Wednesday, September 30, 2009

7 Weeks Old, and Counting...

At this very moment, I am sitting in the waiting room outside NICU, hoping they will let me see Jackman, even though visiting hours don't start again till 5:00pm. He just got out of surgery. They did another endoscopy to see how much more his esophagus had grown. You may remember last time it had grown almost 4 centimeters in 3 weeks, which was amazing to the surgeon.

Well, It's all I can do to keep from crying right now. I just found out there has been virtually no growth at all since then. I had to call Lisa at work and tell her. I'm sure she had to take a break after getting that news. We just new it was going to be time to have the surgery and get home. The surgeon even told me that due to the growth last time that he expected to be able to tell me they would be doing surgery soon, and even he seemed disappointed with the results.

Bottom line; we just got another month or better at Children's Hospital.

There are no words to express how disappointed I am right now. I honestly never thought for one second that we would get this report. We saw Jackman's charted growth, and it has been amazing over the past couple of weeks. I just assumed his esophagus was growing as fast as the rest of him.

Like I said, I had to call Lisa and break the news to her. It took me about thirty minutes to figure out what I would say so that I wouldn't make her start crying at work, and I really doubt that it mattered. I told her God has got something planned, and everything is right on schedule according to Him, even if we can't see it now, and then I remembered something that happened a couple of days ago.

I was planning on meeting Lisa at Chic-fil-a on 119 right after she got off work. We were going to get a bite to eat and run on up to the hospital. I got to Chic-fil-a and waited a few minutes, and then got a call from Lisa... she was running late and wanted me to come meet her at work. Keep in mind that we are both already aggravated and stressed because she just started back to work, and our lives have been shaken up again. I went and got her, and I was getting hungry, but I wasn't backtracking to Chic-fil-a, so we headed up the road. A few miles later we came up on a bad wreck involving about six or so cars. It had just happened. Some of the people were still in their cars. This wasn't a fender bender, it was a collision.

We were almost in it... just a minute or so late. It turns out, if Lisa had met me at Chic-fil-a, we would have been stuck in terrible traffic, and lost all our visiting time with Jackman. But instead, that minor inconvenience and little setback saved us time, aggravation, and high blood pressure on down the road. We were in just the right spot to see that we could have been involved, and yet, get on past it to see our boy.

I'm trying to live, realizing God has it all planned out just right, and knowing that I am not able to see the other side of it yet. Just because we didn't get the immediate results we wanted doesn't mean that God didn't either. Just this morning, when I prayed I gave Jackman to the Lord again, and my prayer was simply that I trust Him completely. I still do. I'm not pretending to be all happy about this part of it, but I know there's more to it than I can see, and I really do trust Him... so we will wait.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Six Week Update

Jackman turned six weeks old today. I can not believe our baby is already six weeks old. The past few weeks have been an exhausting blur, and just about the time we start getting used to it, everything is about to change again.

We have been going to the hospital every night and staying till visiting hours were over, but Lisa started back to work today. That means a few different things:

First, Lisa has to go visit Jackman earlier now she can get home and get in bed. Today she went straight to the hospital from work. I was with the Youth tonight, so I didn't get to head up to the hospital until it was time for Lisa to leave. I found out we actually passed each other in the parking deck tonight. I just got home and she's already asleep. I didn't even get to find out how her first day back went.

The next thing is that since Lisa is going to be pretty much just working and visiting Jackman, I get to be the little homemaker. That should be interesting. Also, when Jackman comes home, I get to be the stay at home mom. That should be really interesting. Does anyone have a training video I can borrow like Mr. Mom, Daddy Daycare, or Mrs. Doubtfire?

Well, let me update Jackman's status because I keep nodding off. We found out yesterday that they will re-evaluate Jackman in 2 more weeks and see if it's time for surgery. That means in the best case scenario, we would get to bring him home in about a month as long as he recovers well. Of course, that's about the extent of what we know now. Anything else we will find out on the fly including when the surgery will be. Most likely they will call us up one day out of the blue and say they are about to start. That's the way the others went.

Lately, Jackman has had some trouble. That's mainly why I'm not my normal self. It's really hard to see him not feeling well. The trouble is with the thing called a replogle, which is that awful suction tube going up his nose and down his throat. It really irritates him. it used to be in his mouth but he kept pulling it out, so they put it up his nose. Well now he's pulling those out.

A couple of days ago something happened that clogged the replogle, and he got choked on his own spit backing up (oh yeah, the purpose of the replogle is to suction out the spit he swallows since it can't go to his stomach. If it doesn't come out, it fills his esophagus then goes down his windpipe). After that they replaced it, but it took a wrong turn and went down his windpipe instead of his esophagus. That hurt him, and since then he's been hacking and coughing and choking. It's so horrible to hear. I know it probably sounds worse that it is, but it sounds awful.

Needless to say he hasn't been real happy the past few days. I just wish he could have some peace and get some sleep.

Speaking of sleep, I better get some. Sorry this post is so dreary, I'm just bummed that Jackman feels bad. But he's healthy. He's considered a "well baby" by the nurses, and he'll get to feeling better. I just have to keep giving him to God, especially now.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peace of God...

... And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

I have heard this verse all my life, especially the part that goes; "the peace... which surpasses all understanding". I have heard it in lessons, sermons, advice, and lots of prayers. I don't guess it ever occurred to me that I didn't really get the meaning of it. I just figured I knew what it meant, but I didn't.

Jackman is 5 weeks and a day old today; that's 36 days. Since the day he was born, he's been in Children's Hospital. Every night, for 36 days, we have left our baby boy at the hospital at 10:00pm and drove home without him. I know some mothers who have 5 year old kids, and have yet to spent a night apart from each other. We've never even spent a single night with our baby.

Of all the things we've dealt with so far since Jackman has been born, not having him with us is by far the hardest. You might think it gets easier as you get used to the situation, but I have found over the past week or so it gets even harder. It's like that old saying goes; "Absence makes the heart grow fonder".

The first few days, it was really hard to leave him at the hospital and come home. I went to see him twice a day while Lisa was recovering. Naturally, Lisa would cry at night when we came home, and I would cry during the day on my way home when I was by myself. The whole situation made for emotional overload in those first few days.

But I noticed that didn't last long. Soon, we were in good spirits when we would leave the hospital. We didn't loose sleep at night with him 30 miles away. We didn't feel like we had to spend every waking moment at his bedside looking at him. I continued to go to church ever since he was born, and the only reason Lisa missed was while she was recovering.

We talked about it a couple of times; basically how we felt a little guilty that we weren't crying every time we left, and beating down the doors every morning to come see him. We didn't understand why we were at peace. We felt we should have been more concerned, more worried. We wondered why we didn't ask the nurses more questions and hassle them every chance we got. We wondered why we didn't tell them how to do their jobs. It was beyond all our understanding. That's when that verse came to mind, and I finally got it.

That's "the peace of God which surpasses all understanding". You can't manufacture it. You can't decide to just "have it". It's not something I can take credit for. It's the peace of God, and it's His to give.

There is one part that depends on us, and that's the taking. It's up to us to take the peace instead of the misery. The funny thing is the misery is more comfortable for us. It's the quick fix, and it's what the natural part of us wants so badly. We feel like we deserve it; to wallow in that misery like pigs in the mud, and hopefully we'll get some pity to go with it. The peace doesn't satisfy our natural cravings at all.

When God offers that peace, it's a sure sign He's about to take you to school spiritually, and teach you a thing or two. It's kind of like graduation gifts before you go off to college. Misery would be cash; it's satisfying but short-lived, and in the long run just not very fulfilling. Really, who remembers what their graduation money went toward unless it got you in trouble. On the other hand, peace is like the big old dictionary somebody got for you. When you got it you're like "hmmm, thanks, just what I didn't want". But you have to admit, it came in handy, over and over. I still have mine, and I still use it.

Me and Lisa have that peace. Lots of people don't understand it. That's okay, cause we don't either. That's why it's the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding". There's nothing special about us. The peace we have can be had by anyone who trusts in God. It's God's peace, and He offers you just what you need; all you have to do is accept it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

4 Weeks Old Today...Time for an Update

As of 11:29 this morning, Jackman was 4 weeks old. I'm learning the difference between the whole weeks vs months thing. He is still not a month old, that won't be till the 12th at 11:29 am.

Anyway, just an update: Yesterday, Jackman had an endoscopy, and a scope through his g-tube. He had to go to the OR for it, but there was no real surgery. The surgeon was looking to see if there had been any growth at all since they checked him about 3 weeks ago.

Well, the first time they checked him, they wouldn't even tell me how far apart the two ends of his esophagus were, but they said it was a lot. The surgeon ran down the list of possible treatments: 1) Wait and hope the two ends really start growing toward each other and attach them later. 2) Stretch the two ends together and attach them. 3) Do a series of several surgeries to stretch the ends together to be attached. 4) Move his stomach up into his chest and attach it to the esophagus.

After talking to the surgeon the first time, option 1 was out, 2 was unlikely, and 3 looked like what was going to happen. Yesterday, we expected to get an idea of the schedule for surgeries on option 3. We were anticipating his first surgery soon, and hopefully getting to bring him home in between surgeries.

The surgeon told us yesterday that the gap between the ends of his esophagus had previously measured 7 vertebral units, which means they could count 7 individual vertebrae on the x-ray in the background, behind his esophagus. He demonstrated with his hand approximately 6 inches. Understandable why options 1 and 2 weren't really a consideration.

Here's the good part. Jackman's esophagus had grown so much, the gap was down to 3 vertebral units. In 3 weeks, it had grown the length of 4 vertebral units. The surgeon was astonished. He said that was much better than average. He said in fact, it's not unusual for the esophagus to grow only 1 vertebral unit in 12 weeks! Jackman's grew 4 in just 3 weeks. Is it possible for a miracle to be several weeks in the making? I guess so. Praise the Lord!

The surgeon was very pleased to pass on the news, and said on the spot that Jackman will remain at Childrens for another 4 weeks until they can check him out again. He made it sound like options 2, and even 1, may be on the table according to what he's seen. He had totally written them off before. I could tell he was amazed.

Well, that's the update. We probably won't have any new news for a few weeks. That's fine with us though. It's nice to just go up there and visit and not have to worry about what's going on with him. We see so many others whose children seem to have so many problems. It's really scary, and sad, because two babies have left NICU following the two nights NICU was closed. We don't know what happened to them, but the weren't in any shape to go home. It hurts just thinking about how hard it is for some of those parents. There are times I almost feel guilty for how healthy Jackman is. There are times the nurses are bragging to us on how good he looks and how alert he is, and I wish they would stop because other parents are nearby, and their child is hanging on by a thread.

God has been so good to us, and to Jackman. We didn't do anything to deserve His favor, and there's nothing special about us that Jackman should be so healthy. That will knock you down a few notches, to realize Jackman could just have easily had the problems some of the other babies are battling.

We aren't complaining about having to stay another 4 weeks. You better believe we are as happy as larks. I hope no one says to us "Oh, I'm sorry". It doesn't make me mad or anything because I know they mean well. But we don't need condolences. We want everyone to be as happy and excited as we are. God has been too good to us for us not to be happy and thankful to the point of looking like idiots to the rest of the world, and that suits me just fine.

I'm looking forward to the 8 week old report, but I ain't in no hurry to get there. I want to savor this time. I really can't tell that the feeling is any different than it would be if he was at home with us. I just know we thoroughly enjoy every single visit, and we've got the parking deck tickets to prove it.

Friday, September 4, 2009


hair - 1 a : a slender threadlike outgrowth of the epidermis of an animal; especially : one of the usually pigmented filaments that form the characteristic coat of a mammal b : the hairy covering of an animal or a body part; especially : the coating of hairs on a human head

The picture above is not a coconut, it is God's view of my boy (well, if he was already walking it would be, but you get it).

Hair is a big deal. You may think it's silly, but it reveals something about you to others. It's obviously important; God made it. The word is used in it's various forms 83 times in the Bible. That may not sound like much in a book that contains nearly a million words, but then again, the book isn't about hair.

I myself have been conducting a social experiment on hair for the past 15 months or so. That's how long it's been since I cut mine. Results are pending, but I have definitely noticed that many people, but not all, view me differently. And especially new people I meet have a different assumption of who I am than the ones did back when it was high and tight in June '08.

Well, everything about my boy is important to me, even his hair. According to the Bible the very hairs of his head are numbered and not a single one falls out without God's knowing about it. So now the survey on the boy's hair may not seem so silly now, even though it's for fun.

When Jackman was born, I was a little nervous at first. I knew he would have a head full of dark hair, but his back and shoulders were covered with peach fuzz, and the first thing I thought of was the story of Esau. Weird how that works out; The name Jackman is a derivative of the name Jacob, the twin brother of Esau - the hairy one. Maybe he won't end up looking like he's wearing a sweater to the swimming pool when he's older.

Anyway, I just wanted to get everyone's thoughts on the hair. The nurses in NICU have gone wild over his hair; they love it. As you can see by the poll, there are three main categories of "Jackman hair": The Little Business Man, The Frizzy Chimp, and The Mohawk. Let me explain.

The Little Business man - goes without saying. All business. A nice neat little part that only needs a little suit and tie to seal the deal. This hair projects a sense of responsibility , decisiveness, and drive, and says "nothing personal, just business".

The Frizzy Chimp - Otherwise known as baby bed head, the adult version would most likely be seen on college students that come in the door last, or the guy who bring you your pizza. This hair projects a sense of blissful ignorance to all time restraints, and a carefree attitude towards just about everything. The Frizzy Chimp says "huh? yeah, whatever man, I'm coming, chill".

The Mohawk - most recently rocked by Hunter Lovett, the Mohawk exudes confidence, strength, and vitality. When the Little Business Men and Frizzy Chimps of this world see the Mohawk coming, they freeze in humble adoration and awe of the intimidating crest of hair that is rivaled only by the mane of a strutting Lion on the plains of Africa. It is truly a sight to BEHOLD! It says "Here I am".

I have an idea of my boy's personality already, but we're still getting to know each other. I'm looking forward to seeing who my boy will grow into. I give him to God everyday to make out of him what He wants, and for His pleasure. I know God is going to use him in an amazing way for Himself, not sure how that will look, but as long as God is happy with Jackman, that's all I ask for. I hope he says to God "Here I am".

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure...

One of our favorites.

Another favorite.

That's the real deal. Rock 'n Rolla.

All bundled up.

All sprawled out (22 ins.) rockin the mohawk.

I finally got a smile on camera...not easy.

Still can't believe I'm a daddy.

Jackman Dale and Trussel Dale (photo by Gregory Dale)
Too much Harper for one place?

I love this one. That's my boy.

Sorry, We're Closed...

I would have to say that last night (Tues.) I was as disappointed as I've ever been before.

The day started off okay. I went to the doc and made sure I didn't have any kind of flu because they are really cracking down on the visitors at Children's (and I'm thankful for that). Me and Lisa took my Ma to the doctor in Birmingham, and went to see Jackman during her visit. When visiting time was up we left, went and picked Ma up just as she got finished, and came home. We planned to rest for an hour or so and go back up to the hospital.

I was really worn out, and I said to Lisa "I wish we didn't have to drive back up there. I want to be there, I just don't want to make the trip." That was the first time I ever complained about driving back and forth to Children's Hospital after over 30 trips.

I was a little irritable because I didn't feel good. Traffic never helps, so I was grumbling a little more than usual, but I was getting in a better mood because we were about to see our boy.

Well, when we finally made it to NICU at Children's, they were closed. Visiting hours were suspended because one of the babies was having a procedure done. Our nurse came to the door and told us about it. We were relieved to hear that it wasn't Jackman being worked on, but when the door closed and it sank in that we weren't going to get to see him, and hold him, and talk to him that night, it took all the wind out of my sails. I really could have started crying right there.

Lisa could tell it upset me. More often than not, I would be the one consoling her, and helping her see the bright side, but last night wasn't one of those times. She did that for me, and I really needed it. I was ready to throw a pity party, and I was feeling rotten for having complained about making the drive that night, but she kept me from going down that road. She said something like "Now we don't have a choice. We'll have to slow down and get some rest." By the time we got home we decided to just sit in the big chair together and watch a movie. I think we both needed that.

I learned a little lesson about complaining, and hopefully it will tide me over for a while. I'm a natural at complaining, and anyone who knows the Harper's knows what I'm talking about. Most Harper's are by nature experts in the field of complaining (and some of my family may even be complaining now about me pointing that out, and even about the fact that I pointed it out that I pointed it out...get it). So it goes without saying that in the area of NOT complaining, I've got quite a hill to climb. I can see this is a lesson I will be taking remedial classes in for life, but I'm always improving.

The trick is to take the time to compare the problem to something that actually matters. For instance: I complained about the drive last night, but compared to not getting to see my boy it's nothing. I would gladly drive twice as far with that in mind. Or for another example, we tend to hear complaining within the church about trivial matters that have nothing to do with a soul's final destination, when just a couple months back I was attending a church service in a hut in the Amazon jungle, 100 degrees in the shade, and everyone had to walk forever through the steamy jungle to get there. (and they weren't complaining).

If anyone ever had the right to complain, it would have been Jesus. He put up with a lot, and that is the understatement of understatements. I just wish I could always remember that when I'm ready to start complaining .

One thing I have noticed, it feels good at first...when you begin to complain. The problem is you want more and more to satisfy yourself. It's like eating at Subway; it doesn't hold you over for no time at all and you need more. It is unlike Subway in that it is always easy and convenient to do (sorry Subway fans, you know it's true).

The best thing (and consequently the hardest thing) to do is give thanks for something instead of complaining. I have a few migraine headaches a year, and they are literally the most painful thing I've ever experienced. Nothing fixes them, I just have to wait (2 days one time). They completely incapacitate me. The only thing that gives me any relief or peace, and the thing I always do now when I get one, is to start giving God thanks for all he's done for me, beginning with my health.

...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) I didn't make that up, check and see.

Well anyway, that's what I'm trying to do. Today has been a really good day for complaining, and I have messed up a few times, but I can see that, and I'm giving thanks in all circumstances. I had to be grateful last night our son was okay; how could I not be? God has been too good to all of us to walk around complaining all the time.