Monday, August 29, 2011

Home from the Hospital!

Chloe and I are home from the hospital!  Woo-hoo!  She was dismissed shortly before noon yesterday and we made it home just in time to eat a delicious pasta lunch provided kindly by some friends from our church.  These first two pictures were taken while we were still at the hospital, though--check out that awesome playroom!

I mentioned before (maybe) that we were put on the oncology floor because they were out of rooms when Chloe came out of surgery early Wednesday morning.  As I spoke with several nurses about the condition of most kids on our floor, it was just heartbreaking to realize that many of them are in the hospital for 30-60 days.  The children specifically in our hallway were there for bone marrow transplants as last-ditch efforts to beat cancer.  They could not come out of their rooms and only one parent at a time could go in.  They live for that time in almost complete isolation and because they have no immunity, they feel absolutely terrible.  One nurse told me she has seen 16 year olds with bedsores because they don't want to get up, they don't want anyone to bother them, they want the lights off and the room quiet and just to be left alone.  It is not a fun treatment, but it is endured in the hope of saving those lives.  But remember, they're just children.  For a child to be going through an experience like that is simply heartwrenching.

In light of all of that, I was so impressed with all that the hospital provided to try and make the experience a bit better for the kids.  There was a lovely family lounge with a variety of toys and a working kitchen to help life feel more "normal."  There was a patients-only playroom with TONS of toys where NO medical treatment could take place--a safe place to play.  Chloe enjoyed it for a brief moment before we were released yesterday, especially that red tricycle!  There was a nourishment room with popsicles, graham crackers, etc that I could get for Chloe whenever she needed them.  A music therapist and art therapist made regular rounds.  Everything was brightly painted and clean and comfortable.  A child life specialist came by and asked what Chloe would like to play with--would she like to do beads, or play with clay, or do a sand art, it was amazing!  One morning "Jarret's Joy Cart" came by. . . this is a ministry started by a little boy who had cancer and had a vision to provide toys for children who were sick like he was.  So now the cart (fully stocked with super-fun toys, it looked like a toy shop on wheels!) makes the rounds occasionally and the patients can choose something.  All of those things are meant to make a potentially unbearable time more bearable.  Being there was a good reminder to me that Chloe's illness, though sudden and somewhat shocking, was truly a very small thing compared to what a lot of those kids were facing. 

Our life and hospital experience in Asia was so different.  Not just the cleanliness and external factors (decorations and amenities) but especially the underlying compassion that seemed to motivate the nurses and doctors that helped us.  I understand that hospitals are big business, but honestly I felt that they were genuinely concerned for Chloe and interested in her health and well-being.  That level of caring for the patient as an individual feels so unusual after the experiences in hospitals that I had in Asia.  I am sure that many of the nurses we encountered this week were Christians, but I am also sure that odds are, many also were not.  But there is something to be very thankful for in American culture that there are still some remnants of Christian values underlying our medical care so that people are treated with dignity, kindness and respect, attempting to help the sick recover.  Good medical care of this kind surely reflects the Lord's compassionate heart.   This kind of attitude from doctors and nurses is a true blessing from Him!  I felt we were very blessed through this experience!

Well, enough pontificating!  Here's Chloe enjoying the tricycle and her new stuffed pony from the B family:

 And here we are, Chloe's all showered up (though that iodine smell is hard to get off!) and wearing normal clothes, ready to head home.  Chloe actually wanted to stay and play longer in the play room but Mama was ready to go!
 Chloe loved the new coloring book (Care Bears!) from another B family, and wanted to prove to you that she is home and enjoying life again...
 despite the owies on her tummy! 
Thank you all for praying for her!  We are so thankful for such a quick recovery and though she was having just a bit of pain today, truly she is SO much better.  Just now she came upstairs as I was writing this and was crying, afraid that somehow she would get sick like this in the future and it would happen again that she would need her appendix out.  Sweet girl!  We assured her that once her appendix was gone, it was really and truly gone!  We're thankful for that!

And, here's hoping for a "normal" week this week!  (Does such a thing exist?)  Well, whatever comes, I am trusting that it comes to me through the hands of my loving Father and is all for my good.  Trusting Him but glad to have last week behind us, too!  Thank you Lord for watching over Chloe and healing her!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sweetheart Report

It's Friday at noon (I can hardly believe it!  We've been here since Tuesday evening!) and I thought I'd give a quick report on how Chloe is doing.  Or maybe I should just show you:
Better, don't you think?  She's making progress!  This is the best she's looked since we got here...sitting up, smiling, even showing interest in playing with a few small toys.  She's taking some good steps toward recovery in the bathroom (if you know what I mean) and has been fever free, but now needs to be willing to drink more normally and depend on the IV less.  It looks like we'll probably be released tomorrow, if all goes well.  I'm hopeful!  We'll still have some pain/weakness issues to deal with at home but I'm thankful that she's doing at least somewhat better.  Great to see that sweet smile again!  Thank you Lord for your healing hand!  And thanks to all of you for your prayers...He is answering!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Pretty Pathetic Picture

 Our sweet Chloe Rachelle, recovering from an emergency appendectomy earlier today.

Chloe hadn't been feeling well the last few days.  She was listless, tired, laid around, complained that she wanted to throw up and then couldn't, finally did throw up and then felt better, but then didn't have much appetite or energy.  Yesterday morning (Tuesday) she woke up very early, crying in pain saying that her tummy hurt.  I could tell she was feverish and so just gave her tylenol and a few sips of ice water, and she went back to sleep again.  When she got up she seemed better, even ate a bit, but yesterday afternoon she woke up from her nap crying again and saying how much her tummy hurt.  I was thinking that she probably had a stomach bug, but did dare to give her more pain medication by mouth and had her lie down to rest again.  She was bummed to miss the first day of the girls' new PE class--a Rodeo-themed motor skills class at SBTS.  But there was no way she could go, so I set her up with a blanket and a movie with Daddy at home and took the other girls.

When we got home about 5:45, it was clear that Chloe was worse.  She seemed to be in a lot of pain, and when I asked her if her tummy hurt all over (still thinking stomach bug or stress or who knows what) she said very clearly, "It hurts right here" and pointed to her belly button.  Suddenly all the pieces fell into place.  I remembered our dear friend Samantha and how she exhibited very similar symptoms before having an appendectomy.  I remembered our friend Kevin and how he had very similar symptoms before his appendectomy.  (both of those incidents occuring inside the country where we used to live!)  So I rushed back to where John was studying and said, "I think Chloe has appendicitis!"  He immediately came out and began to look online and everything confirmed that this was a distinct possibility.

I threw together some take-along food for supper and packed a few other things and we got everybody in the car, on our way to the hospital.  Chloe was in so much pain as we drove, was moaning, groaning, crying, and then screaming in pain.  We pulled up to emergency and John quickly carried her in while I went to park the car.

The next 7 hours were a blur of waiting, telling our story again and again, filling out paperwork and trying various tests to determine the problem.  We were hopeful all evening that it would just turn out to be a virus, or maybe strep, or some other random thing, but as the night wore on they kept saying that things weren't conclusive yet so we needed to do one more test.  So she had a blood test, a urine test, examinations by several doctors, an x-ray, and finally a CT scan.  After the ER doctors read the CT scan they felt it still was not absolutely conclusive and so put the decision in the hands of the pediatric surgeon.  Dr. F came to our room to tell us that as she looked at the CT scan, she suspected appendicitis.  She was not absolutely sure, but she had seen enough cases of it to know that something not good was going on in Chloe's belly and almost everything else that it could be was ruled out.  Just like that, they were prepping Chloe for surgery.  When the decision was made they acted fast!

So about 1:45 this morning John carried a zonked-out Christin and I helped a stumbling-with-sleepiness Clara Anne up to the 8th floor surgical unit.  The anesthesiologist gave her some pain medication and said to me in a sidelong whisper, "It'll take 2-3 minutes."  2 minutes later he asked Chloe if the pain was much better.  Bless her heart, she had been pretty miserable all night, not often crying with the pain, trying to be brave but sometimes just truly hurting.  When he asked her that, she said, only a little better, so he said, "ok, I'll go get some more."  He turned to do that and in that next minute the pain meds kicked in, she relaxed, and fell asleep.  Poor dear!  Of course it was the middle of the night and she had been so uncomfortable, it must have just been a relief to be free of the pain for that moment!  Chloe fell asleep in that moment and didn't wake up until much later today!

At that point, John took the two other girlies home and I tried to get comfortable on a short sofa in the surgical waiting area.  They did call me several times to let me know how the surgery was going, which was helpful.  It was "acute advanced appendicitis" but without a rupture that the surgeon could see, so that was good news.  One interesting thing in Chloe's case is that her bowels have a congenital abnormality (that we had no idea about, it has not affected her until this moment) meaning that at one point her bowels twist the "wrong" way and so her appendix was actually on her left side!  The doctor got Chloe's bowels cleaned out first and then could feel an obvious mass on her left side, and they were able to take it out laprascopically.  What a crazy, strange thing!  But I'm so thankful that they found it and got it out.  The surgery was finished about 4, and she was able to get settled in her room about 5am. 

Chloe slept the major part of today but did perk up a bit towards supper time.  She ate a popsicle while watching a Strawberry Shortcake movie (what could be better?!) and then asked for seconds and then thirds!  We got her sitting up in a chair a bit and even a little sponge bath too.  She's been a champ.  The hospital has a little smiley-face guide that you can show the nurses to tell them your pain level, and last night she kept choosing the most frowny face to say that the pain hurt the worst.  But today thankfully she's been at "no pain" or "hurts a little bit" most of the day.  Very thankful for that!

I have to say again how impressed I am with American hospitals and health care.  I have met such caring nurses and doctors, who know their stuff and are committed to giving your child a great care experience.  We are thankful for good medical care!  The Lord is gracious!

So, rejoice with us tonight that the Lord preserved Chloe's life and holds her in His hand.  That's always true, of course, but a physical/medical need is such a great reminder.  I've said it before in relation to my mom's surgery, but it's still true: we are not God.  We cannot, finally, save ourselves physically or especially spiritually.  Our bodies are weak and frail and will eventually fail us unless Jesus returns first.  And yet He has given such gracious gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and experience to doctors and nurses who are able to use things like laprascopic techology to perform a surgery that was necessary to Chloe's life--without it, she could have died.  We saw the Lord's grace in many ways throughout this situation and are so thankful that Chloe came through ok.  Obviously Jesus is helping her, she's been such a trooper!  Here's a few more pictures:
 With a new "confetti bear" that was a gift in the ER last night!
 Clara Anne and Christin didn't mind hanging around the hospital too much--we watched the Tinkerbell movie last night about 11:30 and they thought it was great!  Today they got to watch Sesame Street which was a treat.
Well, there you have it.  I will be staying here at the hospital with Chloe for 2-3 days, she will need to be able to eat a bit, go to the bathroom, and be fever-free for 24 hours before she can leave.  So, it's the hospital life for us for a few more days!  I'm very thankful that we can be here, though, with such great medical care, a clean and comfortable room, and unlimited popsicles and slushies!  It'll probably be a week before Chloe feels better, so our home school start date of the 29th will be moved a week later, but that's a benefit of home schooling, to have that freedom and flexibility.  Thanks for your prayers for Chloe's recovery--now she has something in common with Samantha, Uncle Kevin, and let's not forget Madeleine!  Praising Jesus for His care tonight.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

So thankful

Lots and lots has happened since I last posted!  My blog has unfortunately fallen to the bottom of the "important-must get done" list, but tonight I thought I'd take five minutes and hit the highlights (if I have any readers left!)! 

Our crate did come from China finally on August 4.  It arrived without further incident and we had a great crew of people here to help us unload (including our next door neighbors who had just moved in themselves!).  All the stuff was off the truck in an hour and we were very glad to be reunited with our things again!  A few things were broken, some furniture was dinged up somewhat, but the vast majority arrived safely.  Thank you Lord!

We unpacked for two solid days, and by the end of that time things were livable in our main living space--beds set up, furniture in the right places, the kitchen functional, etc.  But at that point we had to put things on hold since John needed to prepare for his class, then only four days away.  He put in some long days and late nights to get ready, then participated in the three day class.  Now that's behind him, so we've had some more time to get unpacked this week.  Great progress has been made, thank you Lord!  I still have one major area to organize--my home school and craft materials--but the rest of the house is coming together nicely.  We actually had numerous guests this week, which was really enjoyable to host people in our new place!  But, soon we need to start our home school year and so I will be working hard this coming week to prepare, organize my materials, order a few final things, and get the girls excited and motivated about school since we've had a summer of craziness.

Transitions are always challenging, and this one has been particularly so.  I could give you quite a long list of the things that have been difficult, but that might sound like complaining and I truly don't want to complain.  It has been wonderful to see the Lord provide just what we've needed just at the right time.  Our apartment location could not be better, we are really loving the space and color and arrangement of our new place, we're close to school and church and lots of ministry opportunities, and it's truly been a blessing to be meeting people in the community.  This week we got the cupboards stocked a bit more and I feel like the kitchen is really working well for me and is enjoyable to keep up.  We still haven't had anything like a "normal routine" (well, you know, except that every day is different and most nights we get to bed too late!) but that is coming soon, I hope. 

So, tonight I choose to be thankful.  The Lord has been so gracious and good to us.  Here we are, three healthy precious girls under our roof, with a lovely place to live and even our furniture that made it from overseas.  We have friends and family that are dear to us.  We have a wonderful church community that we love.  It's been such a journey to get here, and we're not "there" yet, but I am so thankful for where we are tonight.  Thank you Lord!