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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I literally waited 30 years for today!

Some will not understand the emotion behind this blog post, especially if you had good dental health growing up and are in way shape or form attractive in the facial department.  I was never blessed in either department.  We had an old horse dentist that came to our school when we were kids and I was so terrified of that man, that when his old nurse came to the classroom door I would pray that I would somehow be overlooked on the list.  When we would walk down the hallway beside the nurse I would often ask to go to the bathroom so I could retch.  When he finally stopped coming to the school I was overjoyed when I heard the news.  But he left me with a great fear of dentists that followed me well into my adult life.

It was literally not until I met Dr. Michael Nemec and his staff, in Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia when I was 26 years old that I could finally go and sit in his chair and not almost rip the arm off during a visit. It was because of him that I first had the nerve to go see an orthodontist in Halifax with the hopes that I could some day smile.  But the opposite happened, the "specialist" terrified me to death all over again as he said that the only way I was ever going to live pain free would be to have my jaw broken and extended(and then wired shut)....and at almost $10,000, he still would not make any promises, as he said the bone was rubbing on a nerve at the joint, and the surgery could make it worse.  My best friend, Tammy Kersten was with me that day, and she said I was white as a ghost when I came out of his office.  That was in 2003, ten years ago.

When I first moved to Fort McMurray, I scheduled my dentist appointments with Dr. Nemec when I went home, yes, he is that good.  But I knew I was going to have to find a dentist for the family out here, so the search was on.  I thought I had found a trustworthy one about two years ago, but after an emergency with Shayleen sent us to Dr. Brake's office, I knew I would be switching everyone to her immediately.  Dr. Brake was my new Dr. Nemec, and the kids loved her too, so it was good all around. I know people will laugh at me, but I sincerely had such a fear that finding someone you are that comfortable with is something that is to be treasured.

After she saw me to fix a filling that the last dentist had left in a mess, she casually asked if I had ever thought of braces.  I told her my story about the orthodontist from 10 years ago, and she said she knew another really good guy that came up from Calgary that I could go see for a consultation.  And she thought for sure he could help me.

By that time, my teeth were so crowded that they thought I might lose at least two in the front on the bottom.  They were pushed out so far that they were almost out and not even in my bite anyway.
It was May 28, 2012 when I met Dr. Kelly Brooke for the first time, and he did the following pictures that day.

Pretty bad, eh?  I was always the girl in the pictures that never smiled...if I agreed to a picture at all.  I was the girl who would keep her hand over her mouth if she started laughing while in a group.  And I was the girl who really did not smile all that much.  I am sure over the years people thought I was a stick in the mud, or bored, and I know others who said I was snobby.  Little did they know that I was just worried about my ugly teeth.

By the end of my first visit with Dr. Brooke, I knew that if there was ever a man that was going to make a real attempt at fixing my teeth, and who I would be comfortable with, it would be him.  But the cost was another worry, was I worth all that money, just for me?  It was finally Tim(hubby) that made the decision for me, and insisted that I do this for myself.  At first Dr. Brooke said it would take us any where from 18 months to two years to be ready to take the braces off.  But today, just 13 months later, it happened!

On the first round to the mirror, before they cleaned them up, I was kind of like, okay, they look better.  But when they cleaned the glue and gunk off and I went back for a rinse, I immediately started crying when I lifted my head and caught myself, my teeth, in the mirror.  And you know what?  I smiled...and then I cried some more.  And you know what else I did, without even thinking?  Sent Tim(hubby) a picture!  And I came home and set up skype....all things that others may not even think about.  But I have never once sent Tim a picture of myself in our 20 years thank you Dr. Nemec, Dr. Brake, and a special thanks to Dr. Kelly Brooke, you all have made me smile, and that was no easy task.  And it only took me 30 years!  And thanks to Tim, who goaded me, paid the tab, and  listened to me moan in pain and grumble about how embarrassing it was to have braces at 40.  And here I am today!  It will take some practice, but I am smiling!
And here is what the professional dentist pics look like.

And people will laugh for sure when they think of how I wouldn't smile all those years, but I will be these horrid pictures up.  But really, that is how excited I am with this change, and how grateful I am to all the people that helped to make it happen, I really never thought it was possible.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Off to Edmonton with our sick girl.

We entered week five of Shayleen's little life feeling a bit more confident.  She seemed to be less tense, and was even sleeping for an hour or two in a row through the first few nights.  But during the day Wednesday, she seemed to have a different scream when I was changing her, and I called Tim at work wondering if I should take her to the hospital.  But then she seemed fine again, and I thought maybe I was just being a paranoid, over protective mom.  She seemed to settle well that night, and fell asleep around 9p.m.  All of a sudden at 11p.m. I got up and told Tim I felt like something was wrong, but when I checked on Shayleen she was sleeping soundly, her breathing even.  It wasn't until when I touched her in the dark room that I realized there was something very wrong, she felt like she was on fire.  I whisked her off to the emergency room and waited for them to tell me what might be wrong now.  In the early morning hours a doctor said that the blood work results showed that her liver function numbers were a bit off, but that it was probably just a bug.  I called our pediatrician in the morning, and she said we could find out for sure there was nothing wrong with the liver by doing an ultrasound.  But Dr. James said it might not tell us anything, and it was not too pleasant since we had to not feed her for 8 hours.  But I was too scared that there was something wrong at that point, and said I would handle it.  We were unable to give the poor little thing a bottle after midnight that night, and I remember I arrived early at the hospital just in case we could get in sooner.

Unfortunately there was some kind of mix up, and they did not have paper work to do the ultrasound.  I stood at the desk and while I never cause a "fuss", I banged on the counter asking for a manager...I was very reluctant to go through another night of such torture, and it was so hard on poor little Shayleen.  Fate stepped in and a tech was going by at the same time and overheard, and felt pity for both of us, and said that they could straighten things out and get us in.  It was the same tech just 45 minutes later who called Dr. James and sent us to her office immediately after the ultrasound was done.  I called Tim from the parking lot, saying I hoped it was jaundice, or something simple, and I would call him back when I found out.

Dr. James had different news for us.  She said that Shayleen's liver was four times bigger than what it should be, and we would have to fly to Edmonton that same day and find out what was going on.  At that point they did not know why it was enlarged, but we would have to go to the Stollery in Edmonton to find out more.  I left the doctor's office and almost didn't know what to do next, my own two boys had never been in the hospital except for the occasional trips to emergency for a fall or one bad lung infection that Mitchell had once at age four.  And Edmonton seemed so far away when you have children still at home that needed me around.  I headed off to my sister-in-laws to see what they thought, and I remember when I called Tim back at work, all he asked was what time would we have to leave, he would arrange to leave early so he could drive us to the airport.  There was never any hesitation from either of us that we needed to be with her.

I had never traveled with a baby on a plane before, with the car seat and the bags of necessary supplies. And I had only been in Edmonton a few times, and never by myself.  I was asking the flight attendant how far the hospital was, and if there was someone who could help me get the car seat and all the bags to a cab.  As the flight was drawing to an end, the man across the aisle leaned over and insisted on helping me with my bags when we got off the plane.  Rich Krahn was flying back to Edmonton from Fort McMurray after being up here for work, and as we made our way to the baggage carousel he said he had two daughters of his own, and could not imagine one of them being sick.  He said the hospital was about 20 minutes away, and he would drive us.  My guard was immediately up, and I politely declined.  He knew I probably thought he was some kind of creep, so he called his wife and put me on the phone with her....she reassured me that he was just a really great guy and would love to help.  I will never forget his kindness, as he carried all our stuff to his van and helped me to get Shayleen buckled safely into her car seat.  I still don't know how much out of his way he went that night to safely deliver us to the emergency department at the Stollery, but the thought of his kindness stayed with me all these years, and fate again brought us together at a restaurant in Edmonton last summer!  I got to meet his beautiful daughters and wife, and thank him once again for showing strangers so much kindness.  It might not have meant much to him at the time, but for me starting this scary journey with this little baby, it gave me hope that I would not be alone.  Below is a picture of us running into each other at a restaurant after four years...we were there to celebrate our anniversary with the kids, and he was there for his daughter's a restaurant that he had never been at before.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Part two of how are lives changed with the addition of our little girl!

Before I start into the story today, I have to address an issue that has come up for us over and over again in the last few years, and try to explain our thoughts on a somewhat touchy subject.  It is not touchy for us, but some people have terrible anger towards Shayleen's birth mother.  While I can somewhat understand that people want to blame someone when terrible things happen...we will never "blame" her for anything that has happened to our little girl.  We will never speak ill of her, or disrespect her, she is a part of Shayleen, and I would like it if everyone else would respect that as well.  To make disparaging remarks about her, reflects on Shayleen, and believe me, she comes from a place of beauty.  Even though I love Shayleen with all my heart and soul I would never, ever have the ability to deny the fact that she has another mother.  She has another mother who loves her, who gave birth to her, and who will always be a part of our lives.  Some of the parts of the story today are very hard to talk about now, and I still hesitate even today to share it all.  But the reason I am sharing is that I have learned over the years that in sharing our stories someone can relate and find comfort in knowing they are not alone.  Unfortunately, when we were going through all this with Shayleen I had absolutely no one that could say they went through the same things....or if they did, they did not want to share because they felt an embarrassment of their situation.  I have talked to some professionals that wish I would share this story, while others seem unsure of what we should do.  My hope is that in sharing this, there is no "big, dark secret" that  our little girl feels ashamed of.  It is all simply something that happened to her and that she overcame.

So back to the story, when I left off I had realized that Shayleen was a part of my heart and I was wondering how everyone would react.  By Monday, when it was time to leave Shayleen was already having trouble breathing at times, was having small seizures and was barely eating.  It was not even a thought in our minds that she should be put in a car and driven down to Calgary on Highway 63 in the cold of the winter in the condition she was in.  We agreed that we would help her through withdrawal, and then other arrangements would be made after that.  Now, what is withdrawal like?  I have since found out that there are hospitals that keep babies that are born addicted in special units until it is safe for them to go home, but unfortunately Fort McMurray does not have such a unit.  A baby goes through withdrawal much as an adult does, but since their bodies are so little, it seems much more violent and intense.  And of course, depending on the types of drugs, or alcohol the mother used, the withdrawal symptoms can vary from baby to baby.  The length of the withdrawal also varies depending on the drugs, and I believe, pure luck.  I have heard of some babies that had hardly any symptoms, others that have died or been hooked up to feeding tubes and respirators for months and even years.

Shayleen had an intense withdrawal.  She hardly slept for the first four weeks, she seemed to be in pain at different times, did not feed well(it would be a lot to get her to drink a full ounce at a feeding), she had seizures, stopped breathing many times and screamed like she was in agony for hours.  We are still finding out the long term effects of what happened to her, but during those first few weeks, we had never, ever dealt with anything like that before, and I can remember some nights being absolutely terrified.  I would sit over her bassinet on the bad nights when she fell asleep and listen to her breath.  I can remember getting an "angel monitor" that we put under her while she slept, and it would be going off so many times through a night that I would just get up and sit with her instead.  Her little body would be so tensed up and tight some nights that you could tell she was in terrible pain, and there was nothing we could give her.  I would walk and hold her for hours and hours, trying to find a comfortable position to help her relax and let her little body get some rest.

And I will be the first to say, during those weeks I had the thoughts in my head that I was too old to be a new mother again, Tim and I were both almost 36, and since we did not know what we were doing half the time we were stressed out that we were doing something wrong, missing something, or would hurt her just because of our lack of knowledge about her condition.  Even the doctors that we went to see had no cases to compare her to, so they would admit that they were guessing about what might help in some situations as well.

It was truly four of the most intense weeks that our family had ever gone through at that point(ironically we would do it again over the years because we now had some experience in the situation).  We were all lacking sleep, our emotions were all over the place and we were not all admitting to each other how we all felt about Shayleen.  I found out within two weeks or so how the boys felt.  One night when I was up on the couch with Shayleen and she had fallen asleep in my arms, the two boys, Mitchell and Nathanial came to sit on either side of us.  It was a scene out of a movie as they sat down and asked if they could tell me something.  A little part of me wondered if they were going to say that they wanted to sleep, and that the baby was too much to handle.  I had a guilt already because she was taking up so much attention and energy, and they may have resented that?  Luckily we have been blessed with amazing children in our lives, and they both sat down that night, with worry of their own, because they wanted to tell us that they did not want Shayleen to leave.  They had a fear of their own, that the little girl that they had fallen in love with might suddenly be removed from our lives.  I could not reassure them yet, but I told them that as long as she needed a place we would keep her.  Below is a picture at about the week three mark, we were so proud because she was starting to be more alert and was opening both eyes well.  Looking back now, I realize I was not seeing how puffy she was at the time.

Little did I know that week five would bring something so terrifying that it still makes me feel physically sick when I think about what would happen next.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Memories, and big cries.

I thought that my heart might break a few weeks ago, and wrote about the pain of having our latest foster child moved.  Little did I know that just a few days after that my world would shift and I would almost completely forget about our sadness.  For those who know us, you know that my Tyler was in a horrible accident at work, and remains in the hospital in Edmonton.  I really am not ready to write about that experience yet, and I will of course talk with Tyler about ever writing about it at all.  But being with him there brought up so many other memories, and I thought I was strong enough to finally write about those.  I think that it will take a lot to share this story, so it may be in a few instalments, much like when I wrote about when I had my bone marrow transplant.

Four and a half years ago our little girl Shayleen came to us on a cold winter day in February.  I have often debated discussing all that she had wrong with her, and felt like I did not want her to grow up thinking that she had an ugly beginning to her little life.  Believe me, it was not like that at all.  She was born on a Friday night, and she came home with us on Saturday morning, and it was only suppose to be for the weekend.  Our youngest son, Nathanial was 10 years old at the time, and when we had talked about fostering we had thought that we were done with babies, and did not have any supplies, crib or even the knowledge any more to be the parents that a newborn baby would thrive with.  But after a few phone calls to Tim at work, we figured we could handle taking a brand new baby for just the weekend, couldn't we?

I will never forget arriving at the hospital, and there were five or six nurses sitting around the main desk, all with babies in their arms, and I immediately honed in on one that was holding the tiniest baby there, who had a huge tuft of black hair sticking up from the top of her head.  "Is that one mine, " I asked?   "If you are Verna Murphy, then she is all yours," responded the nurse.  As I tried to position her in the car seat the nurse passed me a huge stack of papers saying that the check lists on the sheets would help me through the next few days.  I thought she meant that the papers would provide a woman who had not changed a diaper in a few years with all the facts that I would need about formula, bum rashes and how to deal with sleepless nights.  I would hardly need the material anyway as it was only going to be two nights.  Off me and the two boys went with our new baby in tow to Wal-Mart to grab the essentials that would carry us through the adventure that would be the weekend.  I had been texting my sister-in-law Michelle earlier in the day, with no clue of how our lives were going to change, so imagine her surprise when I called from Wal-Mart asking what I would need for a new baby.  She had just had a son a few months previous, so she quickly told me of some of the things that came to her mind that I would need.

We were like pioneers in uncharted territory when we got Shayleen home and unwrapped her and sat down to look her all over.  We did it again when Tim came home from work, and we set up a little bassinet that seemed huge to the tiny little bundle it was holding.  Saturday night passed pretty uneventfully, but I admit, it felt so funny being woken up on Sunday morning by a crying, hungry baby.  Sunday, March 1 is another date that I remember because it was another day that my life changed forever.  During that day I realized that this precious little thing was struggling with something that I had never dealt with before, and that would cause me such great anxiety over the coming weeks that when I think about it now, I really don't know how I functioned as well as I did considering the stress, lack of sleep and total worry that seemed to envelope me.  By the end of that Sunday I knew two things for sure, our little girl was going through drug withdrawal, and I had to some how convince Tim that she was not leaving our house the next day as we had planned.  As I spent that first Sunday night dancing with our little girl in the kitchen, as I had done in other kitchens with our two boys I can remember at one point completely bawling my eyes out as I realized how much I loved this precious little girl, and was ready to protect her and hold her and treasure her for the rest of her life.  Seldom in my life had I felt such powerful love for another human being so instantly, except for our boys of course.  But would Tim feel the same way?  And what about the boys?  We had all said two nights, and now I was changing the deal.  Below is a picture of Nathanial holding Shayleen on her very first night at home.