Wednesday, January 26, 2011


In mid January, Leona was evaluated by a team of therapists at Memorial's Mo's Diner.  It was pretty encouraging.  They watched her eat & play.  They said that she was right on target!  So no need for Occupational Therapy.  YAY!  They did suggest looking into food allergies b/c of her inconstant vomitting schedule.

How big is Leona? SOOOO BIG!

This past week Leona went to her pediatrician for a check-up & to discuss what's going to happen next.  She was 19# 9oz. right before Christmas.  Monday, she was 21# 5oz.  We were so pumped.  She hadn't eaten very well over Christmas in Ohio or for the first few weeks of being back home, but had finally picked up the last 2 weeks before the appt.  The big difference is that she hadn't vomitted, but 1 time.  Before Christmas she had vomitted every night for about 10 days in a row.  HUGE DIFFERENCE!

Leona is still having tummy pains that wake her up at night on occasion, so we are going through the process of getting her into a GI dr. at Riley's Childrens Hospital in Indianapolis.  This will take a few months, so it should be around April.  If she continues to not throw up or have tummy pains, we will cancel...we're hoping to not make the trip :)  If so, we'll have to hit the zoo down there when we go!

Leona is growing in other ways too.  She loves saying "Abby", "Daddy", "Elmo" & "Nite-Nite".  She says them with such clarity!  It is really amazing to see her grow-up into a toddler.  She runs all over & gets into lots of mischeif.  She gets several time outs a day for touching the remote or being stubborn.  It seems to really get the point across.  She doesn't scream or cry to go in to her crib.  She just waits it out & signs "All Done" when she is ready to come out.

She loves riding on her cars!  I just wish we had more room in our house for them.  It gets kind of crowded!

She loves to "give kisses".  She clicks her tongue from far away or close up.  No slobbering kisses in this house :)  You gotta see it!  It's adorable!

She went in the snow for the first time a few weeks agon when we got over 10".  She HATED it!  I think Daddy was disappointed!

As you can see, it was very traumatic!

Lately she has been watching more TV & movies b/c of my back.  She loves watching Elmo, Super Why?, Go-Go-Go (as she calls it; The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That), and Wheel of Fortune....Yes, the Wheel of Fortune.  She loves calling out her favorite letters "D", "O", "I", "E"...& then she claps when they do!  SOOOO ADORABLE!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gathering Facts

Well, the appt. with my neurosurgeon was this morning.  After waiting over an hour for our appt, I realized why I like this dr.  Dr. Schnittker is AMAZING!  He is really intelligent, very experienced & makes me feel so taken care of. 

He has ordered a MRI of my lower lumbar since my last one was Dec 2009.  He also ordered some X-rays of my middle back & lower lumbar.  He wants to gather all of the facts & take it step-by-step.  He sd that my symptoms are not completely adding up to the herniation.  Obviously we will make a plan after all of the tests come back on what is next for my recovery process.

It seems that my orthopedic should of taken some of these steps, but we don't really know why my orthopedic didn't suggest some of these tests---maybe he thought this dr. would know more about what steps should be taken next.  Anyways---Dr. Schnittker sd that some of the next steps could be chiropractics (which was so good to hear), physical therapy & possibly injections.  He really won't know until he sees how large the herniation is at this point.

I held off on asking some of my questions until the results come back---one of them being having another pregnancy.  Pray that we will have wisdom in what steps should be taken & who to see for PT or Chiro if we go that route.  Also, please pray that we will trust Him for our finances.  We are still feeling behind from our year of 2009---between my health, Leona's birth, her time in the NICU, my tests & my surgery. 

Ben reminded me that God is in control & will provide for our needs.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:31-34

He is so right.  I am not merely a flower or a bird that the Lord take care of, but his daughter.  May I praise you & trust you for everything I need---including more faith as we continue to walk this hard road of health.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Misery is Optional!

After writing my last post, reading a great book & being encouraged my someone else's blog, I found myself being challenged to write a little more about what's going on with my experience with my back pain.  I have shared my physical battle with you, but I haven't shared much of my emotional & spiritual battle.

Despite the discouragement I sometimes feel from my physical limitations, the Lord is working & growing me.  I have to be honest that December has been hard for me. I have been angry & frustrated at times, mostly because I had been trying to face my pain by myself.  As I have stated in my previous posts, I sometimes feel all alone in my pain b/c I don't really share it with others.  The TRUTH is I'm not alone.  My God is faithful & has shown himself so clearly to me over the past 4 years through the pain he has brought into my life---from migraines to leg pain to physical limitations. 

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights." Habakkuk 3:17-19

I started to realize that I had quenched the spirit.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit." I Thessalonians 5:16-19. 
I had forgotten to rejoice despite how I was feeling.
I had forgotten to give thanks for my circumstances. 
I had stopped praying continually for my attitude & for his help.---so I quenched the spirit.

The truth is that the Lord knew how I felt & gave me some people around me to encourage me.  One of those people was a lady from our church named Marcia.  She experienced 30 years of pain from an unknown cyst on her spine.  All of the MRI's had come back clear in the early years of her treatment.  She just came to grips with her situation & lived in pain.  About 5 years ago they found her cyst & she had surgery that eliminated 90% of her pain.  She alone encouraged me, but she also gave me a book called You Gotta Keep Dancin' by Tim Hansel.  I have started reading it & know that it is going to take several reads to learn all that might be in this book, but I wanted to share some truths he shared in his book.

"Faith isn't really faith until it's all that you're holding on to."
(p. 42)

This is so true!  I think that is why the Lord chooses for us to go through trials.  I'm not so sure trials are so much of a test, as we often see them as, but more of a magnifying glass being held to our God so we can SEE him better. 

I remember the moment when I saw this in my own life.  It was one of the most pain-filled times with my back, just 2 days before my trip to the ER & 3 before my emergency surgery.  I was trying to sit-up long enough to pump milk for my newborn, praying every sec to go a full 15 min. I just prayed for 1 more minute until I got through that & prayed for another & yet another.  My faith was all I was holding on to.  He had become my sustainer & strength.  I trusted him & he gave me victory each second I prayed.

"The word happiness comes from the same root as the word happening, suggesting that happiness is based on something happening to us.  Happiness is circumstantial. If I pay off my car, I'm happy. If I get a new shirt, I am happy. If my friends say nice things, I'm happy....Joy on the otherhand is something that defies circumstances & happens in spite of difficult situations...

Whereas happiness is a feeling, joy is an attitude."
(p. 49)

"I began to realize that it wasn't my imposed limitations that held me back as much as my perception of those limitations.  It wasn't the pain that was twarting me as much as it was my attitude toward the pain...

I had the opportunity to choose a new freedom and joy if I wanted to."
(p. 48)

I am seeing this in my own life & have a feeling that this will be a constant battle as I have to decide each day if I will CHOOSE joy!  I can choose joy because God sent His Son to die for my sins & reconciled our relationship (John 3:16).  I can choose joy because He is my strength (Psalm 28:7). I can choose joy because He increases as I decrease (John 3:30).

Pray with me that His glory would shine from my circumstances & that my mind would be focused on His truth!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pain in my BACK!

Well, my back has been progressing since I wrote last.  It started hurting in my mid-back meaning that my muscles are now starting to compensate for the lower back.  This means that my back is very sensitive right now.  I took 5-6 days of complete rest.  Ben took care of the house & I chose only a few things to do each day which typically meant a bath for Leona or basics to get through the day until Ben got home from work. It really helps that he comes home for lunch!

I scheduled a dr's appt with my orthopedic dr. last Thursday.  He basically said that he could no longer prescribe steriods b/c it wasn't good for my body.  He basically said that the 2 options were trying another steriod injection or talk to my surgeon about surgery.  He seemed to suggest the later option more b/c my body has not responded to the injections the past 2 times.  In fact, the last one made me worse.  We will see what this other doctor suggests.

At this point, I know that there are 2 possible surgeries that he could suggest.  The first is a microdiscectomy. Basically the herniated portion of the disc is cut-off to relieve the pressure from the nerve, giving more room for the disc to heal.  This is the same surgery I had in July 2009.  Of course I was in the 5% of people who have a recurrant herniation after surgery. Since I have reherniated after surgery, I run a 20% risk that it will reherniate again.

The second type is called a spinal fusion. This involves adding bone graft to the area allowing the 2 vertebrate to fuse & grow together.  I know that hardware is inserted to the area to keep the vertebrate from moving so that the bone graft can form. This fusion keeps the disc from moving. I don't know if they would have to take bone from another area of my body or would use a synthetic material.  This is obviously a more serious surgery & has more risks.  It would require several days in the hospital & probably some sort of rehabilitation.

Please pray for wisdom.  We are hoping there are some other suggestions that the dr. will suggest.  If he does suggest surgery, we will probably have a 2nd opinion before completely pursuing the idea. 

Amazingly both of us are handling the idea of surgery pretty well at this point.  There are obvious risks & outcomes of this---finances, time, health, etc. but the joy of having a chance for a pain-free life & the ability to have more kids is outweighing that right now.

If anyone reading this has any fusion surgery experience, please leave a comment :)
I will update this after next Friday morning to let you know what the dr. says.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rachael's Back Update

We know that many of you pray for us on a regular basis.  We ask that you pray for wisdom for our family.  We are really searching on what to do for my back.  We have scheduled another appt. with her orthopedic dr. to discuss more options to help. 

I went on more oral steriods after my back progressively got worse from July to October.  We tried 2 rounds.  I did regain some feeling in my leg as the numbness & pain had progressed down into my heel.  I try not to communicate or whine about my back, so sometimes those around me don't even know that I am suffering. If I did, I would be saying something like 90% of the time. I am really struggling with feeling alone & discouraged lately.I feel my disc is so unstable that I could face an emergency situation like 2009 so quickly.  Before my first surgery I had felt some relief all to head into a tailspin & surgery 7 days later.  Menstration & a harder bed are just some of the minor things that send my back into pain.

I have to grasp for the positive.  I am so thankful for some close friends that have prayed with me & encouraged me with scripture.  I have also been blessed by an older woman in our church who has opened up to me about her similiar back problems. A close friend & her husband have graciously allowed me to use their back machine on occasion to help stretch my spine. Knowing that many of you are praying is also a blessing. 

We have found some more information from a friend about her husband's back. There may be a different kind of injection that I can get.  Right now I am feeling that we need to pursue that or another type of surgery.  I think the biggest discouragement is thinking of future pregnancies.  I want to have more children but unless something drastic happens, I just don't see how we will be able to.  Here I am just a few weeks from 2 years of pain!  I have had about 4 months during that whole time with little to no pain.

I know Ben gets discouraged too.  So much has come out of my back problems & we still aren't finished dealing with it.  If anyone needs your prayers or hugs---it is definitely him. He has to deal with all of the implications---house work, financial decisions & provisions, emotional support & picking up any other pieces!

I have come to think that the one who suffers daily has an easier time than those around that person.  The others feel helpless in helping while the one who suffers reaches out to the only one that can give hope & peace---Christ.  I AM thankful for this experience.  It has helped me SEE & FEEL like others, like my SIL, who deal with a chronic disease.  It has also helped me SEE my Savior more clearly.  He is faithful to show me that HE IS working despite how dark my circumstances may seem at times. 

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being..." Eph 3:16

Thanks for listening!

Baby Dedication for Leona

We are finally having Leona's dedication.  Last year we were unable to participate because of Rachael's back problems.  We hope you can join us!!