Adopting Grace

The journey to bring our little girl home

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Summer 2012

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As we head into another season of school and surgeries I figured it was time to update how Leeza’s been doing. Unlike the rest of the Midwest, we’ve spent the summer enjoying these hot temperatures and have spent a LOT of time outside. I’ve kept the kids outside most afternoons and Leeza is fast enough on her crutches this year that she pretty well keeps up with everyone and can go anywhere they can (with the exception of the garden…crutches are not friendly to my plants!). She has learned to swing independently, climb the rock wall on the fort and likes to run races down our long driveway. She and Josiah have been attending summer school to help her retain what she learned last year and I took the opportunity to have her practice  using the 2 flights of stairs in the school instead of riding the elevator. Not sure she was too happy with that choice initially, but she’s become a pro and I think she’ll be good enough when school starts back up to keep using them with her class. We still work on stretches every day to help release some of the contractures her body seems to like to develop and we’re supposed to be doing a lot of core workouts to help compensate for the muscles that didn’t develop in her lower body, but getting a 5 year old to cooperate with that has been challenging. I suppose that gives us a goal to work towards this winter!

We have also enjoyed adding Mrs. Joyce to our team as we care of Leeza. I drug my feet on having a home health nurse for a long time, but we decided to give it shot this summer. We all love Mrs. Joyce!! She comes 5 days a week in the morning to do part of Leeza’s daily care and it has relieved a lot of tension in the house and made the day flow smoother for everyone. We will lose her once Leeza starts back to school and we’re really hoping we’ll be able to schedule with someone else to come in the evenings.

We’re also in the countdown for the next set of surgeries. Leeza will be admitted August 20th to be prepped for bowel and bladder surgeries. Thankfully, they can all be done at the same time, but it will be a loooong day! We’ve been told to expect her to be out for 8.5 hours as they place abdominal ports for urinary and enema catheters, rework her intestines so we can do antigrade enemas, enlarge her bladder, reposition her ureters and tighten up an internal sphincter so she is no longer leaks urine. By the time it’s done she won’t have much of her original anatomy down in there, but it will be a huge step towards allowing her to be continent and (hopefully!) someday independent in her care. She’ll get to hang out at the hospital for a week afterward and then recuperate at home for a couple weeks before she’ll start school a few weeks late. At least that’s what we’ve been told…typically she gets so squirmy in the hospital that they release her early and she bounces back faster than expected. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how she does this time. At any rate, she should be well on her way to feeling better by the time she turns 6 in September!

Quick Update

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Leeza was moved to a regular peds floor today, which is much more entertaining for her. She has a low fever, but it’s come down some since yesterday so no on is too worried. She was started on pretty high doses of an antibiotic just in case because the risk of infection after this surgery is one of the biggest dangers and because she has a shunt, which can also get infected. Turns out that antibiotic can be toxic to flesh and, according to Philip, it blew out her vein and swelled up her arm. The ‘antidote’ is 5 shots given simultaneously by 5 different nurses and then 5 little band aids. I’m surprised we didn’t hear her yelling all the way here at home. After more problems with IV sites they finally settled on one near her elbow so now she not only is stuck laying on her side, but she also can’t bend one arm. Hopefully a better solution can be worked out soon.

She also leaked a little bit of some fluid on her bandage and it’s unclear whether or not it was a little spinal fluid or not so she’ll have to stay on one side for 5 days instead of just 2 to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They flip her from side to side every 2 hours to prevent pressure sores, even at night, so sleep has been a little rough. Philip said they did manage to flip her and perform a whole neuro check (flashlight in her eyes, make her kick, make her squeeze their fingers) last night without her ever waking up. That’s one tired kid! Somehow Philip stills looks amazingly good. I’m going up every 2 days to bring meals for Philip and new things for her to play with. Hopefully the other kids will get to visit her for the first time on Tuesday. They understand that she had surgery, but can’t figure out why she and Daddy have to stay gone so long.

Despite all the drama today, things are going amazingly well. Leeza is on a slight sedative that makes her a little less antsy than usual and she is now allowed to eat. I hear she had a blast making some trick or treat bags tonight with some of the volunteers and another group came by with candy. A borrowed IPad is making life SO MUCH easier up there since she can’t do much but lay there. Her incision site looks really good so far and Dr. M is still hopeful that she’s gained some more function when he checked her today. Our church family has rallied around us again and is helping take care of all the little details we can’t handle right now and we have even more people praying for us. And at the end of the day, even with a tense moments, God is still in control and helping us walk through this.

Patrick has a family!

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For those of you who checked out the link on the last post you read about Patrick, the little boy who needed a family so badly. I just heard this morning that a family has committed to him. They will have a long road ahead of them before they’ll get to bring him home, but he will eventually get to go home instead of being sent to a mental institution. Thank you to all who prayed and please remember him as his family works to bring him home!


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While we were in Ukraine we had the chance to meet kids in other orphanages, one of whom was Katya. She lives aout an hour out of the city in an orphanage that is pretty much forgotten except for some missionary groups that work with them in the summer and the Ferdon’s who come every Saturday. She’s 14 years old and in the 6th grade and showed up at this orphanage about a year ago. She has 2 siblings, but she has no idea where they are anymore. She lived with her mother for most of her life, but did not attend school because she had severely crossed eyes. Her mother managed to teach her to some reading and writing at home. When we met this young girl she was shy, never made eye contact and rarely said much.

Through the persistence of another lady who got to visit the same orphanage, Katya received corrective eye surgery last month. She stayed with the Ferdon’s for a week during the treatment and had the chance to live in a healthy, Christian household during that time. They bought her a couple needed outfits, paid for a cell phone since she was alone while in the hospital, bought her food for her hospital stay (food is not provided in the hospital), medicine and some glasses with corrective lenses. After her procedure they were able to put up new pictures of Katya and I honestly did not recognize her. A quote from one of the people who saw her right after really sums it up…

‘She has NEVER liked having her picture taken. On Saturday when we saw her it was the first time I have ever seen her with her head held high and talking, laughing and having a good time with people. It’s been such a boost for her confidence.’

Katya’s treatment will have several stages as her eyes strengthen and she will need to return to the Ferdon’s at least 3 more times for her to see a doctor. They are hoping she can stay in their house the whole time for each of these treatments and the first will be in December.

I’m writing about Katya because rarely do we get to hear about older orphans and what they are facing. Katya will age out of the system in a couple years and will be left pretty much on her own. This surgery is truly a miracle for her and provides the possibility of a more normal life for her…one in which she will hopefully be able to provide for herself, continue her education and be accepted in society. More importantly, in my eyes, it gives her the opportunity to live in a Christian home during her treatment and will hopefully plant seeds that will grow into true faith in Jesus some day. The Ferdons’s have paid for all of her needs so far, but have asked others to pray about helping them with the expense. They are a missionary family from the US who live incredibly frugally in Ukraine and this was not a budgeted expense. It cost $500 for Katya’s first visit and they are expecting the rest of the visits to cost another $500 total. They are also requesting prayer for her as she heals from her surgery and continues the needed treatments (she will go through a series of corrective glasses that will help her eyes focus).

If you feel led to help Katya I would be happy to get you in contact with the Ferdon’s.

The Rhythm

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Don't these two look GREAT!!

We’ve been here long enough that we’re starting to feel the rhythm of this city. The day starts with the honk of horns outside and our neighbor playing an incredibly loud opera song. We hear the water running through the pipes to other apartments and doors slamming as people head to work. Bread trucks deliver fresh-baked goods around the city and the marshrutkas start up for the day. The babushka’s find their spot on each street corner selling peanuts, sunflower seeds, fresh milk, flowers and plums and the bazaars open. This is a fairly loud city during the day…people are busy doing things that people everywhere do. At night we hear the sound of families sitting in the ‘courtyard’ below our apartment, dogs barking and, most nights, a random firework display (anyone can get them anytime of the year). And, of course, the car alarms.

Having the ability to attend church on Sundays breaks up the rhythm a bit, in a good way. It’s wonderful to get to sing familiar songs (even if the rest of the room is sining them in Russian) and hear very good sermons. We’ve been blessed to have an excellent translator the past 2 weeks and today we had a Bible student (Yura) from Kiev come do the sermon. Everyone is expected to participate in the service so when they needed an English speaker to read parts of the Bible today, that was my job. It certainly helps you pay close attention when you know you’re going to be called on every few minutes! Yura spoke on Mark 10 when Jesus speaks to the young rich man and the focus of today was on God’s grace to us, but His expectation that will we follow Him regardless of what it means we must give up. This one hit home because before this experience I would have said the one thing I would never be able to do is leave my children. I can give up a lot and do things I don’t like, but I would never have dreamed I would be willing or able to be gone from my babies for so long. In the long run this separation will be worth it and probably won’t even seem like such a big deal several years from now, but for right now it’s painful and I find myself crying at the smallest things because they remind me of one of my kids and make me long to have them in my arms. Even seeing the weather at home this morning made me cry because there were thunderstorms and I was hoping Josiah wasn’t waking up scared. Yura’s talk this morning was a good reminder that we’re doing the right thing by being here because we believe God has given us this job. And following Him through this has increased our faith in ways we didn’t expect, which is why we chose the name ‘Faith’ as Leeza’s middle name.

On the way home we were talking about all this and I confessed that even though I was trying to be obedient to Christ I wasn’t really very happy about where that had put us right now. Philip’s take was that Jesus told us to give with a happy heart…He never said we had to leave our kids with a happy heart. So for now we’ll keep looking for the blessings in our situation (and there are many)  and I’m pretty sure the happy heart thing won’t be a problem when we’re all under one roof again!