It hasn't been an easy recovery for Kelly and Kristi Ouimet's little "superhero."
One month to the day the Antioch couple's son, Matthew, 2, came out of a 13-hour liver and kidney transplant, he was back in the pediatric intensive care unit at UC San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital.
Facing more complications than most, Matthew had yet another surgery July 3 to repair a leaking bile duct in his new liver. It was his third surgery since his transplant on June 4 at UCSF.
Doctors removed a half-liter of fluid during the operation and cut out dead scar tissue from his initial incision. He's once again sedated, intubated and fighting fever as he continues to battle a virus that left fluid in his lungs.
Matthew lies still in his dimmed room in the ICU, the breathing machine emitting a soft hiss as his parents watch over him. Three tubes come out of his body to drain excess fluids, and he continues daily dialysis to remove oxalates from his body.
"It's seems like we've hit every possible bump there is in this road. Every time we inch forward a little bit there's another setback," Kristi Ouimet said.
Hooked up to a slew of monitors and life-sustaining IVs, he coughs frequently as he tries to clear his lungs. His bright blue eyes flutter open every so often as he hears his mother's voice.
"As scary as it is having these tubes coming in and out of him, it's allowing his body to rest," she said.
Kelly and Kristi Ouimet have been by their son's bedside nearly every waking moment over the past month, holding his hand, singing his favorite "Soft Kitty" song and comforting him. They haven't been back to their Antioch home since the transplant surgery and miss their other children Molly, 10, and Patrick, 8, who are living with Kristi's parents, Jim and Joyce Wisecarver, in Antioch.
"We were all set to get a transplant; we knew that was the answer. But we weren't ready for the post-transplant, all the recovery and all the time it's going to take," Kelly Ouimet said.
Transplant surgeon Peter Stock's greatest concern is Matthew's stubborn virus. His tiny body is having a tough time fighting infection because of the immunosuppressant drugs he's taking to reduce the risk of organ rejection.
"This is a long recovery process for him, and then we're having complications that we don't like to see," Stock said.
Stock is confident they can control the bile leak successfully, but would like to see the breathing tube removed as soon as possible. Matthew can breathe on his own, but doctors don't want him to struggle as his body tries to heal.
"The kidney looks like it's starting to recover, and he's making urine now. We want to get things moving in the right direction; the kid hasn't had much of a break. The good news is that both organs are functioning now," Stock said. "Now we have to clean up everything else. It may take another month."
It's extremely rare for a child Matthew's age to have an organ transplant, and the Ouimets feel very lucky to be under the care of the UCSF staff.
"We're blessed with the talent of the surgeons and the compassion we've been shown," Kelly Ouimet said.
"He's a wonderful kid," Stock said. "The people that I'm so concerned about are his parents, because they have not left his bedside, and it's taken a toll."
The past week has been especially stressful for the family as Matthew underwent surgery and fought fevers up to 104 degrees.
"The not knowing is killing me. This can have so many different outcomes," Kristi Ouimet said. "I can't accept any other outcome except a full recovery."
Kristi has remained positive and keeps daily updates going on Facebook, where she has hundreds of supporters from all over the world, but admits to having her dark moments.
"I rely a lot more on Kelly during those times," Kristi Ouimet said.
Despite the seemingly never-ending hurdles and the difficulty of watching their son go through so much, neither parent regrets Matthew's transplant surgery.
"I know he'll have those happy days again, and I know this is something he has to go through to get there," Kristi Ouimet said, "but it's really scary. It's heartbreaking."
The Ouimet family has organized a blood drive in Matthew's name at St. Ignatius Church in Antioch from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday. There will be a barbecue, bake sale and raffle. For more information, call 925-917-1112.