Last Sunday, with the help of our family and friends, Mauricio and I were finally able to hold a memorial service to remember and celebrate the lives of our sons. In case you missed it, Mauricio shared a little bit of our journey, his mom read scripture, and great speeches were given by Mo's brother as well as my dad. What's more, officers from the Santa Ana Police Department arrived in full uniform and truly honored our boys by forming up for a "Walk of Honor" as Mauricio and I carried RJ and Luke's urns out of the chapel.
To say I was touched by the turnout at the funeral would be an understatement. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that so many people would take time out of their day to come show their support and pay respects to our boys. To each and every one of you, I wanted to take a moment to say what I couldn't find the words to say that day:
As a first time mother, I was surprised by how quickly I fell in love with my boys when I saw them for the
first time. Even in their small and fragile state, they were beautiful and instantly became the most important things in my life. But, given the nature of our journey - the fact that they were born so early, the fact that only few visitors were allowed in the NICU, the fact that our boys' lives were so short - I worried that when they died, their lives wouldn't matter to anyone but us. I worried that because they were so premature, people would think that they weren't "real" babies. And I worried that in a week, in a month, or in a year, they would only be remembered by our family. With that said, I would like to extend a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to each and every person that took time out of their lives to come and pay respects to our sons. Whether you knew it or not, your presence showed me that their lives did matter, and for that I am forever grateful.
Friends and Family:
Memorial services for Rick Joseph Estrada and Lucas Anthony Estrada will be
held THIS SUNDAY, June 23 at 1PM.
Services will begin at Waverly Chapel, located at 1702 Fairhaven Avenue,
Santa Ana, CA 92705, at 1pm. Please note this chapel is located on the grounds
of Fairhaven Memorial Park.
A reception will be immediately following, held at the Santa Ana Police
Officer's Association located at 1607 N. Sycamore Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701.
In lieu of flowers, Mauricio and I are requesting donations on behalf of RJ
and Luke to OC Walk to Remember, a foundation that helps fund hospitals, support
groups and other organizations helping families who have lost a baby in
pregnancy or infancy. If you would like to donate in RJ and Luke's name, please
click this link:www.active.com/donate/2013ocwalk/rjandluke
Please feel free to share this information with your family and friends. All
are welcome to join us as we remember and celebrate the lives of our sons. If
you are reading this, you are invited! Hope to see you there!
This morning, they told us he might not make it through the surgery. He was prepped and sedated for the operation, and Mauricio and I were moved to the waiting room where we sat for three hours before the surgeon came in.
The good news: RJ is still alive!
The bad news: The bowel perforations that had been repaired on Friday were beginning to leak again. And once again, stool had been spilling into the abdominal cavity putting him at an exceptionally high risk for infection. The surgeon made some changes to the location of his ostomy (the portion of the intestine that is now exposed), but assured us that this is nothing that can't be put back together in the future. At some point, RJ will have yet another operation but should regain normal bowel function.
Having been at the hospital so early this morning, Mauricio and I went home to take a nap while RJ recovered from his anesthesia. Unfortunately, we were once again awakened by a phone call from RJ's doctor. This time, we were told that his vitals have been very unstable since the operation.
We are back at the hospital now and, after speaking further with the doctor, here's what we know:
-RJ's ventilation settings were extremely high after surgery requiring him to once again be put on the oscillator. He is on moderate settings on this machine.
-RJ's blood pressure remains low despite a blood transfusion and almost maximum doses of medication for blood pressure support. The "last resort" medication (epinephrine) has been ordered but is on hold for now.
-It is possible that the stress of surgery today, combined with all of the fluctuations in blood pressure, will cause RJ's brain bleeds to worsen.
-RJ's condition is so unstable that he has been assigned 2 nurses specifically for his care tonight.
-4 antibiotic medications will be continued to fight any infections caused by the bowel perforation.
Despite all of this, the doctor told us that there is still hope RJ will recover, although he is obviously not recovering from surgery as easily as last time. We were told that the next 24 hours are critical and if we can get past that hurdle, he should begin to stabilize.
RJ has been put through the ringer today and it is killing us, but we know our little boy is stronger than the two of us combined. As usual, thank you for your continued support. We are hoping against hope that we can get back to everyone with good news tomorrow. Please say an extra prayer for baby RJ tonight.
Overnight Mauricio and I received a call from the doctor informing us that the incision from RJ's bowel surgery had "bust open." We were told to get to the hospital first thing in the morning for repair of the site. Unfortunately, what I thought was going to be a simple stitching repair has turned into a full repeat of the bowel resection surgery that was done last week. I guess with the PDA issue ruled out, doctors feel that RJ's continued low blood pressure issues could be a result of infection from yet another intestinal rupture. RJ is in surgery as I type this, and Mo and I are a ball of tears in the waiting room as we wait for results from the surgeon. Please pray for strength for our little man!
After yesterday's confusion, we received welcome news. RJ had an echocardiogram earlier today and the results show he most likely does NOT have a problem with his PDA. We were fearful the PDA (a valve between his heart and lungs) had reopened, as doctors told us yesterday that all of the oxygen and blood pressure variations were indicative of a reopening. If you remember, this is the vessel that we were relieved had been closed by medicine given last week; If it had reopened, he would have likely needed to have surgery to tie it off. Coming on the heels of the first surgery for his intestines, it may have been too much for him. So we thank God for that, and to all of you praying and sending your positive thoughts his way. Everything is stable.
I would have posted RJ's daily update a little sooner, but the truth is I'm not exactly sure what to say. As far as I can tell RJ is stable despite slightly higher ventilator settings and lowered blood pressure. We didn't receive any bad news when we came in this morning...but, various alarms have been going off all day today in what seems like 30 second increments. Oxygen saturation is up, then down, then up again. RJ is moving around like crazy, but these movements seem to be more like agitation than anything else. We have asked the doctor everything we can think of, and despite our concern we have been assured that everything is okay.
I guess these alarms are getting to me because I can't help but think that something is wrong today...and I am one nervous mom sitting in the corner of this hospital room!
Please pray for wisdom for our doctors and strength and health for baby RJ.
I'll admit it...my first Mother's Day was difficult to get through. I woke up to get ready for a quick brunch with the family, not quite ready to face the day. I opened a sweet card from Mauricio and the boys, then cried in the car on the way to breakfast. Once at the restaurant, I cried again when I opened a very thoughtful gift from my sister. I tried to quickly wipe away the tears and put on a brave face instead, but in all honesty it was all a little too much for me.
Instead of happily celebrating Mother's Day, all I could think about were the things I didn't have. I have two cribs and two car seats waiting at home, but no babies to put in them. I have little boy clothes and soft baby blankets, but nobody that I need to keep warm.
After breakfast, Mo and I raced to the hospital where my pity party continued. We were met with news that RJ's blood counts were down again, indicating that he possibly had a worsening brain bleed or internal bleeding as a result of his recent surgery. Hopefully though, the decreased numbers were simply a result of the continued blood draws for various labs. Additionally, the doctor let us know that RJ's white blood cell count was up, possibly indicating a new infection since the surgery. Given RJ's tiny body and non-existent immune system, any type of infection could be fatal.
Mauricio and I stayed at RJ's bedside the entire day, anxious for ultrasound and lab results that would clear up the unknowns regarding the brain bleeds and infections. I cannot begin to put into words how nerve wracking those moments are...hoping for the best, but bracing ourselves for news of the worst possible outcome.
Evening came and we still hadn't received any word from the radiologist. I (annoyingly) asked the nurse for an update, and she was kind enough to pull up RJ's chart. It was then that she read the sweetest words a mother could ask for: head ultrasound showed "no significant change" in comparison with earlier scans. Even better, the x-rays performed earlier in the day showed no sign of internal bleeding. Then, the doctor came in to let us know that follow-up lab draws showed RJ's white blood cell count in a normal range, leading him to believe that the earlier test was a false reading caused by RJ's delayed reaction to the stress of the surgery.
I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief and within a minute my pity party was over. Everything we'd learned was good news and my perspective was completely changed.
I have been given the chance to be a mother to 2 beautiful baby boys that, in just a matter of days, have changed my life forever.
I have a husband that loves me with all of his being, even on my worst days.
I am part of a strong family whose love is constant and whose support is unwavering.
And, most importantly, I was blessed with the chance to spend another day sitting beside my son - touching him, loving him, and fighting with him.
PS- A sincere thank you to all of you that took the time to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. Your sweet words made it easier to manage my way through a very difficult day. I cannot say enough how appreciative we are of your support and prayers. Keep 'em coming! It's working so far!
A very special Mother's Day gift! :)
Luke and RJ got Kelly a Mother's Day card and flowers this morning. I presented them to her on their behalf, naturally. I knew if they could, they would have showered her with kisses and hugs, so I did that too. Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms reading this blog! Your support means so much to us.
Although this is not how we pictured our First Mother's Day going, we will treat it as the very very special a day it is. Luke is with us here, at RJ's bedside, as we celebrate the venerable institution of Motherhood.
RJ is chugging right along (literally chugging...the oscillator sounds like a miniature train minus the whistle). His heartbeat is solid, they are slowly weaning him off the oscillator because he is breathing so well, and his weight is up! Whether the weight increase is due to fluid retention remains to be seen, but he is up to 620 grams. He is still resting, recovering from his surgery.
I hope everyone has a great Mother's Day, and thank you for your thoughts and prayers.