Sunday, June 27, 2010

Favorite corner

I absolutely love Colby's hometown Galeton, PA.  It is the cutest town I have ever seen.  There are church bells that echo off the mountains surrounding its quaint downtown and a river that runs through it.  I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting with his parents, teaching Darcy to ride her new bike, hiking through the woods with Haley and finding deer tracks, going out for ice cream, watching Colby fly-fish, swimming in Lyman Lake, sitting on the porch with a good book, talking to neighbors, taking walks around town while Colby tells me childhood stories, having dinner outside on the picnic table every night, and taking time to give the girls pedicures.  Even though the population of Galeton is less than 1200 and there is only one stop light in town, it has become one of my favorite corners of the world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chasin' the Dream...

"Do you know what I've been thinking about lately?" I asked Colby after he'd returned back to the states.  
"What...Fly-fishing in Potter County?"
I never got a chance to tell him what was on MY mind...he went on and on about his fly-fishing fantasies.  We arrived in Northern PA yesterday and today took the kids fly-fishing at a local fish farm.  Half-way through the afternoon, Darcy became an animal rights activist and refused to take part in the brutality.  I won't be surprised if she never eats fish again...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Dad

I really like this picture of my Dad because if you look closely, you can see the brown backpack that he’s wearing.    It may not strike anyone else, but it strikes me because that is the backpack that I used in middle school.  Never mind that he has been a  engineer at TRANE company for the past 35 years, has designed and patented products, and in his free time started a side business.  It’s not as though my Dad can’t afford to buy a new backpack; but he’s a man of principle and the principle in this case is: Why buy a new backpack when you already have one that works just fine?

My Dad recently flew out to visit me and took me grocery shopping.  When we went down the paper products aisle, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Do I dare ask for it?  What will he say?  Is it asking for too much?  Maybe I shouldn’t….

I decided to take the plunge and nonchalantly put zip-loc bags in the cart.  Not being able to slip anything past him, my Dad picked up the product, examined it, and looked for the price.  I knew what was coming next:  “Now, I don’t mind buying these for you as long as you’re careful not to waste them.”  I knew exactly what he meant…My Dad was raised in a frugal home and passed down to his kids this value.  Growing up, my mom dutifully packed a lunch for my Dad every week day.  And every week day, my Dad would come home at 5:30, kiss my mom and return his brown paper lunch bag and ziploc bags to her.  She would wash them out and dry them in preparation for the next day’s lunch.  I never knew differently of the world.  

My Dad is my biggest fan.  He was a good runner back in his day and encouraged/forced me to run track as well.  During one of my first track meets, an official warned him that if he ever ran along side of me during the 400 meter dash again, I would be disqualified.  He was introduced to the bleachers, but nevertheless I could hear him every step of my race.

Dad, since you check the blog multiple times a day (mostly to your disappointment,) I thought I would make your day by actually blogging and dedicating this post to you.  Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to give me the life I have now.  Thank you for loving me and teaching me to love God.  Thank you for being a supportive Dad and teaching me to savor and appreciate the little things…like a fresh brown paper bag and brand new Zip-loc bags. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Just for the record...

Darcy is four!
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Virginia Rain

In Iceland, kids go outside EVERY DAY for recess....It doesn't matter if it's hailing, snowing, raining, sleeting, or all of the above. I was asking Haley's teacher about this and expressed some of my concerns. Her response: "Well, if it's so windy that the kids can't stand up, then we let them come inside."

Wow... how thoughtful.

I'm not knocking the Icelandic way. Icelanders are the toughest people I've ever met, and toughening is something the Garman girls need a little bit of.   It was with great delight that I watched my kids run out in the rain and play during the first Virginia rain shower.  Thank you, Iceland....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Coming Home

The moment I stepped out of JFK airport, I was struck by how different it felt. The evening was soft, as if silk had been woven into the air.   The whole ride to Pennsylvania, I watched the sky change colors and the clouds dance in and out of its stage on the horizon.  It must have something to do with the angle of the sun and it’s position in the sky, but the sky in Iceland is just different.  Last summer I had really missed watching the sunset and the stars come out since there was over 22 hours of daylight.  On the drive further into the country I stared out the window thinking that the constellations were more beautiful than I remembered. 

The first morning that I woke up in America, the phone rang and it was Colby in Iceland.  “What do you think?” he asked.  As I started to answer, I stepped out onto the porch in my pajamas and felt the morning sun on my face.  “A-MER-ica! A-MER-ica!  God shed his grace on Thee!”  I sang in response.  “And crown Thy Good with—“
“Okay, okay, I get the picture, “ he cut me off , clearly embarrassed from the other side of the ocean as though the neighbors could see him too. 

I proceeded to tell him about the adventure of landing, meeting his parents at JFK, and driving through the mountains.  Throughout my first weeks home, I talked with Colby frequently and shared different observations I’d made about the land that I grew up in but have been removed from for some time:  

1.     1.  TREES.  My first day in the states I took a walk and was blown away by how many sounds were in the background.  Lots of birds, lots of buzzings, lots of life teeming in the branches.  In Iceland, no trees makes for pretty silent nature walks.

2.     2.  Grocery stores.  When I took the kids grocery shopping for the first time here, I was like a kid in a candy store.  “Haley, LOOK!  These shopping carts are HUGE!  Wow, I feel like I’m steering a boat!”  Walking down the cereal aisle was like a dream come true.  (Haley:  “Woah.  They have a cereal that is made of chocolate chip cookies?!”  Yes, Haley.  Welcome to the land of abundance.)  We got a few looks from people who I’m sure we’re trying to figure out why three English-speaking American girls were so excited about things like Honey Bunches of Oats and Oatmeal Squares.  I packed up the cart with as many gallons of milk as I wanted, an entire package of toilet paper, and 5 different types of cereal not worrying how I was going to get them home! After paying for our items, I pushed the cart out to our car and Haley looked over at me very concerned:  “Are you sure you’re allowed to do this?”  Since we’ve never had a car in Iceland, she’s not familiar with the practice of pushing the cart out to your car to load it.  I assured her that I was not stealing the cart and all was well.

3.    3.  Southern Hospitality.  I can't get over how much strangers talk to you here.  My first day in VA, I was called Darlin' by a man in the grocery store who let me steer around him in the aisle, and have had multiple conversations with people who have just started talking to me in line.  If you've ever been to Iceland, you understand why this feels so foreign.  Colby and I were checking out of a line at Old Navy and the check-out clerk asked me, "Do you want a bag for that, Hon?"  Colby nudged me as I stared right past her and asked if I was going to answer her.  "Oh, sorry...I didn't realize you were talking to me."  I responded.  "I haven't been called Hon by a check-out clerk for nearly two years."  

4.    4.   Church Culture.  Now, remember, the kids were pretty young the last time they were in America.  Our first Sunday going to church together was slightly embarrassing.  The other kids around us were so well behaved, clearly used to the drill.  My kids, on the other hand, were so....let's just say-- untrained. I was tempted to pinch them when they wouldn't stand up for the singing, but luckily was rational enough to think of the consequences before doing that.  The funniest part was when the song leader told everyone to greet the people around us.  After a few minutes of fellowship, we resumed to our pews and Haley looked up at me.  "WHAT was...THAT?"  She asked, genuinely bewildered.  "Mom, what just happened?"  Oh Haley, remind me to give you a lesson on church culture before next Sunday's service.
5.  The Lingua-Franca.  “Hello!”  the little girl said as she rode past on her bike.  My jaw dropped because it sounded so foreign to hear perfect English come from a little girl’s mouth.  “Haley…did you just HEAR THAT?!" I exclaimed, in an effort to draw attention to the comfort of her mother tongue. " That little girl spoke ENGLISH!”    Haley looked up at me, unimpressed.  "Mom…that’s what she’s SUPPOSED to speak."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cardiac Clarifications

Annie did a nice job explaining some of the possibilities that lie ahead for "3G". Since I tend to think in pictures I thought I would post a diagram of one of the procedural possibilities that may be used to help 3G's heart function. If you are praying for 3G, pray that everything related to the right side of her heart would grow. Amazingly, in the event that the right side does not reach an adequate size, it is possible to use the left ventricle to do all the pumping and re-route everything to ensure blood-flow to the lungs. In the pictures below, the first one is a normal heart. The second is a heart with a hypo-plastic (small/undeveloped) right ventricle. The pictures are numbered in connection with the notes below. It may not be necessary for 3G. Or it may not be exactly what is used if necessary, but it will give you a general idea.

  1. A single ventricle anomaly with a modified Blalock-Taussig shunt supplying pulmonary blood flow.
  2. Single normal-sized ventricle, the other ventricle is severely hypoplastic.
  3. Bidirectional Glenn Shunt: The superior vena cava has been connected to the right pulmonary artery.
  4. The Blalock-Taussig shunt is now divided.
  5. The Fontan operation: The inferior vena caval blood has been routed to the pulmonary artery, in this example using the extra-cardiac conduit technique.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Counting our blessings

We're very grateful...
1.  That the mid-wife in Iceland saw something wrong in the ultrasound.  Apparently this can go unnoticed in the ultrasound and obviously then be really upsetting to find out right after birth.
2.  That we both got out of Iceland before the ash came to Reykjavik.
3.  That we have a beautiful, FURNISHED house in a gorgeous area to stay in during this hard time.
4.  That UVA Children's Hospital is only 1.5 hours from our house here and that the staff there is so helpful.
5. That some guy named Fontan figured out how to connect the Superior and Inferior Venacavas to the Pulmonary Artery back in 1968 and therefore allow babies to live with a single left ventricle.
6.  That people have donated dimes and quarters over the years to the Ronald McDonald House and we have the option of staying there for the long recovery in NICU.
7.  That we have so many friends and family to support us during this time and help with Haley and Darcy.
8.  That we have good insurance.
9.  That our doctors are saying things like, "There are a lot of reasons to be positive about this" instead of "I'm sorry...there's nothing we can do."
10.  That whether it's worst case scenario or best case scenario, there is hope in Christ.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cardiology 101

After explaining in depth with a heart model the different parts of a healthy heart, a heart with defect, and a heart in utero,  our Dr. said that we were now more knowledgeable than 95% of the people in the building about the heart.  I'm going to do my best to regurgitate what I've learned (knowing full well that people with a medical background may read this and critique...).

Here are some basic terms and things that are helpful to know if you're tracking this situation:

Stenosis= blockage
Pulmonary=referring to the lungs
Stent=chicken wire like thing

The heart has 4 chambers:
*2 receiving chambers:  Left and Right Atrium (just like an Atrium in a church....don't you LOVE pneumonic devices??)
*2 pumping chambers:  Left and Right Ventricle

Our baby's pulmonary valve is blocked, therefore the right ventricle (and tricuspid valve) are not growing properly.  She has been diagnosed with Critical Pulmonary Stenosis, but it looks like it is turning into Atresia.  Without getting too technical, there are surgeries that can be done to correct this.  We won't know which route we need to take until after the baby is born.  The big question that needs to be answered after she comes out is:  HOW ADEQUATE IN SIZE IS THE RIGHT VENTRICLE (and tricuspid valve)?
1.  If it IS adequate enough...can this just be corrected with a catheterization?
2.  If it's borderline...can we try to stimulate growth in this ventricle (Flow=Grow, so they would try to stimulate flow in order to grow it)?
3.  If it is NOT adequate in size... ?

We won't know until she comes out, but it looks like the right ventricle may be be too small and will not be able to do its job.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that it's possible to live without the right ventricle (It's called Hypo-plastic Right Heart Syndrome).  She would need 3 open heart surgeries over the next 3 years to re-route the blood in her heart and function properly.  The doctors are very positive about her living a normal, functioning life with the exception of playing competitive sports at the high school level.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Q:  Will you have to be induced?
A:  No;  they want her to bake for as long as possible.  The delivery should be normal as well (no C-section).

Q:  Where will you deliver?
A:  The plan is to deliver at UVA Children's Hospital because that's where the surgery will be done.  We're working on a way to stay in Charlottesville 2 weeks prior to my due date in an effort to prevent a dramatic 1.5 hour drive to the hospital when my water breaks.

Q:  How long is the recovery?
A:  If she has open heart surgery, it will be a good month in the NICU.  This is the route it's looking like it will go.

Q:  When will you return to Iceland?
A:  That all depends on the size of the right ventricle.

Feel free to post any questions.  We don't have a lot of answers apart from what I wrote here, but we'll give it our best shot.

Prayer Requests:
*For the right ventricle to grow (This would mean no open heart surgery)
*For me to handle the emotional rollercoaster of having imbalanced hormones and an extended stay in the NICU (BAD combo).
*For God to give our whole family strength to handle the extra stress this situation will bring.