“Today”

A mom post today….

We were driving to the zoo on Sunday morning and Jess turned to me

“Do you know what today is?  It’s today.”

Such simple words but ones with so much meaning between the two of us – it’s almost like a secret language.  “Today” was the day that we almost lost Lily; the day that our lives stopped in an instant and we got caught up in a vortex where the rest of the world ceased to exist.

We’ve talked about it, ad naseaum, I’m sure.  It’s hard not to when a day just sends your life in the total opposite direction of where it was headed.  But the truth is, the direction spinning really started the day of Lily’s surgery.  It was being pulled into a room by her surgeon and being told about her PVS: laying out the two possible outcomes (that the surgery would solve everything and she would show no other symptoms – which he didn’t think was realistic, or the disease would eventually be fatal).  We stood, against the barrier looking out into the Sick Kids atrium, in shock and crying.  It seemed so unfair – she had only been ours for a week and now we were in danger of losing her.  At that time we didn’t know that the disease was progressive and doesn’t work on any sort of timeline, we didn’t know that a heart-lung transplant was an option, we didn’t know that we have one of the most amazing cardiologist teams in the world, we were just heartbroken.  The next few weeks were filled with so many unknowns – words like chylothorax, pleural effusion and pulmonary embolism became part of our regular vocabulary, and we learned about seizure medications, g-tubes and Cortical Visual Impairments.  Those 66 days changed our lives in ways that we probably don’t even know.

And even now, looking back, there’s no way to describe that time and get it right: the fear, the hopelessness and the anger at the situation that are mixed in with the love, pride and amazement at such an incredible little girl.   Sometimes words can’t do it, but sometimes photos can.

We (I) took tonnes of photos during those 66 days, because I wanted Lily, when she was older, to see the physical evidence of how strong and incredible she is.  But these photos have become my own personal therapy – when I get overwhelmed at the possibilities in front of us, I look at these photos and I can see for myself how bad it was and how far she’s come.

But we’re here, 2 years later.  We’ve learned more words and more therapies and our life is nothing like what we had expected when we first brought home that little girl named Natalia.   It’s might be a crazy life – but it’s our life (ten points to the geeks who can identify that quote).

This week, we’re also asking you to send some health, good transplant thoughts to our friend Alexa.  Alexa is a pretty amazing girl, who has something called a UCD (Urea Cycle Disorder) and she is having a liver transplant to help her get super healthy and strong.  We know that life is going to be a bit tough for her for a while, but we want her to know that we’re thinking about her and rooting her on – she’s totally one of Lily’s heroes!

Pre-Surgery Echo & Lily's first overnight visit

Pre-Surgery Echo & Lily’s first overnight visit

Initials in place - waiting for surgery.

Initials in place – waiting for surgery.

They had to keep her fully sedated to keep all of those tubes in place.

They had to keep her fully sedated to keep all of those tubes in place.

In the CICU - the surgeon had to leave her sternum open for 3 days to allow the swelling to go down.

In the CICU – the surgeon had to leave her sternum open for 3 days to allow the swelling to go down.

Our home away from home...a comfy chair & footstool in the CICU/CCU parent lounge

Our home away from home…a comfy chair & footstool in the CICU/CCU parent lounge

Chest tubes finally removed and we were allowed to walk around the 4th Floor

Chest tubes finally removed and we were allowed to walk around the 4th Floor

Taking in the view on our first escape from the room

Taking in the view on our first escape from the room

Post cardiac arrest - the nurses always made sure she was snuggled up tight

Post cardiac arrest – the nurses always made sure she was snuggled up tight

Constantly monitoring her O2 saturations

Constantly monitoring her O2 saturations

First smile post cardiac arrest

First smile post cardiac arrest

Pensive at 2 years

Pensive at 2 years

Monster Lily

Monster Lily

We've come a long way Bugaloo

We’ve come a long way Bugaloo

A Great December

Guys, it’s a good thing that it’s almost the new year, because I totally need to make a resolution that I’m going to update you all a lot more often.  Lately I’ve just been so busy that by the time I can sit down and write a post so many things have happened and I’m scared I’m going to forget something.

jessandlily

First – it was my birthday and now I’m 2! That meant it was totally time to party.  The mom’s planned a fun afternoon for me and my friends – there was a slide and a ball pit, cars to drive, lots of food and then cake! Can I tell you that I’m seriously digging cake.  My Theresa made the most delicious cake ever (because that’s what she does) and it was so good that I actually tried to eat the plate!

lilycake

I got to see so many cool people – my birthday twin and my BFF (Daniele & Shanelle) came, even though they’re so much older and they brought their friends Sarah and Cameron, who were so much fun, and they even let Rachel and Tammy come along too.  I got to spend a lot of time with my friend Caleigh too, who is the same age as me but knows how to run and walk.  Even still, she slows down so that we can play together – she’s awesome! Mostly, it was just the best birthday ever! I can’t wait until next year.

caleighandlily

It was more than just my birthday party that was super cool, it was also my birthday present from the mom’s…they bought me a puppy! It’s a boy puppy and he’s black and fluffy and the mom’s say he’s going to be really big (which is better for me because then he’s kind of like a pony!).  There was some debate about his name because Mama C was telling Mommy not to be ridiculous, but I think that in the end Mommy won because we’re all calling him Sprinkles now.  Mama C looks a little embarrassed when she has to call him when we’re out for walks but Mommy just laughs and laughs so I think it’s okay.  Sprinkles and I haven’t spent too much time together yet, because he’s a little bouncy and bite-y still (the mom’s say that’s because he’s teething like I am), but sometimes he just sits nicely and lets me pet him (and by pet him I actually mean pull on his fur or try and stick my fingers up his nose).  The cat doesn’t really like him, but she’s outnumbered so too bad for her!

sprinkles

I had my latest check-up with my cardiologist at Sick Kids last week.  I had to be sedated so that they could do an ECHO and look and see how my heart is doing.  The mom’s were super happy because even while I was on the medication that makes me sleepy, my oxygen sats stayed as high as 96%, which is pretty incredible.  And it turns out that it’s because I am incredible! Dr. Dipchand says that my hearts looks amazing! She confirmed that there is no blood flow at all coming from my left lung, but I’m handling it really well and there are no signs that my pulmonary pressures are high.  All of this means that I don’t have to go back and see Dr. Dipchand for ONE WHOLE YEAR! She and the mom’s talked some more about some down the road, long term stuff, but for now, unless I start showing signs that something is going funny, then she said there is no point in coming in to take another picture to show us the same thing.   It may have been the best birthday/christmas gift ever!!

crystalandlily

Speaking of Christmas – I just wanted to tell you all that I hope you have a very very very merry time with all of your family or friends or friends who are family.  I know that I’m very very lucky to have incredible people in my life who make the holiday’s so happy and amazing and I just hope that you do too! Plus, I met this Santa guy and he seems to know what’s going on….so maybe talk to him too and he’ll sort you out…

lilyandsanta

Can You See the Difference?

Guys, do you remember what you were doing one year ago today? Because I do…well, kind of.  At this time, one whole year ago, I was actually pretty out of it because I had just come out of my second open heart surgery.  You see, when I was born there were some big time problems with my heart – I had something called an AVSD and coarctation of the aorta.  When I was just 7 days old, and still with my birth parents, the doctors at Sick Kids did my first open heart surgery to make my heart a little better so that I could get strong enough and big enough to have the second surgery and on June 16th last year, they decided that I was finally ready.  Now, I don’t remember a lot of the details (mostly because I was on a lot of drugs) but the mom’s say that today was the first day of a very scary 3 months for them.  My heart surgeon was actually really happy with how well he was able to fix my heart, but as most you know, it was during this surgery that he officially diagnosed me with Pulmonary Vein Stenosis.  He was such a great surgeon though, that he tried to fix that (as best he could) at the same time, so that I wouldn’t have to have ANOTHER surgery, but because he spent so much time playing with my heart, it was too swollen for them to close my chest and I spent 3 more days with my sternum open to let the swelling go down.  Those three days were pretty scary for the mom’s.  I hadn’t even been home with them for 3 weeks and suddenly the heart problem that they had expected from me turned out to be way worse and now they were hanging out in a CCCU room actually being able to look down and see my heart beat.  It was pretty surreal.

 

And now here we are, one whole year later, and not only is my chest closed up all nicely and my heart is amazing and healthy and my right lung is strong and working hard, but I’m also sitting and seeing and have a tooth.  And I’m playing in the sand for the first time ever, and hanging out with the mom’s and their friends at the park and trying ice cream and slushies (thanks Rachel!).  I don’t know if you guys know, but us babies do a lot of growing up in one year…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

By The Numbers

98582827495: the number of people in line at the Starbucks at Sick Kids today.

189: the number of days before I need to see my cardiologist again.

99: the highest my oxygen saturation levels were at today (does anyone else remember when we were happy when it was 77?)

30: the number of seconds it takes for the technician to actually do an ECG.

10: the number of minutes it takes the technician to set up the ECG.

 

5: the number of minutes I had to sit in the chest x-ray tube for them to see that my heart and lungs look amazing.

2: the number of naps I got woken up from today so that people could poke and prod at me.

1: the number of lungs I have that are strong enough to do the work of 2 regular working lungs.

 

Just saying, it’s been a pretty amazing day.

 

It’s Been A While

Have you missed me? Mama C has been hogging the spotlight lately to write about her “feelings”, but luckily I’ve been really busy so I forgive her and I’m ready to take back the reins.  I hope she’s not too sad about it.

I really have been super busy.  It’s just amazing how time flies when you’re learning so many new things.  In March, the mom’s noticed that I had really stepped up my game in all of the things I was learning – I was reaching for toys that you put in front of me, I started enjoying being on my tummy and I started to rock at rolling over.  So now the mom’s are making me do something called physiotherapy.  I had been doing it with my OT Kristin, but because I’m also eating really well (like really really well people – I can gum a cheese puff like nobody’s business and don’t even get me started on how quickly I can swallow strained carrots), Kristin wants to be able to spend our OT time on eating, so now we do physiotherapy with another person.  Sometimes I really like it – I get to play with different toys and we sing come songs while I rock back and forth, but other times it’s a lot of work and I’m not shy about letting everyone know that I’m totally into it.  But we think that it’s working because I’ve been caught sitting on my own for longer and longer and the other day I even got to hang out on my hands and knees.  The mom’s say that this is getting me prepped to start crawling.  I’m not exactly sure what that is yet, but they say that I’m going to like it.  I think it has to do with moving around the room and if I’m right about that I’m really excited! I LOVE to move.  I don’t think I like anything better than starting in one spot and then finding myself on the opposite side of the room just by rolling and rolling.  I’ve gotten stuck with my legs under the couch or the television stand but mostly I get completely stuck under the coffee table – those legs make it hard for me to keep going! Even when people are holding me, unless I’m in serious cuddle mode, I’ll squirm around until they get the hint (although sometimes I’m just tricking them and squirming around so that they’ll turn me around and I can stick my fingers in their mouth).  Now that I’ve figured this out, there’s no stopping me.

Did you know that it’s almost been one whole year since I came to live with the mom’s? I can’t either.  Sometimes it feels like yesterday but then I look at pictures and see just how tiny I was then – my hair was so short! On Sunday (May 27th) is the 1 year anniversary of when I came home to stay.  It’s pretty exciting.  And even more so now because the mom’s are just about to meet with my adoption worker and sign the papers that say that they really really want me as their daughter.  Those papers will go to the CAS director and then onto the court.  Once the court has it they will set a date for me and the mom’s to come in and they’ll make my adoption legal! It’s still about 3 months away, but the papers being signed is the very last step and so really it’s just around the corner.  Don’t worry – I’ll tell you lots more about it when the time gets closer.

I know some of you have been wondering how I’m doing with all of my doctor’s visits, but the truth is, I’ve barely had any lately!  I saw the ophthalmologist last week, who was really happy with how my eyes are doing.  She just kept saying that I’ve surpassed any expectation they had of how well I would see – in fact, she thought that I would never see again, but I reminded her that my brain is a pretty amazing thing.  We’re still noticing that I have some nystagmus, and that my eyes turn in a bit when I’m trying to focus on something, but the ophthalmologist also said that a lot of new babies have those issues when they’re learning to see and a lot of the time they correct themselves.  She’s going to see me again in 6 months and she’ll decide then if she wants to do anything about it.  I also have to go and see my cardiologist next week, but I’m not really sure why.  I think the mom’s and I agree that I’m doing really well.  I have lots of energy, I don’t get tired when I’m eating and my colour has stayed fantastic.  I have to have a chest x-ray though and I really hate those.  That’s when they stick me in the little tube so that I stay perfectly still while they take the picture.  I’ll also have an EKG done to check how my heart is doing, but we’re secretly hoping that I’ll even get to come off the diuretic medication.  But going to cardiology means that I also get a chance to go and visit my friends on 4D and show them how big I’ve gotten since they saw me in December.  I think they’re going to be pretty impressed.

Rubber Ball Life

If I have learned one thing in my short but dramatic life, it’s that life really does work like a rubber ball – it bounces up and down between happy things and sad things before you can even realize what’s going on.  I know the mom’s are wishing lately that there would either be a few more happy things or even just that the sad things would be spaced out a little more so they could at least take a breath in between bounces.

I had a new dog.  His name was Otis and he was tiny like me, and funny like me and almost as adorable as me.  Mama C was really sad about Ellie not being around anymore so Mommy decided to surprise her and found a new puppy for us.  Otis came home to us on the Friday night after Ellie went away and we had a really good weekend.  But then by Monday he was really sick and the veterinarian told the mom’s that he had something called Parvo, which is very contagious in puppies and means that they can’t live anymore.  So, the mom’s had to put him down like Ellie, because by the end he was too sick to even move.  The mom’s were surprised at how fast it happened and felt really bad that they weren’t able to do anything else, but knew that it was for the best.  Either way, I miss my friend Otis.  I actually really liked him – he was very gentle with me (after the first day when he used my foot as a chew toy) and he just scampered around the house making everyone laugh.  Poor Otis.

So, that was the sad thing.  The problem was it was just one more sad thing on top of a whole lot of other sad things in a short period.  Between Grandma dying, me having seizures, Ellie dying and then Otis dying, it has been a hard 6 weeks for the mom’s.  Mama C decided that it was time for a little reality break so she’s off on vacation for the next two whole weeks! We’re just waiting for my new cousin, Baby Ollie to be born and then we’ll go to Grandpa’s house in Frankford and spend some downtime just hanging out in his nice house by the water.

But there have been good things happening too! The smiley happy me that made an appearance two weeks ago seems to be sticking around.  All day long I’m just happy to just sit, bounce my feet all around and smile these big huge smiles.  I’m giggling more and now I can’t stop talking.  A lot of the times I’m just playing with different noises but the mom’s have caught me babbling a little bit too.  Everyone who comes over: Janet (my vision worker), my OT Kristin and Kathy and Barb from Surrey Place (Infant Development and Speech and Language) say that it’s like being around an entirely new kid.  They’re amazed at how much I’ve changed in just a few short weeks and they’re so happy that I’m learning new things all of the time.  And I LOVE seeing people.  I’m not even shy a little bit.  This weekend my cousin Alex and her boyfriend Aaron came to visit and I was so happy to just play and smile with them, but it doesn’t seem to matter who’s looking at me, I just want to show them how happy I am.  I don’t really care about toys or stuff, but I love the people in my life so very much.

And it seems to all be because the new medication the doctor’s put me on for my seizures seems to be working so very very well.  I haven’t had a single seizure in almost 3 weeks and my brain is definitly not feeling as fuzzy as it was before.  You can tell just by looking at me that I’m feeling so much better.  The doctor’s were really happy at how well I responded to the medication and were happy that I didn’t have to go onto the other one.  They were even able to give the mom’s a baseline for my development, which made them happy because a) it’s been a long time since anyone has been able to do that and b) they weren’t too far off the mark themselves.  The neurologist says that I’ve developed to about a 4 – 6 month old baby, which at first seems not so good (seeing as I’m 14 months), but is actually pretty amazing, seeing as my brain was pretty much re-set in July.  It’s almost like I have 2 birthday’s to count from.  I have my December birthday which is my actual age, but then I have my brain birthday which is July and would make me 7 months old.  So the mom’s are really really happy with how far I’ve come since I was that little baby in the PICU that wasn’t moving at all, couldn’t see light and couldn’t breathe on her own.  When you put it that way, I’m pretty amazed myself.

 

Come closer, I have a secret….

I wasn’t always this big you know? I started out pretty tiny – 1.78kg to be exact (that’s 3.9 pounds).  But over the last year, I have grown bigger and stronger with every day and every week and every month.  And now, today is my first birthday and even though there were some sad times and scary times, I think that my life is pretty amazing and I’m happy to be sharing my first birthday with all of you.