Archive for the ‘Family Events’ Category

Forgive the hiatus on our blog!  We have big plans to turn this into an active blog now that things have stabilized for our family. For those interested, what follows is a brief recounting of the events during the past year.

April 22, 2009: Arlie’s pregnancy itching worried her doctors enough to do a stress test and draw her blood. We went home thinking things were fine, but later that day Arlie received a call from them indicating what we had most feared– the itching was a symptom of cholestasis, where the bile salts of the liver come through the muscle, causing the intense itching. They told her to go right away to Akron General Hospital to have more testing done. We arrived there for what was supposed to be a couple hours’ monitoring, but further tests indicated that it would be best to keep Arlie under constant monitoring and deliver the baby early, because her condition was associated with a high risk of stillbirth. She was 33 weeks pregnant at that point. The doctors gave Arlie steroid shots to accelerate baby’s lung maturity.

April 23, 2009: Arlie had another ultrasound to check up on baby boy, but the technician and doctor noticed an anomaly that was not present at the 20 week ultrasound: a shifted heart. They took Arlie into another room with a more sophisticated ultrasound machine, and it showed them that baby has a diaphragmatic hernia: a hole in baby’s diaphragm that allows bowel, stomach, and other organs to come up into the chest cavity. This was a very difficult day for us. A Muslim doctor came into our room to tell us all of the things that could go wrong: mortality rates are high for this condition, and even if he lived he’d be on a ventilator, or possibly even ECMO (a sophisticated, and very invasive, way to oxygenate the baby’s blood).

April 24-May 13, 2009: Arlie is on bed rest with constant monitoring in her hospital room for the next three weeks, with daily bio-physical profiles on the baby. Meanwhile, Isaac has to take care of the dogs at home, study for law school finals, and stay with his sick wife and baby at the hospital. We get visits from family and friends, and we pray, trying to trust God– that He will work all things to His glory and give us the Grace to bear whatever happens. At this point we had tied a sacred relic from the Athonite monastery of Vatopedi around Arlie’s belly. It was a strip of cloth which has itself been placed upon the holy belt of the Mother of God which is kept there. This particular relic had come to us a couple months before the ordeal had begun– a friend who had stayed on Mt. Athos for three months spent a night with us on his way up to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. He gave us that little relic and a stone from the Holy Mountain. All this time, our priests were coming to visit us along with Church family. Our team of doctors met with us every day. The plan was to keep waiting, keep monitoring the baby. They wanted to keep him in as long as it remained safe to do so, to give his lungs a chance to develop. There were positive signs all along– the fact that the condition hadn’t been noticed at 20 weeks was a good sign that his lungs had had the chance to develop somewhat before the condition. Isaac managed to pass all of his finals, having studied for the most part in the spare bed next to Arlie’s, in a double room which the nurses had kept as a single for us, out of their deep kindness and generosity.

May 14, 2009: The doctors all agreed that the best thing was to induce labor in the morning and get the baby out.  Arlie’s labor was difficult– the pitocin was brutal on her and the contractions were painfully intense. Once it was time to push, though, he was out in only three pushes! We saw him come out and he made a little cry.  The doctors and nurses took him into the next room where the team was doing all sorts of things to stabilize him. Arlie was wheeled back into another room where we wait and wait to see him. Our priest had given us his blessing to baptize him if he was born alive, since his situation was so serious.  His godfather, David, was there with us when they finally wheeled his big incubation transport thing into our room. He was hooked up to so many things!   Isaac used a bottle of holy water, baptizing with three little pourings on the head and the invocation of the Holy Trinity after the Orthodox manner (immersion was of course out of the question). Many of the team had come into the room to watch, and many people were crying.

Robby was then taken to Akron Children’s Hospital NICU, and Arlie had to stay in her bed to recover to make sure her liver condition was resolved. Isaac and David, after getting Arlie settled back into her room, went to see the baby boy.

May 15-18, 2009: Robert’s condition continued to improve. His blood oxygen levels were so good that they began to allow him to breath room air through the ventilator, and started to talk about when to do his surgery.   The minimum time they wait for anyone with this condition is five days– which is all they waited for Robby.

May 19, 2009: Surgery in the morning. Isaac’s mother flew in from St. Louis to see the baby, along with his sister, brother-in-law , and their baby boy.  The surgeon comes back to us in the waiting room after three hours– it was succesful! He went through it with flying colors, and the hole was a mere four centimeters. This allowed the surgeon– once he had put the stomach and bowels back in the abdomen– to simply sew it up without the use of a gortex patch. That means his chances of re-herniation are much lower than they would have otherwise been. They also removed his appendix, a standard procedure in this situation, and LADS– a procedure where they correct the mal-rotation of his intestines. Isaac, unable to contain himself, hugs the surgeon.

Incidentally this day was not done with troubles for us. On our way back to the NICU from a brief return home we were rear-ended by a man driving a Lexus, going about 30 miles an hour, trying to make it through the yellow light. Robby of course was still in the hospital– thank God– because we’re hit hard.  The man was kind and apologetic, however.  His insurance paid for our car’s repair, our rental car, and a replacement for the car seat which we had just installed that day.

May 23, 2009: Our priest and his matushka came to visit and pray the Eighth Day naming prayers over Robert. This was still the Paschal season for us Orthodox, so as we venerate the Cross, he greeted us with “Christ is Risen,” to which we say, “Indeed He is Risen!” Fr. Nicholas placed the Cross up next to Robert’s incubation crib and said, “Christ is Risen!” to which Robert immediately replied with a huge kick!  That’s our boy!

May 24, 2009: Arlie’s 26th birthday. She’s been out of the hospital herself now for several days and we’re constantly over at the NICU. We actually stay at the hospital’s family center for a few nights because Zac’s mother and sister were both staying at the little apartment, getting it ready and buying stuff for baby (we had canceled our baby showers once Arlie had been hospitalized). Family eventually leaves and we get to stay in our own bed, while visiting Robert at the hospital all day.

We should also mention at this point that the Muslim doctor came to us during rounds with his medical team. Whereas once he had been the grim bearer of sad news, he was now all smiles. He told us, “The prayers are working!” Undeniably they were. Robert continued to recover, eventually allowing us to hold him. He loses his ventilator and one by one his medicines are weaned. At this point we know we’re going to get him home and we have to watch all of these videos in the NICU about caring for the baby.

June 2, 2009: Robert comes home! We waited 21 days since his birth for this! Our little Crabtree-sprout sure had changed our lives!

July 12, 2009: This is the Sunday when Robert was “churched” along with Arlie. For him, this involved everything but baptism– prayers, chrismation, communion. There was a little bit more of a waiting period than usual because of his being medically fragile. He had gotten MRSA on a bed sore while paralyzed in the hospital, which was cured with strong antibiotics. Isaac’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew came up for it, along with Arlie’s sister and father. Our parish threw us a lavish shower afterward, since Arlie’s hospitalization had cancelled her earlier planned ones.

Late August 2009: What seemed at first to be a stomach virus for Robby turned out to be something more serious: scar tissue had developed in his intestines from the surgery and these several blockages prevented him from keeping any food down.  His surgery is performed by the same great surgeon that had corrected the hernia, and just as before he recovered very quickly thanks to everyone’s prayers.

September 2009: The family moves to St. Louis, now that Isaac had finished law school.  However, we soon get more tragic news: Arlie’s mother has stage IV breast cancer that had moved to various other parts of her body.  She began chemotherapy shortly after diagnosis and she continues to show improvement, but the doctors were clear that such a course of action was not a cure.

To present day: Now that we’re all in St. Louis, Isaac studies everyday for the Missouri Bar Exam in February.  Little Robby is doing great… his doctors here are absolutely amazed at how healthy he is– 98th-percentile in weight (this after having spent a month of his life in hospitals on artificial nutrition) and 75th-percentile in height.  He laughs and smiles, sits up, rolls over, can almost crawl, and has begun to mimic syllables.

Glory to God for His great and rich mercy toward us.  We’re back at our old parish in St. Louis, a thriving community (we mean it– lots of young families– the children now outnumber the adults) under the Russian Church Abroad.  We look forward to making this blog an active one, and we ask our few readers’ forgiveness for the long hiatus.  Below are a few photos from this previous year.


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