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Archive for August, 2010

“Blessed are those whose strength is in the Lord.” Psalm 84:5a

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Casey (on the right) spends one last moment with her sister Allison

It’s been seven days since we received the phone call that notified us that something wasn’t right with Allison. One week later we are still recovering. Still grieving. Still searching for answers. I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t been easy. I wish I could say that there was some magic pill that we took that gave us instant peace, but as we all know that’s not the way life works. My friend Crissy noted that just because we know that our loved ones are in Heaven “it doesn’t stop the hurting of the people who are left behind. The Lord’s gotta work on improving that system, eh?” I couldn’t agree more.

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But I do want to take some time and thank those who have been there to support me and Keao through Facebook, Twitter, emails, hundreds of text messages, phone calls and even blogs. We couldn’t have gotten through this without you. The outpouring of love, support and prayers have been unbelievable. Some of you I had not talked to since literally high school or elementary school, but yet somehow you heard about what was going on and you extended your condolences. One of my classmates from high school found out what happened and literally flew in from Alaska to come to the hospital and visit (or maybe she was already here on vacation…I’m not sure). We are forever grateful.

A special thanks to those who took some time out of their busy schedules to share their memories of Allison especially Lisa, who at the drop of a hat, came to the hospital and helped us capture the day through her amazing photography.

Also, here are some links to our friends and family that blogged about us (click on the underlined words to get to those blogs).

First, Keao wrote a few entries both on her photography blog as well as her updates on Casey blog.

Uncle Stanton also shared his experiences from Monday.

Crissy and Jonathan, both friends from high school, weren’t there on Monday, but both of them still cared enough to write some encouraging words.

Please continue to pray for Casey. Pray that she digests all of her food and continues to develop normally. One of the hardest things for us is having to back to the hospital every day knowing that Allison is not there but yet, it’s also one of the most comforting because we still get to see Casey. We still have many more nights there, but looking forward we’re convinced that our God will get us through.

Thank you again. We love you.

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“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

Not every story has a happy ending. Sometimes the hero doesn’t get the girl. Sometimes the bad guy gets away. And sometimes a little girl breaks her daddy’s heart and he is powerless to do anything to save her.

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Yesterday was one of the worst days of my life. Yesterday, my oldest daughter Allison, at 19 days old, joined her identical twin sister, Rory, in Heaven. She was surrounded by her mommy and daddy, her grandparents and many, many uncles and aunties that all loved her dearly.

Having premature babies has been quite a journey for Keao and I. It has truly been a roller coaster of emotion. We were excited to find out we were pregnant, elated to find out they were twins, a little nervous to find out that our twins were now triplets and everything in between.

It devastated us to find out that one of our girls had a heart defect and wouldn’t survive long after birth. It terrified us knowing that so many things could go wrong at any step of the way. It relieved us when Keao finally did give birth, and even though it was a little early, Allison and Casey seemed healthy and responsive.

Which brings us to yesterday. Actually let’s back up a few more days.

Saturday: Saturday was a fabulous day. I survived boot camp, had a great morning at discipleship, went to my parents’ house for lunch and even managed to do some work around the house. Then Keao and I went shopping, started registering for our baby shower and even managed to sneak in a quick movie date matinee. That night we visited our girls and Keao held Allison for about an hour while I carried Casey for an hour and a half. We went to bed happy, content parents.

Sunday: I went to church as usual, but sometime during the second service I received a phone call from Keao. Allison may have an infection. They’re not sure what it is, but her stomach looks a little distended and she’s not digesting all of her food. Best case scenario: we give her some antibiotics and she clears right up. Worst case scenario: she has Necrotizing Enterocolitis or NEC as it’s commonly referred to.

NEC is a very serious infection that affects the intestines of premature babies. Our doctor said that they’re not sure what exactly causes it, but it is almost found exclusively in premature babies. Basically, it is a disease that causes the intestines do die off and without treatment (or working intestines) the baby will die.

By the time we got to the hospital, it was obvious that Allison’s stomach was distended. It was round and hard and it looked like she was in some serious discomfort. The staff at the Kaiser NICU was incredible. They got us chairs and even moved all of the other babies out of the room so that Casey and Allison had the whole room (and staff) to themselves. Allison’s doctor, Dr. Chiu, handed off all of her other cases so she could dedicate herself fully to our little sick girl. They even got us a room for the night in the hospital so we could be close and check in at any time.

Our surgeon came to the hospital around 6pm and explained that he would try to open up Allison’s stomach to relieve some of the pressure within her and to try to see what was going on in there. When he finished, around half and hour later, he did not bring good news. He explained to us that around 80% of her intestines had already died and the remaining 20% didn’t look like it would make it. The only hope he did give us was that if they remaining 20% did survive and make it, he may be able to remove the dead portion and start some treatment.

After much crying and praying Keao and I somehow managed to fall asleep that night. As you can imagine we didn’t sleep very well that night. Worried sick about Allison we tossed and turned and even went to visit her during the middle of the night.

Monday: Still worried and fearful, Keao and I started the morning with prayer. We needed a miracle. The only way our Allison would survive would be if God healed her miraculously. After praying, we felt a little better and was just about to head downstairs. However, we were interrupted by a knock on the door. Dr. Chiu had come up to give us an assessment of the situation. Allison was not looking better and her situation did not improve. Actually it looked worse.

Devastated. That’s the only word I can use to describe our feelings at that moment. We decided that if this would be our last day with our little girl, we would spend it by her side the entire way.

So many times in life we have faced disappointment or trials. Every time, even when it seems like it’s the end of the world we somehow manage to get through it. Before we headed downstairs to look at our daughter, I leaned over to Keao and whispered in her ear, “We’ll get through this…together. No matter what happens, we’ll get through this together.”

By the time we did go downstairs they were already preparing Allison so we could carry her. They hooked her up to more medication and a breathing machine that helped her breathe because her little body was so exhausted from fighting the infection. Even though this was a step backward because she had been breathing on her own, it enabled her to have her SiPAP removed so we got to look at her face for the very first time without any hindrances. Just like her sister Rory, she was beautiful.

Throughout the day we just carried her and told her how much we loved her and how proud of her we were. She was a fighter and she fought until the very end. Her little body just wasn’t designed to digest food yet and we asked her to do too much too soon. Even though we only had 19 days with her she was a complete answer to our prayers.

Keao held her close and sang to her. She got to tell her how she got her name, Allison Hope Yayeko Ka’olinanahenahe. She told her all the dreams and wishes we had for her. And for the very first time, Keao got to kiss her oldest daughter.

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Spending our last precious moments together

When it was my turn, I told her how I would always pray over her and just watch her in her little isolette. So proud and so full of love for her. How excited we were when she started breathing on her own and getting to drink milk. How when she cried it was like music to our ears. I told her I was sorry that I wouldn’t see her grow up and be able to hold her hand anymore or carry her anymore. I would never get the chance to introduce her to the guitar or golf or the Beatles. I’ll never be able to take her to Japan or Disneyland. I’ll never be able to talk to her about boys or hug her the first time a boy breaks her heart, It breaks my heart to know that I’ll never be able to see her go to prom or give her away to get married. All of the hopes and dreams we had for her, we understood, would never be realized. My heart is completely shattered.

I guess after 19 days apart, Rory and Allison would be together again. Our identical twin girls together are with my dad and Jesus.

Through all of this, I still don’t have all the answers. I don’t understand how we could lose two out of three children before we could even take them home. How we went from a family of five to a family of three in less than 20 days. How we got to the hospital with three babies and we’re left with one baby and two memory boxes. I still don’t know why or understand and I may not ever know until I get to Heaven, but that’s okay. God is still good and I’m still choosing to praise him.

As the day wore on Keao and I realized we didn’t have much time left. As we carried her we understood that she was slowly fading away. She became less responsive as she grew weaker and just couldn’t fight anymore. Her tiny body just exhausted itself. By the time they stopped giving her the medication that was keeping her alive and they removed her breathing tube we knew she only had moments left with us. Then with one last tiny gasp Allison Hope Yayeko Ka’olinanahenahe Sunaoka went to be with her sister.

And as I did every night before I left the hospital, I leaned over toward her so only she could hear me and I whispered, “Good night Allison, daddy loves you.”

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Every day Keao and I try to go to the Kaiser Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to see our babies. I doesn’t sound like much, but since we do this every day I thought I’d give you a little insight as to what we have to do to see our babies.

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NICU right this way

At Kaiser Moanalua the NICU is located on the fourth floor. When Keao gave birth she delivered on the sixth floor so every time we wanted to see our babies we had to go down two floors. That doesn’t seem like a lot and actually it isn’t that far considering now we have to come from Kaneohe (how I miss those days of only going two floors down).

One of the things I noticed when we first went to see our babies is how quiet it is. I mean there were crying babies from time to time, but by and large, the floor is surprisingly quiet. Of course, quiet must help the babies grow because there are signs everywhere reminding you to use your “inside” voice.

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This is on the floor as you enter the area

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These are all over the walls

While the pediatrics area is mostly open, the NICU is locked down. Because it’s so sensitive and the babies there need sterility (infections can be very serious) they take security very seriously. Parents are allowed to visit 24 hours a day, but other visitors must be accompanied by the parents just to make sure.

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Do not cross the red line unless you are authorized to do so

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In case you get past the red line, Keao will stop you

Once they deem you authorized to cross the red line, you need to scrub down your arms. Scrubbing down your arms entails using a pre-soaped sponge and scrubbing yourself from your finger tips to your elbows for two minutes. This part takes the longest time but it is the most critical. When Keao first gave birth I was visiting the NICU three or four times a day. Let me tell you, my arms were probably the cleanest they have ever been.

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Here’s Keao getting ready for the cleaning

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Scrub, scrub, scrub

Finally, when you’re all cleaned up you need to put on a freshly laundered gown. Again, this helps with anything that you may have on your clothes when you arrive.

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Get your gowns here

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You have a choice of short-sleeves or long-sleeves

Finally when you have completed all of the necessary precautions you can now enter the NICU and see your babies.

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Shh, babies are growing in here

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Here’s Keao all cleaned up modeling the stylish hospital gown

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My Sincerest Thanks

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Isn’t she cute? Don’t worry if you don’t think so, I won’t be offended

Tomorrow my girls make two weeks old. Two weeks old and they’re still tiny. Sometimes I wonder if they’ll ever get bigger. They tell me that right after babies are born (prematurely or otherwise) they will lose weight. That’s completely normal. But when your children weigh less than 2 pounds it seems like weight loss, any weight loss, is horribly detrimental.

Every day Keao and I thank God for another day with our girls and we also pray that we’ll receive some good news. Thus far God has completely come through and given us good news. A few days ago Allison exceeded her birth weight (1 lb, 12 oz) and Casey is just about there (2 lbs, 2 oz). They are both drinking milk and putting on weight daily. Personally I’d like to see a quicker gain, but any fraction of a pound is music to my ears (sorry for going metric on you, but Allison gained 20 grams and Casey gained 10 last night…woo hoo!).

Anyway, the real reason behind this post other than to give you a little update is to let you know that my incredible wife (who still wakes up every 3 hours) has started another blog specifically to update everyone on this amazing journey called parenthood. She tells me she’s going to try to update it every Sunday and Wednesday so you’ll get twice-a-week updates on Allison (Astro) and Casey (Slugger).

So without further ado, please direct your browsers (and feel free to subscribe or follow) to http://heheardmycall.blogspot.com/

Of course, I’ll be posting my usual ramblings here so don’t abandon me and only look there!

And lastly, thank you for all the prayers, encouragement and words of support. Keao and I are truly humbled to know that so many people care and love our daughters. We appreciate you.

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Last week Wednesday, July 28, Keao and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary.  It was an interesting day.  On that same day, right around lunchtime, I became a father.  Being parents was something Keao and I talked about many times while we were dating, when we were engaged and once we were married.  We both agreed we wanted to have kids but I would have never guessed it would happen the way it did (you can read Keao’s version here).

Our excitement actually started six months earlier when we found out we were having triplets (you can read that account here).  Triplets have a habit of coming out early (as they run out of room to grow) but we had hoped to keep them in a little while longer.

On Monday, two days before Keao gave birth, I had come home from meeting a friend for coffee and Keao insisted we go to the hospital since she started to have consistent contractions.  We arrived at the hospital around midnight and after monitoring and examining her for four hours the staff concluded that she wasn’t quite ready to give birth.  We agreed with their diagnosis and went home to get some rest.

Tuesday appeared to be quite normal.  We were discussing what we wanted to do to celebrate our anniversary the next day and we were having a wonderful day together.  Later that night, around 3am, Keao woke me up in a slight panic.  She thought maybe her water broke but wasn’t sure.  I jumped out of bed and tried to calm her down.  Not wanting to take any chances we rushed to the hospital and arrived there around 3:30am.  The nursing staff laughed when they saw us because we were just there the night before (when we called ahead to Labor and Delivery they actually tried to talk us out of coming to the hospital).  They essentially tried to slow down Keao’s contractions with some medicine but told her some bad news-she wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until she gave birth (and they hoped it would be weeks until that happened).

Little did they know, God had other plans.  Throughout the morning Keao’s contractions were getting worse.  So much so that I had to massage her when they arrived because she was in so much pain.  Finally around lunchtime Keao said she felt the urge to push.  Upon hearing that bit of news, a nurse jumped up and ran to fetch Dr. Nakamura.  She ran in and quickly did a cervix exam.  At this point I was outside with my mother who came in for support to give Keao some modesty.  I’m not sure what happened next, but I could hear yelling inside the room and Dr. Nakamura saying, “she’s 8 or 9!”  I thought they were commenting on the pain scale since they always asked Keao to rate the pain she was feeling.  Honestly I had no clue they were talking about dilation. 

At that point chaos broke out in the room and Dr. Nakamura screamed, “We gotta get those babies out now!”

More staff ran in and out of the room and someone pointed at me and said, “Dad come follow me.”  I ran down the hall following them and they threw me a set of scrubs.  They hastily explained that if they were able to administer a regional anesthetic then I would be able to come in to the OR.  If they knocked Keao out, then I wouldn’t.

They told me to wait in the hallway and they would let me know.  I guess they knocked Keao out because they I just sat there in the hallway for a long time…crying.  I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life.  Scared for Keao.  Scared for my babies.  Scared because I had no clue what was going on in there.  All I knew was I was outside, helpless and Keao was inside without me.

One of the most heartbreaking parts of our pregnancy was knowing that one of our babies probably wasn’t going to survive after birth.  Rory, we found out, had a heart condition and because she was so small, the doctors didn’t believe that surgery would be a viable option.  We were hoping that if they stayed in the womb long enough we would be able to deliver a fat, old baby that may have a chance at surviving a heart surgery.  We knew it was a long shot but it was the only shot we had.

Earlier in that morning our Cardiologist and the Neonatal doctor came by to explain what would happen after Keao gave birth.  They explained that since nothing could be done to save our child they would do “comfort care” which means that they would try to keep Rory as comfortable as possible and let her pass away peacefully.  I can remember crying with Keao that morning because we weren’t ready to let her go yet. 

As I was sitting there in the hallway emotion got the better of me and I began to sob and shake.  After waiting around half an hour a nurse came out and gave me a status update: 2 babies were out and they were delivering the last one. 

Another five minutes rolled by and I was informed that all three were out.  Another nurse came by and asked if I would like to hold Rory.  I nodded yes and a few moments later they brought out a little baby girl wrapped tightly in a blanket.

From the moment I looked down on her face and held her in my arms I wept.  I couldn’t control it.  It just came.  What should have been one of the happiest moments of my life was quickly overshadowed by the sobering reality that I was going to lose one of my daughters and there was nothing I could do to stop or even slow the process.

I kept asking the staff where Keao was and how she was doing because I wanted to share this moment with her.  I know she desperately wanted to see Rory and I didn’t want to rob her of the chance.  They assured me that Keao was fine but she wouldn’t be waking up for about an hour and a half.  I didn’t think Rory had an hour and a half and I was crushed even more.

Looking back, it was the utter feeling of helplessness that’s the most defeating.  Helpless to find my wife.  Helpless to stop my daughter from dying.  Helpless to do anything.  I kept looking down on her peaceful face and whispering, “I’m so sorry Gizmo, I’m so sorry…”  Every now and then I would see her twitch or gasp for air and I knew that her time here on earth was limited.  Her heart simply could not keep her alive.

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Rory Aiko Kuilimamekahaku Sunaoka

About 15 minutes later they rolled Keao out on her bed but she was still under the heavy influence of the anesthetic.  The nursed asked her if she wanted to see me and her daughter and Keao mumbled an affirmative but later she admitted that she couldn’t remember any of it because she was so groggy.

It wouldn’t be for another couple of hours before Keao could actually meet her daughter and by that time Rory had went to Heaven.

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Keao holding Rory’s hand

One thing we didn’t and couldn’t understand was why Keao gave birth so quickly.  When we first got to the hospital we were told that most people can delay birth for at least 48 hours and some can go days, even weeks.  Keao on the other hand made it less than 12 hours.  One doctor suspected that Keao may have had an infection and that may have contributed to our quick delivery.  He went on to explain that once the water bag breaks the body will do everything it can to save the baby.  In Keao’s case, if she had an infection then her body would try to get the baby out as soon as possible as not to infect the baby.  Looking back to Wednesday, Keao did have a fever that night and that would help to explain it.

But in all of this God continued to show himself faithful.  We were reminded of his goodness in many different ways.  Our other two babies did very well (in fact, the smaller of the two actually did better than the larger one).  The ward clerk on duty that day just happened to be our good friend Kacie.  Keao’s nurse that day just happened to be Rachael, Mikey’s sister.  It was such an encouragement to have such wonderful smiling faces to help us during our whole ordeal.  We also received an incredible amount of love and support through texts, calls, emails and Facebook.  In addition we were very confident in just the sheer volume of prayer that covered our daughters.

I think what made our day so difficult wasn’t just losing Rory.  It was also very hard because we couldn’t hold or hug our other daughters.  It actually wouldn’t be for a couple of day before I would get the opportunity to hold my children.

One of the neat things about preemies is something they call kangaroo care.  Basically it’s skin-on-skin contact and it’s something that only parents can do (and even then, it’s only one parent per child per day).  It’s designed to help keep your child warm and to help you and your child bond.  It’s even been shown to help increase milk production (although I keep checking but that whole experience is lacking in me).

When I first got to hold Allison it was a very emotional experience for me.  For one, she’s really small.  Second, I had all this love I wanted to give to her but was so scared because she is so tiny (and fragile looking).

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Holding Allison Hope Yayeko Ka’olinanahenahe Sunaoka for the first time

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She’s so tiny her fingers don’t even cover my thumbnail

As I mentioned earlier, only one parent is allowed to kangaroo one child per day so Keao and I alternate (this is definitely an advantage of having more than one baby).  I had to wait a long 24 hours before I would be able to hold Casey.

I must say, holding Casey was a completely different experience.  For starters she seemed to be a lot hotter than Allison.  I mean hot to the point I started sweating.  It was an almost uncomfortable hot.  I think because I had already carried Allison I could just enjoy carrying Casey more (by which I mean, I wasn’t so terrified).  I got to share some laughs with her and just sit there in joy.

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Carrying a very warm Casey Lorelai Kikue Pomaika’i’iamekaikaikaokahaku Sunaoka

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Her whole arm is the same thickness as one of my fingers

Through this week in and out of the hospital I am convinced that God is good regardless of my circumstance.  He got us through this week and we’re confident that he’ll continue to watch and help our girls grow and develop. 

“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31

If God cares about the sparrow I know he cares about Allison and Casey (and Keao and I) even more.  We’re not out of the woods yet, but we have faith that God will carry us through.

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