I didn’t want to get myself in that mindset. He needed me to be strong.”
Matthew still has a dialysis catheter implanted in his chest, and a wound where a drainage tube was recently removed from his abdomen. He’ll take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life. But on Wednesday none of that mattered. He looked strong and had good color. Kristi’s parents Jim and Joyce Wisecarver, with whom Molly and Patrick have lived several days a week for the past 25 months, also were at the hospital Wednesday.
A steady stream of nurses and hospital employees visited Matthew’s room to say goodbye. More than a couple told the family good-naturedly, “I hope we never see you again.”
The Ouimets filled two wagons to overflowing with stuff from Matthew’s room — “Team Matthew” T-shirts, blankets, Mickey Mouse stuffed figures, meds, diapers, pajamas.
“I’m antsy,” Kristi Ouimet said as the wagons were being loaded. “I want to get out of here before somebody says, ‘Oh, wait.'”
Finally it was time to go. Kristi carried Matthew, who was wearing a superhero cape bearing a capital M. The family stopped by the nurses station and ICU to say goodbye. Then it was downstairs, through the lobby and out the door. Matthew was belted into his car seat, where he began chair dancing. After the SUV had been packed, Kelly Ouimet hopped into the driver’s seat. He put the car in gear, honked twice and then the family, together at last, headed off for the normal life they’ve never