Preston is known for his quick wit and humour. But one day in January 2020, his signature laugh sounded different than usual. He began having random coughing fits and taking deep breaths. A chest X-ray at an urgent care centre in Sylvan Lake where they live showed possible pneumonia because his lung was full of fluid. Eventually they were sent to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, a place Gidgett now calls “their favourite place to be in the entire world.”
After draining 1.8 litres of fluid from Preston’s lung and determining it was chyle – milky fluid that forms in the small intestine that is supposed to be absorbed by the body through the lymphatic system – specialists ruled out pneumonia and got to work trying to figure out another diagnosis. For the next month and a half, they drained his lung regularly while they searched for answers, seeking advice from colleagues around the world. They landed on a rare diagnosis of Complicated Lymphatic Anomaly. Even though specialists hadn’t seen the condition before, they continued reaching out to their colleagues while they treated Preston with medication to slow down the fluid. Thankfully, Dr. Walker from the Vascular Birthmark Clinic found a colleague in Boston familiar with the diagnosis.
When the pandemic hit and contact was lost, doctors still didn’t give up. Preston was stable enough to go home but continued with outpatient treatments, tests and exams through the summer. Summer came to an abrupt end when Preston was sent to Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital for a special MRI of the lymphatic system, which showed his lymphatic system is malformed – like the ends of a sprinkler are broken causing fluid to come out in many locations in his body. The condition is called Central Conducting Lymphatic Anomaly. Relieved to have more answers, he and his mom just wanted to return to the Alberta Children’s Hospital they loved so much.
For months, he was only allowed a liquid diet – water and TPN for nutrition. (But Dr. Steve Lopushinsky approved adding Dr. Pepper, Preston’s favourite drink, to his liquid diet too!) He had four chest tubes and needed oxygen often throughout his last stay at Alberta Children’s Hospital from September through January. After one year in and out of hospital, Preston was able to go home in January following success with an experimental drug, suggested by doctors both in Toronto and Philadelphia. He went home with NO chest tubes and could eat food again! Plans are in the works to undergo a surgery in Philadelphia.
Gidgett is grateful for the dedicated team of specialists who never gave up their search for answers to Preston’s rare condition and made them feel at home while separated from their family.
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