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Dec 30, 2009

Update 9pm Wednesday

Abby was admitted tonight with high spinal pressure again. Almost humorously, her hospital is connected to Garrett's by a sky walk.

Maria just sneaked her over here to Garretts room and we are getting to steal a few minutes all together. It pains me to use this horrible iPhone camera but here is a pic of Abby and Garrett both with IVs hanging off them, and Maria standing behind his bed:


Garrett is momentarily crashed because he just got zinged with morphine. Here is the contraption he will be stick with for eight weeks:


I'm sure it will be as much fun as it looks, and less fun than trying to type blog post on this blasted iPhone.

Isn't God good allowing us a way to get to be together tonight?

- Posted from my iPhone... Brent

Wanna See Proof God Protects?

From Brent

This is the truck Garrett was riding in when the accident occurred. It's hard to imagine, apart from God's hand of protection, that he would survive a highway speed impact directly into his door and seat.


You can see the exact point of impact was Garrett's passenger door.
Uncle Michael was in the drivers seat. Looks like he'll get to go home
today from the hospital with a couple of broken vertebrae and
a lot of scrapes and bruises.


This is the backseat where Micalah was seated.
Except for a few bumps and bruises, she was unhurt.
There all suffered hypothermia as the vehicle filled with
snow and Micalah was hanging half way out the back window.


Garrett was in that seat. Keep in mind the door has been cut off,
so you would have that door smashed into him. He said his knees
were jammed up to his chin. I just saw these photos a few minutes ago
for the first time. His injury list is surprisingly LOW given the obvious
violence of this impact. So far his pelvis is broken in two places, L5
vertebrae broke, sternum broken, a vertebrae in the middle of his back
broke, thumb broke, should and ankle sprained, 8 or 10 stitches,
lacerations, scrapes and bruises.

Garrett will be in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks and is looking at many weeks of rehab and recovery. Even with all that, there is no mistaking God's divine protection in an accident that typically would have claimed a life (or several).

God is good. God is gracious. Blessed is God's name.

Taking Abby to the Emergency Room

From Michelle:

Abby...

Abby is complaining of a bad headache and asking for a back poke (spinal tap) to make the headache go away. There has never been a time when she has complained about a headache that her intracranial pressure wasn't sky high.

Abby's doctor wants us to take Abby to ER. Abby's airway has been compromised after the last two spinal taps and it has taken her 6 hours to wake up from the anesthesia. Please pray for safety during the spinal good pain relief and sedation and that we find a better way to keep her pressures down.

Garrett...

Garrett's back brace is here and he is placed in it now. He will start PT as soon as it is adjusted. His doctors expect him to be in a lot of pain and he is. Please pray that his pain will be controlled and he will adapt to the brace quickly. His doctors warns that most patients are not able to use this type of brace but to avoid surgery and/or spinal cord injury they must try to make this work. He's going to be in this contraption for eight weeks apparently.

The roads here are still a slick in the evening from refreezing melted snow. Please pray for safety as I drive Abby to the hospital.

Abby's birthday was yesterday. She would love to hear birthday wishes from you if you have the time to write her. Thank you for praying for our family.

From Brent

Abby looked so pretty today headed out the door. Usually, she can produce a wonderful expression even when she feels bad but this is the best I could get today even trying hard to get her to smile. Can you see the weariness on her face?



The Nintendo DS she is holding was a gift from our wonderful
Christian fellowship at Wildwood Community Church. They wanted
to get Abby something to help her pass the hours at the hospital.
They got Sami one too because they know she is often there with Abby.

Living Faith and Dead Faith

From Brent

In response to our situation and some of our posts, I've received many questions and comments about "faith".

As God's timing would have it, I'm in the middle of a series about the fundamental principles of the Christian life (a walk through the Book of James).

I just finished a message today on the difference between living faith and dead faith. If you are interested, you'll find it here: www.seriousfaith.com

You'll find the entire series here (it will end up being about 20 parts eventually).

Brent

Dec 29, 2009

Abby's Number Five Birthday

From Brent

Michelle came home from the hospital while her mom stays with Garrett tonight. She'll go back in the morning.

The Meeks brought the babies home about dinner time and we got to have a birthday party for Abby. The Meeks, over at their house today, also made her a cake and had a birthday party. So despite the accident yesterday, and despite Abby's continuing roller coaster with cancer, we enjoyed an evening of smiles and cake.


The Meeks made Abby a birthday cake...


and got her some presents.


The Meeks


Abby with her own Cinderella cake...




Landis conserving tissues...
that is what your sleeve is for, right?


My Mom and Dad have a friend from church where they live
who keeps up with Abby on the blog and wanted to buy
her something. That "something" was all the "somethings" in this photo.
She loves her music playing "cell phone" and her Jasmine toys.
THANK YOU!!!!!!




Abby was genuinely happy opening her presents.




She got a princess dress and a doll.






I know... I'm so cute... go ahead, say it...


Abby started to wind down. She'll be on a new drug
to attempt to control her spinal pressure that makes her
even more tired than she already is.

An update and some Christmas pics tomorrow. Many have asked about my newest book - The Digital Photography Guide. I assumed everyone saw it in the latest issue of SeriousLife Magazine (www.seriouslifemagazine.com) but if not, here it is:


I know... I'm so cute... go ahead, say it...

Tuesday 6.00pm Update - Abby's Birthday - Joy in Trials

From Brent

Wow… what a week. Looks like Garrett is going to be in the hospital a couple of weeks. They have found a broken bone in his sternum and another broken vertebrae near his shoulder blade. Rather than a day or two in the hospital and a sore recovery… the prognosis now is for him to be in a back/hip immobilizer for 8 weeks, and probably in the hospital for a week or two.

The timing of my business trip next week from Monday to Friday could not be worse, but it is unavoidable. Not because my employer is heartless but because of the criticality of my participation. I’ve been chosen to be part of a group that is developing software that is critical to the entire operation of the company. It is literally a job change, a “new” job for me even though I’ll work for the same company. My delay or absence cannot put the entire company behind a couple of weeks because of my personal circumstances. I have a whole family to care for and can't lose my income. It really pains me to leave for 4 days right now, but you can see the necessity.

My parents are going to take Landis next week while I’m gone, and I have no doubt one of our wonderful Christian friends-family will take care of Sami.

For Michelle, she is going to have to juggle appointments for Abby and staying with Garrett. Garrett does have other family members (grandmother, aunt) who can stay with him but Uncle Michael is on the floor above him with a broken lumbar, and now they think a broken neck. So they have to spend time with him too as he is unmarried and has no other family here.

Abby is being put on a new very powerful drug to control her spinal fluid pressure but as with all powerful drugs, there is a nice set of side effects to deal with. Still, the side effects are preferable to brain/eye/hearing damage.

Michelle and I are beginning to feel like a burden to our friends. It is a complex and difficult time.

After the blizzard last week (yes, a real blizzard, not rhetorical) we are supposed to get another 2-3 inches tonight. To our northern friends, this is a yawner but it is rare for us to get this much snow in two weeks. The roads will be hazardous as we go back and forth to the hospital tonight/tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers for safety. I'm not sure another accident or "situation" is really what we could use right now.

Abby’s birthday is today and we haven’t even seen her. Our wonderful friends, the Meeks family (who you’ve seen on our blog many times), bought her a cake and threw her a little party. We’ll get to see Abby later this evening.

Thank you so much for all your wonderful encouragement and prayers. This situation would certainly be many times more difficult without the concern and prayers you have showered on us.

Most of all, we want people to know that rather than any of this shaking our faith, to the contrary, it only strengthens it. I have no idea how people endure such hardships without God.

What we have learned over the years is that the greater the trial, the more opportunity God has to show Himself faithful and true. The more intense the difficulty, the more opportunity we have to see God at work and to recognize His blessings and care.

While we don't wish for trials, we know they will come. As mature Believers, we receive hardship with joy because we know that these are the times when God is most real to us and our faith is most authentic to those who observe our life.

This holiday season, we have been blessed to witness God's care, protection and provision in so many ways. It seems strange to the unbelieving world but we consider ourselves privileged to have situations where God's participation is so clear:
  • Abby has not relapsed and was home with us for Christmas. God is caring for her and guiding her doctors.

  • My oldest daughter blew out (shredded) a FRONT tire on the highway a couple of nights ago right after the blizzard that could have resulted in a major accident. God protected her from injury and it ended up just being a minor inconvenience to drive and get her, repair the tire, and then go put the tire back on. God protected her from accident or incident being stranded on the highway at night, in the freezing cold out in the middle of nowhere.

  • Garrett, Michael and Micalah could have easily been killed or even froze to death during this accident. They were on a remote rural road and pinned in the truck with no phones within reach. A car just "happened" to drive by. Medical helicopters quickly flew them for care. God protected them, rescued them and saw that they were cared for.

  • My Mom had breast cancer last year and yet we just finished celebrating Christmas with her. God is our healer and care giver.

  • My Dad survived life threatening bouts of blood clots and circulatory problems this year. My twin brother survived a bout of blood clots too, evidently there is something hereditary going on. God graciously protected their lives.

  • Michelle's Dad has survived cancer and surgery in the past few months to still be here with us for Christmas. God is good and gracious.
See what I mean? The more difficulty, the more trials, the more trauma, the more you get to see God at work, see Him prove His goodness and care, see Him be a real part of your life.

Don't get me wrong. We don't WANT these difficulties, we don't go hunting for them. But living in this sin-cursed world guarantees you a share of the misery.

For Christians, we are to receive them with joy and thanks because it is in our suffering that God manifests His providential care and unfailing love.

Option two: we could just have a big ole pity party, moan and complain, and curse God because we don't "deserve this".

We'll take joy and God's goodness, thank you very much.

Update - 5.50am

From Brent

I'm back at home trying to get a couple hours of sleep and then trying to catch up my work responsibilities. After that, Abby needs some new prescriptions so I'll go get those and then bring the babies home.

The final tally:

Garrett: pelvis broke in two places, non-operative, probably a back brace; fractured L5 vertebrae, non-operative; fractured thumb; nose not broken; ankle sprain, shoulder contusion, eight stitches in right wrist, other lacerations... Admitted to hospital. His injuries were not life threatening but he may feel like death for a few days.

Michelle’s brother is stable, admitted too; internal injuries and facial lacerations. He also has a fractured L5 vertebrae.

Michelle's little sister was banged up a little but released after a couple of hours, sore. Being the only one not knocked out in the wreck, she had quite a story to tell. She actually crawled halfway out a window to look around right after the crash, and got stuck. She hung halfway out a window for half an hour until help arrived. It was about 30 degrees out and she got mildly hypothermic. Ironically, Garrett had a lap full of snow and got extremely cold during his 45 minutes of being pinned but the snow probably helped keep the swelling down on his injuries.

They all had to be cut out of the vehicle. Thank you for all your kind messages and concern and prayers.

Abby, Landis and Sami are with some of our best friends. They are well cared for. Abby will probably be back in the hospital in 3-4 days. Her spinal pressure is going up noticeably. I have to be gone for 4 days next week because of my job and it is unavoidable.

Please pray for us to have wisdom, health and finances to figure out how to care for Garrett and Abby… oh yeah, and our three other kids at home. Even for us, it's going to be a special challenge to juggle work, house, cancer, car wreck and tying our shoes for the next couple of weeks.

We covet your prayers… it has been a Christmas full of opportunities for faith. God is good and the more difficulties we have, the more He has the opportunity to bless and show His unfailing provision.

Garrett update - midnight

Pelvis broke in two places, non-operative, probably a back brace; fractured L5, non-operative; fractured thumb; nose not broken; ankle sprain, shoulder contusion, eight stitches in right wrist... Admitted to hospital; no news oun brothers internal injuries; sister banged up but released. Thank you for all your kind messages and concern and prayers.

Abby, Landis and Sami are with some of our best friends. They are well cared for.

- Posted from my iPhone... Brent


Dec 28, 2009

Garrett, car wreck update

Garrett stable; laceration on wrist, stitches; broken vertebrae, pelvis, nose; still evaluating. Michelles brother stable with internal injuries; sister banged up, already released. Thanks for praying, more as we find out.

- Posted from my iPhone... Brent

EMERGENCY!!! Please pray...

Dear Christian family,

Wow… if all the stuff about Abby wasn’t enough…

We just got a phone call from a hospital. Our 17 year old, Garrett, Michelle’s brother Mike, and her sister Micalah were in a serious car accident and are all critical

We are dropping the kids off with our friends, and going to the hospital now.

Micalah is here with her Dad (Michelle’s father) visiting for Christmas from San Antonio. He is VERY shaken and is fresh in the middle of a cancer battle himself.

We covet your prayers….

Brent & Michelle

Dec 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Finally & Abby Challenges Landis to Dance Contest

From Michelle:

Abby and I had a long day but in the end I feel more encouraged than I have in a while. We left for the hospital at 8:30 in the morning and weren't home until 7 PM. The spinal tap itself didn't take very long but Abby didn't wake up until 6 hours after the procedure. I am not sure why it is taking her so long to wake up after the sedation is over. Fighting cancer is hard work and many of the medications she is taking can make you tired. It may just be the pain from the headache is gone and she can finally relax.

Whatever the reason, Abby had a wonderful 6 hour nap at the hospital and when she got home had the energy to run, play and dance. Seeing her beautiful smile again made me thankful we decided to drive through all of that ice and snow.

Thank you for praying for us today. The drive was a little nerve-racking, driving on ice and snow is not a skill I have perfected. Praise God we didn't slip once while we were driving or walking on it. I watched a lot of other cars slip and slide, but thankfully we didn't join them.

Abby was a little nervous as they were beginning her spinal, but over all was very relieved to know they were going to do it. She has learned that they take the pain away for a while and was thankful they were willing to help her.

While in the past Abby has been hard to keep comfortable, today Abby sedated beautifully for the spinal. I was with her the whole time and was very pleased with how it went.

We now suspect Abby's throat muscles are weak from the chemo. When she is sedated the weak muscles become too relaxed and Abby has to work harder than normal to breath. It is hard to listen to the sounds she makes while she is sleeping off the sedation but I am learning that Abby is up to the challenge.

Abby's intracranial pressure is still too high but it is lower than it has been since this started. The Diamox seems to helping some and the side effects are minimal. The on-call doctor, who did the spinal, was willing to increase her Diamox today. I am grateful we are moving towards a solution for Abby. God is good. Thank you for caring enough to pray for Abby.

From Brent
Abby Challenges Landis to a Dance Off
Get the kids, turn up the volume!!!

Abby's smile is back. Tonight Abby left Santa a plate full of sweets and went to bed dreaming of Christmas. I can't wait to watch her open her gifts. Oh yeah, she also challenged Landis to a dance contest... click here to view...

You get to pick the winner... leave your comments about the winner.

Dec 25, 2009

Abby Update - Christmas Postponed

From Michelle:

Abby is hurting and the blizzard kept extended family from celebrating with us on Christmas day. I couldn't bare to watch Abby silently suffer on such a special day so Brent and I decided to move the celebration to a day Abby can enjoy with family we love. We are hoping Abby will be ready on Sunday.

Abby really needed a spinal tap to remove the excess fluid responsible for her headaches on Christmas Eve. The roads were dangerous so her doctors opted to gradually increase her pain medications until she was more comfortable. It was a good plan. It should have worked much better than it did. We were able to take the edge off Abby's pain but she has had a hard couple of days.

The roads are a little better now; not great, but better. Abby is asking me to take her to the hospital for a back poke (and she knows exactly what that means). For a 4 year old to ask for a spinal tap, you know the headache has to be bad. Abby will be admitted to the hospital in the morning. She is thankfully sleeping now and we will leave as soon as she wakes up.

Abby has an appointment with her primary oncologist on Monday. I am praying we can come up with a better game plan then. I agree we need to attempt to fix Abby's increased intracranial pressure with medication before we move towards surgery but we need to do this as quickly as possible. What we are doing TODAY isn't working.

Abby is seen by a large group of wonderful oncologists. This has worked to Abby's advantage many times in the past. Unfortunately, if the treatment plan isn't very clear there can be delays in making decisions/changes only because a doctor who is not Abby's primary doctor is in the clinic. Taking a few extra days to make a decision may not sound like a big deal but when you are rocking a child you love as they cry in pain, it is an eternity.

We have two more medications to try. I will let them try just in case they will keep her from needing the surgery but it is hard to be patient. I don't want Abby to go through any more surgeries but I am ready for this intense pain to stop.

Please pray for us as I drive Abby on the slick roads tomorrow. Like most Oklahoma drivers, I don't have a lot of experience driving in winter weather.

Pray Abby is well sedated for her spinal tap and not scared.

They are able to remove enough fluid to stop the high pressure headaches without removing too much and giving her a spinal headache.

For medication changes to be made that will be helpful.

Wisdom for all concerned.

Thank you for thinking about Abby this Christmas. Thank you for praying for Abby and for caring. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I can't wait to see pictures on your blogs and facebook. While I am grateful Abby is still here with us, I still long for a Christmas where she is free from pain.


Here's how Abby looks when we say,
"Abby, look up and smile for the picture!"


Here's how how she looks the rest of the time
(Does it really need any explanation?)...


... and then a few seconds later, asleep again from a
combination of weariness and meds.


At one point Abby crawled up under the Christmas tree.
I ask her what she was doing but she just stared at me.
She's trying so hard to have fun. I have no idea what she was doing.


We let the kids open one gift...


...Sami is really being a big help and enjoying Christmas.


SpideyLandis was a wild man in the snow.
It's funny... he wimpers like a baby when he gets cold
but if he is doing something fun, it doesn't affect him.
Being the bad parents we are, he is actually in his pajama bottoms
in this photo. They wanted to go outside for about 5 minutes
right as the sun was going down so he just threw on
his boots, coat and hat right over his jammies.
His paper thin PJ's evidently are super warm!


Sami loves the snow. It's the first time she's
gotten to play out in it. No snow in Ethiopia where she lived.


The snow brightened up Abby for a few minutes.

Rare White Christmas

We don't get "white Christmas" very often. Even though we have snow almost every year, it's usually 2-4 winter events that last 2-5 days. It's a long shot to have it happen on Christmas day for us.

Some nutjob was out taking photos at dawn in our yard... in the 15 degree paradise. I talked him into giving me a couple of the pics.

I guess everyone else at my house stayed up too late because I just went in, and nothing is stirring, not even a mouse. The mice are all frozen...


This is out the back of our house. There are several homes built
around this pond. We live in a very small town...


... as you can see from this shot down the road from the front of our house.
Off in the distance is our one stop sign. You know the place where
you get when you finally reach the "end of the road"? We live just past that...

Dec 24, 2009

Grand Tetons Panorama & Christmas Ornaments

From Brent

A lot of people have asked about the mountain shot at the top of our blog. That is a photo of the Grand Tetons. It is a panorama I shot stitching a dozen photos left to right into one magnificent view. I printed it on a 56x12 sheet of photo paper and framed it.

It is hung just above my monitors in my office where I sit and work. Very inspiring!

Feel free to download it and print it. Click this photo to see a full size image you can save and print. If you want to go crazy and have a 56" print done, holler and I'll send you a hi-res version:


Christmas Ornaments

We made plaster of Paris Christmas ornaments tonight.


Abby was excited about doing the ornaments.


Everyone chose something to make. You put a piece of wax paper over the graphic.
Then you make a mold using Play Doh.


Abby did a Christmas tree. She kept falling asleep
from being tired but overall she had a good time.


Landis did a candy cane. Play Doh, plaster, messy stuff...
Landis was in heaven.


Helping Sami with her star.


Dad had a great time making ornaments with the kids.
We used to do this when we were kids and all her life,
my grandmother kept them hung on her tree.


Abby had a great time and was ready for more.


Pour the plaster of Paris into the mold and let it dry.
Be sure to stick a toothpick in where want
a hole for the hanger.


That pretty much sums it up.

Abby, The Blizzard & Snow Ice Cream

From Brent

Here is Abby at the hospital yesterday. Praise the Lord she is home.
It would be a disaster if she were still stuck at the hospital.


At the hospital, Abby was so sedated with morphine that she would fall asleep every few seconds. I brought her favorite food, cheesy breadsticks, and she would doze off holding one in each hand. Today she traded breadsticks for icicles...


Sami's first snow... she is loving it. Abby today having fun in the snow instead of lying in a hospital bed. Isn't God good?

We are getting HAMMERED with a real deal white out blizzard. I've been out clearing 6 ft drifts from the doorways and heat pumps of our house and our elderly neighbors. It is MISERABLE outside... but it makes for some great SNOW ICE CREAM:



We used to make snow ice cream all the time when I was a kid. Haven't made it ten years.

Recipe: a big bowl of fresh snow (preferably all white, no yellow...), vanilla, half and half or milk; sugar and whatever flavor you want... chocolate/strawberry syrup, a cold cup of strong coffee, peppermint oil, or just plain vanilla.

Put in your flavoring, then just keep stirring and adding half & half until it is the consistency you want. Not too much vanilla... overpowers everything else. Tablespoon of vanilla for a big mixing bowl is plenty.

Instant ice cream in about 2 minutes... served with some fresh hot coffee, and the blizzard outside seems to be worth the trouble.

You can't freeze it! It just turns into an ice chunk, so darn it, you have to eat the WHOLE BOWL when you make it!


SpideyLandis is SERIOUS about his snow ice cream. No messin' around dude...


Abby loved the snow ice cream but honestly, she is in a MORPHINE INDUCED FUNK. She it pretty listless and generally "out of it". But at least she is home with us.

More pics later....