Saturday, January 28, 2012


Oh, January, January. It has been quite the month, for so many reasons.

We started off the month with Ben having surgery. The weekend before he went under the knife, he decided to make us, for the first time ever, some baby back ribs.

Oh my, were they delicious. Finger licking good, really.

Hats off to the chef!

2 days after the ribs, on January 9th, Ben went in for back surgery- a microdiscectomy. The procedure involved surgery on his lowest disc in his back (the L5S1 for you medically knowledgeable people). He has had back pain/problems for years and has a family history of degenerative discs. He has tried all types of treatment- physical therapy, medicine, cortisone injections. All of those would help for a short period of time, and then the pain would come back. It has gotten extremely bad in the last 2 years and there have been periods of time where he was in so much pain that he couldn't walk or function at all. We finally decided to see a neurosurgeon who suggested this surgery. After exhausting all of the alternatives to surgery, we decided it was time to do something that we told would take away all the pain!

Ben did great in the surgery- the doctor said everything went just as planned and there were no surprises. Ben walked himself to the car to go home and was given strict orders to walk and walk and walk- the best thing to help him heal. His restrictions are many- no bending, twisting or lifting at all for 3 weeks, and then no lifting over 20 lbs for 3 months (which means, in a household of 4 small children, no lifting of any of the kids until April!) He was also told not to sit at a 90 degree angle at all for a week. Luckily, laying in bed was perfectly acceptable and he has done lots of that over the past 3 weeks. I'm just guessing here, but I'm pretty sure he's watched at least 30 movies in 20 days. Ahhh, the life of a recovering patient! :)

And my angel mother was here the week Ben got surgery. She volunteered to come to watch the kids so that I could be with Ben during surgery and help get him settled the first few days after. She was a lifesaver, truly. She has a very giving heart, is so helpful when she's here (she cooks, cleans, entertains, you name it, she does it) and my kids adore her. It's a win, win for us all. Thank you Mom!

My kids love playing games and after my own maternal Grandma, I have never seen a woman so willing to play game after game after game with young children. She's amazing! Here she is playing "Don't Eat Pete" with the kids, with M&M's and Swedish fish.

Lexi looooved the Swedish Fish!

January 14 was Chloe's first ever piano recital. Ben was able to come and watch, just 5 days post surgery, but with 3 restless little kids to battle through the recital and Ben not able to sit down, we we weren't able to get a picture of Chloe actually playing during the recital. Here she is practicing before it started, with her teacher blocking her view. Her teacher is very sweet and extremely positive with her students. We love her.

Here are all the kids after the recital. My favorite part of the recital was that the teacher made all the kids either bow or curtsey after their performance. I thought it was cute, especially since Chloe was embarrassed to do it!

My little piano playing girl

Afterwards we had a little dessert buffet mingle. We called it dinner and the kids loved it.

The next day, Sunday, the national news broadcast snow hit Seattle.

My kids were so excited to play in it. The big kids each got a new coat and snow pants for Christmas this year, to go along with the snow boots they received last year. We don't get much snow, so we have never been very interested in buying a lot of snow gear.

The babies were happy to play for maybe 15 minutes- they had no snow gear and got cold pretty quickly.

They wore rain boots, jeans over leggings, 2 jackets and gloves and a hat.

We very much dislike our sloped driveway, but it is great to sled down on.

We also get great use out of our beach body boards in the snow. Multi function objects are my favorite!

The neighborhood kids all had a great time playing together.

The next week is when things got a little crazy in our January. On Monday, the 15th, Ben started to feel...funny. He started having some pain in his back and backside, whereas up until then he really had felt pretty amazing. His incision was very tender and "burning" a little, as he described it.

On Tuesday, we went into the doctor (when more snow hit- this is as shot of the conditions as we drove), as we suspected an infection. Our suspicion was confirmed and he was put on an antibiotic in pill form. After having been off his post surgery pain killers for 5 days, he had to go back on them to treat the worst pain he'd had since surgery (very frustrating). While laying on his back felt wonderful last week, it was very painful to do this week as his incision, now infected, was very, very sore. He also got a fever that night and was pretty miserable for a good 24 hours. We felt like he was taking a huge leap backwards in his recovery.

Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, the big predicted snow storm hit our area. School was canceled for 3 days in a row.

All things white and untouched- very pretty.

Thursday was when the freezing rain hit and turned everything to ice. It was crazy, to say the least.

Our poor Japanese maple tree in the front yard did not fare well- the ice was too heavy and snapped off about 3/4 of the tree limbs. We will have to wait and see if it will even live through the Spring and Summer.
Later in the week as everything started to thaw out, you could go outside and just hear snapping and crackling everywhere as tree branches snapped off all over the area. Driving around our city was like driving through a war zone- huge tree limbs and branches were everywhere. It was devastating to see. It will take a long time for the Seattle area to recover from the damage that was done to our beautiful nature. To add to it, hundreds of thousands of people were with out power for days and some for over a week. We were very fortunate to never lose power ourselves, but I had many friends who were without.

The icicles were HUGE!

Our van was just a sheet of ice! I have never seen anything like it.

The doorhandles were completely frozen over with ice. I couldn't try to pull the handle open even if I wanted to.

The top of the van looks like snow- but it was ice/snow, with a layer of solid ice right below that, with another ice/snow layer, then more ice.

It started to thaw out on Friday the 20th and I took it upon myself (just to get out of the house for the first time 3 days and have something to do) to de-ice the car by hand. It took about 1.5 hours and it was like what I imagine chiseling through an igloo would be like- with an ice scraper.

Although the ice did a lot of damage, it sure was beautiful.

Another shot of our poor tree.

And Ben- what a trooper. Since he can't really help put the kids to bed, he does the best he can. Chloe and Mitch have a hard time falling asleep together (they play, fight, etc), so Ben takes Mitch into bed with him every night and has the magic touch. Mitch is out cold within 10 minutes most nights, and then I transfer him to his bed after.

Since he wasn't allowed to sit at a 90 degree angle for the first week, and now feels pain from his infection when he sits at a 90 degree angle, he either eats standing up, or kneels on a pillow at the table.

Since laying down is the most comfortable way to relax, any time Ben needs to "sit down" he has to do it in bed. The kids love taking turns laying with Dad and watching TV, playing the iPad or snuggling with him. This day, the 3 of them pretended to be asleep.

2 weeks after surgery, we headed back into the doctor's office for an incision check. There we were told that we were being referred to an infection control doctor, who would oversee the rest of Ben's recovery from the infection. It was not until our appointment on Wednesday, the 25th with the infection doctor (over a week after being treated for the initial infection) that we were told that Ben's infection was a staph infection (and maybe it's called "staff" infection is you catch one at work).

The more we learned about staph, the more upset we became. Staph infections can be very serious and very dangerous. Ben's staph was in his blood stream, which is pretty serious. The frustration and anger comes from the fact that the surgeon's office did a swab of the incision and sent it off to the lab to see what kind of infection it was over a week ago and we were never told it was staff until 8 days later. It only takes 2 days to get a culture result back and due to the bad weather, the doctor's office didn't find it important enough to check the lab results and put everything off until the next week. We now consider ourselves very blessed that Ben is not sicker than he is and that nothing more serious developed, as the original antibiotic was not treating the staph infection.

Due to the delay in treating the staph (due to negligence by our doctor's office), we were told by the infection doctor that a pill form of antibiotics would not treat the staph. Ben would have to have a PICC line placed (peripherally inserted central catheter)- or a form of intravenous access that can be in place for longer periods of time. His powerful antibiotics would be given through the PICC line once a day for 6 weeks. We were told we could learn to do this at home ourselves, or come in to the office everyday for 6 weeks. That was easy- we'd learn to do it at home. Lucky for us, my sister and brother-in-law are pros at everything related to PICC's. Their baby has had a PICC for almost 9 months. I called her immediately upon receiving the news and she calmed my fears (it was overwhelming at first) and told me I could do it and gave us lots of tips.

Talk about another set back. We really hope this will be the end to the drama of post surgery. We never imagined all of this, but are truly grateful that nothing more serious has happened (it could always be worse) and that we are hopefully now getting the treatments that will get him all better.

We had the PICC placed that day. Here it is right after it was placed, waiting for an X-ray to make sure it was placed correctly (it goes up his arm and rests right up by the heart).

The X-ray showed it was in the right place, so the next thing to be done was start his first fusion (receiving his first round of antibiotics through the PICC). The nurse had me do, telling me what to do step by step. I'm glad Ben was listening- it's nice to have someone else know what's going on.

After a 4 hour appointment, and being sent home with a week's worth of supplies, we finally left to pick up our kids. A very sweet friend was wonderful to watch them for 5 hours. We had no idea we would be gone that long and she was a gem for being so flexible and willing. Having our kids at that appointment would have been a nightmare. We have been overwhelmed with the love and kindness showed to us by so many these past few weeks. So many people have done so much- watched our kids, taken Chloe to school, brought in meals, called and texted to check in on us, brought us needed supplies during the ice storm, and on and on. We are so grateful for everyone.

Here is the finished product- the blue thing is where the antibiotic goes in.

And not to forget, here is the original wound (covered for your sake- it looks nasty right now due to the infection)- it was what got us into this mess in the first place!

A shot of the PICC uncovered- it looks worse than it is. All the dried blood got trapped under the dressing and will stay there until the nurse changes it next week.

The kids have really been troopers with Ben not being able to pick them up and play with them like they're used to. I was really worried how the babies would handle it, as they don't understand as much, but they have been so cute and done way better than I ever imagined. They ask to see Ben's back "owie" (now 2 owies) every day and they repeat, as they've been taught- "Daddy's owie- don't touch!" They were fascinated with his PICC. Leah called it a "snake."

Thursday was our first time to infuse all by ourselves. Here are all the supplies.

Here he is all hooked up, trying to control the flow of the medicine.

They did not send us home with an IV pole, so we got creative and used the lamp in our room to hang the antibiotic bag from that.

Works great!

A successful first infusion! One day down, 41 to go!

The next day, I was able to go with Mitchell to his preschool field trip to the local public library. They learned about trains. Here they are making a train together.

Then they read books and sang songs about trains. He was so well behaved. I was so proud of him. And Ben was able to stay at home with the babies while they napped, so it was just me and Mitch, which rarely happens.

We haven't had much "away from home fun" since Ben's surgery, so this past Friday night, we got some burgers and fries and headed to the church gym for some family fun. Ben worked on ward clerk stuff, and the kids ran around the gym and played with some balls.

They had so much fun. It was a perfect free activity. In our next house, we will definitely have a full sized gymnasium! :)

The kids kept themselves happily entertained, which allowed me to read my book. Perfect for everyone.

We're ready for you, February!