Of all the things that we thought we would be doing 12 days after the birth of our fifth child, eating Turkish food (last night) and perusing the Farmer’s Market in Palo Alto (this morning) was not on our list. It has been said that the only constant in life is change and surprises, and the last two weeks have certainly been just that for the Reeves Family.
Lisa at the Farmer's Market in Palo Alto
We got another good surprise today. We had been hoping that they would close Abby’s chest as early as Friday, but by Friday morning they had pushed it off till Saturday. Though all of her vitals were stable and improving, she was retaining a little more fluid than they would like, and her skin looked a little puffy. They don’t like to close the chest until the body gets rid of the excess fluid that has been built up during and after surgery. Once they close the chest, it actually puts greater pressure on the lungs because they now sit in a tighter, more enclosed space. If there is excess fluid in the chest cavity then that can apply even more pressure, which makes it harder for her to breathe.
On Friday morning they gave Abigail a diuretic to help her pee more off the excess fluid. Since that time, she’s been peeing like a champion, and much of the fluid has left her body. Unfortunately, last night the attending physician thought (as a precautionary measure) that it might be best to give her yet another day to rid herself of fluid, and that they were most likely going to bump her chest closing procedure to Sunday. I was disappointed to say the least to learn that. I am so anxious for her to get rid of the ventilator tube but that cannot happen until at least 24 hours from the moment they close the chest. They keep the tube in after they close the chest, because patients usually take a step backward in breathing because of the added pressure that is introduced to the lungs by the closing of the chest. Until the tube is removed, she has to remain somewhat sedated (otherwise they would go insane with all the plastic in their throat). That sedation unfortunately counteracts the healing process and it prolongs the date that she can begin eating and then breastfeeding.
We left the hospital last night disappointed that we were going into the weekend without her chest being closed. Lisa and I prayed last night that if her body was ready for it that the doctors would not wait for the procedure. We had the same prayer in our hearts throughout the morning.
We arrived at the hospital late today after a stroll through the Farmer’s Market in Palo Alto. When we arrived, our nurse told us as we walked into Abigail’s room (in the CVICU you get your own room) that they were going to close the chest tomorrow. About an hour later, one of the cardiologists entered the room and told us the same thing. More disappointment, but I was trying to temper that feeling, as I had some guilt for feeling sorry for myself after we have received blessing after blessing for 12 straight days. So, we were ready for another’s day wait. Then, the surprise came.
Dr. Reddy burst into the room an hour later, looked at a few of her numbers on the various monitors above her bed, walked over to Abigail, lifted the gauze from her chest, peered into the hole for about 3 seconds, and then announced, in his confident, definitive way, “She’s ready. Let’s close her. Start preparing the room.” The nurses and technicians exchanged confused glances, as if to say, “But I thought that ten other people had already told us that we were waiting.”
The minute Dr. Reddy made the announcement, the staff started moving at an accelerated pace. He’s obviously THE man here, the highest of all authorities in the CVICU. If he says it, no one argues, and they all get to work. One of the physicians who had told us that we were waiting told me after Dr. Reddy left the room, “I guess I’m not the boss here. Sorry for telling you a different story.”
The procedure takes about an hour to perform, much of which is “set-up” time. They actually perform it bedside in the CVICU. All of the rooms in the CVICU are surgery-ready, and they just take care of such things right there. To close the chest, they have to bind the sternum, which has been cut in half from top to bottom. The bring it back together with wire that they wrap around the sternum. Once wrapped around the sternum, they actually twist the wires, which brings together both halves of the sternum. And then in about five days, the bone is mostly fused back together. Amazing. I suppose it takes longer for the bone to completely heal, as we won’t be able to lift her by the armpits for at least six weeks, because this particular hold will cause quite a bit of pain. But most of the healing is done within days of the procedure.
So, here I sit, content and satisfied yet again by another small miracle in the life of Abigail Rose Reeves. My pessimistic side (which granted isn't much) is beginning to wonder at what point this is going to take a turn for the worse, for we really haven’t had any “turn for the worse” days except for the first 12 hours following the birth.
Today's little miracle caused me to think about how our prayers may have affected today's outcome. I have thought quite a bit over the last 12 days about the power of faith and prayer--especially the collective power of faith and prayers when hundreds of people join in unison in a common goal for their faith, as they did for Abigail.
One of my worries during the early stages of this experience was for people’s faith. My greatest fear--as odd it may seem--was not necessarily that Abigail was going to die (though that certainly was a significant fear), but instead was centered on the effect it might have on people’s faith if she did indeed die. I have learned over the years that sometimes our faith and prayers don’t always seem to affect the outcome of certain events in the way that we want them to. I knew that we had more than a ward’s worth of people fasting (including many children in the junior primary under the age of 8). In addition to that, I had co-workers, cousins, friends, and people we’ve never met before earnestly praying and exercising their faith, fasting, and praying for Abigail and our family.
I desperately wanted that faith to be rewarded--or at least rewarded in the most obvious way (faith never truly goes unrewarded). I didn’t want people to be disappointed that their faith “may not have been enough.”
I remember going through that thought process at Primary Children’s and feeling some anxiety about it. I recall sitting alone in the Cafeteria at Primary Children’s, thinking about this subject, and feeling the anxiety that I’ve described, when suddenly, I had this thought, “Jeff, if you will just surrender, you and everyone else fasting and praying will have peace regardless of the outcome. If you are really willing to trust me, your faith will be rewarded.” As that thought came, my anxiety left, and for the first time since her diagnosis I was willing to accept any outcome, and knew that no matter what happened, that our faith was going to be rewarded in His way. I will be the first to admit that the pendulum of my willingness to trust Him completely and to surrender completely during this process swung back and forth throughout the process. But, such is the case with our faith--we often take two steps forward and one step backward (and sadly, sometimes two or three steps backward).
Abigail’s chest closure today was another answer to a prayer, another little miracle, another reward of faith. After Dr. Reddy changed the direction of the day on a dime, I thought again about how faith affects the outcome of the good things that we desire. As I was mulling over the subject for the umpteenth time since Abby was born, I had the following, sort of conclusive thought on the subject: if the outcome that we are fasting for is what God wants then our faith can expedite the miracles we are fasting for. Let me try to develop that idea further.
One might ask, “If God’s will is going to be done regardless, why bother exercising faith?” I have two possible answers. One is that praying is for the prayer and fasting is for the faster. But while it is certainly true that the person praying often benefits the most from the prayer, I believe that answer is incomplete. The scriptures and my personal experience (especially in the last few days) is full of examples of how prayer actually, physically alters events and changes outcomes. Therefore, the second reason that God want us to exercise faith in a specific cause is that His will can better be accomplished when coupled with the faith of righteous people. Now, I realize that I’m treading on thin ice when I talk about God having any need for our faith. Additionally, know this disclaimer--this is the gospel according to Jeff, and nothing more. But here are my thoughts on the subject. God wants lots of things that don’t happen. He wants His children to obey His commandments. He wants them to listen to His prophets so that they can stay far to the right of the line of safety. He wants so much for us, if we will only exercise the faith sufficient to accomplish His will. But unfortunately we don't, and so His will for us sometimes doesn't come to pass.
One final thought on the subject and I’ll stop blabbering on. As we were uncertain about the outcome for Abigail, and as we prayed for the outcome that we wanted, we had to consider the possibility that what we wanted wasn’t necessarily what her Heavenly Father wanted. I wondered during that time of uncertainty why it is that God wants us to pray for things that may not necessarily be His will. Why doesn’t He just tell us what His will is upfront so that we know what to pray for? I realize that he will reveal His will up-front on some occasions, but on many occasions he doesn’t. I believe that is because he wants us to pray for good things, regardless of whether it is His will or not. And praying for Abigail’s recovery was a good thing. It made a difference in the quality of people’s lives. And regardless of the outcome, the effort--if people would allow it to--would make a very positive difference in the lives of those who prayed for her.
There is so much to be learned from praying, fasting, and exercising faith when you are uncertain about the outcome of the thing you’re praying for. I believe that God purposely lets us be in the dark as to the outcome of such things because he wants to teach us how to trust Him. I trust him now more than I did 12 days ago. Hopefully, I won’t forget that 12 days from now, as we frail humans tend to do.
Good night and Happy Halloween. This the first Halloween that we haven’t trick or treated for quite some time. Our spirits our high, but we miss our four little trick or treaters back home. If you see them, hug them for us (and tell them not to eat it all in one night).
Jeff, eating yet another fruit tart at Andronico's. So much for the diet!
But how else is a guy supposed to deal with all the stress? (i.e. any way to justify indulgence)