Sunday, November 27, 2011


If you came looking for an update on Mason it is below.
This post is all about defining THANKFULNESS. After all we did all just celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday!

This sums up a video I just got done watching. Powerful!






PSALM 107:1

I have SOOO much to be thankful for!
I pray that THANKFULNESS would always be the condition of our hearts!

Set Back Diverted

Good news: Putting Mason on oxygen yesterday and last night helped to decrease the air around his lung (his collapsed lung is healing). So they decided to NOT put back in another chest tube (AMEN).

His x-ray shows some fluid built up around his lungs but not enough to be overly concerned so they have increased his diuretics (helps the body to eliminate fluid) to hopefully help get rid of it.

The plan for today is the same as yesterday… While Mason is in his room, in bed or sleeping he needs to be on an oxygen mask to move the rest of the air. Like before they encourage him to be out of bed playing as much as possible and since his chest tube is out – we no longer need a nurse to escort us every where we want to go. We can go anywhere we want.

So our first stop was to meet his Nana at the hospital doors. (YAY elevator ride)
Our second stop the PLAYROOM… Mason played for 1 ½ hours and when we left he wasn’t even tired… I even think the amount of energy he had surprised him.

Early this morning I was afraid things were not going to go our way. The nurse told me at 4am that they put Mason as a NPO patient (Nil per os which is a medical term meaning to withhold oral foods and liquids). The reason for this order was that if they needed to put in a chest tube they would have to sedated him and take him back into the operating room… I was convinced that was a bad sign. (Should have had more faith)

During rounds with Dr. McMullan we even heard the D word (DISCHARGE). Instead of waiting of his chest tube drainage we are now waiting on the air in his lungs. Guess it keeps our journey interesting.
Here is how the D word got brought up…if Mason makes as much progress as he made last night – tonight; tomorrow could be the magical day!!!!
I am trying not to get to excited; because that could just lead to a large disappointment and due to exhaustion I don’t handle those well however I have started to pack to go home! We are all beyond ready even though if you ask Mason if he wants to leave he says “No I will stay here”… Crazy kid!

Mason and his Nana

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A minor set back

Well we have taken a step forward as well as a step backwards…
Mason's drainage in his right chest tube has been decreasing for the past 3 days; yesterday he only had 37 cc’s out and the two prior days only about 50 cc’s.
So this morning I was feeling optimistic that if his x-ray looked good they would consider pulling it out. This morning’s x-ray was at 5:30am (like EVERY morning; no sleep for this Momma or child) and rounds took place at 8:00am. The decision was to leave the tube in place for one more day. Of course I was disappointment but this is better than pulling it to earlier and having to replace it later. So I make the choice to have a good attitude even though by day this is getting harder to do – I need sleep, my own bed and a massage wouldn't hurt.

By this afternoon Mason’s chest tube drainage for the day was at 0. This kind of drop always sets up some alarms because they want to make sure that fluid is not building around the lungs and that the chest tubes are doing their job… So the Doctors went back and took a more in depth look at his morning x-rays and determined that the chest tube placement was off and was not working so they would need to immediately remove it to prevent air from entering his lung cavity.
At this time – My Mom was in the room sitting with Mason; I had left for a shower and Greg ran to the fed-ex store to send off some t-shirts. They gave him some additional pain medication and told her they would be removing it within the next 30 minutes. So my “shower” became non-existent so that I could be with him while they pulled the tube. Luckily Greg also made it back… He is the best at calming both Mason and myself down.

The tube was pulled around 3pm and immediately following they took Mason into x-ray (again). This is completely normal and the purpose is to see if he had air or fluid around his lungs.

Our step backwards – Since his tube placement wasn’t properly in place (reason unknown – probably due to how active he is; it some how got pulled out) and hadn’t been in place for awhile (possibly 24 hours) the x-ray showed that his right lung has started to collapse.
So our game plan for tonight (AND WE NEED PRAYERS THAT THIS WILL WORK) is to put him back onto an oxygen mask to try and expand his lung. If tonight he has problems breathing or tomorrow in his x-ray he does not show progress they will have to re-insert his chest tube. This would be a large step backwards and would be very painful for him.

The other area of concern is that his chest tube was not ready to come out and that fluid will continue to build around his lungs. If this happens they would also need to re-insert the chest tube (PRAYERS FOR THIS WOULD ALSO BE APPRECIATED).

Despite our set backs today Mason looks and feels wonderful. HE IS AMAZING!

When trying to convince him to wear his mask we explained that it would help make his lungs bigger so we would not need another tube(he fully understands the tube part)… His response “NO – I don’t want a bigger tummy” once he realized that his lungs did not mean his tummy he decided he would wear his mask like a champ!!!!

I of course am biased but he truly is the bravest little boy I know.

WE ARE PRAYING AND BELIEVING FOR GOOD NEWS TOMORROW! If we get our good news this could mean discharge within the next 48 hours!

Thanks for standing with us in faith!

Friday, November 25, 2011


I guess I could say that this year I hosted my first Thanksgiving Dinner - although it was BYOE (Bring your own EVERYTHING) and thanks to my in-laws they covered it all... They literally brought Thanksgiving dinner to us holding nothing back - Lourea even participated in the famous Garka bake off with herself. Guess who won... SHE DID :)

Thanksgiving at the hospital actually turned out to be perfect (considering our situation). After all we are never planning on spending another holiday here so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.


Mason continues to feel better and better each day. His drainage from his chest tube has slowed but not to the level that they feel comfortable removing it. So we stay and wait!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drum roll please....

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and we are still here!
We are praying and believing that next week will be our time to finally say good bye to this amazing place and these amazing people. In the meantime we stay here and try to make the best of it.

The hospital does an amazing job trying to ensure that anyone who does not have to be here is able to be at home with their family – They take this so seriously that they don’t even schedule surgeries during the week of the holiday’s (of course they perform surgeries but only if they have to). That being said the rooms are getting empty and the halls are getting more calm. This has also allowed us to transfer to a new room… We have moved from a double room to a single room – (no more roommates). This is a blessing in itself and we are so THANKFUL for it.
The nurses also become less busy; This is great for Mason because they are able to take time out of their day to escort us to the playroom… This place is amazing and Mason of course wants to go everyday but because of his chest tube he can not leave the floor with out a nurse present. This is because of what could happen should his chest tube accidentally get pulled out (air in the lungs).

Below are a few pictures from today's playroom outing...

My husband said it best the other night on facebook "God has surrounded me with great people in my life... and he would do it for any of us. You just have to let him". He is right - We are blessed to have an amazing supportive family and friends who stand with us in faith... This didn’t just happen - God placed these people in our lives to help turn our trials into triumph.

One last thing to share before I sign off - Start thinking PINK because BABY GIRL GARKA is coming this March :)
Who says you cant celebrate while you are in a hospital - we had "it's a girl" cupcakes made from trophy cupcake for us and the staff to celebrate our big news!!!! Of course the person who is the most excited... Mason - he called it the whole time; should have known!

Have a blessed Thankgiving and enjoy your friends and family!

Kelsey, Greg, Mason and Baby Girl!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Topic of the day - Chest tubes

Well I wish I had better news in regards to Masons chest tube drainage but unfortuntely I do not...
Yesterday's total drainage was significantly down (138cc) however today we are already at 230cc (drainage) and the "day" or 24 hour collection period does not end until 6am tomorrow morning. So we are going to have another high drainage day. (Dis-like / discourgaging / bad news - choose any other word you would like to describe and insert here_____)

Some good news is that they did not put back in an IV port(Thank goodness) and tomorrow morning he will have his left chest tube taken out. This could have happened today however we felt it would be best if he was sedated so he can not eat for 6 hours prior to the procedure. Thus the reason for this happening tomorrow AM vs. this afternoon. (Who wants to sit with a hungry 3 year old? Not us).
This is a huge step in the right direction but I am finding it hard to celebrate when we still have one large obstacle to overcome (Right chest tube drainage).

Tonight (thanks to my in-laws) Greg and I were able to escape and go have dinner with my family. It was nice to get out and to feel "somewhat" normal again but of course it is not the same with out Mason with us.

Did he miss us NO - I think he needed a break from us as much as we needed a break from this place... So even though I was hestitate to leave it worked out for all of us.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chest tube drainage = BAD WORD

I think any parent who has spent any amount of time in the hospital with their child will tell you that there will be a day when you will reach your breaking point. For me (possibly us) this happened on Thursday. Nothing major happened it is just a result of: lack of sleep, lack of quality sleep, sleeping on a foam cushion, not being at home, being pregnant, living in a stressful environment, dealing with new nurses daily / nightly... I think you get it the list can go on and on and on.
Thursday started out normal – feeling good and positive about Mason’s recovery and by mid morning it became apparent that Mason’s drainage had significantly increased. By 10am Thursday morning he had put out the same amount of fluid as the previous 24 hours.
This increase pushed me over the edge. I thought that each day we were getting closer to being released and this was a set back that I wasn’t prepared for and one that I couldn’t control.
Greg has joked… “we are like dogs sitting in our kennel waiting for our owners to come let us out” unfortunately this is a joke that is kind of not a joke. We sit in his hospital room – we go on adventures – we read books – we watch movies but at the end of the day we come back to the same room we left.

Mason is doing EXCELLENT which makes this even harder. He says “I feel all better; lets go home” How do you explain to a 3 ½ year old that he cant do what he feels like he wants to do because he has chest tubes draining… He doesn’t care. He wants to leave!

Friday another big day for chest tube drainage. This made them concerned about his protein levels and dehydration. So they ran some tests and talked to us about putting an IV back in. (all I could think was great; another set back).

When his test results came back his levels proved to be lower than they would have liked however they gave us some time and the good news is as of right now – they are not putting his IV port back in. They believe that today we will see a drainage decrease and his levels will level out.
So far his drainage today is on track to be less than the last two days but still higher than3-4 days ago.

Let’s talk sleep: Mason is confused and some how we need to get him back on track. He is up every morning by 4am ready for breakfast; by 8am he is ready for a nap… nap at 8am are you kidding me?!?! Luckily we have convinced the doctors to skip vitals in the middle of the night and this has helped him sleep for a longer period of time. Last night Mason and I were able to get 4 hours of sleep un-interrupted (RECORD BREAKING).
If you think being in the hospital is relaxing and allows patients and parents to get rest – you are very inaccurate it is quite the opposite.

Thankful today for Mason’s smile, his laughter and his life. I know that we could be dealing with issues FAR worse than chest tube drainage and I am thankful we are not… I am reminding myself of this hourly so that I don’t lose focus on what we have to be grateful for.

Auntie and Mason... I dont know what it is about these two but some how when they are together someone ends up with food all over them

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Another day in... (wish I could say paradise)

Medically speaking today was another good day for Mason.
He has an appetite, he is active and he is ready to be discharged… Except - he is still draining fluid from his chest tubes. So we stay admitted and wait; praying that tomorrow his output will slow down.

Ryleigh; his “older” cousin came to visit today and he could not have been more excited. He has missed her and she has missed him. So she spent most of the day conceding to his every need and helping the nurse each time they came in. She even learned where her heart was today!

Mason putting on his gun holster

Ryleigh listening to Mason's STRONG & HEALED heart

Ryleigh listening to the nurses heart

Heading to the play room

In other news we officially know the sex of Baby G!
However until all appropriate parties have been told (Family and Friends)– We are not going to share this information on his blog.

Tune in… We will announce it soon!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don’t have a lot to report…
Mason is feeling so much better and he is the one requesting to go for walks vs. us asking / encouraging him.
We have been on about 6 journey’s throughout the halls today and he of course spends some time chatting up all the cute nurses  He is such a boy.

He has also been off Oxycodone for the past 24 hours and is only receiving Tylenol for pain… I cant wrap my mind around this… His open heart surgery was literally only one week ago today – and he still has chest tubes yet the Tylenol is working great and he is acting much more like himself.

His chest tube drainage is heading in the right direction. Yesterday his right tube put out 153cc’s and his left tube put out 80cc’s… Sounds like we are on track for today to be even less than yesterday.
This is still not low enough for them to even talk discharge but we are praying that this trend continues and we can have this conversation sooner rather than later… (Patience Kelsey)

Mason also had his IV taken out today. The port went bad and since he is doing so well and not requiring any IV fluids they decided to take it out all together. This is a first. Usually they require that all patients while admitted have a port (being used or not) and lastly they are not requiring him to be hooked up to machines all day. They plug him in every four hours for rounds / vital checks and then they let us unplug him so when he gets the urge we are free to roam (providing we don’t leave our floor) this isn’t the easiest task since one of of has to help him and the other has to carry his chest tube boxes but outside of that we are free… It is almost as if we are guests staying at a hotel. One that we would like to check out of soon but none the less we are trying to enjoy our stay given the circumstances.

Hope you are all having a FANTASTIC Tuesday!


Welcome to our 100th post.
It has been almost 4 years since we started this blog. To be honest I feel like it was just yesterday.

My husband came up with the idea to start a blog so we could share with everyone about Mason’s condition. When he was diagnosed (prenatally) it was a very difficult time for both of us so it became our way to communicate with everyone behind closed doors as we dealt with our new reality. This way everyone we cared about stayed informed without having to ask us a million questions. At that time we were to “fragile” to answer them so it really was the perfect solution.

Since then it has become much more than just a place to get information about Mason (although during a season of surgery that is mostly what it is). I have used this blog to share my insights, perceptive and in a way it helped me find my way back. I also pray that it has helped other families going through or starting to deal with their new reality of facing a CHD.

This surgery will close a HEAVY chapter in our lives but it isn’t the end of our journey. We will continue to live everyday with a child who has a single ventricle heart and this will come with obstacles that we will not be able to predict. We are a strong family – and together… Greg, Mason and I we have been through a lot and since this is out 100th post we wanted to share with you all just how strong our miracle man is…

Mason and his Daddy before his transport to Children's Hospital

Our first family photo. This was also the only time I was able to hold Mason before his surgery.

Mason after his Norwood Surgery. They left his chest open for 3 days to help with swelling. During this time you could actually see his beating heart.

Recovering after his chest was closed

Heading home for the first time

Happy at home

Our amazing little boy!

6 months old and ready for his Glenn Surgery

After Surgery

Still not feeling 100%

Feeling better at home

Happy FIRST Birthday!


Last but not least - His Fontan Surgery

This is it. When we check out of here there will be NO scheduled surgeries.
Talk about a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Loaded Diaper?!?!?

Today's post title comes to you from the one and only Greg Garka... Thanks for the idea babe!

As far as Mason is concernced today was another good day for our little man!
We made our goal and got up and went on a total of three walks. The last walk of the night he spotted the “playroom” and was interested so we stopped and visited with our neighbors while he played. It was the highlight of the day.

His appetite decreased today but that is to be expected since he hadn’t yet had a bowel movement (in 6 days)– however about 60 minutes ago things changed in that department and I am happy to report his bowels are working and back in action…

During his echo he was again a crowd pleaser and was on his best behavior. The technician said that he was the best 3 year old she has done. It is so funny; he gets upset when something is about to happen and he doesn’t understand what. He tells us he is scared and then after we explain to him what they are going to do and that it won’t hurt – he is fine and does everything they ask of him. He really is a brave little boy!

His medicine still does not agree with his stomach and each time he takes it he immediately throws it up. This was discussed in rounds this morning yet they thought it could be due to his constipation – since this is not the case; I am requesting that tomorrow this be re-evaluated and his medications be immediately changed. I should have been more persistent this morning. Lesson learned. Thank goodness his night nurse is on my side and she said she would try to have it changed by the morning.

Chest tubes are still draining and I know I have mentioned this but in order for them to be taken out (so we can head home) each one must put out less than 30cc within a 24 hour period. This must be a trend for two or more days in a row. In order to keep me on track of how we are progressing I have started to track his outputs:
- 11/10: Right tube – 290cc / Left tube – 144cc
- 11/11: Right tube – 210cc / Left tube – 80cc
- 11/12: Right tube – 380cc / Left tube – 200cc
- 11/13: Right tube – 270cc / Left tube – 180cc
I don’t know today’s output since their 24 hour period begins and ends at 6am.
As you can tell his output has dramatically picked up on 11/12 and the reason why this happened is because that was really the first day we started introducing more activity back into his life.

(This is a picture of our care board in his room. This tells us our nurses names, the date - thank goodness or I would be completly lost, what is care plan is (pain control), this is where I track his output from his chest tubes and where we put our goals (you are ready to leave when...)

(This is the machine that collects the drainage from his chest tubes)

In other Garka Family news: I have finally made another ultrasound appointment and we will find out if we are expecting a girl or boy this Wednesday. Don’t expect a breaking news story. We haven’t decided if we are going to find out. We go back and forth hourly since we have a lot of time to discuss things like this now. Mason though is convinced it is a baby girl and I am kind of afraid to tell him if he is wrong.
Greg and I well we just want a healthy whole hearted child - the sex doesnt matter to us.

Hope that you all had a wonderful Monday!


Day ???

Well I should first start by apologizing for not updating Mason’s site yesterday. We had a big day of visitors so we spent our time enjoying each of them.

I also want to apologize if any of the information that I am going to share with you is repetitive. My days, nights, blogs, and hours just all run together.

We lost a chest tube. Mason has gone from three chest tubes to two chest tubes. HOORAY!
This is great progress and we are excited and thrilled for all positive steps and now comes the dreaded word BUT… He has two chest tubes left that are still draining a significant amount of fluid – specifically the right. We had fair warning about how frustrating this would be and I can now say from experience each person who warned us was correct! It is frustrating knowing that outside of prayer there is nothing anyone can do to slow this down. So we wait!
Today Mason will have an echo to rule out the possibility of any blood clots and to make sure his heart looks strong. I think when the doctor said “blood clot” my blood pressure rose significantly… This Mom and blood clots do not get along. We are confident he does not have any but want to be 100% sure since this has been an issue in the past.

Mason is now peeing like a champ – so we have no concerns with this any more.
However he has not had a bowel movement which could be one of the things causing his nausea. Sunday night after receiving his medication he got sick and then again this morning after receiving his medication he got sick. Again this could be due to no bowel movements or it could be from his medication.
So we are re-evaluating how he gets his medication (form) and the type of medication he receives to get his nausea under control.

Saturday Night (around 9pm) Mason got his appetite back and requested spaghetti... Of course the kitchen was closed and we could not grant his request. So I went by faith and promised him that on Sunday he would have spaghetti for dinner… Praying I could some how figure out how to make this happen. So as Sunday night was approaching it was time for Mom to make spaghetti appear. So I went to the cafeteria prepared to beg the cook to make me a special order but when I arrived I saw the most amazing thing… The cafeteria was featuring a spaghetti buffet. Any type of noodle or sauce a kid could ask for was there.
I couldn’t believe it – and in that moment I was amazed at how God provides for all of our needs (BIG & SMALL).
Proudly I made my way back to Mason’s room with the spaghetti in hand – just in time for his dinner tray to be sent to his room and on the menu Spaghetti… Of course how could it have been anything else… Needless to say we have enough spaghetti now saved for Mason so at any time if he has a craving we are ready!

Yesterday Mason had a big day in terms of activity. He was out of bed a total of five times and we went on four walks. Our goal each day is three times so we reached our daily goal for the first time and I anticipate that today we will be over achievers as well and exceed our goal!

As I write this Mason is lying sideways in bed – laughing at whatever cartoon he is watching on the iPad. It has only been 7 days since I heard him laugh but that is 7 days to long and I have missed that sound.

At times I feel like pinching myself while I am waiting for the “other shoe to fall” – we are blessed beyond belief and I will be forever grateful!


Saturday, November 12, 2011


Thought that you might all like to see for yourself just how well Mason is doing. Here are a few photos from this week.

Mason holding his shot gun.

Mason and Mommy. This is where we spent most of our time while in ICU, in a chair sitting by his bed so he felt like we were able to hold him. Not the most comfortable of positions but anything to make Mason happy.

The window in our ICU room.

Our room. It is funny how in life a few things come back full circle and having this as our CICU room was one of those things. Before Mason was born and after he was diagnosed we were able to take a tour of the hospital. During the tour we were taken into this very room (with no patients) and we stood there and talked about what it was going to be like to have a room similar to this. After his Norwood surgery (his first surgery) this was also his room - When we walked in for the first time we saw our child with his chest open. Through out this journey we some how always seem to be in this room. So it was fitting that during his last CICU visit this is where we would have lived.

Hanging out in bed; watching a movie.

Mason's Room.

Getting ready to transfer. You can see his big boy bed in the hallway of the CICU.

Luckily Mason has a strong daddy. Greg was able to move him from his CICU bed to his big boy bed while the nurses helped to make sure all of his wires were moved with out any hiccups.

Down he goes... Transfer is completed without any hiccups.

Snuggled in and ready for the "parade"


All settled into our new room on the floor.

His monitor which reads all of his vitals.
Top Number (down):
- Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Resperation
- O2 levels: 100%. someone pinch me. That is HUGE!

Over the past 4 years we have recieved the compliment - "Mason is lucky to have parents like the both of you" but really we have been lucky to have him. Everyday I am so thankful for Mason and his life. Through him, we have learned real strength, pure beauty, and how to fully rely on our faith. We have learned that your life should be counted by the people whose lives you touch, not by the number of days you live. He has change me, my husband, our relationship and all of our priorities.

He is our HERO!