Facebook has become the main method in which we have given quick & brief updates as it has been an easy thing to do on the fly. The problem that we have run into is that there are some people who are not on Facebook, so they have been in the dark. Below, I will try and outline with some detail the last 48 hours, to catch you up and fill in the blanks.
Friday morning, we went to the Pancake House, it is kind of a family tradition. PJs and pancakes. This was the last meal we were going to be able to have with Grandma (my mom) and Auntie Kim (my sister who also serves in Romania) before the surgery because following the Pre-Op appointment, Abby had to be isolated from the world as much as possible.
Following breakfast, Abby and I went to her Pre-Op appointment. It took about 5 hours in all, but the “hardest part” according to Abby was the first part, having blood drawn. As we spoke with the Physician’s Assistant toward the end of our appointment, Abby let her know her main concerns for the surgery (she had already expressed those to the surgeon when we met him a couple weeks ago):
- She wanted to make sure there would be ladies in the Operating Room (for her oral surgery at Rady’s a couple months ago, the nurse that walked her back was a man, the Anesthesiologist was a man, and she didn’t see any ladies for that one. To Abby’s delight, the PA was going to be walking with her into the OR.
- No shots before the gas. “Shots are the hard part, so if we can do them when I am asleep, that would be nice.”
- “I really want to take Fluffy in with me for the surgery.” Fluffy is a stuffed animal Abby got when we were in Germany for one of her annual check-ups.
Abby got a surprise (makeshift) visit from Amy, one of the ladies from our church in Romania who happened to be in San Diego. She came and visited through the window with Abby, and Amy and Mihi caught up in the back yard. It was a blessing for the whole family.
At night, we had to stop giving Abby her medications that she was on for allergies and skin issues.
July 10 – Surgery Day
5:30 am we had breakfast. Not an ideal time to wake and eat, but Abby was not allowed to eat after 6 in the morning.
We continued to pack and try and figure out what exactly we would need while we were at the hospital for 7-10 days. As we began to load the car to head to the hospital, Dr. Coombs our mission pastor from church stopped by to pray with us.
After I loaded the car and things were in order, I went to go find Mihi and Abby. I walked into the bedroom and found them both on their knees praying. I joined them in prayer. After we finished sharing our hearts with our Father in heaven, I found out that Abby had walked in before me and saw Mihi on her knees, and asked if she could join her. We welcome everyone at any time to join us in praying…because God welcomes His children to come before Him at any time.
Grandma and Auntie Kim were back, and Auntie Kim stayed with the other two kids while Grandma followed us to the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. This is the same hospital that Abby spent the first three months of her life at. Unfortunately, we are no strangers to the grounds or the procedures there – yet we a grateful that if we had to be doing another surgery, that it would be done there. We have been impressed with their staff and the level of professionalism by their doctors and surgeons.
We checked in at the hospital at 11:30 am. By this time, Abby was pretty hungry but was fine just waiting for her surgery. They check-in process was surprisingly quick, and they had us in the back preparing for surgery. At this point, our pastor Dr. David Jeremiah came and visited and then prayed with us. We were honored to see him there caring for Abby and praying for our family.
Shortly after (around 2:00 pm), they came and gave Abby some medication that caused her to enter into a sleepy and amnesiac condition. This was good – she doesn’t remember this time or us saying goodbye to us. Then they wheeled Abby away.
Before we knew it, the surgery was done. We were mildly surprised to get called to wait for the surgeon in the Cardiac ICU waiting room. He arrived just after we did, and told us that everything went well. He was able to do everything he had planned and it was successful. If I heard him right, there was no need to repair prior work as it was holding well. His estimate is 1-2 decades before Abby will face an OR again for her heart.
Let me just pause here for a moment and say, GOOD NEWS followed by GOOD NEWS is always welcomed.
- Abby did great, the surgeon did a wonderful job, and God deserves the praise!
- Abby won’t need another surgery for 10 to 20+ years… God deserves the praise!
I remember waiting in the Cardiac ICU waiting room before. My mom reminded us that if we waited in the hall, we would see them wheel Abby by…so we did.
We had mixed feelings seeing her, joy that the surgery was over and successful, my heart was relieved and sadness to know what was coming post-op.
It took much longer than expected before they allowed us back to see Abby, and we found out why once we got there. She was not breathing on her own. This was a setback for her recovery, but one that they expect to pass in 24 hours or so.
Less than 5 hours later, Abby was breathing on her own and they could remove her astronaut mask. We were excited to see such progress. That first night was a little tough as they attempted to sort out Abby’s pain medication. It seemed like everything they gave her made her sick. Mihi or I were constantly holding a bucket for her, and Abby was in an intense amount of pain from it. She was awake most of the night facing every challenge that she had come her way. I would say that it was the hardest night she ever had to face. She was extremely cooperative with the nurse, and we have been blessed to have a very experienced nurse who knew to explain to her everything she needs to do and to make her do it. Abby impressed the staff with her politeness in the midst of her suffering.
July 11 – First Day
When the morning came, Abby was feeling better. Still not able to hold anything down, but the pain and vomiting had subsided. We transitioned to a chair for an hour, and during that time, she blessed us with a song:
Following the song, she began to feel worse and the meds continued to give her a hard time. The morning progressed and as we rolled into the afternoon, Abby’s body was improving and they were able to move her out of the Cardiac ICU to the pod just next door. At this point, Abby was feeling pretty bad and running a fever. The pain meds were still giving her a hard time, and they were attempting to try and figure things out.
The staff allowed Brianna and CJ to come and visit…this helped bring a little smile to Abby’s face.
In the evening, Abby’s fever broke, and they were able to have a plan in place of medications that would work for her. Abby was able to eat a little chicken broth, and it looked like it was going to be an uneventful night. I went across the street to the Ronald McDonald house where we have a room. We were all planning on getting a good night sleep (Mihi slightly less as she would be sleeping in the chair next to Abby).
July 12 – Second Day
Really early in the morning around 1:00 am Abby had a large amount of phlegm in the back of her throat. The Respiratory Specialist that came to suction it out lacked a little bit of bedside manner. It wasn’t easy, but he placed a tube down her throat and cleared her airway. Sometimes the things we need most are painful…a lesson that we keep learning. Following this, both Abby and Mihi were able to sleep for the better part of the night.
Morning came with some good news…Abby was feeling better & the pain meds were holding well. Around 10:30 we got some oatmeal and enjoyed food for the first time since the Pancake house. Didn’t taste as good, but it was a great feeling and very filling.
Following that “full breakfast”, they decided it was time to pull the chest tube out. Watching them remove it left me without words. WOW. The motion reminded me of pull starting a lawn mower. The effect that had on Abby was even more impressive. It was as if they pull a string and started Abby – just like a lawn mower. She no longer had pockets of joyful moments between the long sedated day, she became full of life and energy throughout the day.
Then they removed the oxygen line that was assisting Abby as she breathed. No need for it. They kept disconnecting tubes and wires that they had/in Abby. She continued to progress, and then they decided to remove the IV line in her neck.
After disconnecting so many things, we went for a walk, she was able to play with her siblings and us in the playroom which brought big smiles on her face. About 36 hours prior, she was on the operating table, shortly after that, she couldn’t breathe on her own. Now, she is walking like a champ! We are sitting back enjoying the ride, and praising the Lord the whole way!!!
Reasons for praise
God has been sustaining and strengthening our family through this valley beyond our expectations.
God preserved Abby’s life and we can rejoice over her continually. We are amazed and grateful to God for such progress in her recovery.
The surgeon has been a man of compassion, he took his time every day he saw Abby interact with her without being in a rush.
The nurses have been outstanding.
We live in a world of developed medicine that continues to amaze us. We are grateful for having the opportunity to be treated in such good place by highly educated and experienced doctors.
The family’s support through this time. My mom and my sister have been serving us with every need that they could accommodate from taking care of the kids to taking care of Mihi’s special food needs.
A vast army of prayer warriors who stand before God with us, all around the world. And the overwhelming encouragement we have received via Facebook and email.
Opportunities for theological discussion with Abby, Brianna, and Cj.
Bonding as a family. One of the things Mihi highlighted to me was the trusting and counting on each other to be there. Abby did not let go of Mihi’s hand for three days. She told her that just holding her hand helps her deal with her pain. Mihi counted on me to entertain Abby with my charming personality when tubes needed to come out. (I even danced for her).