Lucas Whitacre started life as a healthy, happy baby. But when he reached the 4-month-old mark, he began vomiting several times a day and losing weight. At first, doctors thought Lucas might have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, but his condition continued to decline.
Following his hospitalization at about 6 months old for feeding and nutrition issues, a registered nurse with Children’s Mercy Home Care began making trips to Lone Jack, Mo., to help Lucas’ mother, Shannon, with his NG tube feedings and to check his weight.
Children’s Mercy Home Care is the only full-service pediatric home health agency in the region exclusively utilizing the services of registered nurses and licensed therapists to ensure continuity of care for children, including those with complex medical diagnoses following an inpatient hospital stay.
“Home Care was a huge help to us at that time,” Shannon said, “but Lucas’ problem turned out to be far more complex than GERD.”
Unfortunately, at about 9 months, Lucas was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor had been pressing on his pituitary gland, affecting his ability to eat. It was pushing on his optic nerve, severely limiting his vision. He also suffered a stroke, which affected his left side and his ability to speak.
After being discharged from Children’s Mercy, Lucas required additional Home Care services to support his recovery, including physical and speech therapies, as well as nursing care.
During the past four years, Lucas has been in and out of the hospital for surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. He’s had more than one close call, but Shannon counts the progress he’s made a major victory, giving much of the credit to Children’s Mercy Home Care.
“We have worked with the Home Care team off and on over the last four years,” Shannon said. The team teaches the child’s parents or legal guardians how to independently provide the care ordered. Their goal is to prevent hospital readmissions and ensure the best possible outcomes.
“Our nurse helped us early on with issues related to feeding, teaching us how to care for Lucas’ NG tube, and then later helping us get him a MIC-KEY button,” Shannon said. A MIC-KEY button is a low-profile feeding tube that helped with supplying Lucas’ nutritional needs.
Occupational therapy has worked with Shannon, showing her how to teach Lucas to suck on a straw. He no longer needs a feeding tube and has recently graduated to soft foods, like oatmeal and scrambled eggs.
His physical therapist has shown Shannon how to help Lucas to stand on his own, walk and even climb up on the couch, all skills she thought she might never see.
“The Home Care team is an asset to any family whose child has a complex health condition, like Lucas,” Shannon said. “They are much-needed in our lives. I honestly don’t know how we would function without them.”