Well, in the past month and a half, God has truly, truly been our source of comfort. Knowing that he's in control and that Alicia's life is in his hands that brings us comfort. Knowing that God is good and God is love. That brings us comfort. But as the Bible says, comfort is not just for ourselves, he comforts us so that we can be his hands and feet and comfort others.
The other night during our evening visit with Alicia, I noticed a new father in our little section of the NICU. I had noticed that his daughter had moved in the day before, but this was my first time seeing the dad. Sometimes while I'm in the NICU, I like to look around and observe the other families. Well, as I lifted my head and looked over at this new dad, I noticed his head was bowed, his hands were folded, his eyes were closed - he was praying.
Later, after saying goodbye to Alicia, we left the NICU. As we turned the corner to go to the elevator, I saw this new dad sitting by himself in a corner, eyes all red, tears streaming down his face, broken. It reminded me a lot of the first few times that I visited Alicia in the NICU. We asked the dad if we could pray for him, and he said sure. So I sat down next to him, placed my hand on his shoulder and in my broken Chinese, began to pray. After the prayer, we sat and talked with the dad for a bit and asked him about his daughter. She was born at 38 weeks, so unlike most of the other kids in the NICU she wasn't a preemie. She was in there because she had a problem with her intestines and needed surgery. As I was sitting there talking to the man, I realized, it's never easy seeing your kid in intensive care. OK, it's never easy seeing any loved ones in intensive care. So what if he doesn't need to face the same problems and questions that we have to face. He's got his own set of problems. And honestly, any time in the NICU is really hard to take when your kid's life is in the balance.
Added to his stress was that his wife had lost a lot of blood during the delivery, so she was laid up in bed for a few days. We talked with him some more and just encouraged him. And God allowed us to use our story to give him hope. We told him about Alicia. And he asked how old she was when she came out, we said, 25 weeks. And he asked, how much did she weigh? Was she about 1000 grams? Linda and I looked at each other and smiled. "No," we told him, "She was only 654 grams." You should have seen the shock on his face. We told him that we understood his pain and his anxiety. It's hard to see your child connected to wires, and to hear the news that they need surgery, it's hard to take. But we assured him that the doctors at our hospital were seasoned and would take good care of his daughter. We also told him that if our daughter could survive, then there was definitely lots of hope for his little girl as well. His spirits seemed to lift somewhat after our conversation. Praise God. He asked us what church we went to, and we told him that we went to a church in Taipei. He said that he hadn't been to church in a long time. He's been wanting to take his wife, but his wife hasn't been interested. I turned to him and said, "Well, when your wife doesn't want to listen to you, talk to God and ask him to speak to her. It works." =) Linda agreed, and said that often as I'm asking God to talk to her, she's doing the same with him about me.
After telling him that we would continue to pray for him and his family and that we would ask our friends to do the same, we said our goodbyes and told him that we would see him in the morning.
I have no doubt that his daughter is going to be fine. We did see him the next morning and his daughter made it through the surgery well. She's still in the NICU recovering, but I have no doubt that soon enough she'll be moved "upstairs" and on her way home.
God really gave my spirit a boost through this experience. I mean it's been something I've known from the beginning, that God is allowing us to go through this experience so we can be a comfort and blessing to others. Granted, we would have been perfectly happy not to have to be a comfort and blessing to others in this area, we understand God's plans are higher than ours.
So for those of you who pray, please pray for Mr. Lu, his wife and his daughter. This is their second child, I believe, so they've got another child at home that he's got to take care of as well. Not easy. But I believe God will bring them through. Pray that God would also use this chance to woo them back to himself.
Linda and I are doing well. We are seeing more and more of the light at the end of the tunnel. Alicia is doing better and better. We definitely are nowhere near the end of the journey whatsoever, but the hope is brighter and brighter that we'll be able to take our daughter home.
Alicia has gained a good amount of weight over the past week. She dropped two grams yesterday, but that's fine. The nurses say that sometimes one poopie diaper can mean the difference of 20 grams. So, no biggie. We're sure she'll gain it back in no time. She truly is adorable and continues to delight us with her funny expressions and movements.
The physical therapist (PT) came and took a look at her yesterday and said that everything looks pretty good. She's got good muscle tone and good control over her limbs. One of her shoulders and hips are a bit weaker but at this point they're not too concerned. The PT thinks it could be from the way that she's been lying. She hasn't has as much opportunity to exercise that part of her body. He recommended that the nurses change up her position more often. There is a potential that the weakness is a result of the brain damage, but it's not conclusive. They'll need to do followup with her as she gets older in order to make any clear assessment. It looks like we'll need to visit the doctors every few months or so during Alicia's first few years. With preemies, the earlier they catch developmental problems the better. There are exercises and things we can do to help her develop stronger muscles. So you could pray for that too. Pray for her muscle development to continue to get stronger and stronger. And any damage of the brain to be healed and restored.
Her breathing is getting better and better. I believe, but I'll need to confirm, that at this point other than when she's eating she does well with the vent set at 21% oxygen. Regular room air is 21% oxygen, so if she can continue to get enough oxygen from this vent setting, then she can come off the ventilator soon. The main problem right now comes when she eats and when she has mucus. When she eats, her oxygen levels are still unsteady, but as I said previously, even in her unsteadiness she's able to recover with less and less help and lower and lower settings. She's getting better at taking in the air herself. When she does breathe, she can get enough oxygen on her own. The problem comes that for some reason she forgets to breathe when she's eating. Maybe too much going on at once, or she gets to comfortable and just sleeps too deeply. She also continues to collect a lot of mucus, but again that's normal for kids her age. They don't know how to clear it out themselves, so we just pray once again for things to develop quickly, so she can breathe better on her own.
Doctors are pretty optimistic about Alicia's outlook. Even the doom and gloom doctors say that she's doing pretty well. Oh, I forgot to mention that when the PT was examining Alicia, her oxygen levels and heart rate held steady, which is a great thing. Preemies don't like too much stimulation, so when they're moved around too much, they can stop breathing or their heartrates will drop or go really high. But hers held steady which the PT was actually pleasantly surprised about, so praise God! =)
Onward! I've been hearing from many people that you read this blog faithfully. That's a huge encouragement. I'm glad that we can stay connected with friends and family this way. Please don't hesitate to write us e-mails or call us. We would love to hear from you.
Prayer request summary:
1. Muscle development. That she would be strong, well coordinated, and able to control her body well.
2. Brain development. Brain damage would be eliminated and healed. Brain would mature and start controlling the bodily functions that need to be controlled.
3. Lung development. Clear out the mucus. And also be able to get efficient at taking in air.
4. Physical development. Pray that she can eat, and take in the calories and get physically bigger and stronger.
5. Emotional/Mental development. Pray against trauma from this time in the NICU and that she would grow up confident and strong. Pray that she would be smart and intelligent.
6. Sensory development. Pray that her senses would develop well. Our bodies are truly complex and many things need to work together well for us to function in this world. Pray that everything would be sharp and clear. And pray against overstimulation. She doesn't like that. =)