Motherhood & Parenting

Paul’s Surgery is Done

For those of you who are following Paul’s plight, here’s an update.

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On Monday we began the long trek back to Rochester for a second surgery, which lasted about 3 hours.  His doctor reopened his incisions from 7 years ago and made a thorough examination of his old shunt system, beginning with the shunt itself, down to the valve behind his ear, and finally snaking all the way down his neck into his stomach cavity.

The doctor was hoping that he’d discover that it was malfunctioning, which would be an easy explanation for the incredibly high levels of pressure in Paul’s brain during his migraines.  But he did not.  The old shunt was functioning.  Nevertheless, he replaced it with all newer equipment, in hopes that even though the old equipment was functioning, perhaps it wasn’t functioning optimally.

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Here’s a closer shot of two of his incisions.  There’s a third on his stomach, where the tubing ends.

And how was Paul during this four day trial?  Physically he was as well as could be expected, but emotionally and psychologically, he was down.  Very down.  As a mother, this was the hardest thing to watch.  He didn’t want to be in a hospital anymore.  He didn’t want to have wires and tubes sticking out of him.  He didn’t want to wear a hospital gown.  But he didn’t cry about it; he just looked terribly sad.

So we prayed through it.  This time he chose to offer his sufferings for our family.  We prayed rosaries.  We prayed morning and night prayer.  But really, I think he was just exhausted, as we all were.

Finally the day after his surgery in the afternoon, he picked up a little, as the beautiful water fountain out of his window was turned on that day, and he could watch it from his window.

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When he could move around, he sat up in the window and watched the courtyard fill with people enjoying the fountain and warm weather.

My mom and I also walked him down the hall to a pottery class for the children on his floor.  He didn’t want to walk out there in his hospital gown, dragging an IV cart along, but he did.

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Here he is, painting a mug.  The local company that sponsored this activity will fire it and mail it to him.

We also found other things to distract him with.  We watched the Twins play baseball.  (Paul’s a big fan of Rosario, and it was neat to see him hit a few home runs.)  My mom bought a lego set, which he put together, took apart, put together…  We read a few light books, you know, like Frog and Toad.

In the end, it is our hope that this new shunt will somehow alleviate his migraines, and they will disappear.  High levels of pressure in one’s brain is a very serious thing.  Children with hydrocephalus die or go into a coma with the same levels that Paul was experiencing–levels into the 40s and 50s.  But because his levels are cyclic, however, he manages to be ok, and has not had any damage to his brain, yet.

Paul’s doctor has said that if this shunt doesn’t work, then we’ll have to think about another surgery wherein he’ll take apart his cranium and reassemble it with a plastic surgeon to allow for more space, in an attempt to alleviate those pressure levels.

Lastly, a Thank You

Truly, my husband and I are very thankful for the great help of the staff, doctors, and nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.  They’ve all been so helpful and kind.

We’re also greatly indebted to our parents who have done so many things for us over these last four weeks–watching children, cooking meals, paying for hotels and gas and food, allowing us to use their reliable car, and indeed accompanying us on these many trips.  How could we do it without you?  We couldn’t.  May God bless you for your generosity and love.  We love you all so much.

Lastly, we want to thank everyone who has prayed with us during this difficult trial.  As prayers and sacrifices are hidden things, and we may never know about them, we pray that God, who is a great Father, will reward you all abundantly.

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Here he is on the way home.  The doctors gave him some gear to show his siblings.  He’s also sporting his new Twins Rosario t-shirt.  Thank you, Mom!
Motherhood & Parenting

Birth Stories Are Never Boring: Twins!

And we’re back to my Birth Story Series.

For those of you who are new to this series, click HERE for Baby #1 and HERE for Baby #7.  (Yes, I know, these are a little out of order.)  Today, I’m writing about Baby #2 and Baby #3, for you see, we unexpectedly had twins, nine years ago.  So here we go.

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Here are the twins with Big Sister.  A year or so later in 2009

Pregnant with Twins

This was a wild ride.  We were so excited to be pregnant again, because we wanted a big family.  Our little girl was just one year old, and she would get a new brother or sister before she turned 2!

But this pregnancy was different from my first “dream” pregnancy.  I was growing wider and wider faster than the time it takes to blow up a big balloon.  Everyone would smugly look at me and say, “Well, this is your second baby.  Of course you’ll be a lot bigger.”  I knew that, but would insist that, “No, this pregnancy really feels differently.  I think I’m having twins.”  At this point, most people smiled and laughed at me.  But if I said it once, I said it 50 times.  “I think I’m having twins!”

And I was right.  A week before my scheduled 20-week ultrasound, I began having severe lower abdominal pains, and so I was ushered to the ultrasound room to see if anything was wrong.  The technician squeezed that cold gel on and maneuvered her magic wand, as my husband and I gazed at the screen.  Hmmm, I thought, there seems to be a lot of arms and legs in there.

Sure enough, twins!  We both laughed and laughed, and I felt vindicated.  So we celebrated and ate at Taco Johns.

This was also about the time that I began having contractions too, which landed me right in Bed Rest.  This was not fun.  Thankfully some very kind friends helped watch my daughter, and we also received quite a few meals.  But in the meantime, I reread the Lord of the Rings series and listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio for entertainment.  (If you haven’t read the Lord of the Rings, you should.  It’s so good.  And as for listening to Rush Limbaugh, I can only say that I was desperate.  We didn’t have Catholic radio at the time.)

Towards the end of my pregnancy, however, my body had had enough.  I began to retain fluid and my blood pressure skyrocketed.  I was preeclamptic and made to come back to the hospital the next day at 5am for an induction.

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Lots of swelling going on here.  This was taken the night before delivery.  It hurt just to stand. Flattering, no?

Labor & Delivery

We were excited, nervous, relieved–all of it.  What was this going to be like?  There was only one thing I knew.  It would be drastically different than my first labor and delivery.  First of all, I had to be in the operating room, in case of an emergency cesarean section. And secondly, I was given pitocin to start the contractions and an epidural to block any pain.  It was wonderful to not feel all that pain!  (With my first, I did not have pitocin or an epidural, and it was dreadfully painful.)

As I said, I went in at about 5am and by 10am was ready to push.  It all happened so quickly.  Boy # 1 was born easily, but whisked out of the room so fast that I didn’t even hear him cry.  I was worried, but was not able to ask about him because immediately after he came out, multiple nurses were sharply told by the doctor, “Hold that baby in place!  We don’t want him to flip!”  The doctor wanted Boy #2 to stay in his head-down position to avoid a c-section, so the nurses firmly held him by pushing down on my lower abdomen.

He did stay in place and was born just minutes later.  And I heard him cry, which was a relief.  He was alive and healthy!  And so was the first one, I would soon find out.

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Here they are.  A day old.  They shared a bassinet in the hospital and afterwards.  I didn’t have the heart to separate them.

I asked my husband what he remembered about all this, and he said, “I sliced through the doctor’s glove while cutting the first umbilical cord.  He wasn’t very happy with me.”

In the end, it was all so very beautiful – a great gift from God.  Even though I had to take some kind of terrible magnesium drug for the eclampsia afterwards, I was only so grateful to have three children!

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