Thursday, May 31, 2007
We're bringing the charming and beautiful Susan her car so that when she has Ali in California, she'll be able to shuttle her around.
We have the back seat folded down with everything packed to one side of the car. We put down sleeping bags and pillows on the open side. This little car (a Pontiac Vibe) is quite spacious. The front passenger seat even folds down flat. With the back seat folded down and the front seat folded flat, we have a long surface for one of us to stretch out on and take a nap while the other drives.
It's amazing how refreshing a one hour nap is. I call this my "hour of power." Short naps are the key putting in a good day on the road.
We got to Phoenix, checked in to our motel, and hit one of those old fashioned diners like my mom and dad used to stop at when they took us kids on road. It's kind of cool sitting with my boy in one of these places while we're on a road trip. I'm learning that my son has grown into quite a young man.
Aaron was staring out the window and I asked him what he was thinking about.
"I'm looking at that guy across the street."
I turned to see what he was looking at. There was a homeless guy sitting on a milk crate with a cardboard sign in his hand. Aaron was itching to help the guy or talk to him. After a couple of minutes, Aaron excused himself to go to the bathroom. While he was gone, I grabbed my server and ordered a cheeseburger and fries to go.
Aaron came back to the table and we ate our meals pretty much in silence--we were both wiped out. But he kept looking out the window at the homeless guy.
I didn't say anything. I just left him with his thoughts.
The server brought the check and told me my to go order would be right up. Aaron gave me a weird look and said, "Man, you must be hungry."
I said, "No, but that dude is." Our server walked up with my Styrofoam containers. Aaron just smiled and trotted across the street with the food.
I don't think I would have even noticed that guy if Aaron didn't point him out. He has a tender heart and I'm proud of him. He's light years ahead of where I was at eighteen.
most expensive gas: $3.33/gal. (West Texas)
best gas mileage: 33 miles/gal.
temperature in Phoenix at 6:00pm: 104 degrees
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Aaron and I caught up on all that's been going on in our lives. He's been out of the country since January involved in missions and ministry. Road trips have always been the way our family has stayed connected with each other.
Part of road trip preparation is the ritual creation and burning of a mixed music disc. We cranked the car stereo louder than usually allowed and sang Weezer, Brand New, and Dashboard Confessional off key at the top of our lungs. I didn't know all the words so I just made them up as I went. Aaron expressed displeasure with this very lame paternal musical interpretation.
Every day we have a task list to work through to get things ready for Ali's departure from the hospital. Yesterday's meeting with Child Protective Services was preparation for a hearing that will take place on June 6. We appreciate your continued prayers for favor.
lowest gas price: East Texas; $2.89/gal.
best gas mileage: 33 miles per gallon
We had the big meeting with Child Protective Services. We get Ali, we're just not 100% sure we're we'll live with Ali for the next few months. Maybe in San Francisco. Maybe up in Humboldt County. We have a list of "what if's" and "what do's" to work through.
But the bottom line is Ali will be with the beautiful and charming Susan. Who wouldn't want to be there?
Monday, May 28, 2007
I forgot to mention in my previous post that in addition to Ali laughing while the beautiful and charming Susan plays with her, she also kicks her feet pretty furiously. I see Tae Kwon Do lessons in this child's future. This presents a small problem for the pediatric staff working on the fifth floor: Ali's comes equipped with a security band on her ankle that signals an alarm if someone attempts to remove her from the floor. Tampering with the device also alerts the nurses station. Ali's little feet of fury are constantly keep her guardians jumping.
Maybe that's just Ali's way of requesting room service.
"How'd you do that?" I asked.
"I was playing with her and tilted her a little backwards. Sort of upside-down."
"That sounds like a smart thing to do to a baby that just got out of a coma. How about we bounce her on a trampoline next?"
I didn't really say that. The beautiful and charming Susan is the most cautious person I know. That's how she remains so beautiful and charming. She loves to play with babies and she's so gentle and babies respond to her. That's why it's so cool that after so many days (weeks) in the hospital with an Ali in a coma or an Ali that is always uncomfortable and crying, to get a laugh. Susan played with her a bunch and Ali continued to respond with laughter.
When I read the stories of Jesus' life in the Bible, a certain exhilaration is described as people receive back their dead and healed after an encounter with the Lord. That's what I am experiencing as I tap away with two fingers here on my keyboard.
It's been different for Susan now that Yolanda has come back to Florida. She doesn't have a person in the room regularly to help her with Ali. So the gals at Calvary Chapel San Francisco are helping Susan so she can get some fresh air or run to the store or get some other chores done. Calvary Chapel San Francisco is a shining example of the Body at Christ at work caring for its members. The pastor there must be proud. Here's a picture of Becky standing watch over Ali as Susan is freed up to take a stroll up to Starbucks for a grande soy latte.
Charity is here to spend time with Ali and love on her. I don't know which of the two heal the most from this time together. I pray that the Lord continues to glorify Himself through the healing these two receive from Him.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Pictured to the right is Ali not no comfortable. As you can see, they are doing some work on her arm with it stretched a little bit behind her. The muscles Ali will use to crawl need strengthening. During the coma, Ali held her arms tightly aainst her body, muscles tense. Now, Ali's arms must be stretched and prepared for crawling.
Ali is no longer happy about today's work out. No pain, no gain.
Last week, therapists thought they were going to have to put splints on Ali's arms to help her to straighten them. That never happenned because over the weekend, Ali started stretching her arms by herself as I was held her and the beautiful and charming Susan massaged Ali's arms and played with her little fingers. So Ali is progressing beyond expectations.
I feel sorry for the little booger. Not only is she getting an extreme workout, but she just cut two new teeth and has three more pushing through the gums. Poor kid!
So here's something to pray about: on Tuesday we have another family planning meeting with California Child Protective Services. Our goal is to get custody of Ali. Child Protective Services has to grant that. Hospital staff, my daughter Charity (Ali's mommy), the beautiful and charming Susan, and state social workers handling Ali's case will all be at the meeting. My sister and I will attend via phone link. Please pray that the Lord gives us favor and that the outcome of this meeting will be that Ali is released into our hands when discharged from the hospital. I praise God that everyone listed above is incredibly focused on Ali's well being and continued recovery. So far, the hospital staff, both doctors and nurses, have noted remarkable improvement in Ali due to the constant presence and loving care provided by the charming and beautiful Susan. But the hospital staff doesn't have the power to grant custody. They can only influence the decision that ultimately the state has the power to make. We've seen the Lord really move in this situation and we're praying that He guides hearts and grants wisdom and delivers Ali into our care.
The moment I know that we get to take Ali, Aaron and I will load up in the car and head out to Northern California where Ali and Susan will stay with my sister until we're approved to bring her back to Florida. So pray for that process as well.
Below is the view out Ali's window. This view looks down Sacramento Street toward the Pacific Ocean. Notice the fog rolling in.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The beautiful and charming Susan sent me this photo of Ali getting worked over in physical therapy with "Spa Treatment" in the email's subject line. I don't know what you think, but if you ask me, there is a serious look of contentment on that little baby's face. That expression says, "Don't stop. I'm doing my job, now you just keep doing yours."
So this will be what Ali does over the next few days. She'll get massaged by pretty nurses and have her muscles worked on. Something you can all can pray about is Ali's muscles and joints responding to this therapy. At the end of last week, we were concerned that Ali might have to wear splints on her arms for awhile because her she kept them tense and close to her side; she wasn't bending her arms at the elbows. Over the weekend, she loosened her arms up considerably and is moving them and relaxing them, but the concern, now, is her little thumbs. While Ali was in a coma, her hands were balled into little fists the whole time. She is stretching out her fingers, now, but she isn't wiggling her thumbs. So that's an area where Ali's joints need to start working.
Ali kicks her left leg quite a bit. She turns her head some. Her brain sustained pretty serious damage and as it heals, she'll gain back more and more mobility. Our Creator has designed little Ali delicately and wonderfully. Pray for Ali with us as the nervous system He crafted repairs.
As I said in yesterday's post, I've been consoled by reading through the Psalms. I'm reading through the Psalms of Affliction (Psalms 6; 13; 22; 69; 88; & 102). A theme I've noticed that is consistent throughout these chapters and verses is a sense of being forsaken; abandonment. As I read through Psalm 22 this morning, I praised God because I have not known the abandonment described in the chapter's opening verses. There is a sense of aloneness because my family has been wrenched from a familiar routine. But abandonment I've not known.
I am constantly aware of God's presence through His Spirit and through the encouragement and love that flows from the Body of Christ. Your phone calls, emails, and comments on this blog lift my spirits daily through out each day as each one comes in. I'll never be able to adequately express how grateful I am for that. But I know the Lord will remember and reward each one of you for the kindness shown to my family. You are laying up riches for yourselves that will never see corruption or decay.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Ali is doing so much better. Being with her and the beautiful and charming Susan over the weekend was huge for me. I don't know if it did anything for anyone else, but I was lovin' it.
It's hard to pry yourself away from Ali just for a short time. When I'm in the room with her, all my emotions and thoughts about her tragedy evaporate and incredible love for this child floods me. But leaving Ali to go back to the hotel was hard. Coming home kills me. I think about everything else. I think, "how could someone do this to a baby?" I think, "what must my daughter be going through--how can she even handle this?" I think, "How can I fix this and make everything alright?"
I can't fix it. I have to walk through this. I can't run. I can't take an alternate route. I have to see this through.
Everything I do right now is just a temporary distraction from what my life has become. Even writing this post. Even making sure you all stay updated. It takes my mind off things for a few minutes. But then I always comes back to it and my emotions overwhelm me. Then I feel guilty about it because I know that I'm not the only one walking through this. My wife, Charity, Ali's other grandparents (pray for Jim and Yolanda) who have a granddaughter in the hospital and a boy in jail, are all going through this. But I can only feel what I feel. As a pastor, I'm called to empathize and comfort the hurting, but what do I do while I'm in the middle of it and run out of distractions?
I try to get alone with God. With beautiful and charming Susan out there on the West Coast and me here in Florida, I have time. I read God's Word, I pray, I cry before the Lord, and I read the Psalms David wrote. Thank goodness David had the spiritual insight to capture with pen and paper what he was experiencing in his relationship with the Lord no matter what. It takes away the aloneness. I've been reading and re-reading and underlining and outloud praying these Psalms of David. And it helps. I'm believing it's healing me and maybe even making me wiser.
I've also been reading Phillip Yancey's Where is God When It Hurts. Our pastor's wife gave this book to us a couple of years ago when we were going through what we thought then was the trial of our lives. Which, by the way, the Lord got us through with what turned out to be some minor tweaks in our lives and a little bit of wisdom. Maybe in a short while we'll be looking back on this and say something similar. I hope so.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Ali did great this weekend. A G.I. tube was inserted directly into her stomach. She started taking a pacifier and her sucking reflex has progressed beyond expectations (Ali has been fueding with her speech therapist). I walked with her quite a bit in the hallway. And she is squawking and talking to us. Even now, Ali is lodging a protest with her grandmother about something that's making her uncomfortable.
The next few days will be busy for the beautiful and charming Susan. She'll be taught how to feed, burp, and give Ali her medicine through the G.I. tube. So, realistically, Ali could be discharged this week. We're just waiting for some custody paperwork to go through and for a couple of relatively small medical decisions to be made.
We'll be taking Ali to my sister's house up in Humboldt County this week, possibly. We'll have to see. Please continue to pray for us as we work through the logistics of this move and get things ready for the next stage of Ali's recovery.
Friday, May 18, 2007
"What are YOU doing here?" she asked, a little bit confused.
And then she promptly ignored me to take care of the baby.
Ali was being wheeled out the door as I was walking in. A simple procedure was scheduled for this morning. She had a little tube called a "peg" surgically inserted into her belly so that she can be nourished while a speech tharapist helps Ali re-learn how to swallow.
So there was a bunch of activity when I got here that stole the thunder away from my big entrance. Timing has never been one of my strong points.
After the operation, I got to hold little Ali and she fell asleep in my arms. What a difference since the last time I held her ten days ago. When I held Ali before, she was like a little limp sack of potatoes. Today, I could really feel her muscles working and her kind of snuggle into me. That's a feeling no amount of money can buy.
As Ali was recuperating this afternoon, she was kind of uncomfortable and pretty vocal about it. But, again, she was very responsive to my attempts to comfort and quiet her.
I'm one happy grandpa ;)
Thursday, May 17, 2007
So here's the kind of progress Ali made yesterday: she turned her head from one side to the other, she yelled at her nurse, she smiled when her grandma played with her little fingers, she yelled at her grandma, she sucks on these little baby bottle nipples to learn to work her mouth muscles, she yelled at her other grandma, she sits up with help, she yelled at the physical therapist, her alertness increases daily, and she yelled at her momma.
The doctors continue to be amazed by Ali's progress. I'm glad I'm not alone in my amazement. This is one tough kid. She definitely ain't no wimp. She's a fighter. I guess that's how it is when you're working with strength that flows from the healing hands of Jesus.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Ali is the champion. The charming and beautiful Susan is her coach pushing Ali hard toward victory. Ali cries, but it's good for her lungs and brain and muscles. Ali is pulling out of this and we're inspired; we're seeing the fruit of our prayers. Our faith grows.
As I write this I am thanking the Lord through tears. I'm thanking Him for His goodness and I'm thanking Him for surrounding me with so many friends.
So here's why we're praying:
It started with a phone call. Things always start with a phone call.
"Oh my God, Dad, you have to pray! Ali's not breathing!"
And then Charity hung up the phone. That was three am, here in Florida, Sunday morning, a little over two weeks ago. Midnight out in California where they live. Charity worked late and she was hanging out with a friend when Ali's father called her from the back of an ambulance to tell her to meet them at the hospital. When they got to the hospital, the emergency room doctor was at a loss about why the baby wasn't breathing. She asked if the baby had been abused, and Ali's father broke down and confessed that he shook her and squeezed to get her to stop crying. She stopped breathing, instead.
She had a broken collar bone, broken ribs, and a what looks like a broken leg. These were old injuries; ones that had been healing awhile. This had been happening since January while Charity was at work.
If you're like me, you're having a hard time taking this in. Maybe you read the above paragraphs two or three times before getting to this one. My brain refused to process this information.
We have this paper shreddder at our office. It gobbles the paper down no problem one or two sheets at a time. If you put four or five sheets in, it groans and slows down. Feed it a stack of twenty-five sheets, the shredder slows down, graons loud, and stops. It jams. That's what my brain felt like as I took in this report and was faced with the sight of my little baby granddaughter under heating lamps with a machine breathing for her.
That seems like forever ago. But only two, short weeks have gone by and we've witnessed the miraculous. God is at work at every level. Doctors, nurses, social workers, cops, grandmas and grandpas, family, and the church body.
God is at work at every level.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I had to really think about the answer to this question even after all of the updates I've posted with pictures of Ali crying with eyes and mouth wide open. Yesterday, I spoke to the beautiful and charming Susan ump-teen times, and half of those times Ali was fussing and crying which makes me laugh more now than ever.
Babies, who aren't in comas, cry.
I hadn't really thought of it that way, but it's true.
Ali has been out of a coma just about ever since the beautiful and charming Susan arrived on the scene.
Yesterday, Ali started physical therapy. Babies in comas usually don't get signed up for physical therapy. Susan wanted to share a couple of pictures with you all. The picture above and left is Ali before physical therapy. She's quite uncomfortable (a broken collar bone and rib will do that to you). The picture to the right is Ali after physical therapy. Sleeping like a baby--who's not in a coma.
Now there's even talk of sending Ali across the Bay Bridge to a rehab place in Oakland. They don't plan stuff like that for babies in comas, either. My only concern is that she'd have to travel across the Bay Bridge.
Anne Jackson re-posted the following post that I haven't tracked all the way through to it's source, but if you're so inclined, go for it. In light of questions and discussions about Calvary Chapel leadership taking place in boardrooms, coffee shops, and the blogosphere, I thought I'd post this interesting tidbit:
institution or movement?
H R Niebuhr suggests the following contrasts between movements and institutions with regard to the church.
Passive and yielding to external influences
Looks to the past
Active, influencing rather than influenced
Looks to the future
So what about, Calvary Chapel? Which are we?
Monday, May 14, 2007
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief. Proverbs 14:13
This is a verse I've become well acquainted with over the past couple of weeks. Friends and family have surrounded us with love, but Ali is ever on our hearts. We need--crave--the fellowship of the saints; we sense and see the result of all your fervency in prayer. We're thankful; it makes our hearts weigh a little less. And when we're in the room with Ali, we feel the love and comfort flow out of us and gush all over that little one. And that makes our hearts weigh less. But this whole thing is ever before us whether working or playing or sleeping.
My sister drove down to San Francisco from our home town of Eureka, CA, Saturday night to be with Susan (pictured left), and Yolanda, Ali's paternal grandmother, arrived to be with Ali as well (pictured right).
Being passed from grandma to aunt to grandma to nurse to grandma to aunt to grandma to mommy has got to be one of the comfiest places on the planet for babies to heal. I could use a place like that to hang out when I need some comforting.
Ali has her eyes open quite a bit. She has a hard time moving her muscles so she needs a lot of help to get comfortable,but the cool thing is she's letting everyone know she's uncomfortable by crying. Before you know it, she'll learn she can get all three of these ladies jumping by making little peeps and cries.
Yesterday, for the first time Susan says, Ali is moving her head a little. And she's
still trying to get her thumb in her mouth. She's tenacious and stubborn, that little one. Ad I don't think she's going to learn to be less stubborn in that hospital room full of those ladies.
Today, if things go as planned, Ali will begin physical therapy and speech therapy.
We all understand why she needs physical therapy, but why would an eleven month old need speech therapy? Well, she needs to re-learn to make those muscles in her little mouth work.
So, still, I'm amazed by her progress. While Ali rests in the arms of her grandmothers, aunt, and momma, this whole situation rests in the loving arms of our Father.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Communication with the charming and beautiful Susan has been limited to text messages and extremely short phone calls while I was in the Bahamas at the Adventure Learning Centre. Being there was therapeutic. Not only was I with Aaron, but I was able to be with friends that have been mentors and given me guidance through my early years in ministry. I saw God's hand divinely arrange things that way.
Even so, I can't stop thinking about my wife and Ali and how that there is where all the action is. The beautiful and charming Susan is in the middle of dealing with social workers and lawyers and un-official in-laws.
But Ali is there. And Charity. And, as of last night, my sister. They're there. And three thousand and something miles away, I'm here.
Susan is watching Ali improve day-by-day. Ali opens her eyes and just stares at Susan. And of course, Susan, like a star gazer, gets to look into Ali's beautiful and soft little face. Ali can reach out and touch Susan, but she can't yet get her thumb into her mouth which is pretty dang frustrating for little Ali. I'm so thankful that Ali can be frustrated and her audience knows it. The other night, during a short phone call from the Bahamas, I could hear Ali crying in the background. A baby's cry never sounded more like angels singing. I'm not sure I would be more pleased to hear angels or Ali belt out wails.
Susan says that Ali stares up at her as she's held and tries to imitate the movement of Susan's mouth as she talks to Ali. A little over a week ago, a short time in reality, I had a difficult discussion with a doctor. The doctor said that Ali may never be able to breathe on her own. Ali may need a tracheotomy so a machine can breathe for her. A tube may have to be inserted from the outside through her abdomen into her stomach to bring nourishment to her comatose little body.
Ali breathes on her own. She sucks on a pacifier. She swallows, with difficulty, but tomorrow they will begin to re-teach her how to swallow on her own. I'm confident that in few short days, I'll write to you about Ali drinking formula through a bottle.
Ali's gone a long way past any talk of breathing on a machine for the rest of her life. Thanks for praying us through through this with us. We've all been privileged to watch the healing hand of God at work. Please don't grow weary of praying for us. I don't know how we'll come through this without your continued prayer support.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The amount of improvement I personally observed was amazing. Last week at this time, the doctor was having conversations with me about the possibility that Ali may never be able to breathe without the machine. But, a few days later, she was breathing totally on her own. She's opens her eyes, and she cries when she needs to be comforted. Ali responds to the comforting touch of her mother, her grandmother, and the gentle, caring touch of her nurses.
Today's plan is to move her out of intensve care and up to the pediatric ward. That's another big, confident step.
I hope this news encourages you like it does me.
I'm off today to the Bahamas to be with my son. There probably won't be any updates for a couple of days. In the meantime, I'm praying about the right way to share with you how all this happened...
And these are pictures of Ali just kind of looking up. She moves her eyes a little bit, responds to noises, and makes a little "clucking" sound with her tongue. Charity taught her to do that when she wants something. I think she wants ice cream. Maybe I'll go get some Ben and Jerry's and eat what the nurses won't allow her to eat.
Got it covered.
One officer came by just to peek in on Ali and drop off this Teddy Bear of sweet baby comfort.
Here are some of Ali's other friends keeping watch in the presence of angels.
Ali cried for about ten minutes today. She also had one of her eyes open and slowly looked around. It was very exciting. Having Susan here is really helping.
Ali quit crying and went back to sleep when we, uh... changed her diaper.
It's so good to have Susan here.
Our new friends Eric and Charlene have been amazing. Eric is a servant leader at Calvary Chapel San Francisco. I visited CCSF Sunday morning and enjoyed a sweet time of worship with this congregation in downtown San Francisco. The Pastor was away so Eric brought a message that was timely from the first chapter of Ruth. I took notes furiously knowing that the Lord was using this man to speak to me about my situation. I love what his comments on verse 6: "it was a dismal time, things looked desperate, but Naomi arose; she journeyed toward God." That brings to mind the time when following Jesus became hard, disciples started to leave Him. Jesus asked His closest guys, "Do you also want to go away?" To which Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
There is only one direction to move in: toward God. Cleave to Him.
Charlene's visit with Ali yesterday was divinely timely. She came, once again, bearing bags of food.
Homemade tamales never tasted better. When Susan arrived weary from the road, I was able to serve her up tamales, hand rolled with love from a California kitchen. Thanks, Charlene. You're amazing!
So to those of you praying for us: thank you. Please don't become weary in your efforts. Ali has taken steps forward. This is the fourth day Ali has been breathing on her own. The cries; she sighs. We're looking forward to the day she will open her eyes.
As you pray for Ali, please remember to pray for our family as well. A tough road ahead of us. Custody of Ali has been transferred from Charity to California Child Protective Services. Given the situation, this is a good thing. CPS is very motivated to have Ali in the custody of Susan and I, but it's definitely not a "slam dunk". When Ali gets out of the hospital, she may need special care. CPS's number one priority is that Ali receive the best care possible.
Another challenge is that when CPS approves Susan and me to be Ali's guardians, we plan to reside in Florida. So we'll also have to be approved by the state of Florida's Child Protective Services. In the meantime, Ali won't be able to leave California. So Susan will stay. Tomorrow I leave to be with my son Aaron in the Bahamas who graduates from Patmos Reality Discipleship.
So keep praying for us.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Joanne left the camera in reach, and when she left the room, I snapped the pictures below of Ali and me.
Charity was able to hold Ali. That took a team of people, but the nurses made it happen. The medical staff was excited to see this because they had been kicking around the idea of removing the breathing tube. They began to prepare Ali for this, last night by switching from solid food to an I.V. to make sure she was adequately hydrated before the big event.
Today, Jim, Ali's paternal grandfather, and Aunt Blanche arrived for a visit. With us all standing by, the doctor, nurse, and respiratory therapist went to work moving tubes, wiping, listening, pulling, and watching. Other nurses left their posts to watch it all go down. Everybody was on pins and needles hoping for the best and ready to act if Ali wasn't ready.
Ali let loose with a string of raspy coughs. This is good. For the first time, beneath the raspiness, I could identify her unique vocal sound. It was Ali's voice forcing out those coughs.
In the picture to the right, observe that the breathing apparatus in the pictures above is gone. They just have a small oxygen feed in her nostrils.
Kudos to the San Francisco police. The officers that were present at the hospital came by to visit Ali today and were very kind to me. I appreciate their professionalism and offers to help me navigate the city.