Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Granny's Point of View

This was written for me by my mother. It's her version of Linden's miracle!

My story about Linden's miracle begins a few weeks ago...We knew when Linden's surgery was set for and of course, we had prayers and support from the beginning, though way too much time to think about it all, I guess. Anyhow, I spent almost the whole afternoon of July 2 and all of July 3 nursing fears for Linden, even though I had been praying, and nothing had really changed with her. This feeling of doom made me very emotional and sad, apparently, I was not good at hiding my feelings either. I attended morning mass on Friday, July 3 in search of consolation from the Lord. After mass, we were invited to receive a blessing associated with a relic of St. Thomas Aquinas. Fr. Sibley showed concern for my sadness and even offered to come to Boston for the surgery. He said he would ask for prayers for Linden at all of the weekend's masses. My friend Jonel stayed after mass and talked to me for nearly an hour. We talked and talked and she made a profound offering to me that I had never heard before. She told me that I should make a trade with God, offer him something of myself and that I should ask for the whole thing..."don't hesitate, pray for a miracle," she insisted. Then she drew me the most beautiful mental picture. I will try to quote her directly now (remember we were both sniffling and blinking back tears at this point): She told me, "You know, there are people around the world that pray all day long: nuns, monks, priests, old people...sometimes their prayers are not for anything in particular. I am going to go home and ask God to take all of the 'loose prayers' around the world and gather them up for Linden." I was, and still am touched by such a unique expression of prayer. I found this idea so profound. I pictured God's hand waving through the air like a butterfly net scooping all of these airborne, hazy, undulating Our Fathers and Hail Marys and bringing them to his heart and whispering Linden's name. Later that morning, Bianca and I had a long talk about and she opened up about her fears. I tried to comfort her, but I too was afraid. All I could do was relay Jonel's message of prayer to Bianca. Linden's beautiful name was spoken out loud by the priests at masses at St. Ann's church that weekend. The congregation at New Hope Fellowship (Joseph's church from childhood) also prayed for Linden. Many of the people of New Hope had been praying for Linden for weeks by then. She had had prayers for her offered by our youth group, as well. She was well covered in prayer.

On Monday, I began a week of catechism classes, I was teaching sixth grade. It was the best week. The teachers enjoyed it, the kids enjoyed it. We all learned so much and were joined together in church daily to worship and share in daily mass. Each day the children seemed more and more interested in the mass. The groups had been given the opportunity to ask for prayers for certain needs and, of course, Linden was mentioned often that week. At some point in that week, I remember getting a text from Bianca that her fears had gone away and she was certain that Linden was going to be fine. I, too, had experienced a sense of calmness. Surely, this consolation was from the Holy Spirit. After such a beautiful week, its no surprise that I woke up early one day in the next week with inspiration as my alarm clock. For some reason, out of the blue, I woke up and my first thought was about The Infant of Prague. The image of Jesus as a child/king with a flowing gown, a crown on his head and holding the earth in his hand is an old Catholic symbol of miracles. I had grown up seeing my mother's statue of the Infant of Prague on her dresser and was facinated by the sweetness of the baby's face. I always loved dolls and so was naturally drawn to the statue. I never really knew very much about the statue and its representation of miracles and conversion. I did know that the statue had been given to my mother by her mother in law at a negative time in my parents early years of marriage. Ironically, I live in the house of that grandmother now. My grandmother was very religious and I suppose she had encouraged my mother to pray to the Infant Jesus of Prague to help her in her needs. I have no explanation for my sudden awakening with the Infant of Prague on my mind on that particular morning, however. I surmise now that my mother and grandmother joined together and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me through baby Linden's ordeal using the consolation of the Infant Jesus. So I proceeded to Google information about the Infant of Prague and what the story was behind this devotion. To make it short as possible, the veneration of the Infant of Prague has been attributed with many miracles and conversions for centuries. There are several prayers and novenas directed to the Infant of Prague. One in particular caught my attention. (I had discovered a beautiful nine-hour novena card way back in April and had purchased the card especially for Linden's day of surgery) Much to my surprise, when researching the Infant of Prague, I once again came across this nine-hour novena and found that it was to be prayed specifically to the Infant of Prague. This really struck me as a "wow" moment. Everything seemed tied together somehow and now I knew that my mom and grandmother had been working in heaven together for quite sometime. I brought all of this information together and presented Bianca with this story of exciting turn of events, along with a small statue of the Infant that had been in my store (ignored!) for an undetermined amount of time.

Skip to the days of the non surgery! I brought Bianca and Joseph to New Orleans to catch their plane on Wednesday and off they went. Kirk, Kip, Aislinn and I left Thursday afternoon with Boston as our destination. Of course, I said many prayers along the way. I had heard from Bianca on that day that the tests Linden had undergone that day showed improvement in her condition, and the doctor was puzzled... LOL! Bianca said that MAYBE Linden may not need the surgery... dare we breathe....

We slept somewhere in Tuscalusa, Alabama that night. When we began driving on Friday morning, I began the nine-hour novena. Needless to say, our prayers were answered before the novena was completed! By midmorning, Bianca called and said that they were being DISCHARGED that day! No surgery! When I started the novena, it was to ask for something and I completed the novena with expressions of gratitude to the Lord for the miracle.We did not go to Boston, we went to visit Gianna, Brady and Jack in Erie, instead. By the time we got back to Mamou, word of our miracle had been spread. Everywhere I went, people acknowledge the event as miraculous. Everyone felt like they had been part of the miracle because they had participated in prayers, fundraisers and other aspects of Linden's story. I felt compelled to tell everyone about the miracle.

Bianca and Joseph remained in Boston until the Tuesday.After picking them up at the airport on Tuesday, we went to a restaurant in Metairie for lunch. We marveled at this turn of events. I guess we must have been glowing. A couple of ladies were sitting at the table next to us and noticed our Linden. They made comments about her throughout our meal. Everyone loves a precious baby, you know, and Linden was gorgeous in a scrumptious pink outfit. The ladies had made enough overtures towards her while I held her that I had to tell them the news.One of the ladies commented on Linden's blue eyes and one thing led to another and I told them about her special week.I said that she was just back from Boston from not having surgery!Obviously touched by this, one of the ladies asked, "Had ya'll prayed to Saint Jude?!"I said, "We prayed to Saint Jude for her first surgery, but for this surgery we prayed the novena to the Infant of Prague..."The other woman gasped and said, "Oh, I love the Infant of Prague!" After this, she thrust her hand forward to show us her INFANT OF PRAGUE RING!!! on her finger! I have to tell you, I did plenty of searching for Infant of Prague products and never once had I seen a ring...In two total strangers, the Lord sent us another sign of his continuing watchful gaze. I am certain that He is not finished using Linden Caroline Olivier to bring even more people closer to Him. Infant to infant.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Have you ever witnessed a miracle?

I can say for sure that I have.

My daughter, Linden, is a living, breathing, smiling miracle. Two months ago, her cardiologist sat me down in a room and told me that Linden's had a lot of mitral valve regurgitation (leakage) and that she would need another surgery, soon. He told me that in 6-9 months her heart just wouldn't be good anymore. He had two patients (Linden included) whose heart anatomy was as complicated as Linden's and the other patient didn't make it. I left that appointment feeling so low. She had her first open heart surgery last November, in Boston, at 11 weeks old, but she's just been so healthy that it seemed like she was fine. Her heart told otherwise. A copy of the images from her echocardiogram was sent to her cardiologist in Boston and after reviewing them, he agreed with her cardiologist here that scheduling surgery was the next step.

A few days later I was on the phone with a Sherry from Dr. Breitbart's office in Boston scheduling everything that we would be doing while there. Linden would be having pre-op bloodwork, an EKG, an Echo, and a chest x-ray on Thursday, July 16, and a heart catheterization procedure the following day. Her mitral valve repair was scheduled for Monday, July 20. Sherry told me what to do and what not to do before procedures like not eating 4 hours before the Echo because she would be sedated and 4 hours before her heart cath.

We got to Boston on Wednesday, July 15. My friend, Kelly, picked us up at the airport and brought us to our home for the next couple of weeks, The Devin Nicole House. It's a nice place to stay that the hospital offers to families of cardiac patients. After getting settled in, we took a walk around Boston. We passed in front of Harvard Medical School and it became real to me where we were. I had spent the last few weeks crying and praying that God would heal Linden's heart through the hands of her surgeon and yet here we were, in Boston, at one of the top children's hospitals in the nation. I needed to have faith in our situation, in the doctors and surgeon in charge of her care, and most importantly, in God as He had the last word.

Linden did NOT sleep well at all that first night. For some reason, the dark, quiet room made her very hyper! She was up from 11pm-4:30am yelling, talking to herself, flipping over and scratching the sides of her pack'n'play. It was mighty crazy. Haha. I kept hoping that eventually she would fall asleep as I was nursing her, but no, it did not work. Needless to say, Joe and I were exhausted the next day for her pre-operative testing at 7am. Joe and I were like zombies. Linden had bloodwork, an EKG, a chest x-ray and while we were trying to keep her awake for her sedated echo, she fell asleep. Perfect timing, kiddo. She had to be woken up to get chloral hydrate (meds that made her just sleepy enough to lie still) before her echo. She took it and fell back asleep. Her nurse encouraged Joe and I to go get some lunch while she had her echo done because it would take over an hour and we hadn't eaten breakfast yet. While we ate lunch in the cafeteria, neither of us could stop thinking about Linden. We were hoping that they wouldn't find anything else that was wrong and that things would at least have stayed the same and not gotten worse since her last echo 6 weeks before.

Thinking back now, those last couple of weeks before we went to Boston were so hard on me. I was torn between God's will and my own. What if His will was different than what I wanted? Handing over my fears and my Linden was what I needed to do, but was it ever hard to do. I wasn't sleeping well. I wasn't eating well. I lost some weight. I was cranky all the time. Anything and everything made me burst into tears. One day, my sister-in-law came over with a card from a priest friend of a friend and as I opened it up and read the words "Praying for your strength to accept God's will," I turned into a sobbing mess. I couldn't lose my baby. I just couldn't.

Joe and I held hands and walked back up to the Echo room and as we sat down, I saw three people looking at two images on the screen. I could hear some murmuring and 'mmmhmm's', 'hmmmmm's' but I couldn't really make out what they were saying. They were done, though. Linden had slept the whole time so they were able to get some really good images, they told us. Dr. Breitbart asked Joe if he had a record of Linden's weight gain and I got worried when I heard that. I started thinking that it must have been worse than it was before otherwise why would he be asking that question. We were moved into another room, where Dr. Breitbart and his partner Dr. Caine came in to speak to us about their findings.

"I have somewhat good news," he said, "it seems that Linden's echo today revealed that her leaking valves have slowed down quite a bit since 6 weeks ago."

Joe and I were very confused and asked what that meant.

"We compared her images from today to her images from post-op last November and from the end of May and her image from today is almost identical from November's. From what I see today, it seems like she's gone from a small chance that she won't have surgery to a small chance that she will need surgery. Dr Caine and I are very, very puzzled, though, and we need to go over the images again so we'll have to meet up later and discuss this again. Can you meet me in my office around 4:00? Let's try not to get our hopes up because we do want to do what's best for Linden."

I had a HUGE grin on my face. So did Joe! Linden soon woke up and nursed and then we walked around the hospital for a while trying to waste some time. We had two hours until we were to meet with him again.

Dr. Breitbart walked in with somewhat of a grin on his face. He said that he had gone over all of Linden's images with the Chief of Radiology and Linden's surgeon, Dr. John Mayer, and they all came up with the same conclusion. Linden's heart was BETTER than 6 weeks previous. He said that her condition doesn't get better without surgical intervention, but somehow, some way, Linden's had. Her heart had corrected itself. He did want to go on with doing the heart catheterization procedure the following day to be sure, but just by the look on his face we could tell that he was feeling pretty sure about what he was saying about her possibly not needing surgery.

Joe and I went back to our room at the Devin Nicole House and talked. I just had this overwhelming feeling of peace no matter what was going to happen. We had gone there expecting surgery, so we couldn't necessarily be disappointed if she did end up needing it, but to go home without surgery would be absolutely amazing. I just kept saying, "Whatever happens, we'll be fine. Whatever Linden needs is what she'll get." It didn't hurt either that the news came on the 9 year anniversary of the death of Joe's mom, Carol, who Linden CAROLine is named after. She was definitely watching over Linden and whispering into Jesus' ear that day!

I called my mom and told her what happened that day. She and my dad were driving from Louisiana to Boston and were in Alabama when I talked to her. I told her not to freak out, (she does that from time to time.....haha) but I had some news that I was bursting to just tell someone. When I told her that it was a possiblilty, that Linden wouldn't even need surgery, she burst into tears and said "I changed my prayer today! I have been praying that she would be fine during and after surgery, but then I said 'No, my God is bigger than this, I want a miracle. I pray that she doesn't even have to have surgery." I told her to keep it a secret until we knew for sure. We would know by noon the next day.

Friday morning we woke up around 5:30 and were at the hospital by 7:30 am for Linden to be admitted for her catheterization. She went in around 8:30 and at 10:00am we got a report from her nurse, that she was doing great and they were measuring the pressures in her heart and that they would call us in another hour. I was so exhausted that I rested my head on Joe's shoulder and I guess I feel asleep because the next thing I noticed was Joe nudging me saying "Wake up" and I woke up to Dr Breitbart smiling at us.

He said "It's good news. Linden did great. Everything went fine and I'm very pleased with the measurements. She's fine. We don't need to do surgery at this time! Let her wake up, then she can nurse and then she'll be discharged."

I cannot explain to you the weight that was lifted off of my heart at that moment. Not only did my Jesus come through, he exceeded what was asked of him. All along, I had been praying these words, "Please God, heal Linden's heart through the hands of her surgeon." It NEVER had occured to me to pray for a miracle, for her not to even need surgery. What I heard from her cardiologist in La was so doom and gloom that was asking for what I thought was the bare minimum, just for her to be OK after surgery. I prayed that it would be her last surgery. I am still [almost 2 weeks later] in awe about this.

At 2:00 PM, on Friday, July 17, exactly 8 months since her first open heart surgery, Linden was DISCHARGED from Children's Hospital without needing surgery!!!!!!!!

We called all our friends and family and told them the good news, about our MIRACLE baby. Everyone was in complete awe! Our prayers had been answered and then some! Joe's sisters and brother were flying in on the Sunday-Tuesday for her surgery and didn't want to lose money on the tickets, so they came anyway and we did a bit of celebrating! Instead of being cooped up inside a hospital worried sick about Linden, we were able to enjoy her and enjoy each other for a couple days. How can people still question whether or not there is a God in a situation where something just CANNOT be explained other than it being all about HIM?!

*I'm sorry that it took me SO long to get this posted. EEK. I had alot to say!*

Now, for the pictures.

Sitting in a coffee shop the day before her cath.

Got lashes?!!?


Falling asleep before her ECHO. We tried hard to keep her awake.

Smiles for Daddy

In front of Harvard Medical School

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We're in Boston!

Finally, a new post from me! Joe, Linden and I are in Boston. We arrived at 1:30 and a friend of mine, Kelly, picked us up at the airport and we were at the Devin Nicole House by 2:00. Once we got settled in, it was nice enough outside to go for a walk. I was wearing jeans and actually wished that I was wearing shorts. It was in the high 70s. We walked in front of Harvard and tooks some pictures of Linden in front of it. We totally looked like tourists. Haha. I don't have the cables to upload those pictures online yet, but I'm going to share some pictures from Linden's car wash two weeks ago that was put together by her Uncle Luke.

Today was Linden's pre-operative testing. She had a chest x-ray, bloodwork, an EKG and an Echo all done by noon. I think she did pretty well considering she hadn't nursed since 6:00AM. She did have two drops of Pedialyte at 8:00 but she doesn't 'do the bottle' well so didn't get much from that. ;)

Tomorrow will be her heart catheterization procedure. It's necessary because it will give the cardiologist and surgeon a better idea of how her blood flows through her heart and how well it is pumping. The doctor will insert a thin plastic tube (catheter) into the artery in the crease of her leg. From there, it will be advanced into her heart chambers or coronary arteries. They will measure blood pressure within the heart and how much oxygen is in her blood as well. It's also very useful in finding out how useful her pumping ability is. This procedure has a relatively low risk of anything going wrong, but she will be under anesthesia so we would appreciate your prayers for tomorrow. Based on this heart cath, doctors will determine how to correct her valve leakage.

Here are the pictures from her car wash on July 1.