Monday, April 30, 2012

Still dancing...

Hi Everyone,

It’s me, Ella, and I’m back…  I took a little hiatus from writing because well I’ve kind of been going through a lot lately - a lot more than any adult could handle (at least that’s what I hear).   My daddy keeps saying he would be a crybaby if he had to go through what I have to and for some reason I believe him.  How is it that the little package that is me is stronger than some of you full grown folks?  I just don’t get it. 

Anyway, let me bring you up to speed on the past week.   I’m not gonna lie or sugar coat anything, the week had its ups and downs.  In terms of how I was feeling, Monday was good, Tuesday was bad, Wednesday was ok, and then Thursday came and it was horrible.   It was one of those days that gets worse as the day goes on and then seems like it will never end.   Mommy needed to let out a big ole cry that night and then she felt a little better.   She absolutely hates to see me in pain and uncomfortable so after a while it really gets to her - couple that with sleep deprivation and trust me it is not pretty.  Thank God she had Miss Pat here to help her this past week.  Though it was still tough with just the two of them I was so pleased to have someone caring for me that I know, trust, and love.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out of your life to be with me, help nurture me back to good health, and be there for both moral and physical support for my mommy.   

On the medical front, my jaw is moving out quite nicely.  My bottom jaw is not yet in alignment with my top jaw, but it is getting close.  Dr. M wants me to have a slight underbite because he knows that it won’t be long before I outgrow my new jaw, since for kids with Nager their jaws don’t typically grow on their own.   Everyone is already commenting how much bigger my smile is.  And they thought I couldn’t get any cuter??  Teehee.  The bad news is that my pin sites have gotten much worse.  Mommy got especially nervous when she saw raw tissue bulging out of my pin sites and green drainage.  Dr. M thinks I have something called fat necrosis and put me on Clindamyacin in case there is an infection brewing as well.  It is quite gross and I will spare you the details, but for those with a strong stomach feel free to inquire on your own.  Dr. M made sure to tell us that fat necrosis is something that is very uncommon.  Mommy immediately said, “Of course, it is...isn’t everything with Ella!!!”  What she doesn’t understand is I’m just trying to keep you all on your toes.  It’s not easy finding ways to be different…I work hard at this.    

It is way past my bed time so I better hit the crib, but before I sign off I want to tell you I had an amazing weekend with visitors from New York.  My nurse and friend, Caroline and her husband, Dave, came to see me.  Having them around made me happier than I’ve been in a long time and brought many smiles to my little face.  It made me feel at home again or rather it brought a small piece of home to me.  Charlotte may be nice to many, but to me I’m in a strange city, living in a strange house, and surrounded by strange people.  Coming out of major surgery and then being thrown into a foreign environment has not been easy on me.   Seeing familiar faces who love and adore me brought me so much comfort.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  You guys made my week and mommy’s and daddy’s too :).   

P.S.  One item I can cross off my bucket list is making a whole group of strangers get up and dance.  We grabbed a bite to eat to celebrate Dave’s birthday last night.  Of course I made friends with another table and demanded they all get up and copy my dance moves.  Wouldn’t you know…it wasn’t long before I had them all doing the swim dance.  What suckers!  Lol.

Peace out y’all,
(What?…I’m in the South now)

I told you the South is growing on me...

 Love me some mashed potatoes

Still a toddler, still getting into trouble :P

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jinxed it

I definitely spoke too soon when I said Ella's pain was manageable.  In my head I thought it was crazy that she didn't need major pain meds only days after getting her jaw broken and a metal device put in.  But, then I just thought maybe we got lucky or maybe she has an insane tolerance for pain...boy I was in for another rude awakening.  Starting Tuesday she became extremely irritable to the point of being inconsolable.  During the night out of the blue she was thrashing kicking and punching, throwing her body this way and that...not at all typical of Ella.  Tylenol and Motrin were just not cutting it; we had to go back on the narcotics.  And while she was a completely different baby after that, she did not appreciate the side effects that soon followed.  It's a double edged sword - you either give the meds and suffer the icky side effects or you let her endure pain and truthfully I'm not sure what is worse :(.  To top it off her pin sites have not shown improvement.  They have become increasingly red and now are oozing yellow - never a good sign.  We saw Dr. Matthews today and he gave us a special spray to put on them, but said that we may soon have to put her back on antibiotics to prevent infection from going into the bone.  So between the pain from the pin turning and thus bone spreading and the skin inflammation around the pins she is not a happy camper.  When the meds are fully kicked in she has her good moments (see pics below), however we know very well when they are starting to wear off.  Erik and I are so inspired by her and honestly amazed that she doesn't hate us yet.  All day long we have to do crumby things to her and somehow someway she still manages to crack a smile or give us a smoochy kiss.  Ella is going through so much and though she has definitely become more feisty since the surgery it has not dampened her spirit.  She is like the mayor here at Ronald McDonald with visitors and guests alike gathering around her and responding to her every sign.  It's funny because even though they don't know sign language they still figure out exactly what she wants them to do.  Ella even has a dance buddy, Noah.  The two of them are shaking their booties throughout the house and the more he does it the more she is absolutely hilarious.  The other night she didn't want to come up to our room, and Noah piped in and said "She can sleep in my room tonight."  Erik put the breaks on that one right away.  Then Noah asked if he and Ella could email each other and Erik said yes, but her daddy will be screening the emails  The Ronald McDonald house has been wonderful.  Ella gets to be around other kids and we get a cozy and welcoming environment.  It is especially great to be in a place where people understand what you're going through, but we are looking forward to seeing familiar faces soon.  

Anyway, I'm gonna run to catch some rest while I can.  Thank you for all your encouraging emails and comments and of course all of your prayers.  Please continue to pray for Ella's pain to be controlled and her pin sites to heal.  And if you could throw in one for sleep for Erik and I that would be wonderful too ;).  

Love and God bless,

Chillaxin after Codeine

 Ella and Noah

Ella and Katie

Our sweet lil kittie 

Frying up an elephant...yummy

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One Day at a Time

Hi Everyone,

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to write an update, we have been overwhelmed taking care of Ella these past few days.  Not enough time to eat or sleep, forget about think and type.  She was released from the hospital on Saturday afternoon and since then we've been back at the Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte.  Ella is doing better, Amen.  She is her old self about half the time, while the other half she is irritable and in pain (as expected).  The good thing is that we've been able to wean her off narcotics and just manage her pain with motrin and tylenol.  She is a feisty lady during pin cleaning...takes 3 people to hold this strong girl down.  The first time I turned her pins was on Sunday and I felt like I needed a carafe of wine afterwards.  It seems so barbaric, especially when you hear the clicking noises of the screws turning under the skin.  And of course it just feels horrible inflicting pain on your child.  But, I've been reminded that with each turn of the pins we gain a bigger airway.  I have to keep reciting that in my head :).  Lucky for me this little girl is incredibly forgiving and she recovers quite easily afterwards.  This entire experience has Erik and I feeling absolutely blessed to have this child in our lives.  Seeing her through such a tough time and then watching her spirit come back has been truly uplifting.  She started to show her "Ella" self on Friday, wanting to be pushed around the hospital floor in a wagon, then ordering the nurses to dance and play peek-a-boo.  Saturday as we left the hospital her entire demeanor changed; she was so happy, like she was being freed and allowed to finally grace the outdoors.  Ella is loving the therapy dogs at the Ronald House, she asks for them every single night though they only come twice a week.  She keeps signing to us that she wants a big dog when we get home to NY...and believe me she won't forget.  Persistence is one quality she absorbed from her parents, maybe me :/.  Today we saw Dr. Matthews and other than her pin sites looking red he thought she looked good.  He wants us to increase the pin turning to twice a day and switch the ointment to calendula, just in case the bacitracin is irritating her skin.  We will be back to his office on Friday, when he will administer FSM (Frequency Specific Microcurrent).  FSM is suppose to help in decreasing inflammation and repairing cells.  Other positive news to report is that Ella is already smiling and offering up kisses to Erik and myself.  Those are great signs because it means Dr. Matthews was able to steer clear of her facial nerves.  She even put a spoon in her mouth last night, which is awesome because a few days earlier she was aversive to anything coming even close to her face.  Once again, Ella has shown us just how amazing of a being she truly is and how God continues to walk beside her.         

Love and thanksgiving,

P.S. For those coming to visit soon dress for warmth and bring your flip flops.  It already feels like summer here in Charlotte.  We thank you again for sacrificing your time to help Ella and our family.  

 Still not at her best, but at least venturing out of the hospital room.

Ella leaving the hospital incognito.  Her first attempt at cracking a smile.

 Ella with Mr. McDonald himself...

Already wanting to eat...she's half italian, what do you expect?   

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chipmunk Face

Ella bella is a little more alert and coherent today.  She continues to need morphine, but we are able to spread it out a bit more.  This morning I got her to play with finger puppets for a little and she seemed to enjoy face timing on the iPad with some friends and family, but as the day grew on she became increasingly unhappy.  As you can see in the pics, she definitely is getting more swollen by the hour --- that combined with the broken jaw certainly doesn't feel good :(.  Everybody keeps calling her a chipmunk, but I think she looks more like a mini sumo wrestler between the hair-do, the eyes, and the chubby face.  Well, she's still an adorable sumo wrestler to me.  

Today she went for a CT scan under anesthesia just to make sure distractor placement is correct and fortunately it is.  I asked them to clean her face and pins while she was sedated and thankfully they were able to.  It's been really difficult to clean her pin and trach sites while she's awake as she won't even let us near her face.  I'm hoping she gets better with this over time because at home in addition to her normal care, I'm going to have to clean the pins 3x/day and turn them too.  Eeek...I am not at all looking forward to that.  Erik has already volunteered me to be the official pin turner...isn't that nice of him?  Dr. Matthews thinks we will start the pin turning tomorrow.  He said we will start out slow with a half a turn working our way up to a full turn.  I've heard that the turning process is quite painful, so I'm just praying that she tolerates it because I certainly won't have morphine back at the Ronald House.  For those of you that know Ella, when she doesn't want something it ain't happening...unless of course an army holds her down.  But, you got to love that about her because it is her feisty personality that has gotten her this far.   

P.S.  To all the parents out there who have already gone through cranio surgery with their children, I give you so much credit.  Just as your children are warriors, you are too.  Though we've seen pictures, there is nothing that could have prepared Erik and I for this.  It is awful watching your child in pain and look so uncomfortable.  The only solace I have is knowing that this is the first step towards helping Ella someday eat and breathe on her own.  Two things that we all take for granted.


Finally Clean!!!  Although it didn't last long. 

We are starting to take profile pics, that way we can see how much her jaw has grown by the end of the distraction.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's over...thank God

Ella's surgery was long and difficult, taking nearly 5 and a half hours today.  It was completely agonizing for Erik and I.  The surgeon said that since her opening is very tiny it made it all the more difficult placing the distractors.  We had a good surprise though...after breaking her jaw, he was able to get into her mouth with enough room to close her cleft palate.  We were extremely happy with this as it will make for one less surgery down the road.  He said some of her muscles were strong, some were weak, and one didn't move at we'll just have to see what that means for swallowing in the future. 

What we are not so happy about is how much pain this little one is in.  She is on morphine and dilaudid around the clock, but is still very uncomfortable.  She keeps crying, wimpering, and signing to me she has an owie on her mouth and where the IV is placed.  Her face is swollen and the doctor said we can expect the swelling to increase until day 3, then it usually starts to come down.  It is breaking our hearts to see her in this much pain so I just ask you all to pray for her comfort and that this all becomes a distant memory to her.  Erik and I feel horrible though we know it was the best decision for her.  I just hope she forgives us :(.  She already is giving me these awful stares, but not to Erik of course...Daddies always get a pass from their little girls.  

Hoping and praying for a better tomorrow...

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all your love, prayers, and support. 


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Surgery Tomorrow

We are down in Charlotte, North Carolina where Ella will be having craniofacial surgery Wednesday morning.  She will be admitted to Levine Children's Hospital at 5:30am tomorrow and she is scheduled to be in surgery from 6:45am to 10:30am.  This will be Ella's first jaw distraction surgery; it is the first step towards helping lengthen her jaw and open up her airway.  We are very nervous, yet we know she is in excellent care with Dr. Matthews and that God continues to have His hands on her.  If you have a moment we just ask that you say a prayer for our little Ella.  We are praying for the surgery to be successful, for there to be no complications, and for her pain to be controlled post-op.  Not sure how long we will be in the hospital, but definitely for several days.  Then we will be back at the Ronald McDonald house for 3-4 weeks during which we will have to turn the pins in her jaw. After that Ella will go back into the OR to get the arms of the distractor removed.  Many of you have asked for email updates so I thought it would be easier to just put updates on Ella's blog.  I will start doing that tomorrow, once she is stable.  

Thank you to all the people who have given us support and encouragement throughout these past few weeks.  Ella is so very blessed to have many real life angels around her.


A Prayer for Surgery
Heavenly Father, who created Ella in Your image and likeness. You know every fiber of her being and have willed that she be born. We ask You, Lord, to guide the minds and hands of those who will operate on her so that she may be restored to health and well-being. Help us, Lord, to pray with all our hearts and allow the burden of concern and anxiety to be lifted up with the knowledge that You are with her and her family now and always. And Lord, when she awakes from surgery, take her by Your hand and guide her through her recovery and towards a life of thanksgiving and peace. Amen