Saturday, December 29, 2007

Philly Folks...Here's your chance to help an Angel!

(Me with host daughter, Anna Noah; Jan 2006)

We have settled on a surgery schedule for our many children with hydrocephaly. Thanks to the generosity of two hospitals and an incredible surgeon, we hope to have over 20 children (under the age of 2 years) receive care in the next 12 months. With both hospitals being in the Philadelphia area, we will need quite a few host families from that area. The children will be in the US for 3 - 4 months and then will return to their anxious families in Haiti. Host families provide all daily care for the babies and take care of these little ones as though they were their own. I won't mislead you all... it is alot of work at times. These little ones are sick, but the good news is they are here to get the care they need to get better! They are the fortunate few. The hospital and doctors provide all care free of charge and the host family needs to provide all the love and care while the baby is struggling through trauma of surgery. Your blessing comes when this sweet baby finally looks at you and knows that you are the one she can trust to care for her while she is here. When you see her smile and reach for you, you know she feels safe and loved. That is what we hope for her during her stay here in the US.

What an incredible opportunity to show God's love to a small angel and an anxious mother so far from her child. Throughout the child's stay, we ask the host family to provide us with updates and photos so that we can share them with the family in Haiti. You will be able to send some photos or momentos back with the child to her family in Haiti. We know from past experience, that the families are unable to find the words to express the gratitude they feel for the family who took such wonderful care of their baby.

Okay, I didn't mean to sound all sappy. But truly, it is an incredibly rewarding experience. I didn't say easy...I said rewarding. We look at our host families as missionaries. Not everyone can go overseas or to disaster zones. Not everyone is able to run over to help at a soup kitchen or a food bank. It is important to find a way to serve God that matches your talents and your interests. This is another opportunity that may be right for some families. One perk I always found when we host is that it is a mission for my entire family. We talk about it and discuss the pros and cons each time before deciding. Even my little guys see this as a way they are helping someone who has less than they have. We talk alot about our family being "blessed to be a blessing." While they miss their friends when they return to Haiti, each little one has left us with memories that remind us of why God asks us to reach out and help others.

Anyway, if you are interested, please let me know. I'm responsible for coordinating host families and I have the application in a digital format so I can just email it to you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sweet Brenda

I'm excited to report that the first little patient in our hydrocephaly program is going to be flying next week with Vanessa into Philadelphia. Little Brenda is a 9 month old baby girl whose parents have been trying since she was born to get her care. Her eyesight is now gone from the pressure of the fluid on her brain. The doctor at duPont Hospital for Children are optimistic that she will do well with the surgery. Brenda will be staying with a wonderful family that has an adopted child from Haiti. Both Vanessa and I have met them while in Haiti and we are thrilled that they want to host Brenda!

Please consider helping one of these little ones by hosting a child or giving a donation to get them here for their surgeries. We need to raise enough money this year to bring over 20 children here for the hydrocephaly program, in addtion to the other children who come to us with different medical conditions. Each child costs our organization around $2000 to pay for tests in Haiti, paperwork, passports, visas and airfare. If you would like to help us in some way or if your church would be interested in a presentation about our program, please give us a shout!

We'd love to come and talk to you all.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Season's Greetings from My Crew

As editor of the blog, I thought it might be okay to put a little personal note on here for you all. I wanted to share our family Christmas card with you all to wish you a Happy Holiday. This card is a bit different as it isn't on paper. Instead, we started a tradition a few years ago of putting together a DVD of our year in pictures. With many family members spread out across the country, we thought the old adage, "a picture says a thousand words" would hold true. So, I thought I would share our video with you all.

You will notice that there are many photos of Chedner in the video. After a year, he is one of the gang. Ched really enjoys the other boys and is spoiled rotten by everyone in the family. My daughters are Kelly (20 yr, 3rd year at University of Virginia), Michelle (19 yr. freshman at the Corcoran School of Art and Design in Washington, DC) and Caitlin (16 yr. at high school junior). My rambuctious sons are Gabe (13 yr. with Down Syndrome from Venezuela), Ethan (8.5 yrs from US), Pierre (6 yrs from Haiti) and Ched (20 months from Haiti). My husband Jay is an incredible man and leader of this rowdy crew. We are a beach-loving group and there are many shots from our vacation last summer at Myrtle Beach, SC. The scenes from Arlington Cemetery that you will see are from the funeral for Jay's dad this past summer. Our beloved Pa passed away only days before Michelle graduated from high school. He was an inspiration to all of us and was sadly missed at the celebration. The service we held at Arlington was the most moving I have ever been to in my life. As a West Point grad (as is Jay) and a career military man, Pa lived his life by a code that directed his life as one of graciousness, generosity, faith and service.

Well, that's all the basics so you at least know who is in the video. My family is so supportive of my work with Angel Missions and I appreciate all their love and help throughout the year. Jay and I are committed to not just making a difference in whatever small way we can, but to teaching our kids that, contrary to many messages in popular culture, it isn't all about us. God didn't put us here to collect the most toys. He put us here to help others and to make this world a better place for everyone, not just ourselves. As I watch my older girls as adults, I think I can say that we are succeeding, at least to some small degree. Anyway, we hope you enjoy all the funny photos and sweet faces. Oh, got to give credit where it is due...the awesome song is "How You Live" by Point of Grace. One of my favorites from this year.

From our family to yours, we are wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Blessings

Angel Missions' New Clinic in door to
St. Joseph's Home for Boys.

Vanessa and I have been overwhelmed by the blessings that Angel Missions Haiti has received in the last few weeks. When we were in Haiti in October, we were once again staggered by the many needs of so many families. Sometimes it is hard to know which direction to turn, but we are learning to listen to God and not ourselves and He has pointed the way for now. One need that was obvious was a small space to call our own so that the many families that are trying to contact us would know where to go. We have been dreaming of starting a small clinic in PAP that we could use for medical missions and as a center for our operations in Haiti. As always money is an issue and we were hesitant to commit to anything to quickly. However, when we also decided that we wanted to provide Bernard and his family with a safe home, the idea really took off. To maximize our resources, we have combined the two wishes and found a place to meet thost needs! When we hesitated due to lack of funds, God quickly provided a temporary means to secure the building. Then a wonderful couple came forward and helped us to make the clinic a reality for the next two years. We have been able to sign a two-year lease and begin some basic repairs. Later that day, we were contacted by an anonymous donor who is going to provide both a generator and an inverter for the building. This will provide our clinic with a steady supply of electricity! We are in awe of our good fortune and thank everyone for their support.

Bernard and Suzie are very excited to have a new home and Berny is excited to have a room of his own to sleep in. Speaking of Berny, he was so thrilled to be back with his mom & dad. He started doing a little happy dance as soon as he saw his mom at the airport, showing off all of his newly learned skills. What an amazing sight for these parents who didn't know if he would survive the Guillan-Barre when he left Haiti with Vanessa last summer. Now to have him back, running, jumping and standing on one foot to show his superman skills! They want us to say thank you again to all who helped their little man get back on his feet.

Of course, when you have a clinic, you need some basic medical items to supply it. We are being shown that when you are on the right path, God will show you the way and give you what you need. Two very generous hospitals here in Virginia have donated a large shipment of durable medical equipment, including exam tables, chairs, desks, filing cabinets, exam lights, a wheelchair, baby scales, freezers & a refridgerator, x-ray light boxes, and many other items. In addition, we have been given not one, but two ultrasound machines! It is just incredible. With our cup overflowing, we will share many of these items with other organizations in Haiti that are in need of these supplies.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Merry Christmas from Ched!

Quick update on my man, Ched!

He is doing really well right now. We have watched him really make progress since his colostomy in July. Ched is now gaining weight and developing well. He has actually caught up in all areas, except speech which is slowly coming along. While we are currently treating a bacterial infection in his gastro system, Chedner is actually eating, drinking and sleeping better than he has since coming to live with us a year ago. It is so hard for us to believe that he has been with us an entire year already! Wow, time with him has just flown by. Chedner is no longer a little baby, but now a full-fledged toddler. He is a joy to watch as he explores, plays and basically enjoys life to its fullest.

Although we'd like to just rest on our laurels, that is not Ched's path. In January, Chedner and I will travel to Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, MD for his next surgery. It will be a 6 - 8 week stay in Baltimore, but we feel it is the best decision for his future. Since summer, I have mentioned to many people that I did not have a sense of peace about Chedner's next surgery. It is so huge and there are many future issues riding on it's success. Because I was so uncomfortable with our tentative plan, I decided to ask the exstrophy clinic at JH for a second opinion. I like and trust the doctor's at UVa and they have helped us so much this last six months; however, there were a few questions that we needed clarification on before moving forward. Our appointment there in October went really well and after leaving, Jay and I decided that we wanted the doctor at this clinic to do the surgery. So in January, Chedner will have the surgery to have his bladder placed deep inside his abdomen and will have his abdominal wall reinforced. He will continue to leak out of two urethras for quite a while still as he will need more reconstruction by the time he is four or five to help with continence. At this point, we do not know if he will be able to be continent, but there are some hopeful signs. A test they will run prior to January's surgery should also give us more answers to this question.

The other half of the surgery is to reshape his pelvis. They will break it in four places and pull it together in the front to reinforce the abdomen and bladder repair. This will also pull his hips & legs forward so that they will no longer be externally rotated. To keep the bones in place until the heal, Ched will have a halo traction devise on him for at least 6 weeks to give the bones time to fuse. I have to admit that it is hard to watch him happily running, climbing and wrestling and to know that soon he will be immobilized for all those weeks. Ched has worked really hard to figure out how to run and play with his pelvis as it is, but he will be more stable after the fix. The docs said once we are released, it will take another 2 months or so for him to figure out how to do all those fun, physical activities again. We think with his brothers' help he will be moving sooner than that!
Our plan is to enjoy the holidays and to give our worries to God. It is hard to think of him having to undergo yet another surgery, but we know he must. We feel blessed to be the family to care for Chedner and are beginning to see where his future may be heading. God surely loves this little boy and His plan is always perfect. We'll keep the blog updated on Chedner's progress. Thanks for all of your prayers and support for this special guy!