Blue Sky

the hunts in prague


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Monday: big step!

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When Melissa and I got to the ICU this morning, our favorite doctor asked us to come back in an hour: Eliza’s X-rays looked great, her vitals were stable, and they were ready to try to take her off the ventilator!

After about 60 minutes and 3 seconds we were back, were buzzed in immediately, and came in to see E with just a pacifier! It wasn’t one of ours, and I don’t know where it came from, but I’ve never been so happy to see a binky in my life.

The first hour or so was kind of stressful– her breathing was ragged, and sometimes her O2 level would drop and they’d have to shift things around to get it back up. But then she settled down, and she improved pretty steadily through the whole day. It was amazing to watch: for the first 30 minutes or so her blood-oxygen level was sort of erratic, but around 93-94%. Then it settled in at 95 for awhile, with fewer drops. By the time Melissa went to lunch it was sitting at 96 or 97, and for most of the afternoon it was at 97 or 98, occasionally hitting 100%. Her body is waking up!

Tonight she’s had some coughing, and nausea related to the pain meds. Docs and nurses assure us this is normal. This afternoon the doctor gave us 90% odds that she can step down to the surgical ICU tomorrow. The surgeon who operated on her was in today and said everything related to the surgery is great; we’ve just been waiting on her to be able to breathe on her own.

It was a really, really good day, praise God. Please pray her progress continues tomorrow. She has a lot of work to do now, and our work of caring for her is probably about to get harder (i.e. more than just watching her sleep). But we are so thankful.

Tomorrow we have to say goodbye to Grampa. He’s been here 10 days and has been awesome, along with Ooh-La-La, at keeping Sam and Foard well cared for while M & I have been at the hospital. The day after arriving he hopped in the car, his first time driving a stick in 20 years, and learned how to get to both boys’ schools, church and the grocery store. He got Foard to go to school without crying for the first (and second) times, and generally provided ice cream – fueled fun. Thanks Grampa!

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Sunday: “It is good.”

Just a quick update before bed.

Dawgs won. Bill and I stayed up. So worth it.

Beautiful fall day in Prague. We had pecan waffles. Boys and I played football (both kinds, with a variation that includes the trampoline).

Cindi and Melissa went to hospital and found E looking good. Vent settings down, O2 and other vitals holding well. Then head nurse came in and said she is stable. They’ll start to reduce pain meds and sedation slowly, then hope to take tube out Mon or Tues. She always makes notes before she comes to talk to us in English (i.e. takes extra steps to help us), and her concluding statement, with a rare smile, was “It is good.”

Boys and Grampa had a fun afternoon at park with Davises before church. Our music was beautiful tonight. I – er, I mean somebody took this at our newly launched 2nd service. Perfect reminder. Trusting for a big week, knowing it will have good and hard moments like this one did. God is good.


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Saturday

Man, today was hard. The news is good: Eliza’s lungs continue to strengthen, so they can relax some of the settings on the ventilator. The hard thing for parents is that now her body’s working harder, so things like heart rate and blood pressure can vary more, which is scary for us (though not for the doctors and nurses).

They’re also still trying to get some of the fluids out of her while also needing to continue to pump her full of all manner of things. So that becomes a delicate balancing act, also affecting heart rate and blood pressure. This is what ICUs do: the balancing act.

So to be clear, doctors and nurses are telling us at every turn that things are normal, nothing to worry about. I used a phone-a-friend Czech translator today with a doctor in a moment of concern. After the doctor explained things, the first thing our friend said when I got back on the phone was “OK, so relax, everything is ok.”

It’s frustrating to be this irrational: to have professionals you trust reassuring you that your child (who by the way is strapped to every monitor imaginable) is doing well, and to struggle mightily to believe it. We felt so much better when she was sleeping hard with a nice steady slow heartbeat, and we didn’t even think about blood pressure until today. But that was because her lungs were hardly doing anything. Now she’s improving, but that means she has to fight. (Just like I prayed and told you to pray yesterday. Yeah, I know.)

So pray for her. Pray for those lungs, and for steady heart rates and blood pressure. Pray for steadily increasing strength, and for her to come off the vent early next week. And pray for us, for faith and trust and rest. Thank you friends.

And now here’s your reward for listening to our whining. Can you see the boy in this tree? He’s up there. Waaaaaaaaay up there.

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Friday: “Beware those who reside beneath the shadow of the Wings.”

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Today I started re-reading one of my favorite books, Peace Like a RiverIt opens with the narrator telling the story of his birth. Permit me a long quote, and remember I’m reading this while sitting 2 feet from my daughter’s hospital bed.

I was lying uncovered on a metal table across the room.

Dad lifted me gently. I was very clean from all that rubbing, and I was gray and beginning to cool. A little clay boy is what I was.

“Breathe,” Dad said.

I lay in his arms.

Dr. Nokes said, “Jeremiah, it has been twelve minutes.”

“Breathe!” The picture I see is of Dad, brown hair short and wild, giving this order as if he expected nothing but obedience.

Dr. Nokes approached him. “Jeremiah. There would be brain damage now. His lungs can’t fill.”

Dad leaned down, laid me back on the table, took off his jacket and wrapped me in it—a black canvas jacket with a quilted lining, I have it still. He left my face uncovered.

“Sometimes,” said Dr. Nokes, “there is something unworkable in one of the organs. A ventricle that won’t pump correctly. A liver that poisons the blood.” Dr. Nokes was a kindly and reasonable man. “Lungs that can’t expand to take in air. In these cases,” said Dr. Nokes, “we must trust in the Almighty to do what is best.” At which Dad stepped across and smote Dr. Nokes with a right hand, so that the doctor went down and lay on his side with his pupils unfocused. As Mother cried out, Dad turned back to me, a clay child wrapped in a canvas coat, and said in a normal voice, “Reuben Land, in the name of the living God I am telling you to breathe.”

You can imagine how this fueled my will to pray for Eliza. I decided I really wanted today to be a day of forward progress, not just waiting, and so in the name of the living God I prayed for energy, for life, for the will to fight to come forth in her body. I prayed for heart and lungs to turn the corner and strengthen, and for less need for meds and machines.

Later in the book, Reuben warns “Beware those who reside beneath the shadow of the Wings,” and so I reminded our Enemy that he has no claim on Eliza: that she dwells in the shadow of the Almighty, that she is his by creation and baptism, and that no weapon formed against her shall prosper. If Jesus says she lives, then she lives. Cancer or not, no one can snatch her from his hand.

Wouldn’t it be a great story if she suddenly came around, didn’t need the ventilator anymore, stunned all the doctors and nurses, and we got to come home this weekend? Well, it didn’t happen like that. A doctor did come in, and said “Everything is the same as yesterday. We hope it will be better.” Later she clarified that the respiratory stuff was a little improved from yesterday, but not much.

But the day was young. Before long another doctor came in.  She said things are progressing slowly, but we have to remember that E’s body is weaker because of chemotherapy, and she’s just had a huge operation. Everything is normal. Then E had an ultrasound, which revealed lots of good things: no fluid buildup, no problems in any of the major organs, good healing. One area of one lung isn’t really functioning, but it’s close to the incision, was probably damaged in the operation, and just needs to heal. Still normal. Doctor #1, who’s pretty reserved in her praise, said all the pathology numbers are “very good.” Doctor #2 answered all our questions about the lung spot, then brought us back to the big picture and said “This is all good news. Everything is going well.”

Later in the day we found out E’s respiratory performance was improving– I assume throughout the day, since in the morning they said it was “only” a little better. So while they won’t take the tube out for 2-3 more days, they will bring down some of the breathing assistance she’s getting. And when Melissa and I came back from lunch, they had decreased her morphine, with no effect on her heart rate or blood pressure (both signs of discomfort).

Sometimes God answers us in big, dramatic ways; most of the time it’s in slow and steady ways. But he always hears, and his answers are better than ours, even when they are hard. Today we’re grateful for slow and steady (which, as we know, wins the race). But we do ask you to join us in praying boldly and strongly: “Eliza Hunt, in the name of the living God I am telling you to breathe.”


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Thursday

Another waiting day today. They didn’t try to take the tube out– perhaps tomorrow. We’re ok with that; we don’t want them to have to put it back in again once they pull it out.

We learned a few specifics in a good conversation with one of the ICU docs. She has some fluid on (not in) her lungs, owing to all the fluids they’re pumping into her. This is normal, and they’re giving her a diuretic to help her kidneys process it all. There’s already less fluid than yesterday. There are no signs of inflammation anywhere. Her heart and all other organs are fine, doing exactly what they expect.

In the next day or so they’ll start a delicate process of weaning her off some pain and sedation meds, while still managing her discomfort. She’s getting morphine, which slows down her breathing, so they don’t want to do that forever. But again, everything is going fine, no cause for concern.

That’s the medical side. On the parent side, today was harder. It feels less like she’s recovering and more like she’s in a coma, although that’s not true. There’s not the obvious forward progress we would love to see, although the doctors are completely happy. Even though she has no idea we’re there with her, we feel guilty and torn every time we leave.

So pray for her continued and quickening progress, and pray for us in the meantime. We are tired and fragile, but grateful for all the good news. Pray that the good news, not our worries and fears, will stay in the forefront of our minds.

In other accomplishments: This guy wrote his first letter today!

In other accomplishments: This guy wrote his first letter today!


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Wednesday

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Not much to report today, which is fine. It turns out the reason E wasn’t ready to go off the vent yesterday is that she has some swelling in her trachea, probably due to the tube itself, which is normal. They wanted her to rest all day today and they’ll try it again tomorrow.

So rest she did. We sat in the room all day with a break for lunch, and treated ourselves to breaching the hospital grounds and heading to a nearby food court. Eliza stirs about every hour when the sedative wears off, they give it to her again, and she settles right back down. All her numbers are good and stable.

Leaving her at night is hard, but good for our sanity. Thanks to everyone who’s asked and prayed specifically about that. Tonight Melissa left early enough to be here to put the boys to bed after Bible study, so that was sweet. We feel good about the doctors and nurses; they’re very attentive and answer all our questions.

Two big prayers for the next couple of days:

  • Pray that she’ll breathe well when they take the tube out, and that they won’t try to take it out until there’s good reason to think she’s ready.
  • Pray that all her vital signs will continue to hold, and for protection against infection.

The boys are doing great. Foard went to school without crying for the first time today– we give Grampa all the credit. (New school, with lots of Czech, in the middle of all this = perfect storm.) Both of them are being helpful and kind, not whining about where we are, and understanding Eliza needs us to be with her. We are so proud of them.

God is faithful, and he is showing us this in large part through the faithfulness of our army of pray-ers. We are grateful to God and all of you. Please keep it up!


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Late Tuesday update

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Eliza went into the ICU around midday. Toward dinnertime they tried taking her tube out, but she wasn’t breathing well enough on her own, so it’s back in and they’ll try again tomorrow or Thursday. She’s sedated and resting with good vital signs.

The worst thing today was not being able to stay overnight with her in the ICU. We had to leave at 9:30 and will go back first thing in the morning (before they want us there, I bet). That was one of the lowest moments of this whole thing, honestly.

She’s out cold; she’ll never know we’re not there. But as Melissa said, the reason she wants to be there is we want Eliza to have an advocate. So we trust Jesus to be her Advocate even when we can’t. Yesterday I read the promise in John 14 that he will send his Spirit to be our Comforter, our Counselor, our Advocate. Please pray that we’ll remember that promise tonight, and that Eliza will have deep rest uninterrupted by alarms or complications.

Interesting things from today:

  • When the head surgeon came out to tell us the surgery was almost finished, he brought his camera. And showed us pictures. Of her liver. And the tumor. He didn’t ask if we wanted to see them or if we were squeamish. As it happens, we’re not, and we did. So that’s good.
  • This was our doctor’s 60th hepatoblastoma operation. His first on an American child. Another doctor told us he is one of the world experts on this type of tumor. People come from all over Central Europe to have this surgery at this hospital.
  • When I posted on Facebook that they had taken E to surgery, within minutes we had replies from people praying right then in Europe, Africa, North and South America, Asia, and Australia.

We are so happy that the surgery went according to plan. Seeing Eliza in the ICU is a reminder that the harder part, a slow recovery, has just begun. There were some hard moments tonight, but this was a good day and a big step. Pray that God will give us strength for each new day, and for our sleep tonight. Thank you all.

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(Psalm 46:1-7)