Saturday, May 29, 2010

Our little miracle

In the first 2 weeks of her life, our little Charley has endured 2 heart caths, 2 open heart surgerys and endless poking and proding. Not the "typical" start to life for a newborn, but then again, she is anything but typical! She has been showing us day in and day out just how brave and strong she is. Charley truely is our little miracle.

I've found myself thinking a lot about miracles lately, and how my perception of them has changed over the past few weeks. I spent months and months praying for a miracle for our little girl--praying that we would go in for one of her fetal echos and they would tell us that everything was better and that her heart had "fixed" itself. I wanted that so badly for her, and my heart would break a little bit each time we found out that things hadn't changed. I wanted a BIG miracle so badly.

The arrival of our little Charley has opened my eyes to a whole new world of miracles. She came into this world pink and screaming, not at all blue like Matt and I had prepared ourselves for. She held her own in the week before her first surgery, showing us what a fighter she was going to be. After making it through an 8 hour open heart surgery with 6 hours of bypass, she didn't need help from medication to support her heart rate. Dr. Hammel, her surgeon, made a comment that she just kind of "walked through it." Our most recent miracles? Charley had her 2nd surgery on Thursday morning (only lasted a few hours this time, much to our relief!) and has been improving by leaps and bounds. When we left here on Thursday night, she was still quite sedated from all of her anesthesia. By Friday morning, there she was, totally wide-eyed and off of her sedation and IV narcotic. She was so alert that only one day after surgery they were able to remove her breathing tube and her catheter, stop her only heart medication, cut way back on her diuretic, increase her feeds, and stop her supplemental oxygen. Sure, these things may seem small in comparison to that HUGE miracle I was originally praying for, but that doesn't make them any less significant.

Small miracles happen around us each and every day. I think that too often we fixate so much on the big picture that the small details can pass by totally unappreciated. In her short 2 weeks, Charley has already taught Matt and I to slow things down and soak in life's little miracles. I can't wait to see what she teaches us tomorrow....

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Preparing for another big day

Over the past 3 or 4 days, I have heard the word "amazing," more times than I think that I have in my entire life! Charlotte has been doing so well and is healing so quickly. People are just astonished by the strength and fight of such a tiny little lady.

During Charlotte's surgery last Friday, the surgeon and cardiologist saw some abnormalities with her left coronary artery (a bad thing) that they hadn't seen on her original cath images. There was question as to whether something had been missed, or if the abnormality was more circumstantial and a result of her being on the bypass machine for so long. Because of this abnormality, they decided hold off on a few parts of her surgery, giving her time to rest and recover. Originally the plan was to let Charlotte hang out for 3-4 weeks before going back in to repeat a heart cath and re-check the coronary artery. WELL, she did so well over the weekend that they really started to question what they had seen during surgery. So rather than 3-4 weeks of waiting, the repeated the cath yesterday (Tuesday). Low and behold, everything looked normal! Because of this, they feel comfortable taking little miss back into surgery to complete the things that they cut short last week.

Now, you may think that going back to the OR is a bad thing, but the procedure that they are doing is in attempt to eventually let Charlotte function with a "whole" heart, rather than needing to bypass the right side completely. Matt and I were thrilled to hear this as we had pretty much given up on the possibility after the whole Boston thing fell through. Whether it works or not, we'll have to wait and see, but we feel ultimately blessed that she has been given this opportunity. Again, its simply amazing.

Please keep us in your prayers tomorrow morning as Charlotte faces her second open heart surgery in less than 1 week. They are planning to take her to surgery around 8, and while I'm not sure how long the procedure will take, I know that it should be much shorter than the 8 hour day that we had last Friday. We feel so blessed to have the support of family and friends (and even friends of friends) during this time. I can't wait until Charlotte is old enough to really understand the amount of love that surrounds her.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Post-op Day #3

Day after day, little Charlotte continues to amaze me! She is doing great after her long day of surgery last week, and continues to make small strides every day.

Because her procedure was so long and she was on the bypass machine for a prolonged period of time, the surgeons were concerned that she would have LOTS of swelling post-op. If they would have closed up her incision right away, the swelling could have put a significant amount of pressure on her little heart and lungs. Because of this, at the end of surgery they left an opening in Charlotte's chest. Through the weekend our little rockstar surprised everyone and didn't swell up like they expected and today she got to have the "official" chest closure. They came and transformed her room in the PICU into a mini surgical suite around 2 this afternoon and she was all fixed up in no time. So far she has tolerated the closure very well and looks great! Just one more step in the right direction.

They are thinking about repeating her heart cath either later this week or early next week to follow up on all of the work they did. Hopefully they see good things and we can continue to plug forward.

While I'm thinking of it, I just want to mention how wonderful everyone at Children's has been. The doctors are amazing and I have yet to come across a nurse that doesn't go above and beyond. We are so fortunate to have such an incredible team taking care of our little girl!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Post-op Day #1

Since we found out about baby Charley's heart back in January, I've been trying to mentally prepare myself for what we would face on surgery day. I've read other people's blogs detailing the emotions that they experienced, handing their little one over to surgeons. I've read about the endless waiting for updates and the news that they are finally wrapping things up. I read and read and read, but still, nothing can actually "prepare" you for that until you are up against it yourself.

I woke up yesterday morning after a grand total of about 2 hours of sleep and was totally overwhelmed. I couldn't look anyone in the eye without feeling like I was going to explode into tears. I got myself ready....then I just sat down on the bed with Matt and sobbed. I think that there had been so many emotions (both good and bad) building up inside of me over the previous week, and I had finally reached my breaking point. The amazing part? Once I got it out....I was fine. I was overcome with a sense of calm and knew that our Charley was in the best place she could be. Sure I was still terrified, I would have been crazy not to be, but I didn't spend the day on the verge of breakdown as I had anticipated I would. I have constantly been praying for God to give Matt and I the strength to make it though this. He gave us the opportunity to be strong, and now he was guiding us through.

We showed up at the hospital early yesterday morning to spend as much time with our little lady as we could before surgery. We sang some songs, read a book and just soaked each other in. I got to give Charley her first bath (which she was NOT thrilled about) and we both got in a little . We also decided to have a chaplain from the hospital come and baptize her before surgery. It was a good morning, but went way to quickly.

We walked along as they wheeled Charley to surgery in her little "car" and they took her back to the OR around 11. It was another hour before they actually started the surgery. Matt and I spent the day hanging out in the lobby with our WONDERFUL families, and they came out with periodic updates to let us know how things were going. About 8 hours later, give or take, the doctor came out to give us the full report on the surgery before we got to go up to the PICU to see her. Again, the fear started to set in. I think that I had prepared myself for her to look like total hell, after all, she had been in open heart surgery all day long. Maybe my preparing for the worst helped a little, because I actually thought she looked fantastic given the circumstances! She actually still had her little pink bow stuck to her head! They told us that they left it there during the whole procedure. Thats our little girl...always a lady and showing up dressed for the occasion!

Matt and I spent the night away from the hospital and tried to catch up on some much needed sleep. I did end up calling Charley's nurse around 4:00 to check in, and the report was great! She was holding steady, resting more comfortably, labs looked great and was already peeing...which was a great sign. So that brings us to day #1. We're still holding the course and little Charlotte is doing great. She's still got lines coming from every direction, but thats to be expected for a while. Tonight they will start a Lasix drip to help pull some of the fluid off of her/minimize some swelling, and also a heparin drip to make sure that her new shunt doesn't clot. Tomorrow the plan is to start back with some IV nutrition.

Right now we're plugging through one day at a time. I have to keep reminding myself to focus on the here and now, and on how lucky we are to have our little baby back and on her way to recovery. Its easy to start thinking "what next," but I think right now we just need to live for today.

Thank you all for the thoughts and prayers that you have been sending our direction. Its pretty overwhelming to see how far the word on our little girl has traveled and just how many people are out there supporting and pulling for her. We are so thankful to have such incredible friends and family (and apparently even strangers) sending us love. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Inch by Inch

Its been a good couple of days here in the NICU (other than the fact that Matt had to go back to work for a few days). I'm totally running on the concept of "no news is good news" and so far Miss Charley seems to be cooperating with me!

Tuesday was pretty uneventful. I was officially discharged from the hospital, so it was strange to go sleep 20 minutes away last night versus the 4 floors away that I had been sleeping! Charley has had wonderful nurses though, both day and night, and I always leave knowing that she's in wonderful hands and that I'm just a phone call away.

Wednesday, was a day full of ups and downs. We'll start with the ups because they are way more fun! CHARLOTTE GOT HER BREATHING TUBE TAKEN OUT! She's been breathing over the vent the past day or so, but they have been waiting to hear an official surgery day before taking it out. After all, why take it out tonight if they are just going to have to put it back tomorrow for the OR. Well we got the word that surgery won't be until Friday, so out it came! I wasn't about to watch them pull a tube out of my little girl's mouth, but from what they were saying, she was MAD and bright red! I can't imagine that it felt all that great during, but afterwards she was much happier. Immediately she opened her eyes and we got to stare at each other for a good 30+ minutes before she decided it was nap time. I totally believe that she has been holding her eyes closed since Saturday in protest of that stinkin' tube...the little stinker. Needless to say, she's a much happier little girl with much happier parents!

So that brings us to the downs....well....they aren't really DOWNS, just a healthy dose of reality. I met Dr. Hammel, the cardiothoracic surgeon, today and we decided to hold off on surgery until Friday. Matt is driving down this morning and we are going to sit down with the surgeon to talk about Charley's procedure, different options, get questions answered, etc. From there we'll just enjoy the day with our little girl. Knowing an actual date hit me pretty hard today. Its scary. No... its terrifying. It was hard enough watching her get wheeled off to the cath lab, and now we have to hand her over to have her teeny tiny little heart operated on. Talk about a pit in your stomach! But I also know that this is what has to happen and that she is in phenomenal hands. She is such a strong little girl and has gone through so much more in her 1 week of life than I have in my 28 years. All is for good though. We keep praying for a successful surgery and smooth recovery for her, the rest is out of our hands.

Please keep the prayers coming, especially tomorrow. We aren't sure of an exact time at this point, but its bound to be a long day of sitting and waiting.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Little Miss Charlotte Ritchie!

HELLO HELLO HELLO! It feels like its been FOREVER since I last updated...its probably more due to the fact that there has been so much going on! My mother-in-law Mary was kind enough to share her extra laptop with me and I finally got access to the hospital's wireless network, so now I'll be able to keep everyone up to date on whats going on here (when I'm not too busy soaking in every minute of my little lady, that is!)

So, I guess the official news is SHE'S HERE!!

At my appointment last Monday they noiced that my amniotic fluid was "lower" than it had previously been, and decided to have me take it easy at home, keep myself hydrated and to see me again on Friday. Well, when I went back on Friday, they saw that the level had dropped even more and that I was starting to have some irregular contractions. Knowing our plan to deliver in Omaha, Dr. Palmquist made a few phone calls and all parties felt that it would be best for us to head that direction. They gave me a terbutaline injection to lessen my contractions and told me to pack my bags, hit the road and to go straight to Methodist labor and delivery. They got me all checked in, started my IV and started planning for my induction. Little did we know that little miss had other plans. Before we knew it my contractions were at every 2 minutes (though I could only detect about 1/2 of them). The combination of not dilating, low fluid and a few heart decelerations lead to the decision to proceed with a c-section. When I asked when they would do it the response was "no sooner than 20 minutes." HAHA! That seemed pretty soon to me! Anyway, less than than 4 hours after checking in, we got to meet our little girl 3 weeks early!

Charlotte (Charley) Delene Ritchie was born at 10:15 Friday night. She weighed 6lbs 2oz and is 18 and 3/4 inches long. The first thing they said when she was out was "Look at all that hair!" And let me tell you, she has a lot of it! It looks like it might be a little on the curly side, but since we haven't been able to get her a good bath, its hard to tell at this point. What I do know, though, is that she is the most beautiful little peanut I've ever laid my eyes on. Mom and Dad are totally smitten!

Charlotte has been doing really well over all. She is still on the prostaglandin to keep the ducts in her heart open until surgery. One of the side effects of this drug is some interference with the respiratory drive. After a few apnic episodes on Saturday night, they decided to intubate her and give her a chance to rest a little. It was hard to see, but I know that it was best for her. Its hard to see her going through the motions of crying, but not having any sound come out. They think that if surgery isn't going to be until later in the week, they might try to extubate her today, but thats all just talk at this point.

She had her 1st heart cath yesterday afternoon. Matt and I both told her ahead of time that she better cooperate and do whatever the doctors ask her to. From their report, she listened. They didn't find any suprises, so that is always a good thing. She was started on a heparin drip last night just to prevent any sort of clotting in her teeny tiny blood vessles, which is a possibility after caths. Her fetal echo results have all been confirmed, and now we are just waiting to find out when surgery will be.
Thank you all for the thoughts, prayers and well wishes. Matt, Charlotte and myself are all doing well and enjoying every second of our time as a new family. I'll be sure to keep posting as we know more...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

37 weeks

Well, the countdown has officially begun. At this time next week I will be setting up camp at my mom's house in Omaha. How long will I be there??? I haven't the slightest clue! It will be exactly two weeks before my official due date, June 2nd (though I still talk to her DAILY about trying to come over Memorial Day weekend so her daddy will already be in town!).

I'm still feeling pretty darn good for 37 weeks. Every time I go to the doctor I hear "You are just ALL baby!" Its true, if you feel my belly it is rock solid! I don't think that there is much more room for her in there. We are entertained nightly by a little hand/elbow trying to push its way through my side. I think that she's just as anxious to meet us as we are to meet her!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of the WONDERFUL MOTHERS, GRANDMAS AND GRANDMAS -TO-BE in our lives! We love you so much!

Not that Mother's Day is a holiday about gifts....but I must admit that this year I scored pretty big! I came home from work on Friday night and the nursery was finished! The dog kennels were replaced with my new favorite piece of furniture in our whole house.


Maybe isn't sure how she feels about the new set-up...

There's just something about rocking a baby. When I used to baby-sit in Omaha it was always my favorite part of the night...rocking and reading books. I can't wait to do the same with our little lady!

Carpet cleaners come on Monday and then we'll be all set...

The plan for this week is for the perinatologist and OB on Monday and then to enjoy my last full week in the comfort of my own home. I'm sure that it will go too quickly!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grandpa Paul!

I think that its fair to say that at some point in all of our lives we have all felt "cheated" in some way, or muttered the words "its just not fair." For me, the best example of this started on August 13, 1995 when we lost my dad to a long, hard fight with leukemia. After all, how fair is it for a 13 year old to lose her dad? This feeling has continued to repeat itself through the past 15 years of my life. My dad wasn't there to teach me how to drive a car or to watch me walk across the stage for my high school or college graduations. He wasn't there to walk me down the aisle and give me away on my wedding day. He won't be there to hold and hug and kiss his baby girl's little baby girl. Is any of that really fair?? Isn't it only natural for me to feel cheated??

On January 18, when we found out that there was potentially something wrong with our baby's heart, I would be lying if I said that I once again didn't feel a little cheated. I work in a department where one woman after the next was having a healthy baby, why didn't I get to follow in suit? I can admit that I struggled with this, but over the past 4 months I've come to a pretty "profound" realization-

Maybe its the things that seem to be the most unfair in life that we simply just don't understand. Maybe there are things in life that we just aren't supposed to understand.

Take my dad for example. His long battle seemed unfair, but his courage and determination to beat his disease taught me to never give up...even when life gets hard. Losing him at such a young age may have seemed unfair, but it taught me to cherish the every memory I had, no matter how big or small, and to never hesitate to tell someone you love them. My family has always been very close, but we are undoubtedly closer and stronger because of the pain that we have experienced together.

While I would give anything to have had more time with my dad, I know deep down that he's never really left me. He was there watching (and probably laughing) as I learned to drive, he was cheering me on and bubbling over with pride on my graduation days, and I'm guessing he shed a tear or two on the day my mom gave me away. And I know that the same will hold true when it comes to our little girl. She has very special guardian angel watching over her. One that will help her stay strong and to fight life's battles, even when things seem "unfair."

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! I love and miss you with every single bit of my heart!