Friday, October 31, 2008

Today's appointment...

Jake had his consultation today at the University of Iowa Hospital to see about having his birthmark removed. It was a full day - we're a little farther than we were, but still don't have any information yet.

The surgeon that we met with today was very nice, and was great about talking directly to Jake. He explained that having Jake's birthmark removed was not a trivial surgery, and he wanted to get more information about the birthmark before preceding. He examined Jake's birthmark, and found that it has a pulse, which indicates that there is a blood vessel going through the birthmark. He ordered an MRI and and MRA to get a good look at the birthmark from all angles. He wanted to see how that blood vessel sat inside, and make sure that Jake's skull is developed underneath - he said he doesn't want to get in there, remove the birthmark and see the back of Jake's brain underneath it! (that would be bad!)

Thankfully, we were able to get Jake in today for his MRA and MRI (MRA shows his blood vessels, and MRI shows his head in general). The doctor is hoping to go over the results next week, and contact us and let us know what the next steps are that we can take. He mentioned something about having a procedure done before we think about having the major surgery. I can't remember exactly what it was called (gonna have to write down those technical terms next time!), but it's done by the radiology department. He'd have a catheter "floated" up through his blood vessels to the birthmark, and they'd "zap" it with something that would constrict and close up the blood vessel that is running through the birthmark. Once that's done, surgery on his birthmark would be less of a risk. He said that if they try surgery before doing this, Jake would just bleed and bleed, and being a child, he'd run the risk of loosing too much blood, and need transfusions. The doctor thinks, as of today, that this is the route he'll take - but he'll know more after seeing the images from the MRI and MRA today.

On an emotional level, it was up and down today for me personally. It was a bit scary at times, thinking about all the possibilities, and hearing Jake's account of how he feels about having his birthmark. I found out today just how much he hates having it, and that he was picked on quite a bit in 3rd grade over it. He was about in tears today as he told me what happened (which, of course got me on the verge of tears as well). He was quite brave through the whole day, and was very mature. He talked to the doctor without hesitation (the doctor was also very engaging with Jake, which made Jake feel very comfortable). When we went down to get his MRI and MRA, he found out that he was going to have to have an IV put in for the chemical to show his vessels during the MRA. Through the whole needle prick - he didn't flinch. He sat in the MRI machine for a whole 45 minutes while all the images were being taken - and coped quite well with the noise and discomfort. When he finished the MRI & MRA, his birthmark started bleeding quite badly. He was as cool as a cucumber in dealing with it. The technicians administering his imaging were wide eyed and almost panicky. Jake talked with an even tone, and told them how to deal with his birthmark bleeding. It was quite amazing to see him today.

On the way home, I told Jake just how proud I was of him and how he was handling this whole situation. He told me that he will do whatever it takes to get rid of the birthmark - even if it means some discomfort in the process. He's going to rise to the occasion, and "be a man" about it.


Please keep praying for this situation. I'm seeing more and more how important this is to Jake, and I want the best for him. This is a major surgery, I'm finding out. I want everything to be smooth and safe. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and Michael and I as we make decisions and go through processes. Please pray for Jake's emotions and safety through all of this. Of course we want him to endure as little pain as possible - so please pray that whatever course is decided upon, that it is the least invasive.

Thanks for all your prayers so far, and thanks for continuing them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Another marble in the jar...if we had a marble jar

My in-laws have a neat thing that they do, to remind them of all the good days they have. They have a jar that they fill with marbles. For every good day they have, they drop a marble in the jar. The end result is a jar full of marbles, representing some great memories. Yesterday would have warranted a marble in the jar. Since we don't have a jar - I'll do my best to preserve the good day by blogging instead. Not as colorful, but it'll do. :)

The boys have been really great lately. They've really shown a lot of maturity and responsibility around the house. They both have chores that need to be done each day, and for a long time now, they've completed the chores with great attitudes and helpful hearts. Michael and I were talking about how we needed to give them a bonus (they get a monthly allowance) to reward them for such great behavior. After chatting about it for a bit, we decided that it'd be fun to take them to the skating rink with their friends. Both boys have been talking for some time that they'd like to go, so we thought it'd be a great reward for such great behavior.

A couple weeks ago, we told the boys of our plans to take them to Super Skate. We figured we could fit about 8 extra kids in both of our cars, so we told them that they could each invite 4 friends to come along. After talking to their friends, it looked like most of them couldn't make it (we didn't have much notice for them to make plans for it), so it looked like it was going to be a small turnout. That Thursday, Jake sprained his ankle, so we had to postpone our skating session for a few weeks.

Postponing the outing actually worked in the boys favor. We were able to make plans a bit earlier, and send out "invites" to their friends. At first, we didn't get much of a response, and to tell you the truth, I was a bit worried that the boys would be disappointed in their reward. What fun is it to go roller skating with just your mom and dad? Finally, on Friday we got several calls from parents letting us know that their child would be joining us. All in all, we had 2 of Jake's friends come, and 4 of Chris' friends come.

We got to Super Skate right at the 10:00 starting time. At first, we were the only group there. It was great! Eventually, another small group joined us, but it was far from crowded. The boys had a blast - and both skated really well! (It was Chris' first time roller skating). The skate session lasted from 10:00 to noon, and in that time there was lots and lots of goofiness going on! We got to hear all kinds of kids music too (I'm not sure if the DJ noticed that all the kids were under the age of 10 or not, but he played a lot of "Disney" songs...Crazy Frog and Chipmunks led the pack.) I didn't skate at all, and manned our video camera, but Michael did end up getting a pair of skates and cruised the rink with the boys. It worked out really well to have him out there, to help some of the kids who didn't know how to skate so well.

At the end of the session, the boys were all sweaty and disappointed that the session was coming to an end. Some of the parents came to pick up their boys, and some of the kids were to ride home with us. We loaded up our Durango to the fullest, and headed over to Wendy's to grab some lunch with the boys riding with us. We took up 3 tables at Wendy's (could have fit into 2 - but who wants their parents sitting with them when they're out with their friends?), and thanked God for the dollar menu! We all ate, and the boys giggled all their way through lunch. After lunch, we again loaded the Durango with boys, and started the bus route to take everyone home. During the ride, we heard lots of jokes about body functions, and lots of silly noises to go along with the jokes. I was personally relieved to hear that other people's boys joke like this too. :) I do have to say, however, that the boys have done an extremely good job picking out friends. All of their friends are very nice boys, and it was enjoyable to spend time with them all.

After dropping off the last boy, we headed over to a cell phone store to change over our cell phone plans. We've been talking about it for some time, and decided that now was a good a time as any. After spending a few hours at the cell phone store - picking out phones, setting up a new plan, and asking tons of questions, we all walked out with new phones. Michael's phone is by far the most fun - he got an iPhone. :)

That evening, Michael and the boys ended up going over to our neighbor's house for a game night. They had lots of fun playing Rock Band for the first time. I enjoyed my quiet evening to myself, setting up my contacts in my new phone, and watching my cheesy VH1 shows. :)

We all went to bed last night extremely tired, but extremely happy. It was a truly wonderful day spending time together as a family, and watching the boys with their friends. If we did have that marble jar, I'd have to pick out the most colorful marble to describe the day. A marble that made you smile to look at it, because that's how I felt at the end of the day. It was a great day!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another day at the doctor's office....

As most of you know, Jake has a rather large birthmark on the back of his head, called a strawberry hemangioma. All through his years, the doctor has taken a "wait and see" approach to treating it. Generally, these types of birthmarks disappear by the time the child is 9-11 years old. We've kept our hopes up for some time that this would be the case for Jake, but unfortunately, it hasn't.

Over the last few months, he's developed a sore that just won't heal. We kept hoping that it'd go away, but it's been stubborn. After a second sore developed, Michael and I decided it'd be a good idea to take him into the doctor again, and have it looked at one more time.

I took Jake in to see our family doctor on Thursday. The doctor took a look at the sore, and determined that it's probably a result of his birthmark being nicked each time he brushes his hair, and has gotten slightly infected. He prescribed some antibiotics to clear up the infection. While looking at the birthmark, he asked me if we'd be willing to look into the possibility of having the birthmark surgically removed. He said that we've been watching it for 10 years now, and it hasn't gotten any smaller. Jake is a bit older now, and could handle a surgery a bit better than he would have before. I told him that we'd be willing to talk to a surgeon about it, and we were scheduled for a consultation with a plastic surgeon here in Cedar Rapids this morning.

Jake was extremely happy to hear that he might have the birthmark removed. It's been bothering him for quite some time now - and he's done with it. He's tired of having to work around it with his hair, wear a bigger hat size, and answer questions when people get a glimpse of it. He's really been expressing to me these last few days his true feelings about dealing with his birthmark. The bottom line is - he hates it!

We went in to see the plastic surgeon this morning. The doctor was very friendly, and very engaging with Jake. He took a look at the birthmark, and determined that it was something he hasn't dealt with enough in his career, and would be more comfortable if we had someone from the University of Iowa Hospital take a look at it. He wanted to make sure that we have the best people working on Jake, and the best resources. He predicted that they're going to want to run a CT scan - just to make sure that the birthmark is only affecting the surface of Jake's head. He thought he felt an indentation in Jake's skull - the result of constant pressure from the birthmark as Jake's skull developed. We're not sure what that means, or what - if any - action will be necessary to correct it.

We have an appointment at the University on October 31st for another consultation with a plastic surgeon. We'll know more about what we're looking after that appointment. This will be a journey for us - as we've never dealt with surgery for either boy. Please pray for wisdom for us, for this whole experience. We want to do what's best for Jake, and make the right decisions as to which path to take on this.

On a funny note: We were finishing up with the plastic surgeon this morning, and he was joking with Jake quite a bit. He asked Jake what he was going to be when he grows up. Jake told him, "I don't know what I'd want to do".

"You could be a plastic surgeon when you grow up!" the doctor told him, with a smile.

"Naw," Jake replied. "I don't do too well with knives and people."

Smart man!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Home Studio

I spent this afternoon upgrading my home studio.

I bought some linoleum at the local hardware store... I got the cheapest stuff they had... at only 39¢ per square foot, the 12' x 22' roll only cost $100. Per the suggestion from Mom (a professional that deals with all sorts of painting situations), I used Zinzer 1-2-3 primer to paint it white... ended up using 1.5 gallons to get it all covered with more than two coats.... hence, the picture at the right.

Not seen in the picture is the two 12' - 1x4 boards that I used to secure the linoleum at the top. I stapled the linoleum on one board and then stapled the two boards together (with an air-nailer - not a little wimpy stapler) to sandwhich the linoleum between the boards.

The end result it pretty cool.

The picture shown here is only lit with a shop light... once I get everything setup, the studio lights will really sweeten the shot. Plus, my tired and sweaty mug won't be messing up the shot.

It's exciting... now the room actually feels like a real studio. The hooks are still right above the board on the wall so I can hang my muslin backdrops (my favorite: BLACK).

Next project: our family photo
Due: next week