Thursday, September 29, 2011

Product Review

It isn't very often than I feel so compelled by a retail product to share my sentiments online, but I have to spread the word about a new shampoo and conditioner that I just love.

Garnier Fructis Pure Clean

I received a sample of this shampoo and conditioner in a gift bag, and I have been obsessed ever since I tried it.  The bottles tell you it has no silicone, no paraben, and no dyes and you can actually tell!

Right there in the shower--hair wet and everything--you can immediately feel how very clean if makes your tresses feel.  I didn't realize how "waxy" my hair felt before using these products until I used them!  Then, once you dry your hair you will be amazed at how light and fresh it feels.  These products feels like they literally strip away all build up on your hair in a single use.

You.  Have.  To.  Try.  It.

And, if you're one of those "go green" people (I'm not), you'll also appreciate that the shampoo is 94% biodegradable, and the conditioner is 92% biodegradable.  I think that means that it is environmentally sound.

Good for the environment.
Great for you hair.
Easy on the wallet.

Try it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Orchard Day

It truly feels like it has been forever since I've written a blog post.  Around here, we've been doing a lot of adjusting . . . and each day has been better than the one before.  For the most part, it seems as if we have finally reached what I like to call "our new normal."  As in: things aren't going to be "normal" by the average person's standards for a long time, but we have all learned how to live life "in-cast" to the fullest . . . and with minimal bumps in the road (although, lots of bumps to the head).

Yesterday, we took a family trip to an orchard close by because . . .
it's that time of year again!

(my favorite)

We had an awesome lunch together and enjoyed the general store, bluegrass music, and crafts.

Jackson and Ne-Ne loved riding the "Cow Train" around the farm.

Then, we all sat back and enjoyed a huge loop around the countless acres of apple orchard aboard a tractor-pulled wooden wagon.  Not surprisingly, one of Jackson's newest vocabulary words is "tra-ker" (a.k.a. tractor).

This "tra-ker" passed the test . . . even the taste test.

(note: unintentionally caught on camera)

Soon, it started getting really hot in the blazing September sun.

But we cooled off!

And after an apple cider slushee and a diaper change . . . we headed for home.

Farewell farmland . . . in only a few short weeks the leaves will begin to change into the beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows of the season . . . and we'll be back for another visit!

. . . until we meet again . . .

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Taco Gets His Shell

"Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?"
Ecclesiastes 7:13

It would be a lie to say that the title of this blog post reflects in any way what the last 96 hours have felt like to our family.  It would also be untrue to say that we were prepared for the reality of Jackson's Mehta casting, that the last few days have been easy, or that life is "back to normal" around our house.  However, it would be the greatest lie of all to say that we are not eternally grateful for the incredible work of the medical team who is giving Jackson's spine the chance to grow straight, the precious but few people who have supported us throughout this journey, and the astounding provisions of our Lord.

The week leading up to Jackson's initial casting on September 8th was nothing short of eventful.  We had returned from Myrtle Beach on Friday evening, and by Monday night Jackson was ill.  He was coughing occasionally and very snotty.  On Tuesday, I spoke with the anesthesia staff at Shriner's and was told that Jackson needed to see his pediatrician as soon as possible to help determine whether or not he was still eligible for casting.  This in itself doesn't seem so terrible, but throw in that the next available casting date was during the last week of October ... and it really ups the ante.  We had already waited almost 6 weeks from Jackson's last Xray (revealing a 44 degree curve) to receive this O.R. date, and waiting another 6 weeks could have been devastating for the progression of his scoliosis.  It is ideal to begin casting before the curve reaches 50 degrees, and we were already dangerously close to missing that mark.  Fortunately, the pediatrician could not definitively diagnose Jax with an "upper respiratory infection," and we left the office with a "wait and see what happens" plan.  She was somewhat suspicious of allergies and/or teething syndrome (because, naturally, Jackson is also getting all of his molars).  We hoped for the best and were told to make the drive up to Philadelphia with the possibility that they could cancel Jackson's procedure that day if he appeared too sick to proceed.

Then, because it wouldn't be us without a dramatic entry, we left our house at 1:00am and drove directly into the severe flooding in Pennsylvania.  The road we needed to take to the hospital was blocked off by countless police vehicles and traffic was literally stopped for miles.  So, relying on the GPS and Jesus, we left the beaten path and crossed our fingers.  Driving over flooded roads (some marked with yellow caution tape), we arrived at Shriner's well before time for Jackson's procedure.  There was no way some light rain some disastrous flooding was going to stop us!  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Jax played in the lobby and on the 6th floor activity center before it was time to head to the pre-op area.

In pre-op, Jackson was seen by the anesthesia team who (thank you, Lord) felt it was safe to proceed with his casting, the research nurse, and Dr. Cahill, his pediatric orthopaedic surgeon.  He was also given a special pillow case with animals on it and a stuffed bird to take home with him.  The pre-op nurses were so awesome with him--as were the anesthesia residents.

This is "BJ" -- an anesthesia resident -- and Jackson's buddy.

Just before being taken into the OR, we put on Jackson's under-cast shirt, and he was given Versed and Tylenol to sedate him.  Once he was giggly and relaxed, "BJ" carried him into the OR, and Justin, mom, and I went to the waiting room.

The entire procedure took about 1 hour and 15 minutes, and Dr. Cahill came up to the waiting room to talk to us.  He told us that Jackson did very well with the anesthesia and that he got "good correction" with Jackson's spine.  Jackson's standing curve prior to casting was 44 degrees, and his supine (lying down) "in-cast" curve is 11 degrees!  That is amazing correction if you ask me!  Keep in mind, however, the supine curves always measure less that standing curves, so the actual difference is not quite so large as the number make it sound.  Also, when this cast is removed, there will probably be significant "bounce back" of Jackson's curve--thus, this process will take 6 months to 2 years to complete depending on the responsiveness of Jackson's spine.  Still, take heart, 44 down to 11 is awesome progress!

This is Jackson in the PACU, sleep sleeping off the anesthesia.

The peaceful slumber of anesthesia wore off shortly after we arrived on the surgical unit, and the next few hours were possibly the worst of my life.  You think childbirth is hard?  Try watching your baby cry and struggle while his vital signs are unstable.

Now, I promised myself that I wasn't going to let this blog post turn into a rant.  And I won't.  But, I have to share that our first nurse on the floor was absolutely terrible.  That is putting it nicely.  Besides being rude, cold, and horrible with children ... I found her to be unable to critically think.  I know my fellow nurses who read my blog will appreciate this most -- when Jackson awoke his pulse ox was 78.  Now, also throw in that he was congested prior to anesthesia and that he now had a cast encasing his chest!  This nurse (who because I'm being nice, shall remain nameless) kept repeating to me "they are just low because he is upset--he just doesn't like the cast--that's normal."

No. It. Isn't.

Finally, when Jackson's legs turned purple and his feet became swollen, she called the OR.  Dr. Cahill sent up a resident to look at the cast, and in the mean time, I insisted that she call respiratory to give him some oxygen.  Eventually, after we exchanged conflicting reasoning multiple times, she did.  I hate using my "I'm an RN too, and I think ______" card ... but this was a card carrying moment.  

Ok.  Enough.

The respiratory therapist was able to stabilize Jackson's oxygenation.  The resident trimmed the bottom of Jackson's cast to allow for better circulation.  And, Jackson fell back asleep.

When Jackson awoke in better spirits, it did everyone good.

Clearly, nothing comes between this boy and his food.

The next few hours were not pretty, and they were full of struggles and tears, but we made it through them.

There were sweet moments too, like when a young volunteer brought Jax this Cookie Monster to take home.  Which, like just about everything else, also make Mommy cry.

About 5 c'clock, Jackson's I.V. (in his ankle) was finally removed ... despite the fact that Mommy had insisted it be removed since about 11am so that he could get up and walk.  But then again, why would any nurse think it was important for someone who had undergone anesthesia--with a cold--in a cast restricting coughing/breathing--to get up and move around?

Dripping. With. Sarcasm.

And once the I.V. was gone, we took Jackson back up to the 6th floor to play.  He could walk almost immediately, albeit clumsily and top-heavily.  However, he could not play in the floor, sit up unassisted, bend to pick up a toy, or return to standing from the floor without something to pull up on.  In fact, he still cannot do these things.  The leaning curve for "cast life" is apparently very steep (much more so than we had anticipated)--and although it is heartbreaking to watch, Jackson's skills are improving everyday.  So is his acceptance of the cast itself.

By 6 pm, he was fast asleep.

Only one parent is allowed to stay overnight at Shriner's, and because I did not think I could mentally or emotionally stand much more in one day, I opted to go to the hotel with Mom while Justin stayed with Jackson.  He woke up early, but he slept through the night.

We were all so relieved to see how much better he seemed by the next morning.  Kids are so resilient!

We spent the morning with our new (and great) nurse, Courtney, preparing Jackson for discharge.  We put moleskin and tie-dye duct take around the rough edges of his cast to protect his skin ... that is the light brown material you see around the edges of the cast in the photos.  It can be changed if it gets wet or soiled over the next two months.  

A resident came up to our room to do some final cast trimming before we left.  Leave it to Jax--to love the cast saw--and laugh as it trims away the excess material to the tune of a loud dental drill.  Such bravery: let's pray it continues.

Then ... Dr. Cahill (and apparently also Jackson's new best friend) came up to our room to answer final questions and clear us for discharge.

This man is a hero to us--he is so brilliant, kind, and extraordinary!

Then -- we were off!

We hit the road for home around 11am--and, all things considered, besides a few emergency stops along the interstate--Jackson rode amazingly well.

The most difficult part--the first cast--is officially over.

As I mentioned before, the learning curve (for parents and child) is extremely steep with this type of treatment.  But, we are 100% confident that this is very best possible treatment for Jackson's scoliosis.  Please keep Jackson in your prayers as he learns to adjust to life in his cast.  We have a long journey ahead, but God has provided for us so far, and I know He will continue to do so.

So, it's official:

Taco Has His Shell
(I've always liked the crunchy ones better, anyhow)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wanted: Prayers

Everyone who visits the blog today, please take a moment to lift Jackson up in prayer. We are currently waiting in the lobby of Shriners before getting his first Mehta cast. His procedure is scheduled for 7:30 am.  Thank you for your prayers, love, and support. More updates to come as we are able.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Making Waves

An original take on an old adage about lemonade:
"When life hands you a hurricane, make waves!"

That's right . . . leave it to us to have a beach vacation planned for Ocean City, Maryland as Hurricane Irene blew up the coast forcing the first mandatory evacuation in 26 years.

But, what originally began like another national lampoons-Heath honeymoon-esque (if you have to ask ... don't) vacation gone wrong, turned into one of my favorite vacations I can remember.

That's right--we made waves--by canceling our reservations in Ocean City and rescheduling (thanks to Justin's brilliance) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  The only negative was that the drive was more than twice as long (9 hours) with a 15-month-old . . . but, turns out, Jax travels well!

And--the 5 days we spent there were nothing short of perfect!

Since Myrtle Beach only got a little wind and rain from Hurricane Irene, everything was still up-&-running ... and, because a lot of vacationers freaked out and fled the scene, the beach was surprisingly uncrowded.  It was truly amazing to see the beach for the first time through Jackson's eyes.  He loved everything about it, too!  He was not one ounce afraid of the ocean--he thoroughly enjoyed digging in the sand and chasing the birds--and he was wild about the crazy dancing/singing/yelling inside the restaurants at Broadway at the Beach.  Speaking of Broadway at the Beach, throughout the week, Jax developed his own fan club.  You see, he is quite the little entertainer and would stop on the boardwalk and dance around.  Several times, he had a crowd around him clapping and cheering for his dance moves.  It was just his style.  He also rode the carousel, the kiddie pirate ship, and the 20-story-high "Sky Wheel."  Jax got a big kick out of the "Sky Wheel;" Ne-Ne, on the other hand, did not.  And, turns out, his Uncle Steve was up visiting his Aunt Sue, and we even enjoyed a meal with them while we were in town.  It was a great time.

Here or there.
Near or far.

Hurricane Irene couldn't stop us . . . we were making waves.

And leaving our footprints in the sand.