About every three months, our dog runs away from home. Coincidentally, every three months, the battery in his invisible fence collar runs dry. AND, every three months, I forget to change the battery. With these facts in hand, Napoleon the 70 pound Golden Retriever disappeared between 9-11:00 AM Saturday morn. This always adds extra stress to the Prater household because Will takes it very hard. He always cries and we always tell him default answer: "It'll be OK, we'll find him."
I began searching for Napoleon at 11:45 by driving slowly up and down each street in our neighborhood, scanning every porch, driveway, and fenced in area for any sign of him. I really hate looking for him because I always feel like people are looking at me as if I'm a burglar casing for my next plunder. Anyway, I always try to stop and ask people that I see out, if they've seen a big golden ball of energy rumbling around the neighborhood. Sadly, I struck out on Saturday... and then again on Sunday...
Last night before bed, Will started crying because he missed his "Doggy". I told him that if he wanted Napoleon to return, he needed to go in his room and say a little prayer that God will send him back to us. Through his tears, he said, "OK" and retired to his room. About thirty minutes later, he came back into the living room and told Marci and I that he had said a tiny little prayer for Napoleon. I told him that was great, but deep down, we both doubted that the dog would ever show up again.
This morning I called the local Pound to see if anyone had reported our dog to them, but as you can imagine, I struck out their too. Then, at 12:05, my phone rang. Marci was on the other end and told me how two girls had showed up at our door and asked if we were missing a Golden. They went on to tell her how they knew we had one because he barks at them every time they walk by and they thought they saw him about a block away from our house. I rushed home just after the girls had gone up the street and brought Napoleon home! It seems that our dog had spent the weekend with some neighbors that live about a block away.
As you can imagine, Will was ecstatic! And this was a perfect time to show him how God answers prayers. I took Will by the hands and asked him if he prayed for Napoleon. He told me that he had prayed that Napoleon would come home and he did. I then went on to say that God loves to answer prayers. Will was smiling from ear to ear and he simply said, "I Know!!!".
What a great lesson for Will that God answers prayers and that He answers them on His time. What a great lesson for Marci and I... Oh We of Little Faith!
Monday, March 31, 2008
About every three months, our dog runs away from home. Coincidentally, every three months, the battery in his invisible fence collar runs dry. AND, every three months, I forget to change the battery. With these facts in hand, Napoleon the 70 pound Golden Retriever disappeared between 9-11:00 AM Saturday morn. This always adds extra stress to the Prater household because Will takes it very hard. He always cries and we always tell him default answer: "It'll be OK, we'll find him."
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
When I began this blog, I made a vow to myself that I would never discuss politics. Today, I break that vow, but I promise not to rant about any particular party and try to sway you one way or the other. Heck, by the end of this we may decide to form a new party altogether. So here we go...
I don't know about you, but my brain feels like it is being squeezed by the daily onslaught of rhetoric being spun by the potential presidential candidates. Its not that this is , its some new thing that I've just noticed. It's actually the usual for this time in the electoral cycle.
The problem I have that really makes my head hurt is that all of this political mumbo-jumbo makes me like all of the politicians really do think we are stupid, mindless people that are wandering through life carelessly. I also get the feeling that every candidate feels like they want to become our own personal savior that will step in and save the day by providing the vehicle that we can use for the Government to take care of us.
First things first, I have a savior and He is the ONLY one.
Second, I do not want my Government taking care of me, I can do it myself.
I doesn't matter if it's Obama, McCain, Clinton, or any of the others, every time I see them giving speeches on the TV, there numero uno topic is how they are going to solve all of our ills and fix things so that the Government can extend it's hand to all citizens and give them what they need. Everything that is currently being proposed such as increased aid to the poor, tax incentives to businesses, gasoline concessions, and of course universal health care all sound great, but doesn't anyone out there realize that all of them have one common denominator:
THEY ALL COST MONEY!!!
I don't know about you, but I am tired of all the spending that is going on already and is not working. And, I know that whatever "New" program that is implemented by whomever wins the election is going to steal more from the little box on my paycheck that feeds my family. There is already enough stolen and given away simply because of an entitlement attitude that has been bread into our culture through the redistribution of wealth that goes on everyday right in front of our eyes. So, if you think you are entitled to get something for nothing simply because you are an American, you are wrong and should be arrested for receiving stolen property. This stolen property is the money that I worked my tail-end off to provide for my family, it's not to be handed out to you!
So, I urge everyone to take a look at who's running and find out just what it is that each one of them wants to steal more of your money to spend on what they think are the magical cures for our country. Remember, these are the same people that put the lottery into action to save our schools... Just because they are running for President doesn't mean that they are smart enough to fix things. Anyone can throw money at a problem, even a monkey...
And one last thing, stop telling people they are going to hell for voting for one particular party! This actually happened to my Aunt at a bible study of all things. My Aunt is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat that firmly believes in her party, and it is her right (FREEDOM) to do so. You can imagine how she felt when a lady at the small group got onto the issue of politics and told everyone something to the effect of, "If you vote Democrat, you're going to hell because you support abortion, homosexuals...." and a whole other laundry list of items. This breaks my heart because it hurt my Aunt that has since dropped out of the small group. All I can say to this incident is
"...Lest Ye Be Judged..."
Finally, I just want some common since and not a bunch of promises of things the Government is going to give me, that I don't want in the first place. I just want my freedom. I want freedom to think for myself, take care of myself, and conduct myself in a manner that does not infringe on anyone else's rights to do the same. I want my sons to grow up free, with a promise of life, liberty, and happiness in which they will have to make decisions for themselves, and live with the consequences, both good and bad. I want them to prosper and I know that they will also have times of failure. But I don't want them expecting to get some Magical Government Bail-Out when things get tough. I don't want them to think they are entitled to anything!
I guess I've come to a junction in my life, or a three-way fork in the road where I have to decide on something. I've taken the left fork before when I came of voting age and registered as a Democrat simply because my Dad was one. After college, I took the right fork in the road and changed my registration to Republican after I found out I agreed more with the conservative policies. In the past 18 years of being voter eligible, I've seen the good and bad from both parties, and lately, it seems as though they've all gotten worse.
I recently filled out a new voter registration card and designated "Independent" as my party. I know that many would see this as a moderate, middle of the road kind of designation, but I do not. I see it like I'm sitting at the bus stop in the pouring rain, waiting for a bus load of friends going the same way that I am to stop and pick me up. I've already passed on the first two because they weren't going my way. Each bus driver told me I was entitled to a free ride, but I declined. But... Wait a minute... I see one coming from off in the distance... I just wish it would hurry up...
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I realize that I am very weird... I've known this all my life, and even been told this before, but today at approximately 8:11 AM, I admitted it to myself. During my morning commute, I was driving along and realized that there was a Jeep Wrangler like mine just ahead of me. Since we were in town, we ended up side by side at a red light. While I was sitting there, I looked over at the other Jeep and started taking inventory of the differences between it and mine.
Mine's red / His is green...
Mine has hard doors / His has the half doors...
Mine is a Sport Model / His is a Sahara...
Mine's cleaner / His is dirty...
Mine has running boards / His doesn't...
Mine's licensed in Kentucky / His is Ohio...
Mine's better!!! / His Stinks!!!
IT'S GO TIME!!!!!
The light turned green and I floored it and sped off like a top fuel funny car driver. All the way to work, I kept checking the rear view mirror to make sure he wasn't gaining on me because, Dag-Gonnit I was going to WIN!!!!
This is the part that made me realize I was weird. It was when God spoke to me and asked:
WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO WIN? AND, WHY ARE YOU SO DEAD-SET ON WINNING IT (Whatever "IT" is)?
My answer to God: "I Don't Know for sure... But, I think is has to do with the way YOU wired us men!"
As you can see, I like to blame this sort of behavior on my competitive nature. BUT, I'm starting to realize that there is more to it than that. I know that when God created man, he created him in His image. I know from the recent miracle of my son Rylan that God loves to come through. And, he created man to "Come Through" also and be the hero. This is hardwired into our nature and was written on our hearts (Women are competitive too so don't think I'm being sexist, this s just a post about guy's egos). But when does our competitive nature fuel our egos? Obviously, it does it anytime we size up our opponent and set out to defeat them just like I defeated this other Jeep driver this morning.
The problem is, our egos can grow, and GRow, and GROW until they are unbearable to everyone around us. When this happens, it shows up at red lights and I've seen it rear it's ugly head most often at sporting events. But whenever it does, we have to be ready to realize it and squash it before someone wants to squash us. Because that's the other thing that a strong ego does:
And when this happens, you end up with two grown men rolling around slapping and kicking each other like little kids. AND, the few times I've seen this, I've felt the worst for the men's children that have a front row seat to the action. Of which, they will NEVER forget and it will become a part of them.
So, thanks be to God for giving me a reality check of my ego this morning. I wonder if he talked to the guy in the other Jeep and told him something to the affect of:
"Just ignore that idiot egomanic in the red Jeep, I'll take care of Him later."
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This morning, I realized that there are five very important meetings that I must attend if I plan on making through the day. Four I go to consistently and one that I neglect often. The sad thing is, the one I neglect is the one that is most vital to my existence and this morning, I finally realized it.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Just a quick note to say that both Mommy and Baby are doing great! Thanks for the continued prayers and the awesome emails I've received from so many of you. You mean the world to me and I appreciate your friendship!
The past week has been one of adjusting to a new baby. All you parents out there have gone through this self-training regime which includes learning feeding schedules, performing diaper checks/changes, and asking each other strange questions such as "Is he still breathing?" and my personal favorite, "Should we let him sleep or will he be up all night?" It's a strange time, but it's also a fun time...
Anyway, since I was off work all last week, Marci and I spent our time efforting through this list of baby stuff, along with watching a lot of basketball on TV. We watched about four different conference tournaments, saw our beloved Wildcats get sacked, and as you can imagine, we'd had our fill of basketball by Sunday. While searching the 177 channels for something else, we settled on the movie "The Legend of Bagger Vance". I had been wanting to watch it because it's about golf, but I soon became enthralled in the storyline because of it's spiritual undercurrent.
Matt Damon plays the part of an ex-golfing legend named Junuh that's lost his swing and pretty much gives up on everything in life. He has checked out from everything and everyone and turns his back on the world after a bad experience in WWI. Bagger literally materializes out of thin air and walks into Junuh's life one night. Long story short, Bagger guides and teaches Junuh how to get it all back. They go through ups and downs, highs and lows throughout and at the exact moment when Junuh decides he can't do it because he's not strong enough, Bagger tells him:
"Yes you can... but you ain't alone... I'm right here with ya... I've been here all along... Now play the game... Your game... The one that only you was meant to play... The one that was given to you when you come into this world... You ready?... Strike that ball Junuh don't hold nothin back give it everything... Now's the time... Let yourself remember... Remember YOUR swing... That's right Junuh, settle yourself... Let's go... Now is the time, Junuh..."
Parenting is hard.
Life is hard.
Being a child of God is hard.
We all face our share of trials and I've wanted to give up more than once and take the easy way out. When I look back on the times I've wanted to quit, I realize that those times were when I tried to do it on my own rather than with God. Just like Junuh was his own man, I could write another book about how pride has blinded me, and every other man on the earth. But then there's Bagger, calling to Junuh and letting him know that He's been with him since the day he was born, even if he didn't realize it. AND, there is no one else on earth that can do the job Junuh was picked (called) to do.
I don't know why things happen the way they do. But, after what Marci and I have faced lately, I realize that God's ways are higher than mine, and I can't comprehend them. I've also realized what suffering feels like. I've never hurt like I did the day Rylan died and was brought back by God as he guided the hands of the Doctors and nurses in the NICU. But I know that my pain that day was only a very small, pin point sized sample of the pain and suffering Christ endured for me.
Looking back on what I've refferred to as "The hardest day of my life", I now see that just like Bagger Vance was there with Junuh, the Holy Spirit was right there with Marci and I. He held our hand, cried with us, and guided the medical team as they saved our baby's life. He comforted us and took care of Will through this scary time. He never left us, not once.
Obviously, God has a big plan for Rylan and it's something he was born with that only he can do. And, the fact that our son Will saw these events unfold and will grow stronger because of them, has done nothing but reinforce the fact that he is also tabbed by God to play a big part in His plan. This foreshadowing of events in my son's futures makes me eager to see the whole game play out.
Now play the game Will and Rylan... Your game... The one that only you were meant to play...
Friday, March 14, 2008
We got the pathology report back--- NO CANCER!!!!!!!
Yet again, God comes through.
I guess the human fleshly nature keeps us doubting... Gotta' keep crucifying the flesh and to be more and more sanctified.
Thanks for your prayers!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Meanwhile back at the Ranch...
Rylan, Will, and I all spent the morning hanging out, watching cartoons, and changing poopy diapers. Rylan really is doing great and I am still praising God for his health. I am still in awe by the fact that two weeks ago, we were at our lowest of lows and facing the death of a child. But today, we are home with a normal happy baby that is eating like a pig, waking us up in the middle of the night, and of course making all kinds of cute noises and faces. I think my friend Roy Hooker summed it up when he sent me a text about how happy he was that Rylan was doing so well. He wrote the Psalmists words:
"Praise be to God from whom all blessings flow"
I'm praising him, we all are. Things are looking up... But when should I have ever doubted God? He always comes through in the end and saves the day. He is an awesome God, and there is nothing I can ever do to thank Him enough for all he has given to, and has trusted me with.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
When Rylan was born, our Doctor removed a large mole near the site of the C-Section. I hadn't really given the mole much thought, but Marci sure had. Several times during Rylan's time in the NICU, it was always in the back of her mind. For some reason, I guess woman's intuition that something was wrong with it, and obviously she was scared. I actually asked about it and was told that results would take at least two weeks because they always send moles off to some expert, mole lab place to be read by mole professionals, I guess. So we waited...
On Monday, I was sitting in our TV room with Rylan sound asleep on my chest when our friend Sarah called. She is our Doctor's PA and she was calling to check in on Marci's blood pressure. I told her that the BP was still up a bit, but to be honest, Marci was more concerned by the fact that we had not heard from the "Mole Experts" yet. She promised to call them and get a verbal and would call us back.
A couple of hours went by and she called. Marci answered the phone, it was Sarah. I heard Marci change from her usual bright, happy self, to a scared composure. When she got off the phone, she looked at me and said, "I HAVE CANCER". She immediately got up and dialed her mom. I put the baby down and went through the house after her. As you can imagine, she was a basket case and me being the man I am, was confused. I hugged her and she cried. I asked what did Sarah tell her and she told me the following diagnosis:
Atypical Displaysia with Margins of Melanoma
GOOD GRIEF!!! I thought to myself. What else could we face this week?
For the next half hour, Marci and I had a whole range of emotions. I'm not going to go to in depth here, but I can tell you we talked about everything from "What have we done to be punished like this?" All the way to the other side of the spectrum which even included death and the future. This was a very, very, very dark place that the enemy obviously used to his advantage.
All I could do was start praising God for what He had done for us in the life of our son, and how He's still on the throne and he's not leaving us anytime soon. But, the question always goes back to :
Marci's mom showed up in a little while, and we all talked about it. Marci was terrified, and I'd be lieing if I said I wasn't. I was afraid of what my wife might have to face which included everything from surgery to chemotherapy. A billion different thoughts and emotions ran through my head at light speed.
On Tuesday, Marci's mom took her to Eric's office while I watched the boys. Eric talked to her and explained it a little better. When she got home, she felt a little better about it, but knew that in the morning, she'd be having surgery.
This morning at 7:30, Eric removed 1cm of skin from the entire perimeter of where the mole was located. The outlook we were given is 99.9% chance of no other cancer will be detected in the excised skin. However, even if its only a 0.1% chance, we still worry, and will be for the next two weeks. So, I would really appreciate your prayers while we wait. I know and have personally witnessed miracle after miracle in the life of my son over the past couple weeks and I know that God will do one here too.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Anyway, there we stood by Rylan's crib staring at him. He still had the chest tubes, ventilator and all the other leads hooked up to equipment that beep, rang, and did all sorts of things that we didn't understand. As we stood there, we began to cry. All the emotions of Thursday came pouring back in and the heartache returned. We hurt so bad because he was so helpless and because of the sedation, lifeless.
I LOST IT...
I started weeping because I couldn't control it. I wanted him to get better and I even remembered saying "I wish he would just grab my hand!" I was hurting and Marci was agonizing with me. It was truly rock bottom and the worst thing about it was that I kept hearing the nurses behind me talking about everything from Girl Scout Cookies to what food their kids spit up while eating. I know it wasn't their fault that Rylan was sick, but I guess it hurt so much because their lives were going on just fine and dandy, while we seemed to be crawling on our bellies through a swamp.
We had to get out of there so we retreated to our room.
When we got there, we broke down. Thank God for Marci's mom that was there and gave us the voice of reason. She reminded us how all of the tests were coming back good and Rylan was getting better by the minute. We knew this was the truth, but we were so beat down and the Devil was hitting us hard with doubt and diminishment.
He was getting better by the minute! The problem was, it was like watching grass grow: You know that it is growing, but you just can't see it happening. We prayed together and calmed down a little.
Throughout the day, we had several visitors. It was nice to see friends come by that cared about us and our family. Along with visitors, good news kept pouring in. Rylan had another chest Xray that came back clear and also, his blood work was getting better and better. I'll never forget when Marci's nurse Jenny came in and told us that he's not fighting for his life, but he's mending. Things were looking up!
Later, I met with the Doctor. She told me that she hoped to be able to wean him from the vent and hopefully take him off of it in a few days. Actually, they clamped the chest tubes a couple hours after I talked to her, because Rylan no longer needed them. And, they had reduced his oxygen level to 21%, which is room air!
Saturday night was a long one. All night long, the loudspeakers kept going off in the hallways announcing that someone had coded. "Code Blue Heart and Vascular"... "Code Blue ICU"... "Code Blue ER"... and about three helicopter arrivals and departures made the nighttime anxiety levels rise. I don't think Marci, nor her mom slept a wink. I slept more than them, but was awake for the codes.
BUT, Sunday saw the dawn of a new day. We went to the NICU at 9:00 AM and saw Rylan. He still looked the same, but we now were much, much, much more optimistic. We talked to him, prayed for him, and left after about 30 minutes or so. Back at the room, we waited...
In the past few days, the nurses started becoming more and more concerned with how high Marci's blood pressure was staying. She never had hypertension until now. First of all, post pregnancy hypertension is normal and all of them kept telling us that it would come down. Also, with the stress we had been through, it was understandable. But when they took her BP on Sunday morning they said it shouldn't have been that high even if she had run up the stairs! Then, they took mine, and it was even higher. SO, the nurses put both of us to bed with cold rags on our heads and told us to calm down...
By 11:20 AM, I felt calm enough to go to the NICU. I went down and scrubbed in. The first person I ran into was the charge nurse that told me they had just finished doing a whole bunch of things to our son. This scared me, but she was smiling the whole time! When I got to his crib, I realized that the tubes were gone from his chest, and he was OFF THE VENT!!!! I shouted as I ran out the NICU and down the hall to tell Marci. She cried, I cried, everybody cried! We were on a high until they told us they were going to bottle feed him too. Then we got down. We knew that if he failed the bottle feed, we'd be off to somewhere for another scope.
At about 1:00 PM, the Doctor came in and told us that Rylan had taken 20cc's of a bottle and did fine! Again I shouted!!! She told us she would keep feeding him ever four hours and monitor him. For the rest of the day, he did great on the bottle and things were really looking up for sure.
But, Monday dawned with Marci's blood pressure still out of sight. She was averaging around 170/110 and at about 3:00 PM she got very sick with headache and vomiting. They took her for a catscan and gave her medicine. Now, I was more worried about my wife than my baby!
We had already stayed two extra days while they monitored the blood pressure, and it looked like we'd be in another night. I worried about her blood pressure but the catscan came back fine. But most of all, I was worried about leaving the hospital without our baby and going home and having to see his nursery empty. That I dreaded most...
We had a pretty good night of sleep in anticipation of spending more time with our son in the NICU on Tuesday. When we went to see him Tuesday morning, his nurse Pat showed us how the site of his chest tube penetrations looked like little stripes that he'd have forever. We had already claimed the healing scripture about stripes and now we could see it!. Marci fed him and they told us he could possibly go home on Thursday after finishing his antibiotics.
That evening, we got the boot from the hospital. Even though Marci's BP was still sky high, we had to leave without our little one there. We knew he was in good hands, but it just didn't seem right to go home without him. We went to our house and stood in the nursery and cried. We were home, but missing our baby.
Wednesday, I went back to work. As you can imagine, my mind was elsewhere, but I was blessed to have so many of my co-workers stop by and ask about Rylan. I was humbled by so many telling me they had been praying. I also had many opportunities to tell of the 'God Thing' going on with my child. After work, Marci and I went to the NICU and I got to feed my son. I was terrified, but it worked out pretty good and they told us to be ready tomorrow to take him home. We were excited! But scared too.
Thursday morning, I went to work waiting on the call to come get Rylan. Marci and here mom went on to the hospital and I would have joined them were it not for the fact that I had to go at lunch and buy a rocking chair. I know, I know... wait until the last minute. But I found the perfect chair and threw it in the back of the truck. Right after I started toward the house to drop it off, my phone rang and it was the nurse in the NICU telling me to head that way.
To wind up the rest of this story, we took Rylan home at 3:00 PM Thursday March 6, 2006, ten days after he entered this world. In his first 10 days, he had been born, then died, been resuscitated, was put on a ventilator, poked and prodded countless times, Xrayed 8+ times, and all the while hooked up to strange machines that monitor every aspect of his body. He was as sick as a newborn can possibly get, but by God's grace and tons of answered prayers, he never left us permanently.
So, as I lie here on the couch with Rylan sleeping soundly on my chest, I will be the first one to admit that God really is in control. I also know that by His stripes we are healed. It is true that God has a big plan for this kid. Marci and I are looking forward to seeing that plan play out!
Monday, March 10, 2008
I've been writing for the past few days and explaining each day of our baby Rylan's life and the struggles we faced. Before I start on Friday the 29th, I just had to tell you that I am sitting in our TV room and Rylan is laying next to me, pacifier in mouth, and fighting sleep. Marci and Will are both sacked out on the couches behind me and obviously, I'm writing. Today, I'm going to pick up on the day after the worst day of my life. I hate to use a Star Wars theme, but Friday the 29th saw a New Hope that we needed badly.
I woke up about 6:00 AM on Friday the 29th. I saw Marci and her mom already awake and they told me that they had little to no sleep. I remember thinking to myself how this was supposed to be Rylan's birthday. I also pondered if all of this would have happened had he been delivered today. I'll never know the answer to that, and I guess it really doesn't matter because it was not in the cards.
Dr. Knight came in about 7:30. His hair was a mess, his clothes were too, and I figured he'd probably been here all night. I later found out that he had indeed been up all night in the NICU, by Rylan's crib. He had been checking and evaluating him, and also planning his course of action.
Dr. Knight started to explain how Rylan had taken 10 years off his life and how he was sorry it happened. We asked what was next and he told us that he wanted to test Rylan for damage from the trauma. He had an ultrasound of the head set up to check for swelling, and EEG to check brain activity, possibly an Echo Cardiogram to look at his heart. We dreaded this round of tests, but most of all, we were sad to here that his work week was ending and he would be handing Rylan over to Dr. Bonafacio that would take great care of him. We hugged him and thanked him before he left.
So, we waited... and waited... At about 11, my Mother-in-Law and I walked to the NICU and met Dr. Bonafacio. She was a very pleasant person to talk to and I could tell she was very compassionate. She told me all of what Dr. Knight had told me with one exception: She said they would probably attempt to redo the scope tomorrow. I almost fell in the floor when she told me this, so I told her that we had some real reservations and would want to talk more in depth about it when the time comes.
Why we were there, Rylan had an episode. All the sudden, his heart rate changed, and his oxygen saturation bottomed out. There were alarms going off and nurses rushing everywhere. I stood there in shock, as the nurses began working on him. It was like something out of the show ER and I was terrified that I was about to watch my son crash on the table. When the Dr. made it to the table, she instructed the nurses to suction Rylan. When this was done, all of his vitals returned to normal. When all was well, Nana and I ducked out the door.
We started hearing back from the tests at about 2:00 PM. The brain ultrasound came back negative for swelling, then the EEG came back normal, and finally, we heard that the Echo came back normal as well. We also got a confirmation that his blood gases were great and that his levels of other "Stuff" was much improved from this morning.
We had alot of visitors and lots of prayers were said on this day. I heard from folks all over the country that had heard and were praying for us daily. We could feel the prayers and they were helping us get through. One thing that really touched me was the fact that my boss had a special Mass held in Rylan's honor for healing. He told me the mass was attended by over 200 people, including every child from K-8 at the Catholic school next door, and that it was very good. I do not know much about mass, but I was humbled by the fact that an entire Church and school paused to pray for the healing of our child.
During our last visit of the evening, Marci placed a small index card in Rylan's crib that said the following:
"Rylan, We Love You! Keep fighting and stay strong! Always remember... THANK YOU THAT JESUS BORE OUR SINS IN HIS BODY ON THE TREE AND THAT BY HIS WOUNDS (STRIPES) RYLAN WILL BE HEALED - 1 Peter 2:24"
And that's where we left it for the duration of his stay. His nurses said they would read it to him whenever they were attending to him. We were blessed by a NICU staff of spiritual Christians.
Friday night, we slept a little better and woke up Saturday with an optimistic outlook. We went down to see Rylan at 8:30 and found ourselves at rock bottom again........... That's where I'll pick up tomorrow.
TO BE CONTINUED
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Wednesday February 27, 2008 was the hardest day of my life. Nothing I had faced in my 36 years of life were as tough or as heartbreaking than what Marci and I went through on that day.
As that Wednesday morning dawned, we got up as usual, had some breakfast and got ready to face another day of tests for our child. Rylan was still in the NICU, but we had a very optimistic view of his condition, and even the Doctors and nurses were telling us that it's probably just a floppy airway and nothing more. BUT, to get to that final diagnosis so they could release him, a scope had to be inserted into Rylan's airway to verify there were no fistulas (holes) between his trachea and esophagus.
Marci and I walked to the NICU, checked in, scrubbed up, and went to visit Rylan. He was in a crib, pink as he could be, and looked like the prettiest and happiest little baby I had ever seen. Even the nurses (which were all AWESOME!), commented on how great he looked and how they had prayed for him to have a good feeding today.
We left the NICU and were told to be back around 1:00PM for a trial bottle feeding. If all went well and he fed well, they'd discharge him and we'd have to work on feeding techniques and nipple types.
Eventually, 1:00 PM arrived and I went to the NICU. I was greeted by Rylan's nurse Amanda that brought me in and pulled up a chair for me next to his crib. She brought a bottle over and I started praying. She smiled sweetly and told me everything was going to be alright. I started prayed...
When she gave him the bottle, he drank it! He did so good, we were smiling from ear to ear. Everything went well for about 20 seconds, and then the Oxygen Saturation meter started going off. We changed to a low flow nipple, but it was to no avail. My heart sank in my chest... we were back to square one. He'd failed the feeding test and would need the scope to see if there was a fistula too small for the Barium swallow to detect. Amanda apologized and I told her it was alright and I knew God would take care of it.
I headed back to the room and told Marci he failed the test. Obviously, she became upset and we both began to worry about the procedure. But Dr. Knight came in and assured us it would be quick and probably only take about 5 minutes to complete. He planned on doing it at 5:00 PM and he had the best Doctor lined up to do it.
So we waited and worried... Of all things, I remember thinking about that stupid Tom Petty song, "The Waiting is the Hardest Part", and for once, that song clicked. Then at about 3:00PM we took Will down to the NICU and let him look in at Rylan while I held him up to the window. Will was smiling from ear to ear as he told Marci, "There's Little Pinky. That's what I like to call Rylan because he's so pink!"
At 4:00 PM, the PA for the Doctor that would be scoping Rylan came in with release papers in hand. She sat them on the bedside rolling desk and started telling us that they release the Doctor to perform the procedure, AND that although rare, complications can arise that can cause strokes and even death. Marci began to cry as she signed the forms and all I could do was hug her.
Before the PA left, I'll never forget her turning to us at the door and saying, "It'll only take about 5 minutes to do the procedure. It'll actually take us longer to set up the equipment than it will to do it." That was at 4:15 PM... And the clock was ticking...
With each minute that passed, our anxiety level increased. I was pacing the floor when our door suddenly opened. I sat down on the bed when I realized it was Dr. Nelson (the Scope Doctor) and his first words were,
"It didn't go well at all... We had some serious complications with your son"
We sat there stunned as he explained what had happened. He told us:
When he inserted the scope into Rylan's throat, things went well. But, just as he pushed through Rylan's voice box, Rylan had a bronchial spasm and both lungs collapsed. When that happened, they lost him for about twenty minutes and performed CPR while they inserted chest tubes and intubated him on a ventilator.
We sat there stunned. Dr. Nelson could only say that he was very sorry, but other than that, he just sat there stone faced. I didn't know what to say to him, so I asked him to tell me again what had happened. He went through the same story word-for-word and sat there staring at me with a blank look on his face.
By this time, Marci was crying, and when she cried out, Will began to cry, my Dad was in the room and started crying, then my Mom even walked in and learned the news. The Doctor was still sitting there looking at us, and I had to tell him that I didn't have any questions and asked him to please leave. When he went out the door, we all lost it, especially Will. My Mom thought fast and said she would take Will home with her so they quickly exited. I could only set on the bed and hold my wife while she wept. I cried a little too, but I was too stunned to do much else.
A few minutes later, Doctor Knight walked in with tears in his eyes. He sat on the bed next to Marci and explained how he was sorry, and how he wished they had never done the scope, and how he wished he could turn back time, and how... Marci told him that she didn't blame him for what had happened and she knew he was sorry. Dr. Knight then wrapped his arms around her, prayed for her, and rocked her while we all cried. It was at that moment that I realized Dr. Knight was not only a Christian, but also the most compassionate Doctor I have ever met.
We asked him if we could go see him and he said we could, but he had to prepare us for what we would find. By this time, there was a crowd of people around us. There were family members, two pastors, and many others that had "just happened" to show up when they were most needed. I'm sure God was prompting their hearts...
When we went to the NICU, all of them followed us. At the NICU, the first thing I noticed was that Rylan's nurse had tears in her eyes. In fact, I didn't see a dry eye in the place. We actually broke protocol and the NICU folks said that everyone could come in to Rylan's bedside. Marci and I found our little one so sedated, he was paralyzed. There were chest tubes, that looked like big needles, sticking out of each side and he had a ventilator tube in his mouth. At that moment, all I could think of was how only two hours ago, I had held a perfect looking baby up to the window for Will to call him 'Little Pinky', and now, he was the most critical child in the NICU.
Our friend Pastor Peter Hall came over and led prayer. I was too heart broken to even be able to hold my head up and I simply wept unlike I've ever before. Marci and I were thoroughly heart broken and I was aching from head to toe. After we prayed, we left and returned to our room. I learned later that our Pastors stayed behind and prayed with Doctor Knight and his staff. When I got to the room, I noticed a ton of people all looking at us so I immediately went into the bathroom and sat down. I bawled into my hands and the tears were running through my fingers. I have never, and hopefully will never have these painful feelings again.
After composing myself, well... as good as could be expected, I left the bathroom and sat on the bed and held my wife. We cried together and all we could ask was why did this have to happen. Marci kept questioning why? Why God? She kept telling me how she had prayed every day and night for Rylan all through her pregnancy and just wanted to know why this had to happen. I didn't know what to say so I just sat there silent and held her, rubbing her head and telling her God is in control. Which is hard to do because everyone questions if He's really in control during times of hurt.
After we calmed down a little, we started hearing the cries of infants in the rooms on either side of us. Every cry we heard, brought tears to our eyes because all we wanted was our little one to survive and live so that we could hear him cry. Both of us had doubts he would leave the NICU alive, but we tried to suppress them.
The Doctor that delivered Rylan (Dr. Ford) came in and talked with us. He was optimistic in all but one area: He was worried about the fact that Rylan had gone twenty minutes without oxygen. He did say he was optimistic because they had pumped his heart and performed CPR, but that after 14 minutes, you have to consider brain damage. Our hearts were broken. Marci was upset by the fact that she had her tubes removed and that this was our last baby if Rylan didn't make it. She told me later that she was afraid of letting me down by not giving me another son. I assured her she had not, and we'd take what God gave us. Dr. Ford chimed in and said, it could still be done and not to worry about that.
In an hour or two, a nurse came in and told us we would be changing rooms to get away from the sound of crying babies. They knew we were upset and had a room with no one on either side. We jumped at the chance to move and since so many were in the room, everyone grabbed something and we left the room where we had heard the worst news of our life, never looking back.
After settling into our new room, one of my best friends Steve Salyers showed up right when I needed him most, and I had some one on one time with him. While we talked, he said something that I treasure more than anything. He simply looked at me and said:
"Hey D, God wouldn't have brought him back if He didn't have a big plan for Him."
Those words comforted me more than anything else I heard. AND, I took them, claimed them for Rylan, and stood on them.
Later on that evening when the visitors had departed, Marci and I went back to the NICU and saw Rylan. Once again, we wept at his crib as we saw the tubes in his side and watched his little chest rise and fall by way of a mechanical lung. The heartbreak sat in and both of us vocalized the fact that we didn't think he was going to make it. This was obviously an attack by the enemy because we were at our lowest of lows. We prayed for our son and prayed against the enemy. We also prayed for the other little ones in the NICU. One of our Nurses came to us before we left and let us know she would be praying fervently for us and our baby. She also told us that the Nurses on the floor are all Christians and they had already been praying together. We thanked her and went out the door.
We arrived back at the room and I guess it was out of exhaustion because I collapsed onto the couch and instantly went to sleep. Marci's Mom slept in the bed with her and neither of them slept much. This was the hardest day of our lives...
TO BE CONTINUED
Saturday, March 8, 2008
When we were told our 12 hour old baby was being admitted to the NICU, we were obviously scared. We understood why he was admitted (the choking episodes), but we were terrified that there was something terribly wrong with him. Of course, the Enemy attacked and fell upon us with a spirit of worry and doubt. We worried that he may need some type of surgery and we even doubted that he would be ok. It was a dark time and we prayed together while I held Marci on the bed. When we had got it together, Marci and I took showers and had some of that great hospital chow for breakfast.
It was around 11 AM when we first met the Doctor that would responsible for treating Rylan. Dr. Scott Knight came in, introduced himself, and had a seat. Obviously, we wanted to know what was going on and we asked him to tell us what his thoughts were. He explained to us that when babies choke like Rylan was, it is most likely due to a fistula... (A What???). Obviously Dr. Knight has the heart and patience of a teacher because he went on to explain how many times, babies are born with premature airways and esophagus. Especially big babies (like Rylan), can have a fistula which is a tiny hole or opening that connects the esophagus and the trachea, and allows formula to travel into the airway, and cause the baby to choke when they eat. He assured us that it's not that big of a deal, but it had to be fixed.
We asked how it was fixed and he told us that it takes a small surgery.
He explained how the Surgeon would make a small incision under the arm and go across to the throat and fix it with a stitch. Obviously, we were once again freaked out. We got even more freaked out when he told us that if the diagnosis came back as a fistula, the hospital would fly Rylan in the helicopter to University of Kentucky Children's Hospital. We asked when, and he told us probably this evening. Fear hit again!
So here I am, a child in the NICU facing a helicopter ride and surgery, a wife that was cut in half during the C-Section less than 48 hours ago, and a five year old son that started crying when he saw his Mom crying. I asked the Doctor to tell us his course action to drive this diagnosis to a final one. He told me that they would do a barium swallow Xray to see if any barium was traveling from the esophagus to the trachea. If negative, they would do a Baby Gram Xray to look for anything else out of the ordinary, and they would start an IV and start giving fluids. I asked if I could see Rylan and he said sure.
I walked down the hall toward the NICU where I knew my baby was lying and facing a long list of tests and maybe even surgery. When I got to the NICU, I buzzed in and the nurse opened the door. When I stepped inside, she told me that they were getting ready to put an IV in his arm but I could come in and watch. AN IV!!! I didn't want to see that so I declined the offer and went back to the room. When I got there, Marci was obviously upset, so I sat down with her and our Youth Pastor friend (that "just happened" to show up) prayed over us.
For the next few hours, we waited... and waited... and waited for the tests to come back. We were lucky that Marci's Aunt is the business manager in the Radiology Department so we had an inside track on what was going on. But most of all, she was able to speed things up a little.
It took a couple of hours, but we were given good, if not great news! Rylan had passed the Barium swallow test and the Baby Gram had come back excellent!!! The barium swallow pretty much ruled out the fistula so we weren't worried about having to pack up and shoot down to Lexington. We praised God for these great reports and when I talked to Marci's Aunt, she told me that God spoke distinctly and told her it's because of prayer.
Now with some semblance of relief, we went to visit Rylan. We found him lying in a crib with an IV in his arm and several monitors hooked to him. We cried because of the obvious pain he had gone through, and our hearts ached because all we wanted was him in our room, with us. When we finished our visit, the walk back to the room was a tough one because we were leaving our baby.
In a little while, Dr. Knight came back in and told us the results of the tests. We didn't let on like we knew they were all clear, so seeing him was a good thing (we actually could have kissed him at that moment). He told us that Rylan probably only has a floppy airway (Laryngeal Malasia) and not a fistula. BUT, to be 100%, he wanted to do a scope of Rylans throat and trachea and put it to bed once and for all. We asked about the scope and he told us that it would take about three minutes to go in and look around, and it would be a quick and painless procedure. He also told us that he was going to give Rylan the day off from eating and wait until the morning to try and feed him again. We had obvious concerns about the scope procedure, but we said "OK"...
Little did we know that the letters "O" and "K" would become the spurs in the side of the horse we were riding into the deep valley...
TO BE CONTINUED
Friday, March 7, 2008
I'm back from a lengthy journey over the mountain tops and through the deepest valley that I have ever ventured into. The past two weeks have been a roller coaster ride that I am just now able to start unpacking. So, if you are just visiting here, check back over the next few days, as I write about being right in the middle of seeing God come through, heal and perform miracles by using others. But most of all, thanks to all of my friends around the world that have been praying for our baby boy.
On Monday February 25, 2008, Marci, Will, and I had the honor of meeting the newest member of our family. Rylan Andrew Prater was born at 5:10 PM and entered the world as a 9 pound "Bouncing Baby Boy"! Because of his size, he was born Cesarean and I was once again in awe of seeing him emerge kicking and screaming. Little did I know that this baby was born to be living proof that God is in control and that He is still performing miracles.
All you parents out there know what I mean when I say that the minute the umbilical cord is cut, there is a new form of worry for your child's well being that instantly kicks in. The minute Rylan was born (as with Will), we wanted to know if he was ok, had all the parts he's supposed to have, and we couldn't wait to hear him cry so that we could receive confirmation that he's alive and well. Rylan entered the world and had everything in all the right places, and of course, he let out a pretty nice scream.
About ten minutes after birth, I went with him to the nursery and passed through a mob of family and friends that high fived, hugged and congratulated me. It was a bit surreal and my head was dancing.... actually, I don't think my feet touched the ground for about an hour.
When I got the the nursery, the nurses began to weigh, measure, and do a bunch of stuff to make sure he is OK. As I stood there, I heard a knock on the window. I looked over and saw my five year old son Will giving me a big thumbs up. I simply smiled back and returned the salute. But, there was a problem...
When the nurses placed the Oxygen Saturation monitor on Rylan's foot, the readings were below what they should be. They assured me it was simply a need for more suction and they would send him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for treatment. I wasn't worried because the same thing happened to Will when he was born.
I left the nursery and went back into the hall. Will came running to me crying his eyes out. I instantly picked him up and asked him what was wrong. In his small little voice, he sniffled and said, "I'm crying because he's so cute". We had a big cry and hugs then I went back in to check on Marci.
When I got back into the Operating Room, Marci was fine and they were just finishing up the final procedure- a tubal... Yes, Rylan is our swan song when it comes to having kids. She was doing well and we were later moved into the recovery room where she was allowed to eat ice chips (?). But eventually, we moved on to our room where we would be camping out for the next few days.
About an hour later, they let Rylan out of the NICU and sent him down to us. We held our new son, prayed over him and thanked God for trusting us enough to give us this precious little one. He was beautiful and we spent a while trying to figure which parts of him look like who (my favorite game to play). After a couple of hours, we sent back to the nursery and crashed.
The next morning, I went down to the nursery and got our kid. We spent the day in the room with him. We played, held, and fed him. And, my favorite part was the two hour nap we took in the easy chair while he slept on my chest.
BUT, there was one problem...
I noticed that every time I fed Rylan, he would drink for about twenty seconds and then start coughing and choking. I took it that he just didn't have the bottle thing figured out yet and it would take time. So, whenever he choked, I'd burp him and he'd get better, somewhat better. But, he was also squeaking a lot. Marci even asked me one time if I thought he sounded like a monkey it was so bad. However, we remembered that Will squeaked and figured that it was just how he was supposed to behave.
About 11PM Tuesday night, I took Rylan down to the nursery and left him with a nurse we really liked named Carol. She promised to take excellent care of him and would let us know if anything changed. Well, things were about to change...
6:45 AM Wednesday morning, Marci and I had just woke up when there was a knock at our door. We said, "Come in", and in walked Nurse Carol without Rylan. We both sat up straight and listened as she told us Rylan had given her fits all night during feedings and she was afraid he had something wrong with his throat. She also told us that she was admitting him to the NICU for evaluation by Dr. Knight.
As you can imagine, we were scared so we asked her what she thought was going on. She told us that she thinks he'll be OK and that he just has a floppy windpipe. Nothing to worry too much about, but it needed to be checked and verified. We felt a lot better after talking to her but there was still a concern.
As she left the room, we didn't know what to think. We weren't too worried, but all of that was about to change. Littlebeknownst to us, her admitting Rylan to the NICU, was the precise moment that we shoved off for a long ride into the deepest valley we had ever been in...
TO BE CONTINUED