Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Operation: Save the Kidney!

Well. We had an unexpected surprise of the worst kind last week.  Emma had a renal scan on Tuesday to take a look at her swollen left kidney and ureter, and find out if the swelling and/or blockage was affecting her kidney function.   We spent the majority of the day in the hospital because she had to go under general anesthesia for the test. Emma did great and didn't complain about not getting to eat or drink. I think she's so used to the hospital routine now that she just rolls with it. She woke up happy and silly from the anesthesia and did fine for the rest of the day. We were supposed to have an appointment with her urologist, Dr. Upadhyay, in two weeks to go over the results.

Fast forward to the next morning - I was in the parking lot at work, ready to go inside and got a phone call from Dr. Upadhyay Uh oh, no bueno.  She said that the renal scan showed no drainage of urine from Emma's kidney to her bladder. The ureter had become completely blocked, and there was extreme loss of function in the left kidney.  She told us to drop everything, check Emma in at the hospital (no more food or drinks again) and be ready for emergency surgery that evening!  There was a real risk that Emma's kidney was being damaged severely, and she wanted to save as much of its function as she could. She was going to redo the ureter re-implantation surgery on Emma's left side.

I had to step into the office, sobbing, to let someone know what was happening and that I would be out of the office for a while. Dan had to pull Emma from camp and tell her that she had to have surgery that day while they drove home.  She was angry and cried about it, but became resigned pretty quickly.  We were all so sad.  We had prayed and prayed that God would spare Emma from having to ever have this kind of surgery again.  When she had ureter re-implantion surgery in December, it took almost a month before she began to act like "Emma" again.  She had severe pain for a week and it was a really tough recovery for her.  We were absolutely dreading her having to go through it again, but knew it was the best chance of correcting the problem and saving her kidney function. The weirdest thing was that Emma felt perfectly fine. No pain, infections, or other problems that we could see at all. It made the emergency situation even more shocking and surreal.

Emma made it through her 3.5 hour surgery fine and Dr. Upadhyay believes it was successful.  In the December surgery, she had to cut Emma's bladder open to re-implant the ureters, which resulted in terrible, painful bladder spasms afterward.  This time, she didn't have to open the bladder, but was able to work on the ureter outside the bladder wall.  It has made a world of difference in Emma's recovery!

Praise God, she has not had a single bladder spasm and the pain from her incision only slowed her down for a few days. Even having a catheter hasn't phased her much this time, which is amazing!  She has grown up a lot in the past 6 months and is able to verbalize what she is afraid of and what hurts her, instead of screaming and panicking.  We are so grateful, and are praying that God will allow this surgery to be free of any complications.  Time will tell if the surgery will hold and if her kidney will be fully functional again.  We are asking God for that, too, and would appreciate you praying with us.

The day of Emma's renal scan. They put in an IV, and then for some reason wrapped her arm in a diaper.  We giggled about that later on, when the trauma of getting the IV was past.

Our parents came to sit in the waiting room with us. After her scan was done, we ate lunch together and celebrated how well she did in her test!

Then, we were suddenly back in the hospital the next morning, waiting for Emma's emergency surgery. Her doctor already had a full schedule, but decided to add Emma to the end of her day as soon as she saw the test results.

We are blessed with a skilled and knowledgeable surgeon, Dr. Upadhyay, and a wonderful children's hospital, CHKD. They have taken great care of Emma for the past two years.

 Emma waking up from surgery. Almost from the beginning, we could tell that she wasn't struggling as much as the last time.

Day One in the hospital. Emma stayed in bed all day and refused to eat anything, but wanted to play with toys, so we borrowed some from the play room. Dan stayed the night with Emma for two nights so I could get enough rest to work the next day.  I have proposals due in a week, so this is a terrible time for me to be out of the office.  Dan's school is closed for the summer, so he has more flexibility. We are thankful for that, too!

Day Two in the hospital. I convinced (bullied) Emma into eating a little food and wheeled her in a wagon to the play room for a while.  She wasn't allowed to go home until she ate and moved her bowels, so I was on a mission!

Emma got lots of love from her grandparents.  They also took care of Hallie for us every day so we could go to the hospital or work.  We are so grateful for their help through this! What would we do without them?

 Day Three at the hospital. They were ready to discharge Emma! But Dan remembered that the doctor wanted an ultrasound, so they waited around an extra two hours before they got word from the doctor that she would schedule the ultrasound later. They went to the play room to pass time before they finally were cleared to come home!

Emma back at home! She was comfortable sitting in her car seat on the ride home, so she asked if she could stay there for a while. It was too hot outside to leave her in the garage, so Dan carried her, still sitting in the car seat, into the house. He's the best. :)

 Now we are back to bathing Emma three times a day to keep her catheter and scar clean. She'll get the catheter out in another week, and until then, one of us will stay home every day to care for her.  She is much more comfortable than she's ever been post-surgery, and we were able to take her off the heavy medications within a couple of days and just give her Children's Tylenol instead.  She's getting to watch way too much TV, and loving every minute of it!  We are grateful for the thoughts and prayers everyone has sent her way. We know that God is using these trials to shape Emma and make her a strong and compassionate girl. It's certainly changed us, too, and I hope God is using all of us to show how he carries us through circumstances we could never handle on our own.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Disney World!

We had the best summer vacation in Orlando last month!  The week after Dan and Emma got out of school, we flew away for a week of fun.  Dan's parents joined us and shared their timeshare with us, which made the trip even better! We alternated our days at the park with days of rest, which saved us from getting too exhausted.  It was very hot, humid, and there were thunderstorms almost daily, but we dressed appropriately and made the most of air conditioned stores and shows when we needed to have a break from the weather. 

The pictures say it all!

Ready for our first day at Magic Kingdom!

The girls in front of Cinderella's Castle

Riding the Jungle Cruise ride

Emma loved seeing all the "animals"

The carousel was one of her favorite rides, and the line was always blessedly short.

Hallie and Dan watching the parade

After a few minutes, it was clear that Hallie didn't really care about the parade, so she sat in the stroller playing with a water bottle instead. Much more entertaining!
We escaped to the stores when the rain came
We met Tinker Bell!

And rode the Dumbo ride!
There was a stationary Dumbo for Hallie to "ride", too.

The girls stayed awake for the nighttime fireworks show

Disney does the most amazing job synchronizing their music and fireworks. The backdrop's not bad, either.

After the fireworks, both girls crashed in their strollers.
On our second day at Disney, we went to the Animal Kingdom.
Riding the Safari Ride. We enjoyed seeing all the animals, but they made the ride a little too realistic by not smoothing out the road. It was one of the bumpiest rides we'd ever been on. Emma loved it!

A young giraffe in the process of laying down.

We saw elephants and a bunch of other safari animals, too!

Not everyone was as thrilled about the jerky ride as Emma was. The rest of us felt a little beat up by the end.

We got a break from the heat by watching the Lion King show.

We also met some characters. We heard that the Animal Kingdom is the only place you can meet Mickey and Minnie in the same place. Pretty cool!
Meeting Pluto and Goofy! Hallie does not understand why we're asking her to smile when she's so hot and miserable.

Despite the heat, Emma had the best time playing at the Animal Kingdom's dinosaur play area!

They even had an excavation area where kids could dig up dinosaur bones.
On our non-Disney days, we enjoyed shopping and swimming in the pool at the timeshare.
There were some ducks at the pool one morning. Hallie was fascinated!
Playing with toys at the Disney Store
And building people and buildings at the Lego Store
We spent our last Disney day at Magic Kingdom again. I think we managed to meet all the princesses and ride almost every ride in the two days we spent there.

Meeting Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog"

And Rapunzel

Emma came away with a kiss from Rapunzel

Elena of Avalor - a new princess who stars in a Disney Channel cartoon


And Belle

Even though Hallie didn't care about meeting the characters, I tried to make sure she did. I figure in a couple of years, she'll want to see herself in the photos, too.
We rode some of the rides we missed on our first day

Mom and Dad Jester were nice enough to watch the girls for us (in air-conditioned stores) so we could ride some of our favorite rides, too.
Unfortunately, our trip home wasn't so magical. We managed to miss our early morning flight and ended up spending 12 hours waiting in Orlando and Baltimore before we finally arrived home at 8 pm. We made the best of it - playing games, looking in stores, napping, and watching movies on our phones during our layover.
At least Emma enjoyed her extra movie time that day. :)  And we were thankful to arrive home safely, after a wonderfully fun week!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend in San Diego

We got to visit our beloved San Diego over Memorial Day weekend! Dan was asked to speak at his former high school (Calvary Christian Academy's) graduation ceremony, so we decided to make it a family vacation.

It was a long day of travel, I think 9-10 hours total including our layover. We landed at 7:30 pm San Diego time, which was 10:30 pm our time.  We didn't get settled in or the kids to bed until about midnight our time, so everyone was exhausted that night.

The next morning, we hit the ground running seeing friends! Dan had to be at school early to prepare to speak, so I took the girls to my former office to meet my boss and coworkers. My coworkers Fatima (left) and Teri (right) were fighting over who got to hold Hallie. And I don't think they were kidding.

We also squeezed in a quick visit with my friend, Kat, and her kids.

Kat has 2-year-old twins (Alyssa and Mateo) and baby boy (Aiden). We joined them at their weekly garden club meeting.

Emma got to pick a fresh tomato and carrot from the garden, rinse them, and eat them right away. She thought that was so cool!

Next, we drove to CCA to hear Dan speak. As he walked up to the podium, two of the administrators put on sunglasses and followed him, pretending to be his bodyguards.  Apparently, the minute Dan stepped on campus, he became a celebrity because everyone was so thrilled to see him again! :) He gave a great speech about holding onto the peace that God offers us while living in a world that has no true peace.

We got a nice family photo while we were all dressed up for graduation.

We stayed with our good friends, Paul and Ann, and their kids. Our mutual friends, Chris and Adessa, brought their family to town to visit with us for a day, also. Left to right: Dan, Paul, and Chris. The three of them used to work together at CCA, and became great friends.

Left to right: Adessa, me, and Ann. We got to know each other through our husbands and we're so thankful we did!

The six of us enjoyed spending time together for years before any of us had children. Now it's so fun to watch our kids play together!

Silly faces!

Since we were staying at their house each night, Emma and Hallie got to play the most with Paul and Ann's kids, Eli and Eva. Emma had lots of fun jumping on the trampoline and playing in the sandbox with Eli.

And she enjoyed taking baths and playing with doll houses with Eva.

Hallie was very happy playing with Eli and Eva's old baby toys, too!

We attended our former church, Barabbas Road Church on Sunday, and reconnected with the pastor and our friends there. Then we had a lunch reunion with other friends we had attended Kaleo Church with years ago. It was great to see them, and I love that we've maintained our friendship despite the time and distance.  Left to right: Judy and Chris (with their sons Ian and Jon standing in front), Ray and Peggy, Dan holding Hallie, and me holding Emma.

Emma got to reunite with one of her best San Diego friends, Jemma!  We attended Barabbas Road Church with Jemma's parents, Jackie and Jessie, and all lived in the same neighborhood.  So Jackie and I would get the girls together for play dates at the beach, the library, and each other's houses.

Now two years have passed and we have new little ones who were born just a couple of weeks apart! I wish we lived close enough for Hallie and JJ to grow up together.

Emma's other best San Diego friend, Ellie, was in town with her mom, Stacy, for the CCA graduation. Emma absolutely loved getting to play with Ellie and her younger brother, Daniel, again!

We spent an afternoon with our friends, Dave and Cynthia, and their girls, Olivia (center) and Kailey (right). Their family will move to Virginia Beach very soon, and we can't wait to get together with them more often!

Besides his speaking engagement and seeing all our friends, this was Dan's top reason to fly all the way back to San Diego. The California Burrito. He still craves them at least once a week, after living in Virginia for two years where they don't exist.

Dan had to get back to work the Tuesday after Memorial Day, so he and Hallie flew back home on Monday morning.

Their flight wasn't full so Hallie got her own seat for a little while. She didn't get to keep it, however, since she kept grabbing at the poor guy sitting next to the window and trying to lick his watch. She has no concept of personal space.

Emma and I left together very early on Tuesday morning. She did a great job pulling her own suitcase through the rental car area and airport! Such a trooper!

We played with sticker books on the flight.

And found a store with stuffed animals to play with during our layover.

Back home at the LOVE sign in the Norfolk airport!