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.

Peek-a-boo!

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 :

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bethanyandmikebracht

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.

Levi
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 :

    http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/bethanyandmikebracht

    Photo credit: Elijah Phenicie (my brother) / Elijah-Paul.com

    Quote: Roger Ebert’s Tweet on Breasts

    Gustav Klimt : The Three Ages of Woman (detail)

    “Am I odd? Cleavage doesn’t awaken my feelings of lust, but those of the hope to be comforted. Cleavage. It speaks to us from the time before memory of love, comfort, warmth, softness and food. Cleavage. Oh yes. Cleavage.” – Roger Ebert, via Twitter. (Tweet #1) (Tweet #2)

    This is a beautiful quote describing the nurturing aspect of breasts! (Did you know the word nurture and nursing have the same Latin root, nutritus?) I’m making a note of this quote for the next time I teach on breastfeeding during my Bradley Method natural childbirth classes.

    Reminds me of the feeling of peace and comfort captured in Isaiah 66:11-13 :

    For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance. For this is what the LORD says:

    “I will extend peace to her like a river,
    and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream;
    you will nurse and be carried on her arm
    and dandled on her knees.

    As a mother comforts her child,
    so will I comfort you;
    and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

    As we see here, the Creator even uses breasts in an analogy, demonstrating that He knows and cares how we humans think, feel and function, and that such wording would resonates within us with understanding. I can’t even think of a clearer metaphor, can you?

    God made breasts. God made the warm fuzzy feelings of both desire and comfort that humans naturally associate with breasts. He made these feelings work together to form a loving bond – between mothers and babies, and between husbands and wives.

    Praise Him!

    As Christians, let’s not be embarrassed to tastefully mention breasts, m’kay?

    By the way, Klimt is one of my favorite painters. A large print of Mother and Child (detail from The Three Ages of Woman), used to hang in my living room back home, just above the rocking chair where I would often sit and nurse my babies.

    (HT to @clergygir1, my Twitter friend Jen, who is a breast cancer survivor, for ReTweeting this! Please check out her encouragement-filled blog, Clergygirl : Waving a flashlight through the murkiness of life.)

    Why Don’t We Teach Children About Death and Burial?

    Chandelier at the Sedlec Ossuary, Czech Republic

    … and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. – Ecclesiastes 12:7

    Just as American children are far removed from the connection between slaughtered animals and the food on their plate, they are also unnaturally removed from human life and death. I find both to be sad.

    I do not want my children to be afraid of death… or life.

    (As a childbirth instructor, I have shown my children videos of birth, and they have a pretty good idea where babies come from. Yes, my oldest is nine.)

    Today, and I forget how we arrived at the specific conversation, although life and death are always part of an on-going conversation, we discussed two different burial practices used in places where there is limited amount of space for burial.

    These are two of the sites we visited today and discussed as a family:

    The Tibetan Sky Burial: In Tibet, where the ground is so rocky that it can only be dug down a few centimeters, burial in the ground would be very difficult. Instead, people are given a ‘sky burial’. The nude body is washed and then wrapped and taken to a ‘burial’ ground. The body is sliced open and incense is lit nearby. The smells of the incense and the blood attract hundreds of vultures who then eat away the flesh and carry the remains into the sky. Because the brain is encased in by the skull, when the birds of prey are done with the rest of the body, the burial practitioner cracks open the skull and the vultures finish their feast. The bones are then scattered down the mountain for open-air decomposition. In a culture that believes in reincarnation, such a burial is considered an honor.

    Ossuary (Wikipedia) : Another solution to burial in places with limited space is to store just the remaining bones once the flesh has decomposed. Bodies to decay in temporary graves, sometimes covered with a pile of stones, or even in dirt. They are then washed, labeled, and stored.

    Some places get a little creative with the storage of bones, such as the Sedlec Ossuary. Part of a Roman Catholic chapel in the Czech Republic, human remains in this ossuary are used as decoration, including in the form of an elaborate chandelier.

    * * *

    For what it’s worth, I’ve found that there are very few non-fiction books about death and burial for children outside of studies on ancient Egypt. I could not find a single book for children on modern American burial practices or even a matter-of-fact book on the career of being a mortician. Thankfully, there are many books available on grief.

    Why don’t we as a society talk much about death and burial?

    If you do talk to your children about such things, what resources to you use?

    In what ways would openly talking about death and burial in society as a whole change how we think of and value life?

    Do you think toxic embalming chemicals would be used as widely if people weren’t so afraid of the natural decomposition process?

    Photo Credit: B10m via Flickr