Monday, September 29, 2008

Quote of the Day

We laugh
we believe.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Perfect Contentment

It's been almost a week since our long visit to Philly for Dad's critical phase of hospitalization. Throughout all the agony, my kids were immune to the reality of suffering and possible death. Instead they had a ball at Grandmom & Grandad's house. We're ecstatic that Grandad will be returning home soon. We look forward to visiting again for a coming home party.
John Paul and Gabe especially love all the features of the house providing mobility for Grandad: his wheelchair, the ramps and wide open spaces...and of course the "rocket" van. Not to mention the completely boy friendly yard complete with dirt paths and large grassy terrains. The neighbor boys next door are always using Mom & Dad's dirt paths in the woods and offering our kids the use of their swings and trucks.
One of my favorite memories of that crazy week was taking a break to push Gabe on the neighbor's tire swing that sits alongside Mom & Dad's garage. As I pushed him on a perfectly clear, crisp September morning I watched this little person lean his head back as he swung. On his face was the look of perfect contentment. I didn't have a camera to capture it but it's an image deep in my memory.
Children really do hold the secrets to letting go and being joyful in the moment.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Go to Mom's Blog Now

Mom's going to start posting updates on Dad at her own personal blogspot:

From now on, the above address is where you'll find updates on Dad.
I'll be resuming my personal blog for "the grandparents" and of course anyone else who cares!

Slow steady recovery

Thanks again for all the prayers! This is Lorrie instead of Carolyn who has been extremely helpful in communicating the medical updates. Last night Fred experienced respiratory distress, which could have been caused by the kidney stone. With a dose of morphine, extra oxygen, and a "nonbreather" mask he became comfortable enough to get some rest. The pulmonologist said Fred was doing "Okay" on the 6 liters of oxygen, and he needed physical therapy to get his muscles that support his lungs stronger. We need to remind him to use the incentive spirometer (the little plastic device you breathe into to get feedback about how you're moving air).The chest Xray is stable; pneumonia in one lung but not getting any worse. The procedure that Fred had on 9-16 was to insert a catherter in Fred's right kidney and allow all the bacteria filled urine to drain from his body. The kidney stone is lodged still and blocking urine from passing along the normal route. The plan now is to have the kidney stone dissolved by the urologist during an outpatient visit, so hopefully it won't cause Fred too much pain between now and then. Something that has been tricky since Fred's brain injury 4 years ago is his ability to describe pain and be aware of where it 's located. Fred was very restless the night before I brought him to the hospital and now I know that is a big red flag for him. When the nurses ask Fred if he's having any pain he almost always says no. His last two incidents of respiratory distress were triggered by pain. He's going to have a rehab consult soon which will be extremely helpful. Fred's hematologist is thrilled that his platelets are almost back to normal today, as well as his blood clotting time. "You won't be needing me anymore!" Fred's nurse today commented that she's never seen such clear urine draining from a nephrostomy bag, which is attached to the catheter placed in Fred's kidney. Thank God for that wonderful intervention which really saved Fred and got everything moving in the right direction. Fred needs lots of rest to continue this recovery so we ask if we could hold off on visitors while Fred is in the ICU. In a very weak voice today he asked when he can go home- can't blame him! What a wonderful thought! He will need to be infection free as determined by the blood cultures, and he may need some inpatient time at Bryn Mawr Rehab. We are so thankful to God for sparing Fred, and for the support of our beloved family and friends!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On to Recovery

I was hoping to be able to post with this news so here it is:
Dad is off the ventilator and feeling comfortable.
They took the tubes out of his mouth. Oh the relief that must have been! The nurses immediately asked him how he felt and he said, "much better," with a scratchy voice.
He looks like a different person from 2 days ago.
Each doctor that comes in (and there are many involved here as always) is happy with his slow steady progress.
He still has the infections (pneumonia & sepsis) but his body seems to be working in the right direction.
So he'll be in the hospital until he's totally free of the awful bacteria.

So it's been another close encounter with death for Dad/Grandad/Uncle/Brother Fred Pierce. By Monday we were all thinking this infection might take him in that direction. He came close but it looks like he'll be with us for a little while longer!

Thank you for your prayers. Mom believes that's what pulled this thing around towards a hopeful direction over the past 48 hours. There's still a recovery to be gained, but let's be honest, this is nothing compared to what they've endured in the past.


This has all been quite a scare with an unknown outcome. I just got off the phone with Mom and dictated all of these seemingly good things:
Dad is showing slow steady improvement.
They are weaning him off the ventilator and hope to be done by this afternoon.
The Dr. from infectious disease is confident that they are treating him with the right combo of antibiotics.
His platelets are slightly better and his white blood cells are down a little (this is highly important).
The pulmonologist (lung Dr.) was positive about things turning in the right direction.
The cardiologist (heart Dr.) said that blood pressure and heart rate were okay- seeing slow steady improvement too. This is nice positive contrast to what he was saying two nights ago- whew.
The kidney stone is still there- we're not sure how it will be resolved- hopefully when it passes it won't cause too much stress on the heart and lungs.
Overall, once this grave blood infection is resolved, we'll know how much the heart was affected long term.
Dad slept decently last night, seems comfortable and isn't identifying any pain (back to the old thumbs up technique for communication! Tubes in the mouth aren't conducive to verbalizing).
Mom is a trooper as always. She's taking care of herself and getting sleep. We're trying to make sure she eats. Every health care professional at Paoli Memorial now probably knows her by name!
While Dad rested post procedure, we enjoyed a meal with everyone on the back patio at the house. Matt, John and Luis left to go back to DC last night. Now it's Jen, Greg and I with all of the kids. Woo hoo! There has been tremendous support from Mom & Dad's network of friends providing help with childcare and meals- a true godsend.
We hope these trends continue to be good and Dad's pain decreases steadily.
I hope to post later when Dad is hopefully off the ventilator and feeling comfortable.
Thanks again for everything.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Time to conquer these infections!

Okay everyone!
It's hard to relay all the complexities of Dad's situation. Bear with me here. The procedure to put the drain in the kidney was successful. This does not mean he's out of the woods.
In fact, he had a bad episode immediately following the procedure during which he was in so much pain he looked like he was in agony for about 15 or 20 minutes. He is so weak and was trying so hard to breath. His vitals started looking alarming and they had to give him morphin for the pain. This is where the fine art of medicine is delicate. They had wanted to wean him from the ventilator today around 4 or 5 pm. But they can't do that because his pain was so concerning they gave him morphin (my spelling is probably way off here). The morphin slows one's breathing on one hand (not good for his lungs which should be off the machine as soon as possible) but relieves him from the immense pain and allows him to sleep on the other hand.
So now it's a "wait and see" game over the next couple of days. We hope and pray that his body will efficiently get rid of these infections with the aid of the antibiotics and kidney drain. His heart and lungs need to survive all of this stress. On the positive side, his vital signs have all remained stable.
The blood tests they do over the next couple of days will obviously indicate where things are going.
This is the best I can do at this moment in trying to sum up the past few hours.
Mom is doing okay. We were happy right after the procedure to hear that it went okay but the pain we saw him in was rather sobering.
Mom is so strong and has taken such tremendous care of Dad. I know she'll continue to do so after all of this.
So let's continue storming heaven for total healing!
And we know this suffering is never wasted. It's always for something good and greater than we can see or comprehend. Dad is certainly a treasure with all of this he's going through. And it's our honor to go through it with him whether it be in person or not.
Thanks so much for all the prayers.

Prayers for the Procedure

So here is the latest from Jen & Mom at the hospital:
Dad's vital signs are better BUT he's not out of the woods yet.
He slept comfortably last night.
He's off the blood pressure support because his blood pressure was stable
The kidney numbers look better.
The white blood cell count was down- this is a good thing

Here's the bottom line:
He's having a procedure at 11am to "FIX the PLUMBING."
This will take between 1 & 2 hours.
The obstruction in his kidney needs to be fixed.
The procedure will drain his kidney.
But this is much like renovating a house, they will go into the organ and there could always be surprises and risks.
So dad is still in critical condition and needs prayers that this procedure at 11 is successful.

Some good news....

While Dad Pierce's condition is still grave and risky this morning, there were some bits of good news last night as Mom Pierce and I (Luis) kept Vigil around midnight.
Dad Pierce's INR levels were at 1.9. This is the rate at which his blood clots. This is below the 2.0 at which his blood needs to be to have the necessary clotting during surgery, which is good news.

He also seemed to stabilize some last night as his blood pressure was up even with no medication (meaning his heart is at least hanging in there), his urine looked good, and the urologist and nurse are quite positive. Dad Pierce also remains in good spirits and was his usual "rock star" self as the Goslins and a priest from the abbey visited.

We realized he was in some pain from the kidney stone, so the nurse gave him some pain meds and he was sleeping like a baby most of the night.

That being said, the risks of the surgery are still the same, and the cardiologist remains very concerned about his heart. The longer the infection remains in his body and the longer his heart is compromised, the more long-term damage could be left. So we need prayers for his heart as well as a successful surgery and clearing up of the infection.

The doctors seem to think that moving up his surgery from 11:30am would not increase his suvivability, so as of now 11:30am it is.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Urgent Prayers Needed

At this point we're realizing that Dad is gravely ill. The bacteria in his bloodstream is affecting every part of his body and his heart is failing him. The procedure to help the kidney stone issue is scheduled for 11:30 tomorrow. We hope that it's not too late. Please pray hard that Dad survives the night and can recover from this overwhelming infection. We should know within 24 hours if he's starting to improve.

Dad Pierce will have Surgery Sometime Soon

Updated 2:30pm

The kidney stone is major concern. However, the usual surgery to put a coil around the kidney to take care of the kidney stone is risky, as Dad Pierce has thin blood and bleeding is a dangerous risk.

They have been giving him plasma with the goal of thickening his blood sufficiently to do the surgery. A successful surgery would eliminate the cause of the overall infection, etc. However, the surgery is risky for obvious reasons (bleeding, his overall condition, etc.)

They want to do surgery ASAP, could be today. That is all we know for now.

Jen and Matt Heil arrived at the hospital and Dad Pierce did smile at Jen and was happy to see her and when Matt said he was looking forward to the Eagles game tonight Dad Pierce gave a thumbs up.

Latest Update on Dad Pierce

As of 11am this morning (Monday), we have found out that Dad Pierce has a kidney stone, which is what has caused much of his current condition. He is on 3 different antibiotics. The doctors cannot treat the kidney stone normally because his blood is so thin, and he would be in danger of excessive bleeding, so instead they are trying to thicken his blood artificially so they can then treat him.

Dad Pierce is conscious, although sleeping alot. When Mom Pierce's friend, Barb Skay, went in the room, he woke up right away and smiled at her.

Mom Pierce is holding up but having a very hard time between sleep deprivation and trying not to blame herself for this happening, so please pray for her and her strength of body and heart. We are trying to re-assure her that she could not have prevented this and are focusing on Dad Pierce pulling through and recovering.

We should know more by the end of the day as they move forward with how to treat his condition.
Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Things not good

It's early Monday morning and I just got a call from Jen. She talked to Mom and found out that things took a bad turn last night. Dad's body is under so much stress from the sepsis and high levels of lactic acid that he started hyperventilating. So with this respiratory distress, they had to put him on a ventilator with full oxygen and bring him to the ICU. So this is not where we were hoping to be.
Jen & Matt are driving up there today and Luis and I are making similar plans.
Please pray.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ongoing Dad Update

I talked to Mom a bit more at length and have more details to add to the ongoing update.
Last night Dad had some respiratory distress but was stable this morning so he's been able to stay on a regular floor without having to be moved to critical care. He has been receiving many fluids through an IV and this may have overwhelmed his body and heart so they gave him some medication to help pump the fluids through more efficiently without the strain.
The consolation today seems to be that his VITAL SIGNS ARE OKAY. His blood pressure is normal and fevers under control.
Regarding the Blood infection (scary I know) and pneumonia: Mom will meet with someone from infectious diseases to discuss the blood tests. They took some Ctscans and x-rays today so they'll have more information to work with. There could be a bladder infection involved here.
We are hoping and praying that his body reacts well to all of the antibiotics. They hope to see his platelet count go UP. This would be a wonderful trend to see over the next few days! (I'm trying not to consider the possibility of this not being the case.)
Dad seems to feel much better than he did Saturday morning but claims to feels aches all over his body. I spoke briefly with him over the phone as did Jen and he seemed to be his normal self.
Mom is a trooper. She is taking this all so well. She's gone home to sleep at night and then continues during the day to be Dad's beloved wife and greatest advocate. Dad has done so well under her care for the past 4 1/2 years! Please pray that she can remain peaceful.
All she asks for is prayers. No request for visitors yet even though I've been ready to jump at the word. They're hoping for the best. Dad will be in the hospital until the coast is completely clear. If all goes well, this will be at least a week.
So, we join in the rest of the prayers of the world...
for the hurricane victims
for the families in crisis all over the world in the midst of war

It's no coincidence that today is the feast of the Triumph of the Cross- our hope!
Love you all.

More Serious

Hi Everyone,
I just briefly talked to Mom. Things have actually gotten worse with Dad. Dad has been diagnosed with a blood infection. So this is now the most serious things going one. The glucose and even the pneumonia are not nearly as threatening as a blood infection.
Please pray.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dad's in the hospital

Just posting a quick update. Mom brought Dad into the Paoli hospital this afternoon. His breathing had been labored and his heart rate worrisome in addition to some other unpleasant symptoms. He was calling for Mom about every hour last night so she was so exhausted this morning it took her awhile to get him to the emergency room. They took him right away at the ER. He's on 2 antibiotics for pneumonia in the left lung, oxygen and an IV for dehydration. I talked to Mom as she was going back home to get some rest. Her biggest concern is the fact that they found his glucose levels to be very high which could indicate diabetes. She's trying not to worry too much about this because it would come with a host of complications.
I'm posting this because I left a bunch of messages wondering if anyone had heard from her. Once I finally was able to talk to her she asked me to relay this information to Jen, Cath and anyone else so she could get some rest.
So, please pray!

Friday, September 12, 2008

So Cute

John Paul filled out a survey for school last week:

Favorite Food: EGGS
Favorite Color: RED
Favorite Toy: TRAINS

We know these things as parents but it tickles my mommy heart to imagine him confessing these loves to the preschool aid last week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sep 11

Today we're appreciating the break from the political noise about the election to the focus on the victims of 9/11. It's something I haven't attempted to explain to the boys yet but I'd like to take them to the Pentagon memorial sometime. It's quite busy over there today as well as I'm sure at ground zero in NYC. As our family has continued to heal from our own trauma on 5/22/04, I can only imagine the magnitude of healing that must continue to take place in the hearts of the thousands of families affected by the immense national trauma we remember today.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love to Teresa

To my dear Aunt Teresa (who feels more like an older sister than an aunt!),
Happy Belated Birthday! You have always been loads of fun to be around. I also see you as a person who lives her beliefs to the fullest both in the big and little things. You inspire me as you live your vision of what real love means. I hope this year brings more joy than ever before.
Carolyn & Family

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Back to Schooling

Thank you all for responding to the post below about MiddleEarth. It's a theme worth pondering that I'll probably want to post on again and again. Perhaps it's my attempt to escape into delusional thinking??? Just kidding. Our life here is quite good despite the emotional turmoil I've admitted to over the past week. What can I say? I'm a self proclaimed Drama Queen. It's in my genetic composition.
This is our first full week of school. Our school plan for the year only fell into place a couple of weeks ago.
Frankly, schooling has been something I've obsessed about since John Paul was an infant. I've taken Montessori classes, read way too many books on many different homeschooling methods, purchased over 2 different preschool curriculums to try at home, toured different schools in the area...and pretty much exhausted myself in this pursuit.
I have no long term plan at this point. I've only come to the realization that this year I don't want to be alone. Last year was wonderful with very few commitments and long days at home with the boys while Monica napped like a champion. But this year we're all ready for a little more.
The school of our parish is very good but the preschool is 5 days a week. I could not come to peace with the 5 day a week schedule no matter how hard I tried.
So 2 weeks ago I decided to think outside the box. I enrolled us in a small Catholic academy that's 10 miles away. It's in a humble building and only graduates about 10 kids a year. The curriculum is focused on the "word becoming flesh," hence the name "Angelus Academy." The preschool program loosely uses the Montessori method while maintaining some actual structure. Two days a week (Mon & Tues.) I'll drop John Paul off where he'll be in a classroom setting for 3 hours. Wednesdays we have off. Thursdays and Fridays we're in a Co-op program during which I'll bring all of the kids and work with other Moms to follow the programs that have been planned. This is what I'm most attracted to. I get to show up and learn from other more experienced mothers and teachers! I feel a burden lifted.
So we're in for a trial year. And I'm honestly looking forward to the growth and challenge of it all.
Last week the Co-op had not started. Because of Labor day John Paul only went to school on Tuesday. Luis came with us to drop him off. John Paul was hesitant and wanted to observe everyone for awhile. But after about 15 minutes he was ready to jump in. I had a lump in my throat for the entire 3 hours...this I'm realizing is quite normal thank God. When I picked him up he seemed invigorated. What's even better is that he sang the whole way home.
Ahhhh, if only Mommy could switch emotions that easily!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shire Vs. Rivendell?

This past weekend I got into a fun discussion with Robin, Em & Luis about where we'd want to live in Tolkien's MiddleEarth. A fun little fantasy worth discussing I'd say.
Luis and I thought we'd prefer the Shire. Very simple. Franciscan and Therese'esque if you're talking in Catholic spirituality terms. You know- staying small & joyful etc. etc. living in rolling natural hills with lots of good ale. Definitely our style.
Robin & Emily would prefer Rivendell. The flowing dreamy lands, the foresight, the beauty and special mystical powers. Quite appealing too.
So I want to hear from my dear family and friends who actually check this blog (which is only a handful.)
What would you prefer?
The Shire or Rivendell?

Tribute to Robin & Emily

So much has been going on over the past week I feel utterly behind! John Paul started school this past Tuesday. Did I mention I was a bit emotional about this?!
I've been keeping up with all the family blogs but haven't posted any comments. But I want to say that Jaye- you're in my prayers as you deal with this new diagnosis for Sharon and the scare of seizures. And congrats Benny Anthony for walking! Cathy & Mark- please don't stop blogging just because the school year has started- we still want to hear about your life in IL after all your adventures this Summer. Mom- thanks again for the Monica post. Jacqueline & Cath- Keep the pictures coming! I'm cutting "HeilStyle" a break since Jen is totally pregnant and moving to California.
This past weekend we were blessed with a visit from a dear friend of mine- Robin. I'm lucky enough to have a dear friend living next door (Emily) and another who lives far away in Boston but has graced us with two visits in the past year (Robin). The pictures above are actually from this past Fall's visit.
This past weekend my head was not quite on straight. (Did I mention my crazy mother emotions reacting to my oldest starting school?!!!). So I didn't get any pictures. BUT I wanted to post some anyway even though it was almost a year ago.
I love the ones of Robin stopping to smell the roses with the kids. The truly remarkable thing about Robin is the way she lives...and I mean truly lives. When life deals you crazy cards and you can still find joy in the smallest of things, you are a hero in my book. Robin lived through a nightmare over 2 years ago when her husband was killed in a really freak accident in Boston. She lived through it and is still living to the fullest...with faith.
Emily and I love when she has an excuse to visit us in DC! And the picture of Gabe & Em is priceless.
I'm lucky to have such good friends.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Birthday pictures from last week

Last week Beth (Monica's godmother) had us over for dinner and we celebrated Monica's birthday with a scrumptious dinner & cake. Our original plans had been cancelled in order to go to North Carolina. Beth made up for it! I'm so grateful to her for her enduring friendship.