Matthew Ouimet's bumpy road to recovery from double-transplant surgery has turned scary, with the toddler trying to fight off a fever and overcome other post-transplant complications.
The 2-year-old son of Kelly and Kristi Ouimet of Antioch received a liver and kidney transplant during a 13-hour surgery June 4-5 at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. He spent nine days in ICU, during which time his doctors dealt with donated organs that failed to fully function and internal bleeding from the new liver. Matthew had planned follow-up surgery to implant a feeding tube and close his incision, and he was moved out of ICU on June 13.
He has spent several up and down days since then. His incision has reopened more than once, he bit his tongue so hard that stitches were required to close the wound, and his donated kidney is still not functioning as it should.
Then, on Sunday, he developed a fever. Any sign of illness is a concern for transplant recipients, who have to take immune system suppressants to keep their bodies from rejecting the new organs. The fever subsided Monday, and representatives from Pixar visited the hospital and Matthew and his family enjoyed watching "Monsters University" from his room. Tuesday, the fever returned. Wednesday it was worse. Kristi and Kelly stopped all visitation, even by close relatives. Matthew's temperature soared to almost 104 degrees Thursday night, leaving him, Kristi Ouimet wrote on Facebook, "shivering and miserable."
Doctors, she said, aren't sure what is causing the fever.
"They don't know yet," she said Thursday afternoon. "It doesn't look like pneumonia."
Matthew's abdomen has become distended, causing him discomfort. He has experienced gas cramps and vomiting. His incision continues to reopen. Overnight Wednesday, he had trouble taking in enough oxygen. He has been given oxygen to help with his respiration.
"The one thing I hold onto," Kristi Ouimet said, "is they gave him an ultrasound and the (transplanted) liver looks good. The kidney isn't putting out as much as the doctors would like. But then they also say that could go on for weeks."
The doctors have told Kristi Ouimet that none of Matthew's medical issues are uncommon or unanticipated. The problem is that there are so many of them.
"I'm really hoping someone can give me some answers," Kristi Ouimet said. "I know he's strong. I know the doctors are confident. We've got big plans for him."
Matthew has had scary moments before. He was born with the genetic condition primary hyperoxaluria Type 1, in which a defect in his liver compromised his kidneys. He suffered end-stage renal failure at five months old and had to be rushed by ambulance to UCSF.
That, Kristi Ouimet said, wasn't as frightening as the past few days have been.
"He's overcome so much," she said. "He doesn't want to be around anyone but me. The other day I was holding his hand. I was crying, and trying not to. And he looked up at me said, 'Me otay.'"
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.