Thursday, November 12, 2009
As I reflect on the past year with Faith it has been filled with an immense amount of stress, worry, concern, joy, excitement and at least a thousand other emotions with the roller coaster Raeanne and I (and our family and friends) have been through. Both Raeanne and I are SOOOOO grateful for all the love, support, prayers and help that we've received over the last year from everyone. If we have not personally thanked you let me be the one to pass along our thanks your love and prayers have definitely been felt!
It has been a year since I got the call in the middle of the night from Raeanne's Mom that Raeanne was in labor. I was at our house in Loveland and the two of them were with Noah and Nathan at the campground just East of Children's Hospital. I think I got the call at about 2am and immediately woke up gathered myself, made coffee and raced to Aurora. I still remember the excitement and nervousness that I felt the WHOLE way down there just like it was yesterday. To be honest I'm really surprised that I didn't get a speeding ticket on my way down to Aurora.
Once I made it down to the camper to meet up with Raeanne and Toni (Raeanne's mom) to head over to the University of Colorado Hospital (where Faith was born) we had to wait a few minutes for Raeanne's dad to come so that he could be with the boys while they slept. When we did finally make it over to the hospital little did I know what a long and exhausting process it would all be. And I wasn't even the one giving birth!!! Thinking back on those hours when Raeanne was in the midst of giving birth to Faith I think of how proud of Raeanne I was and still am to this day. She did such a great job enduring the long delivery. I think all told we were at the hospital for over 14 hours before Faith was finally born. Over that time I remember Raeanne was in and out of the tub, which I'm quite sure she'd have stayed in if it weren't for the fact that some doctor somewhere said that Faith needed to be constantly monitored. Raeanne was also on the birthing ball and sitting in the chair next to the bed. I really think she spent more time sitting anywhere and everywhere she possibly could to avoid spending time in the bed. Which to be honest I can't blame her because I know she wasn't comfortable and was trying desperately to do anything and everything she could to get comfortable. All the while Toni and I were doing anything we possibly could to make her comfortable.
Once Faith did finally come that's when the fun REALLY started!!! (Please attempt to sense the sarcasm that I fully intend here) As many of you already know when she was born Faith's umbilical cord actually separated and caused a lot of additional bleeding than expected. Raeanne had warned me that this could happen but to be honest I had forgotten prior to it actually happening. In a number of the first pictures that we have of Faith there is also one nurse in particular there as well... that's not coincidence. She's there because she's actually holding the tiny piece of cord that was left to prevent Faith from bleeding out. Once the nurses were able clamp what needed to be clamped off and get Faith stabilized we were able to get her baptized and get her set for transport to Children's.
I rode with Faith on the ambulance to Children's from University hospital which is literally across a parking lot! Talk about the most expensive ride I've ever seen in my life. If we would have paid per mile for the drive over there I think I figured out that it would have been something like $4500 a mile just for that trip or more. We then went inside and took the elevator to the 4th floor NICU and went directly into the first room that Faith had in the NICU. At the time I remember not having a clue where I was even though weeks before Raeanne and I had done a tour of the NICU in preparation for Faith's birth.
Once we were in the room I remember how crazy everything was and how overwhelming it all seemed. I had nurses shoving papers in my lap to fill out and I had a bunch of doctors, surgeons and nurses introducing themselves to me asking me a million and one questions all while I was trying to make sure that Faith was okay. I look back on it all now and think that perhaps they were purposely trying to distract me so that they could give her a full evaluation and not let any of their concerns for her condition be noticed by me. All the while I was trying to keep and I on her and keep in contact with Raeanne about everything that was going on. When everyone was done evaluating her and doing what all they needed to do (at around 7:30pm) I met Dr. Sandoval for the first time and he told me that they would be taking Faith to surgery at about 10pm that night and he had me sign the first of the many waivers that Raeanne and I have signed for Faith's surgeries over the past year. He then suggested that I go get something to eat which was a GREAT idea as I had barely eaten anything all day up to that point.
So I heeded his advice and went to the cafeteria to hang out with my two oldest sisters Stephanie and Laura in an attempt to eat something. I say in an attempt to eat something as I still had the surgery and all the worry associated with it to get through in a few hours. Not to mention Faith was upstairs, though being monitored, by herself in the NICU. Steph and Laura were great company prior to the surgery as my parents had headed home, Raeanne was still admitted over at University hospital until the next morning and her parents were with her and/ or the boys.
After a little while of hanging out down in the cafeteria I decided that I wanted to go back up to the NICU to be with Faith. Both Laura and Steph came up and met their newest niece for the first time. They both hung out for a short time and then headed to their respective homes to be with their own families. At around 9:30 or so the team came in to get Faith ready to go downstairs for her first surgery and to have the silo installed which would hold her intestines for the next 6 days until they were finally able to do the final closure. I had every intention to remain awake for the full 2 hour surgery... until I got to the really quiet surgical waiting room and then I just crashed! The next thing I knew I had Dr. Partrick waking me up to tell me that the surgery was done and she would be back upstairs in about 15 to 20 minutes and that was at about 12:45am or so. Still not knowing completely where I was going I proceeded to go back upstairs to wait for Faith and to make sure that she was settled before I went to bed.
The next morning around 8:30 or so Raeanne called to tell me that she was going to be released from University hospital and she, her parents and both boys should be over at Children's around 9 or so. When Raeanne, Toni and Dana (and both boys) arrived I went down to greet them and bring them up to the NICU to see Faith post surgery.
This is obviously a small snap shot of all that Raeanne, Noah, Faith, and I (along with our families) have been through over the course of the past year. It's funny looking back on Faith's first 12 to 18 hours of life and at the time thinking how overwhelming it all was and then comparing it to all that we've gone through since that was NOTHING. I want to take the quick opportunity to publicly tell Raeanne what I tell her every day. And that is how much I love her and how amazing a wife and mother I think she is. Raeanne you are the love of my life and I thank God everyday that he brought you into my life. Even with all we've been through in the past year I wouldn't change it for the world.
Thank you all again for all of your love, support and prayers over the past year and please keep up with Faith's blog as I'm sure that we will have more to update everyone on in the months and years to come!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Our time since being home from our latest Boston trip has been fairly non-descript... Faith did end up with a site infection around her g-tube a day or two after we got back. I am fairly sure I know why she got it, but I'm not going to go into it here. It is pretty much better now after a round of Keflex antibiotics, and that is what matters.
We have met our nutritionist and our OT from Early Intervention. We've actually had two appointments now with the OT. It is so nice that they come to the house and I don't have to figure out what to do with Noah and drag Faith out to appointments, especially with all the H1N1 hype.
We have been incredibly busy the past couple of weeks, with appointments at least 4 days a week, and usually more than one appointment on any given day. I am looking forward to things settling down a little, and really hope we won't have so many appointments soon.
We all got our flu shots on Monday, and will get the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it's available (the kids should be able to get it right away, and because of my underlying health issues, I should be right up there on the list of who can get it right away, too...), but I still don't like taking the kids out so much when the cold and flu are going around.
I got Faith a shopping cart cover the other day... I had never let her sit in the cart before, even though I always wipe them down. I am a weirdo I guess (or maybe it's just because of being a former TPN parent), and I have actually read the Clorox wipes canister, and know that in order to actually disinfect and kill the germs the surface has to stay wet for 3 minutes or something like that, and with a 17+ lb baby to hold and a crazy active 3 year old to wrangle, there's no way I can wait in the grocery store entrance to truly disinfect the cart... She is sitting really well now though, and she really likes riding in the shopping cart. I love to wear her in all the different baby carriers I have, but I am just starting to not be able to as easily anymore... (partly because she's getting so heavy, and partly because my pain is getting worse).
This is Faith's blog, so I don't want to go into detail about my health, but I do think it pertains to some extent... If it weren't for my health issues, we would most likely never have gone in for an ultrasound, and would not have found out about Faith's gastroschisis before she was born. We would have most likely had our planned home birth, and because her cord ruptured at birth, she most likely would have died. So, as strange as it is, I actually am thankful that I have these issues. What I am not thankful for is the fact that no doctor, as yet, has been able to determine what exactly to call it.
I have now seen two rheumatologists and a neurologist, I've had lots of bloodwork, an MRI of my head, and EEG, and EMG's of all 4 extremities as well as the muscles in my legs. Other than the fact that I have a positive ANA (1:640 and speckled pattern), all the other tests are either normal or inconclusive. Which on one hand is a good thing, because it might mean I don't have anything really wrong, but on the other hand really isn't good, because it means I have all these symptoms and no one knows why.
The rheumatologist I am currently seeing did put me on a medication used to treat lupus, pretty much because he doesn't know what else to do or what exactly is wrong with me, and he is using it to try and more definitively diagnose me. Basically, if the medication makes me feel better, he'll feel more confident either saying it's lupus, or "undifferentiated connective tissue disease", which would probably lead to lupus. If the medication doesn't work, he won't know what else to do with me, and will probably tell me that he doesn't think I have lupus or UCTD, despite my symptoms. I am sort of hoping the medication works... at least then we'll have more of an idea what's going on. If it doesn't work, he'll probably be done with me, and I'll have to continue on with other types of doctors.
I am going to see another neurologist at the end of October, and I am planning to insist that this doctor do some more testing for MS. Many of my newer symptoms aren't typical lupus symptoms, but are pretty common MS symptoms (my grandma has MS and I've talked to her about it, and a LOT of my symptoms are very similar to hers when she first got it), and if I have MS, the medication the rheumatologist has me on isn't going to help or keep it from progressing. The neurologist I am currently seeing said that 80% of the time, if you have MS it will show up on an MRI, so since my MRI was normal, she is assuming I don't have it... but 20% seems like a pretty big chance to still have something and not know for sure... especially since my chances of having a baby with Faith's birth defect were 1 in 5000, which is WAY less than 20%.
Anyway, that's enough about my health. If you pray, please pray that God would just heal me... that the lack of definitive tests could be a sign that total healing is in store for me. I don't want to need medications for the rest of my life, I'm awful at taking pills and don't want to be dependent on meds forever. I want to be able to do the things a normal 25-year old should be able to do, I want to be able to make a trip to the grocery store without limping by the end, I want to not have my hands and feet go numb countless times a day for no apparent reason, I want to not have days where I have to concentrate just to speak normally or write, I want to be able to hike a 14-er with Dave and the kids someday! Please pray that God would ease my stress, bring resources into my life to help me manage everything that needs to get done, and that by having my stress relieved, I could feel better.
I heard an awesome song on the way home from Bible study last Wednesday. It was one of those "meant to happen" things... I had a passing thought that I should get off the interstate one exit before the one I normally would get off at, but didn't. It turned out that my usual exit, as well as the three after it, were blocked off for road construction (gotta love that stimulus), and I had to go 2 towns past my exit, get off the interstate, and get back on going in the opposite direction. I was a little ticked, and kicking myself for not listening to that little voice in my head that said I should have gotten off early. Then, I pulled into the driveway, and this song came on the radio, and I knew then that God had brought those obstacles into my drive home so that I could hear this song and be encouraged. I can't add the song to the blog playlist, so I am going to just post a link to it on YouTube, since that's the only place I can find it right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzV_O927Vi0
Speaking of music, if anyone local to me happens to be interested in going to the Casting Crowns/Matt Redman concert in Denver on Friday night (Oct 2) I would LOVE to go, but have no one to go with... email me if you'd want to!
Friday, September 18, 2009
Well, Faith and I are home. I apologize in advance if I start ranting in this post. It has been an incredibly long day.
I, being the procrastinator that I am, didn't start packing our things to go home until probably 2 AM, went to sleep around 4:30 AM, intended to wake up at 6-ish to finish getting things together,hoping to get to the hospital by 7:30 to drop off our extra Omegaven and pick up my camera after I forgot it at CAIR yesterday. I figured we'd drop off the Omegaven, say goodbye again to everyone, and catch a cab by 8:15 at the latest to get to the airport.
I actually ended up waking up at 7:33, hurried to get dressed and get everything together, and then walked as quickly as I possibly could to get to the hospital. As quickly as I could wasn't all that quick, since I was wearing Faith in a sling, wearing her backpack with a feed running, pushing a stroller with our 2 carry-on's and her carseat on it, and pulling our big suitcase along with me, so it was almost 8:30 when we got to the hospital.
We got my camera and headed back to Dr. Puder's office, where we were able to say goodbye to Dr. Puder, Danielle, Alexis, and Dr. Gura. Then we headed downstairs and caught a cab to the airport, and got there just shortly after 9:00.
We had absolutely the most horrible airport/airline experience I have ever had. I will NEVER fly United again, even if it does save us money up-front since our insurance buys the tickets with them. I have always flown JetBlue before when we've gone to Boston; it's cheaper, you can check a bag for free, you have your own TV and plenty of legroom, and they have good customer service and are super helpful and accommodating of Faith's (and my) needs.
United was awful on the way to Boston on Monday, and they were even WORSE on the way home. The only reason we flew United this time was because we didn't have the money to buy our ticket up-front and be reimbursed by our insurance company, and the travel agency that books flights for our insurance used United. I can guarantee the next time I talk to Faith's insurance case manager, she will be getting an earful about our experience. The fact that the airline made no attempt to make accommodations for the fact that I was travelling alone with Faith and all of her needs and the stuff we need to travel with her, seems enough reason to me for the insurance company to think twice about using that airline next time.
It all started last week, when I called United's customer service line to get our seats changed, since they had us assigned to row 32. I've done the same thing every time we've flown JetBlue, and even when the flight is full, they've always moved us up to the front, where it's easier to get on and off the plane, and the flight attendants are right there available if we were to need them. Well, the United customer service line is not a real person, and it's not even a push-button phone tree... it's one of those annoying computers that you talk to. After the third time it didn't understand what I said, I was pretty upset and used some choice words... apparently they've programmed it to understand those words, because as soon as I called it a stupid [non-abbreviated] POS, it transferred me to an actual person. Not that it helped, because she promptly told me that I'd just have to wait and ask at the ticket counter when I checked in on Monday. So then I asked what their policy on medical baggage is, and I was told that medical bags can be checked for free (good news when they charge $20/bag!).
Monday, when we got to the airport, I stood in the check-in line to see that they don't actually have PEOPLE there, either! I told the lady who was directing everyone to the next open computer that I was travelling with a medical needs baby, and would need to talk to a person when we checked in, and she very rudely said, "I am a person!". Ok, well you're not standing at the counter, why would I think you'd help?? So she directed me to the next open computer and I told her we needed to change seats to a more accessible part of the plane, and she said if there wasn't anything on the screen, there wasn't anything she could do, and I'd have to ask at the gate. She did check our bag for free without much of a struggle when I told her it was full of medical supplies, and then I went to go find our TSA escort.
Travelling is SO much easier and nicer when you get a hold of TSA at the airport ahead of time. Denver has a really good security process anyway, but having an agent to walk you through really helps. Your escort makes sure that everyone knows you need special screening, that all the bins your stuff goes in get sanitized, that everyone wears fresh gloves, etc. When we fly out of Denver, they hardly even look at our stuff. I never have to take Faith out of the sling, and I never have to take her backpack off. They never even look in her backpack, they just swab it for explosives and call that good enough.
So security was a breeze, and we got to our gate almost 2 hours before our flight was due to take off. I went to get a coffee, and some food to take on for lunch since we were flying United and they don't do free snacks. When I got back, there were customer service people at the gate, so I went to the counter to tell them about our needs and ask if they would move us.They said there was nothing they could do, so I said if they weren't going to move us, then we would definitely need help getting on the plane. Then the rude counter lady said that only a wheelchair pusher would be allowed to help me, so they'd have to call and see if one could come.
So Faith and I went over and sat on the floor to wait until it was time to board. In the meantime, I noticed the dressing on her line was starting to come up, so I pulled some tape out of her backpack to tape it down and keep it occlusive. A lady standing nearby asked if we were travelling alone, and when I said yes she said something about how brave I must be. A few minutes later, she asked me what was wrong with Faith, and I gave her the "short" version of the story (there's really no such thing as a short version...). For the most part, I find it offensive if someone asks what's "wrong" with her; I feel like compared to how she used to be, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her, and other than her tube she's just a "normal" baby. But I didn't say anything about it this time, because the lady was being nice. Then, she said she wanted to help me when it was time to get on the plane, to get all our stuff on and get to our seat. She told me I should bring my stuff and stand by her and her husband so they could help us. They were flying first class.
When it came time to start boarding, the rude counter lady realized these first class passengers were going to help me, so SUDDENLY she forgot she had told me they couldn't help me, and ran over to say she'd help me get our stuff on the plane. Once we got on the plane, the flight attendants were all rude, except for one older guy who asked every time he saw us if I needed anything. So that was our Monday experience. Enough to tick me off, and make me not want to fly United again.
Then today, it was even worse. I was more mad than I have been in a REALLY long time. Probably since Faith was in Denver and I had to deal with Dr. Potter. We got to the airport, went in and stood in line to check in, and went to the little computer, just like we were told to on Monday. I went through all the steps, saw that there weren't any seats near the front of the plane and knew based on Monday's experience that they wouldn't care, and then got to the step where it wanted to know if I was checking a bag. There was a young guy behind the counter, so I told him it was a medical bag so there wasn't a charge for it. He said he had never heard that, and that he'd have to ask a supervisor about it. I said ok, that it's what I was told when I called the customer service line and that we weren't charged in Denver, and then the "supervisor" came over and proceeded to pretty much say I was full of crap, that they always charge for bags, and even if they didn't charge for medical bags there's no way they'd let me check that big bag for free (it wasn't overweight... it weighed 45 lbs...). I told her the same thing I told the kid, and she said she'd ask a supervisor about it. I thought she WAS a supervisor, so that ticked me off.
So she had me follow her down to this other lady, who also told me I was full of it and that there was no way they'd let me check that bag for free, so once again, I repeated what I was told by the customer service line, and that we hadn't been charged in Denver. Once again, I was told that they'd have to ask a supervisor, because none of them had ever heard it. This was TWICE that they led me to think I was talking to a supervisor... finally they took me down to this other lady, who told me the same thing, and that they'd have to open the bag to see that it was actually medical supplies. Then, she looked it up on the computer, and read out loud the policy- "Bags containing medical assistive devices and supplies may be checked free of charge." At that point, I was yelling that that's what was in the stupid bag, and that I didn't care if they opened it, but all they'd see is that it had MEDICAL SUPPLIES in it. Note that the policy doesn't say that it has to be ONLY medical supplies, it says it has to "contain" medical supplies. So even though I had other stuff packed in there too, I did have almost all of her medical stuff in that bag, so it qualified. Technically, I could have put one freaking enteral bag or saline or heparin syringe in each of my bags, and according to their policy, they'd have had to check them all for free!
So then, the last lady said I still had way too much to carry on. It was NOT a good idea to mess with me at that point, and I loudly told her the purpose and contents of everything I had to carry on- the carseat Faith was going to ride in, the stroller that is free to gate-check, a carry-on with medical stuff in it, my computer bag carry-on, and Faith's backpack, which she was about to get hooked up to. The lady at that point was like, ok, whatever, and told me to go ahead to security.
The thing that probably made me the most mad about all of it was that these awful women were being rude and acting like I was stupid, embarrassing me in front of other passengers!
And since I came home, I looked on their website for verification of their policy... they don't have anything on the website I can find about medical baggage, BUT Faith and I are active duty military dependants, and since our health insurance (through the military) bought our tickets, we were travelling on orders. So I found this policy on their website, which makes me even MORE mad about it all, because they shouldn't have given me a hard time about ANYTHING- "You are exempt from the above fees for checking your first two bags if you are: active U.S. military personnel and/or a dependant with ID and traveling on orders" and then on this other page, there's this chart that says we could actually check THREE bags that weigh up to 70 lbs each! And, since Faith and I were both on the orders, that means we could have checked SIX- 70 lb bags and they COULDN'T have charged us!!
On top of that, I didn't contact TSA at Boston ahead of time, and Boston's security is not run nearly as well as Denver's. I had to tell 3 different people that we needed sanitized bins and fresh gloves before they actually did it, and the dumb guy by the metal detector was yelling at me for not putting Faith's backpack, which was attached to her, through the x-ray. (She wasn't actually running, but it makes security a whole lot easier and less to explain when she's hooked up.) The dumbest thing is that they made me put Faith's leather-soled baby shoes through the x-ray, and then they didn't even look in her backpack!
So finally, I got to the gate, and at that point I was obviously not happy. I didn't even try to be nice to the not-helpful ladies at the counter. I pretty much just said that I knew they wouldn't care and it wouldn't make a difference anyway, but that I was travelling with a medical needs baby and needed to be moved if at all possible, but that I knew they wouldn't move me, and since they wouldn't move me, I would need help to get on the plane and I needed to pre-board. They took the stroller and one of my carry-ons, and I left the carseat behind the counter so I could go get something to eat for breakfast and lunch. By the time I got back, it was pretty much time to get on the plane, and in the 15 minutes since I had talked to them, they already forgot that I needed help. I guess those counter people don't have common sense, because here I was, with Faith in the sling, wearing her backpack, pulling a carry-on, and they thought I'd be able to carry her carseat down the 10 inch wide aisle to row 31!!
The flight itself was pretty uneventful... then we got to Denver, it took forever for our bags to get to the carousel, and the only real road to leave the airport was closed because of a car accident. Needless to say, I hope our next trip is better than this one, and I pray that we'll have the money to buy tickets with JetBlue and just have the insurance reimburse us. Oh, and on top of all of that, I think I lost my driver's license somewhere along the way today...
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
First day with the silo
Last day with the silo
All closed up!
First time being held, 8 days old
First sponge bath, 9 days old
All swollen, and no one knew why...
Faith's first Thanksgiving, chest tubes and a PICC line were her gifts
(and we didn't get to hold her for 2 weeks!)
Skimming breastmilk... I spent probably 4-6 hours a day doing this!
The first few batches of skim milk I took to get tested for fat content
Extubated the day after she turned 1 month old
The first time we ever saw her face without anything on it!
First time wearing clothes, the shirt was preemie-sized
First time doing kangaroo care
First time in a crib, all decked out for her :)
Already looking yellow, barely a month old her direct bili was already over 3...
First tub bath! No one told us anything about not getting her line wet... and this was when all she had over her insertion site was a band-aid!
We decorated her room for her first Christmas
I was so glad her chest tubes came out in time for her to wear her Christmas dress! The bib was mine when I was a baby.
First time in the sling
Getting one of her first oral feeds... I think there were maybe 3 ml of milk in that syringe!
Right after her first time breastfeeding, at 2 months old!
Her first time being "cordless". It felt so weird to be able to hold her in the middle of the room!
Her first time in her carseat, doing the test the first time we were supposed to go home back in January. (Notice how orange she is- this was maybe 2 days before the labs when her direct bili was 11.8)I think this is the night they drew the 11.8 DB labs...
First time wearing a cloth diaper
Her awesome NICU friends made her a pretty sign for her door when she turned 4 months old
Post-op after getting her g-tube
Getting ready to go home for the first time!
First time in the car... she didn't like it much!
First time in her own bed
At the airport, waiting for our flight to Boston
All of our stuff we took to Boston...
Admitted in Boston
Her first Omegaven!
A visit from the clown doctors
With the crazy manometry tube in her nose... it reminded me of an octopus or something
Flat lines... not what it's supposed to look like...
We went all over Boston in the stroller. I had to put a sign on it that said "Please don't touch me! I am just as cute from a distance!"
Her "after" picture. This is the week her direct bili hit 2.0, after 30 days on Omegaven.
First time trying to eat solids... she didn't think it was a good idea.
At the aquarium. This is the tank of menhaden, the fish they make Omegaven from.
Faith and Daddy, and the Prudential Center after we went up to the top
Faith and Mommy with the mama duck at the Public Garden
All of us with Ben Franklin at Fanheuil Hall
Faith and Daddy by the Mayflower replica in Plymouth
All of us as shadows at the Pilgrim Memorial Park
Faith practicing sitting in her bumbo-type chair at home
With Daddy and Noah the night before Daddy left
Passed out post-op after her scar revision in July
Hanging out at Boston Common this trip... totally TPN free, and sitting up unsupported!
Pre-op waiting to get her line taken out
Pushing up on her hands on the bed in our room at DNH!
Eating! Munching on a strip of dried banana and some fruit puree and actually LIKING it!
Faith has come SO FAR in the past 10 months... Like I said above, I would never have imagined that we'd go through all of this, but honestly, I'm glad we have. I have learned more, and met more wonderful people, than I ever expected to in my entire life. As hard as it's been, I am so thankful that we've been blessed to have had this experience!!