Nephew Update : Levi’s Awake!

Levi, my newest nephew, has finally come out of sedation — watch out, world! ;)

Born with spina bifida on Nov. 30th 2010, my sister’s baby has gone through two big surgeries: one to repair his spine and one to put in a shunt to drain fluid from his brain.

Since his first surgery occurred when he was just hours old, he’s been under sedation pretty much since birth and it’s so very cool to see pictures of him alert.

While there are still some concerns, he’s healing remarkably really well.

Bethany has even been able to nurse him!

She writes,

He is no longer on any air, he has no bandages at all on back or head! He got a bath, we can put clothes on him…he gained a pound….shunt looks like it is placed perfectly, his head went down 1 cm over night….and the big one is that I got to nurse him 3 times today and he did perfectly! i couldn’t believe how well he knew what to do! It was very special for me. I can pick him up whenever I want to now so I spent most of the day holding him, and he looked into my eyes allll day! It was great!

My sister and her husband Mike are doing an awesome job taking care of Levi. I’m so very proud of them!

You can just tell Levi’s a little fighter with a big personality, eh?

Please stop by Bethany and Mike’s Caring Bridge site and let them know they’re in your thoughts and prayers!

Shunt Surgery Update

My sister Grace, who is at the hospital, said,

“Levi is doing pretty well. He just had his shunt surgery and the doc said it was good. Still be praying for this boy, we want things to stay good! Thanks for all the support :) ”

I love this photo because Levi’s eyes are open.


Sister’s Baby : Out of Surgery & Doing Well!

Photos taken a few moments before Levi had to leave to be prepped for surgery. My sister’s sweet smile put tears in my eyes!

Levi is out of surgery!

I just chatted with Bethany! :) (Yay! How comforting it was to have a conversation with her!)

Mike is with Levi, now.

The operating room is apparently in a different building connected by about a half-mile of underground tunnels. As soon as he was done, the surgeon ran all they way over to give her an in-person update. How thoughtful?!

The surgeon said that Levi’s anatomy was not difficult to work with and that he was very hopeful about the outcome of the surgery.

Next, they will wait to see if the swelling around the brain goes down (even as I write this, Bethany just IM’d me and said Mike called from the NICU and said swelling looks like it is already going down!) and determine if a surgery to insert a drainage shunt is needed.

Bethany asked the surgeon when she may hold Levi and he said perhaps as early as tomorrow!

It’s definitely not the easiest way to come into the world, and Levi’s not even a day old yet, but so far, things are going in the best possible way for this situation.

We’re smiling through tears over here.

Thank you for your prayers!

If you wanted read more about Levi’s story and to send a note of encouragement to Bethany and Mike, please visit their page at CaringBridge :

Update : My Sister’s Baby

This morning, my sister Bethany gave birth to her first baby, a son, named Levi.

During a routine ultrasound a few months ago, it was discovered that Levi had spina bifida and hydrocephalus.

He had been scheduled to be born Thursday by Cesarean section, but due to contractions (labor trauma would have been dangerous for him) and Bethany’s slightly elevated blood pressure, it was decided to deliver today instead of risk waiting until Thursday.

We are very excited about Levi’s birth – my first nephew!

He is welcomed by parents who have a very strong faith in the Lord and are trusting in God every step of the way.

My parents and my sister Grace were able to go to the hospital in Indianapolis to support Bethany and Mike as much as possible. Mom said he has a beautiful face and seems to be strong, despite his many obstacles. She said that Mike is doing a great job being supportive of Bethany and handling decisions for Levi’s care very well.

Although it’s a tough situation, it does not seem that there were any surprises. Through ultrasound and other prenatal tests, doctors had a course of action in place long before Levi’s birth and did an excellent job preparing Bethany and Mike for what to expect.

Positive signs

  • Birth weight over 7lbs (healthy weight)
  • Has good color
  • Does have a breathing tube but is breathing “air” as opposed to oxygen
  • Right leg is moving
  • Items of concern

  • Hydrocephalus (I’m not sure extent of severity, but it was hoped that it would have resolved itself before birth. Because of the anomaly of the spine, fluid buildup in the brain is a common complication of spina bifida.)
  • The hole in his back is about 1″ diameter.
  • His left leg does not appear to be moving and is turned inward.
  • Bethany

  • Resting after c-section
  • Incision was larger/deeper than normal c-section so as to give more room to carefully birth Levi
  • On morphine drip
  • Beth did get to touch Levi’s fingers for a few moments, but was not able to hold him.

    My mom was able to get some photos through the incubator glass.

    Doctors are waiting until Levi is “stabilized”, and then he will be admitted for surgery to repair the hole in his back this afternoon. This was anticipated. It is possible that the spine repair will help to reduce the fluid buildup in the brain and that a shunt would not be needed. It is also possible that the surgery may help with the use of his left leg.

    UPDATE – 5:15pm

    Bethany just posted on Facebook that Levi went in for surgery around 4:30pm. She writes,

    “Well folks, the countdown got cut short! Levi Morris Bracht has arrived this morning!! I have been away from him all day so far so I don’t know toooo much ;( but he is 7lbs was born at 8:45am(ish). I am doing super, and he just went in to his first surgery! please keep praying, sorry this is short but momma doesn’t know everything just yet!! pictures will be here soon! Thanks everyone!”

    Thanks for your prayers!

    If you wanted read more about Levi’s story and to send a note of encouragement to Bethany and Mike, please visit their page at CaringBridge :

    Photo credit: Elijah Phenicie (my brother) /

    Be Strong and Have Faith


    Some things, although excruciating, really have nothing to do with us, but rather are for the growth and benefit of others.

    Be strong and have faith.

    Photo: Micah, age one, and Leah, newborn. When I set her in his lap, she started to cry. He firmly patted her on the head to comfort her… but that didn’t work too well. We had a “be gentle… like this” teaching moment, and they’ve been the best of friends ever since.

    September Giveaway: Name My Minivan to Win Stuff From Japan

    UPDATE: A winner has been selected! Contacted the winner, waiting to hear back :)

    Dear Readers,

    I’m excited to announce that my promised monthly giveaway contest officially begins with this post! (If you’d like to be the first to read new posts and to learn about contest updates, please subscribe to my feed.)

    Why I am I doing this? Why am I being so generous? Because there are way too many awesome things here in Japan to hoard to myself. I had to find a way to share!

    Barring unforeseen circumstances, I will announce the giveaway contest rules along with the details of a corresponding-themed prize package on the first of each month. I may throw in a pack of Japanese candy or some random things into the box at last minute, so please let me know if you have any special requests and/or food allergies.

    The winner will need to provide their mother’s maiden name, social security number, and a valid US credit card number + three digit secret code. JUST KIDDING! I will, however, need their name and mailing address which will be kept strictly confidential.

    If they’re agreeable, I’d like to interview the winner and feature them in a future post. I would consider including links in the post to the winner’s blog, favorite cause, home business, etc.

    Winning contestants may not enter my subsequent monthly giveaway contests for a year following their win. In other words, if you win in September, 2009, you can’t enter again until October, 2010.

    September Contest Rules:

    Name my mid-90s Toyota Estima Lucida minivan.

  • Post your family-friendly name suggestion in the comments to this post by September 24.
  • Explain why you’re suggesting the name
  • My children will pick their favorite and the van will be forever called by this name
  • My Toyota Lucida Minivan

    LucidaIt’s a 4 WD tank, deep eggplant/plum in color with a grayish blue interior. (Color update, Sept. 2, 10 a.m. viewed in bright sunshine: The color is really weird. It’s kinda black, but it has these flecks of sparkle in the paint that make it look brownish/purple. ) The steering wheel is, of course, on the right. It has moon roof over the front seats and a large sunroof over the back passenger seats. The sliding passenger door takes a little oomph to open. This van seats eight, including the driver. Although it’s not too sleek, this van gets us to where we need to go. We use it to travel through the mountains, in all kinds of weather, while the kids (okay, and sometimes me, too) sing at the top of their lungs to Weezer. While we haven’t had any food spills to add extra character, the van does contain a lot of sand at the moment from frequent trips to the beach this summer.

    September’s Prize:

    An Automobile-Themed Care Package

    September's Prize

    -One portable, two-person picnic-sized tatami mat with a built-in floral carrying case. (See the photo with Tab for size of the mat unfurled.) Store this mat in your car for impromptu picnics and to impress your friends.
    -Car wash cloth
    -Car dust cloth
    -Red, stainless steel travel mug
    -“Deep Forest” laser carved air freshener “Please enjoy a fragrant time with this wood air freshener.”
    -“Baby On Board” “I Am Safety Driver” sign
    -“Maternity On Board” “I Am Safety Driver” sign

    Items will be wrapped in Japanese newspaper.

    Portable Tatami Mat

    Port. tatami mat

    Laser-carved wooden air freshener

    Wash Cloth

    Dust Cloth

    Travel Mug

    Baby In The Car I Am Safety Driver

    Maternity In The Car

    Have fun! Tell your friends. Send me a gmail @mrsalbrecht if you have any questions or suggestions for future contests/prize packs. If you’re new here, check out the Welcome!