Sunday, March 11, 2012

Best Thing in the World

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
- Walt Disney

We're home! What an incredible journey this has been! While reminiscing about the past few months, I can't help but marvel at the amazing blessings our little family has received. I feel so much gratitude and love for everyone who has offered to help, give a word of encouragement, or show interest.

Sure there were scary times, but when I think back about our stay at the NICU, I'll only be able to focus on what an amazing and humbling time it was for us.

After Jack was born we had planned to move into Mike's parents' basement, but the day we were packing was the day Jack had his serious episode. We couldn't break away from his bedside, so both of our families stepped in to help. They packed all of our belongings and by the end of the night our things had been moved to either a storage unit or our basement!

My family drove from Utah County to our hospital on a weekly basis. We'd visit in Jack's room, then afterwards go out for dinner, giving me and Mike a break from medical stresses.

My Aunt Ruthi would consistently visit at the hospital and then take me out to lunch. Receiving a text from her asking if I wanted to go out for an afternoon made even the hardest days enjoyable.

By living in my in-laws basement I've been able to focus all of my time and energy toward Jack on a daily basis. They've made an amazing sacrifice in allowing us to stay in their home.

Gas money was donated to my family to help them travel frequently to the hospital throughout the winter.

So many delicious dinners were provided. Each of those meals were such a comfort, letting us know we weren't alone.

Grandma Adam offered her freezer to help store excess milk for Jack after our outside freezer decided to burn out.

We received gas cards and gift cards, helping us get to the hospital every day.

Visitors came to the hospital to support us and meet Jack. It was a comfort to see these familiar faces and know of their love for us. Others sent their love and did not come to the hospital due to it being RSV season, which was also understood and appreciated.

Thoughtful gifts were sent. Jack's NICU room was decorated with stuffed animals, cds, and adorable outfits, all symbolizing the love and support from so many friends and family.

Fun baby showers were thrown and so many attended! The gifts were beautiful and generous. From items like car seats and cribs to hand-me-downs and crafts, each gift is greatly appreciated and all going to well use!

The nurses at the NICU were amazing! Our primary nurses were some of the most wonderful women I've ever met. They not only took care of our boy, they loved him. These lovely ladies monitored Jack's physical development while also watching his psychological progression. As well, they took the time to teach me how to care for our preemie. Being a first-time mom, I received such a wonderful head-start on parenthood with these experienced women showing the way.

The general staff at the NICU was also incredible. From the friendly ladies at the front desk to the cleaning folks who'd visit with me daily, I never felt alone in our little hospital room.

So many people followed up with our posts on Facebook or blogs, sending comments of support and well wishes!

Past relationships and acquaintances blossomed over time to become close friends. We would review Jack's status, but soon began to talk about other topics and build a friendship.

So many prayers were offered on our behalf, which was such a blessing for us.

There were so many other gestures and miracles that will never be forgotten. Thank you to everyone for your love and well wishes.

When Jack was born I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to handle this new predicament. But looking back, I've learned so much from everyone's wonderful examples and touching compassion. I'm not sure how to repay so many for their incredible actions, thoughts, and offers. I do hope for many opportunities where I can offer similar kindnesses to someone in need.

Mr. Disney was spot on: this has been the best thing in the world for me. :)

Captain Jack and the Final Search

It was time. Captain Jack stared at the treasure chest ahead. It had been a long road with many failed attempts, but the dream of granting his wish kept him determined.

He approached the old, oak box. LJ watched as Jack brushed his fingers across the dusty top. "I'm nervous I won't be ready," he said to the monkey. "Still, here goes nothin'..."

Jack braced his hands on the edge and heaved the lid off the chest. The beautiful, bright coins glowed. Jack shielded his eyes in anticipation of Davey Jones. He waited. And waited. Kept waiting. He felt a tug on his shirt. Jack turned around to see LJ smiling. The coins were not beaming with light, nor had Davey Jones appeared.

Stunned with relief, the Captain turned to LJ and cried out, "Whoopee! We did it!" The two danced and sang around the chest about really bad eggs and a pirate's life. In the middle of their song, Jack stopped, causing LJ to crash into him from behind. "I should probably ask for my wish now."

He lowered his hands into the treasure and fingered through the smooth, gold coins. Jack closed his eyes, smiled, and allowed his wish to go through his mind.

A warm glow overcame the room and then darkness...

When Jack opened his eyes, he was in a new room. "Hello handsome," said his mom. "Do you like your new room?" Jack eyed the area, then a rush of excitement overcame him.

He was home!

His wish finally granted, that night Jack retired to his crib. Ready for his new adventures!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Captain Jack and the Sunken Ship

Captain Jack knew he was getting close. With LJ by his side, he crossed the seven seas looking once again for the Golden Treasure. The waves became smoother and the wind picked up, helping him move quickly.

While on the ship LJ sat facing his friend, deep in thought. "You want to know why we're looking for this treasure, don't you?" asked Jack. He continued, "It's rumored that if a pirate be ready, the Golden Treasure will grant their greatest wish." LJ tilted and scratched his head. "Nope. I can't tell you my wish," replied the Captain. "I can't risk it not coming true."

In the middle of the Pacific, Jack stopped the boat. The two peered down into the shallow, blue sea to find a sunken ship on the ocean floor. "There be our treasure!" exclaimed Jack. He removed his effects until only his tattered pants and ragged shirt remained.

Standing on the edge of the boat, Jack moved his arms up to prepare to dive. LJ began his primate rants, pulling the Captain's leg back to the middle of the boat. "Oh stop it. I'll be fine," assured the Captain. Once loosening LJ's grip, Jack jumped into the water and started swimming toward the ship. LJ stared over the edge, eyes filled with worry.

The boy swam to the bottom and observed the ship. All sorts of fish, rays, and sharks populated every crack and crevice, but none seemed interested in the boy. He noticed a cabin door with something glowing inside. Quickly he swam back to the top to take a deep breath, then return to the cabin.
The Captain held the door to the cabin and attempted to pull it open. To no avail, it was stuck. Jack pulled harder and harder, until he knew he was running short of his last breath. Again he returned to the top to take a breath, then try the cabin door again.

Eager to reach the treasure, Jack continued pulling on the door and returning for oxygen for several rounds. Finally, exhausted from his endeavor, the boy returned to the boat and held onto the side, letting his legs hang motionless in the water. "It's so much work," complained Jack. LJ let his friend relax, but began searching the boat. He spotted the Captain's items and grabbed the short, stubby sword. Once handed to the boy, Jack knew exactly what to do.

One last dive into the water. Jack approached the cabin, shimmied the sword into the side, and applied pressure to his blade to force the door open. He felt a snap, then slowly watched the door float open. Inside was the treasure.

Running out of air, Jack quickly pushed the lid off the treasure. Then he waited. Inevitably the treasure began to glow brightly. The water became warm around the boy as the treasure grew brighter, and brighter, and BRIGHTER. "Blast," thought the Captain. Soon the gold coins glowed so brightly that he tried to close his eyes and swim away. However, something was blocking Jack from blinking.

Captain Jack began to wail with discomfort as his old nemesis, Davy Jones, appeared behind the bright light. "Good news! Jack doesn't have anymore ROP in his right eye. His left eye has decreased from stage 2 to stage 1 ROP as well. I wouldn't be surprised if it cleared up shortly."

Jack's mom comforted him as he recovered from the shock of the eye exam. "You hear that?" she said to her boy. "You might get to come home soon! Hopefully we're just one eye exam away."

That afternoon, Jack watched the little fish swim that he had seen at the sunken ship. Eager for another adventure. His wish was getting closer.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Captain Jack and the Mud Fight

Captain Jack drudged through the sullen swamps. LJ swung through the branches above, watching his friend continue the endeavor. A new map showed the ever-changing destination of the Golden Treasure, which was at the edge of the swamp. Although the area was only one portion of the large map, it had been days with no sight ahead of muddy water ending.

The boy sniffled as he walked, wiping his nose with his tattered sleeve. Frustrated, Jack looked up at LJ. "Any dry land out there?" LJ flew and danced his way to the top of a tree to observe. Disappointed, he looked down and shook his head. The Captain took off his hat and threw it in the mud. "Blast it!"

Jack protested by sitting in the mud and folding his arms. LJ jumped to the lowest limb of the tree and wrapped his tail around it, hanging the rest of his body to reach his companion. The Captain continued, "It's been days of seeking me treasure and no progress. How do I keep going?" The monkey just stared at him. "Well?" asked Jack.

Awkward silence overcame the moment. LJ stared into Jack's eyes. He tilted his head, then heaved his body back into the tree and swung away. "Figures. Never ask a monkey for advice," thought the Captain.

Just then a large ball of mud smattered against his shoulder. Jack jumped to his feet and pointed his sword out, confused as to which direction it had originated. Circling in his stance, another glump of mud fell from a tree and covered the Captain's head, slowly drooping down the rest of his body.

Not amused, Jack looked toward the sky and saw LJ, hands covered in mud. "You!" cried the Captain. Quickly he dropped his sword and began gathering mud with his hands. The pirate threw mud balls at the monkey, each miserably missing the target. LJ smiled and gave taunting shrieks, teasing Jack. The monkey began swinging from tree to tree, but when he looked down to spot the boy, he couldn't see him. Suddenly a fast ball of mud knocked him off the tree and into the below swamp.

Jack sprung from his hiding place and pounced his friend. Soon the two were laughing and tackling one another in the mud. As they ran through the swamp playing their game, neither noticed the ground slowly become greener. Still running, Jack didn't see the large treasure chest until he crashed straight into it. Now on the ground, he took a moment to understand what lay before him.

"The Golden Treasure!" he exclaimed to LJ. The quest and wish quickly returned to his mind. Jumping to his feet, Jack went to remove the top of the chest. He stopped. Looking at his friend, Jack asked, "Do you think I'm ready?" LJ smiled, urging him to go ahead. The Captain smiled back, "Either way, I've got you here."

Jack pushed the the lid off the oak box and stared at the familiar, glistening coins. The gold shone brighter, encompassing the entire surrounding area. Still it grew brighter and brighter and brighter and BRIGHTER, almost becoming pure white. The light became too much for Captain Jack and tried to shield his eyes, but felt something holding his arms.

Davey Jones appeared behind the light again. "Nope, not ready yet," he stated. The terrible, bright light turned off and Jack wailed for only a short moment. "How is it, doc?" asked Jack's mom.

"Not too bad. They've actually become a little better since last week. Still, his eyes have a little more ways to come before he can go home."

Jack turned toward LJ, now sitting on the side of his crib. He smiled, knowing his friend was there with him. Soon little eyes began to droop and deep breaths took over.

The search would continue until Jack had his wish granted.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"We Named the Monkey Jack"

Captain Jack continued his search for the Golden Treasure. Keeping a weather eye out, he braved stormy seas and dangerous foes to reach his destination.

Now on an island, Jack stood on a white sandy beach facing the jungle before him. After a few steps into the trees, songs of tropical birds filled the air. Streams of white light floated to the ground, staggered by palm trees and vines. The Captain breathed in the humid, warm air.

After hours pressing forward, he felt a rumble in his stomach. Hunger had overtaken the pirate, but it be too late to alter course back to the ship for an afternoon snack. Instead Jack turned his head toward the heavens. There above him a group of bananas hung, waiting for a hungry soul to claim the delicious, ripe fruit.

Attempt after attempt, Jack tried climbing the long, slim trunk. To no avail, he slid down halfway reaching his prize every time, bumping his bottom on the dirt below. Out of desperation he gathered rocks to throw at the bananas. He threw the rocks, then sticks, then his sword, then his hat, and a shoe. Finally, one banana from the bottom of the bunch came loose. Down it went. Jack watched it with starving eyes land on the ground next to the feet of someone else.

Eyes met for the first time. A little brown monkey, frozen in stance, stared at the Captain, then at the banana. Jack approached calmly making no sudden movements. "Nice monkey-monkey," whispered Jack. The monkey tilted his head and watched the boy approach. Only steps away, Jack dove for the banana. A shrieking, "Oooh ooh aaaaah!" came from the monkey as he made his move, too. Soon the Captain and the monkey were rolling in the dirt, each having their turn holding the fruit away from the other.

One unfortunate moment of Jack catching his breath was all it took for the monkey to swing his tail into the boy's stomach, causing Jack to lose his footing. He stumbled backward as the monkey ran the other direction with the stolen banana. Jack quickly regained his balance and took off after the fiend.

Wearing one shoe, the Captain ran through rows of vines and ancient trees to catch his assailant and give a pirate's justice. Up ahead a snapping noise echoed through the trees. A few more steps and Jack stopped, placing his hands on his knees to take a moment and assess. With heavy breaths, he walked a few steps forward and parted through one last bush.

On the ground lay the yummy, yellow banana. Jack picked it up and turned to go back for his missing shoe, when he heard a quiet whimper. He turned slightly to see the mischievous monkey no longer acting smug, caught in a metal, barred cage. The monkey, sullen and frowning, let out a sigh of defeat.

Jack smiled and waved his arm in the air, bowing to the little creature. "Remember this as the day you almost got the better of Captain Jack." He turned to walk away, but stopped. Hesitating to feel further for the monkey, he turned around for one last glance. Accepting his fate, the monkey looked down and muttered soft whimpers.

"Oh, alright then," snapped the Captain. He knelt down beside the cage. "Here you go," and handed the monkey the banana. The fruit slipped through Jack's fingers and onto the cage floor, but the monkey did not take it. Overpowered by the greater good, Jack began to fiddle with the cage door, looking for a way out. The monkey perked up and began his primate rants, jumping and screaming with excitement.

Suddenly voices were heard in the distance. The monkey's captors were coming for their trapped victim. Jack rattled the cage door harder as the monkey's panic increased. Closer and closer came the voices. Finally a little hinge snapped and the door began to open. The monkey's panicked eyes stared into Jack's as if asking him not to leave. As the Captain's attention was being sucked toward the voices, he took one last tug, releasing the door.

Jack's eyes snapped open to find the nurse taking his temperature. After the ordeal, he looked around for his monkey friend. Had he escaped? Worried, Jack's lip pouted and he began to whine.

That's when Jack's daddy entered into the room with an extra visitor. He placed the monkey into Jack's crib and said, "This little fella was outside looking for you, so I made him wash down first and got him a pair of scrubs. He says it's his turn to watch over you and bring you safely home."

Jack smiled upon seeing his new friend. His father continued, "Pirate monkeys are always named Jack, so he'll be Little Jack, or L.J."

Jack fell asleep that night ready to continue his search for the Golden Treasure. This time with a faithful friend.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hushabye Mountain and Neverland

Lullabies softly sung to a baby are like a mother's map given to her children. When little eyes begin to close, a mother can hope to lead her child from everyday cares to a world of wonderful memories and joy. I often try to send Jack to happier places far from needle pricks and blood pressure cuffs. Places where boys can fly and ship's sails are filled by gentle breezes. Since sleep is one of the most crucial components to Jack's development, lullabies have become a staple to our daily routine.

Mid-November when Jack was born, we were advised it was a fifty-fifty chance he would survive the first night. Not only did he make it, but he sailed through his first week of life. He avoided obstacles many preemies experience, such as brain bleeds, severe PDAs (open heart valve), and collapsing lungs.
It was late November when Jack crashed. His heartbeat dropped significantly requiring the nurse to start CPR. Once revived, our baby wasn't breathing well. Jack was taken off the ventilator, a breathing machine that mimics a normal breathing pattern, and placed onto an oscillator, which quickly pumps oxygen into the lungs to maintain inflation, making the baby's chest vibrate. The doctor felt his "little personality" was getting in the way of allowing the machine to work to its full potential. A paralytic was prescribed for that day, taking away Jack's ability to move. Nitric oxide was also added to his breathing tube to help bind the oxygen to red blood cells.

His father and I were handed a key to a hospital room. It was suggested we not go far. We stayed three nights in the hospital.

It was discovered that Jack had come down with four infections. Three were bacterial and the fourth was fungal. Different medications were administered and Jack started to make a slow recovery. However, early December Jack's breathing began to struggle again. An x-ray revealed a large amount of atelectasis in the upper left lobe of his lungs. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and given further medication. 

Like a little pro, Jack recovered quickly. Mid-December the pneumonia and infections were entirely healed. Still, our baby was struggling with oxygenating his body. Moderate amounts of atelectasis continually grew within his lungs.

The doctor was concerned Jack's breathing issues had gone beyond normal preemie problems and was officially bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD.) Many premature babies experience this same disorder due to the vulnerability of their undeveloped lungs. It causes atelectasis build-up and can lead to asthma or severe infections, including pneumonia and RSV. The more struggles a baby had during their first few weeks of life, the more probable they are to contract BPD. The only cure is length-wise growth. Although Jack was still receiving medication, it would only help heal his symptoms. Sleep and protein became the priority.

To promote peaceful hours of rest, I found humming songs sent him quickly into a doze. It was common to find me hunched over next to his isolette, both circular flaps to the container opened. One was allowing my arm through to rub his head, and the other allowing my face next to him so he could hear my lullabies. If I'd move away Jack would stir until I'd return to the same position. All I could think was that I'd be in desperate need of a chiropractor when finally discharged!

Jack was moved to an open crib in January, which made comforting him much easier. When we were alone for a few moments I would sing him favorite tunes. His eyes would shut as his mouth would open. Deep breaths would fill his lungs, which is just what the doctor ordered. I could only hope he was escaping to sweeter places, in the meantime allowing his body to do what was needed.

At birth, Jack was twelve and a half inches long. Today he is now seventeen and a half inches long! He is also breathing successfully with a nasal cannula on a half liter of oxygen.

We are so blessed with Jack's progress! However, it's predicted we have another four to six weeks before we can bring our little boy home. So in the meantime off to Hushabye Mountain and Neverland I'll send him.

There to forget his worries, letting his mother happily do the fretting in the meantime.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Captain Jack and the Golden Treasure

Captain Jack knew these waters well. His small ship quietly parted the murky mist hovering above the silent sea. Moonlight blanketed the area leading toward the forbidden cliffs, where an opening to a hidden cave invited those seeking adventure.

Upon entering the cave, Jack sailed his ship toward rocky land and dropped anchor. A tattered captain's coat wore evidence of the difficult journey to reach his destination. From a damp pocket a worn treasure map was pulled and unrolled to show the way.

A match was lit as Jack studied the contents. "Fifty two steps from the rocky ledge," whispered the Captain. Carefully each step was taken by his squeaky, leather boots. The dim light permeated shortly to reveal damp, stone walls as trickles of water broke the eerie silence.

Jack followed the map through panicked bats, threatening stalactites, and occasional skeletons of unfortunate mates who had tried their luck through the treacherous cave. After turning the last corner, there before him a beam of light rested upon the treasure chest. Hesitantly he approached the old, oak box. Captain Jack had heard the rumors and did not take this discovery lightly.

The Golden Treasure, although thought to be the most bounteous loot hidden amongst the seven seas, was cursed. Any pirate to set eyes upon the treasure in an unprepared state would quickly meet unforeseen events lead by Davy Jones himself. However, if a pirate be ready, the Golden Treasure was hoped to grant a pirate's greatest wish.

Unable to wait any longer, Captain Jack flung the lid off the chest and beheld the glistening, golden coins. The treasure in all its glory glowed brighter and brighter. Jack basked in its light as it grew brighter and brighter and brighter ... still brighter and brighter and BRIGHTER!

The brightness continued, but Jack couldn't seem to look away. His mouth opened to yell, but was so overcome by the situation, he could only shake slightly as though experiencing the g-force of a bursting volcano.

The face of Davy Jones appeared behind the light. "Mrs. Adam," he said, "Your son's eyes are looking a little more matured. However, he has developed stage one ROP in both eyes." The light turned off and Jack wailed to make his discomfort known. His mom held him until the shock had left, then nestled him back in his bed.

"It's OK, Captain," she said to her boy. "You'll be better in no time." Jack knew she was right. A little ROP was nothing compared to his recent adventures. Soon he settled back into a deep sleep ready to search for the Golden Treasure, this time to have his wish granted.

One way or another, he'd find a way to get home soon.