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As any mother does on her kid’s birthday, my mind is reflecting on the now four years we’ve had with Jack.  Of course I can’t believe how BIG he is and that he can now do big boy stuff like ride his bike, say his letters, and aim his pee mostly into the toilet water.  However, my thoughts have also turned introspectively, and thus I’ve felt compelled to blog transparently about the very beginning with Jack.

So…

Jack was desperately wanted from the conception. He followed our miscarried baby, and our hearts were oh so excited once we knew we were pregnant again. We anxiously awaited passing that 12 week mark and then the ultrasound to find out the sex of our precious bundle.

When our world tilted...
4.5 years ago, chasing the heels of the announcement of “Its a boy!” I heard the word cleft for the first time {outside of a Smile Train commercial}. A small word that turned my safe world upside down. A few days later, a specialty clinic confirmed Jack’s bilateral cleft.

The next statement I recall hearing was “We have to first give you the option of  termination.” This was Emanuel’s first option for my very alive and active 24 week old baby inside my body that we had just intimately viewed in 3D.

I was stunned. My mouth said the right answer, “Absolutely not.” {I thought, I AM a pro-lifer, I believe in life!} But I felt my dry throat tighten and mind flash to the possibility of not having to face this. I have admitted this to very few, but feel compelled to share this today. {Also after the termination suggestion, we were then peppered by a geneticist with questions like, “Sooooo, are you guys related?I know we look a bit alike, but come on! Really???}

After that day, I grieved the loss of not having the”perfect” baby. I hurt deeply and privately. I cried much. These things I hate to even say now, because I love Jack so desperately. As the birth of Jack came closer, I came to terms with the cleft. We educated ourselves and prepared the best we could. To regain a sense of normalcy  I had maternity pics taken and shopped boutiques for his coming home outfit. {I couldn’t decide, so he had 2} We welcomed him with open arms; the minute he was placed on me… well, the rest is history. LOVE.

My heart today is for the  young mom who has stumbled onto our page, for the family who just heard the word cleft for the first time and is googling bilateral cleft, OHSU, Dr Kuang, Dr Garfinkle, NAM, or Doernbecher, and just in case there is even one woman sitting at the crossroad where I sat not long ago. Know this: your baby is a precious, important, and valuable person. You will grieve, and you will face challenges, but life is worth that. While my heart aches for all that our little guy will still face, more than that, my heart overflows with gratitude that I get to be Jack’s mama.  Choose life!

Happy birthday to sweet Jack and his BiG smile!

{Guess what he’s getting? The updated bat cave-to those who know him well, this may seem redundant, but we’re pretty sure he’ll love it!}

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Jack’s Cleft Journey has continued to evolve so to speak.  We were able to enjoy a fun turn in his journey this last week.  Recently, our fabulous orthodontist Dr. Judah Garfinkle and our talented plastic surgeon Dr. Anna Kuang decided to begin a non-profit organization to aid Oregon’s cleft children.  We were excited when they contacted Jack to be a part of their philanthropic endeavor.  Part of their volunteer team came out and shot video of our family so others families can see Jack’s adorable smile and see the beginning stages of Doernbecher’s innovative comprehensive treatment for cleft children.  The mission of Smile Oregon is to aid Oregon’s children in receiving a full treatment plan whether or not they can afford it and to create a community of support amongst Oregon cleft families.

Smile Oregon’s first event was held this past Friday.  Our family joined them at the MAC in Portland.  How fun to see our cleft team again along with all the supporters they had invited.  Jack was pretty pumped to see himself on video  and I must admit that as a mom, it’s pretty fun to see so many say “awwww” about your son… really a moment I had not envision two years ago.  Jack then proceeded to work the tables around us, flashing his cheesiest smile and sitting on many a lap.  Amid this joy was also the mixed emotion of how much more needs to be done for Jack.  But, for now we will enjoy his spotlight and lull in treatment.

Jack continues to get regular visits to check on all the wonderful work that he received.  A few weeks ago we were pleased to see him pass another vision screening (amidst many tears about his eyes being dilated) and seems on track with his speech progress.  Current favorite words: “No Way!  Meme (baby) and Meme cry!”  We are committed to continue to work with him so he can be speaking clearly by school age.

Adjustments.

With the birth of every child there comes a period of adjustment for our family core.  Each time it opens a new season in life and reconfigures the relationships and routines. So, I knew we’d be in for some adjustments–mainly that we’d outnumbered by our children– once sweet Maddox was born. But, I don’t think I really KNEW.  The days are flying by as we seek to adjust to this new number and attempt to meet all their needs.  Between getting them fed, clothed, working, and homeschooling, we now really know that we now have to PLAN  to get in a great conversation or accomplish something more than the minimum around our home.  Most days as we pillow our heads we are simply thankful they were all fed and made it through the day safely.  Granted, we are only 5 weeks into this family of 5, so surely we’ll adjust a bit more each month, RIGHT? 🙂

Maddox Kai.

There really couldn’t be a sweeter baby–he rarely complains, loves to cuddle and gives the most kissable little faces.  We are all pretty much in LOVE.  We are treasuring these fleeting newborn days and also anticipating the days that 8 hours–or even 4 hours of sleep could be obtained in one session.  Allie has expanded her big sis role to include long moments of carefully cradling baby Maddox on the couch while singing her very own impromptu lullabies.  Jack too is quite smitten with his soon to be playmate.  He is the first-responder to any squeaks of complaint his baby bro. might make.  Jack did have a few unfortunate days , well… weeks, of overall aggression in other areas of his life–even refusing to come to me after Maddox was born; but, fortunately our crazy guy seems to be settling back into fun loving, slightly sneaky Jackers.

Check out Jack’s Smile Oregon Video and a few recent pics–including Jack’s birthday. Happy 2nd Birthday, Jack!!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11




For lack of more creative wording, it’s out with the old and in with the NEW palate for Jack’ers.  Actually, there wasn’t an old, but ANYWAY,

There WERE old sounds.

Aghh…grunts….ma-ma…nasal cries…really sounds I can’t describe other than

“Jack sounds.”

We MISS them.

And now we hear NEW sounds:

Sucking—a sound and skill OUR baby can now make!

Na Na—a consonant Allie and I have tried to make him say for MONTHS.

Muffled cries—a normal sound that sounds abnormal for Jack.

And thousands of words to come.

Miraculous.

We LOVE them.

Dr. Kuong is totally amazing.  She closed the wide gap that extended from behind his gumline to the very back of his throat.  Instead of two of those ball things in the back of  his throat, he now has one.  She described that as sewing wet tissue paper together.  His nasal septum is no longer visible from inside his mouth.  Food is not appearing from his nose—so far. 🙂  He also had ear tubes put in—we’ve already seen him respond more suddenly to quiet sounds (more specifically, his machine that makes little plastic balls float in the air–totally terrified of it now because the sound frightens him–sorry Auntie Laura!).

The first 24 hours proved to be some of the longest hours of our lives.  Our dear friend, Pastor Greg, helped entertain us during surgery, so that part wasn’t TOO bad.  Jack was also given some great loopy medicine before hand, so he didn’t mind being separated from us.  Afterward, he was very disoriented, sleepy, and upset.  This lasted until the next morning.  Anthony and I gained some arm muscles and marital bonds holding him in those hours.  Now, each day is better.  He still loves to be held, but we are starting to see the Jack spark back in those chocolate eyes.

Our prayer now is that we can help him through the next 5 weeks of recovery. This means no solid food for the poor guy. This means arm restraints for the crazy guy.  Our hopes are that the palate will hold strong and that his speech will develop appropriately.  We’re just dying to have two chatterboxes in our home!

And from our one TRUE chatterbox, here are some of our favorite Allie-isms (or Alexy as she has re-named herself) of late:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only forgotten son…

Give me  that old time permission, give me that old time permission…it’s good enough for me!

I love you Lord….let it be a sweet, sweet sound in my hair.

This is my father’s world..I’ve been totaled in my thoughts….

I pledge allegiance to the flag….and to the replugger, for which it stands…

Thanks to our friends and family for the much needed prayer and support!!



Just an update on Jack’s surgery. We checked in at Doernbecher’s around 6 am and he was in surgery by 8 am. The upper lip repair and rhinoplasty took about 6 hours, but he’s now back in the land of the conscience. He’s doing very well and looks great. Can’t wait to see that light in his eyes again—I’m assuming it will come around after he’s off the morphine. Praise God for His protection and care of Jack while in surgery.

Mom and Dad are a bit tired, but doing well. I’ll update with some pics tonight, but here’s a before/after:

jack-before_after3