6 Things I’ve Learned in 6 Months

On April 26, 2015, the sun was shining and it was an exceptionally glorious spring day. Joe and I decided to invite some friends over for a campfire by the lakeshore.  Joe left with our 3 oldest children, Vince (9), Liv (7), and Ava (4) at about 2:30 to enjoy some fresh air and prepare a  spot for a fire.  I stayed home preparing some food and allowing baby Violet to nap.

At 4:30, I was about to drive the 4 miles to the location when Joe called or texted me to bring some rakes to level some sand. I gathered them, answered a phone call and then started to drive there.  I was half-way there when Joe called in a panic and said Ava had been hurt.  He had buckled her in the backseat of our John Deere Gator, went about 200 yards (which included a slight curve), looked back, and she wasn’t there.

A lot transpired in the next week, and the most life-changing news was that Ava had avulsed 4 of the 5 nerves that provided motor function and sensation to her right arm.  To read more details, I encourage you to scroll through my blog as I’ve given a lot of detail previously.

Ava getting out of the car for physical therapy today. We work on scars and range of motion (stretching her flaccid arm as high above her and holding it there for her). We also keep her shoulder taped into a position it should be, with less sagging.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

1.  Feeling guilty is like saying God isn’t sovereign over the world.  Some people are involved in huge accidents and walk away unharmed.  God’s plan for Ava is way different.

Ava was right-handed but not anymore! Doctors have never seen full recovery in a patient but we are told that with hand function — even a little is a lot. In this photo, Ava is working hard to develop finger strength and dexterity in her left hand.

2.  I need to always trust my ‘momma’s gut’ and keep asking questions and getting second and third opinions until what I’m hearing makes total sense.

3.  There is a HUGE difference between someone saying “Let me know if you need anything” (which I always used to say, but don’t anymore) and “I am available this Tuesday from 5:00-6:30. How can I help?”.

Now, I always notice how kids always play with both hands. Ava has adapted by using her feet, teeth, and knees to hold things.

4.  When one family member changes a bunch, everybody else changes at least a little.  Vince seems more aware of danger always. Liv has grown in compassion beyond imagination. She now wants to grow up to be a teacher AND a therapist.  Violet, my little car seat warrior, has flourished in her youngest child role of comic relief.
5.  Ava has an amazing ability to adapt.  Kids just figure out a way.  At preschool, all of the kids were beginning to clap along to a song and a kid sitting next to Ava looked over at her and said “Now, how are you going to do this?”   She just looked at him and clapped her hand on her thigh.  It is interesting how much of her adaptions come without instruction.

6.  Kind people are everywhere.  I think sometimes we get caught up in thinking that people are against us, pointing out our mistakes and judging us.  Like the world is out to get us. Instead, immediately following Ava’s accident and up to this day, thousands of family, friends, and strangers have taken the time to have a conversation with God about Ava. I don’t cry very much about Ava anymore, but the thought of this always bring tears to me eyes.  People are much more kind and caring than you believe.  Sometimes it just takes a really big something for you to see that.

My blog had grown in leaps and bounds in the past 6 months.  Thank you. I would completely give my writing up if somehow I could trade it in for Ava’s nerves, but like I said, that’s not how God works.  Putting my thoughts down in this form brings me peace.  Although our accident was farm-related, we still gladly raise our children on the farm and believe that the opportunities given by caring for animals and land outweigh the risks of future accidents.

Thanks for following the journey.

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Millimeter March

It has been 48 days since Ava’s brachial plexus reconstruction of nerve transfers and nerve grafts at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  That’s 48 millimeters of nerve growth, or about 1 3/4 inches.  

We are marching forward, one day at a time.  

I am often asked…”Can she use her arm yet?” Or “Did it work?”.   No, she can’t use her arm yet, but we are maintaining hope that it will work soon.  If her nerves grow as expected and hoped, she will be able to use her muscles around her shoulder in February.  This would allow her to lift her arm away from it’s resting position by her side.   In May, hopefully her bicep will have motor function to allow her to bend her elbow (like when you eat).    Hand function is the big question mark and they haven’t done nearly enough of the surgeries to promise anything, and we won’t know for 2 years.  It takes a lot of millimeters!

Never has a kid regained full use of an arm. There are so many functions and only so few nerves available.  For instance, as she is wired now, she will hopefully be able to bend at the elbow up to bring something up to her mouth, but will rely on gravity to bring it back down. I really think though, that even a little is a lot with a situation like this. 

 

Ava still wears her arm in a sling for preschool and playing outside, but otherwise jt just hangs like in this photo. The flashy pink brace she wears throughout the day has a metal wrist stay, which should help prevent her from breaking her wrist in a fall. The blue and pink kinesiotape is to try to prevent her shoulder from sagging.

 A goofy thing that happened recently heightened my awareness to an even greater degree of how intricately our bodies are made. We were on a long car trip and Ava woke up screaming in pain. Through her tears, she showed me that her left pointer finger was the cause. That’s on her working hand.  I think the pain was due to some reinnervation in that spot, as nearby nerves reach out to give sensation to an area that lost it when they rerouted her C7 during surgery.  The folks in Cincinnati think it was perhaps a similar sensation that caused Ava to chew on her thumb of her right hand a few weeks ago. All I know is it is always something new and more to learn about.  Oftentimes, near the time they expect reinnervation, they will start a kid on Gabapentin.  It is a medication that helps to ease the shooting pains that can best be described as the tingling when your foot falls asleep, only a lot more extreme.  I certainly would like to avoid that, but we will just take it a day at a time.  

A day at a time, a millimeter a day, right?

Ava is sporting the snazzy sunglasses they give you after an eye check-up. She very much needed a new prescription! Ava has preschool every morning (which includes some time being pulled aside for some one-on-one occupational therapy, school readiness and speech). She also has therapy at Prairie Rehab here in town 5 hours a week and music therapy (like fun speech therapy) once a week. i certainly need to be deliberate about lots of free time given her crazy schedule otherwise.

 Harvest is in full-swing.  Joe has been busy all day and into the night, for about a month.  He is finished with corn silage and everybody has been working hard on the soybean combining that should finish today.  We hire our manure pumping and that starts today.  So, it is just corn left to combine right?  (I am trying to pretend he will be home for supper regularily soon!). 

 

Kids hanging with some great friends while the feed pile is being made behind them.

 
So many caring people ask how I am. It brings tears to my eyes to know how many friends and even strangers pray for our family all the time. I am humbled by support.  I sadly gave up my responsibilities as leader of our local MOPS group and my girls are no longer in dance class. No sports this fall.  We are just so busy as is  and I need time to focus on fun times with all my children while in this stage of most things Ava. It gives me energy to know that I have lots to do, and am needed every day. Violet has started walking and talking. Vince is out living his dream of being in the field most nights. Liv tells me endless stories of second-grade happenings.  

Life is much different than it was last fall.  And yet, at the same time, much the same. I beg you to keep praying for rapid nerve growth, so that Ava’s nerves may get to her hand before the muscles forget what to do. For safety for not just Ava, not just my farmer, but all those working long hours this fall to bring in the harvest.