“Suffering Might Indeed Be Unfair…”

The past few weeks have been a little rough on the family. Beckett was admitted and the decision was made to list him for a liver transplant. A few days later I was up in Canada for work, when I got back I went straight to the hospital to take care of him so Kim could go home. Because my flight was delayed she left before I could see her. We planned several outings so I could see the girls and my wife but everything fell through. We were told multiple days in a row that Beckett “might” go home tomorrow. That never happened and we are still here. It could be another week before we go home because of the setback he had today. At least this is the timeframe we have in mind but Beckett’s doctors don’t want to give us a timeframe or criteria he needs to meet to send him home. It’s been discouraging to say the least.

While struggling with the situation that life was presenting me, I came across this:

“Now all this suffering might indeed be unfair if everything ended at death, but it doesn’t. Life is not like a one-act play. It has three acts. We had a past act, when we were in the premortal existence; and now we have a present act, which is mortality; and we will have a future act, when we return to God.” – James E. Faust, Oct 2004

Reading these words pulled me back to real reality and changed my perspective. What’s two weeks of not seeing my wife and daughters if it means I get to spend eternity with them and take care of my son? Granted, I don’t want to miss their entire lives but how often do I have the mindset that my world is crumbling to pieces. I’ll tell ya, it’s more often than I should. If a miracle happens, and I believe one will, Beckett will be past the worst in about two years. Our roles may be challenging and I might regret saying this, but a couple years of unfair moments is minuscule in this thriller that God has us a part of.

Lights. Camera. Action!

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my Liver Kid

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It’s 10:30pm. It’s been a busy night on the hospital unit. Cranky RSV kiddos everywhere. Beckett’s been fast asleep for the past few hours. Love my boy. I am sitting outside his room and have been attempting to write a blog post and am starting to get frustrated with the results. It’s evident that my writers block is going to continue. At the end of the station, Ashley, Beckett’s nurse, stands up and walks towards his door. My attention is now focused on her. She is opening his door. I pull my headphones out and am close behind her.

I enter the room. Ashley is untangling him from his chords. He is clearly not happy. I spot his bink and immediately grab it and put it under the faucet. He loves his binky wet before he takes it. I think it has to do with his diuretics drying his mouth out. He takes it and starts rubbing his eyes. All good signs that he will be back asleep soon. Once he is comfortably situated Ashley makes a move for the door. I begin to follow and Beckett starts screaming.

“Ok. Ok, Son. I am not going anywhere.”

I return to his crib side and he lifts his hand up. We look each other in the eyes. He doesn’t want to be alone. I lean in. His tiny little hand cups my cheek. His fingers begin tickling my face. He slowly moves his hand up my face to my hair. He is now grabbing and twirling my hair. His eyes close and his breathing returns to a regular pace.

(null) (1) copyI decide to stay a few minutes and soak in what just happened. As I step back from his bed, his eyes open. I’m still here. He is still calm. I walk over to the other side of his crib. He rolls over to follow me. I see the blinds are still open on his door so I walk over to close them. He rolls back over and watches me. Once I am done, I return back to the other side of his crib to sit on the couch. He rolls again and follows my every move. My heart melts a little knowing that I am enough for him. After a few minutes, he grabs his blanket and pulls it over his face. That’s the sign, he is ready to go back to sleep.

I am either sheltered or may be biased (and I very well could be both of those things), but I have never met anyone like my Beckett. He captivates me. Though he cannot talk he has been blessed with a gift to communicate deeper than language with those he interacts with. I felt terrible tonight as I recognized our blog posts and updates are dominated by his disease and the emotional pain that Kim and I carry from being parents of a liver kid. Yes he is sick, but he is such a good kid. Such a fighter and will be a far better man than I can ever hope to be. I am scared of him receiving a transplant but I am comforted by knowing he has a mission to do great things in his life. Even with pumps, tubes, and steady fluctuations of health, this boy continues to be the strength that his parents and sisters need. How can someone so little make such a big impact? Makes me wonder a bit what I am doing with my life. Makes me ponder Christ’s teaching to become like a child. Makes me grateful to be his father. #loveyaBeckett

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He is Yours

As I was driving home alone the other night to spend the evening with the girls, I found myself contemplating the day. We had just been told that Beckett would be listed to receive a new liver, that there were no other options. Our doctor was out of ideas and Beckett just wasn’t responding to any of them. I had handled the day well, processed what was happening and hadn’t cried much. It was dark outside. I was focused on driving, the cars around me, the lights. But then my thoughts drifted to that morning when we had gone to pick Beckett up from interventional radiology where he had gotten his belly drained. When we arrived, he was limp, and unresponsive. His blood pressure was lower than I’ve ever seen it. The nurse was trying everything to wake him up. To stabilize his blood pressure. I’ve never felt so scared or so helpless.

My eyes welled with tears in the car as I recalled our morning. Then as I continued to reflect on Beckett being listed and what that entailed for him, getting really sick, major surgery, possible complications, life long medications, blood draws and doctors, I started to feel so small and I began to weep. Furiously brushing the tears from my eyes so I could focus on the road. But they wouldn’t stop. Then came the sobbing. I started to pray out loud, to express my frustration, my fear, my relief. As I was praying I said, “He is yours. Heavenly Father, he is yours. Please take care of him. I will do my part. I will love him and take care of him to the best of my ability, but ultimately he is in your hands.”

He is yours. Liberating words. I can’t do all of this alone. I don’t know what will happen to my son. But I know God has a plan and I trust him, no matter the direction.

I see Addie struggling. I hear her cry because she loves her brother. All she wants is for him to come home. “She is yours.”

I see Rae regressing. Throwing tantrums. Trying to control the situation around her while her life feels out of control. “She is yours.”

I see Shawn. He is so strong. But then I see the slow tears run down his face or he gets real quiet and shuts down. I don’t know how to help him. “He is yours.”

And I know where I am at. Trying to hold it together for everyone. Trying to make sure everyone is loved and taken care of. That no one is forgotten. Trying to swim and not drown. Trying to stay positive. “I am yours. Please take care of me.”

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I’m beginning to learn…

Life with Beckett has magnified anything and everything’s capacity to be difficult. Raising kids, marriage, faith, employment, and I won’t go into the personal interests that have been tossed out the window. It’s been frustrating and exhausting on all levels. Several people and friends have told Kim and I that we are amazing and they don’t know how we do it. Thank you but let’s take a time out. Don’t overlook the hard things that you have to deal with. Don’t discount your own trials because we have a sick kid. Fact of the matter is, life is down right ugly and dirty, ruthless, hard, and sometimes very unforgiving. That’s how it was intended to be for everyone. Not just the family with the sick kid. Yet, there is supposed to be great joy with all of this. Tunnel vision and focus on the hard things make it difficult to experience joy and learning.

At some point you have to accept that you cannot do it all. For example, what comes first, church or family? Wait for it, wait for it… Neither. God comes first. If you are building a relationship with Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven then you know which things should take priority. When you know what God wants of you, there is no guilt. Guilt doesn’t come from God. God only motivates and invites you to become your best self. You cannot transform when feeling fear and guilt.

I strongly believe that your best self changes depending on the scenario you find yourself in. For the past two weeks I have come down with an anger problem. I have never been a very angry person. However, my behavior reflects my four year olds when it comes to me being frustrated and not getting what I personally want. It’s embarrassing and I’m ashamed but while discussing my feelings with Kim she said the following:

“Where there is a greater capacity of anger and emotion, there is a deeper capacity for happiness and love.”

So do I feel more anger now because I feel more love than I ever have in my life? I think so. My anger is now an expanded part of my emotional system because I care about my family, relationships, and people more than ever before.

Beckett’s turnaround to good health after the holiday season was nothing short of a miracle. It was a much needed answer to prayers to prayers that for a while I thought were not being heard. It was a tender mercy from heaven that touched our family’s spirits in so many ways. It was a sign that God lives and he is ready to help. He is a loving Father who knows how to help is children stretch themselves. About a week into our “healthy vacation” as I call it, Kim and I began having interesting feelings. Promptings that we shouldn’t get too comfortable. They have prepared us for the past two weeks as Beckett has spiraled steadily into a state that has his medical team and parents concerned.

This crazy train has been the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. It has brought out the best and worst side of me. I have questioned my faith and I have doubted my doubts. There are a few things which are clearer than others. I have learned more than I ever would have without this trial, sometimes I am grateful for that and sometimes I’m not. Yet, the thing I feeling strongly about right now is I have to find a way to understand what it means to have a true relationship with God. Lip service and Sunday worship is not going to do it any longer. Past experience has taught me that when life decides to do its worst I am not strong enough on my own to do my best.

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Our New Normal

We have now been home for a week. And we are starting to settle into our new normal. It goes a little like this:

7:15- Beckett stirs in his bed. Addie also comes in the room. “Hi Beckett!” I smile and lay in bed for a few more minutes while my oldest sweetie talks to her little brother.

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7:30- Beep! Beep! Beep! Beckett’s TPN and lipids are done. We have to unhook the tubes, saline flush his picc line and then flush it with heparin to prevent clots. We finish by placing a sterile alcohol cap on the end. We pick him up and cuddle on him now that he is tube free.

8:00- Rae starts to stir and Shawn prepares all of Beckett’s meds. 6 in the morning. A vitamin supplement, two diuretics, an antibiotic, a blood pressure med and a med to help keep his bile thin. He puts all the meds into Beckett’s feeding tube. Thank goodness for the feeding tube so we don’t have to fight him to choke them all down.

From 8:15-9:00 we get ready, head downstairs, let the dog out, feed Beckett, eat breakfast, sometimes get the girls dressed, and Shawn heads to work.

9:00/9:15- Tuesdays and Thursdays Addie goes to preschool. Oh how lucky I am to have a neighbor who takes her and picks her up. I don’t know how I’d do it. Beckett gets tired and I take him upstairs. Thankfully, he is starting to get back to his old self and has been putting himself to sleep.

9:15-11:00- The girls and I play, I clean, they play and make messes, we work on potty training Rae, I stop fights, we snuggle.

11:00- Beckett wakes. He is hungry again. He takes 2.5 ounces. It’s amazing. He used to only take 1 ounce every 4 hours. So this is huge for him. He now gets excited to see the bottle. We are making progress!!

Noon- I feed the girls and myself. Usually something easy like sandwiches or soup but sometimes I feel ambitious and make spaghetti or stir fry.

12:30- Nap time/Quiet time. Oh I love this time. It’s crazy getting the girls situated in their beds. And we just switched Rae to a big girl bed so it’ll be interesting to see if this time exists anymore. Once the girls are down Becks and I get a little time to ourselves before I put him in bed.

1:00- Beckett goes down for another nap. I head downstairs and clean up the kitchen. Straighten up the house a little and then I get to sit down. I either nap a little or I watch a show.

2:00- Addie’s done. She comes down to get a snack and watch a show while her siblings sleep. I clean some more or read a little.

3:00- Beckett and Rae get up. (Oh please Rae! Please take a nap in your big girl bed today!!) I feed Beckett again.

3:00-5:00- This is the time I usually get a lot of phone calls. The liver clinic will call, or home health. We change his meds every few days based on his labs. And home health is constantly talking to me about bringing me deliveries of NG tube supplies, or picc line supplies or the pharmacist calls to discuss his TPN and lipids. I also get calls from the home health nurses checking in and seeing if his picc dressing needs to be changed. Then I get calls from the delivery drivers letting me know when they will be coming by. The girls and Beckett just play and make messes. I love hearing the laughter and coos.

4:30/5:00- I put Becks down for a mini nap. And then I finally start thinking about dinner. Sometimes I make something nice. Sometimes I’m super prepared and throw something in the crockpot around 3. Other times we just make grilled cheese. Or grab take out.

5:30-7:30-  Shawn gets home from work, we eat, we clean up, we play, we dance, we feed Beckett. Then we like to watch a movie together and eat popcorn or ice cream.

7:30- The utter chaos starts. I head to the fridge and pull out Becks TPN, lipids and vitamins. I head upstairs to get it all ready and Shawn starts working with the girls to get them ready for bed. I’ve gotten pretty quick with setting up the TPN and lipids. I have to set the pumps up, prime the tubing, infuse the vitamins into the TPN bag, connect all the tubing, and change the end of his picc line. All while keeping everything sterile and clean. If I touch things, I have to start all over again. IMG_7622It’s quite the process. Meanwhile Shawn is battling the girls, getting jammies on, getting them to go potty, cleaning their rooms. Finally we reach a point where we all gather together, sing songs and say prayers. Then we put all three kids down. And then battle them to actually go to sleep. Becks is the easiest. He crashes and lately has been sleeping much better. The girls are a different story. Addie gets out several times, to tell us she loves us, to go potty, to get a drink. Then she goes right to sleep. With the introduction of the big girl bed, we are working on Rae staying in bed. We put up a baby gate so she can’t leave the room. Last night she yelled for Addie to save her. She also likes to strip naked at night. So it’s a work in progress.

Usually by 9:00, it’s quieter and we get a chance to relax a little. Talk about our days, watch some shows together. Then we head to bed around 10;30 and pray that all the kids sleep fairly well so that we get some rest.

My life is chaotic. My life is messy. My kids probably watch more tv than they should. We don’t always eat healthy. I get stressed and short tempered sometimes. My house is cluttered a lot. Things get neglected. I forget a lot. And guess what?

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.

I love that we are all together. No one is in the hospital. Beckett is rolling over and has become a tummy sleeper (which is terrifying with all the cords). He is laughing. My girls are BEST friends. They love each other so much and are closer than I ever thought possible. They giggle and play pretend. They get to be kids and make messes. Shawn and I get to spend time together. We aren’t trying to keep our marriage strong from two different places. We are in the same house, the same room. We are happy. We are finally feeling a break from all the massive stress and fear. We are closer than ever. As much as I wish that Beckett didn’t have to go through this, that my girls wouldn’t tell people that their brother has a broken liver, that I hadn’t had to cry and worry as much as I have, I would never NEVER trade my life now. I love our new normal.

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Light

“We see no reason not to move forward and list Beckett.”

Oh the words that I’ve known were coming. It came out of the blue though. We have been in limbo for quite some time. Beckett’s liver labs and bilirubin levels keep going down and yet we’ve been in the hospital almost weekly dealing with massive amounts of belly fluid (ascites). Nothing works and yet they kept telling us that he was fine. It was so hard. How can he be fine when we are here all the time getting his belly drained? So when we found that there was a potential clot in his portal vein the doctors made the decision to move forward with listing Becks for transplant.

I saw the light. Finally. Instead of drifting around aimlessly, I finally felt like we could see the lighthouse. Our little boat had direction. We could now navigate through the big waves and stormy seas because there was the light. Even though I knew the light was still far away, I could see it! And then our week exploded.

We met with countless doctors, kidney doctors, surgeons, infectious disease doctors. Beckett had a cat scan, more ultrasounds and he had an incredible amount of blood drawn. We knew that we would still need to meet with social workers, financial aid people, and our liver team for a day of education. Holly, our liver transplant coordinator, brought by an entire binder of information for us. In the meantime, we were trying to get Beckett’s ascites under control. They drained his belly twice. They left the drain in. We tried IV diuretics. We tried multiple new diuretics. He started getting fevers. He wasn’t eating much. But as stressed as I felt, I could still see that light. He was being listed. The end was coming. Eventually.

We solved some of the problems. The drain was taken out and the fevers went away. We started TPN (total parenteral nutrition) and lipids (fats) which is a boost of nutrients, proteins etc to give him the calories and nutrition he needs so that he starts gaining good weight. We started him on a blood pressure med and several new diuretics in “industrial sized doses”. And suddenly his belly stopped growing as quickly. We were finding answers. Because of the cat scan we found that his portal vein was not clotted but instead it is incredibly narrow causing the same effect.

“Because we have things under control and his vein is not clotted, we are going to hold off with the listing.”

Just like that the light was snuffed out. We were adrift in the ocean, being tossed about, lost. No direction. This has happened before. We find a solution. It works for a couple days and then we are right back in the hospital. I don’t think I can do this. There is no ending. Will we spend days in the hospital? Months? Years? How do I raise my children when we have no security? When our lives are constantly tossed to and fro?

I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong. I was thrilled that he was doing well. But I have a hard time trusting that these solutions will work when they never have previously. It’s not that I want him to have a transplant at 6 months. I would love for him to be big and strong before he needs it. But I don’t know how to survive for a long time when we spend so much time in the hospital trying to get him to be ok and he’s not even listed. Mentally those hospital stays are easier when I know that transplant is coming. Now I just feel plunged into the darkness and the despair.

Then my baby boy laughed for the first time and a light appeared. He rolled over for the first time. Another light. His belly stayed small for 4 consecutive days. It did not slowly grow bigger, but it stayed small and soft. Light. We had friends and family reach out and bless our family. More lights. We came home and I watched my children together. Saying sweet things. Watched as Beckett couldn’t stop staring and touching Addie. Watched his smile. More lights appeared. In my mind I looked around and realized that I am in a dark field looking to the sky. And it is full of stars. As my world gets darker and scarier, more lights appear in my sky. Some are little, others are large. But they are my hope. That this will end. That things will get better and brighter.

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Life’s Battlefield

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I was given two weeks off by my employer for the holiday season. Due to Beckett’s health, I have spent three whole days outside of the hospital. The family/home situation has been a little tricky and so Kim has spent a majority of the hospital time at home with Adalyn and Raemee. It has been such a blessing for them to have their mother around. I think it has helped them feel ok about their brother being gone.

While being alone with Beckett I have experienced some of the best moments of my life. Quickly followed by some of the hardest. I have learned things about my son that I probably never would have paid much attention to. His development in some areas are prohibited and yet he is shining in others. He has found his imagehands and his mouth during these past two weeks. He keeps me on my toes as he grabs all the wires and tubes attached to his body. My favorite is when I put my face close to his, he will reach up from his hospital bed and start to run his fingers and palms over the skin of my face. He does it so gently, inspecting every little part of me, and then will occasionally stop at my nose and squeeze. It makes me laugh every time and turns my insides gooey. I love the feel of his soft skin and scrawny fingers as he explores my facial features.

As I look over him peacefully sleeping, I am overwhelmed with feelings. Feelings of all kinds. Feelings I have never felt before. I have so many wishes. Wishes for Beckett. Wishes for our family. I am conflicted. I feel in over my head. I feel more love than I thought was ever possible to feel. I have to go back to work tomorrow and it pains me to leave my lil buddy’s side. Since our first child Adalyn was born I have bonded deeply with my girls. Yet, there is something different about Beckett. It is almost like, I can’t take his battle away from him, but being by his side makes me feel like I am fighting it with him. I want to spend every possible minute with him. The reality of Beckett’s possible future haunts me and I don’t know how to properly manage my feelings with what I have to do and am personally responsible for. Which is go to work and bring home the bacon.

imageI keep telling myself that if I don’t go to work, Beckett has no chance for survival. His battle would be over without our insurance and income. Does that mean our battle fields are changing? Can I still a member of Beckett’s army but can no longer fight by his side? He stays and fights in the hospital and I take the fight to the office? The weight is setting in and I realize that I have to bite the bullet. There is strategy in battle and a war is never won on a single battlefield. Some battlefields however may be the turning point of a war. Losing on the financial battlefield would absolutely be the turning point for Becks and our family. As I leave my general’s side, I know that this is the fight that must be fought. It’s a fight against my emotions. It’s a fight for survival. It’s a fight because I love ya Beckett! I’ll be back fighting by your side just in time for the weekend.

 

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