New Blog for Nathanael

We recently started fundraising with COTA to cover Nathanael's medical expenses, so updates about him will be on his new blog from now on: www.COTAforNathanaelB.com. Please check out the blog, pictures, and opportunities to help, and feel free to pass along the link to others. We appreciate your concern!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Going "Home"! (by Bree)

We're out of the hospital! In fact, we've been "home" (at our rental place in Cincinnati) for almost a week now, and have been so busy taking care of Nathanael that I haven't taken time to update this page. Of course, I've also taken a little time to sleep, eat, and rest a little. :) It has been great to have a live-in support-system/housekeeper/cook/baby-holder. Since I was on my own with the little guy for 5 weeks in the hospital (don't get me wrong, the staff was great, and many of them helped me out by staying with Nathanael while I ate a meal in the kitchen just down the hall) I have enjoyed the change to a situation with a 2 to 1 caregiver to baby ratio!

Our days are busy: we give 2 medications by IV twice a day (and that process takes about 90 minutes total), four medications twice daily through his NJ (feeding) tube, three more meds three times daily through his NJ tube, and two meds orally (mouthwashes, given on little sponges in his mouth - wish I could catch those facial expressions on camera!). Oh, and we also give him about 24 oz of milk over 12 hours each night through his NJ tube (that means getting up once or twice overnight to add milk to the feeding bag). Did I mention that in between we need to wash syringes for his oral meds, clean pumping supplies and milk storage bottles, do laundry, dishes, cook, eat and sleep? No wonder I need a helper!

Of course we do find time each day to play with Nathanael, and he is a delightful little boy. He is starting to "talk" a little more, he loves to sit up (supported), grab toys, and watch things and people. When we go to the hospital (2-3 days/week) the nurses love to see him. He seems interested in everything around him, and in most ways is growing, healthy, and thriving. The doctors are very pleased with his progress.

Here are a few recent pictures: going home from the hospital, posing for a picture at home with Santa (Uncle Jeff), who came in from Columbus for the afternoon/evening to help us move. It was great to have help with all the stuff we had accumulated in our room. It was also really nice just to order carry-out Chinese for dinner - we ate while Nathanael slept in his car seat. My parents arrived later that night while the visiting nurse was here, and both of them spent the weekend with us. We decided that we didn't want my dad to leave, as we had dubbed him the best baby-soother around - every time he held Nathanael sleep came quickly...sometimes for both of them!

In other good news, Nathanael has remembered how to eat! He is now nursing half a dozen times a day, and doing well! Of course, we continue to feed him milk through his NJ tube, but have reduced his tube-feeding time from 24 hours two weeks ago, down to 16 hours last week, to 12 hours now...yea! Thanks for your prayers! :)

We still miss Brad and Jamison like crazy, and try to talk with them by phone or skype every day, but so far things are going fairly well. God's goodness has been so clearly demonstrated to us in many ways: gifts, letters, packages, prayers, phone calls, good lab reports, strength through tiring days, etc.

We do love to hear from you, and enjoy knowing what is going on in your lives as well. I am thankful that even from a distance we are able to share - even in some small way - this leg of the journey together. Just think of us when you hug your loved ones, and remember to be thankful for them even when they drive you crazy...it's good to have them close enough to hug! I look forward to having that problem again!

Our other good news is that we've had two birthdays and an engagement in our family this week! Joyce's birthday is today (Happy Birthday Nana Joyce!), and Jeff celebrated his birthday on Monday by asking Julie to marry him! We had all been waiting and wondering when this day would come, so we're very excited, and hope to be together to celebrate their wedding day sometime in the next year or so. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Recovering well...and planning to go home soon!

"Sleepy Santa" is the talk of the unit this afternoon. As word spread from one nurse to another that he looked so cute sleeping in here, many have stopped by to peek in and look. I love that he is able to make them smile. :) Isn't he precious?

The plan, for now, is to go home (well, back to our Cincinnati apartment) on Thursday! I didn't think I'd feel comfortable enough taking on his care to WANT to leave, but by now I feel I NEED to leave the hospital. Five weeks has been long enough! I also have to keep in mind that 97% of kids from this unit are readmitted at least temporarily. Most likely in the coming weeks or months he will develop a fever and need to come in for a few days. It could happen more than once. Some kids come back long term, but the ones whose parents I've met have different diagnoses than WAS. (In fact, I haven't met any other WAS parents at all.)

Please pray that Nathanael would nurse well. His weight went down two days in a row as we stopped tube feeds during the day in order for him to feel hungry so we could try to return to nursing. His weight came back up a little today, but we want to see it back up just a little more, and we'd like to see him eating better, before we give him so many hours off tube feeding again. He seems to remember how to nurse, I just think his little tummy doesn't have much room, as it has been empty for almost four weeks. The adjustment should take time. So we will go home with the feeding tube still in, and a special pump system to deliver mommy's milk at a rate of 2oz. per hour for 12-16 hours a day/night.

Please pray for a smooth transition out of the hospital. Jeff will be coming from Columbus to help us move, then my parents will come in for the weekend to help me, and when my dad goes back to work my mom will stay.

Would love to write more, but "Santa" just woke up... :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Still Going Up (by Bree)


Okay, so I couldn't wait until tomorrow to post this: Nathanael's blood counts were still going up as of this morning, which is great news! Here are the two that we're really watching right now:

White Blood Cells - 6.6 (Up from 3.5 on Monday, normal range is 5.0 to 19.5.)
Absolute Neutrophil Count - 5.21 (Up from 1.78 on Monday, normal range is 1.00-9.00.)

More good news is that some of the problems caused by Nathanael's treatment are starting to be resolved. His weight seems to be returning to normal, when it had fluctuated as much as half a kilogram (from 7.14kg (15 lbs 11.3 oz) up to 7.77 kg (17 lbs 1.5 oz) last week, back down to 7.17 kg (15 lbs 12.4 oz), which means that he's no longer retaining so much extra fluid. That probably helped the situation with the low sodium level, which resolved itself several days ago. It also helped his blood pressure, which was high for awhile, and is being treated with amlodipine and diuril, as well as occasional doses of lasix. Probably the biggest problem in recent days has been his low oxygen saturation overnight. To combat it we have given him a dose of decadron at bedtime to help open his airway, and we have used an oxygen mask several inches from his face to "blow by" extra oxygen. So far tonight we have not used ANY extra oxygen, and his saturation has not fallen below 99! (We had a night late last week where his saturation hovered for a short time between 88 and 92, which scared me.) It's encouraging to see these improvements.

The best thing though is that he is starting to feel better - he even smiled a few times! He "played" with the PT, the OT, and the speech pathologist today, and even nursed for a few minutes! :) This was the first time he had nursed in 2 weeks, so I was very pleased. Needless to say, I'm thankful to have a good pump in the hospital, as I've been told that the fact that he gets breastmilk in his feeding tube is helping him, BUT it is MUCH nicer to nurse him that to spend time with the pump. (Seems like I've said that before, but I am so thankful that it looks like he'll take to nursing again that I couldn't help repeating it.) All these things point to his recovery from the mucositis, and to his feeling better in general. Please join us in thanking the Lord for His graciousness to us as our little boy continues to recover. Please also keep the other families here in prayer as you think of us. Many have difficult situations.

We are so thankful for your prayers, and it is our hope and prayer that the Lord will use this in all of our lives to show us His love, and to help us love Him more. Blessings to you as you stand with us through this season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

What stirs your affections for Jesus?

I was challenged by a feature I read in Leadership magazine the other day. Interestingly enough it was an interview with Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, a mega-church in a Dallas suburb, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and whose "Pray for Matt Chandler" page on Facebook has over 31,000 followers less than a week after its creation. In the interview he is asked what it means to "war against sin", and his response is what caught my attention: "We want our people to think beyond simply what's right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus Christ and, as best they can, to walk away from things that rob those affections..." What a concept!

So when I read this the other day, I felt as though God was challenging me to consider what things really do stir my affection for Christ, and I came up short. I couldn't think of anything. Later, some conversations with old friends caused me to thank God for His work in their lives in ways that I could not have imagined, and suddenly it dawned on me that among other things, like the beauty of nature, God's transformational work in the lives of those around me was what most stirred my heart to love Him more. So today I am thanking God for His work all around me in the lives of others.

I once heard a description of God's work that makes so much sense to me, that I think is worth sharing. It was about getting up in the morning with the knowledge that God is already at work, and that we are to simply join Him in what He is already doing. Scripture tells us that "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10) He gives us the privilege to join with Him in His work, and so often I overlook that in favor of fixing my eyes on the minutiae of my own life (or the myopia of focusing on my own life) Did Jesus not say that to gain my own life I must lose it?

Since I've written this post over a several day period, my thoughts feel fractured and disorganized, but I did want to share it with you anyway.

Oh, the other thing I'd like to share is that Nathanael's counts continue to rise. Thank you Jesus!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here come the white cells! (by Bree)

We have some white cells today! This is the best news I've heard in at least two weeks:

White Cells - 0.4 (They have been at 0.0 for about two weeks or so, normal range is 5.0 to 19.5.)
Absolute Neutrophil Count - 0.08 (Have also been at 0.0, normal range is 1.00-9.00.)

The exact words from my nurse practitioner were, that he's "showing beginning signs of engraftment"...yea! Now, these levels could still fluctuate greatly for awhile before we see continuous improvement, but this is still very encouraging.

We're still watching his sodium levels (checking his kidney function with renal tests - draws every 6 hours or so), and he is only taking in half as much milk as they would normally like him to have, as we're trying to avoid irritating his stomach. Oh, did I mention that his NJ feeding tube has moved up into his stomach? It's now an NG (nasogastric) tube, which is okay in some respects, but could cause problems with his digestion. He also vomited several times on Tuesday, and the most recent time was Wednesday morning, so we'd like his stomach to settle a bit before increasing his milk intake. (Meanwhile I'm stockpiling it in the freezer...at least we'll be able to take it home to use later!) He had a few respiratory issues on Tuesday night, but last night was much better, and he seems a little more like himself today. He even stayed awake to interact with the OT when she came by to see him!

Please continue to pray that his body would heal. I mentioned the issues above, and he also still has signs of mucositis throughout his digestive tract. Since that has an impact on his breathing we're keeping an eye on his oxygen saturation, especially when he sleeps. We also had his feeding tube maneuvered back into his intestines (to bypass his irritated stomach) this afternoon, so he seems to be in a little more pain. Ugh. Pray for safe, restful sleep tonight, and an even better day tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Big Smile

I needed to share this picture with you to remind me that sometime soon my little boy will feel well enough to smile again. Right now he's pretty sick - which is normal for this stage in his recovery. That doesn't make it much easier for me to watch though. Please pray for restful, restorative sleep, for engraftment, and for protection from possible illness (Graft vs. Host) and from the medications used to manage his current condition.

This second picture shows one of our pastimes (when we have time!). You can see that Nathanael is thoroughly engrossed in his book - maybe he'll be a reader just like mom, dad and Jamison!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful (by Bree)

These days it can be tough to be thankful. I'm watching Nathanael get sick as he weathers the storm of the post-transplant treatment. While it was difficult to watch him get chemotherapy for almost two weeks, it is more difficult to see his progress now. I have known since my personal experience with chemo in 1999-2000 that the effects of the drugs are cumulative, and therefore get worse over time. I had been told to expect his most difficult days to come after the transplant, and I'm now starting to see just what that means.

Don't get me wrong: overall the doctors and nurses are thrilled with Nathanael's condition. He is still gaining weight, his skin looks clear with no signs of rash or irritation, his vital signs are all good, with the exception of some slightly high blood pressures that we've seen (to be expected, and not yet of enough concern to treat with additional medications). What I'm talking about is little bags under his eyes, a general tiredness, his being more cranky than usual, and worst of all, seeing him in pain. When he cries inconsolably, or tries to nurse, then pulls away and cries, it hurts me. I have had to give permission to give him morphine more than half a dozen times by now, and within a few days he will probably be given a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) pump. Almost all the kids need them at some point, and the doctor even told me yesterday that since sleep is restorative and pain can inhibit sleep, pain relief is necessary for his recovery. It's just hard for me to put him on such heavy medication. What's funny is that when he's not tired it doesn't make him sleepy. In fact the other day after a dose he stopped crying, started to smile, and all of a sudden became the happy little boy to whom I have become accustomed. He even wanted to play with the occupational therapist who had stopped in to see him. Pain specialists will tell you that if your body really needs the medication for pain relief, it will cause side effects such as excessive sleepiness. I found this true during my year on oxycontin and neurontin: I was able to drive myself to and from work each day, functioning normally in almost all areas of life, save the fact that I carried around enough narcotics in my purse to fund a nice shopping spree.

So the good news - and something for which I am thankful - is that for now it looks like we're on the downhill slope of getting all these medications. Today my little boy only has tubes hooked up to two of the three lines going into his body (he has two central venous catheters, only one of which is currently being used, and one feeding tube that goes in through his nose, also currently in use) and does not have to stay on monitors all day (blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter, and heart rate and respiration monitors) as he did for several days while he was given certain medications. This means not only fewer bags on his IV pole, but fewer tubes and cords to have to maneuver around as I pick him up, hold him, or change his diaper. It also means fewer things that he can grab and try to yank out: he has now pulled on his NJ feeding tube several times (Well, really, who can blame him?) and even pulled it out so far the other day that x-ray technicians were called in to take a picture to check the tube's position! (The verdict is that while it came up a little bit, it is still south of his stomach, which is good, since the stomach can become very irritated by the chemo and can result in emesis of his feedings. So there's no need to rethread the tube, which is something for which I am VERY thankful!) While we still have a long road ahead with regards to these medications, I think the ones with the worst side-effects are now in the past, and we'll spend the next several weeks giving him anti-rejection drugs to prevent Graft vs. Host disease (GVHD), anti-emetics (Zofran), drugs to boost his white blood cell production (GCFS, I think), and others to protect his kidney and liver function, and Benadryl and Tylenol given prophilactically to help prevent reactions to platelet and packed red blood cell and IVIG (intravenous immune globulin) infusions (which will happen as needed, depending on his current blood counts). While I am not an expert by ANY means, I am learning about these things in order to be prepared to take on Nathanael's medical care once we leave the hospital. He will come home with central lines, and maybe a feeding tube, and will need IV medications regularly.

Sorry for all the medical jargon...but welcome to my world! ;) Really, I'm also thankful that the transplant (or cord blood infusion, or "getting his cells") was uneventful. Our nurse brought in a large syringe full of a red liquid that looked like fruit punch, attached it to a small tube that attached to one of his central lines, and then she stood and slowly pushed the cells in. Nathanael even decided to nurse during the process. Normally an infusion like this (it took an hour) is done using an electric pump to push the syringe, but they like to do transplants manually to avoid problems that could result from pump malfunctions. The funny thing about the cells is that they stunk. Really. The preservative used in the cells smells like creamed corn - which I didn't particularly like before, but now will never eat again! - and that smell emanated from him for days. Ugh! We are thankful that the computer we've borrowed from my parents was still working through Monday evening so that Brad got to watch the actual transplant. God's timing is so perfect, as once I'd put out a facebook update the computer decided it could no longer get online, so I was offline for over two days, but Brad got to see his little boy "get his cells."

I am thankful for many other things...but please do continue to pray. The road to complete recovery is long (possibly up to two years) and will not be easy. I also really miss Brad and Jamison. It is so sad for me to be away from my precious little boy who is growing up more and more each day. I'm thankful that he's doing so well, but sad because I'm not sure if he misses me, needs me, or will get mad at me for my prolonged absence once I'm home. We are doing what we think is best, but please pray for wisdom and perseverance for us as we parent our boys. Of course having them in our family is near the top of our list of reasons to be thankful!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting sick to get better... (by Bree)


So far we've just been adjusting to hospital life, tests, vitals, and preventative meds, but now is where the challenges begin. Nathanael has finished his first round of chemo (4 days on busulfan), and just started cytoxan, which he'll take for four days. Since the effects of chemo are cumulative I fully expect his condition to worsen in the coming week or so. He has been a little more fussy than usual, and just a moment ago he vomited all over my neck, down my back, and onto the floor. I almost cried. My precious boy is getting sick to get better.
Please pray that we would know how to best care for him in the midst of this. I told Brad that I'm walking the fine line between dilligence and obsession here. The staff here both seeks and values parent input, but I'm still learning what they need to know. They will largely rely on my reports of his feeding frequency and duration, as well as his daily output (all his diapers are examined and weighed), to determine if/when a feeding tube is needed, and I will need to help decide whether we should use one that goes to his stomach or past it. No easy decisions here.
I need to grieve, and have not cried much yet. Privacy can be difficult to find, and I'm not sure I have time yet to feel much of anything. I have met some other parents and have been praying for their kids. I'd ask you to join me in praying for the families here, and that we would encourage each other and allow the Lord to work in our midst. I've missed the prayer group twice now...hope to make it next week.
Thanks again to ALL of you, family & friends, who are helping care for us in one way or another. I told the social worker today about our moms staying with us, our friends sending food, and the many people praying...she seemed surprised at the wide and deep network of support. I don't think I needed to go through this to know that God has blessed us richly with people who love us and will take care of us, but I'm so thankful to see His love in action. My favorite description of the love of Christ is in Ephesians: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:17b-19) You have shown His love to us...may it bring glory to His name.

video

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hospital Days (by Bree)

So we've managed to get through the first two days at the hospital - and I'm so glad that they're over! Not that they were bad, but the sheer number of new things that one needs to learn is just overwhelming. Couple that with moving into a space not much bigger than a dorm room (but with LOTS more stuff and a MUCH higher standard of cleanliness!), seeing your infant son scream and cry because he's hungry but not allowed to eat (prior to the surgical insertion of his central lines) or because he's being held down during a procedure (such as the removal of his PICC line this evening), and trying to find time to eat (but not in our room) and take care of yourself, and it all adds up to exhaustion. Fortunately we both slept fairly well last night, and I'm looking forward to a good night of sleep tonight.

I'd love to write in more detail, but for now suffice it to say that overall we're doing well, we're thankful for ALL of you who are praying for us, taking care of us by writing (I enjoyed the epistle I read today!), calling, bringing food, etc., and we are so grateful for a fantastic group of people caring for us in the hospital. The nurses, doctors, and other staff members here are really kind, thoughtful, caring, and compassionate. We spent almost 2 hours today with a wonderful nurse in the PACU (post anesthesia care unit, for the uninitiated) who shared some really encouraging personal stories about life as a child with a younger sibling who had health problems. It gives me hope that Jamison will grow up to be a more compassionate person because of what life will be like for us in the next year or two...though I'm pretty sure I won't have him help me do the heparin flush on Nathanael's central lines anytime soon! He can help in other ways. :)

Please keep the prayers coming. Please pray that we would be a blessing to others around us in the hospital. I've met two families who have been here as inpatients for more than six months and who have other children at home - what a challenge! I'm not sure what my role will be, as I don't have much time outside the room, but will want to connect with others here. I also love to hear from you, so thank you for the personal messages! I may not get a chance to write back to all of you, but wanted to still say thank you. Pray for strength, faith, courage to handle all the changes that will come, wisdom to understand all that is going on and to ask good questions, for rest for all of us, and for perseverance. This is a marathon, and we're just finishing the first mile.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Separated (by Brad)

Good afternoon from McKinney, Texas, where fall is characterized by 78 degree temperatures and leaves descending from the trees covered in a marvelous shade of brown. We've reached the point in our odyssey where I (Brad) am here with our soon to be three year old son Jamison and Bree is in Ohio with Nathanael. I can't really speak as to how he is doing as well as Bree can because, obviously, I'm not there. From what I can see on Skype, though, he's gaining weight at an exponential rate and aside from the underlying condition, looks like a wonderful baby boy. These are the last few days before the treatment begins. They are admitted to the hospital on Monday. Nathanael has surgery on Tuesday to implant two central lines into his chest and on Wednesday the chemotherapy begins which is necessary to make room for the transplanted bone marrow. The chemo will last for ten days and the transplant is set to take place on November 23rd. Then comes the long, long road to recovery.

As far as life back in Texas is concerned, I'm not going to lie, it isn't easy. Except for the solid wall of rain between Memphis and Little Rock, the drive was inconsequential. Folks from our church made sure our home was in working order and that there was food in the fridge and even on the stove. It took two days to go through all the mail and I had to re-learn how to work the remote. My mom is here with us and her help has been invaluable. We've only been home a week but I'm not sure we'd have survived this long had she not been here.

Jamison is acting out and it's impossible to tell if it's simply a matter of being 2 years and 9 months old, as of today, or if it's because of the situation or a little bit of both. He vehemently protests whenever told to do something he doesn't want to do and has a hair trigger for a temper that will absolutely go off if he doesn't get to do something, "by own 'elf (by own self)." If I want to throw him into full scale hysterics, all I have to do is take his shirt off when it's time to get ready for bed. We haven't fully re-entered our lives here yet and time is inching along. My two goals are a.) have him see me every day and b.) have quality interaction with him every day and it's hard when so much of that time has to be spent in discipline mode.

Jamison misses his mommy. He was sad to learn that her pillow wasn't on the bed in our bedroom. He thought a trip to see his doctor meant getting to see Mommy and Nathanael. I was at least grateful that he included his younger brother in his aspirations. Last night he just came out and said it, "I miss Mommy." He wants to know when we can go back to Ohio. I wish I knew how military families with spouses on deployment and children left back home do this with such regularity.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Missing My Boys (by Bree)

I miss my boys. Well, the two of them who have gone back to Texas, anyway. It's strange for me to think that when I put my phone on the table it'll still be there hours later instead of having found its way into the hands of my curious little boy. I found a bib on the CD player yesterday, and it made me sad to move it, as I realized that I will no longer have that reminder of my favorite two-year-old right in front of me. No more plastic dishes in the bathroom, wind-up fish in the living room, TV remotes (or "renotes", as they're known in our house) in between couch cushions or stuffed toys strapped into the baby swing. All these signs of life with a toddler are no longer part of my daily experience, and it makes me sad.

We can talk on the phone and on Skype, but to be honest, it hurts a little bit to know that your son is more interested in touching the buttons on the computer than seeing his mother who misses him. It's not that I expect Jamison to understand how much I miss him, or that I love to see him...and I'm not sure it would be easier if I thought he understood more. I guess he told Brad last night after we talked on Skype, "I miss Mommy." Heart-breaking. I am very thankful to be able to see him every day. Tonight I heard him laugh. So sweet!

Now for some good news: Nathanael is sleeping really well. In fact, last night he slept from 9:00pm to 7:00am! He still prefers to nap while being held, but will fall asleep in his bed for short naptimes during the day. And who really minds holding a sleeping baby? Even though he weighs almost 16 lbs (!) and gives my arms a real workout it can be tough to put him down. Yesterday I held him for several hours straight while he napped. Precious!

As difficult as this time is I am encouraged that God is using this situation for His glory, as He continues to provide for our needs through the kindness and generosity of the people around us. We continue to have yummy meals provided for us two to three times a week, rides to the hospital with new friends, and offers of help from all directions. I am trying to find ways to communicate gratitude, but too often it takes me such a long time to do it. Maybe if I set reasonable goals for each day I can get caught up.

Just to make you smile, I'm including a few pictures and short video of my "little squeaker." Have I mentioned that he makes lots of squeaky noises? Really cute!

video

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's easy but don't screw it up!

On Monday we took another step in the direction of real. Believe it or not, there is the tendency from time to time to lapse into thinking that all we're doing here is filming some bizarre reality show. It's a great premise: take a happily married couple and confine them to a small space with their two small children and then don't let them leave. Have them all sleep in the same bedroom. Watch the two year old morph into a three year old before your very eyes. Trust me. It's fabulous television.

But that isn't why we're here and Monday was an abrupt reminder. Nathanael received his PICC line. PICC stands for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. It's a permanent IV of sorts. In Nathanael's case, the line was inserted into his right arm. It's 18 centimeters long and all but three follow a line up his right arm into his superior vena cava, a vein that leads into a the right atrium of the heart. The remaining three are outside his arm so that blood can be drawn without having to stick him with a needle again and again. That's wonderful. That's exactly what you want to hear as a parent. We're going to make it so that your child feels less pain but here's the kicker...mom and dad...you have to flush it twice a day. Wait...what?

Apparently, there's a chance it could get clogged with blood so all you have to do to prevent that is inject three cc's of Heparin (a blood thinner) into a port attached to the end of the PICC line. Oh, but make sure it's properly disinfected before attaching the syringe or he could get an infection, and oh yeah, he doesn't really have the ability to fight off an infection. Don't worry, we'll teach you everything you need to know.

They do their best. Of that I do not doubt. A very nice woman sat down with us and went through everything and even gave us the chance to practice the procedure, how to sterilize, what order, etc., on a plastic tray that doesn't quite move like a two month old baby and then they send you home and expect you to do it.

Enter the drama. Take two people already under a good deal of stress and then have them work together to accomplish a procedure where if they get it wrong, the consequences could be bad...for their baby. If the stakes weren't so high, it would be simply comical. "Did you touch it? I didn't touch it. You're making me nervous. Stop being so critical. I'm not being critical. I'm just stating facts. You're doing it wrong. Then you do it!" Truth be told the whole thing isn't that hard. After a couple of times you get the hang of it but then comes the anxiety associated with complacency. What if we get so comfortable with it that we don't pay attention to everything we're supposed to do? Oy.

Wednesday was his CT scan and tomorrow is his EKG and echo-cardiogram. They also draw enough blood to make an afternoon cocktail three days a week. Lord willing the tests will show what the doctors want to see and we can move towards the transplant. As crazy as this sounds, the way the flu is spreading, I'd admit him tomorrow if I could. There's actually an armed officer from the Cincinnati Police Department stationed at each elevator bay to make sure you have a valid reason to go upstairs. It's not because Children's is in a rough area. It's because of the flu. I heard it with my own ears. The germ fortress that is the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit is starting to look pretty good right now.

Give credit where credit is due. Bree did 9 hours at the hospital with Nathanael, solo.

Tell me this kid isn't going to be off to college tomorrow. Can we please slow time down just a little?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here We Go

If you're wondering where we've been, I apologize for not posting with greater frequency. 15 days without a blog update is poor blog etiquette I'm sure. What you have to understand is that we don't function on Eastern Standard Time so much as we do Jamison Standard Time. From the moment he wakes up at 6:30 in the morning, or earlier, it's pretty much go time until 8:00 at night. Factor in the one hour break we get for a nap and there isn't a whole lot of mental energy left over for the construction of complete sentences.

I've been trying to think of a way to describe our lives here in Cincinnati for the past month. We had the doctor's appointment on the 30th of September but after that was a whole lot of nothing. What comes to mind is this time I was stranded in Scranton. Any aficionado of The Office knows of where I speak. Scranton is in northeast Pennsylvania where they can get quite a bit of snow if the weather patterns are right. Anyway, I was away for something close to a week for training at a Young Life camp in southern New York. I got in the car with several friends for a ride to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport (I have no idea why it gets to call itself an international airport...did I miss the non-stop from Scranton to London?). My friends caught their flight and mine was canceled leaving me with two options. I could stay at the airport or get a room at the Holiday Inn. I'm glad I chose the latter because it was a full three days before the airport opened up again.

Now when you think of a hotel near an airport, you usually picture amenities, or at least amenities at the hotel. This was a Holiday Inn Express and the only other building within walking distance was a Damon's. If you've never heard of it, it's a sports bar with good ribs. For three days, I read books, slept, watched TV, and ate my meals (six total) at Damon's. I bundled up and walked across the parking for every lunch and dinner. I'm not kidding, it got to the point where the host looked at me when I came into the restaurant and said, "Your usual?"

That's what it's been like and not because we are living anywhere remote. Quite the contrary, there's a bustling shopping center with not one but two grocery stores just across the street. A wonderful playground with slides and swings, again, resides within walking distance but we can't go there. One of the world's greatest zoo's is literally less than half an hour from us but the risk of picking up some sort of illness is too great.

So, we went to a park where there weren't things on which to climb, essentially, so that Jamison wouldn't ask and we wouldn't have to say no. We went at a time when we hoped the crowds would be small and we ran around and climbed steps. We've also been to a cemetery. You might say that's morbid but it's a place where there's room to run outside in the sunshine. We saw maybe one other person and a cemetery isn't exactly a place where folks are eager for conversation at least with strangers. Plus, we could pay our respects to my step-father.

Let us not forget the parking garage. Desperation breeds creativity. Our apartment complex has a parking garage with a roof level. Up there you can run around, be in the sun, and avoid any aforementioned human beings. You can even, as Jamison often says, "be loud."

One particularly bright spot/blessing from God is that a friend has enabled us to attend church two weeks in a row. If you're wondering how we've managed such a herculean feat, a buddy with whom I attended high school helps to lead worship at a large church that's mere minutes from our apartment. On Saturdays, the worship team and the pastor practice a full run through of their weekend service. My friend worked it out so that we can sit in their cry room and attend the rehearsal, the only four attendees in a room that seats about 4,000. We are truly living the surreal life.

I don't want to make it sound like this is simply a "skin of your teeth," effort to survive. We are eating just fine and I'm getting to spend more time with my family than I ever have before especially with my soon to be two month old whom I soon won't see again in person until he's 8 months old.

This has been a calm before the storm so to speak or rather a calm between the storm of moving here and Nathanael's treatment which is set to begin tomorrow. On Monday, our baby will receive a PICC line which is a semi-permanent IV. He will need multiple blood draws over the next three weeks and won't need to be stuck with a needle again once it's inserted. The week of the 19th is when his pre-transplant tests begin in earnest. He'll be having a CT scan, an echo, and an EKG. On November 9th, he's admitted to the bone marrow transplant unit. On the 10th, he receives his central line, which is a surgical procedure. On the 11th, the chemotherapy starts and on the 23rd, Lord willing, he receives his transplant. Then the long, long road of recovery begins.

Speaking of transplant, as of right now, Nathanael will be receiving a cord blood/stem cell transplant as opposed to receiving marrow from a live donor. When babies are born, some parents choose to have the blood contained in the umbilical cord stored in a special bank for just this kind of use. Should you be someone who's having a child in the future, give it some thought, because it's going to be a life saver for our little boy. I say as of right now because it has to do with his being CMV/EBV negative. That means he shows no signs of Cytomegalovirus or Epstein-Barr virus. The live donors who match Nathanael have antibodies for each and the doctor views that as an unnecessary complication. Also, the units of cord blood that are a perfect match for him, are unusually large. Our doctor prefers live donors when possible but views this as an ideal situation for using cord blood. As she put it, "We don't often find a perfect match with cord blood and Nathanael has two." In addition, the risk for graft versus host disease, pretty much the worst complication that can happen, is lower when using cord blood. It isn't significantly lower but you play every card in the deck.

So this is where we are. If you think to pray, tomorrow is a big day and so is Wednesday and Friday of next week. If you are a prayer planner, the 11th through the 21st of November will be a difficult stretch since the chemo is rather intense. It needs to be to kill off enough of his existing bone marrow to make room for the transplant. Have a happy Sunday and go Bengals.

P.S. If you're wondering, "Where's Bree," who do you think is holding the camera? :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Our Growing Boy...

So, you've probably been wondering, "Why hasn't Bree posted anything yet?" I don't have a really good answer, as it's not like I've been cooking (we arrived to a kitchen full of food, and had a wonderful home-cooked meal delivered on Thursday), cleaning (our friends also cleaned the apartment before we arrived), doing dishes (our friend who kept Jamison on Wednesday did our dishes while we were gone) or going anywhere...I've just been hanging out with my boys. I have been a little overwhelmed by all the change, and have been holding Nathanael quite a few hours a day, so it's not often that I have two hands available to type. (Right now he's asleep in the front carrier on my chest - so cute!) I could use prayer for a good attitude right now, as it's hard to not be discouraged by our self-imposed "lockdown" or "house arrest", but after our conversation with the doctor on Wednesday we still think it's best to continue the precautions we started 6 weeks ago, so that means I just won't get out much. We did go to Ault Park yesterday, where we walked around - staying away from people and children's play areas - and got some fresh air while enjoying the view. It was so good for me to get out!

As for the boys, Jamison misses "Mommy, Daddy, 'inin house in Texas", along with some of his toys that I failed to pack. (Who would have thought that he'd miss a plastic frying pan so much?!) He also wants to play on his swing set outside, and he continues to talk about "big kids' Sunday School class" and is eager to attend. I have started to talk to him about how he'll go home with Daddy and Nana Joyce, but that Mommy and Nathanael will stay in Ohio to see the doctors. To help him understand, I've told him that Nathanael has an "owie" inside, that we can't see, but that the doctors can help fix. He asked me yesterday, "Tape it?" I tried not to laugh, as he does think that tape fixes everything. It's going to be easier for me to only care for Nathanael without chasing Jamison around over the next several months, but at the same time it's going to break my heart, as he is such a sweet little boy.

Nathanael, on the other hand, doesn't know that anything has changed, though I think something is going on with him - he spits up more often and is more fussy than he was a few weeks ago (though I suppose it could be my own diet - I've already given up tomatoes). He has been eating well...which also means that we change LOTS of wet and dirty diapers, and that he's "growing like a weed" as Jamison likes to remind us. :) I thought it would be fun to look at some comparison pictures in his car seat.

Here he is at 4 days old (8 lbs or so) - the day he came home:




















In the next one he's 2 weeks old (9/2):















Here he's 5 1/2 weeks (9/25), over 12 lbs now, and has grown almost 2 in!


Yes, one of my friends accurately called me "a great cow"...and I'm so thankful! Not that having a large baby was ever a goal or concern of mine, but given our feeding struggles the first time around, it is such a blessing to not have those problems now. Since many transplant patients have trouble eating at some point during their treatment, I'm especially grateful for Nathanael's healthy appetite and weight gain now. Of course, I think his longer stay in utero (11 days past my due date, and 3 1/2 weeks longer than his big brother!) allowed him more time to gain weight as well, and so it makes me thankful for those last weeks, uncomfortable as they were.

So when you pray for us, please pray for Nathanael's appetite, pray for his protection from mouth sores during treatment, and for him to continue to eat and grow throughout treatment. One doctor did mention that some babies stop nursing and never start again, yet every doctor we've met has reminded us of the benefits of breastfeeding, especially for a WAS baby, because of the immune benefits transferred through a mother's milk. So if he decides not to nurse for awhile I'll be spending lots of time with a pump, and as some of you know, nursing a baby is much easier - and better cuddle time! - than using a pump. ;)

I will do my best to post more often, as I think it will be good for me to share with you, and I hope it will encourage you as well. We do appreciate your prayers, we love getting your messages - email, phone, FB - and are thankful for all of you who are joining us on this journey.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Tiger Woods of Bone Marrow Transplants

Today was d-day and by d I mean the first doctor's appointment. This was the day that we met with the physician who will be managing Nathanael's treatment, otherwise known as the Tiger Woods of bone marrow transplants. I say that because she is considered the world's expert in treating children with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome and has performed more transplants on Wiskott kids than anyone else ever.

It's always a little anticlimactic when you meet someone of that level of expertise. She walked into the room and I thought, "So this is her." Truth is she looks like everyone else and honestly I don't really know what it means to be the best there is at treating a certain disease. I've actually seen Tiger Woods up close. I've seen what sets him apart when it comes to driving a golf ball or making a difficult approach shot. I don't know if she has some kind of wicked technique for finessing a match between a donor and a recipient. I think what we'll find is that should complications arise, we'll be grateful that the "clubs" are in her hands.

One thing is for sure, the place exudes confidence. From the nurses to the different doctors we saw, from the chief through to the members of her team, it quickly became clear that we were in the right place. They treated us with respect, answered our questions, and took great care of Nathanael.

Over the next week or so, we'll get the schedule for his pre-transplant testing. They will need to thoroughly check him for infections and some of the tests, like his endoscopy/colonoscopy, will require sedation. He'll get an EKG and an MRI and lots and lots of blood draws. Once they give the green light, the preparatory regimen of chemotherapy will begin most likely in early November with a transplant goal of mid-November.

Many folks have asked something akin to, "So you've found a donor?" They way they describe it, Nathanael is fortunate in that we have many donors. It's more a matter of choosing one than finding one. We were told today that one potential donor had completed their screening lab tests and if the doctors want to use that person, we are good to go. I don't know what will make them want to choose one over another but they do.

So now we wait to get a schedule for his tests. We can't really go to public places because we need to minimize the risk to Jamison getting sick but I think we can go for some drives and anyone who is around here, if you haven't been sick or around someone who's sick, and don't mind using hand sanitizer when you walk in the door, come on over for a visit.

Once again, you can contact us by email, cell or Facebook.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Door to Door


Good evening from Cincinnati, Ohio. We made it and are beginning to get settled into our new digs. What we are going through as a family can best be described as surreal.

I can't emphasize enough how much we are floating on the wings of the generosity of others, and as you can see by the picture here, I mean that quite literally.

At 9:30 in the morning on Monday, the 28th, we left our house in McKinney, Texas, and drove, oh, about 15 minutes to the Collin County Regional Airport. I've never been to a local, municipal, airport so I didn't really know what to expect. I was surprised when the woman behind the counter told me that if we wanted, the person who picked us up in his truck could just drive through the gate and after the plane landed, I was even more surprised when we were told the truck could just drive up to the aircraft to best facilitate the transfer of luggage.

Let me try to explain what flying is like to me. From my vantage point, walking into an airport is like walking into an alternate reality. I have a friend who flew from China to the U.S. where they went through customs in Los Angeles but changed planes in Honolulu. Since they weren't going through customs, they had to sit in a room for several hours and weren't allowed to leave because they hadn't officially entered the United States. I asked him if he felt like he'd been to Hawaii. He said no way. It's as if entering an airport is an other-worldly experience. You aren't here or there. You're in this metaphysical waystation awaiting the chance to re-enter reality by walking out the door and getting into a car.

Believe it or not, that's a comfort to me because it allows me to hold on to this illusion that planes fly by other-worldly means like magic and wizardry. Driving up to the plane in McKinney robbed me of that illusion. Pilots aren't wizards. These were just a couple of guys who climbed out of the aircraft like you and I would get out of a car. Getting into the plane felt like getting into a car except that it left the ground in one big hurry.

In my conversations with the pilot leading up to the flight, I told him I was what he called a "white knuckle flier." Because of that he took the time to warn me that the climb would be a little bumpy. In reality it wasn't bad at all. There was only one drop that made me grateful I hadn't eaten much that morning. The descent was another story.

Ask anyone who knows anything about flying and they'll tell you that turbulence isn't a big deal. This pilot told me the same thing. The plane can handle more than your body can handle. If you encountered turbulence strong enough to do damage to the aircraft, you wouldn't be conscious to experience it. I don't know why I can't get my brain to buy that. I guess I have this picture in my mind of turbulence causing the plane to tip over upside down or something. Well, after seeing pilots deal with turbulence on Monday far more intense than anything I've experienced on a commercial airline, I think I'm just about over that fear. These guys weren't even holding on to the controls. They were finishing their lunch!

Anyway, here we are, safe and sound in Cincinnati having experienced very little stress considering all the change that's happened. That's because of what I mentioned above; we are resting in the arms of the generosity of a great number of people. There were those who helped us get to the airport and load the plane and see us off with an encouraging word and a hug. There was the guy who drove our van from McKinney to Cincinnati in one day so that we could drive it away from the airplane after we landed. Then there were those who made it possible for us to walk into our temporary home and find food in the fridge and the cupboards. Our two year old had a toddler bed made for him with this adorable stuff alligator lying on it. A wooden train set was waiting for him in the living room. It could have been a whirlwind but instead it was simply a little breezy.

When I studied the book of Ruth, what struck me was how God demonstrated His compassion through the chesed, or lovingkindness, of others. Naomi knew God was with her because He showed her his love through Ruth. He made it clear He'd take care of her through Boaz. Thousands of years later, we are experiencing God's grace made similarly tangible. He's showing us how much He loves us and how much He's taking care of us through the generosity of friends, new and old, family, and a couple of pilots who had compassion on the big kid who had a harder time flying than the two little ones.

Please pray for us tomorrow. The initial appointment is at 9:00 AM Eastern time.

God bless.

Brad

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bruises and Blessings


We are now three days and counting until we willingly begin one of the scariest and craziest seasons of our lives. When I look at the piles of boxes and clothes and towels scattered throughout our living room contemplating being apart from my wife for five months, I find myself wondering why we are doing this. It's like standing at the top of one of those rides at Six Flags or Kings Island and regretting the fact that you ever got in line in the first place.

A little over a week ago, I was reminded why. There's this great swing that some amazing friends let us borrow that's sitting in our kitchen. Nathanael enjoys sitting in it but, as is the case with newborns, only enjoys it for so long. This was one of those moments. Bree thus went to pick him up not realizing that he wasn't strapped in due to the actions of our two and a half year old. Since he wasn't strapped in, he'd slid down further into the swing than was normal and as she lifted him out, he bumped his right thigh just above the knee. What came out was a brief, "I'm in pain," cry that subsided almost as quickly as it began. That's the great thing about little kids. When it's over with, it's over and done.

Later that night, when we were changing one of his diapers, the lights were off in our bedroom because he was just about ready for bed. I was using my cell phone while Bree did the change to provide some light and I decided to just take a quick look at where he had bumped his leg. The bruise was the size of a half dollar and it was red and purple. Trauma equivalent to the flick of your finger against your leg caused a bruise of that magnitude.

It's moments like these that remind us that no matter how great Nathanael looks on the outside, all is not well. If he throws his head around and hits my chin with his forehead, it could cause a brain bleed. This morning he smiled at me and it was an honest to goodness smile. He wasn't passing gas. He was happy but that doesn't change what's going on inside. No amount of smiles will change the fact that our little boy is sick. He's broken at the very level of his DNA. That's why we are doing this.

I wish I could find a superlative to describe how good God has been. An airplane, that quite frankly terrifies me, is going to pick us up on Monday 10 minutes from our home in McKinney, Texas, and then drop us off 10 minutes from our apartment in Cincinnati. The pilot of the plane just happens to have a grand nephew who adopted a boy from Guatemala who had the same disease Nathanael has. Considering there are about 4 cases of Wiskott a year, that makes my head spin. Friends from my high school and college years have rallied around us as if we've never been apart even though we haven't seen each other, in some cases, in 10 years or longer. Not to mention the help that's coming from people we've either met once or never before.

When I was 20 year old junior in college volunteer Young Life leader, I sat in the stands watching a JV soccer game. The guys I met then who were juniors in high school are now reaching out to lengths that are stunning and humbling.

All of this causes some thoughts to ruminate. I'm a pastor, so I can't help make a few points. One, you will never regret giving your life away. Two, you have no idea the ways in which God will use the giving away of your life in the future. Three, all of us, every single person ever born is born with broken DNA that's in need of repair. Even though we may rarely look like it, we are all sick and all in need of a transplant. It's Christ that takes away the old and gives back the new. Pay attention to the symptoms and find the help that's more readily available than you could ever imagine.

See you in Cincinnati.

P.S. Best way to contact us is by cell, email, or Facebook.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

IVIG

On Monday, we experienced Nathanael's first IVIG infusion. Just in case you've never heard of it, IVIG stands for IntraVenous Immune Globulin. Several aspects of that make me uncomfortable, of which the name is only one. Anything called "globulin" just sounds nasty, like trolls and elves live within it. It's also considered a "blood product," which sounds awkwardly futuristic and reminds me of the movie The Island.

Anyway, IVIG is essentially donated antibodies from roughly 1,000 people that are then given to those who suffer from immune deficiency diseases, like Nathanael's WAS, as well as autoimmune disorders like MS. Perhaps you've heard of people going and donating plasma. I've heard of it but I never knew what the point was nor did I understand how it was different from donating blood. Now I know. When people donate plasma, it's used to make IVIG. For 21 days, the shelf life of IVIG, Nathanael has antibodies to fight against illnesses that his body is unable to make for itself. If, for some reason, a bone marrow transplant wasn't an option for Nathanael, he'd be on IVIG treatments for the rest of his life.

We went to the "special procedures" clinic inside Children's Hospital in Dallas. The waiting area was a little scary as it resembled an ER waiting room for kids but they shuffled us off into a room rather quickly. Once inside a space roughly the size of a sitting room or a study, with its own sliding glass door nonetheless, a doctor brought in a machine called a "VeinViewer". In all honesty, this was cool. It shined a green light on Nathanael's hand that basically created a map of his veins and showed them where to put the IV line. We each stuck our hands under the light and let the record show, I've got wicked veins.

In retrospect, the stick was the most nerve wracking experience of the entire day. Nathanael's veins aren't great. I don't know if that's the case for newborns or just him. Thankfully, our immunologist had the "IV Team" come and start the line. They are used to dealing with difficult insertions and were able to get it on the first try. Secondly, there was very little bleeding from the stick which isn't a small concern with a child suffering from thrombocytopenia (low platelets).

Otherwise, it was a rather relaxed 3 hours. That's how long it takes to infused it into his system. From what they told us, the time taken is meant to mitigate against any possible side effects from the infusion and from the looks of things, there were none. Once the infusion began, Bree held Nathanael and we talked, read magazines, and I played with my cell phone a little. Bree was also able to make a dent into our thank-you note pile. We don't know how many of these infusions he'll need before his transplant or if he'll need any once it's been completed.

One thing we are quickly coming to grips with is just how expensive this is all going to be. The blood test on me, Bree, and Jamison to see if we were matches for Nathanael was $5,800. $5,800 for three blood tests and a 20 minute visit from two doctors and two nurses. Never in my life do I remember hitting our "max out of pocket" on our insurance, even when Bree had to have chemotherapy. It took 4 weeks to accomplish that feat once Nathanael was born. I was told that the total cost for a bone marrow transplant is in the range of $500,000.

I feel fortunate and humbled that we have the health insurance that we do. Our policy has no lifetime maximum benefit. In my conversations with the finance people at the hospital, I was told horror stories of people having maximum benefits and losing their homes. I have to admit that I feel a little guilty but at the same time grateful. We have some sizable bills to be sure but for those with eyes to see, there are already a myriad of blessings to be found in the midst of a situation I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Our plans for Cincinnati are coming together. We have secured an apartment in the Oakley neighborhood. That's about ten minutes from the hospital. We're still working on transportation but at least we have a place to live. The initial appointment is on the 30th, two weeks from today.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Beginning of the Road


Today, I (Brad) am sitting at my desk in my office in McKinney, Texas, having an idea of what the next steps are but having no idea how far this road will take us.

On Wednesday, August 19th, at 3:18 in the morning, our second son, Nathanael Zachary Banks was born. His length and weight were fantastic, 8lbs 70z and 20 inches long. Roughly an hour and a half later, we were in our recovery room and as I was holding Nathanael in my arms, a group of three nurses walked in and one told us that his platelets were low and that they needed to remove him to an isolation room for further observation. It was at this point that we knew the answer to a difficult question.

My wife Bree is a carrier for a disease called Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome or WAS. It's a genetic disease that affects 1 per 250,000 live male births per year which categorizes it as a rare condition. I can remember the conversation Bree and I had on the couch in my fraternity house in college where she told me there was a 50/50 chance she'd be a carrier. I can remember when we got her test results that meant that, if we were to have children, each girl would have a 50/50 chance of being a carrier and each boy would have a 50/50 chance of having a disease where his white blood cells can't fight off infection and his platelets were too low and immature to curb any significant bleeding, not to mention a dramatically increased risk for leukemia and lymphoma as he grew older. The statistics held true. We have two boys. The first one didn't get the gene but the second one did.

The only cure for Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome is a bone marrow transplant. In a few weeks, we will be traveling to Cincinnati so that Nathanael can be treated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Why Cincinnati? One reason is our health insurance. More of the treatment will be covered if we go there for transplant but the second reason is expertise. More Wiskott babies have been successfully transplanted there than anywhere else in the world.

I love Cincinnati. It's where I grew up. It's where I graduated from high school. It's where I practically went to college and thus, it's where I met my wife. Most importantly, it's where I met Jesus. Whenever I have the chance to visit, which isn't very often, my heart sings. I love the Queen City but I hate the reason for going. My beautiful infant son will have to endure a hell whose redemption is found in the chance at having a normal life and the blessing of never having to remember a single minute of any of it.

This blog is Bree and mine's attempt to share with you, our family and friends, what's happening and also to help us process how God is working in us, for us, and, we pray, using us and this situation to bring about His glory. He is sovereign and we are doing our best to trust Him today.

Sometimes the postings will come from Brad. Sometimes they'll come from Bree. We'll let you know what's going on and how you can pray. What a great day it is that stuff like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and email can be so easily used to connect with so many. To God be the glory.

In Christ
Brad