Sunday, June 07, 2015

Rigid External Distraction (Jaw Surgery)

So, I've had a couple people ask about Hannah's surgery and what she's having done and why. So, with her permission to share, here's the deal.

Many people are familiar with orthodontics to help with straightening teeth or correcting an overbite.  Hannah's had braces 2 years already and it has done wonders for straightening her top teeth.  But she doesn't have an overbite. She has an underbite, officially known as "class III malocclusion". While not as common as an overbite, it's also not rare. It's more common in Asian kids and also more common in kids with cleft palates.  In kids with cleft palates, the surgeries that repair the cleft palate can hinder growth of the upper jaw.  So the bottom jaw grows much faster than the top jaw, creating a more severe underbite.  Sometimes, it can be corrected in less invasive ways, if it's not too severe.  But Hannah's has grown more severe over time and she's in the about 30% of kids with clefts who end up needing  jaw surgery.  Orthodontics alone can't fix it.  This picture below is kind of hard to see but it shows how her top teeth are a good distance behind her bottom teeth.  The goal is to get her top teeth out in front of her bottom teeth slightly.  It affects not only how her smile looks, but also chewing.  Having a severe underbite also can (but hasn't for Hannah) cause breathing issues at night such as sleep apnea.  Over time, it also causing the bite to be off and teeth to wear down, requiring extensive dental work to correct.  It's for all these reasons she's having the surgery.

When the underbite is too severe to correct with orthodontics and appliances alone, there are two main options.  The first option, that was used with most kids with cleft palate until about 10 years ago, is traditional jaw surgery.  The jaw is "broken" or "cut" and repositioned where it needs to be and held together during healing with plates and screws.  It's a pretty brutal surgery and can't be done successfully until the child's bones are done growing (late adolescence).  There's also a fairly large percentage of people whose jaws relapse over time and the distance they can move the jaw is somewhat limited still.

Since 2005, another option has been used called "Rigid External Distraction".  Hannah's oral surgeon has done a lot of these, especially in recent years.  It's a slower process, so the jaw can move a greater distance.  The amount of relapse, while not 0%, is considerably less.   It also doesn't require the bones to be done growing and is done at younger ages.   So that's what Hannah is having done. And while her surgeon and orthodontist assure me it's a gentler and better process than the traditional jaw surgery, it still doesn't seem like an easy process.

First, Hannah has to have an appliance made by her orthodontist. She had impressions taken for that a few days ago.  In a couple days, the orthodontist will make sure it fits correctly, and then cement it into her mouth.  The appliance itself shouldn't be a major deal. But it does have hooks that stick out of her mouth.  Overall, she should be able to eat and talk normally and the appliance on it's own shouldn't effect her too much. (Though we do have to be careful about the hooks sticking out).

Then, on the 17th, she is having the surgery. Her jaw will be moved forward slightly. She'll have the distraction device placed. It's a halo that attaches to her skull (pins will be tight against her skull but don't actually go inside her skull) with a bar that comes down and attaches to the hooks on the orthodontic appliance.  At that time, that's all that will be done.  She'll spend one night in the hospital.  Here's a picture of the device from their publication materials.  (Sorry for the skull picture! There are photos of actual kids with these on the internet, but I didn't want to use a picture of an actual kid I don't know and didn't have permission to use.)

 She'll go home to rest for about a week.  Then, we'll go to our first post-op appointment.  At that time, we'll be given a special screwdriver that turns the screws on each end of the bar.  I'll do that twice a day and each day I do it, it will move her upper jaw forward 1 mm.  It's very slow and when her jaw moves forward, new bone grows behnd it.  (It's this new bone growing that enables the jaw to be moved farther this way and also helps prevent relapse).  For those familiar with Sadie's fixator on her arm, it may sound similar.  The difference is with Sadie we were moving bone, but not growing new bone.  With Hannah, we are both moving bone and growing new bone behind it.   We'll see her oral surgeon once a week until he's decided that we're done.  And then we'll see him less often as we just let everything sit and heal.  He's told me she has a quite a distance to move so to be prepared for 6-8 weeks total in this process.

Then, she'll have the device taken off and return to the orthodontist for follow up. And that's "Rigid External Distraction".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Honor of National Adoption Month

Please excuse the non-cohesiveness of this post.  I don't have the words at the moment to write what's in my heart.  I also don't have the time. :) But in honor of National Adoption Month this year, here's a glimpse of what's on my heart and a little reminder of what God has done.

From orphans:

To daughters:

And sisters:

And granddaughters and nieces in this crazy family:

And great-granddaughters:

And even granddaughters again and cousins.

Always loved.   To all those who played a part in this story "back then" as I was going through the adoption process, those who encouraged me, gave of themselves, and prayed for us to be a family: once again, Thank you! 

Our family "Theme song" has always been "We are Family!".  We are known to bust out in it at random times.  We sang it in church this week and the girls went crazy.  Like the church played "our song"! :) 

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up ev'rybody and sing

Ev'ryone can see we're together
As we walk on by
(FLY!) and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won't tell no lie
(ALL!) all of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We're giving love in a family dose

 Ephesians 3:20

 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning How to Live in Prison

I just got back from the most amazing weekend, Kairos #52 at Tutwiler Prison. It was so special and I’ve been feeling a need to write about it. I’ve written about Kairos before. And some of those earlier entries are no doubt better worded than this one.  At this time, I still can't quite put my heart into words.  Much to ponder. But I'm going to try a little.
I don’t want to talk about what happens. Not right now. I do want to talk about the changes I saw in 36 beautiful ladies and how love won! Again! But those stories are so very precious and so many of them can’t be told. And even the ones that can, they are still pretty deep in my heart and I don’t think I can do them justice by talking about them.  But know that Christ’s love and power and forgiveness ruled! So many hearts were changed. Know that women who were dead inside came alive.  Know that we did not take Christ into that prison. He was already there working and loving – we simply visited Him there and joined in alongside what He was already doing!  Know that community was experienced and walls came down. It was a holy, beautiful, amazing time.

But right now I want to talk about what I experienced, because writing about it helps me process it. I was leading this weekend.  But yet, not really.  Christ was leading this weekend and was carrying me along with him.  Twice in my life now I’ve had an experience where I was doing something so outside my comfort zone and yet felt no anxiety about it.  I felt that way during my adoption of my oldest daughter.  There was a peace that surrounded the entire process and I felt like I didn’t have to do anything but come along for the ride.  I don’t know if that makes sense. But this weekend was the 2nd experience I had like that. I knew I was right where I was meant to be and no matter what obstacles were thrown out, they couldn’t shake my sense of peace because the peace came from Christ himself. I’m a “figure out-er”.  When there’s a problem, I’ll mull over it and think about it and try to figure out a solution. And I’ll 2nd guess and question whether it’s the right decision. But some things are just beyond our control. Prison Ministry is one of them. When obstacles came up, I had to act.  But I didn’t act based on my own assessment of what to do. I didn’t spend time trying to “figure out” solutions.  I just tried to surround those obstacles with prayer and let God guide me. That’s not always easy for me. But in this experience, it just was. Of course, there were a whole lot of people praying and I could feel those prayers.  They were so strong!   I didn’t do a lot of 2nd guessing or questioning of decisions.  And that peace surrounded me all weekend. I almost lost the peace once, just once.  I was telling someone what the obstacle was and she looked me in the eyes and said “and your concern with that is?” and I paused. And then I answered “nothing. I’m not worried about this”, and as I said those words, they were true. I meant them, and peace ruled.  Here’s just one example.  We experienced a tornado drill in the prison.  And for several reasons, it disheartened our participants.  They had to sit on the floor on one side of the chapel and we had to sit on the floor on the other side.  Two officers stood between us. They were embarrassed, maybe partially because it was a harsh reminder of prison life in the middle of a weekend that otherwise provided a little relief from it.  And we were separated – which felt wrong after we’d spent the previous 2 days building them up and breaking down walls and sharing how we’re not so different.  It was just hard on them and you could see it on their faces.  (Interestingly, more than a few of us team members were teachers and thought absolutely nothing about having to sit on the floor for a tornado drill). One participant spoke the words aloud, “I’m embarrassed”.  Some got a little angry.  Yet I felt no anxiety or worry.  And that could only come from God! I simply glanced behind me at the team, saw half of them with their heads bowed praying, and then I did the same.  I don’t know what they prayed, but I felt a spirit of calmness.  And I prayed God would show me how to communicate that this was okay. And He did.  I didn’t think about it, I didn’t 2nd guess myself. When the drill was over I just went to the microphone confidently and knew what words needed to come out of my mouth.  It wasn’t a lot. It wasn’t fancy. The words themselves weren’t anything special.  I don’t even remember exactly what they were.  But something about wanting them to know we were not phased by what had just happened and we did not see them as a number or a uniform. They were children of God and we were going to put it behind us and move on.  That was not me – I don’t do that.  I don’t know what to say to calm a situation. I don’t know how to think on my feet for that kind of thing. I didn’t even try.  I simply asked for help, and it was there and all was good. Peace ruled!

And of course, peace should have ruled! God had every prayer answered and every detail covered! Choosing trust, and prayer, and love is so very easy in that little prison chapel. And yet, I am challenged because choosing trust, and prayer, and love is not so easy every day.  And my challenge and my prayer is that I will learn to love as freely, pray as boldly, and trust as faithfully in my “free world” life as I do in my “prison life”. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Consequences, Consequences

The following is a copy of a document I got from a friend and am using with the girls. It's been used once so far but I love it! Right now my laundry is being done.  I love it because it puts the responsibility on how long consequences last right on the child.  And it gets my house cleaned in the process.  I also love it because I hand it to the child and walk away. No arguing and pleading. Brilliant!

You are Grounded!

You are grounded for: __________________________________

Grounding means:

·                    no doing special things with friends or at school (you may still go to dance, piano, church)

·                    No phone, nabi, ipod, or TV

·                    Other:_______________________________________

You must earn _____ points to get ungrounded. If you earn all the points in 1 day – you are only grounded for 1 day. If you take 2 weeks, you are grounded two weeks. It is up to you.  Write your initials by the things you do and turn this sheet into me when you are finished.

·        Write a nice letter to a family member or friend you haven’t seen lately. Or you may write it to Salman or Brittany. You must write neatly, use correct capitalization and punctuation, and at least 6 good sentences.- 50 points

·        Do 1 load of laundry (wash, dry, fold, and put into buckets and basket)- 100 points – you must do all 4 steps or you get 0 points.

·        Empty the dishwasher and put things away  - 20 points

·        Load dirty dishes into dishwasher (must rinse food off first and load neatly)- 20 points

·        Clear and wipe off kitchen table.- 10 points

·        Clear and wipe off kitchen countertops.- 10 points

·        Take out one bag of garbage/recycling and replace bag.- 20 points

·        Gather garbage from around the house and take out- 20 points

·        Straighten and wipe off bathroom sinks (both bathrooms)- 20 points

·        Clean toilets- 30 points per toilet

·        Clean, dust, and vacuum (including vacuuming around corners) living room.- 50 points

·        Sweep and mop kitchen floor.- 20 points

·        Clean mirrors in both bathrooms and hall- 20 points

·        Sweep/ Clean off the deck- 30 points

·        Clean out and vacuum the car-60 points

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Open Invitation to All My Friends - Come to Prison with Me!

Dear Friends,

Many of you know I am very involved with Kairos Prison Ministry.  (See post just below this one). Kairos is an incredible ministry whose mission is to “share Christ’s love with the incarcerated, their families, and those who work with them”.   I have been asked and have agreed to serve as the Kairos Weekend Leader for Kairos #52 at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.  I will be leading a team of 38 women into the prison to conduct this weekend for 36 selected inmates Sept. 11-14.  We are right in the middle of team training.  It’s a big commitment for our team – requiring over 34 hours of team training, Department of Corrections Training, and 3.5 days at Tutwiler sharing Christ’s love.  But we witness lives changed every time!   
I’d love to have your support. There are many ways you can help.  Later on, we will need help with some specific supplies or food. But for now, we have two primary needs.

·         Prayers.  Please pray for us, for the inmates who will participate in this experience, for the warden and officers, and for the chaplain. Pray that God’s love will soften hearts and change lives.  We make a visual representation of all the prayers being given by making a paper chain. Each link has the name of someone who has agreed to pray for the weekend. If you are willing to commit to pray for us and would like to be included on the prayer chain, please send me your name and I will add a link for you.  It’s a powerful symbol to the ladies when we literally wrap the entire chapel in the prayers of God’s people.


·         Financial Support.  This weekend costs a lot. It costs approximately $150 dollars a person, both for team members and for the participants (inmates). That comes to over $11,000 for the weekend (38 team members, 36 participants).  If anyone would like to sponsor an inmate (or sponsor a team member!), we would love your help. You can also donate any amount towards a sponsorship.  Full disclosure – you do not “get” anything for choosing to sponsor someone for this incredible experience. We can’t tell you their names or tell you how they specifically experienced the weekend. We promise confidentiality to everyone participating.  But you do get the joy of knowing you are making a difference in the kingdom of God.  And you will also receive a letter acknowledging your donation after January 1st for tax purposes.  Kairos is a registered non-profit.

 Another way to support this ministry financially is by purchasing 1 or more “meal tickets”.  If you are unable to sponsor a participant, you can sponsor a meal for $5 (or more).  The way that works is our participants will receive a small meal ticket on their placemat at meal time indicating that meal was paid for for them by (your name) from (city).  It’s a great way to show them the larger Christian community is supporting them as well. If you would like to sponsor one (or more) inmates, purchase meal tickets, or donate any amount towards our goal, please make checks made out to “Kairos of Alabama” and give them to me or private message me for my address.

If there are other ways you would like to help, please contact me. We have all kinds of opportunities.  Some possible ways to help include:

·         Providing a meal for approximately 40 team members at our last team meeting Sept. 6

·         Connecting me with a business that would be willing to donate groceries (particularly large quantities of meat needed for the meals we prepare for the Kairos weekend).

·         Walmart or Sam’s gift cards to use to purchase supplies

·         Sets of 36-38 placemats created by children (Contact me for guidelines)

·         Paper expressions of God’s love in sets of 36-38 (such as bookmarks, poems, etc.  Contact me for guidelines)

·         Set up a visit for me or for some of our other Kairos volunteers to come speak in your church, Sunday school class, or other group.  We have volunteers all over the state and while I can’t promise to make it happen, I’ll do what I can to either come or connect you with someone else who can come share what God is doing inside Tutwiler and other Alabama prisons through Kairos Prison Ministry.

Matthew 25:36 states “I was in prison and you visited me.”

Please join us in going and visiting and loving with your prayers and your gifts.  Thank you!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Biggest Blessing of the Day - When a Man Stranded at Bus Station with a Life Sentence Crashes My Meeting!

My friend Laura Headley has inspired me to blog again. I love writing, but just get so busy with life. But she wrote something inspiring and then we had a chance to talk about it and I realized I've missed putting thoughts down on paper.

So today I want to write about something that happened on our Kairos team meeting today. Those who have read for a  while know I am very involved in Kairos prison ministry.  See for some of my earlier thoughts about this ministry.

Well, we are gearing up for our Fall 2014 weekend Sept. 11-14 and I'm serving as the leader of this weekend.  I'm sure I'll post again later about ways you can help.  But today was our 2nd team meeting.  I had just had team members pair up with their prayer partners and they were spread out across the room sharing and praying together.  And I noticed a man on the side of the room.  He caught my eye and looked like he had something to say.  So I walked over there.  This is his story.

His name was "Bill" (I changed his name since this is a public blog).   He used to be at a maximum security men's prison in our state, where he had a life sentence.  He was nearing parole and had been moved to a transitional program in another area of our state.  It's kind of like work-release, but not exactly.  The transitional program is a more minimal security facility.  And long story - he was out on a weekend pass for some family reasons.  And he ended up stuck at the  bus station downtown with no money. He was trying to get back to the transitional program by tomorrow. He stayed at the bus station for over 24 hours when he decided to approach the church we were meeting in.  When he first came and saw that there were a bunch of women meeting inside, he left. A couple of our team members saw him leave. But he says he felt like God was telling him "Go back. Those are your sisters".  His answer? "My sisters! God, that's a bunch of women and most of them are white!" (He was black). But he came back, scared.  And he stood in the back of the room while I was speaking and heard the word "Kairos".  See, Bill had experienced a Kairos weekend when he was at the men's prison. He said it changed his life.  He told me he was muslim before that weekend.  (and fyi..our "goal" is not to convert anyone. Simply to love them like Jesus loves. Any changing of hearts is done by Him). But Bill's heart was changed.

I introduced Bill to the rest of the team and he shared with the team some very encouraging remarks about his life, what God had done for him, and he encouraged our team members in carrying out this ministry.  He told them to keep believing that God can change lives.  We invited him to stay for lunch and we collected a donation to buy him a bus ticket.  After lunch, a couple of our team members walked him to the bus station and got him the ticket.  He didn't want to leave!  I'm not sure who was more blessed - Bill or our team.  We so often get to plant some seeds.  But we don't always get to see the fruit of those seeds. Today, we were incredibly blessed to see the fruit of those seeds.

(And if my mom happens to read this - do not worry! It was a room full of people.  And we did have a few men present with us as well. We were all safe, I promise!)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Turn a 5 Minute Dr. Appointment Into a Mini-Vacation

Step 1: Have children pack a "small bag" with some things to do on drive to Atlanta. Tell them it will be a LONG day with a 3.5 hour drive there and a 3.5 hour drive back all in one day.  Then,  drive 3.5 hours to Atlanta to scheduled doctor appointment.  Once there, get a quick x-ray and spend less than 5 minutes with actual doctor. But get a good report. :)  Then, head "towards home".
Step 2: Stop at Golden Corral just outside of Atlanta.  Over a nutritious desert, inform children that you are not actually going home but are going to a hotel. When they say "but we don't have any clothes!", inform them that you packed a suitcase and loaded it into the car after they went to sleep the night before.   Tell them you are going to the exciting town of "Villa Rica". When they ask what there is to do in Villa Rica, tell them "They have an indoor heated pool!"

Step 3: After checking into hotel, enjoy an evening swim.

Step 4: Bring a craft kit with ceramic horses and paint. Let children paint in hotel room to keep them quiet. Um, I mean, to provide an enriching activity.


Step 5: After the continental breakfast the next morning (which in the kids' minds is totally worth the whole trip), head to a little obscure place you found on the internet that you believe will be educational and fun. And very cheap. Go to the Pine Mountain Gold Museum! 

Step 6: After the video about the gold rush in Villa Rica (actually quite interesting) and a quick walk through the museum, head outside and play in the sand where girls are *certain* they are finding gold.

Step 7: Walk around the property a bit.


 Step 8: Ride the train for an almost-personal tour around the property. The only other guests were a couple from Jemison, a town about 10 miles south of ours.

 Step 9:  Stick hands in freezing water to pan for gemstones.  For $5 get a whole box full of rocks.  I mean treasures.  And for free, listen to the sweet gentleman in the background give the history of the community of "Dark Corners", a little community that used to be around Villa Rica and how it was a lost town and this man has found it. 

Step 9: After a picnic lunch, walk over to the animal exhibit to check them out. And feed a few animals too.

Step 10: Drive home listening to the radio while children peacefully sleep all the way.