Friday, September 30, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
My night was spent shopping for some last minute items for Alicia's nursery, towels, a changing pad, a mosquito net, a nail clipper, random things for my princess. =) Things are coming together nicely in the house. We're truly preparing for the grand homecoming of Princess Alicia and Queen Linda.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
That's right, friends. Alicia, she's a coming home!!! =)
We finally, finally have a date for Alicia's discharge. If all goes smoothly and as planned, Alicia will be out of the hospital on next Friday, September 30 - the day after she turns 4 months old.
It is actually a bit hard to believe that we're finally at this point! For four months, we've patiently waited and endured, hoping and ancitipating this day's arrival. And it's finally here! Of course, this means that we're about to transition into a whole new phase of life, and a whole other journey. Am I excited? You better believe it! But in some odd way, it's like I've been waiting and pushing for this news for so long, it feels more like, it's about time! =)
It's like the many long road trips I've been on in my life - 5 hours, 10 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours. You leave and you drive, and you drive. After hours of nothing but highway, finally you take an exit, and you know your destination is approaching. Then, especially if you're returning to a place you know well, you start to recognize familiar surroundings and your spirit starts to breathe a sigh of relief, we're almost there. Then you finally arrive and it's like all the stuff you've endured for the past several hours - the uncomfortable seats, the lack of facilities, the cramped spaces, the broken AC, etc... - all of it just fades into a distant memory.
We're circling around the block friends! Soon we'll be pulling up to our driveway and starting our new life as a family of three. So exciting, but definitely daunting. It's not someone else's kid we're messing around with anymore. =)
The past few days have been all about preparations. Linda's been spending most of her mornings at the SBR now learning how to care for Alicia. This weekend when I go down, I'll be getting my own training. We'll need to learn basic things like how to change her diaper, how to bathe her, when to give her medicine, how to feed her, how to tell if she's breathing, etc... =) OK, maybe that last one isn't so basic. =) haha. But you get the idea.
The funny thing is that there's been a shift in the way the medical staff talk about Alicia's condition. In the beginning, if you'll remember, it was all about, she's unstable. We need to keep her here. Don't move her. She needs help. Now it's like, she needs to go home. Even if she isn't 2200 grams yet. She needs to go home. It's similar to how many expectant moms at about 37 or 38 weeks switch over from, please stay in, please stay in, to let's get this thing out of me!
Some of you, like we did, might have some concerns about whether or not this is too rushed or too soon. But Alicia's primary doctor has said that Alicia is old enough, big enough and stable enough to do well on her own without a lot of medical care. And also lately there is a virus going around. So she feels that in the long run it will actually be better for us to take Alicia home so she doesn't catch something from the other kids.
In fact, they're most likely going to keep Alicia in her incubator until discharge as a precautionary measure. =)
So the next week will be all about preparations and getting ourselves and our house ready for Alicia's grand homecoming. Lots and lots to prepare, but it'll get done.
I really can't believe we're here. Like I said, we've been on this journey for almost 4 months now. It's kind of crazy to wrap my head around the idea of having her home with us. Seriously? Are we really, really at this point? Can we really have her for our own? It's almost too good to be true.
God is amazing, isn't he? This journey has been insane. I'm a bit overwhelmed at God giving us the opportunity to care for such a precious, precious life. This girl has an powerful destiny here on this Earth, and to be entrusted with raising her is an incredible privilege.
Of course we have our trepidations. Can we really take care of this baby all on our own? I mean, we've never done this 24 hour thing before with any baby, let alone one that was born under such special circumstances. But in the end I'm reminded, God isn't going to bring Alicia this far just to let things fall apart when we take her home. She is going to thrive, and we are going to thrive as a family.
And also, we've got you guys, our cloud of witnesses, our faithful friends, family and prayer warriors. God has used your corporate prayers, love and encouragement to sustain us over this journey. We'd appreciate the continued prayers as we transition into life with our precious daughter.
I look forward to introducing her to many of you very, very soon!
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Funny thing is, once she gets used to it, it's going to be second nature. And it's not like we were withholding the good thing from her, we were actually trying to help her to get it in a better way.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Another 300 grams and she'll be qualified to be discharged. Go, Alica, you can do it! Of course, discharge is also contingent on a few other issues as well. First, we've got to get her out of the incubator. She's actually technically big enough to shed this plastic shell that's been protecting her for three months. At our hospital once a kid is 1800 grams and steady, then they usually take them out of the box. But, lately there's been a lot of sick babies in the Sick Baby Room (well, duh), but what I mean is that there are a lot of infections flying around, so for her protection doctors have decided it best to keep her in the incubator for a bit longer.
Once she's out of the incubator, Linda and I will start getting some training on how to take care of her once she's at home. Things like bathing, feeding, CPR, etc... Also, Alicia it's ideal if she can eat on her own. Lately, she hasn't been able to take much in by mouth. Probably once again due to the fact that she's adjusting to her new environment.
Step by step we go. Part of me doesn't want to rush her out of the incubator, because once she's out, she'll have to start wearing clothes. And once they put her in clothes, we won't be able to do Kangaroo Care at the hospital anymore. On the flip side, if she never gets out of the incubator, we won't be able to start doing the training and she'll never come home. Also, once she's out, we can hold her whenever we go to visit, and it'll no longer just be two hands through the portholes.
The good news is that Alicia is toward the front of the SBR where they keep the more healthy and steady babies. When we were in the NICU, we were towards the back, that's where they keep the most special needs kids. We were told today that our section of the SBR is considered, "heaven" by the nurses, and the back? Well, that's "hell." I thought it was an interesting choice of words, but basically gives an idea of the struggles some of the other kids might be going through.
Guess it makes sense, you don't want parents and visitors of healthy babies needing to walk through and see all the struggling kids in order to get to their children.
So on the one hand, my heart is at ease knowing that our little Alicia is doing well. =) She really is beautiful friends. I can't wait for you to meet her. On the other hand, my heart aches and wonders at what the other parents are going through with their children.
The nurses really are kept busy in the SBR. The other day I wrote that there were 50 beds in the SBR, actually I think it's closer to 60 beds. And each nurse is in charge of 6 children. Our day nurse today really had her hands full after we finished our Kangaroo Care. No sooner had she put Alicia back into her incubator, when one after the other, the babies started crying for their milk, it was crazy. =)
Definitely understand why this is a "step-down" unit. There was no way that Alicia could have gotten the care that she needed a few weeks ago, in this place. For the most part, kids here are OK, and just awaiting discharge.
We're getting close friends. Babies are going home all around us. Soon, it will be our turn. But before we go, I found out today that we'll have to take a test to make sure that we're fit caretakers of Alicia. =) If only, every parent had to do that before they got to take their kid home. =) haha.
So in my last post I mentioned that Alicia hadn't pooped in almost 3 days. Nurses and doctors suspected that she was adjusting to the move and her new surroundings. It's kind of funny how that would affect one's bowel movements, but I guess kids are strange like that.
Well, yesterday morning, we went and she still hadn't pooped, and it was the beginning of day 3 of constipation, which Linda and I were a little concerned about because she used to go like 3 or 4 times a day. But when we spoke to the nurse she didn't seem too concerned. Alicia wasn't bloated or spitting up, so she said that meant that she was digesting well. And said that they'd observe her for the rest of the day, if she still hadn't pooped by the end of the day they would look into doing something.
Well, that night we went back to the SBR and there was good news. She pooped! And according to the night nurse, it was a doozy. It was the day nurse who actually received Alicia's wonderful gift, and well, apparantly it was quite massive and stinky. Makes sense, it's been building up for 2 1/2 days. =)
So that's the whole cleaning out the bowels part.
What about cleaning out our bank account. Well, before I go into the story, I must write a disclaimer, this in no way shape or form is me writing to ask for money. Many, many of you have already blessed us with gifts that will more than cover our costs. I'm only sharing the story because I think it's amusing, and also I am AMAZED once again at God's provision and planning.
So I decided to let Linda do Kangaroo Care yesterday, since I had done it the two days before. While Linda was doing Kangaroo Care, out of curiosity, I decided to go and check how much our hospital bill was up to that point. So I headed downstairs to the registration counter and waited my turn. When I got to the counter, I handed the clerk Alicia's insurance card and asked her to check how much our bill was.
A few clicks later, she looked up and said, "Your bill so far is $57,437NT." I was like, "OK. But how much is our self-pay portion." She looked at me and said, "That is your self-pay portion." You can imagine my shock. Last time I checked a couple of months ago, our self-pay portion was only $1000NT or $2000NT. So I asked her to print out an itemized bill.
Well, there it was in black and white, "$57,437 self pay." I was shocked, that is until I looked over at our total bill. Try and guess how much it is. Just try. I don't think I've ever seen this many numbers on a bill before.
Our total, as of yesterday, was $1,671,288. Yes, you read that right. Over one MILLION dollars. Granted that's Taiwanese Dollars, but still! Keep in mind that we're not out of the hospital yet. So that number is just going to go up. It kind of puts the $57,437 in perspective, eh? Now you understand the whole, "Clearing Out Our Bank Account" part of the title? ;)
I have to say though, one really has to really appreciate, at least I do, the Taiwanese Health Care system. I mean, Alicia's been in the hospital for over three months, and we are paying less than 4% of the entire hospital bill. Seriously!
Her incubator, NICU/SBR stay, her checkups, her surgeries, all covered by insurance. Thank you, Lord! I can only imagine what it would cost us to go through this in the States.
So what exactly is the $50,000? There was some self-pay medication, some supplies like diapers, etc..., and some other minor things. I still need to check with the doctors about which medications they gave to Alicia and why they were so expensive, but still overall, I'm just grateful.
God is truly amazing. Can we all agree on that? I mean, I can't get over it.
We'll see how much our total bill is in the end, but you know what? I'm not worried. Our God is Jehovah-Jireh, the great provider! He has more than supplied our needs in the past and will continue to do so for the rest of eternity.
One verse that he's been reminding Linda and I of over and over again is Matthew 7:11.
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
We cling to that promise, and I hope that you will too. God is a good God. He's a good Father. He loves us more than we could ever imagine or comprehend. Are you living in that truth today?
Sunday, September 11, 2011
For all the things that we've had to go through with Alicia, we've had it easy compared to some of the other parents. While our journey hasn't been a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination, it could definitely have been a lot worse.
Last night before our visit with Alicia, Linda and I were eating dinner in the lobby of the hotel when we ran into our old friend Kai-Ge's mom. This is one strong woman, I tell you. She's a few years younger than Linda, and she's already got a 5-year-old daughter at home as well as Kai-Ge. Kai-Ge is still in the NICU due to some complications with excess water in his brain.
I remember what it was like to arrive weeks before other children, and to see them graduate one by one. Kai-Ge arrived several months before us in the NICU, and he's still there. It has to get discouraging in some ways, but Kai-Ge's mom is still hanging in there. I can tell that it's hard for her, but she's pressing on.
After our conversation with our friend, Linda and I chatted and we both agreed that we had a lot to be thankful for. There are a whole slew of medical issues that God in his grace preserved us from.
This fact was further emphasized when we entered the SBR for visiting hours. As I was walking to Alicia's bed, one of the babies caught my eye. This child's head was about the size of an adult's, maybe even larger, but still had the body of an infant. When we got to Alicia's bed, I asked Linda if she had noticed the baby next door. "The one with the big head?" she asked me. I nodded. She said she saw him a few days ago. He's got the same problem as Kai-Ge, except his condition has progressed further.
My initial thoughts were wonder at just how far our heads can stretch. But then again thankfulness for God's grace over our precious daughter. Followed by a need to pray for God's peace and grace to rest with this family. I can only imagine what his family must be going through.
Alicia is now officially one day old, adjusted age. Her due date was yesterday, September 10. She is now really very much like any other newborn, just a bit smaller. =) She's improving daily, and we're so thankful.
Now the goal is to just get her nice and plump so that she can be strong enough and healthy enough to come home. Kind of reminds me of all those fairy tales where the witch feeds the children to plump them up. The difference is we're not planning on eating her later. (Gross.) =)
So, we're getting there friends.
Pray for her lungs. She's doing much better in terms of the phlegm. She's not as congested as before, but she's still got some lingering lung disease. Pray for complete healing of that area.
Also, pray that she can gain strength to eat on her own. For some reason, since she's moved up to the SBR she hasn't been able to eat as much on her own. Also, she hasn't pooped in the past 3 days. I think a lot of this has to do with her adjusting to her new environment. The nurses don't seem too concerned, so that's good. Pray that Alicia's bodily functions and eating will regulate soon.
She's still got a good appetite and is eating and digesting well. She's just not eating a lot on her own. But that's OK. She'll grow into it.
Onwards and upwards we go friends.
Friday, September 9, 2011
For the past few months, I've kept referring to our new home as "the step-down unit" because I really had no idea what this place was called. All I knew was that it was the place that babies went once they graduated from the NICU. Well, I finally decided to do some research and I found out that in our hospital this unit in Chinese is 新生兒中重度病房 (xin sheng er zhong zhong du bing fang), roughly translated it's the Newborn Medium Care Facility or SBR in English.
Now after being in the in the NICU for several months, I've gotten used to the abbreviations being the simplified forms of more complicated terms like, "Neonatal Intensive Care Unit." So naturally, when Linda told me that Alicia is now in the SBR, I thought that the letters probably stood for some complicated Latin terms. Come to find out that not everything in the hospital requires one to carry around a dictionary to understand. SBR simply stands for "Sick Baby Room." Imagine that. Guess whoever was naming the rooms ran out of steam when they got to naming this one. Haha.
So the SBR, well, it's nice in that it gives Linda and I a sense of progress. Alicia is getting better and one step closer to coming home. However, as I said earlier, it takes getting used to.
First off, the place is huge! Where there were maybe about 30 beds in the NICU, there are close to 50 beds in the SBR. Also before in the NICU, the nurse to baby ratio was 1 to 2 or 1 to 3, now it's 1 to 6. So all the personal attention we were used to getting is now more scarce. Both Linda and I noticed that while the nurses in the SBR are very professional and all do a great job, they simply do not have the time to shoot the breeze with you even if it is about your child. Practically, it's just not possible. They've got five other families to attend to. If they stand there and talk to each one for ten minutes, it'll take them an hour just to make their rounds. So pretty much, it's "give the stats and move on." Of course, if we ask questions the nurses are patient to answer them. But if you don't catch them right away, they're off to the next family.
Don't get me wrong, the nurses are still really sweet and caring. They simply have more people to attend to.
But it's all right. We'll keep working on them. =) I'll work my charm and see if we can't get them to warm up a bit. Haha.
Alicia's doing really well. She's 1830 grams today, that's just over 4 pounds. And still breathing really well on her own.
Today when I got to her incubator, she looked different to me. I went down my mental checklist. Does she look longer? No. Chubbier? No. Skinner? No. More defined? No. What is it? Then I realized. It was the cannula. It was gone. She no longer had anything attached to her face or up her nose. It was just her. Well, almost. She's still got the feeding tube down her throat. But I'm sure that'll be out before we know it.
Alicia is truly throwing off all the shackles that held her bound yet sustained her during the early days of her life. Soon, and very soon, I believe she will be completely free. No more wires, no more monitors, no more blindfolds, no more incubator. Just her.
One of the other things I had to adjust to in the SBR was the close quarters. When we were in the NICU, our closest neighbor was maybe three feet from us. Here. They are literally right next to us. I used to have to crane my neck to see the other kids. Now, I look down and whoop there he or she is. Part of me is like, dude, why you all up in our grill. Then I realize, that I'm talking to a newborn, and he probably wouldn't know what it meant to be all up in someone's grill even if he were old enough to talk and understand me. So, I just let it go. =)
Alicia hasn't been eating as well since she's been in the SBR. She used to be able to finish all of her milk on her own. But now she's only drinking 8cc of her 33cc on her own. Don't know what that means, but the nurses don't seem terribly concerned. Slowly, they say, she'll work her way up.
One other odd thing is that downstairs in the NICU she was pooping 6-8 times a day, today, as of visiting hours, she still hadn't pooped yet. Can one of you medical professionals out there explain to me what this means? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Or is it nothing of concern? I think it's only been one day since she last pooped. The nurse said that they're usually not too concerned until it's been three days between bowel movements. Hmm... we'll have to follow up on that I think.
Alicia's little playmates are all coming out one by one now. A few months ago I mentioned Benjamin and Scarlett. Just yesterday, two of my closest friends from high school just gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Abygale. Congrats Steve and Christina. Can't wait to meet her.
On a side note, tomorrow is Alicia's original due date. Can't believe how far we've come. Praise the Lord for his presence, his mercy, his grace and his sustainence.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Of course, if you're going to pray for her to come home, can I also ask that you pray that God would prepare Linda and I, mind, body, soul and spirit to receive our little bundle of joy into our lives?
Our greatest desire is to raise a Godly, loving, healthy princess who honors God and all people she comes in contact with. That's not too hard right? In God all things are possible.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
This morning, when I called to get the daily stats, the nurse was sweet. She was practically giddy when she told me that they took her out in the middle of night and cuddled Alicia as they fed her. She gushed over how cute Alicia is and how they all enjoy holding and cradling her. I'm sure Alicia is eating it up. =)
Monday, September 5, 2011
It's been a long week. I left Linda and Alicia Monday morning to go back to work and didn't get back to them until Saturday night. These six days were the longest that I've experienced in a long time. And when I finally was able to get back to be with Linda and Alicia, I literally broke down. I haven't cried at Alicia's incubator since she was first born. And while six days doesn't seem that long to some people, to me it was interminable, and when I finally was able to get back with my family, and hold Alicia, I just started sobbing. And as I did, I felt the weight and stress of the past week melt off my shoulders and disappear. I was "home".
You know, I never really understood the idea how "home is where the heart is" until just now. Even though during the week I live in our house, the "home" that Linda and I have lived in for over a year now, it's not really home. I leave our house, and I'm with my wife and my daughter in the sterile NICU, and somehow, that's "home." I feel rested, and my soul stops striving. The only thing that matters is the three of us being together. Everything else is peripheral.
I saw a commercial on TV last night for one of our local telecom companies. It was an ad for long-distance phone service. The ad showed a mom calling her husband overseas, and while they're on the phone the husband hears the squeak squeak of his daughter's shoes as she walked. He asks his wife what the sound is, and she explains that it's their daughter. She can walk now! I don't know how you interpret that, but to me it means that he probably hasn't seen his daughter in awhile.
Every time I see this commercial, my heart aches a bit. I mean for this to be an ad concept, it must be a something that people can identify with, right. So this tells me that there must be a large majority of families in Taiwan where the father lives separately from his family. And I can't help but think, how do they do it? I mean I can understand the desire to make money and provide for the family, and sometimes the opportunities are just not where your family is. But still, I think I would go crazy. I mean I've had people tell me that I need to be brave, and that many, many families live separate lives. And I guess eventually if I absolutely had to live under this arrangement, I would maybe grow numb to the dull ache of longing for my family. But is that a good thing? I'm not making any judgments here, I just really don't think that's not something that I would want for myself or our family. I mean I barely lasted six days. And if I'm to be honest, I really firmly believe that many of our societies struggles and problems these days is the absence of the parents in the household. We're so busy working and making money that we're not home for our kids. And there's a whole generation of people who have grown up and are growing up without parents. And that can't be good, can it? But that's a whole other issue and maybe I'm just being too sensitive.
Our little Alicia continues to grow and get bigger and stronger each and every day. Her ventilator has finally been removed! Yahoo! I love how things are slowly being cleared off of and away from her. She started her life with IVs and wires and tubes stuck in and to her. Various body parts were connected to machines that monitored her vitals and alerted nurses and doctors when things were wrong. But now as she gets older and more stable, these wires and machines are slowly being removed one by one. First, it was the IVs, then the endotracheal tube, then the blood oxygen monitor, and now the ventilator. Hmm. Just realizing that it's kind of a metaphor of our spiritual walks as we continue to grow stronger in our faith and our relationship with God. As we get stronger and healthier, more and more of the shackles and trappings that held us down get removed and we gain more and more freedom. I look forward to the day when Alicia can shed the incubator, and get rid of the last of her wires and tubes so that I can hold her and squeeze her without worrying that something might get caught or wedged, or that I'm pulling on something that might make her uncomfortable.
Yesterday, Alicia got up to 1665 grams (3.65 grams) and gained another 32 grams to 1697 grams (3.74 lbs) today. And she's eating up to 30cc per feeding now, most of the time on her own! It's truly been amazing to witness the miracle of our daughter growing. I've said it before, God in his grace and wisdom has chosen to let us see with our eyes and feel with our hands something that most people can only imagine and read about. I don't know why he chose to do things in this way, but, I do believe in his goodness and sovereignty, and that he allowed Alicia to come out early for a purpose. As hard as this was, I believe that this is what was best for us. Who knows what would have happened if Alicia was carried to full-term. We might think that that's what is best. But maybe there would have been other issues, worse issues if Alicia had stayed in. Only God knows.
Yesterday, when I got to the NICU, I got to see some pictures that the nurses took for us during the night shift when they usually give Alicia baths. We're never there for this time, so the nurses were sweet to document this time for us. We have some really adorable pictures of Alicia smiling with satisfaction as the nurses carefully bathe her and get her clean. Our little girl really loves bath time. As I was looking through the photos, I saw a bunch of photos of the nurses all take turns cradling and holding Alicia. They really do love her. It's touching to see. One of the nurses I had never seen before. Linda told me that she usually works the night shift and she is often the one given charge over Alicia. The beautiful thing is that this woman is a strong Christian. Hearing that really warmed my heart. God really does take care of the details. He set one of his devoted daughters over Alicia in the middle of the night to be her night watch person. And you know the amazing thing? As I looked at the photo, I couldn't help but notice the uncanny resemblance between this woman and Linda. It could just be her hairstyle, but these two definitely could be sisters. Is God cool or what?
Still not sure how much longer Alicia will need to be in the hospital. She's more and more stable, but we still haven't been moved upstairs yet. And once we move upstairs it might take another few weeks. But I definitely believe that we're getting closer and closer each and every day.
Praise the Lord! Thanks for all the prayers and support friends.