Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Update on Abigail’s kidney

Here’s an update Natalie wrote last night explaining Abigail’s kidney condition and the expected treatment...

We are encouraged because it appears at this point that most of Abigail's kidney will be able to be saved. This morning we left the house just after 8:00 am. Stephen and the kids dropped Abby & me off to check in at the Loma Linda Hospital at 9:30. They went to the park, did a couple errands/explored until we were done.

Abby’s appt. was at 10:00 and we were expecting to be done no earlier than Noon, but were done by 11:30 -- no waiting -- YIPEE!! :) They inserted a catheter for the duration of the test. That went so smooth -- hardly a wince this time! Then the IV. Finding a vein is not such an easy task on a 5-month-old. They tried and failed once and switched limbs and were successful in her right arm. (Same thing happened in the ER.)

Then, as she lay on the table, she was wrapped up like an Indian papoose -- on a body board with the heavy x-ray-apron-material enclosing her. She could wiggle her toes and move her head but that was it for an hour. But as you know, God has given us a content baby. I read to her, played with her, held toys to her mouth to chew on, sang to her, fed her, etc.

There were a couple times when she wanted to grab at something early on and, when she realized she couldn't, she started to get fussy. As soon as I distracted her, though, she was happy again. In fact, at one point she was nearly ready to fall asleep with the pacifier in her mouth, when she decided she didn't want to sleep. So she shook her head left...right...left... in a very playful mood & and giant grin/giggle. It was neat to see how she could be playful even without her arms! So cute!

After lunch, at 2:15 we arrived at the doctor office to go over the test results. He was able to pull off the video onto his own computer and see the test results for himself, even though there was not a written report after such a short turn-around. Our pediatric urologist is semi-retired and no longer performs surgeries. He said the likely doctor to perform the surgery was once his own student and is now his boss -- and he's really good, too. He probably performs 6 of these a month because this is a fairly common problem. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

So first he showed us the images and talked through them with us. There is a definite blockage in the right kidney, but it IS draining -- slowly. He explained that, in the womb, the kidneys and the bladder are formed. Next the ureters grow up from the bladder and connect to the kidneys. In Abby's case, the right kidney formed well, but the ureter did not meet up with the kidney properly. This is the reason for the blockage. It isn't a complete blockage, as we saw today -- it drains very slowly. From what I observed during the test, it appeared to my untrained eyes that the right is about double the size of the left. The technician agreed that it seemed to be at least half-again the size it should be.

0725111521aSo, what's to be done? As I said, the ball is just starting to roll today, heading toward surgery. The doctor explained the procedure while drawing a picture. Let's see what I can do with words. Imagine a balloon with a string dangling down. The balloon being the kidney, the string the ureter. (Obviously not perfect because surgery on a balloon would pop it. Not so, the kidney.) So imagine this unpoppable balloon gets cut across an inch above the knot and an inch down the string. That part is removed. Then the string is reattached to the new base of the balloon. After a little time to heal up again, the balloon is as good as new. A little balloon lost, but not much. That is probably a great injustice to the doctor’s explanation, but I hope it helps.

He said that Abigail is not in a critical condition, but he also doesn't think we should wait 6 months, either. The danger of not operating is that her kidney will continue to deteriorate as well as fill up. If she were to fall hard sometime (down the road, if we waited) there's even a chance that she could pop the kidney, like a water balloon. Which would very quickly lead to a dangerous situation. Again, he's okay waiting a little while, she's not at that point, yet. And he said again, several times now, how good it was for us to find this out ahead of time, before any serious problems arise! Praise the Lord!!

During the surgery, there will be an extra tube (like a teeny, tiny IV) inserted to the sutured area, in case urine tried to seep out past the stitches. This would be kind of like a catheter in that it will flow directly into a diaper that she'll "wear" on her side. And a second tube that will have little pin-prick holes in the tube allowing the urine to pass through within the kidney itself. The reason for this second tube is to help relieve the pressure on the healing kidney. It seems that when he started, 35 years ago, they didn't make a tube small enough and so pressure would build up in the kidney as it was healing and actually pop the stitches. He says that rarely happens now. The tube will be stitched in so it is difficult for her to pull it out (but kids are quick, he warned us with a smile -- so watch out for fast hands!). About a week after the surgery we will follow up and the tubes will be removed. Super-easy removal, just like removing an IV. Once the stitches are removed, the tube slides right out without a problem.

She'll need to be in the hospital the day of her surgery and overnight, then should be released the next day with little pain and able to be cared for normally (except for changing bandages as needed). There shouldn't be any problem carrying her or anything. Such good news!

When will this take place? The doctor filled out the necessary form today. It will be sent in to our insurance for approval. Then the gal who schedules surgeries will work on setting up a tentative date. We should hear from her in two weeks or so. If, for some unlikely reason, we don't hear we are to call her. But she should be calling us in a few weeks. It sounds like we are likely to have the surgery date scheduled two to four weeks from when we get the call. So perhaps as early as 4-6 weeks from now we'll be down at Loma Linda in surgery. And 4-6 weeks from now Abigail will be on her way to being a healthy little girl. :) Praise the Lord!

We'll let you know more once we know more. Thanks to all of you for your love and prayers!

Natalie & Stephen

Friday, July 22, 2011

Palm Springs Tramway

Last week, I took Natalie to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to celebrate our anniversary. Here are some of our favorite photos…
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Here’s a view from the base of the tram station. It’s one of the steepest tramway ascents in the world, rising almost 6,000 ft. over a span of 2.5 miles.

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Halfway up, we are met by a tram descending on the other side of the cable.

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We had a beautiful view looking to the east, over the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea 30 miles away.

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We took a nature hike up at the top and some some pretty wildflowers still in bloom. This one is lupine.

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Standing at this outlook on the Desert View Trail, we could hear a waterfall and caught this magnificent view of the foothills leading into the San Jacinto mtn. range.

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Creek and meadow just a short walk from the upper tram station.

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Happy 11th Anniversary, Sweetheart!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

“Might” have eternal life?

In our weekly Greek class, we’ve been learning the basic mood known as the “indicative.” It is the most common verbal mood and deals with what is real, taking the form of either a statement or a question. Other Greek moods include the subjunctive (a probability), imperative (a command), and optative (a wish).
In a sense, the subjunctive mood is one step removed from reality, and often deals with what “might” or “could” to be. Sometimes, it deals with probability. But not always.
We haven’t gotten to the subjunctive mood yet in Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek yet (see ch. 31), but a student raised an interesting question last night about might/should/will in John 3:16 and our promise of everlasting life.
Greek: “μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ ̓ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.”
NASB: “shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
ESV: “should not perish, but have eternal life.”
Is there some uncertainty here? No. Apparently, the subjunctive mood was used by John out of grammatical necessity. The subjunctive is used simply because it follows the conjunction ἵνα, “in order that”. Mounce explains this use on p. 293:
31.13.  1. ἵνα and the subjunctive. ἵνα is almost always followed by the subjunctive and can indicate purpose.
Here’s a more in-depth explanation from Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 474:
3) Subjunctive mood used in a Purpose-Result Ἳνα Clause
Not only is ἵνα used for result in the NT, but also for purpose-result. That is, it indicates both the intention and its sure accomplishment. BAGD point out in this connection: “In many cases purpose and result cannot be clearly differentiated, and hence ἵνα is used for the result which follows according to the purpose of the subj[ect] or of God. As in Jewish and pagan thought, purpose and result are identical in declarations of the divine will.” Likewise, Moule points out that “the Semitic mind was notoriously unwilling to draw a sharp dividing-line between purpose and consequence.” In other words, the NT writers employ the language to reflect their theology: what God purposes is what happens and, consequently, ἵνα is used to express both the divine purpose and the result.
This probably does not represent a change in syntax from classical to Koine, but a change in subject matter. It is, of course, possible to treat each of these examples as simply purpose ἵνα clauses in which there is evidently no doubt about the accomplishment from the speaker’s viewpoint. Hence, in order that is an acceptable gloss.
Jn. 3:16 τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ ̓ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον
He gave his only Son, in order that everyone who believes in him should not perish but should have eternal life.
The fact that the subjunctive is all but required after ἴνα does not, of course, argue for uncertainty as to the fate of the believer. This fact is obvious, not from this text, but from the use of of οὐ μή in John 10:28 and 11:26, as well as the general theological contours of the gospel of John.
So, there you have it. By using ἵνα + the subjunctive mood, the Apostle John says that both the original purpose and the accomplished result of our faith in Christ is rescue from death and the gift of life! Eternal life is not just a possibility. It is an absolute certainty for those who believe.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Atlantis blasts off

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the final blast-off of Space Shuttle Atlantis on Friday, July 8. The "shuttle view" camera is mounted to the orange external fuel tank. Be sure to watch until the rocket boosters disengage about 3 minutes in. Very cool.

When Atlantis touches down next week, it will mark the end of the Space Shuttle era. All shuttles are being retired and will be moved to space museums across the country.

With over 2.5 million parts, the Space Shuttle has been called "the most complex machine ever built." Interested in learning more? Check out this infographic.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Great news

Praise the Lord, the cardiologist met with Natalie this afternoon and said that Abigail’s heart is PERFECTLY NORMAL.

The color change in her skin is apparently just a phenomenon that some kids have. But her heart looks great, all tests came back negative, and oxygen level is very stable.

The echocardiogram did reveal a tiny hole in her heart, but about 20% of all people have this, and it is no cause for concern. It is not causing any vascular problems.

We could not be more thankful and relieved. Thanks for all your prayers!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Still waiting

"In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, 
consider: God has made the one as well as the other" 
(Ecclesiastes 7:14)

In this life under the sun, God is teaching us that He is the sovereign ruler who gives both blessing and suffering.

Abigail is spending her five-month-old birthday in the hospital today. She has been undergoing tests since Friday, and Natalie has been staying with her. The night nurse briefly saw some purple in Abby’s leg on both Friday and Saturday night, and agreed that it looks abnormal. The pediatric doctor and original ER triage nurse also said they may have heard a faint heart murmur through the stethoscope, but it’s really hard to tell. 

So far, the pulse & oxygen meter, her blood pressure, blood sample, urine, x-ray, and EKG have all come back normal. Perhaps today or tomorrow we'll hear back from the cardiologist about her echocardiogram (ultrasound) results. She is also undergoing a pneumagram test which will monitor her breathing, heart, etc. for 15 hours, so Lord willing it will show what is going on.

Natalie is very thankful to know it’s not just “in her head,” but that a few medical professionals have confirmed they see something, though we’re still not sure what. Looks like Natalie and Abigail may have to stay through tomorrow at least.

Please pray that God will give us grace and peace through this trial, and that doctors will see something definitive. We're thankful tests are coming back negative so far and that some problems are being eliminated, but we just hope they don't discharge her without getting to the bottom of this. The color change is subtle and elusive, but something is obviously going on and we'd like to know what.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Be still my soul

Heard a peaceful instrumental version of this song playing on the radio last night. It was a good reminder as Abigail undergoes testing at the hospital for a possible heart condition...

Be still, my soul—the Lord is on thy side! 
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; 
leave to thy God to order and provide—
In ev’ry change He faithful will remain. 
Be still, my soul—thy best, thy heav’nly Friend 
thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul—thy God doth undertake 
to guide the future as He has the past; 
thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake—
All now mysterious shall be bright at last. 
Be still, my soul—the waves and winds still know 
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart, 
And all is darkened in the vale of tears, 
Then shalt thou better know his love, his heart, 
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. 
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay 
From his own fullness all he takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast'ning on 
When we shall be for ever with the Lord, 
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, 
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. 
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past, 
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Health concerns for little Abigail

06.08.11 019Over the past few weeks, we’ve noticed our five-month old Abigail's skin sometimes turning purple/grayish instead of a healthy pink. It's been especially in her legs, and now it seems to be worsening. After holding her just a brief time, her legs darken as though her circulation is being restricted.

Natalie took Abby to the doctor last week and they didn’t see anything, but took her again this afternoon, and after a couple tests he was able to see she has “delayed capillary refill” (her blood capillaries are not refilling at the normal rate).

She's not in any immediate danger that we know of, but we are instructed to take her to the ER immediately if she develops trouble breathing or her skin begins to turn blue (this has happened twice in the past 3 weeks when we fed her and apparently held her in one position for too long). Otherwise, we will just try not to cut off her circulation, and will take her to the cardiologist just as soon as they can fit her in.

This appears to be unrelated to the problems with her right kidney, which is still being tested for hydronephrosis. As most of you know, Dylan had a major heart defect which required open-heart surgery when he was 2, so we’re on somewhat familiar territory here. But this is the first evidence that Abigail has a heart condition.

We’re very grateful for your prayers, and that God is in control of all this. We’re also thankful that the doctor confirmed Natalie’s suspicions about a vascular problem, and that we are now on the fast track to see the cardiologist.

Abiding in Christ,
Stephen & Natalie

Friday, July 1, 2011

Highlights of the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention

Here is Al Mohler's recap of highlights of the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention. As expected, he gives a helpful analysis of what transpired in Phoenix two weeks ago.

On a personal note, this was the third year I've attended the convention, and the first time it was feasible to bring my family (since it was in the Western U.S.) It was wonderful to have my bride with me and to put the kids in the children's program, but I probably won't haul the whole family out to another one of these conventions until 2017, when the convention is back in Phoenix again. It would be far too much effort and cost to bring them to New Orleans in 2012, for example.

The other highlights of the convention were all the breakout sessions: the IX Marks at 9 Discussions, the Baptist Twenty-One panel, the Founders Breakfast with guest Wayne Grudem, and the great Re:verb Workshop sponsored by IX Marks on Wednesday and Thursday at Trinity Bible Church. The convention was a necessary part of 'taking care of business' on a national scale, but these other meetings fed me spiritually, and charged me up for returning home to serve the local church.

New Blog

Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...