Monday, August 1, 2022

3 Big Events All In One Week

Here it is the first day of August and one thing is certain: last month was a busy one! Both Faith and I had some important appointments, plus she had her 6-month evaluation for her day program. It's so hard to believe she's been there for half a year already.

Faith at the Sock Hop at her day program

The Day Program is one of her favorite things in the world. She loves going and I'm so glad they love having her there. She is a bright light and full of joy wherever she goes. She is also full of encouragement, which I believe is one of her God-given gifts! But besides going to her day program and therapy, Faith had some other major events - all of which take place the last week in July!

Big Event #1: Our First Baseball Game

The first was attending our first-ever Bismarck Larks baseball game. We didn't just attend, though. We both got to go on the field where she placed the ball on the mound and then announced into a microphone, "Play Ball!" This opportunity came about through Kids in Motion, where Faith goes to therapy twice a week. They had asked if she wanted to take part and she exclaimed, "Yes!" 

My contact person from the Larks told me I would get 4 free tickets in accessible seating. It ended up working out so that my sister, her husband, and one of their sons (who plays baseball) were going to be coming up from Nebraska so they were able go to the game with us! 

At the ballpark, while making our way to the entrance, I was totally surprised when a Larks fan saw Faith and took off his jersey and gave it to her! I couldn't believe his kindness and generosity! We then found our contact guy, found my sister and her family, and then went onto the field near third base by the team's dugout to get our directions on what to do. 

Faith had to go to the pitcher's mound, deliver the baseball, and then go back to our spot by the dugout while they sang the National Anthem and made team introductions. After that, I had to wheel her back to field. The guy with the microphone explained to her that he was going to count down from 3 and then she was could yell, "Play Ball." She was so excited though, that she didn't wait until the countdown was done! 

Hanging out with the Graffs on the field before the game.

Faith got to put the ball on the mound!

Afterwards, we made our way to our seats. We had never gone to a baseball game together and I honestly didn't think she'd make it through all 9 innings. She totally surprised me by maintaining her enthusiasm until the very end! It helped that the Larks were winning and there was a lot of music, dancing, and cheering. Plus, the Larks mascots came by quite often, giving her a high-five every time.

I have to say I was totally impressed with every aspect of the Larks organization. Not only was the accessible seating in a good spot, but everything was completely accessible. Even the little gift shop had a temporary ramp placed over the door's threshold so I could roll Faith in there. Besides Faith, there was another little girl with special needs who, with the help of her sister, got to make her way around the entire baseball diamond in between innings. I really liked their show of support for the special needs community. 

Having a ball!

Faith loved Merrifeather Lewis!

Faith and Preston in their "22" Larks Jerseys.

Preston getting an autograph.

After the game the entire team stuck around to give autographs. Faith got one autograph while her cousin went all out and had every player autograph the jersey he had tried so hard to win! It was a really fun evening and the weather was perfect at just 78 degrees. Right after the game, we headed home and got ready for the next day.

Big Event #2: Botox Injections at the Hospital 

Despite needing to be at the hospital at 8:30 a.m., Faith wasn't actually in the operating room until 10:30. One part of the delay was getting the right size sling for the lift to transfer her from her chair to the hospital bed. As they were getting her into the sling and then getting her hospital gown on, it was all I could do to jump in and do it for them. I had to remind myself that this was their job! 

Faith has had Botox in the past but it didn't seem to last very long for her. Also, at that time, she wasn't put under for it, so it ended up being a very traumatic experience every time she did it. I just wasn't sure it was worth putting her through all that trauma and then not gaining very much from it. 

Her physical therapist, however, strongly recommended that we try it again to see how she responded. It was her hope that she would be able to tolerate her foot orthotics for longer periods of time. Plus, it would allow them to work more with her legs in order to increase strength and range of motion. I was hoping it would also help her be more comfortable in general.

Faith at Kids In Motion with some of her OT/PT team

Faith with her favorite nurses for her History and Physical the week before her procedure

 The procedure itself took just over an hour. When I went to the recovery I could tell she didn't feel well and asked the nurse if she had thrown up. She said she did a little bit but they were able to suction it out of her mouth. I was a little surprised she got sick, especially considering how well she had done last summer when she went under for her dental work. But I also knew that considering where she was in her monthly cycle, it was normal for her to experience some nausea around this time of the month. 

It took her a while to fully wake up. They kept her there a little longer just because of her nausea plus her blood pressure was a little low. Finally, though she was able to go back to her room. Things looked promising when she ate some graham crackers and drank some juice. After checking her vitals three more times, they said she could get discharged. This time there was just one nurse and she was pretty busy so I said I could get her dressed. 

We got home around 2 in the afternoon. I tried to do a very watered down feeding at a slow rate to see how she did. She immediately became nauseous again. She told me she wanted to get out of her chair and sit with me on her bed. 

I think part of the issue was that she was feeling sore where they had done the four injections. I tried to talk her into laying down with me, but she refused, most likely because her tummy was upset. So we sat on the bed together for over an hour. I just sat in the most comfortable position I could and rocked her in my arms. She even fell asleep for about 10 minutes. 

She eventually seemed better and wanted to sit back in her chair. I gave her water through her tube and had her drink some juice from a straw. Later that evening, she asked for a feeding and I knew she was past the worst of it. Before going to bed, she asked if she was going to her day program tomorrow, and I told her she could. The doctor had told her she could back into her normal routine the next day. 

After sleeping for 10 hours, I was surprised when she woke up and didn't want to go to her day program. She said, "I just don't want to chance it." I knew she was afraid she was going to throw up again so I told her if she's not up to it then she could stay home. We just laid low all day and didn't do too much because the next day we had a very special dinner to attend.

Big Event #3: Grandpa and Grandma's Belated Anniversary Dinner 

My parent's 50th Wedding Anniversary was actually on June 3rd, which was just 2 days after my dad had partial knee replacement surgery.  Thankfully, he did very well with the surgery but it meant he would need to spend a majority of the summer doing physical therapy and recovering. 

My sisters and I thought maybe we could do something at the end of summer or in the fall. But it turned out that most of the family would be here the last weekend in July so we figured we should try to do something then. We kept it a secret until just a few days prior. They were both very surprised and appreciated the effort we had put forth. 

Grandma and Grandpa celebrating 50 years of marriage!

Many family members were able to celebrate with them.

Faith with Grandma, Grandpa, and some of her cousins.

Both of us had such a nice time!

Some of Faith's favorite girls in the world!

And her uncle, too, of course!

Faith and Grace (our amazing waitress who is also Grandma's favorite barista!

Faith's goals for the evening were to deliver Grandma and Grandpa's gift and get as many hugs from her cousins, aunts, and uncles as possible (see video below). As an added bonus, her Auntie Dawn gave her some monster cookies she had made just for her.

After all of that activity, she was still ready for church the next day. Shortly after getting home from her church, her aunt and cousins stopped over to say goodbye on their way back to South Dakota. And finally, our busy week had come to a close. I think we're both ready to get back to our regular routine and not have anymore major events for a while!

We hope everyone has a great rest of the summer!

Thursday, June 30, 2022

One Year Ago: My Trip to Mayo

Today I thought it was quite fitting that on my one year anniversary of my new pacemaker, I was wearing a 24-hour Holter monitor! It's not because I'm having any issues with my pacemaker. Instead, I'm just preparing for my upcoming cardiology appointment next month. 

Thankfully, my cardiologist from Mayo comes here to Bismarck, so I don't have to make the 1,000-mile round trip again! By the way, isn't amazing how small these Holter monitors are nowadays? I remember having to wear much larger ones that could not be hidden very easily, plus it was hard to sleep being attached to a big clunky machine. Last night, I hardly even knew this little one was there!

I got my original pacemaker in August of 1999 but because the lead was getting old, my cardiology team wanted me to get a new one. It was last year on this day that I was recovering from the procedure. It still bends my mind how God took care of every single detail and that I had found enough people to look after Faith for the five days (and four nights) that I was gone.

I am still incredibly grateful for all those who stepped up to look after her. I'm also thankful my sister was able to take me there. Faith still talks about it like it just recently happened. She often mentions that her aunt and little cousin stayed with her a couple of nights and how patient she had to be. 

She also talks about how our friend Mandi looked after her, and she even had her kids and husband come over to visit. I don't know what I would have done without her as she came every morning to relieve the overnight staff and get Faith out of bed. She even sent me a picture of Faith every day!

Faith had loads of fun while I was gone!

Faith told me when Grandma and Grandpa were here, Grandpa did his crossword puzzle and then took a nap. (It's just funny which details she remembers!) There was also the respite care staff who stayed over a couple of nights and also a few other friends who helped out. She will truly never forget it. Most of all though, I think she is proud of herself for getting through that time and being so mature. It helped that I got to talk to Faith every day and even did a couple of video chats with her, which she loved.

Even though it was for a medical procedure, my sister and I made the best of it and had plenty of laughs along the way. Especially when on the way home our sister was heading back from a work trip and we managed to catch up to her on the Interstate, which you can see in the video below!

The double rainbow we spotted just as we crossed into Minnesota

After driving in the dark (and rain) through the Cities, we were very thankful to reach our comfy hotel room.

Our hotel was conveniently located just across the street from where I would be having my procedure. This is also where I had my last open heart surgery in 1999 and my original pacemaker implantation.

Taking the shuttle from our hotel to the downtown campus for a day of medical tests.

Hanging around waiting for the last appointment of the day.

My sister even was able to get some work done!

After a long day, we were able to eat at our favorite restaurant in Rochester!

Me after my procedure...I was just a tad groggy!

Grateful that things went so well!

After a night in the hospital and an extra day recovering, we were ready to hit the road again!

Who is that ahead of us on the Interstate? Let's find out!     

Tired but happy sisters reunited in Bismarck!

Grandma is there too, and Faith is super excited to have us all there!

Hopefully it will be awhile before I need to go to Mayo again for a medical procedure. If I do though, I know God will provide and Faith will be well looked after!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Faith's "Best Party Ever!"

When I had asked Faith a while back what she wanted to do for a graduation party, she told me, "a day at the park." 

I knew it was a little risky planning an outdoor event in North Dakota (even in May). It wasn't all that long ago we still had snow on the ground. Also, it had snowed a tiny bit and the temperatures hovered around freezing just the weekend before. 

I planned for the park anyway and prayed for perfect weather. I figured if it was cold or rainy we could move the event indoors somewhere. I am so glad we didn't have to do that, though, because the park was a great place to have Faith's graduation open house. I wasn't anticipating, however, just how perfect it was going to be. 

The weather was absolutely perfect without any humidity or more importantly, without any wind. Even when it did rain for a brief spell, it came straight down and we stayed dry underneath the shelter. The cake was the perfect size and was all eaten up (along with the extra dozen cupcakes I had bought). We also had the perfect amount of food. But it was all the guests that had made Faith's day even more perfect. 

Everyone knows how social Faith is, and so she had a blast socializing with everyone. I think she also had fun anticipating who was going to show up next. Some of her friends took her for walks, which is really loved as well. Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of everyone, but here are just some of the people who came to share her special day with her.

Thankful for the family members that were able to attend!

Faith with me, my sisters and one of her "little" cousins!

Faith with some wonderful friends of ours!

Faith's ballet-dancing/Inspire friends!

Faith with another wonderful family from Inspire!

Faith with some of our church family!

A few of my cousins joined us, and yes, Brett really did ride his bike!

The first respite care provider Faith ever had even showed up!

And one of her present respite care providers - who I am forever grateful for!

Faith and a good friend with more family in the background.

Super happy to see one of our former case managers!

Everyone was thrilled to see my college roomie and some of her family!!!

So glad everyone had such a nice time eating and visiting! 


Thankful my sister was able to fly in from Nebraska!

My great nephew having fun with balloons!

As Faith said, it was "the best party ever!" I am so grateful for all the love and support she received. People truly blessed her with their presence, cards, and gifts. She also received several cards from those who couldn't make it, as well as some beautiful flowers from my brother and his family in South Dakota who couldn't be there. It really was the perfect day! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Historic Blizzard Keeps Us Stuck Inside All Week

A snowy Century Ave.
Last Tuesday at this time, most of North Dakota was getting blasted with a historic blizzard that lasted 3 days. We have experienced blizzards before, but this was probably the worst most people in the state had ever gone through. For me, it brought back memories of the catastrophic blizzard that occurred at the beginning of April in 1997. At that time, I lived in Fargo. 

What made that storm so bad is that many parts of the state had already received 100 inches of snow throughout the winter. That wasn't the case this year, as the central and western parts of the state have had severe drought conditions. While most people were thankful for the moisture this blizzard brought, it didn't come without its challenges (especially for the ranchers who were in the midst of calving).

The good news is, the storm was not unexpected. As a result, people could make preparations in advance. The most I needed to do to prepare was make sure we had plenty of groceries and that Faith had all the supplies she needed to make it through at least a week. I couldn't run those errands, however, because our van was in the shop (it had a leak in the EVAP system).

My dad came to the rescue and drove me around so I could run my errands. The last stop I made was the grocery store. The store was jam packed and a lot of the shelves were bare. Everyone seemed to be preparing for the Apocalypse instead of a major snow storm! Even though there was no snow yet, schools and businesses were already closing. I knew Faith would not be going to therapy or her day program the next day. She took the news surprisingly well. I have tried to instill in her that there are three things that can cause plans to change: the weather, sickness, and car trouble (or elevator trouble in our case!) 

Sure enough, early Tuesday morning, we were covered in a sea of white and it didn't quit snowing and blowing until Thursday night. Finally on Friday, the snow stopped long enough for people to start digging out with their snow plows, snow blowers, and shovels. My dad used his Bobcat to clear out their yard and on Friday he and my mom were able to pick up my fixed fan. Our parking didn't get clear until late that night so they brought the van here on Saturday. 

Faith had been doing well through most of this, but I could tell her patience was coming to an end. She was also getting anxious because she did not want to miss church on Sunday. And we didn't, despite the fact we had gotten more snow earlier that morning and the wind had picked up. Our once cleared parking lot was once again filled with snow. I wasn't sure I was going to make it out of our parking spot, but I did! (Thanks to the van being backed in and the all-season tires). The roads weren't the best, but we made it safely to church and back. When it was all said and done, Bismarck got over 20 inches of snow, beating the previous record for the snowiest April ever. North of us, Minot got 36 inches of snow. It was definitely an Easter to remember for us and others across the state.

Faith is a super happy camper today because she got to go back to occupational therapy and her day program. But alas, another storm is on the way. I better start preparing for that one!

Century Avenue is eerily quiet on the first night of the blizzard.

Our parking lot on Thursday afternoon.

My dad trying hard to stay on top of things at his place.

Phew! We made it to church on Easter Sunday!

A car we passed on the way back home.

The blizzard isn't going to stop us from hitting Caribou Coffee - it's back there somewhere!

Coming in to our plowed parking lot.
Bismarck's snowiest April ever!

Faith is super happy the blizzard is over!