Dear Ms Walsh

I am NOT a political person.  And this is NOT about to be a political post.  This is, however, a reply to a statement made by a politician.  Rather than reply with my first thoughts, I have let myself stew for a couple of days.  My mind has run the full gamet of my thoughts and I have come back to the fact that this woman must be incredibly lucky.  Yup.  She’d have to be.  To have never once had a need for a nurse to care for her.  But if in fact, she has only ever encountered the .001% of nurses that don’t care about their patients, then she is perhaps the most UNlucky person in the world.  She’s one or the other.  Because I can’t believe that someone who had encountered the 99.999% of nurses who are absolutely phenominal could ever make the kind of stupid and extremely callous and painful statements she has made.   I have decided to mail her the following letter.  It will go in the mail this week.  (Again, keep in mind- I don’t DO politics, people.)

Dear Ms Walsh,

Hello.  I’d like to introduce myself.  I’m a mom of three from San Antonio, Texas.  I’m a preschool teacher.  I just wanted to send you a letter and say that right now I’m sure you’re receiving a ton of mail from all over the country.  Probably a lot of craziness.  Who knew the words you said could cause so much nationwide commotion, right?  Well, I just wanted to encourage you.  Lift you up a bit through all of the nastiness you may be hearing, by sharing a miracle with you.

I wanted to tell you my story.  Well, it’s not really mine- it’s my daughter’s.  It’s a pretty long one, but I’ll summarize somewhat.  Our little Mirielle (“Elle”) was born last February, right on time and perfectly healthy.  When she was 10 1/2 weeks old, she got RSV.  She ended up in our Children’s Hospital here- CHOSA.  She just kept struggling, and after a couple of weeks ended up with a staph infection from her feeding tube (through no fault of the hospital staff).  Her lungs were super, super weak.  When the highly trained staff went to intubate her, her lungs collapsed, and she “coded.”  They were able to bring her back.  She ended up needing six chest tubes, and the team of highly trained medical personnel determined that she needed to be placed on ECMO life support.  (It’s a machine that basically acted as her lungs for her- her blood was pumped by her heart through tubes into the machine, where it was oxygenated, then pumped back into her tiny little body, circulated back to her heart, and then the process started all over again.  Constantly.  For eight and a half days.)  

During that time, she had not one but TWO nurses by her side- CONSTANTLY.  One was managing the computer for the pump, monitoring every number and never waivering from the screen- for a full twelve hour shift- and the other was managing Elle’s every personal need.  And she had a lot.  She was receiving a LOT of medications through various IVs and ports and there were many numbers to monitor on her screens, not to mention she needed diapers changed, and her eyes didn’t always stay closed because she was so heavily sedated, so she needed eye gels applied and her lips would get very dry so she needed cream on them, and lotion to keep her skin from cracking.  Plus, she had to be rotated every couple of hours to keep her tiny body from getting bed sores.  So they attended her every need.  Constantly.  And they sang to her.  And they played her music and talked to her, and made beautiful artwork by painting her hands and feet- subtly telling us as parents that they realized fully that the bloated tiny little blob on their table wasn’t just some doll, but actually there really was a little girl trapped inside.  Our little girl.  Our precious baby.

They loved her and they cared for her.  At the same time, next door, a little guy passed away.  He never had any visitors that I had seen.  He had his sweet nurses.  When they weren’t doing their nine million tasks, one of them would be just sitting by his side, holding his hand.  Or singing to him.  And then he was gone.  When I saw the gurney come to get him, I wept.  Not for his parents, wherever they were.  No, not for them, but rather, for his nurses.  Because they loved him when he had noone.  Just as they loved Elle, who had us, they loved him.  He didn’t go alone.  Because that’s what nurses do.  

I would venture to say that if a nurse happens to have a spare minute, they might be found playing cards, sure- with a patient whose parents had to step out and that little girl just needed to not be alone when she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep.  Because even twelve year olds get scared.  Or maybe they might be found playing cards with the elderly veteran down the hall whose wife passed away two years ago, and his kids can’t stay at night because they have kids of their own, and he just can’t sleep.  Or maybe you might even find a nurse in a hospital room playing a quick round of go fish with a little boy whose mommy is sick and he’s scared and daddy just had to take a minute to himself.  Because trust me, if you can find a nurse anywhere in this country playing cards, he or she probably hasn’t eaten lunch, or gone to the bathroom, because that game of cards is more important than his or her own personal needs.

You see, one day I happened to overhear a conversation that one of Elle’s nurses hadn’t had lunch the day before, and I realized that was because she had never left Elle’s side.  So I made a mention to the Sister who was present and helping our family to please make sure that the sweet nurse had someone to cover her break so she could eat lunch that day.  She was so concerned with my baby’s health that she didn’t even think to eat lunch.  And that’s the NORM, Ms Walsh, not the exception.  Nurses all over this country, every single day, they fight hard… and yes, they lose some.  But then some, like Elle, get better!  They go home and they become the reminder to those nurses of why they do what they do.  They help patients on the brink of death.  And they care!!  They get so close emotionally to each and every single one.

Elle is a miracle story- she shouldn’t have made it.  But she did!!!  And she had so many nurses along the way who fought for her health.  I encourage my older kids to pursue their interests, and I will with her as well, but I sure hope she grows up wanting to be a nurse.  Because I don’t think there is any nobler career choice she could ever make, and what better way for her to pay back the life she’s been given than by helping others- by being a nurse.

So please, Ms Walsh, as you face backlash from all over the country, take this letter as the encouragement it is meant to be!!!  Your statement was NOT entirely wrong.  Nurses might play cards.  You just were entirely wrong in your implication that they sit around and play cards with each other and place bets and have tons of free time.  Because free time isn’t in their vocabulary.  There aren’t enough nurses to properly care for everyone in most places.  And they have so much to do they can’t possibly get it all done during their shift and frequently work way over just to get everything done.  But be encouraged – if you or one of your loved ones is ever in the hospital, you don’t have to worry about the level of care you/they will receive!  And if you want to bring a deck of cards, one of your nurses might just skip lunch to play a quick game with you.

Please look at the photos I’m including and smile.  Know that nurses here in Texas did more than just their jobs, and that actually one of her nurses has since moved on and is now serving the citizens of your great state!  That’s right- you’re blessed right now with one of the most fabulous people Texas could send to you!  Treat her kindly, and with respect, I beg you.  Here are some pictures from when Elle was in the hospital, and then here she is now- thanks to nurses.

May God bless you to never have to experience having a loved one being cared for our nation’s finest.  But if you do face the inevitable, I pray you experience a change of heart as you see their dedication and their love.  God Bless.

Christy Hinnant,
Mom of Mirielle

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elle during and after ecmo
These photos show her on ECMO, then a few days after being taken off the machine, when she turned three months old, and then on May 22, 2018, when she came home.
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Easter, 2019 – a year later
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Easter, 2019 – a year later

A Letter to My Youngest

My precious little miracle,

Here we sit. It’s April 16th. I was supposed to work today, but you and I are both sick, and you need regular nebulizer treatments, so I stayed home with you. You definitely don’t feel good, but man, you’re so much healthier than this time a year ago. When I checked on you before coming to bed, your breathing was perfectly even. Your body is fighting this virus the same way you fight everything- stubborn, and head-on. You should be all better in just a couple more days. This has been hard on me, though. Harder than an outsider might fathom. But having you wheezing on April 16 just doesn’t set well with my heart.

Your wonderful Daddy and I have been through our share of rollercoaster life events in our marriage – moving, a career change for me, having a baby, medical issues for me with my gallbladder, losing his Mima, losing two babies early in pregnancy, having a second baby, losing my grandparents within four days of each other… we felt like we’d seen a lot. We weathered each rise and fall of the rollercoaster great because of our faith. We faced some positive and some negative surprises along the way, and of course the biggest (positive!!) surprise we ever had was having you! And what a wonderful, miraculous surprise you are!!! We felt we had faced it all, and then you got sick. Very sick. And you were just so very tiny still. Ten and a half weeks old. Our tiny, precious little miracle bug. Our little mermaid.

I relive those days over and over at random times. The days between April 9 and April 17 are all a blur. A blur that comes to a sudden, halting stop at 10:58 pm on April 17. The hours between then and the night of the 19th are a blur too, but a very different blur- where every minute seemed to last for hours. The hours stretched into seemingly days, and the days to weeks. Every time we almost lost you my heart would stop for long seconds, and I would die inside. Sometimes I wished the tears would come, and they wouldn’t. And other times, the floodgates would open and I couldn’t make them stop. I would hold your tiny fingers and crave the feeling of holding you close. I begged God to give me a chance to hold you again. And then the clock stopped again, and we were told we were at your last option. ECMO. I remember texting your Nurse Practioner, Katie, and begging her to come be with us. I am pretty sure I just said, “ECMO. It’s time. Please can you come.” And she of course came.

For eight and a half agonizingly long days, we had a family member always by your side. We moved into the Ronald McDonald House so we were able to be together as a whole family in the same building. And we settled into the hospital life. A life where everyone suddenly knew we were Elle’s family- from room 25. The days and nights of ECMO were stressful at first, but we settled into an amazing routine with the nursing team, and felt like we weren’t alone in this journey. And baby girl, we were never alone. God sent His very own angels right there into your room day and night to look over you. They never left you. They made it possible for us to sleep. I know they were angels because they never seemed to tire, and they brought such encouragement to us- directly from Heaven- to pull us through.

But through all of your victorious recovery after ECMO and everything, my brain can’t really move past the night of the 17th. And I’m not really sure how I’ll be tomorrow night when the clock is about to strike 11. I’m hoping I can go to bed somewhat early and sleep right through it. But I relive those moments of hearing the alarm go off, the nurse coming in, flipping on the lights, and you being so pale that you were blue. Her screaming down the hall for help. The rush of staff. And then more. And more. Calling your Daddy numerous times and finally calling your Pappy to go downstairs and wake him up to come to the hospital. Calling Granny and PawPaw. Asking for the Chaplain. The resident coming out to talk to us and update us on how you were doing. And I kept seeing his Batman light and knowing Jacob was watching over you, and surely God had sent us this resident as a sign that He was with us…

Your tiny fingers. Your little nose. I tried to memorize them all as we stood with some of our dearest friends around your bed and had you baptised.

It’s true that the whole 43 days at the hospital changed me, sure. But that night. The night of April 17. It’s a night that I will relive probably for the rest of my life. I pray that one year, the memory will be so very faded that I’ll strain my brain trying to remember the sequence of events. But I doubt that will ever happen. And that’s ok. Because it shaped who I am as a person, and who I am as a mother.

I treasure every little thing that any of the three of you does or says. I do my best to live in the moment in a way I had never done before. Because I know that a night like April 17, 2018, can sneak up any time and threaten to steal any one of you away from me, and I refuse to be left without a full catalog of priceless memories. So here’s to cataloguing memories, and if you are a mom when you finally read this, I pray you learn from what I learned the hard way. Don’t miss a moment. Treasure every tiny finger and every tiny toe on every single one of your babies, and notice as they get longer. Memorize every laugh. Trace every smile onto the stone of your mind. And live- really, truly LIVE with your kids.

I love you so very much, my precious girl. More than words could ever express, I am thankful for you and I love you. Always. Sleep good tonight, my ElleBug. Sweet dreams.

Love,

Mommy

Interested in reading Elle’s full story? Visit her CaringBridge site here.

A Letter To Myself – in the past

Dear Younger Me,

There’s so much I could say.  You’re only a year younger than me right now.  But there is so much coming ahead of you.  Treasure every moment.  There is going to be fear you’ve never felt.  There is going to be joy that you can’t imagine.  There will be sorrow beyond belief.  It will be a rollercoaster ride.  But there is nothing I will say to try to prevent any of it from happening.  I won’t tell you what it is, or how it happened.  I won’t tell you.  But I will say that in the end, it will all be worth it.  You will grow closer to your kids than you could ever imagine.  You and Cody will have a relationship that is so much deeper than comprehension.  Your faith will be tested, and will be found to be strong.  You aren’t without fault.  You will YELL at God.  Both in your head, and literally out loud.  You will be scared.  You will be angry.  You will lose a LOT of sleep.  But you will learn lessons I couldn’t begin to outline in a simple note.  It will be worth every moment of agony.  It will be worth every single sleepless night.  It will be worth the PTSD that is left as a shadow.  Because you can’t truly know the joy of life without tasting the fear of death.  I wouldn’t want to do it again.  I pray you never relive this past year in any form.  But if we do, I know from the year I’ve just come through that we will survive because God will carry us.  He will carry you high on His shoulders this next year.  Because there will be times you can’t even begin to walk.  And I promise you, He will never, ever let you down.

-Your self, one year in the future

This note was inspired by the following song:
Dear Younger Me
by MercyMe

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be
One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me,

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me, dear younger me

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be
Dear younger me, dear younger me

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed

Busy Bees

Y’all, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve written.  Because, well, life.  I think I probably have started the last umpteen posts that way, if I’d go back and read them.  But seriously, life.  Three busy kids and assistant teaching two days a week has a way of keeping me busy.  We’re getting set to start building our new house, and finally getting settled into the rhythm of life living in our rent house.  This week is our Spring Break, and I must admit that yesterday threw me for a loop.  I had one fun outing planned for each day this week, but that was it.  I mean, that was IT.  I had nothing else planned.  I didn’t really think about the weather forecast for rain several of our days off, or what that would do to all of our spirits.  So they had done pretty much everything I had thought of for them to do including our outing for the day, and it was only 2pm.  Seriously.  I had pulled out worksheets, given them a craft project to make a Leprechaun trap from recycled materials, everything I could think of… I thought I might lose my mind if they kept asking me for more activities!  Yesterday was ROUGH, y’all.  Because I really don’t want to turn the tv on or let them have their kindles for the whole day… but they did end up with about three hours of screen time.  (Which I’m not proud of, but honestly admitting!)

So this morning I decided to get smart.  I pulled up my Pinterest boards and went through my sensory activity pins.  And I was reminded of all the cool, fun things I used to do before I was too busy to make stuff for my kids.  Or maybe lately I’m just too busy to care… hmm.  Need some self reflection there.  I determined we’d see what we had at home already, and then would grab a few things at Walmart to make our week a little more exciting.  So I’m combining here some things we pulled out and did yesterday, some things we’re doing today, and then some links to some activities we’ll be doing later in the week.

Hopefully these ideas will keep your kiddos busy bees this spring – through rainy days, holidays, and any other “I’m BORED!” moments!  (Although I did hear a great idea recently from an older, more experienced mom – she said if her kids ever say, “I’m BORED!” she gives them a rag and has them clean the baseboards.  BRILLIANT!!! I plan to do that later in the week… maybe we’ll get some spring cleaning done around here, too!)

Activity Ideas

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I wish I remembered where I originally saw this idea.  This one came back to me when I started going through my supply box looking for liquid starch, and there I saw the yellow colander.  This time around, I have two kiddos doing the activity, though, so I got out my good one too.  You can get an inexpensive colander at Dollar Tree or Walmart.  I love that yellow one because it’s fun for art too – you can trace around it to make a huge flower!  lol.  It’s as simple as the picture looks – give your child the colander and a bunch of pipe cleaners, and just see what they do!  You’ll be amazed at what they come up with, and the fine motor practice is phenomenal.
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This one came straight from Crystal Underwood over at Growing A Jeweled Rose.  I already had the pipettes – I ordered a big pack of them a long time ago off of Amazon.  I’m no longer an affiliate with them, but here’s the link just to be helpful!  They had a blast, and it kept them occupied for quite a while!  (I presented them with 6 bowls of colored water (the colors of the rainbow) and then they each got a bowl of vegetable oil – for more info, check out her blog!)
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I’m all about rice sensory tubs – my kids LOVE them.  They both absolutely love the feel of the rice between their fingers, and they beg for rice tubs frequently.  I had a pink, red, and white rice mix set up for Valentine’s Day, so for this one, I just scooped out most of that mix, pulled out the Valentine’s add-ins that were in the tub, and dumped in some older bags I had already mixed of blue, green, and white, and then I colored a little orange and purple just to add more spring color.  Then I hid foam letters that spell Happy, Easter, Becca, Grayson, and Elle.  I made sure to write the words on a card and attach to the box since Gray doesn’t know how to spell.  I also took some old foam egg and bunny stickers I got a couple years ago (also in that supply box with the colander…), peeled the backs off, and stuck them together.  Then I hid the eggs and bunnies and the letters to make a fun treasure hunt of sorts!

More Activity Links To Check Out!

Here are some more links to things we’ll be doing later in the week (I won’t promise a blog post because, well, life!)  And also, if you’re just looking for some fun time fillers, be sure to check out Doodle Art Alley – Samantha is an AMAZING artist and does some brilliant work.  She shares TONS of it for FREE on her website – all of it is there just ready for you to download and print!  I printed off a bunch of stuff today and not only did I color with the Bigs earlier, Becca and I enjoyed Cody joining us this evening after the Littles had gone to bed in coloring bookmarks!  We’ll take them and laminate them later this week and then she can use some, and share some with friends when she goes back to school!

Jell-O Scented Moldable Dough for Sensory Play from Sixty Second Parent

Rainbow Fruit Loop Sensory Bin from Love Play Learn

Liquid Starch Slime from Schooling Active Monkeys

Plus, here’s some stuff we’ve done in the past that is worth revisiting for St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Activities

Rainbow Celery

Bell Pepper Shamrocks

We also picked up at Walmart a new super fun Paint by Sticker book – the kids love those!  If your kids haven’t tried them, I highly recommend them for fine motor and numeral recognition practice… and plus they are just downright fun!  Here’s one from Amazon (again, no longer an affiliate, just sharing for your benefit!) that we have and the kids love!

So between all of this and a ton of wonderful books, fun outings planned to a couple of parks, and a plan to hit up Dollar Tree for some window clings, some more stickers, and hopefully an easy crossword puzzle book for Becca… I think we’ll survive the rest of the week, and be better set up for some successfully fun weekends in the future, as well! 🙂

Advent Books

Our Advent book box

This is going to be a fairly quick post- it’s 2:30am and I’m only awake because a certain sweet little guy woke up needing some snuggles and some cough meds. (Tis the season!)

But I wanted to answer some questions about our Advent books project! There are a couple of different ways to do this, and it’s all over Pinterest, I feel sure. But here’s what we do:

I sift through all of our Christmas themed books and pick out 24 favorites. Each year I make sure that each child has at least one (this year it’s two) brand new books in the stack. Christmas Eve always ends with Becca reading us “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Some certain books get wrapped every year- like the tiny Little Golden Book about a Christmas snowman that was mine as a kid, and the book Too Many Tamales, which is just one of my absolute favorites of all time. We also have to Take A Mouse To The Movies, and we have a favorite version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. I wrap each child’s books in their own pattern of paper (this year, I ran out of Gray’s paper, so he has two different patterns.) I also label each package with a sharpie and write the date in a LARGE “font” so that if the books get dropped, they can easily get put back into order!

We also do several other things for Advent. We have a felt Advent calendar whose pockets hide pieces of the nativity scene, and we add a piece each night, telling and retelling the story of Christ’s birth each night. This year, I added the Jesus Calling advent book to this, and on Becca’s nights, she reads us the next page in the book. We also have the Lego City Advent calendar, and a bowl of mini candy canes.

So the way I do this, is I plan the order of the books, and we begin with night one on our felt calendar being started by Becca pulling out the palm tree in Bethlehem and reading Jesus Calling. Then she opens day one of the advent calendar and builds the tiny toy. Gray then gets a mini candy cane to eat and opens book number 1! I read the book to both of them while he eats the candy cane, and then it’s off to bed! This occurs on all the odd nights. On the even nights, it flips and Gray does the felt Advent and Lego, and Becca gets the book and candy cane. Sometimes the book they open has a special significance with the felt character for the Advent story, but usually they are just fun Christmas books!

Another way I have heard to do this is to have a brand new book of any theme to open each night, and it’s a big gift of lots of new books at the end. I prefer the more frugal way of wrapping favorite books and making it a big fun surprise all over again! Talk about reinforcing a love of language and of reading!!

Happy Advent and happy reading!!