Full of Life

Helping Gramsey exercise in August 2008.  

The twins’ weekly ultrasound on August 18 was again positive. Zeke’s bladder was “normal;” heart rates were 135 for Gabriel and 144 for Zeke; there were nice pockets of fluid found in both baby’s sacs; and there is plenty of room for the boys to move about, kicking and karate-chopping one another and me. I also got a steroid shot that day (and then a follow-up dose 24 hours later). This is to help speed along the twins’ lung development, since they are undoubtedly going to be preemies.

Getting a bath from Granny in August 2008. 

According to the ultrasound, Zeke’s CCAM also remains small and unchanged. On August 20, we finally we finally had a consult with pediatric surgeon Dr. Petty. He says there are no complicated features to Zeke’s CCAM, and he agrees that the benign tumor seems not to be growing. In fact, he explained that the darn thing could possibly even be a cyst, which could just go away on its own. Therefore, Dr. Petty wants to do more imaging of Zeke’s lungs after he is born (around 3 months old) and, if the spot is a CCAM after all, remove it when Zeke is about 6 months old. He believes that CCAMs are a risk for lung infection and that there is also a cancer link for later adulthood. Stephen and I agree, and we we want to nip this in the bud as soon as possible to avoid any future problems.  

Houston loving his new Reds hat from Daddy in August 2008.

Houston Lee is just the light of our life. His warmth, innocence and radiance helps to lift us up on those inevitable days when we feel like life is beating us down. Some of the things he’s really into these days are: 

  • yelling “dada” at full volume;
  • squealing when he’s being tickled;
  • astounding us daily with his smarts;
  • doing old signs (like hat, dog, Daddy, more) and new signs (like shoes and bath);
  • playing in the bathtub;
  • looking cool while donning a drool scarf to contain his teething juices;
  • running like an Olympian;
  • and hugging/wrestling anyone and everyone, but especially other children.

Click the photo of Daddy playing with Houston in his new Cincinnati Reds hat to view some of the fun we’ve been having this August.

In Need of Continued Strength & Patience

I had an appointment with my OB Dr. Stringer on Wednesday. We talked about getting prepared for the babies’ arrival and the probability of my having to have a c-section. He said that my blood pressure, weight gain and uterus measurement are all looking good, as are the twins’ heartbeats (144 for Zeke and 140 for Gabriel). Dr. Stringer also stressed to me how much of a miracle this pregnancy is, and that he feels blessed to be able to take part in and witness this Godly wonder as it unfolds. I always feel so optimistic after visiting with him.  

Houston pulling Daddy along on Independence Day 2008.

I have my weekly ultrasound with the specialist tomorrow, and then on Wednesday, I’m meeting with a pediatric surgeon regarding Zeke’s CCAM. We will discuss the condition, review the Cincy MRI and recent ultrasounds, and create a follow-up plan for the removal of Zeke’s CCAM either later this year or early next year. Note: the nurse who set up the consult made a point to say that babies with CCAMs generally do well during labor, delivery and early life. 

Even with these bits of good news, it was a trying week around here in the zone of grumpy bed-rest lady. First of all, Houston had a pretty bad cold for a few days, creating havoc with his normally awesome sleeping and eating habits. He had a fever, was congested, had a yucky cough and even lost his voice for a day or so, on top of drooling like a mad man because of his teething. All of this, of course, didn’t sit too well with him and added to the grumpy level. And now I have caught Houston’s cold, making bed-rest lady even grumpier.

Houston hamming it up while opening his birthday gift from Casey.

Houston’s feeling much better now and is currently at Dixie’s 2nd birthday party. I’m bummed I can’t be there with my boy and all of his cute buddies, but Granny is filling in for me, while Stephen gets a few things done around the house. I know I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful family unit, as well as a plethora of friends, neighbors and church folks, who are all willing to help out with Houston, me, my appointments and tending to the household. But having to lean on other people for virtually everything is starting to get on my (and their) nerves big time. We all know the sacrifices we’re making are worth the effort, but after all, we are all only human. So, please continue to pray for the strength and patience of everyone helping out Clan Dillingham in our time of need. 

Houston is actually the one coping best with all the changes, just loving the weekends that Granny and Grumps visit, and the weekdays that Gramsey heads to town. He is really showing his independent streak, wanting to feed himself more and more frequently, and trying to climb most anything unassisted. Houston has also started to mount his racer by himself and ride it forward. His signing is still going great, and his shaking his head “yes” and “no” also helps us better communicate with him.

Reds vs. the Rockies in Cincy in July 2008.

Click on the image of Houston unwrapping his birthday gift from cousin Casey (middle photo) to see all of his July photos, including a few of Houston leading Daddy around a 4th of July event we attended, as seen in top photo. And click the image above to see lots of great pics Stephen took at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game he attended during our time up in Ohio.

Finally Something To Smile About

I had my weekly ultrasound with Dr. Joy on Friday, and it was the first appointment that really made us smile since this whole TTTS craziness began because it is finally getting evident that equilibrium between the twins is being achieved. Gabriel weighs 1 pound, 4 ounces, and Zeke isn’t far behind at 1 pound, 3 ounces, and each baby has ample amniotic fluid. In fact, Zeke, who has recently given me a few hardy karate chops, showed off during the ultrasound by flipping around and sticking his butt right in Gabriel’s face. It was amazing to see the former “stuck” twin put on a show now that he actually has some room to play with his brother. Zeke’s bladder, which never showed up on ultrasounds before the surgery (a typical symptom of TTTS), is now easy to spot, as well.

Gabriel’s heart, which had showed signs of distress over the past month, is growing stronger and is beating in more normal rhythms. I had had an echo done a few days before this ultrasound, and the doc scared me by saying that the lining of Gabriel’s heart was thickening a bit. However, he was comparing that to the twins’ original echo, done all the way back on July 16, not the two subsequent echos done since then in Cincy. Dr. Joy explained that it was normal for Gabriel’s heart to have had some thickening due to the quick progression of my TTTS, but that comparing it to the more recent post-surgical data showed that his condition was getting better. That’s what Stephen and I had thought, but it was a huge relief to hear this reassuring news from our trusted doc.

Houston getting wet at Mason's birthday party in July 2008. 

Also, Zeke’s CCAM is getting less and less noticeable on ultrasound. You might be asking yourself, “What the heck is a CCAM?” and “Why haven’t we heard about this before?” Well, it is a condition we found out about while in Cincy — something that is completely random and has absolutely nothing to do with TTTS. In brief, Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation is a benign tumor that is located on the inside of a fetus’ lung. It doesn’t usually cause a problem for a developing baby, but can sometimes complicate respiratory issues for already at-risk preemies in the NICU. It can grow bigger, get smaller or sometimes even disappear. Apparently, people are born with them all the time and live happy, healthy lives, never to be bothered by their CCAM. (In fact, it only became apparent that Zeke had one because of the detail and clarity of the MRI we had in Cincy.) But other times, they have been linked to respiratory problems and even cancer for some adults. So, our course of action is to have Zeke’s removed by a pediatric surgeon some time between three and six months of life outside of the womb.

I’ve been meaning to tell y’all about this, but I just didn’t want to overwhelm everyone with more potentially tragic news. But we actually feel fortunate about the news for a few reasons: 

  • We’re lucky to have even had an MRI and found out about Zeke’s CCAM;
  • Zeke’s is small and seems to be getting smaller as he grows bigger and stronger in utero;
  • The NICU staff where I’ll be having the twins will now be better prepared to deal with any potential problems the CCAM may cause for Zeke during his first few fragile weeks of life;
  • And we have the opportunity to be proactive and just get rid of the darn thing while Zeke is an infant, avoiding any possible respiratory issues in the future.

Houston playing with the big boys at Mason's 2nd birthday party.

Last but not least on the health news, we finally found a local doctor who is willing to work with us as far as an alternative vaccination schedule goes for Houston. The policy of the practice we had been going to doesn’t even allow discussion on the matter. It’s the American Academy of Pediatrics way or the highway. Sadly, even though we loved the actually pediatrician Houston had been seeing since day one, we left that practice just before Houston’s 12-month appointment and had been trying to find a more reasonable practice in the meantime. Luckily, we finally found an open-minded pediatrician, and Houston (who now weighs 29 pounds!) finally had his one-year check up just last week. Although, Houston’s new doc may disagree with some of our opinions regarding modern vaccination schedules philosophically, he is at least willing to talk over the matter with parents and offer us what we consider a more user-friendly approach.Yep, it felt as if our family was falling apart for a while there, but we are still getting over those hurdles one by one, with last week’s positive news and accomplishments giving us the much-needed dose optimism we have so been craving. Thank God for small (and large) miracles!

And to prove that Houston is handling the major changes to his routine (namely, having a mom on bed rest and many more caregivers than he’s accustomed to) like the tough guy he is, click on the above photo to check him out at a birthday party Granny took him to a few weeks back.