Sunday, April 10, 2016

Emma's Surgery

Since Emma was in utero, her doctors have monitored her abnormal urinary system and right kidney and warned us that she would probably require surgery to help correct it at some point. She was born with two ureters on each side that connect her kidneys to her bladder. A normal system only has one ureter on each side.  One of her ureters on the right side has always been very dilated and causes a lot of reflux when she urinates. When she empties her bladder, some of the urine always flows back up her ureter towards her kidney, then eventually falls back down into her bladder.  So she is cycling urine and keeping it in her system longer than normal, which makes her prone to infections. Those infections could easily get into her kidney because of the reflux.  For her first year, they only saw reflux occurring in the dilated ureter, but more recent tests have shown reflux occurring in all her ureters, which means that both kidneys could potentially be affected now.   She has taken a daily antibiotic all her life to help prevent UTIs, and she didn't experience too many of them until the past six months.  Suddenly, she was getting a UTI just about every month.

Our first surgery date, scheduled in February of this year, was cancelled because she developed a UTI five days prior.  We were rescheduled for April 6th, and despite another mild UTI a couple of weeks ago, she was healthy enough for surgery this time. The urologist scheduled 4 hours to perform the surgery, which was intended to completely remove the dilated ureter on her right side, as well as the upper section of her kidney that it connected to. This would require one incision on her upper right side near her kidney and another incision down by her bladder.

About 3 hours into surgery, the surgeon called to tell us that her plan needed to change.  The upper kidney section was wrapped in blood vessels and although she tried, she was not able to get to it without damaging the vessels that carried blood to Emma's kidney. She didn't want to risk harming the entire kidney, so she decided to leave it. She did remove most of the dilated ureter, but left one small section of it and used it to attach the upper kidney to the lower kidney.  So what was meant to be mainly a removal surgery became a reconstructive surgery, which took longer than expected.  Emma was in surgery for a little over 6 hours, and she did fine throughout it, although Dan and I experienced some mental and emotional anguish.

Our tired girl playing with toys in the hospital waiting room at 5:30 on Wednesday morning

Taking a toy car ride right before they took her back for anesthesia at around 7:45 am 

Dan's parents and my parents came to wait with us. It was a huge blessing to have their support, company, and prayers. 

Six long hours later (at about 3:00 pm) we got to see her again in the recovery unit. When she started to awaken, she was whimpering and seemed to have pain, so the nurse gave her morphine and she went right back into a peaceful sleep.

Everyone was happy to see her again!

 Some of the special gifts and balloons that our friends and family sent to cheer Emma up.

This was when she first really woke up.  Her first complaint was about the IV in her hand and light bulb on her finger.

 The IV continued to be her worst source of pain and discomfort throughout the hospital stay.  If we had to stay more than one night and day after surgery, they probably would've placed it somewhere else because it was causing her hand to hurt so much.

 Emma slept pretty well through Wednesday night, considering how often the nurses came in to give her medicine, check her temperature, etc. Plus, we were in a shared room and got new roommates at 2:30 am. Dan and I of course hardly slept at all.  When Emma woke up on Thursday morning, she was ready to sit up and play with toys. She also ate one French Toast stick for breakfast, which was more than I thought she'd eat.

We did some cuddling in bed and played with stickers

By Thursday afternoon, we were really ready to go home. The doctor came by and discharged us at about 4:00 and took out Emma's IV!

Someone was excited to be home!!

Not that home's been a piece of cake, either. She still has a catheter in until Wednesday, which is her new biggest complaint. She has to soak in the tub twice a day to help cleanse it. The heart-shaped bandage is over her upper incision. The lower incision is in the center of her lower abdomen, similar to a C-Section incision.

She also has all of these medicines to look forward to several times a day. She has been taking medicine since the day she was born, so she is a rock star at it, even when they taste yucky.

 We've spent lots of quality time on the floor together, although yesterday, she did a little bit of cautious standing and walking on her own initiative. I held onto her, since she's pretty weak and I'm afraid of her falling while everything is still so tender.

She is doing really well and is recovering slowly but surely, and we are so thankful to God for his goodness.  We appreciate all of you who have been praying for Emma and us this week - God has certainly answered your prayers.  I have a renewed respect for nurses and the work they do!  I will definitely not be changing careers anytime soon. I could go my entire life without ever dealing with a catheter, bloody diapers, and surgery-related pain and be perfectly happy.  But this is where God has us for now, and we are grateful for how he's protected Emma and provided for us in all ways.  We are praying that as a result of this surgery, she will outgrow the issues she has had and not have to experience any more reflux or infections.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Month of March in Photos

We've been crazy this past month with lots of activities, Dan going on a European tour with students from his school, and Emma having major surgery.  Those last two deserve their own posts, so I'll just update on the happenings in March for now.

My cousin, Kyle, came to Chesapeake on a work training assignment, so we met for dinner one night.  It was great to catch up with him!

We met my sister-in-law, Robin, and her girls, Naomi and Miriam, one sunny day to play at the Air Power Park in Hampton. They had a small museum and some actual airplanes and shuttles to look at, but the girls were most interested in their playground. 

It was too windy to stay outside, for long so we visited the Bass Pro Shop nearby.  Naomi and Emma got a kick out of the animals.

Our attempt at a group photo in front of the aquarium - so typical with toddlers. Ha!

 Emma and Naomi found a cave to play in, so they pretended to be bears. 

All three girls hitching a ride through the store.

 We visited Virginia Beach one afternoon and had a great time even though it was pretty chilly. 

Emma and I visited Blue Bird Gap Farm on our way to Williamsburg one day, which is a free petting farm in Hampton.  They have farm animals to see, a garden to explore, and a big playground to play on. We had a great time!

This friendly deer wanted to lick/tickle our fingers through the fence.

Cute little bumblebee

 Checking out the albino peacock that was roaming around the farm

And some big tortoises 

The following day, we joined some of the Jester family at the Jamestown "Military Through the Ages" festival. Hundreds of actors dressed up and reenacted life for soldiers and their families from the Roman/Viking ages through World War II.

Our nephews Aaron, Nathan, and Benjamin were recruited and taught how to do rifle drills

Emma got to step inside a military camping tent that they said slept about 6 soldiers. Good grief!

When Emma and Josiah (the youngest kids in our group) got tired of watching the reenactments and hearing historical facts, Mom Jester, my sister-in-law, Dawn and I took them to play on the tall ships.

Josiah is a year older, but Emma is determined to keep up with him.

Mom Jester picked up an admiring sailor while we were there!

Cousins holding hands. So sweet, and they will hate this picture when they're older.

We also explored and played in the buildings at Jamestown settlement.

Checking out the cozy straw beds

And the comfortable wooden pews in church

 When I picked Emma up from preschool one day, she was having intense UTI pain, so I took her to urgent care that night to get her started on antibiotics. She is showing off her awesome new tongue trick.

A closer look. It saves us a bundle on Kleenex. Heh!

She has also learned to wink recently. Of course you have to hold your mouth just right.

On Easter Sunday, someone was feeling pretty in her fancy dress. She danced through most of the music in the service.

We had an Easter basket for her to open while we drove to Williamsburg for lunch with my parents and the Jester family and friends.

She got a Peeps kabob from my parents and was a *little* excited about it.

This clay Olaf was one of her Easter goodies

We had a great time visiting, playing, and Easter egg hunting with family and friends that afternoon. Left to right: my dad, Dad Jester, and friends Pete King and his daughter, Kimberly, sitting in front.

Left to right: Cousins John, Carrie, and their daughter, Chloe Gibson, our niece Naomi, my mom, and friend Joyce King

Left to right: Brother-in-law Rob, nieces Naomi and Miriam, and Dan's sister, Robin

Left to right, nephew Benjamin, sister-in-law Dawn, Dan's brother Tim holding nephew Josiah, and Mom Jester

Emma and Naomi loved playing with their big cousin, Chloe!

Busch Gardens opened for Spring Break weeks, so we picked a warm sunny day to go play!

She loves the Oscar Whirly Worm ride. It makes me sick, but I can tolerate it once or twice to watch her giggle and smile every time we spin.

Dad and Mom Jester met us at Busch Gardens and we also ran into some of Dan's coworkers at the park that day.

One of the school friends we saw there has a son the same age as Emma, so we stuck with them for an hour or so to let the kids play together.

Emma's really come a long way when it comes to riding rides. She used to be afraid to go on them, but she was excited to ride some of the kid rides, even though she had to go without me.

There's a fun kid section at Busch Gardens called Land of the Dinosaurs where there are rides and a climbing area for kids of all ages. Emma was pretending to hatch from a dinosaur egg.

Unfortunately Dan missed out on some of the fun this month since he was in Europe for two weeks chaperoning his Senior class trip. I know, poor guy. :) We missed him tons and were really happy when he was home again!