Category Archives: Updates

Latest surgery

Angel’s respite from medical procedures came to an end this week. She had another surgery on that stubborn left eyelid. This time they used some skin from the ear that was somewhat still intact hoping it would graft onto the eye better than the skin from her thigh. They also are trying to center her mouth by cutting her cheek and releasing the contracting scar tissue that is pulling the mouth to the left. I stand in awe of the knowledge and the procedures and the skills that these medical professionals have. I stand in utmost gratitude for the Shriners’ generosity that provides this care, this hope.

In the meantime, Pamela is adjusting to her new apartment in the hospital. She likes it a lot and Angel has been there with her nonstop. They have had time to play and take walks and nap and receive guests. They certainly have a big circle of friends that are varied but faithful. They are visited by their United Methodist friends. Some of those friends they met in Maua when the teams were there on mission trips. Some of their Methodist friends are from area churches. They also have a faithful group of friends who are medical students from the University of Texas. These students go to school across the street from the Burn Center and drop in to see Pamela and Angel routinely and bring their youthful enthusiasm and tenderness with them. Pamela and Angel have also been introduced to a circle of Kenyans who live and work in Galveston. They have come to the US for an education and have stayed to make a life for themselves. They found Angel and Pamela and have embraced them. They show up with Kenyan tea and Kenyan meals and Pamela is filled with memories of her home.

For all of you who remain loyal in your love of God and neighbor, be most blessed.

“We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly. As we pray to our God about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess 1:1

sue and jim

Advertisements

A new apartment!

It continues to be a quiet time for Angel as the medical staff continues the respite time for Angel to “just be” a baby. They are giving her another 2 weeks to play and grow and smile and bounce and snuggle and sleep without tubes or pain. Pamela is delighted to have this time with Angel and you can hear it in her voice when she is asked, “How are you and how is Angel?” She answers with joy, “We are fine! We are having fun!”

They have also moved. It seems there was an apartment open on the first floor that would be private. Pamela found it hard to share space with another adult mother who doesn’t speak the same language, who is also grieving the injuries of her child and worried about the realities of not being home, and who needs sleep. As women they understood the pain of their shared situation but words couldn’t be exchanged that would soften the days or the practicalities of living in the same small space. And Angel who is in that same small space did not always cooperate by being quiet when others needed her to be quiet. So Pamela and Angel have moved and are by themselves. Both are more relaxed and content. A big thank you goes to Shriners’ staff for their diplomacy and thoughtful care of all their patients.

Another big thank you to all of you who keep visiting and calling Pamela. It means so much to her. She is such an extravert and thrives on conversation and laughter and hugs. You who have provided those gifts have given hope and comfort to a young woman far away from family and friends and familiar culture, a woman who faces an unknown future, a woman who lives each day in a medical facilty. This a challenging life for any one, but for a 23 year old it is especially hard. You make it possible. You are the strength of God’s love being manifested. You are the spiritual wings that lift her up. You are empowering her to be the sustaining mother that Angel needs. You are saving two lives.

Faith without works is dead. Here in our relationships with Pamela and Angel is life.

~ Sue

Angel & momma time

Angel is enjoying her freedom from surgery. She has hung out with her mom all week and they have cuddled a lot. There were however fewer walks this week because Pamela developed an infection in her leg and found walking very difficult. Her leg has been swollen and hot and draining gunk and she has had a temperature. Shriner’s staff took her to a doctor and she is on antibiotics now and feeling better. Thank God for medicines and for the spirit of healing that comes from the Creative God of love.

The staff has also this week given Pamela a lesson in bathing a baby who has grafted skin and a small uncovered hole on her head. They are encouraging Pamela to take over more and more of the full care for Angel. Pamela is delighted and loves the learnings. She is always eager and grateful for learning anything new.

As these days have passed, Pamela and I have had many talks about the importance of the mother-daughter relationships. Now as I face my own mother’s illness, Pamela has been very concerned about what is happening to her. She wrote to me a few days ago this unedited message.

Hi sue iam so sorry for your mom sickeness and aiso for your schendule inconviences .iam still praying for you and your mom hoping everything will be okey.here its a special words to encourage you easpecialy like now when your undergoing through all this difficulties.”Keep your eyes on me ,not only for direction but also for emporwement .i never lead you to do something without equippping you for the task”says the lord.” Be blessed dear sue and dear sue’s mom.The lord is with you.

May we honor and be gentle with and love unconditionally all those who are put in our paths. Be assured that we are equipped for the task.

~ Sue

Time to be a baby

The hospital is giving Angel a time to be a baby. They seem to understand that there needs to be a break from treatment and its accompanying discomforts for the children to just be children.

So Angel is in Pamela’s personal room. She has a crib, a jump up seat (thanks to her church friends), a little table that holds her while she tries to eat solids, and a stroller that takes her around the hospital and around the block for walks. Pamela is delighted and having fun being a “normal” mom.

However this stay in Pamela’s room is conditional on Angel eating and gaining weight. Because Angel’s mouth was so deformed by the fire, she can’t seem to suck from a bottle. Miraculously she can nurse which means Pamela is her sole source of food. The stay in the room will continue only if Angel is gaining weight. Otherwise she has to go back to ICU for a feeding tube to be inserted. Hopefully her ability to take solids will increase and eventually give her enough nutrients to grow bigger and bigger.

Pamela is also taking classes offered by the hospital. She has had a class on breast feeding (and commented that she didn’t know that it was so complicated!), a class on CPR, and now is taking a class on playing with your child. That’s her favorite and she is having as much fun as Angel.

Medically there is another surgery scheduled sometime next week. Again the skin is not completely covering her head and the left eyelid is not functioning correctly (it’s drooping). So the surgeon has more work to do on those two areas. They have begun work on her mouth but they want to go slow with that so as not to disrupt her eating. Ears and nose are yet to be addressed.

In that this is a slow process, the hospital has asked that we get the visa extended. It is currently a 6 month visa and ends February 15th. I will attempt, with the hospital’s help, to request another 6 months from the US Embassy.

I recently heard someone say that “a mother is only as happy as her children are”. Certainly I can see that lived out in Pamela. Nothing delights Pamela more than Angel’s laughter and talking noises and her excitement at the normal things of life. Thank you for giving this child those moments.

~ Sue

Moving out of the ICU!!

Pamela called to tell me that Angel had been “discharged” from the ICU (temporarily …until the next surgery) to Pamela’s room. Pamela kept saying “I am so happy! I am so happy!” What this means is that Angel can sleep in a small crib next to Pamela’s bed and go for walks in the stroller around the hospital and be held without any tubes or wires protruding from her body. It means she can be a smiling gurgling baby without morphine or bandage changes.

For awhile…..

While awaiting the next surgery, there will be routine meetings with the child development specialist, with the nutrtionist, with occupational therapist, with the psychologist, with the doctors. Now Pamela must go every morning to the main office of the hospital to get her schedule for the day. There is always an ongoing plan for each patient that includes visits and input from the whole medical team. The thoroughness of care from the Shriners’ staff is astounding and Pamela is wise enough to just move with “the plan”, even if she doesn’t understand it or like it. Trust is required here and Pamela trusts. She trusts the people around her and she trusts God who has brought her child to this place and to this process.

Trust is required especially in the face of death. Pamela’s roommate’s 12-year-old child died two days ago. It was devastating to all of those who live and work in this community. The child had only been at Shriner’s 2 weeks and was severely burned. In spite of the excellent care that surrounded her, the child died. And Pamela wept with the mother whose language she could not understand but whose heart is forever joined with Pamela’s.

The reminder that death gives us is that we need to hold our loved ones close to us. There is only this moment in which to love.

~ Sue

9/20 surgery update

Angel had a rough day on Friday the 20th. The scheduled surgery happened, but Angel was very uncomfortable for the following two days. Pamela said she cried a lot which is unusual for her. It is obviously very hard for Pamela too. She said she aches inside as she tries to soothe her daughter.

This last surgery did three things. 1) The left eye lid was re-grafted. It had not yet been successfully attached, but they believe after this surgery it will be.  2) There were also two spots on the skull that needed more skin.  3) A new area was also addressed. The skin on Angel’s cheek has been so badly scarred that it has pulled the mouth off center. The medical staff calls it a contracted site. So they cut the cheek and added skin to it to help the mouth become less pulled. They then put on a stretchy bandage that pulls on the skin to put it in place. I am guessing that this is what was painful for Angel.

But both Angel and Pamela are quick to be positive. By Sunday, Pamela says that Angel was smiling again and feeling bouncy. She tried some new solid baby foods and liked them…apples and carrots. She was very clear however that she did not like the jar of beef. I told Pamela that it was obvious that Angel was a vegetarian in the making. Pamela thinks she might do the same because she loves American veggies!

Pamela also wants me to convey how grateful she is for the visits and the phone calls and the sense of friendship that surrounds her.

But that sense of belonging to one another no matter who we are has only been heightened by the tragedy in Nairobi. Those who have been killed, injured, traumatized by the horrendous event in the mall are also our brothers and sisters. They too need us to surround them with our prayers and love. They too are our family and surely we ache as they ache.

We are one in the Spirit.

~ Sue

Ubuntu

Angel is having another surgery on Friday the 20th at 7:30 am. Her left eyelid is still not doing what it is suppose to do and there is a 1″ spot on her skull that has not accepted the newest graft. Head and eyelids continue to be the major concern. Everything else is on hold until those areas are successfully completed.

There is some other news that is fun to think about. The doctors have told Pamela that once the skull has skin in place, they will attempt to graft in some of Angel’s own hair. For Pamela that is very exciting. She has worried about how a child would feel about not having hair and it seems that Angel may in fact be able to grow her own.

There is however a growing reality for Pamela that this process is long and complicated and life in the Burn Center is not easy. For example, Pamela is a very social person and she comes from a culture that values being community far more than it values being an individual. So to wait for a surgery to be over by herself or to face a day alone with all of its twists and turns is agonizing for Pamela. She is, like most Kenyasn, relationally based and very unsure of herself when she feels alone. This means that she is very grateful for each and every friend that has embraced her on this journey because she is simply out of sync without people sharing the experience with her.

There is a Swahili word that encompasses this feeling for Africans and it is “ubuntu”. It means “I am because we are.” There is no life for Kenyans without the “we”. Thank you for being Pamela’s and Angel’s ‘we’.

All of this became very clear to me when Pamela was given two new roommates who could not speak Eanglish and who did not seem willing to try to communicate with Pamela in any way. Pamela became most upset. She did not understand how she could share a room with women who did not want to talk to her. She agonized for days about it and finally relied on prayer to solve the problem. After two days and many attempts by Pamela, the wall cracked and there was some exchanges. Now I am told they laughed a lot last night as Pamela took their photos with the camera Scott Brown gave her. Thank you, Scott, for the gift that allowed for these fragile friendships to grow.

The other comment that Pamela made today was that Angel is acting like a “real” baby now. She is sitting up more and more on her own, she is grasping things with her hand, she is making many noises, and is even attempting to roll over (far more difficult with only one hand). This is largely due to the daily attentive care from the occupational therapist, Christine. Pamela is very grateful for all that she is learning from Christine about child development and growth. Learning about being a parent is a very real blessing for Pamela and Pamela loves learning.

Most importantly, Angel is thriving here inspite of the traumas that come with this process. She weighs 14 lbs and looks ‘chubby’ (she has finally stopped biting her mother when she nurses). The areas where skin has been removed for grafting purposes (thighs and neck) has healed but will tomorrow be removed again. There are constant tubes and monitors and tub days where skin is examined and wounds are probed. The days are often long and tedious. Pamela is living in unfamiliar territory, yet her commitment to provide Angel with a full life is unwavering. The bond between this mother and this child is deeply interwoven into their souls and God blesses them every day with the joys of love and hope.

May each of us know those same joys in the living of our days, and may we continue to pray for this child and her mother.