Saturday, June 26, 2010

PICC line coming out tomorrow!

Wow, the days do fly by!  I keep thinking that I'll hop on and type a quick update - yet the days pass without actually taking the time to do so.  I'll remedy that right now.  :)

Jeff is doing okay.  He's been home from the hospital for a week and a half now - and tomorrow, he is supposed to have his PICC line taken out.  ( That stands for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter.) 

(A definition:  It is long, slender, small, flexible tube that is inserted into a peripheral vein, typically in the upper arm, and advanced until the catheter tip terminates in a large vein in the chest near the heart to obtain intravenous access. It is similar to other central lines as it terminates into a large vessel near the heart.  In Jeff's case, it delivered antibiotics several times a day directly into his blood stream.)

 Jeff have the PICC line taken out.  No more (hopefully) wrapping his arm in plastic and tape to take a shower.  :)  Many, many people deal with PICC lines as just a regular part of their lives (and much more), so I'm not trying to over-emphasize any discomfort here.  He's just happy and hopeful, after 8 weeks, to say goodbye to a useful annoyance.  :)

As I mentioned at first, he is doing okay.  He still gets tired very easily.  His strength is not yet fully regained.  (Although - If you are one of his relatives or another guy, then, well....he will tell you that he is all hale and hearty.  Grin.) His mobility still has a way to go to be fully restored.  Really, though, he *is* doing well.  It's just slow.  He's had two major blood infections to come back from.  I'd imagine that takes some time.

Jeff has another surgery scheduled for the first week in July, during which time they will open his hip back up and remove the cement beads that were laced with antibiotics.  That will involve a brief hospital stay (hopefully brief???) and after that time there will be another recovery period.  Prior to the surgery they will do a needle aspiration of his hip.  (Does the thought of that make your stomach wiggly?  It does mine!  Big, long needles going into a person's joint make me squeamish.)  That will tell the surgeon if the infection is indeed eradicated from the hip.  

This has been a hard time - but it's not without its' good as well.  The kids and I have LOVED having him home.  He's been able to see how our days go and I've been eager to solicit his advice on how to make things run more smoothly.  I always need help with that!

As always, thanks for your love and prayers - I'll update again following the surgery or before, if anything changes.

God be with you all,


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Dagwood Generation: Caring for parents and kids

Lately I have struggled with how much "personal" to put in this place.  I've been online for almost 6 years now, and while I started out very isolated I'm now at the point where everyone I know in real life knows that I have this little site.  My relatives, except for my elderly loved ones, are all online.  I want to be careful and be respectful, particularly when it comes to sharing details about my parents.  I struggle between the need to be honest and the need for their privacy.  They have always been strong, independent people, with a strong streak of privacy too.  But their lives are, and are increasingly becoming, my life - and to never say anything denies a large part of how my days are consumed.  I need to write about it sometimes.  There is much that I can't or won't say, and I will always try to be respectful.

This last month has involved a large slew of doctor's appointments for my parents.  They are, quite frankly, offended by the concept that old age is overtaking them.  They never intended  to give in to time.  We - all of us in my family - feel the same way, really.  We have never thought that the rules applied to us, never think that the "do not enter" or "road closed" signs were directed toward us.  We are...invincible.  We think.

But of course, we're not.  No one is.

And so, my involvement with my parent's care has risen to a new level this Spring.  They both have signs of aging and life is just getting harder for them.  I am now driving them to most of their appointments, and I am now the one doing most of the communication and scheduling with doctor's offices (and labs, and so on and so forth,) and when they have surgeries we will be the ones to care for them.

Today, was a new step-up in my responsibility level.  I took my father to his endocrinologist's appointment - he has a delicately balanced endocrine system that requires careful fine tuning.  My mother did not attend this visit with us.  The doctor is Egyptian and my father, due to previous illness, has difficulty in speaking clearly.  I served as interpreter.  The doctor would say something, my father would look at me.  I would tell him what she said.  My father would say something, the doctor would look at me, wanting to know what he said.  Eventually, as she became pressed for time, the doctor bypassed my father and directed all questions and information in my direction.  I know his medications, I know his habits (he despises all medical intervention, all medication, he'll just stop taking his medication if he feels like it) and I know his history.  He, of course, tires of it all and tunes us both out, sighing loudly from his perch on the examination table.  I can tell from those sighs that he is highly annoyed.  His hearing is bad, so he picks up nothing from the visit.  Couple this with the fact that he would like to ignore anything she says (not because he doesn't like her - he does!  He's just trying to ignore the fact that he is getting old) and he will go home and tell my mother that the doctor didn't really say anything!  I will try to show him the paperwork, he says he can't understand it.  (Both of my parents struggle with this.  They are not members of the computer age - it all is so foreign to the world they were born into.  I feel for them.)  I will try to tell him what the doctor has ordered on the drive home.  He will pretend that he has heard.   He will not turn on the air even thought is is almost 100 degrees outside...he does not like air blowing on him, so I will sweat a thousand deaths as I drive. I will call my mother as soon as I get home, so she will know of changes in medication and future labwork, but a correct exchange of information will take 3 or 4 phone calls to get things correct.  He will deny it all, and argue that he doesn't need anything that the doctor thinks he needs.

This is not a place he wants to be.  He does not want to be 85 and ailing.  He does not want to be given another horse-pill to be included in his already impossible schedule:  Take this one before eating.  Take this one on a full stomach.  Take this one at this time but don't take it with another.  This one will make you go to the bathroom - ALOT.  This one will interact with your blood pressure medication.  This one will make your feet feel better but may deplete your body of potassium.  This aging thing is for the birds, a real twisting of the nose for an independent man.

He does not want to be dependent on his baby girl, his littlest one.  He wants to be the one to zoom confidently through construction detours, to rely on his great memory to navigate the side streets of the city.  But what are his options?  The qualities that have kept him self reliant and strong to this point are the things that he must now begin to give up in order to survive, in order to be around to see the grandkids continue to grow...including the new one his daughter is still carrying.

I know this.   I understand.   I know that these are the things that rub at his collar, that chafe his pride.  They hurt, and they allow him to become cantankerous.

But I still have a job to do, and that is to help him obtain good medical care.  To do less, is to let him down.  I have to know when to press in and gather and exchange information, and when to step back and allow him to save his image and be his own man.  This is a very difficult balance to achieve - to care for, to act in one's best interest, yet to not be offensive and to not wound a relationship.

That was today's appointment.  Tomorrow brings another lengthy day and two more doctor's visits.   Along with standard doctor's visits for the elderly (endocrinologist, nephrologist, dermatologist, pulmonologist, general practitioner) both of my parents are seeking help for aging joints.  My mother may have a knee replacement yet this summer.

I have read for years about women (in particular) who are members of the "sandwich" generation.  I was born to older parents, and I always knew that this is how things would be.  There was no way I would be leaving my parents to age on their own.  This is why three years ago we moved to be closer to where they live.  After two decades of living 7 to 11 hours away, we now live 45 minutes from their home.  I never did think that it would be easy, in fact, I used to lie awake at night wondering how on earth to manage it all.  I still do that, come to think of it - but I try not to.  I try to continue to turn it all back over to God, to allow Him room to work in all of our lives.  Otherwise, I would never sleep.  Sandwich generation?  Sometimes I feel like a real "Dagwood," you know....the sandwich that reaches to the ceiling?

I know this - that we will remain faithful during this time of life.  This is what we are supposed to be doing.  We are called to love and to care, to be wise and thoughtful and considerate.  I do not believe that we will regret these days nor the time and love given.  These "growing elderly ones" would have done (and still would do) anything for us that they possibly could do.

If you think of us, though, we are grateful for your prayers in days and weeks to come.  We need strength, wisdom, and great management/organizational skills.  :)  God bless you - all of you who read here!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Daddies Do...

Good daddies around the world do millions of wonderful things.

These are just some of the things that the Daddy that lives at our house does:

Coffee, for the me - the mama, first thing in the morning, in bed...that sets the tone for everything else...

Most of all, he loves.  Everything else that he does, traces back to who he is and a heart that knows how to love.

It's love that makes him get up in the night with the toddlers (especially if we have a new baby,) and up early in the morning while mama gets a little more sleep.  Love that drives him to fold last night's laundry (into much tidier piles than mine...) and to step in when the dishes have built up.  (Always without a word.)  This Daddy's love is patient, and kind.

Love drives him to work 10-13 hour days to pay the bills, then to walk alongside a young girl who wants to ride her bike around the block if enough daylight remains....then maybe a game of Candyland with a couple of little boys and a then bedtime Bible story.

Love leads him through long division (for the fourth time, five more to go!) and long bathroom waits (10 people and one shower) and theological questions that mama saves for him when he gets home...

Through repeat injustices such as catfood in his shoes and people stealing his flashlights and permanent markers and duct tape and scotch tape and his best set of scissors and needle-nosed pliers from his toolbox.  Daddy love conquers all.  It tolerates a lot, with deep patience.  Daddy love endures.

Daddy love, from this Daddy, hopes.  Not a quick fading hope, not a hope that expects immediate change...but hope that sees that many troubles to face an individual are brief, that they are not the sum of the person or the family.  He sees the big picture, he looks ahead to the future, and he has hope.

This Daddy works hard.  He often does without, for himself, so that everyone else within his reach has what they need.  He tears down old places and rebuilds them, to make a better place for his family.

He's a role model, a constant...always there, always going the extra distance and always coming to meet us.  Always loving, always serving more than he could possibly be served, always peaceful and always forgiving.

And good Daddy love?  It never ends.  Not with old age, not even with death.  Now, no one has ever confirmed this for me, but I believe that love, once created, endures.  A good Daddy can't always shield his child from pain, won't always stop them from being hurt or from bearing scars...but he will never, never willingly leave his child to suffer alone. 

Not everyone has known Daddy love like this.  My children are blessed, beyond what they even realize, I suspect.  I am blessed, to be married to a guy like this.  I find it difficult to even breathe when I think about almost losing him a short while ago.

But know this, please, no matter who you are, nor what you've experienced in this life - your losses or your pain -  You DO have a Daddy like this.  This is how God loves you.  This is how God describes Himself to us through scripture:  Abba.  Father.  Warm, close, intimate, and loving.  Strong, and self-sacrificial, even to the point of death so that we might have life.  God is the reason that any of us know how to love.  He's our best example of what love is, of what love should look like played out in family life.

Thanks, to my husband Jeff, for being a wonderful partner in this parenting life.  Thanks, too, to my own father, who did the best that he knew how to - who has loved sacrificially through the years.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coming Home!

Wednesday, June 16

We are being discharged from the hospital right now.  Jeff has been in the hospital since Saturday night.  The weekend was really rough, as our regular doctors were not on duty, and there was a lot of conflicting advice and confusion (and even poor care.)  Once Monday came, though, our regular doctors returned, and it was discovered that he had an infected PICC line.  That was removed, a new antibiotic was added, and he responded well.  So now, we are going home.  Sorry to be so brief, again, but we really ARE headed out of the door.  :)  Thanks for praying!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Back in the hospital....

My husband is back in the hospital, with another (and different) infection in his blood stream.  We went in last night (after a couple of assertions from professionals that he couldn't possibly have an infection because he was on high levels of antibiotics.)  Well, he could, and he did, and the labs revealed that.  Right now, they are trying to determine the cause.  I'll try to update as I know something.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Baby news

This may be my shortest post ever...!

No time today for anything except to say...

Our ninth baby is a boy!

And he looks pretty good.

The boys are cheering, as their ratio will be 6:3.  The girls will love him, no matter what.  :)

Hopefully back soon!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I love little children

I love little children.

Little boys and little girls...

Such joy, 
such fun,
such enthusiasm for life,
for love,
for learning.

I think that my favorite ages are 4 and 5 years (and 17.)
What are yours?

Friday, June 4, 2010

So, we're having a baby.

So, here's a pregnancy post.  Snazzy picture, eh?  That's my daughter behind my right shoulder.  We cropped some other young'uns out of the photo because I didn't think it would be ethical to put pictures of other people's kids on the www.  I think this is the only belly shot I have so far - perhaps that's because most of the time I'm not anywhere near presentable?  :)

I am around 21 weeks along with baby #9.  I think it's safe to say that we're pretty excited.  The kids are getting more excited now that I am wearing maternity clothes.  We have an ultrasound this coming Tuesday, so hope to find out what gender we are having.

Some of you may remember that somewhere along the path of maternity adventure, I developed an Anti-E antigen in my bloodstream.  (The Anti-E is kind of rare.  There's no rhogam shot like there are for the more common rh factor issues.  Most likely it happened at the birth of our seventh child, Ben, when the doctor pulled the placenta too soon.)  What happens is that the baby's blood mixes with the mother's blood and the response is that the mother's blood becomes sensitized.  The potential trouble lies in the possibility that the mother's blood begins to recognize the new baby's blood type as an "invader," and her immune system can actually begin to attack the baby's red blood cells.  The trouble can range from "nothing," to severe jaundice which might precipitate an early delivery, to a blood transfusion en utero.  The really good news is that there *are* things that can be done, and usually, if a mother is monitored the outcome is good.

Our 8th baby, Mariam, had absolutely no problems either during or after her birth.  I remember at that time, the OB was absolutely panicked when she gave me the news, and we were sent to a fetal/maternal health specialist for blood work and high level ultrasounds.  We got lots of pressure about my age and about how we had an option to abort, which we fumed about and then ignored, and our end result (thankfully) was a wonderfully healthy little girl who will be three in November.

This time around, my doctor is great.  She is good at what she does, but she isn't very worried about the situation - we'll just do bloodwork once a month to monitor titer levels.  She initially thought that this might be some sort of an anomoly, but since the tests came back positive this pregnancy as well, that theory was thrown out.

I have seen a fetal/maternal health specialist this time as well.  She wasn't really concerned about the anti-E situation either.  She gave me the usual high-level talk about the need for monitoring this pregnancy BECAUSE OF MY AGE (I'll be almost 42 when the baby arrives,) which I also promptly ignored.  As my regular doctor (a family practitioner who delivers babies too) says, "they aren't taking into account that you have 8 healthy pregnancies and deliveries.  You aren't a statistic!"  So, we'll ignore all of the static about age and focus on a healthy baby and mama, too.  :)

We didn't really intend to wait so long to tell everyone about this baby.  At first, I was just waiting until Nick's trial was concluded.  I felt we needed to focus on that.  Then, it was early Spring and my parents need a lot of outdoor, physical-type help around their property.  I knew that if I told them, my mother would worry and not let me help as much.  Then, I saw the doctor and the blood-tests revealed I had the Anti-E thing again (and now we know I'll always have it...) and I put off telling the kids and everyone else, too, because I wanted to see what the fetal/maternal health specialist said.  If something was very wrong, I wanted to be able to tell the kids from the very beginning and help prepare them.  Well, the first ultrasound there was good, and we thought it was a good time to tell everyone.  Then, Jeff fell sick with the staph infection.  It just never seemed a good time, and so I knew I really needed to say something because soon it was going to become "hugely" obvious.  :)  It sort of sounds like "If you give a mouse a cookie...," doesn't it?  :)  Enough with the drama, already!

This is my ninth baby.  There are parts of pregnancy that I grow weary with.  Some people assume that having babies must be easy for me, since I've done it so much.  Well, that's not true.  There is physical suffering and most certainly a type of physical, mental, emotional sacrifice to have a child.  I don't like morning sickness, varicose veins, nor getting so huge that I can't hold my children on my lap.  I always dread labor, I'm not that good at it.  I don't have babies to validate myself, nor to fulfill some never-ending desire, nor to create a perpetual group of people who need me.  (Oh, please no, not that.  Sometimes, I desire to not be needed so much!)  It's not about some agenda nor about conquering the world, even though we do shamelessly conquer the playground.  (We try to be benevolent dictators there.)   I don't like the attention, neither from the incredulous medical staff that does not know me nor the stares we receive when we are out together.  Parts of being a mother to a large family, particularly a pregnant mother of a large family, are very uncomfortable for me. 

It's  Life, with all of it's ups and downs, really is incredible.  This is just how God has led us - my husband and me - over the years, His own personal plan for the Johnson family.  It's about who He wanted to walk this earth at this time, in this family.  It's not an easy life, not one that we think He calls everyone too, but it's a beautiful life and we are thankful.  (And a little bit nuts.)

So, since I am 41, I no longer take a baby for granted.  This might be the last  pregnancy God has in mind for our family. He'll let us know.   Right now, the little baby movements are very treasured and precious.  The other children and their reaction to the baby are priceless. I'm journalling and remembering, especially the little ones and their awed expressions as they realize that mama is really growing something in there!  :)  (I don't think they really "get it" until the baby arrives and they can see and touch.)  Even the difficult things are bearable when I remember that this time and this phase of life are fleeting. 

Right now, I'm glad to be able to really focus on the joy of the journey, on the wonder of this new baby, on the here and now of the valid needs and love of every other kid, and on thankfulness that my husband is still here with us to meet this baby, rather than chafe at all of the other discomforts that life and pregnancy tends to bring.  It's a very, very sweet life.