Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brynn's Surgery - 2017

It's surgery day again!!

Yep, that's right!  

But today we are not at Children's hospital for Jonah or Rees ... this time we are here for Brynn.  

It's been six years since Brynn had her last surgery.  To recap, she was born with an encephalocele in the nasal portion of her skull. 

Of our four Chinese dumplings, Brynn's medical condition has been the mildest but still required some correction.  When she was three, she had a bone graft to fill the gap where the bone was missing (as you can see in the CT photos).  She also had a cartilage graft to fill the CUTE facial pocket created by the defect. 

As she has grown, the graft has not grown with her at the same rate and the main issue is that her nostril has almost completely collapsed.  We were originally going to wait a few more years before making this final correction, however, with the looming retirement of our favorite surgeon, we decided to get it done now.  He has already told us that this is one of the most difficult procedures to do and with that in mind, we would rather have the person who we're familiar with and knows us and just so happens to have like forty years of medical experience give it his best shot.

So, here we are on the way to the hospital ... all smiles!!

Here's a photo of Brynn from this morning ... so that we have a good "BEFORE" indicator.

Unlike the boys, Brynn was a non-stop chatterbox ... asking lots of questions and trying to help solve the medical and surgical challenges of the world as we waited in the Surgery Holding Area.  
I am sure I don't know where she gets that from!!!

When it was time for the "goofy" juice, she took it with ease and she actually made the "mmm" sound and said it tasted good!!  She would!!

She enjoyed watching the TV while we waited as she cozied 
up to her Baba's hand.  

Dr. Denny came to see her before they took her back to the OR.  He used his trusty flashlight (the one Jonah and Rees are always trying to snatch from him) and he looked up Brynn's nose and he made some "Hmm's" and "I see's" and then he said ... again ... "It's not going to be easy" and "It's the most difficult thing to do".  

But we were like ... ehhh, you've done it before ... piece of cake!!

She went back giggling and chatting with the nurse and Anesthesiology Resident and then we waited.  Well, it didn't seem like too long and they were telling us that Dr. Denny would be in to talk to us shortly.  

Guess what??

He said he did not have to do a cartilage graft.  He did not re-open the incision line that they originally did (where it has now scarred rather nicely ... for a scar, that is) and she did not have to stay overnight!!!

So, what did the surgeon do??  Well, he said that he made a small incision on the outer part of her left nostril and then took "extra" tissue from the inside center of her nose and twisted it and folded it over to build up the far side of her nostril.  Then he stitched everything back into place and "VOILA!"

We did spend most of the day there and she ate lots of popsicles and had plenty of juice.  Now we are home and she is relaxing ... with her exhausted mama (it clearly doesn't take much now to take much out of me), eating cheese balls and watching a movie on Pureflix.  

She's slightly puffy and may bruise a little but all-in-all, she looks great and feels great and now it's just a matter of keeping her hands away from her face and stopping her from making facial expressions that may aggravate the healing process.  She's worse than one of the youngers ... trust me!!

Thanks for all your prayers!!  Thanks for all your encouragement!!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Hello Again Everybody!!

Jonah had surgery today ... a small-ish one ... In - Out - AND HOME QUICKLY!!  That's a nice surprise, isn't it?  Well, truthfully, all of Jonah's procedures since he has been with us have gone well.  But today was REALLY the fastest one yet.  

To remind those who need it, Jonah had steroid injections into his hypertrophic scars that were left after three months of mandibular distraction.  This is his second injection and may require several injections before the scars completely smooth out.  

  He is just a little TIRED but He did GREAT and was home, with balloons in hand, before LUNCHTIME!!!   

Yay, Jonah!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Hello everyone!  This past week has been a doozy, moreso of the unexpected parts than the things we expected, ... but we've gotten through it and here are our updates.  

Rees had to come home on Wednesday after he threw up at school.  Strangely, he seemed fine to me so I was slightly fearful that the expulsion was due to returning high CSF pressure.  I tend to do that ... jump to the worst case scenario.  But HE WAS acting very similarly to the times this happened in January and early February.  However, by late the next day, we determined that he must have, in fact, had a pesky stomach bug because he kindly passed it along to Brynn.  Thankfully, their episode(s) were quick and pretty uneventful.

 We were able to keep our scheduled dental appointments on Thursday.  Brynn, Jonah, and Rees were all scheduled for cleanings ...

Then we also had Jonah scheduled for some tooth extractions.

They used nitrous oxide and the usual numbing gels and injections and they removed FOUR of Jonah's teeth.  They really came out quite easily, in only about two or three minutes total for all of the teeth to be removed.  The longest part of the whole ordeal really was just the waiting for the prep and numbing agents to be administered and to take effect.  All of that took 30 - 45 minutes including the time it took to calm Jonah down when he got overly nervous about the little nasal piece with which the nitrous oxide was to be administered.  I think it made him, at first, think that it was going to be like a surgery where he is put to "sleep" first.  

Once all the prep was out of the way, he really did okay and I sat there holding his hands the whole time while he focused on breathing through his nose and listening to his mama and the dentist have various conversations.

Once we got home, we gave his teeth a peroxide "bath".  
Trust me ... they needed it!!  

They really cleaned up quite well!
We don't do the "tooth fairy" in our family and I don't think Jonah understands about that anyway BUT he was pretty excited to know that we save the teeth and he liked that we have a special spot for them.  

Jonah did not like having a mouthful of gauze so he really didn't keep it in too long.  I know he looks pitiful here but he really wasn't in any pain and he also didn't feel bad.  He was able to eat lunch not too long after we were home.  He made a good choice ... NOODLES!!

Then he proceeded to "pretend" to beat me in a game of checkers.  Of course, I LET HIM ... ("mama-of-the-year, ... YES!) and showed him all the slick moves so he could beat me for real next time.  

AND THEN because this silly mama did n-o-t NOT initially think Rees was infectious on Wednesday and I did my usual "mama-kissy-face" with him, late Friday afternoon, I was in a world of stomach-flu-hurt!!  I was at work most of the day feeling okay, but not great, and as the hours went on I was noticing more and more that something was not right.  By late afternoon, I had to convince myself that my time was up and I should hightail it out of there and get home as fast as I could.  

Friends, I prayed all the way to my car, 

"LORD, please help me to get home.  Oh, let me just make it home."  

That's it, ... you can do this.  Open the car door.  Get in.  

"Please, LORD, ... please just let me make it home."  

UGH!  This is starting to hurt.  Okay, turn the car towards the exit.  

"LORD, please let me make it home! please let me make it home! please let me make it home!"

I AM NOT going to make it home!!
I stop the car in the middle of the parking lot, open my car door and ...

This was one answer to prayer that was VERY EVIDENTLY and DISGUSTINGLY a big, fat NO!!!

I was shocked!  I mean, really, God??  This was no small regurgitation ... and I am fairly certain that there were people watching.  I am expecting, any day now, that someone is going to tell me that they saw the whole thing on YouTube. 

I was pretty sick all weekend.  So much for having an easy go of it, like Brynn and Rees.  Very thankful, though, that no one else in the house got it.

Earlier this week, we had a full day of medical appointments again.  Rees had a CT done to evaluate the status of the distractors that are supporting his forehead and to determine if there has been any bone growth since the last CT in December.

So good news is the distractors are holding nicely and there has been a "TEENY-TINY" bit of bone growth.  Nothing too surprising there!  

This is what Rees' skull looks like now ... it isn't A LOT different from three months ago but there is evidence of some bone growth.  IN REALITY, though, it is such a small amount for the length of time since his first surgery.  

The BIG DIFFERENCE is in the changes that have taken place since the most recent surgery six weeks ago.  In the photos below, the one on the left is the view from December showing that the forehead was indeed collapsing.  The one on the right is from this week showing the support and spacial difference due to the distractors.

Pretty impressive, huh??

Well, take a look at the transparent view from the other side of his head.  This just blows my mind and pretty much solidifies for me that Rees will not be participating in Physical Education, Recess, or any contact sports for a VERY LONG TIME!!  

I'm so surprised that he isn't required to wear a helmet ... but, again, ... remember I tend to jump to worst-case-scenarios.

Here is the transparency from the other side.  

Pretty amazing, isn't it?

Rees has a little break now again until the next surgery, which is scheduled end of May.  It's definitely good for him to have a break and to see that it isn't always "his turn".  Next up is Jonah and then Brynn ... we'll keep you all posted, of course!  In the meantime, we are looking forward to Spring and are really rooting for its swift arrival.

C'mon SPRING!!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Next Steps

Another question we are frequently asked is "What's Next?"  

It's a valid question because, as I have said previously, we are IN a "long-haul-endeavor" and we still have quite a ways to go.  Over the next few months, we will hopefully continue with the forward-progress we have been making.  
Both Jonah and Rees will have surgical follow-ups and Rees will have a post-Op CT to determine what changes have occurred with his skull.  I am very excited to see these images that will include a view of the Distractors that are currently in place.

This month Jonah will have several teeth extracted at the Orthodontist's request whom he continues to see once a month.  His teeth ... well, they are just all over the place and as they work to align his jaws/bite while working with the structural challenge presented due to the type of cleft he has, there are just some teeth that are going to be a problem.  He has a couple of mesiodens, which are essentially "extra teeth".  One of those will be extracted for sure, but due to problems with some of his other teeth, another one may become a primary tooth down the road.  It depends on whether or not they can salvage a few other questionable teeth.  The two teeth that are furthest back on either side of the upper jaw will be extracted ... because the cleft went through his jaw on both sides, those teeth are sort of "floating".  One of them is already very wiggly so will not require too much effort to remove.  Jonah also continues to receive speech therapy in school as well as outside of school each week.  At the end of March, he will have an outpatient surgical procedure.  This will be to do another round of steroid injections into the hypertrophic scars (very thick and raised) that were left behind after his mandibular distraction last year.  

We also work hard every day to narrow the academic gap between our boys and the other children they attend kindergarten and first grade with.  They have REALLY made a lot of progress and we are SO PROUD of them but we still have a lot of work to do before they are able to navigate academics/homework on their own. 

In April, we will have another surgery but this time is it not for one of the boys, it is for one of the girls.  Yep, it's FINALLY Brynn's turn.  Brynn was born with an encephalocele similar to Molly, however, it was much less severe.  It slightly affected her skull formation, but mostly affected the area of her left nostril as she was born without it fully formed.  She did have one surgery in China, at the age of six months, to remove the external portion of the encephalocele and to repair the nostril.

After being in the USA for a year, Brynn had a surgery that involved a bone graft (using bone from Brynn's skull) and a cartilage graft (using cartilage from Brynn's ear) to correct the deficit in Brynn's nasal structure.  She did great and for a long time, we could hardly notice that there had even been a defect at all. 

As she has grown, though, the left side of her nose is not growing parallel to the right and her nostril is effectually collapsing, or at least gives the appearance of being collapsed. Her facial anomaly is fairly minor, however, it does bother her at times, especially if someone asks her "what happened to your nose?"

So, even though she is still growing at this point, the reason we are moving forward with an adjustment for her now is because of the impending retirement of our craniofacial surgeon.  

Then, towards the end of May, Rees will be back in surgery to remove the distractors and likely replace them with "permanent" hardware.  Permanent doesn't mean forever, but it will be placed for at least a year to give his bone more time to heal, grow, and fuse together.

At this point, we do not know when Rees will have the bone graft for his nose but perhaps, we will discuss possibilities when he is seen later this month.  Right now, we're just so thankful that he is feeling so much better and that our fun-loving boy is "BACK!"

Thursday, March 2, 2017


A lot of people have been asking how the boys are doing ... if Rees is doing better ... expressing their concern ... cringing at what our little guys have been through.  The concern and the encouragement has been wonderful and comforting and strengthening ... thank-you for the prayers and the support!
It is such a blessing to us!!

Recently, one of the conversations really got me thinking ... it went a little something like this:

            "So, he's doing better?"

                              "Oh, yes, ... it's like he's a completely different kid!"

            "That's great!  So, that's over ...whew! ...and now you're done." (stating and questioning at the same time)

                               "Oh, ... no, we are not done.  There will be more of this fun and excitement ...  (trying to keep it positive and light) ...both boys have quite a bit yet to endure, medically speaking." 

              "What?  Really?!  Oh well, ... YOU CHOSE THIS!"

Yep!  I suppose I did ... 

You know, each of us makes choices everyday.  Our lives are built on choice after choice that we make.  Every moment of every day involves a choice.  

Am I going to acknowledge my buzzing alarm and get up to spend time with God and His Word OR am I going to hit the snooze button and sink back under the covers?


Should I wear the black dress pants and the gray sweater OR should I wear the hot pink cocktail dress?  (I don't actually have a hot pink cocktail dress, but that sure would be a fun choice!)

What will we make for dinner tonight ... easy macaroni and cheese OR steak and lobster? (yea, ... that would be sweet if the latter was in my list of choices!).


When my children disobey, am I going to freak out in anger OR am I going to see it as a teachable moment? (honestly, I've done both!)


When someone says something to me that offends me or hurts my feelings, do I retaliate with a harsh defense OR do I calmly and respectfully stand my ground OR do I stay silent and simply walk away?  

CHOICES.  They are embedded into the very essence of our existence.  

We can make our own plans, but the LORD gives the right answer. 
- Proverbs 16:1 nlt

Eleven years ago, when we finally made the decision to adopt a child, we almost didn't choose Molly.  But God knew that the choices and the plans that we make are imperfect and He revealed to us that Molly was His Choice.  I've said it before ... and I'll say it again ... I cannot imagine what our life would be like if we had said no.  

Often when we make choices, we base them on what we think or know of a particular situation or plan at that time.  But in reality, none of us knows how things WILL turn out.  We can only look back and see how things DID turn out.  And many times, the difference between what we thought or expected turns out to be far greater than we could have imagined.  I know this first hand.  And let me tell you, ... when our choice matches HIS CHOICE, ... amazing and wonderful things happen!!

Soooo ....

While I didn't choose to adopt a child with a persistent and invasive tumor.
And I sure didn't choose to go through eleven surgeries in thirteen months.
And I also didn't choose for my child to have multiple complications so that he would miss a lot of school and I would miss a lot of work ...

... I did chose to be a mama to a child who didn't have one, ... to be a part of a family for a child that desperately needed one.  Yes, I chose to adopt a child with medical needs.  You know something?  I could have just as easily given birth to a child with special needs like one of my adopted children ... just like the women who actually DID give birth to them.  Those women didn't plan to give birth to a child with a physical defect but when they did, they had a choice to make ...

... and thankfully, they chose LIFE.  they chose HOPE.  they chose a FUTURE.  And their choice gave way to my choice.

Sometimes a choice is made not with complete understanding or for certain outcomes but in just knowing that it is the right choice.  NOT the EASY choice.  NOT the SAFE choice.  NOT the COMFORTABLE choice.  But the RIGHT CHOICE.

I choose to trust that God knows what is best for me and His ways are always right.  He leads me and keeps me going in the right direction but if I try to take over and steer on my own, I swerve and careen and usually end up crashing from exhaustion for trying so hard at something I am not meant to do.  I just have to keep trusting that He is always working out what's best for me.  He is always for me ... never against me.  

So, despite all of the difficulties that we have encountered with the medical care of Jonah and Rees, I do not ... even a little ... wish that I hadn't found their photos on my laptop, in the darkness of my bedroom, on that winter evening two years ago.  And even though I do, sometimes, fear the "what-ifs" and the unknown future, ... more and more I choose to just keep trusting Him ...
Because it was HE that lead us in choosing them.