Monday, October 26, 2009
Two weeks ago we never would have guessed what God had in store for our family. It all seems so surreal...
Some of you may have been expecting or hoping for some posts in the days following Killian's birth to let you know about his progress - which has largely been due to your prayers - and about Nina's recovery. As you can see, I have not posted anything for several days, and that was intentional. First, let me reiterate once more that we cannot express our gratitude for the many sincere gestures of concern and all the countless prayers offered for our young family during labor and delivery. Thank you. And God bless you for that. The reason we have not posted anything is that shortly after Nina was discharged from the hospital following delivery she experienced several complications that were both worrisome and emotionally draining for us. We finally arrived home today - having spent the last two weeks in the hospital. When she was diagnosed on Wednesday morning around 5am we were absolutely exhausted both physically and emotionally. Though we appreciated every word of kindness and all the prayers from all of you, we felt that we needed to keep things very private and have only our very immediate family as our support group. We were overwhelmed and just needed some quiet time to ourselves in the midst of all the unknowns.
Killian was born on Sunday October 18th and Nina was released from the hospital the following Tuesday at 7:00PM. We went home and were looking forward to the first night of more than 3-4 hours of sleep to try to recuperate. However, Nina woke up at 1:30am that morning with unbearable pain in her chest and abdomen, particularly when she breathed. We went straight back to the hospital; this time to the Emergency Room. They hooked her back up to the IV, gave her some pain killer, and sent her for a CAT scan, X-Ray and ultrasound - all in ER fashion which is not quite as civilized or caring as the Maternity Ward. When the results came back they found that she had pulmonary embolism ( a shower of blood clots in her lungs), she had a little pneumonia, and they also found that she had gall bladder stones. Needless to say, we were shocked. We had left the hospital no less than 10 hours before and she was in great shape, and here we were again.
The medical staff then took an ungodly amount of blood from her (they went in 6 different times before they successfully drew the blood) to run tests for every possible genetic deficiency to explain the cause of the blood clots. They also put her on blood thinner to help move the clots along. We stayed for several more hours in the ER until they moved us to the Clinical Decision Unit which is intended to be a kind of temporary holding area for no more than 23 hours. We spent three days there because there was no room for us in the main hospital. This unit was in the basement, with no windows, very small, and Nina was in tremendous pain. Though the causes of her pain were known, the solutions were not simple. Her condition was further complicated by the fact that she was only a couple days postpartum so that some of the "normal" treatments were not feasible for her. We spent a lot of time waiting, praying, and listening to the group of doctors who were in consult about what to do with her situation.
The most pressing issue was her pulmonary embolism. To resolve that, the first step they took was to install a filter in the primary vein leading to her heart which would serve to catch and resolve any future clots before they passed to her lungs. The operation was successful but of course added some more discomfort. That filter combined with the blood thinner ensured that Nina would be out of harms way, though she still had to get out of pain's way.
The next objective was to get the gall bladder taken care of. After a lot of back and forth and various specialists weighing in, the surgeon decided to go ahead with an operation to remove her gall bladder on Saturday. The procedure was a success and he said the sack was "full of rocks and sludge" so it was a good thing we got it taken care of sooner rather than later. They also had her on an antibiotic which kicked the pneumonia right out of her system.
Since then Nina has been recuperating and going across the hospital to see Killian as much as she could. It seems as though he took all the good health with him when he left the womb! Both of them have done incredibly well with all the medical interventions that have been necessary over the past weeks. A couple day ago we were able to start doing the "skin to skin" time with Killian where the doctors let us hold him on our chest so we can establish that bond with him. Words cannot express what those precious moments mean to us to hold our fragile little son. Nina has had 3 of these "kangaroo" sessions with him, and I have had one (mommy's privilege!). He just melts into you, settles in and sleeps for an hour without moving a bit. He is always a happy camper when he's with Mommy.
Killian has been doing well in most all aspects. He is breathing room air, though he has a nasal apparatus that applies pressure to his lungs to help him breathe even that is on the lowest setting. He has gained a little weight since his birth, and he loves to kick off as many of his sensors as possible. He is a feisty guy and is living up to his name "small, fierce."
The lone major set back he has encountered so far is a small vein that babies in utero have. It is a by-pass of sorts that sends blood from the lungs to the heart. When babies come to term the blood vessel closes on its own and everything is fine. With babies that are born premature, that vessel will remain open unless treated. The first step was to give him some medication through the IV that coaxes the vessel to constrict and close itself off. Killian was given two sets of that medication and the latest tests still show an opening. He is in stable condition and not showing any symptoms of that vessel still being open, but we have to get it closed, otherwise ultimately his heart would enlarge with the increased blood flow and eventually cause heart failure. The solution at this point is surgery. Killian was transported this evening from the hospital where he was born to another hospital in Columbus that specializes in child care. They will go in through his back and isolate the vessel in question; then they will clamp it off with a titanium clip which will stay there forever. It is not open heart surgery, but it is very close to his heart and requires a large opening in such a small lad. Because of this he will be back on the ventilator for a week or two and they will have to watch his feeds again. This operation is somewhat common among children as premature as Killian and they are confident it will go well, but that does not entirely ease our concern and worry about our little boy, nor does it take away from the fact that he will have a more difficult recovery period.
Please continue to pray for Killian above all, and also for his parents that we may be the instruments that God wants us to be in his young life. We'll be posting some more pictures and information in the future, and we hope you understand the reason for our silence the past few days. Thanks again for all the prayers and support.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
A very happy Mommy Nina with Baby Killian in NICU. The puppy on top of the unit was given to us by the Dominican Friars at St. Pat's. Fr. Blau visited this afternoon to bring us communion and other gifts including this "Junkyard Dog."
Today was the day and now both Nina and Killian are resting after a successful delivery. Nina is much relieved to be in a more comfortable recovery bed instead of the stiff emergency bed she spent four days in, and Killian is being well-taken care of in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). God is good and so are all of you who have so kindly stormed heaven with prayers on our behalf over the past few days. Thank you again.
We must give special mention to Dr. Michael Parker who was our obgyn. He oversaw everything and made himself very available to us in every circumstance, even when he was not technically "on call". His expertise and wisdom in dealing with the constantly changing situation were calming for us and he proved to be the tremendously good man and doctor that we all know him to be. Thank you, Dr. Parker from Nina, Tim and Killian.
Here are a few pictures so that you can share in the unspeakable joy that we now have in Killian:
Our little man, Killian Patrick was born about 11:15am today. He measured 14 inches and 2 pounds 2 ounces and is very healthy. He is in the IC unit and has a breathing tube though the nurses said he is trying very hard to breathe on his own. His lungs look great and his heart rate is right where it should be. We'll post some pictures soon.
Thanks again for all your prayers. God bless!
Nina was able to get some sleep last night but has been up since 4am with stronger contractions at increasingly closer time intervals. Some blood work just came back and all the levels are normal, but Killian is starting to move around more and there are some other indications that might precipitate delivery soon. Nina has been in labor for 3 days now and they took the epidural out yesterday so it has been exhausting for her. St. Luke, pray for us.
I found out last night the Killian means "small, fierce." Seems fitting for our little man.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thank you all very much for the continued support and constant barrage of prayers. I read to Nina all the comments on the blog and the emails and texts we are receiving and they have been very encouraging. Your prayers are invaluable. Thank you - each one of you.
As today comes to a close Killian is still safe inside Nina, and Nina is asleep and well. The pendulum swung back and forth all day - several hours of strong contractions about 5 minutes apart, and then hours at 15 minutes apart. As evening set in the contractions gradually subsided and are less frequent now so it looks like she will stay this way through the night. It appears both are still free of infection. The nurses did an ultra sound today and found a little pocket of water under Killian's head in the womb - Our Lord left him a pillow! Just one more sign of the wonderful intercession from all of you, and one of the reasons why he has remained so calm in the midst of all this.
As you can imagine, it is an emotional roller coaster with all the factors involved and the frequent adjustments, changes, visits from medical staff, and so on. Nina has been very strong through it all and is doing very well with it all. Her two sisters and her mom have been with her constantly and are a great support.
One of the disappointments for the day was finding out that we couldn't get the OSU football game on the hospital TV. It turns out OSU lost so maybe it was better she didn't see it to get all worked up! I tried to make it up for her by showing her and her sister a funny clip of the Colbert Report...she started laughing at one point and it caused her a large contraction...we're learning as we go!
We are trying to follow the saints of each day to draw some inspiration and spiritual growth from their example and writings, and to invoke their intercession. Thursday was the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. Friday was St. Gerard Majella who is the patron saint of expectant mothers. Today was the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. We read together his Epistle to the Romans which contains this gem: "Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but truly will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. For if I be truly found a Christian, I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world." Serves as a reminder for us to keep our trust and hope in Christ whom we profess to follow. We are in good hands. Good night and God bless.
First off, thank you for all your support and prayers. Words cannot express our profound gratitude for your nearness. We feel ourselves very much part of the communion of saints and your prayers have been very effective. When we arrived at the hospital all the doctors and nurses thought that Nina would deliver Killian in minutes or hours, but they have been able to maintain the status quo and buy Killian more time in the womb which is invaluable for his development. At this point, just being in Nina's body does far more for Killian than any medicine or technology in the world. That's what only a mother can do for her son.
We have been inundated by phone calls and texts from many caring friends and family members and we have been doing our best to keep you up to date as events unfold. We are grateful for the genuine concern and interest in how everything is going but at times I feel like a broken record repeating the same thing dozens of times; even then, sometimes not everyone hears the news. To make things a little easier for everyone, I hope to be able to post on my blog any updates on Nina's condition in the days to come for those who are interested.
We have been humbled and are very grateful for the outpouring of prayers and support. Thank you!
Just to recap for everyone:
Thursday: Nina woke up about 2:30 am with severe pain in her abdomen. Nothing could relieve the pain. Around 3:00 she began bleeding and we rushed to the hospital. They set her up in a triage and the obgyn on site thought delivery was imminent. Her water had broken and the placenta was abrupted - she was going into labor at 26 weeks and 2 days gestation. They said that for some reason there had been too much water in the womb (the experts still don't know what causes this). Because the sack was too full, it broke early and sent Nina into delivery, at the same time the placenta began to separate from the uterus. That was the pain she felt at home.
They got her on an IV and gave her a high dose of magnesium which serves to slow the contractions and helps the baby in last-minute development. The side effect on Nina was severe nausea and aching. They gave her an epidural in case we had to go to an emergency c-section and took many blood samples for the lab. Nina hates needles so all of that was very difficult for her but she underwent everything necessary to improve Killian's chances of survival with great strength and love. He already has our hearts in his tiny hands; he measures about 13 inches and weighs 1.5 pounds.
The high risk specialist and the neo-natal care specialist met with us in the midst of all this to discuss the situation and potential scenarios. Because he is so premature many of his organs are not sufficiently matured. His blood vessels are still very fragile and could led to bleeding which could cause stroke, cerebral palsy, damage to the nervous system, etc. Also his lungs are not ready to breathe, nor is his digestive system ready, and so on. The list was extensive and sobering for us as we were faced with the mountain our little boy had to climb. But we are in God's hands. They gave Nina a dose of steriods to help with some emergency development of those vital areas and hoped he would stay in the womb for at least a few hours to let them work. Every hour counted.
They were able to stabilize her, and Killian was looking great. Nina was battling the effects of the magnesium and the discomfort of all the tubes and needs in her, along with the contractions. The staff was amazed and pleased with Killian deciding to basically chill out inside Mommy. His heart beat was regular and strong (exhibiting behavior of a 32 week old) and he moved enough to let us know that he was okay but not enough to cause any problems. He seemed very happy to be where he was.
We spent the day waiting and praying. So many factors were at play and they would shift in each direction with the passing of time. The doctors would think delivery was coming soon, then the contractions would ease off and space out, then grow intense again some time later. We waited and prayed and family members from both sides came to visit and be with us. We made it through the day and night came with some much needed rest.
Friday: The sleeping pill helped Nina until about 3am when she woke and couldn't sleep again. At 8am they took the first blood test of the day. At this point Nina was so de-hydrated that they inserted the needle 4 times before any blood would come - Nina was not happy about that! The test results came back showing everything stable and where the doctors wanted it. Everyone's intent was to buy Killian more time in the womb so that the steroids could work, but at the same time being very cautious about any infection developing since the water had broken. It has been a fine line to walk. Again, just a lot of waiting and praying.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Earlier this week, the Envoy Institute at Belmont Abbey College honored Archbishop Charles Chaput with its Envoy of the Year award at its annual gala event. Renowned for his penetrating intellect, indomitable courage, and dedication as shepherd of souls, Archbishop Chaput shares some of his wisdom and inspires us to be zealous apostles:
ENVOY INSTITUTE REMARKS
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Belmont Abbey, 10.8.09
Thank you for being here tonight. I‟m very grateful for this award -- although I need to share with you a quick story. You know, mothers are wonderful tutors in the virtue of humility. Some years ago, when my own mother was still alive, I got a very kind local award in Denver, and I telephoned my mother to tell her. Her response was instructive. She said, “That‟s marvelous son, but why did they give it to you?”
Mothers have the gift of helping their sons see how implausible it is to imagine oneself as a big shot. So the lesson I‟ve learned is this: The greatest value of this award, or any other award in life, is the generosity of the friends who bestow it.
I've been a priest for nearly 40 years. One of the satisfactions God has given me is the number of extraordinary men and women I know as friends. Friendship is the heart of every Christian vocation, from married life to the priesthood. My life has been filled with it. And many of the people I admire most are here tonight: My friend Patrick Madrid and his great witness with the Envoy Institute and Envoy magazine; my friends George Weigel and Jody Bottum; the kind messages from Carl Anderson and Father Corapi; friends from Belmont Abbey and the Becket Fund; and so many more of you that I can‟t name or we'd be here all night. This is what makes life rich.
People can sometimes earn the respect of others by their actions. But nobody earns the love at the heart of a real Christian friendship. That‟s a gift. It can‟t be forced. It's freely withheld or freely given. And when it‟s given, it means more than any award. So again, I thank you sincerely for this kindness tonight -- but I'm much more grateful for the friendship all of us share.
My mother taught me the virtue of mercy along with the importance of humility, so my comments tonight will be brief.
I have three simple points I want to talk about: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation. But before I do that, I need to offer two caveats.
Here's the first caveat. I love this country. Some of you know that I belong to the Potawatomi Indian tribe through my mother. I take great pride in that. Because of it, I'm very well aware of the sins and flaws of American history – both toward the native peoples of the United States, and often toward other countries. But I also know the great generosity and goodness in America, and I believe in the genius of America‟s political institutions. I take great pride in that, as well. We all should.
Here's my second caveat. No bishop, priest or deacon can do the work that properly belongs to laypeople. My job as a bishop is to be a good pastor – in other words, a good shepherd and guide for the people of my local Church. The word “pastor” means “shepherd” in Latin, and it comes from the Latin verb pascere, which means “to feed.” My proper work is to teach the faith, preach the Gospel, encourage and console my people, correct them when needed, and govern the internal life of the Church with love and justice.
There may be many times when a bishop or group of bishops needs to speak out publicly about the moral consequences of a public issue. But the main form of Catholic leadership in wider society – in the nation‟s political, economic and social life – needs to be done by you, the Catholic lay faithful. The key word of course is faithful. We need to form Catholic lay leaders who know and love the teachings of the Church, and then embody those teachings faithfully in their private lives and in their public service. But once those lay leaders exist,
clergy cannot and should not interfere with the leadership that rightly belongs, by baptism, to their vocation as lay apostles.
Having said this, I want to turn now to those three simple points I mentioned: the nature of the state; the nature of our Christian faith; and the nature of the lay vocation.
Here's my first point: the nature of the state. I said a moment ago that I love this country. I meant it. America is a great nation; a good nation. This is my home, and I know all of you feel the same. For Christians, patriotism is a virtue. Love for the best qualities in our homeland is a noble thing. This is why military service and public office are not just socially useful vocations, but – at their best – great and honorable ones.
Beginning in the New Testament and continuing right through works of the Second Vatican Council, Christians have always believed that civil authority has a rightful degree of autonomy separate from sacred authority. In Christian thought, believers owe civil rulers their respect and obedience in all things that do not gravely violate the moral law. When Jesus told the Pharisees and Herodians to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (see Mt 22:15-21), he was acknowledging that Caesar does have rights.
Of course, he was also saying that Caesar is not a god, and Caesar has no rights over those things which belong to God.
To put it in modern terms: The state is not god. It's not immortal. It's not infallible. It's not even synonymous with civil society, which is much larger, richer and more diverse in its human relationships than any political party or government bureaucracy can ever be. And ultimately, everything important about human life belongs not to Caesar, but to God: our intellect, our talents, our free will; the people we love; the beauty and goodness in the world; our soul, our moral integrity, our hope for eternal life. These are the things that matter.
These are the things worth fighting for. And none of them comes from the state.
As a result, the key virtue modern political leaders need to learn -- and Catholic citizens need to help them learn it by demanding it -- is modesty; modesty of appetite, and modesty in the exercise of power. The sovereignty of states is a good principle. But every state is subject to higher and binding truths.
Here's my second point: the nature of our Christian faith. What we believe has consequences. Catholics believe that each human life has a unique but interrelated meaning. We were made by God to receive love ourselves, and to show love to others. That‟s why we're here. That's our purpose. And our purpose has very practical consequences -- including the political kind. The Christian vocation to love each other is never simply an emotion, or it isn't real. Real love is an act of the will; a sustained choice that proves itself not just by what we say or feel, but by what we do for the good of others.
Working to defend the sanctity of human persons and the dignity of the human family is an obligation of Christian love. Therefore, the Church can't be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time. She needs to be a mustard seed in the public square, transforming every fiber of a nation's social, economic and political life.
Here's my third and final point: the nature of the lay vocation. In May this year, speaking to a pastoral convention of the Diocese of Rome, Benedict XVI made a comment that many people overlooked. But I think his words have exactly the right spirit to guide us, beginning tonight.
He said that the Church needs “a change in mindset, particularly concerning laypeople. They must no longer be viewed as "collaborators‟ of the clergy, but truly recognized as "co-responsible‟for the Church‟s being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity.”
Christians are in the world, but not of the world. We belong to God, and our home is heaven. But we're here for a reason: to change the world, for the sake of the world, in the name of Jesus Christ. That work belongs to each of us. Nobody else will do it for us. And the idea that we can somehow accomplish that work of changing the world without engaging -- in a hands-on way -- the laws, the structures, the public policies, the habits of mind and the root causes that sustain injustice in our nation, is a delusion.
Laypeople are not second-class disciples in this task. There's no such creature as a “second-class” Christian. Baptism is a sacrament of redemption; but also of equality in God‟s love. Laypeople have exactly the same dignity as clergy and religious -- and this moment in history cries out for mature, intelligent, zealous and faithful lay leaders like Patrick Madrid and all of the rest of you in this audience tonight in an urgent way. Every Christian life, and every choice in every Christian life, matters eternally. Laypeople, not clergy, have the primary task of struggling for the soul of the secular world. And only you can do it as God intended. The good news is that you're not alone -- and you‟re also not the first.
A Catholic layman once wrote that: "Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure . . . are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
That layman was Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, the first Catholic U.S. senator, and a cousin to the first Catholic bishop in the United States, John Carroll. As a Catholic attorney in then-Protestant America, Charles Carroll knew the sting of professional discrimination and religious prejudice firsthand. But he believed in the soul of this country. He served its best principles. And he demanded and worked tirelessly for his freedom to live and worship as a Catholic.
Today the bigots we face are different. Caesar wears a different suit. He has great media handlers. He bullies religion while he claims to respect it. He talks piously about the law and equality and tolerance and fairness. But he still confuses himself with God -- and he still violates the rights of Catholic believers and institutions by intruding himself where he has no right to be.
It's one of the great ironies of the moment that tiny Belmont Abbey would have the courage to challenge Caesar over its right to be faithfully Catholic in its policies, while so many other American Catholics seem eager to give Caesar honors. But God is a God of ironies, as the Philistines discovered, among others.
One of the deepest truths of the human predicament is this: If you stand up to evil, you may lose. But if you don’t stand up, you will lose. Belmont Abbey, to its very great credit, has the character to stand up and defend its right to be Catholic. The Becket Fund stands with it. Patrick Madrid and the Envoy Institute have been standing up for the Catholic faith for many years. We have the duty to support all of them with our prayers, our financial resources and pressure on our public officials to stop today‟s government interference with the identity and policies of faithful Catholic institutions.
I want to close with one of my favorite stories from history. It‟s about an emperor -- a good Christian emperor -- just to show I have no ill will toward Caesar. In the early Fifth Century the Huns had a very lucrative blackmail operation going against both the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. Every year a Hunnic delegation would show up in Constantinople threatening to invade. And every year -- out of Roman weakness and cowardice -- they'd leave with a big payoff.
Then a new man came to the throne. His name was Marcian. He was a former general. And when the Huns showed up the next year for their tribute, he gave them a simple lesson in economics. He said, “I have gold for my friends, and steel for my enemies.” Then he threw them out. The Huns thought about it for awhile. Then they turned west for easier targets.
Of course today we live in different times, don't we. But there‟s a lesson here, even today, for Catholics and all religious believers. If we stand up to evil, we may lose. But if we don’t stand up we will lose. Our God is a God of justice; a God who does not abandon his people and who rewards courage in the face of evil. So have courage, serve the truth, love the Church, take confidence in the Lord, and stand up to witness for your faith. We've got nothing to lose. We have everything to gain. Thanks, and God bless you.