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Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Isabel is home!

At last!

Yesterday morning, Dr. Carson (Isabel’s pediatrician) phoned to say that Isabel had gone all night without oxygen and was sating at 95%. This was pretty good news to me! It is James’ week with the girls so he and Mélina went and picked up our Isabel and life has resumed to its somewhat-chaotic self. I was missing her so much that I had to stop by and sneak a few kisses from this little girl who was so courageous in the hospital. The bonus part was getting cuddles from Mina, too!

This whole experience seemed different this time. Isabel seemed different. It didn’t seem to bother her as much, and she was rather contented and not needing someone at her side 24-7. This was a real relief from our usual experience of scheduling family at her side, even throughout the night. She just seems like a “bigger girl” now, like a maturity has settled in and a deeper sense of acceptance resides in her.

She has come here to make a difference, I know that much. Sometimes it feels as though she looks at me and says “Learn from me, Mommy, and help the others like me.” Again, a reason I sometimes feel afraid of learning because I fear losing the teacher. She is so patient with me, with all of us, even the nurse inserting her I.V. The way that children are drawn to her as though they hear what she is saying… sometimes I wish I could shed my “big people” boundaries and truly hear her, too.

I tried an experiment with her a few weeks ago. It was the middle of the night and I was lying next to her on her little mattress waiting/praying for her to go to sleep. In the darkness, I could just see her little eyes blinking and staring out at nothing in particular. I was so tired, but for some reason, I figured I’d give what had been stirring in my mind a try…

Without changing my position, I tried “speaking” to Isabel through thought alone. “Isabel, can you hear my thoughts?” Would you believe that she turned her head and looked up into my eyes? A little surprised, I waited for her to turn her head again and resume her aimless blinking. Once again I thought “Isabel, can you hear my thoughts?” My heart pounded when she turned her head towards me again and smiled. A little taken aback, I waited even longer until she nearly seemed ready to sleep and I asked “Okay, sorry but I need to ask you one more time… Isabel, can you hear my thoughts?” and to my amazement, she turned her head, looked up into my eyes and let out one of her exasperated sighs.

Holy smokes!

Tears filled my eyes and through my thoughts I shared my intentions, my hopes, and my fears… including losing her. She kept eye contact with me the entire outpour and when I was done, she smiled and looked away. At last, I asked her “Can you teach me to hear yours?”

Once again, she turned and looked up at me.

“Isabel, when I feel as though I can hear children calling me… is it the voices of the children who cannot speak?” She smiled.

Some may call that coincidental, but I call it a moment that I will never forget for as long as I live!

Even Mélina had a profound moment when I asked her one day “Mina, if I could do anything in this world to make a difference, where do you see me doing it?” She closed her eyes as though searching Truth, opened them slowly and said with a maturity I have never heard from her before: “Children… sad children… I see you helping them.”

So maybe that’s why I’ve never let go of that big kid in me. I still lick my dessert plate clean (and any plate that had yummy sauce on it J). I still like blowing bubbles and bouncing on the bed. Sometimes I try to have a no-utensil meal which forces us to think beyond the boundaries of “normalcy” and resume to the “normalcy” that guided us as children. I still don’t like household chores (nor paying the bills) and there is nothing on this planet like the feeling of walking barefoot in the mud! Maybe that inner child is meant to help others in some way.

Dear Lord, I hope it is. I believe in humanity, especially with two young children who constantly remind me of the innate goodness in all of us and the stumbling reality of discovering truth through our experiences... good and bad. I look at all of you! See how quickly the list of addresses grows! See how you are a part of this, you are included, this entire network simultaneously being touched by one life and simultaneously growing in faith. That is what makes you my family. You truly are my spirit family.

How blessed am I? How blessed are we?

I continue to humble myself before the example of Christ’s love in our children of the Earth, and I will continue to humble myself before the honour He has presented me as “Mother” to these two beautiful children. (I will do my best to remember this very statement when I am cut off in traffic!)

Thank you all once again for your prayers and wish us luck on this journey (especially the mind-reading part cuz that’s a little outside the box – even for me!). I love you all and send my prayers to find you with this message.

God bless you all, my family!

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Isabel update

Once again, my darling family and friends,

Just once I would love to send you an email saying “Isabel decided to get up and walk today and she wouldn’t stop talking and telling jokes and really… she’s just asked me how long before she can start dating.”

Just once.

But I should be counting my blessings that I’ve got something to write about at all. Afterall, not everybody does. I just wish I could tell you about progresses instead of challenges. So first off, let me tell you that Isabel has gained 5 glorious pounds since her surgery in June! After 2 years of being in size 4 diapers, she has jumped to a size 6 in only three months!!!

And other good news has been to discover that she has been trying to tell me “yes” for years by making direct eye contact after being asked a question. Good grief, has this little one been patient with me! It only took me six years to figure it out! In fact, last night I asked her “Isabel, would you like to have your bath tonight?” and she deliberately kept her eyes away from me. So I asked, “Okay, would you like to have your bath tomorrow night?” and she still kept her eyes away. Jokingly I asked “would you prefer never having to bath again?” and the little bugger smirked and looked right into my eyes!!! After we both chuckled about this, I told her she had to choose “tonight” or “tomorrow” and as any 6 year-old would, she decided on “tomorrow”; however, she is in a hospital bed instead… and I’m almost wondering if she is so clever as to purposely pick a night she figured I wouldn’t be able to bathe her!

Today was a long day. The process of notifying the school, daycare, transportation, canceling meeting/apts for the day and making arrangements for Mina’s pickup should things not be resolved by 5:30 pm was not only time-consuming, but also exhausting! We didn’t get to Children’s Hospital until 8:00 am. They took one look at her and her wheezing little-self, hooked her up to a sat monitor which showed she was oxygen deprived and we were quickly escorted to a private room and hooked up to oxygen.

As an aside - I think I will create an updated info document to bring with me every time we visit Emergency because it is the same questions by several different doctors: “Was she premature? What medications is she on? Has she been to the hospital before (at which point I chuckle and say ‘Yes, most of us are on a first-name basis here’). When did things start going wrong? How much does she weigh?” and my favourite… “Are her immunizations up to date?” This would really make life easier.

Despite getting poked for an IV and getting hooked up to oxygen and its oxygen saturation monitor, Isabel was in good spirits. I explained the purpose of her IV when I noticed her eyes staring intently at her hand. Her eyes followed the tube all the way to the IV pole and then she looked back at her IV and then to me and smiled. It was like she said “Oh, that’s what it’s for. I guess that’s a good thing, isn’t it, mom?”

My favourite moment was when I was holding her on my lap and the fourth and final doctor came in to ask the same series of questions (and was barely understandable). After he left, I felt Isabel’s head look up at me and she smiled at me as if to say “Kudos for not losing it, mom!”

The doctors don’t know why she needs the oxygen. It doesn’t seem to be asthma related yet there is no indication of pneumonia in X-rays and no indication of a viral infection. Maybe her little lungs were just feeling worn out and needed a boost for a little bit.

My writing feels choppy and inconsistent tonight… sorry if I’m not making much sense. But thank you all once again for being there. The most reassuring part of these types of experiences is when I come home to find a flood of prayerful messages reminding this family to count its blessings (which include all of you) and to know that Heaven’s song protects our little Isabel for as long as she is meant to be here and that none of you will ever forget what she has taught us.

I could never forget what she is teaching me… to love unconditionally, to accept our life path with gratitude, to honour truth and to live life to its fullest.

God bless you all. I love you very much and your prayers are a rain of blessing that bring me immeasurable peace and comfort.

I will let you know when she is home…

Pour tous mes amis francophones, je vous aime beaucoup et je vous remercie pour vos grandes prières et vos beaux messages. J’espère un jour pouvoir traduire chacune de mes lettres simultanément!!! Entre temps, j’apprécie que vous pratiquez votre lecture anglaise! J Bonsoir à vous tous!

Monday, 6 June 2005

Things are looking good!

Isabel was transferred to the CK-3 Ward of Children’s Hospital in room #25 today. They removed her epidural and her catheter (which she complained more about the tape than anything else). I told the staff that the more tubes they pull out of her, the better I’m going to feel! They were quick to find a portable DVD player so that she could watch her beloved Shrek 2… really, for someone so little she truly does have quite a demanding presence sometimes.

I held her for the first time since Friday. Boy, did it feel good. She and I were just hanging out together watching Shrek. It was quiet time together, but we could both feel the healing happening from being together as mother and daughter.

They removed her dressing and her incision looks amazingly clean! Even the surgeon came by and was quite pleased. I told her she should be as there were nearly a hundred people praying for her AND Isabel on Friday. I jokingly said she was practically part of the family!

Izzy still needs a little oxygen but otherwise things are really looking up.

Thanks again to you all!

A bit of a scare

It’s been another couple of rollercoaster days…

Saturday began with a phone call on my way to the hospital. To my horror, I could hear Isabel screaming in the background. “Will you be coming in to the hospital anytime this morning?” asked a shaky nurse. “I’m only 10 minutes away.” (After that conversation, I was in her hospital room within 5) “Good, we haven’t been able to settle her for quite some time now and she seems quite distressed.” (That was an understatement)

At her bedside, she was nearly inconsolable and in obvious pain. They had lowered her epidural dosage because they wanted to see her more alert… well they got their wish. Isabel has a very high threshold for pain, so when she’s screaming with discomfort the way she was, you know it’s because she’s in great amounts of pain. Needless to say, they resumed a higher dosage of the epidural and all was better. Once Shrek 2 was started, she actually flashed me a few of her big grins. She expressed through her little singing voice that she was feeling much better. Other than puffy eyes, she was looking in good spirits. James eventually showed up several hours later when it was time to change shifts and he spent the remainder of the evening with her. A routine call prior to leaving her confirmed that she was still in good spirits and doing well.

I phoned first thing yesterday morning to ask about her night. Not much of a reply. Hmmm, why the hesitancy?

When I arrived at the hospital yesterday, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest. Isabel’s head was wrapped in a cold wet cloth, her eyes seemed to be rolling, her breathing was very laboured and she was on oxygen. My face must have said it all. The nurse approached me and said “She’s had a very rough night. Her oxygen sats dropped at 2:00 am and she’s on small amounts of oxygen. Since this morning, she has developed an alarmingly high fever of 40 degrees. They were concerned about a collapsed lung but X-rays show that they are hyper-extended, an indication that her asthma is causing some stress. They have taken blood cultures to check for infection and the preliminary results won’t be back until tomorrow and final results won’t be in for another 3 days. We’re still waiting for blood work results on her white blood cell counts. If they are abnormally high, it will confirm the presence of infection and we will begin a broad spectrum antibiotic. Other than that, there isn’t much else we can do.”

I looked down to her little face. Her nose was bloody from the nose prongs and she slept as though in a coma. For the first time, I truly saw her fragile little body and not her immeasurable spirit. I held her little hand in mine and prayed fervently. I couldn’t stop the tears and I couldn’t stop the thoughts… those horrible thoughts. I spoke to her in her sleep of strong soldiers working in her body as they have since the day she was born and that she needed lots of rest so the soldiers could continue to fight and protect her. I told her she was the bravest little girl I knew and that I was so proud to be her mother. I told her about all of you and how you have been touched by her presence and how you pray for her now. “My heart aches, my darling little one, to see you struggle as you are in this moment. It has never occurred to me until now to give you permission to stop fighting as you have all these years should you simply find it too much anymore. You have taught so many and I am forever changed.”

Thoughts of infections claiming people’s lives after surgeries… thoughts of funeral arrangements… thoughts of the emptiness in my heart… thoughts of the moments I’d wished this would all end… so many thoughts, good and bad, flooding me with a thousand feelings… they all poured into me and I thought I would burst from their weight.

Prayer… I needed to silence them all with prayer…

“Blessed Father, you have graced my life in so many ways and I am humbled by the children who teach me. Be with our Isabel now and fill her little body with your love and healing. May you continue to nourish her spirit with your Truth and your Will and may her path be journeyed as it was meant to be.”

I envisioned that path. I saw flowers and trees, birds and sunlight. I saw a forest but did not fear its darkness. I heard the wind and felt joy… immeasurable joy. It was a path journeyed with great faith and resolution. Our little Isabel may not be able to walk, but this path she has journeyed in her own little way has surpassed any path I have ever known. There was a feeling of great hope as though her sacrifices alone meant to teach us this very thing… to believe.

Somewhere amidst this whirlwind, her fever broke and her little hand tightened around my fingers, whether by fluke or in confirmation, I’m not sure… but I know which I believe. Blood results came back and her white blood cell counts were normal. She still looked frail, but she looked as though she’d resolved to journey yet a little further.

Thank God.

My Dad came by, and we went for lunch together. James sat by Isabel’s side when we returned and she looked so much better than when I’d first seen her just hours before. Even Dad smiled that smile when he quietly acknowledges what seems like a little Divine intervention.

By the time evening came along, Isabel was alert and content. I quacked her toy duck and showered her with kisses. She looked amused and somewhat annoyed but still looked at me and gave me her little verbal sigh as though to say, “Yes yes, mother, I know already.”

I have just phoned this morning, and she is off the oxygen, she has had a very good night, they will likely be removing the epidural today, they will begin introducing foods into her tummy, and admitting her to a regular ward. Hallelujah chorus, anyone?

Thank you to Mireille who forced me (quite literally) to come by her place last night with my guitar and to simply loose myself to laughter, songs and tears. You are wonderful for reminding me to smile and to find comfort in things that bring me joy. And thank you to Mom and David for the delicious rib dinner and mind release of playing Kenasta. And thank you, Linda and Jorge, for watching over Mélina when I am at the hospital. So much collaboration, so much support… what a blessing.

God bless you all!

Saturday, 4 June 2005

Isabel's surgery today

Hello, my loved ones…

Isabel rests peacefully in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit on the 3rd floor at Children’s Hospital. After a tumultuous couple of days, she has finally received her Fund Placation. I feel exhausted and ready for a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine!

It began yesterday afternoon at work. I can’t seem to sleep the few nights before her surgery so my coping resources were nil. Thank God for understanding co-workers because it took everything I had to dress myself beyond flannel PJs. I got the call at 2:30 pm. The surgeon’s office wanted to give me the heads up on the fact that the ICU beds were full and surgery might be cancelled again.

Remember my comment about coping mechanisms being nil? Remember the saying “don’t shoot the messenger”? The poor receptionist heard my spheal on booking time off work… AGAIN, rescheduling transportation, educational assistants and day care staff and the darned fact that my nerves couldn’t handle this much more. I asked, “Does she need to be in the resuscitation room again before she finally gets the surgery??” Poor gal felt so bad and I apologized for letting loose on her.

After cooling off and shedding a few tears, my co-workers (who overheard the whole thing) offered to pitch in and buy a private bed if necessary or anything to help make this happen for Izzy. (God bless you all for that). I phoned the Unit Manager and asked what the issue was and what I could do. I was told “nothing”.

Miraculously, I managed to sleep last night and phoned the surgeon’s office at 10:00 this morning to see if the surgery was a go. Things looked promising but they would call and let me know. Fifteen minutes later, the call came in to bring her down. I didn’t realize you could swallow Cheerios whole… however, I do not recommend it.

Once at the hospital, she got weighed, they measured her oxygen saturation, put her in her little yellow gown and placed some numbing cream on her hands where they would attempt to insert the I.V. Isabel was in a wonderful mood, full of smiles and happy toothy grins. Always a cheerful disposition.

After several hours of waiting, we were taken up to the O.R. area where we waited another little while before speaking with the anesthetist. Everything was looking good. Finally, the nurse came to get Isabel so we carried her to the doors, gave her big hugs and kisses, felt the butterflies in the tummy come back and swallowed the lump in the throat. There she was with her big smile about to begin this 3 ½ hour procedure and not knowing what the outcome would be. The nurse opened the big doors and began to walk through carrying Isabel when another nurse ran up to her and said “Is this the Fundo?”, “yes”, “well, someone just came in Emergency. This procedure is being delayed and possibly cancelled.”

Remember my comment about coping mechanisms being nil? Have you ever been nauseated by a rollercoaster ride? Well, I was nearly ready to puke!

Off to the waiting room again. Twenty minutes later, they came back and said “it’s still a go”. I jokingly said to the nurse “Quick, take her and run!!! And if anyone tries to tell you something, play deaf!”

We said our goodbyes once again and watched the big doors shut behind our little Isabel being carried off to the O.R. with her little pony tail sticking out one side of the nurse’s back and her long little legs dangling on the other side. I knew she was probably giving that nurse a big smile.

And then the anxiety set in. Now it was real. Now I felt a little scared.

James, James’ mom, my dad and I sat together discussing various things. Thank God for family. To my surprise, my cousin Michelle, Aunt Val and her mother showed up and we exchanged hugs and a few tears. Two hours, three hours… No news is good news, right?

Finally, gloriously finally, the surgeon came out and said… “Isabel’s Fundo is complete and she did amazingly well. She is still asleep but everything looks really good.”

I think the ceiling opened up and a chorus of angels sang Hallelujah, or was it the TV?

There she was being wheeled past us into the PICU… so tiny and lost in all the blankets, but her colour was perfectly pink and my little Isabel was there before me again. I cannot describe the weight that was lifted. We all stood there and stared at her for a moment before they continued to wheel her by and we all slumped into eachother’s arms and wept. Your prayers were with her. God bless you all, your prayers were with her!!!

She rests peacefully now. Her blood pressure is lower than they would like, but they are not overly alarmed. Her breathing tube was removed at 7:00 pm and she fusses now and again to let you know she’s really not happy about all of this. She seems a bit puffy, but all in all, she is gloriously well, stubborn as always and continues to be a testament of survival.

I am so exhausted that I could fall asleep typing. I will let you all go with a smile on my lips. It is done, and our little Izzy is well.

I think I can sleep now.

Bless you all and may my prayers find you tonight and warm you with my gratitude. It takes a village to raise a child and a child to change a village. May my prayers bless you in your times of need as you have been there in ours.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Isabel's surgery - Change of plans

Isabel did not have her surgery today…

James and I arrived early this morning and filled out all the paperwork. We waited at Day Surgery ready to take on the day. I brought my personal writings/documentations of Isabel’s story to-date as well as any letter I had received that greatly impacted my life. I brought my Pépère’s old rosary in honour of my father’s father, I thought of my darling Mémère, I brought the memory of Grandma Kay’s hand holding tightly to mine before she passed away only days before my emergency C-section and my silent plea for her to watch over my unborn, and I smiled in memory of our feisty Nana Burgess who left us only months ago, “The Great-great”. I remembered Uncle Mike holding Isabel so delicately only months before the Saskatchewan River claimed his life, I thought of Aunt Dorothy’s smile, and I honored all those whom we loved and who have passed before us.

I felt like Izzy was ready for this, that we were ready, that I was ready. We had an army of prayers from the living and loved ones in Heaven who no doubt earned SOME brownie points with The Big Guy and who would be watching over this process. Surely we were ready for anything that happened.

“I’m sorry to say this, but there are no available beds in the Intensive Care Unit and Dr. Hancock (the surgeon) will not do this surgery for Isabel unless she can be monitored in the ICU over the next 24 hours. She is performing an emergency surgery at the moment and will let us know for sure what is happening before noon.”

I turned to James and said, “Gee, when I was feeling like this wasn’t even happening today, I didn’t think it ACTUALLY wasn’t happening today!” I felt so frustrated… the emotional prep time involved, the time off work, coordinating daycare/school/transportation details, the pre-op appointments, the anxiety, the insomnia… We were going to have to do this all over again?????

The nurse came back an hour and half later to say that the surgery was cancelled for today because a baby boy came into emergency needing a serious operation. In fact, I just got off the phone with Dr. Hancock’s office and I asked about the little boy (4 hours later). She said they were still in the Operating Room. Suddenly, I don’t feel angry or frustrated anymore. Let us pray that he will be okay.

So we will try this all over again on Friday June 3, 2005 at 12:00 pm. After the calls I had to make to get her daycare workers in place for tomorrow, Friday and next week along with her Educational Assistant in the classroom and transportation to and from… Good grief, I’m ready for a long nap.

But despite my frustration and exhaustion, I am grateful that this was not one of those incidents where Isabel was the one rushed into emergency again. I am grateful that she was prepared for today and am confident that she will only get stronger until June 3rd. I am prayerful for the little boy whose life will change after today and hope they take good care of him in the ICU.

To my co-workers who were ready to take on my workload this week so that I could be there for Isabel, thank you. I will see you tomorrow, except for you Debbie… unless I drive out to Brandon tomorrow which I’m not so I’ll just leave you more singing messages and ask for more things to do... NOT!

To my family who were ready to take on visiting shifts to ensure that Isabel would never be alone, God bless you. You are always there in the front lines with us and never forget what a gift of comfort that is.

To all of you who prayed, may God bless and keep you always, and may He remember the way you gave of your heart so freely and willingly for the sake of our little Isabel. So let’s brace ourselves and do this all over again next month… I will practice the art of brevity in the meantime and will hopefully only send you a SMALL novel prior to her surgery. (God bless you all for your patience!).

Isabel's surgery tomorrow

I can feel the uproar of prayer beginning already…

After a series of several events this evening, I am ready to sit down and invite you to join with me in reflection, in anticipation of tomorrow’s events and in prayer.

I just came home from an evening’s presentation on “charitable donations” at a Golf Country Club and was greeted with Mélina’s bright smile. “Guess what, Mom… I was feeling really sad and scared at school today about Izzy’s surgery tomorrow and I started to sniffle a little bit. I went to the front of the class and told everyone what would happen to Izzy tomorrow and why she needed this help, like you know, how she isn’t growing and she can’t eat or talk or walk and stuff. I told them that she would probably be coming out of the hospital on her Birthday, so guess what the class worked on? We all made ‘get well soon’ and ‘Happy Birthday’ cards for Izzy. Look at all of them!” And there on the kitchen table was a mountain of handmade cards for our little Izzy. What a phenomenal big sister, what an unconditional individual, what a blessed being… my Mélina.

Earlier, at this Country Club dinner & presentation hosted by TD Waterhouse (I am always nervous at these things because I can never figure out which fork is used when, and what do you mean I can’t lick my plate clean!) I got to sit at a table with 5 well-dressed, well-mannered business men. As the evening progressed, the conversation went from psychiatric wards to how quickly women are being discharged from hospitals after birth (I’m really not sure how one topic led to the next). Surprisingly, birthing stories from these men were shared ranging from “not being allowed in the room in those days and waiting in the waiting room also known as “the bar”, to being present at their own grandson’s birth, to offering their overdue next door neighbor a plunger to ‘help things along’ (I never did ask if he got his plunger back…). In a room full of professionals, we laughed the most. I eventually was led back to my own experience with Isabel and shared with them the story of the woman who shared my hospital room after Izzy was born.

It was only hours after the surgery and I was in so much pain from the C-section and shaking with fear of the unexpected. How was my little Isabel? Was everything okay? When would I see her? Is it harmful to her that I am not near? Will she live? These whirlwind of thoughts were interrupted by a tiny cry and nurses bringing in their newest patient to the bed next to mine… a young woman with her brand new baby girl. I smiled for you can never see a newborn without smiling, but the ache in my heart longed to hear the sounds of my baby and not knowing if I ever would.

“Your baby girl is very beautiful.” “Thanks. I didn’t even want to have a baby. I don’t know anything about them.” The ache was growing. The baby sneezed and the woman panicked “Oh my God! I think she’s choking or something!” “Don’t worry, that was just a sneeze.” It took some time to settle the mother each time her baby sneezed, but eventually the conversation grew and I discovered that she didn’t even want to try breastfeeding. Through mild prompting, she shared that she didn’t think she would be able to make enough milk. I shared whatever wisdom I had in this area (shared antibodies, changed nutritional content to meet baby’s needs, supply and demand, etc…). She listened attentively and then asked “So where is your baby?”

I couldn’t help the tears.

I told her the story of Isabel Faith and shared my fears. She listened so attentively and with such empathy. She finally said, “Don’t worry, we both have little Taurus’ and that means they are stubborn as bulls. Your little girl will be just fine.”

That night, baby Marina was having a hard time settling and I could tell that the mother was exhausted. To my surprise, she’d even tried breastfeeding! I asked her if I could hold Marina so she could sleep. She was more than happy.

When I say God’s Will is undeniable, it is because I have been too blessed to be blind to His gifts. The moment I rocked little Marina in my arms and sang to her just as I would have had Isabel been in my arms at that moment, Marina settled and fell into sleep. I did not take my eyes from her for several hours and I did not even notice the abdominal pains anymore. It felt like a little gift from God, a message to say “I cannot give you your flesh and blood to hold tonight, but you can hold another.”

On the mother’s final day, family visitors and grandparents came by. Marina sneezed again and they all panicked, just as the mother had only days before. She settled their minds and said, “Don’t worry, it’s just a sneeze.” A curtain separated us at that moment, so no one saw my big smile.

Before she left, the mother came to my bedside and said “thank you”. “What on earth for?” “In hearing about your little Isabel and how she fights to live, I realize how lucky I am to have my Marina. Thank you for teaching me how to care for her. I will think of your Isabel every May 17th and pray that she is well. Maybe our little Taurus’ will play together someday.”

Maybe they will.

And so Isabel touched her first life simply for having chosen to live. And choose to live, she did.

I’ll never forget that panicked moment. The numbing pressure in my abdomen as the doctors worked on getting Isabel out of me as fast as possible. They warned me that there would be no sounds from her, she was far too premature. All I heard was “my God, that’s small” and my heart began to race and tears filled my eyes but I could feel her little determination. And there it was… three little cries as though a little lamb entered the room. I remember looking at James and smiling. “She wants to live. She will be okay.”

She wants to live. She has fought to live for nearly six years to the day now. Who do you know who chooses life, who fights for the privilege of life? How many times have you felt like giving up?

Isabel wants to live. Isabel fights to live. Isabel will be okay until it is her time to go.

When logic creeps into my mind, so does the fear about the risks involved with tomorrow’s surgery. Izzy has had a rough couple of weeks leading up to it. She was severely congested due to vomiting and having aspirated into her lungs again. The doctors warned that the surgery would have to be postponed if it did not clear in time. But tonight, her lungs are clear. Tomorrow, she will be ready.

Twelve noon, she will be put under and the skilled surgeons of Children’s Hospital will begin to work on her little body for the next three delicate hours. And your prayers will be there with her.

Because of her delicate lungs, they will not be providing a pain killer (narcotic) via intravenous. Isabel will have an epidural for several days. With a needle being in the spine, there is risk of damage and the fact that they will need to keep it in longer than usual will increase her risk of infection, but the alternative would be to risk her breathing becoming too shallowed…

I wish so much I could be in that operating room with her. I remember demanding to hold her during her eye laser treatment when she was only 3 months old and singing to her as the ophthalmologist did things to her eyes that left me feeling nauseous in retrospect. I want her to know I am nearby. I want her to feel my presence. I want to be right there… just in case.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Before I left that table tonight, my co-worker asked the businessmen to pray for Isabel Faith and tomorrow’s surgery. They each shook my hand and assured me that prayers would find her tomorrow along with many from others who would soon learn of Isabel Faith.

Bless you all in your fight to live and to discover the way you reach others. Clearly you have done something to have reached me and I am glad to have you join me in this journey. I will try to update you all tomorrow evening (depending on Isabel’s state).

Love always,Rita

Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Isabel's surgery date

Just a quick follow-up…

First of all, thank you to all of you for your amazing encouragement. I am truly blessed.

Secondly, the meeting with the surgeon went very well. James and I were able to clarify on certain things. The procedure will be 3 hours and the incision will only be a couple of inches. The only major risk will be when they sever the blood vessels between the stomach and the spleen in order for them to manipulate the stomach. Otherwise, she will be right back to normal within a week (hospital stay is 6 days). I feel a lot more at peace with our decision and I look forward to Isabel gaining some proper weight. I have also talked with other parents whose children went through this procedure and there was definitely a consensus on the feeling of “I wish I’d done it sooner”, so who knows.

Surgery date has been set for May 11, 2005 at 12:00 pm.

I will make a point of keeping you all updated on the outcome. Thank you for your prayers and for being part of this journey with me. God bless you all in your own journeys and know that my prayers always seek you out!

Thursday, 10 March 2005

Another request for your prayers

Blessed family and friends,

It has been far too long since I have written and already relief fills me as I type these very words…

I’m sorry to come to you only when I need prayers. I want you to know that I pray for all my loved ones every night and thank God for all of you. It is much like a gift to me for it is almost like an invitation for memories to remind me of how you have entered my life, and my heart.

Many things have happened since I last wrote. Too many to delve into details but the bigger ones being:
- James and I now share 50-50 custody and an undying love for our two girls and a friendship that has truly stood the test of time.
- Mélina continues to fill my days with amazement at her loving spirit and talents. She is growing quickly and makes me laugh with her sense of humour!
- I started a new job as a Program Manager with Junior Achievement.
- We got a ShiTzu puppy named Tobe.
- Isabel started kindergarten. The day was very moving for me as the children in Isabel’s class began to chant her name as I wheeled her in front of the classroom. I felt like Moses parting the sea of children as they made way to welcome this special being. They surrounded her and gentle hands touched her face as Isabel smiled at all of them. It felt like a sacred moment between angels and I almost felt guilty for witnessing something so simple, so pure and unspoken.
- Isabel developed asthma.
- Isabel has gone blind in her left eye.
- Isabel has been growing less and less tolerant of food and has thus lost weight consistently these last several months.

The latter is why I write to you now. Isabel now weighs less than 2 years ago (20 lbs) despite the fact that she has grown in length. I am frustrated, tired and scared. Manitoba Home Nutrition Program has monitored her closely and tomorrow we meet with a surgeon. A Fund Placation is inevitable. Without it, Isabel will continue to vomit and grow weaker and weaker. She is already skin and bones and has to work very hard to fight infections. They will want to do the surgery within a month or two and she will be hospitalized for a week.

The procedure itself lasts two hours and involves opening the chest cavity to access the stomach. Stomach tissue will then be stretched to overlap the esophagus creating a barrier and preventing stomach content from coming back up. She will no longer vomit and choke, which used to cause infections in her lungs.

Isabel has been rushed to the resuscitation room on several occasions this last year and a half. I am more aware now than ever that her little body is fragile despite her strong spirit… and yet she never shows frustration at the lack of parallelism between the two.

I ask for prayers of wisdom. We have been asked several times to discuss medical intervention and palliative procedures. I cannot ever look doctors in the eye without bursting into tears… especially when Isabel is in my arms. Would it mean giving up on her or would it mean letting her go? This is an internal struggle that breaks my spirit.

I know that Isabel’s time here is limited. We have been told that life expectancy could be up to age 12 and that children like Isabel often go in their sleep, a final seizure in which they do not return. I only pray that I am there, that I get to say goodbye and thank her for coming to us. Isabel was born, much like a sacrificial lamb, to teach so many of us to value the circumstances we find ourselves in for they can never break the spirit. She has touched so many lives without ever saying a word, and so many people know that toothy grin of hers. Children always ask for her and they always miss their “Lizabel”.

Mélina was born and touched certain people’s lives who were questioning being here at all. I believe that she saved their lives. Her independent spirit used to make parenting seem quite challenging at times, but I see now why she was blessed with such inner strength. Mélina has had to loose much parental time and rather than being resentful, she includes herself in what needs to be done for Isabel. Her tenderness and love for her little sister, reminds me to find your place in everything you do.

Who would I have been without my two children? What life would there have been to live without the love they awoke in me?

Blessed beings. Their hidden wings are not hidden from me. I know Mélina will be here a very long time, but I can’t help the feeling that Heaven’s song calls to Isabel. Sometimes I fear that she is waiting for me to embark upon a degree in medicine or food nutrition. Sometimes I fear meeting what she came here to do, for I do not want to let her go. But I honour her mission, whatever it is, and am glad to have those around me who remind me to be strong in my own path.

Yes, it has been far too long. I can now cry as I take the time to acknowledge the path to-date and the ones who have encouraged our every step.

Thank you for your presence and thank you for loving my children through your prayers. I appreciate those of you who contacted me to remind me to get back on the wagon with these updates! I will try not to use “life” as an excuse not to sit down and write again because it is “life” that finally comes back to me through this very outreach.

God bless you all.