31 December 2010

Urgent Update

Today was a rough day for Penny. Somehow sometime this afternoon, Penny's blood glucose levels shot up to an astronomical 1948 glucose count. A normal number should be around the low 100's and an unusual high is around 200. It has baffled doctors and nurses alike, all saying they've never seen a glucose number that high anywhere let alone a preemie. They're concerned with possible neurological side affects that this might have caused which only long term time will tell. The on call doctor said that when they started noticing the climbing level they thought they might be messing up a lab because it was rising so fast so they began taking tests more frequently along with beginning to dose her with insulin. The endocrinologist said that because they started to give her the insulin quickly that he believe there should be little to no harm done but again, only time will tell. Her numbers are dropping as we speak but can only be brought down at a rate of 100 pts per hour. she's currently at 630 so we have a long night ahead to get her back to 100.

Our prayer tonight, that amazing work be done in Penny's brain, that God has protected her from harm from this crazy spike and that the source of the situation would be found and resolved.

What a crazy way to start the new year but alas we are here.

Happy New Year from Le Bonheur NICU.

30 December 2010

12.29 Update (by Bethany)

(from http://iamknittogether.blogspot.com)

What a lovely day!  It was yucky outside but it's be sunshining in my heart.  Last night we went home to sleep in our beds after a day with Penelope and an evening with Lydia.  Both having some apnea issues but doing relatively well.  This morning we woke up rested and headed to Methodist Germantown to see Lydia.  When I called Lebonheur to check on Penelope it was a good report.  Improving apnea (low respiratory rate) and bradycardia (low heartrate) episodes and super great oxygen saturation (she's on the bubble CPAP still and only on 21% oxygen which is room air) and still adorable (we knew that).

The girls are 1 week old today which is extremely exciting for me.  That also means that Lydia's Umbilical Line had to be pulled because they only last a week before there is a danger of infection.  So she got a PICC line (peripherally inserted central catheter) just like Penny!  Then she had an echo....so she was pretty tired.  Her nurse Jennifer gave us the glorious news that with her UAC out we could hold her and start doing Kangaroo Care!!  For those who don't know, Kangaroo Care is when the mommy holds a preemie baby skin to skin and there are many many benefits.  It helps regulate the baby's temp, respiration, and heartrate.  It encourages the mother's milk to produce just what the baby needs.  It helps with bonding.  It puts the baby in a deep recouperative sleep that helps them to grow.  Most importantly, it's just the medicine the doctor ordered for a mommy who's been looking at her babies all week and longing to hold them close!!!!

I was so giddy before we started I could hardly contain myself!  I can't even BEGIN to describe the feeling that went through me when Jennifer put her on my chest for the first time.  I just can't describe it so I won't even try.  One thing is for sure, I'll never forget it.  I got to kiss her little head and feel her heartbeat against my skin.....it was so beautiful!  They way God meant for it to be.  Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely grateful for the medical technology my girls are benefiting from at the moment, but there's something so sweet about the simple joy of holding your child.  This is not news to anyone, but it sure was new for me!

Jonathan had the chance to hold her after we finished our little moment and had his own epiphany of emotion.  It was so sweet to watch him hold her for the first time and promise he would always hold her if she wanted him to.  Hearing those words from his father's heart reminded me of how blessed I am to have an earthly daddy who promises the same for me.  These girls have no idea how good they'll have it with a daddy like they have! To be loved well by your earthly father makes it so much easier to accept the infinitely greater love of the Heavenly Father.  They'll have a head start!

Ok...gush over...for now.  It's time for me to try to get some rest here in Penny's room at Lebonheur.  She's doing really well and is even more adorable than yesterday.  Her nurse Nancy is very open to letting us be hands on and that makes our time here feel like we're making a difference for Penny.  When she's crying and flailing and we put our hands on her and she immediately relaxes and goes back to sleep....that makes the heart happy.  So in summary.....it's been a good day.

Now for some pictures...I know that's really the only reason you guys check the blog ;)

28 December 2010

12.28 Evening Update

Penny's cardiologist, Dr. Joshi, came and assessed her current situation. He believes, while looking at the echo, her overall internal heart structure looks good. The concern lies within the PDA and the way that it is currently pumping the blood. Her PDA, being so open now because of her medicine, is causing some diastolic run off and making the diagnosis on the coarctation difficult so in order to see it more clearly, they have stopped the prostaglandins. This hopefully will also cease the apnea the episodes that she has been dealing with since last night. She has had a few episodes since the medicine stopped but the nurse believes that it was the last little bit that was flushed in to her system. Dr. Joshi believes that it will take anywhere from 24-48 hours for the PDA to get small enough to see what's really going on.

Our prayer request for tonight is that Penny will begin to flush out the prostaglandins and that the PDA will begin to close and that her aorta will be responding in a way that they can make a proper diagnosis.

We are grasping on to as much as we can scribble and keep in our heads so hold on with us! We're riding this ride the best we can!

The Chu's

Le Bonheur

I'll never forget the view of the Memphis skyline right now.

We've officially settled in to Le Bonheur, one of Memphis' finest hospitals for children and we can't be more amazed by our surroundings. The building we are in is about as new as our little Penny and we are so thankful to be under the care of these medical personel. Currently, Penelope is resting in her cozy super high tech Giraffe bed. She looks so tiny in her big ole bed, sort of spaceshipish.

They're going to be watching her over the next days and weeks. Dr. Krishnan came by after we had been in for a bit and said she is looking really good and that their long term hopes might be that the PDA might just grow up with her but that really only takes time. So as it stands we will have one daughter here and the other at The Pavilion. Although we don't see the repercussions right now between them, we feel the stress of having them separated. We feel so strongly to having them together in the same room but because Le Bonheur is a specialized hospital for children Lydia probably won't be kept here with her sister. We're going to keep pushing to see about having both of them in the same room though but for now... we'll make the drive together to see both girls until Bethany can drive again.

I should rest so we can meet the cardiovascular doctors in the morning.

Le Bonheur NICU out.

27 December 2010

News Flash

Due to Penny's heart condition and the medicine that she is on to help the ductus work for her heart right now, the doctors at downtown LeBonhuer want her right away just in case the medicine begins to not work and they need to do surgery on her quickly. They will be moving her tonight to the hospital downtown while Lydia stays here in her room at Methodist. Please pray for swift transportation and care as she is set up downtown. She will not be Pedi-Flited but the team that is usually on the helicopter will be in her ambulance.

Thank you so much for your continued prayers.

10.28 Update (by Bethany)

Phew, what a new experience all around! To try to condense all the information and emotions into a few paragraphs and pictures is practically impossible! I'm going to try anyway.

Yesterday morning was very good. Penelope had been intubated Christmas morning so when we came in and asked, her blood gases started looking so much better (so much so that they had to run it twice in a row to make sure the improvement wasn't a mistake) that they decided to extubate her later. Little miss feisty decided to hurry the process and pulled it out before they could get to her and was doing so well that they decided to keep it out at that point. She's good at communicating what she wants! Her CO2 and other blood gases have stayed good since. Lydia is steadily improving on her breathing too and is now on a low flow canula with very low O2 assistance. Last night she even pulled her O2 out of her nose and it was down around her neck but her O2 levels were just fine. The only reason the nurse saw it was because she had to come in to change a diaper and noticed it wasn't in place. I'd say that's a pretty good sign of her lung development.

They had a repeat echo to check their hearts again in regards to the Ductus and the Aortic Coarctation. Both of their PDAs are still open, and it was confirmed that Penny has the Aortic Coarctation. She will have to have surgery to repair this within the next few weeks or months. This means she'll be taken to Le Bonheur for the surgery, or possibly a good time before to be monitored and fattened up, and then after she recovers she'll come back here to Methodist Germantown to be with Lydia. Here is a link to a more detailed medical explanation. Of course this is not something we were hoping for, but we're very grateful to live in a city with world renowned medical facilities for children.

The Cardiologist also believes that it was actually Penelope who had the cystic hygroma at 11 weeks. Since they switched positions just before birth it is possible that they had done the same earlier in the pregnancy. The Hygroma, single umbilical artery, single kidney, and aortic coarctation are all possible markers for a chromosomal disorder called Turner's Syndrome. Penny will be tested for this soon I imagine but it's not in the orders yet. Also we'll be having their DNA tested to see if they are identical or fraternal. It would be very rare for an identical twin to have a chromosomal disorder that her sister did not have (not to mention that Penny's hair is noticeably lighter than Lydia's) so the results of that test should be pretty interesting.

This morning Jonathan dropped me off at the hospital so that he could go get the girls' social security cards applied for (super dad). We got a good report from the night nurses that their bilirubin was down enough to take them off the phototherapy and their skin was doing so well that the humidity could be removed from their little heat boxes. This is such great news because it means we can actually see them (and maybe start Kangaroo Care!!) The nurse was just about to change the bedding out when I got here so I offered to help and I'm so glad I did! She let me cradle each girl in my arms while she changed the bedding!! It was like heaven. Lydia just relaxed immediately and slept through the whole thing. Penelope was looking around, looking at me, and just plain being adorable. I can't even begin to describe the feeling...I'm sure it's something only parents would understand for now. What a gift!

They're both sleeping very comfortably now and sucking on the tiniest pacifiers you've ever seen. It's been a peaceful day so far and we hope it stays this way.

Things to pray for:
  • Continued growth for Lydia and Penelope
  • Wisdom for us as we face decisions about their care
  • Penelope's Aortic Coarctation
  • Lydia's Ductus to close
  • Rest and balance for Jonathan and me
  • Continued success in pumping breastmilk
  • God to be glorified
With very full hearts,
The Chus

Jonathan had the chance to hold Penelope last night before I did so it was nice to get my turn! Here's his video.


Absolute rush. I can still feel her warm body in my hands, her heart pulsing on my fingers and her cry tingling my ears.

My Baby Penelope.

25 December 2010

Christmas in NICU

It's not quite so snowy inside NICU this morning or sticking on the streets of Memphis, for that matter. But the twinkling lights and warm coziness is definitely here. When we came in this morning to visit the girls we noticed little pink stockings in their beds with pictures of them with reindeer caps on. They also got some presents, as well, little pink striped hats and two ornaments for our little tree that we have in the room. So cute!

So for this morning has been an eventful one but let me catch us up to speed.

Premature babies have quite a number of hurdles to jump over. We have and will continue to jump hurdles which is what we've come to expect from information given to us by friends and family that have experience in this world.

Current hurdles:

1) Hyaline Membrane Disease (aka Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome)
2) Both girls have an open PDA (patent ductus arteriosus). Lydia's is more normal and is being closed off by medicine which comes with risks, one of which is necrotizing enterocolitis the most serious so she will be watched closely. Penny will not be geting the treatment yet because she needs to be watched. Her case is a bit different because her PDA is connected to her aorta in a way that could possibly be helping her but they aren't sure yet. That all leads to another hurdle which we'll worry about when it gets time (for look up aortic coarctation).
3) Blood Gas levels are an unending balancing act for the babies and the nurses. They tell the nurse a lot of information on how the baby's blood is handling certain things like oxygen and carbon dioxide among other important gases. We want levels to continue to stay around the same numbers but like I said... it's a balancing act and some times they tip a little to one side or the other.
4) Penny had an atelectasis of the left lung which required her to be intubated and put on a vent. This was something we thought would have happened when she first was born but because she was crying so much when she first came out the doctors thought they would give her a chance to do things on her own. She did good for a two nights but the atelectasis came on quick and they thought it best to give her a chance to rest so they vented her.
*update to this 12.26.10 - Penny was just extubated and her blood gas numbers continue to look good. She was breathing so well on her own they saw it fit to pull her tube!! yay for one step forward!

For some hurdles for us parents. We've been trying our best to get rest and to figure out this whole new schedule for our lives. Keeping weird hours because of pumping and going to the hospital, going to and from the NICU, trying to keep ourselves out of the ways of the doctors and nurses but not so out of the way that we miss an opportunity to connect with our daughters, and eat! We've been feeling the emotional turmoil every night after leaving our girls at the hospital. We cry at random times while doing random things, imagine hearing the noises of their machines in our house and pretend to her them crying through the videos on our computer. We know that we are blessed to have them in our lives right now and to be sharing this time with them, so we do all we can to bond with them.

Every day we have family members coming to see the babies and us so it's been tough sitting down and writing an update. We will try our absolute best to continue updating on a very regular basis but like this post (written half on the 25th and finishing on the 26th) sometimes things get a little hectic, so please forgive us if we can't get the updates out as fast as we or you would like! I will continue to post pictures as we go along and sometimes they might just be pics without updates but know that we appreciate you all for your following us on this journey of two little girls who have already faced the odds just by being born. We'll continue to see how God intervenes and continue trusting that His ways are higher than any of mine.

24 December 2010

Photo Bomb...

I was wanting to write a big ole update but Bethany's recovering so well that the doctor said she can go home! So instead of writing, i'm going to pack while the photos get loaded on to the website and posted!

Here we go...(not in any time order and it's both girls)

22 December 2010

Welcome to Our World

The world gained two more Chu's tonight. Our little twin girls are now out of the womb, breathing the air around us.

We started the c-section process this afternoon at around 4:20, with things going very routine.

The plan has always been for our Baby A (Penelope Anne) to come out first and Baby B (Lydia Belle) to come out second. But the girls had other thoughts this evening because as the delivery process happened, Lydia was the first to join us in the world and Penelope came out second.

Lydia Belle Chu born 12.22.2010 at 4:49pm at 2lbs 4oz.

Penelope Anne Chu born 12.22.2010 at 4:50 at 1lbs 8oz.

Just in case people haven't been following they are 2 months early and are preemies. Our Penelope was diagnosed as a Selective Intrauterine Growth Restriction baby and because she needed to come out early, Lydia had to as well even though she was completely fine.

I took quite a number of pictures but for now I'm only going to post these two from the birth.

Lydia Belle. She and her sister both came frank breech. She was unexpectedly first. My first glance over the curtain. As soon as she was able to, she began to cry her little mouse cries telling us she was upset that she was out. She also flailed and fought as she was carried to the care table.

Penelope Anne. So tiny!! She fought and flailed also on her way out, crying and making a fuss. The NICU doctor called her "a feisty one!" and was pleasantly surprised by her activity. It only solidifies what Bethany was feeling in the womb. Our Penny is a fighter.

A quick shot of us after the girls had been sent up to the NICU. Bethany did amazing! The process was so quick! The doctors, specialists and nurses at Methodist Germantown Women's and Children's Pavilion have been amazing.

Thank you ALL for your prayers and thoughts that you have given us over the past 7 months. We are extremely humbled by everyone that we know and don't know that have interceded for us and our babies. We still walk a precarious path with two tiny babies and we will continue to hope and pray that their little lives will be taken care of by our Jesus.

21 December 2010

Doctor, Doctor Gimme The News

It's so cold in here... brrrr...

What a strange and emotional day yesterday ended up being. We were planning on a normal and uneventful day of going in for the ultrasound and seeing the babies, dashing around town to get final Christmas things done and prepare for our week in the hospital. Guess ole Robert Burns said it best...

We arrived at Dr. Schneider's office and went back for our ultrasound. Most of the exam went fairly normal but once the sonographer started to look at Penelope's heart and do measurements of the heart wall, the concerns started to come out. After we were done we went to the consult room to wait to hear what the doctor had to say about the situation. Dr. Schneider was actually out of town so we would be seeing another doctor that day. After the doctor came in she began to tell us that the signs of stress, thickening of the heart wall and fluid build up around Penny's heart, that would present themselves at the start of the third trimester had now shown themselves and it was time to go to the hospital. We were a bit taken aback bec. she didn't want to contact Dr. Schneider since he was on vacation but we said ok and dashed home to whirlwind pack a few things and have a few last moments as just the two of us in the house. Bethany's mom was with us, helping us stay a bit We took a few quick pics of us outside of the house since we don't have many of Bethany pregnant and I together so we needed to have at least that one on the way to the hospital!

We got to the hospital, checked in, and then shown to our room where the kind nurse started the process of getting us filed up and Bethany situated to be in the bed for a bit. She got these cool disk heart monitors that show the heart rates of the girls and sends the info to the nurse workstations so they can track them throughout the day and night. They're pesky little buggers and the nurse had to keep coming in to hunt them down when they decide to roll around and change positions. The reason for the heart monitors is because of Penny having the fluid around her heart. If the monitors started to show stress and tachycardia in Penny's heart rhythms or they start to plummet, that would be indicators that we needed to be sent straight to the OR to get them out. Throughout the afternoon and in to the evening, Penny only had one serious moment where her heart rate was sky high and the nurse was about to call the doctor. Thankfully Bethany remembered quickly that when we played our Mozart iPod for the girls they would settle down and so I grabbed my headphones and iPod, quickly started up an album and within a few min. both of the girl's heart rate were nice and calm. The nurse was stunned! She'd never seen anything like that before and was super impressed. So Mozart, for the win!! We'll be playing it as often as we can while we're in the NICU to help keep their little minds active and calm. It was hard for Bethany last night bec. the nurse had to keep coming in and waking her up to reconfigure the placements of the straps and the discs but got a few hours of sleep.

We were blessed yesterday afternoon and evening to have some family and a few friends over in the room. It was a nice distraction of the things that were going on around us and helpful in some cases because we began networking, learning about friends that were in the NICU that were nurses who could possibly help work our case. Today continued the steady stream of family members and a couple of friends helping make the day pass by a bit easier. It was nice to have them all here praying for us, encouraging us easing the nerves that we were starting to gather about the things we'll be facing tomorrow. Sister pedicures, mother's going out to get Chikfila nugget platters, best friend, preemie speech pathologist, out of town pregnant friend, happy aunts, engaged cousin, awesome NICU nurse who gave us amazing information for tomorrow, our resident OB friend and awesome molasses cookie making wife, are some of the folks that came by but the most encouraging thing today, though, was a visit from Pastor Larry, who came dashing in to the room to see how Bethany was after just arriving back in town. His praying for us tonight moved us all to tears and we're so grateful for his shepherding, loving heart.

I picked up momentum in writing but I really need to sleep so I'll just blast through the last of important information that you really are wanting.

Bethany received her last round of steroid shots this afternoon and about forty-five min. ago she started her Magnesium Sulfate(aka magwash) IV drip. The magwash caused her to get even more flushed and hot than where she was before. She's been consistently warm the last few weeks of the pregnancy and even more so since we've been in the hospital. It's made for some super chilly nights here and I had Bethany's mom bring my REI sleeping bag for some cozy sleep relief. Penny's heart rate has looked very steady all day today and Lydia has been a tumbler, rolling around all over the place making the nurses chase her down. We're praying that the heart rates continue to stay the same through tomorrow morning and in to the C section time. We're scheduled for a 4pm section.

Last few important notes.
1) I will be able to visit the babies about 1-2 hours after the section. I'll take as many pics as I can during that time and will be uploading them/showing them at the hospital. So stay posted here for the latest pics.

2) We're going to request that tomorrow and Thur. be limited to immediate family and clergy ONLY. We don't know exactly how many passes we will be given and are reserving the first few for our parents. We will let you know ASAP when we/they will be able to have visitors.

3) Because it is RSV season, no children under 12yrs old and anyone with ANY signs of a cold will be allowed to visit them. Thank you for understanding this!! The girls will be in a very special state of care during this time and we're going to do our best to keep them healthy and safe while they catch up to where they need to be in their growth.

We're so excited to finally be meeting these little gals face to face tomorrow. Your prayers and your thoughts at 4pm CDT will mean the world to us!!

Till then...
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05 December 2010

One Day At a Time

It's hard to believe that in a few weeks my little girls will be here. Here in this world, this crazy messed up, broken & beautiful place. I've been given so much advice from so many people from so many walks of life. I love it but it's one of those things that it's a bit of an overload, having to categorize what is important for now use and what is important for use in the future with raising these girls. Life will definitely be taking a crazy turn here in a few weeks.

On an update about my girls, our Baby A is still trucking along. Things aren't getting worse, which is a blessing! We go weekly for appointments with our specialist to make sure things are still staying that way. She was about a week behind her sister still and we'll find out again this week where her weight is and how muh she has grown since last week. In terms of delivery, we will be shooting for a delivery date of the 22nd of Dec. because this will set us at twenty eight weeks in the pregnancy and will be the safest time to deliver both girls. Baby B will be the innocent bystander in this situation because she is doing just fine but will have to come out anyways. Baby A will be hopefully strong enough to be able to fight through any issues that might arise. These issues are call morbidities and are things that can cause long term damage to the baby, issues like cerebral palsy, poor motor skills, intestinal issues, blindness and a handful of other things. We would love to press through to thirty weeks but we will see what the situation is once we get closer to twenty eight.

We also finally named them. Baby A is Penelope Ann and Baby B is Lydia Belle. We wanted to keep the "A" and "B" monikers in there somehow because that's what they would have been until the end if we had gone through the pregnancy with a normal path. I didn't want to find out the sex nor name them before I saw them but alas, the best laid plans. I am glad that I know that they are girls and have been able to have that connecting time with them but that side of me that wanted that crazy surprise still says... "aww man.."

On choosing names for the babies, what a difficult crazy experience that is. I mean, it's something that has to stick with that person for the rest of their lives! Even if you do get your name legally changed, you were given one at birth! I really had wanted to wait until the day i saw them to name them but again with all the issues that we were having, needing some stability was important. Lydia was given her name because it would have been the name my mom would have given to the child she miscarried before me. I hadn't realize that my mom had miscarried until Bethany became part of the family. Bethany has a knack of getting information out of folks by just starting the question gatlin gun. I love it! So we chose that name for her. It means "seller of purple" Which is a royal color and she was also an important woman in the ministry of Paul.

Our Baby A had a bunch of names before we landed on Penelope. Evah, Annabelle, Analise but for some reason on the drive back from Houston, the name Penelope out of my head and we both agreed it was unique and different. I think it came about because I had seen a sign or billboard with one of the former actors of LOST in it and out came the name Penny. We decided to stick with the name when we found out the meaning of it. "Weaver" or "worker of cloth" is what her name means and with the battle she has been facing with her amniotic sac and the way it wraps around her like a silk cloth we saw it fitting. Also with the story of the Greek wife of Odysseus, Penelope was deeply committed to her husband and while he was at war and many suitors came for her she waived them off by saying that she was in the midst of weaving a tapestry for her husband and would not choose to try and see any man until it was done. She would nightly undo all the work she had done so that her work would never been done. Her name means "loyal" and "capable" which I just realized is also half of what my Chinese name means. Wow.

To have names given to my babies now make things even more real and even more emotional! Excitement, fright, joy, stress, angst, worry, happiness and everything else come rolling through whenever they want. Having to also keep in the back of my mind the concept of loss and to continue holding hands with that is hard. Our girls lost their friend Charlotte Hope a week ago which rang close to my heart. To be the same age as her parents, (i went to highschool with her mom) and to be in such close pregnancy timing as them, we had to really hold on while we were there because it was an emotional journey. And to update this post from when I started it, another friend close to us just lost one of their twin daughters to unknown causes. She fell asleep and didn't wake up the next day. This brought on a whole new set of emotions and feelings as i read about it this afternoon. So many psychological and emotional repercussions to this event and how this affects not just the parents but the twin sister, only time will tell.

I have always wondered when the whole being a "grown up" takes place and I feel like the moment has arrived, no matter how hard I try to deny that factor, I'm moving from an "adult" to a "grown up." I feel there is a difference between the two by now having other human beings to care for and not just yourself. I still have to make these adult decisions but along with that I have to help line the path up for these two little girls that will soon be relying on me for more than I will ever realize. To my parents and my in laws, and all the other parents out there that I have watched and analyzed, thank you for the opportunity to observe and be guided by your life decisions. Whether good or bad the choices and decisions that you all have made have been the cocoon in which this caterpillar has had the opportunity to use to grow in to a stumbling, flittering moth, desperately seeking out the light to find it's way.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

(Psalm 43:3 ESV)