Tuesday, June 28, 2016


This months inspiring woman is Megan....

We have known each other for a long time but I recently ran into her and learned about all the crazy things she has been going through over the last 2 years. I was blown away and felt horrible that I didn't know. I wish I could have been there to help her in some way! She is truly an amazing mom and is raising an amazing little girl. Her Olivia is a breathing miracle. She was sent from heaven fighting for her life from the very beginning. I can't even imagine what this little family has been through. Even through everything though, Megan has that sweet smile on her face that she has had as long as I can remember! She is a great example of faith, sacrifice, and hope.

Here is her story...

I believe that each of us, at some point, have a moment when we can use the word “perfect” to describe our lives. In May of 2014, life was precisely this for me and for my husband. Perfect. We were finally settling into our brand new house; I had just accepted a full-time nursing position with Intermountain Healthcare, putting us both in full-time job positions; a summer filled with hiking, swimming, BBQs and fun was just around the corner. It wasn’t until the first week of June that we found out our lives would hit a forte in perfection. That week, after a missed period, those two little blue lines appeared on a home pregnancy test… Actually, it was four pregnancy tests with two blue lines before I truly believed I wasn’t imagining it.

Appointments were made and blood work was done. Because I am a private, conservative, play-it-safe kind of person, and having a career in healthcare I was well aware that it isn’t uncommon for things not to go as planned early in a pregnancy. Because of this, and per my request, I made my husband promise he wouldn’t tell a soul until we got past our first trimester. Plus, who doesn’t like a good secret?

In a matter of days, my results were in and unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the news I had expected to hear. We were informed that my lab results pointed to positive pregnancy, but that the hCG levels weren’t increasing at the expected intervals, which could possibly indicate an ectopic pregnancy. With this being a possible reason for the hCG levels, our doctor sent us in for an early ultrasound.
With an estimated gestation date of about six and half weeks, we went in for an ultrasound on June 17. To our relief, I was indeed pregnant and the baby was right where it needed to be. In the following days, the expected pregnancy symptoms began to become more prevalent: frequent bathroom trips at all hours of the day, some nausea and vomiting, and extreme exhaustion. I had also been informed that “spotting” was normal and that it should subside within those six weeks; however, mine seemed to be getting worse. Throughout the next month, my “spotting” turned into on-and-off bleeding with no possible explanation. No cramping, no contractions, just enough blood to make us all uneasy. With this being a concern, I was scheduled for weekly ultrasounds to assess my health as well as the health of our growing baby. Week to week, the doctor couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary and baby seemed to be just fine. In addition to our weekly ultrasounds, I was given progesterone tablets and instructions to take it as easy as I possibly could. We were about 5 days away from being “out of the woods” and reaching the second trimester and we were ready to share our exciting news with our families. Even though we were still seeing abnormal bleeding, baby was good, I was good, everything was still good.

That night, on July 20, around 2 a.m. I woke up to find myself soaked through with fluid. Not urine. Not normal. And definitely not good. After a minute of trying to wrap my head around what was possibly happening, I took a few minutes to focus on how I felt. I wasn’t in any pain, I wasn’t bleeding, but deep down I had a horrible feeling of dread. Trying not to panic but not knowing what to do, I woke up my husband and told him what had happened. After some discussion but not knowing what more we could do at that point, and realizing a trip to the ER wouldn’t be necessary, I said a silent prayer for comfort and was able to fall asleep. I remember that following morning very clearly. I remember waking up and wondering if I had dreamt everything that had happened the night before. As I laid there in my bed I remember physically feeling…. different. Emptier. I finally came to the realization that it really did happen, I called my doctor as soon as the clinic opened and he told us to come in right away. Upon arriving to the clinic, I immediately filled him in on every little detail I could and was taken back for an ultrasound.

The minute the screen lit up on the machine, I already knew what had happened before it was even confirmed. My water had broken. There was my baby on the screen with no fluid surrounding it, seemingly being crushed by my own body. Just days before, I had seen my baby on the monitor moving around with enough room to wiggle his or her arms and legs. Now I was looking at a baby-shaped mass barely able to move, but with a heartbeat going strong. My doctor tenderly offered me his hand and gently helped me sit up and with tears in his eyes he said, “I am so sorry.”

Before he was able to say anything else, I blurted out my assumption that my water broke, to which he replied, “I’m afraid so.” Unable to contain my emotion anymore, I also broke down and cried. He confirmed my fears that my water had indeed broken and explained that with ruptured membranes at 12 weeks gestation, we would expect to have our baby miscarry within 24 to 48 hours. Not knowing what more he could do for us at that point, he prepared us for the worst, educated us on signs and symptoms to watch for that could indicate an infection, scheduled a follow-up appointment for the next day, and we left the office with the heaviest of hearts. I felt numb. It was like having an out of body experience, or having a nightmare where all you can do is wait to wake up; to come back to reality. But I never did wake up. This WAS my reality, and there was no escaping. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other to get to the car where I had to let myself fall apart again, this time alongside my husband. The pain of what was happening in that moment shook me to my core. To this day, I still don’t know how I survived my entire work day without telling anyone what had happened and was able to focus on those patients in my care. There were no words that could describe the sorrow of simply waiting for our little one to pass and I couldn’t wrap my head around what was in store for us in the coming days.

That night my husband and I prayed more fervently than we had in a long time. We poured our whole souls out to the Lord in prayer. We prayed for a miracle if it would be according to the Lord’s Will. We also felt prompted to pray for strength to accept the Lord’s will, whatever that would be. We prayed that whatever was to come, that it would all work out and that somehow we would be okay. We prayed and prayed and prayed. That night we went to bed physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.

The next day came, the bleeding had stopped, we went for our follow-up appointment and despite the minimal amount of fluid, our baby’s heartbeat was still going strong. In addition to all of this, I still physically felt fine. As with any pregnancy, the risk of infection increases dramatically once those membranes are broken; however, being a type 1 diabetic, my risk of infection was practically through the roof. It was truly a miracle I had not had any infection set in yet.

The weekly ultrasound appointments continued for several weeks and small amounts of fluid would build up but continued to leak out; however, with no other notable changes and with our baby still growing and having a good strong heartbeat, our doctor felt it best that we follow up with some specialists and high risk OB-GYN professionals in St. George since in his book we were now in uncharted waters.

At this point, we felt it was best that we break the news to our parents. A week or so later, we had our first appointment with the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor at Dixie Regional. After watching the ultrasound tech and doctor squint at the ultrasound screen and shake their heads in attempt to take measurements of the baby and fluid amount, the doctor said we could talk some more in the back office. Not knowing exactly what was going to be said, I sat down at a table in a little office area and waited for what would come next. Watching the doctor, I could tell the news he had for me was not going to be good; that what was already bad was about to get worse if it were possible.

Over the previous weeks since my water broke, I thought I had a pretty good idea of the possible outcome and had already started building a protective wall around my already broken heart so that I could be ready to accept this loss, whenever that would be. I knew the basics of what our situation meant: that our baby would most likely not survive and that if he or she did, there would certainly be some major issues. The doctor confirmed my thoughts as he sat and discussed possible outcomes with us (mental or physical retardations or both, the possibility of infection or hemorrhaging for me as the baby continued to grow), but it wasn’t until he started discussing treatment options that I realized that my situation was going to get a lot more complicated.

I will never, ever forget the awful sick feeling I had as I sat and had my options laid out in front of me: a) Wait for my body to manage it by itself, meaning eventually get an infection, hemorrhage, or miscarry, any of which could away take my ability to have more children, or worse, my own life, or b) Schedule an elective termination.

After explaining what is done for an elective termination, the doctor shared his personal opinion. He felt strongly regarding elective termination, in relation to the logistics of it in my situation. I wasn’t pushed to make a decision right then, but was encouraged to consider my options, and to make a decision sooner than later. And just like that, my world shattered again. I kept thinking I would wake up from this horrifyingly, twisted nightmare, but reality hit hard again as the seriousness of my situation sunk in. My options were laid out very plainly, but instead of clearing things up, it muddled it even more. In my situation, there was no black and white. I thanked the doctor for the information and declined having to make a decision that day.

On my ride home I was overcome by so many different emotions. I had never felt more lost, alone or hopeless than I did leaving that appointment. I was angry at my body for not being able to just work like it should in creating a safe place for my baby to grow and develop. I was broken hearted that I had not even had a chance to truly celebrate this little person and the beauty of pregnancy with family and loved ones. I was scared that I would HAVE to make the decision of elective termination if I did get an infection.

The coming days were filled with prayer, fasting, pondering, and many, many tears. After a lot of prayer and fasting, we decided to move forward with the waiting game and the hope that everything would work out how it was supposed to. We felt that we had been blessed and watched over to this point, so now it was our turn to step into the darkness with faith that we would be watched over a little longer. It was about this point in our lives that I noticed our prayers changed from praying for a miracle, to praying for a miscarriage so we wouldn’t have to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy.

We continued to pray for strength to accept the Lord’s will no matter the outcome. The weeks dragged on and I continued to lose fluid on and off. I continued to work-full time and did my best to hide my growing belly so I didn’t have to get into the details of my situation with patients I barely knew. My privacy of the situation was, in a way, my healing balm. It protected me from the “helpful input” from others or the, “Well, if I were you…” comments.

Even though each new day brought new emotions and challenges, it also gave me new perspective and made it easier for me to find happiness in the little things. I had especially grown fond of my weekly ultrasounds and looked forward to and even expected to hear that little heartbeat. I also continued to see a specialist from Murray every couple of weeks to get more insight on our developing situation.

Surprisingly, I eventually made it to 24 weeks and saw the specialist from Murray again who brought in a neonatologist to further assess our situation. The neonatologist asked a lot of questions and marveled at our story. As with the other doctors I had dealt with thus far, I was a unique, one-of-a-kind situation. The doctor explained he had read a case where a woman’s water broke at 14 weeks and delivered at 24, the baby had survived but suffered from cerebral palsy among other issues. Other than that, I had nothing more to go off of to give me any hope to hold onto for an optimistic outcome. During our visit, we learned that one of our biggest concerns at that point was if our baby’s lungs had developed enough for him or her to survive. In the womb, the baby needs fluid to help in proper physical and functional development of the lungs; they practice breathing by “breathing” the fluid. We were told that the structure of the lungs are usually fully developed at about 16 weeks and in the coming weeks the tiny detailed functions fine-tune; however, in my situation, no one could tell for sure if the lungs had had time to develop enough. In addition to the lungs, the baby needs the fluid to be able to move the joints freely so they can properly develop. Long story short, we were informed that at this point, if our baby did make it, the chances were high of he or she having physical malformities (clubbed feet or hands, deformed head shape, contractures) but it would most likely have some form mental problem as well. Not only that, but I was still a high risk for severe infection or hemorrhage. We were also advised that at this point, being 24 weeks along, the baby would be considered viable, meaning life-saving measures would be taken when our little one decided to come. Because of this, they advised me to consider being admitted to Dixie Regional for steroid therapy (to speed up any possible lung development) and be put on bedrest until I reached 34 weeks.
We were shocked! Was there a chance? Even if there were issues, did we actually have a chance our baby could survive? After being told “no” so often, were we actually hearing a “yes”? After some discussion and a lot more prayer, we asked our doctor if it would be possible to admit when I got to 28 weeks since I had already made it this far. We got the “OK” and I was put on the schedule to be admitted to Dixie Regional in St. George.

On November 10, at 28 weeks I was admitted to the hospital and introduced to my new “home” and way of life for the next 6 weeks. Overnight my life literally was turned upside down. I went from working full-time and keeping busy (which helped me stay sane) to sitting, sitting, and more sitting. I was allowed to go outside in a wheelchair, but only if I had someone who could take me. Weekly ultrasounds, daily monitoring, nurse and doctors’ assessments, beeping and humming of machines, and hospital food quickly became the norm.

By the time I had been there for two weeks, I felt like I had been there for an eternity. During this time, I found I had a lot of time to myself; time to think…. and over-think. It didn’t help to have pregnancy hormones on top of everything else. Just like anything, I had my ups and downs. Some days I would be at peace with things and truly felt like it could actually work out, that we would have a baby that would survive and no matter what difficulties he or she had, they would be so, so loved. I even started allowing myself to shop online for baby clothes. I began to allow myself to feel. It was amazing how, without realizing it, I had become so deeply connected to this little person I didn’t even know yet. I couldn’t help but feel guilty for trying to block out those feelings and that connection in order to protect my own heart, but with so much unknown, I wasn’t ready to be hurt again.
Other days were unbearable as the reality hit me that all of this could be for nothing, all of this sitting, waiting, and hoping. The burden hung heavy at times when I realized, as I had been told, that my baby could be born and we would have to watch our little one struggle to breathe with underdeveloped lungs until he or she passed on. The thought haunted me and made for many sleepless nights. It was in those moments a little voice in my head would remind me that I was doing all I could to give our little one the best chance they had and that what I couldn’t control was in the Lord’s hands. Those days of hopelessness in that lonely hospital room were probably some of my darkest times I have ever had to experience in my life.

During this time of bedrest, I once again started praying, even begging, for a miracle. I specifically remember praying and telling Heavenly Father that we would deal with whatever we needed to if our baby could just survive. While in the hospital, I remember reading a quote from the April 2014 Ensign in the talk given by President Boyd K. Packer titled, ‘The Savior’s Selfless and Sacred Sacrifice’. It stated, “I firmly believe that no experience or opportunity essential for redemption and salvation will be denied you who live faithfully. Remain worthy; be hopeful, patient, and prayerful. Things have a way of working out. The gift of the Holy Ghost will guide you and direct your actions”.

Never had a quote rung more true than it did for me with my situation. I knew I wasn’t alone in any of this even if sometimes it felt that way. Not only did I come across little treasures like this in my quiet times of need, but when I was admitted to my hospital stay, I had saved on my phone screen a portion of a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley that simply read, “It Will All Work Out” and boy did I anchor my entire being to that phrase!

The days continued to crawl by. Thanksgiving came and we celebrated in my hospital room with real, non-hospital food, and before we knew it December had come. What a beautiful time of year it was to find myself in such difficult circumstances. As the weeks went on, I found so many reasons to by thankful and began finding small things to be grateful for each day. Certain things that had become ordinary in my routine life became extraordinary.

My daily monitoring became a source of comfort in knowing that at least in that moment things were good, my baby was alive and well. Some of the nurses and doctors who cared for me every day became more than acquaintances to me, they were my friends. Friends who cheered me on when we met weekly milestones of my baby still going strong. The tender mercies of good weather made it possible for me to not have to spend many nights alone by allowing my family to travel from Cedar City to St. George to be with me.

There were more things to be grateful for than I could count. Before we knew it I made it to 34 weeks gestation, and since nothing had varied from the continued fluid build-up and leak out routine, our induction date was upon us. Amazingly enough, in the days leading up to that date, a calm came over us and there was no worry that weighed on our minds. In fact, we were looking forward to meeting our little one and knew that everything would be alright. Uncertainty always remained, but doubt and fear of having our baby not make it was replaced with peace that no matter the outcome, everything would be okay.

After a rough and very long labor, our 3 pound 15 ounce baby girl was born, and once again, for that fleeting moment, everything was perfect. Too soon for my liking she was whisked away for immediate monitoring to assess the situation of her condition and me being the already protective mom I was, sent my husband along too. Before long, my husband returned to the room carrying the tiniest, sweetest package I had ever laid eyes on! She was wide-eyed, content, and very much alive. Not only that, but she was free from cords, tubes, assistive breathing devices, even supplemental oxygen. She was alive, beautiful, and had a healthy set of fully functioning lungs. I was informed that the respiratory support team, who was on standby and waiting for this delivery, never had to do anything to assist her in breathing. Their services were dismissed and they left, shaking their heads in unbelief. She was a living, BREATHING miracle. So many emotions came flooding over me as I realized that so many things that had only been impossible were now possible and that my life was changed forever in the best way possible.

Over the next four-and-a-half weeks, our little Olivia was in the NICU with her only diagnosis being prematurity. Since she did have some “packaging issues” from being so scrunched up for so long, she was born with a club foot, her right knee was hyperextended and dislocated, and both hips were dislocated, so even I will admit, it was a bit of a shock the first time I got a good look at her, but seeing her sleeping comfortably put me at a little more ease.

Over the course of the following months, I ended up needing to have a surgical procedure related to retained placenta and ended up with a serious infection, tubo-ovarian abscesses, and had to do 5 more days in the hospital again on IV antibiotics, and yet somehow, we still made it through.

Fast forward to now, Olivia is a happy, healthy, silly little 18 month-old. She likes animals, stickers, trucks, balloons, coloring with crayons, and her family. Over the course of this last year, we have been through multiple splintings, castings and different types of braces for her legs, a lot of physical therapy, Achilles tendon surgery, two hip surgeries, one with a femur reduction, and 18 weeks in a spica cast (body cast) and she is still smiling! Even though things have been rough and we still have a long, unknown journey ahead, we continue to move forward every day with the hope and faith that as with anything in life, things will have a way of working out.

In hopes of sharing some valuable insight I received from an article I read about a year ago, I couldn’t not share this wonderful quote:

Men and women desire miracles because of their beneficial nature. They often come with a timestamp reading, “Please grant immediately.” But part of the principle of faith needed for miracles is trusting in the Lord’s timetable. Sister Susan Tanner, then Young Women general president, said in the April 2008 general conference, “I delight in the Lord’s mercies and miracles. I know that His tender mercies and His miracles, large and small, are real. They come in His way and on His timetable”

Mormon 9:19 reads: “And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.”’

In voicing my testimony alongside this quote, I know that miracles happen today, and not always how or when we expect them. Some are big and others are small, but they are there and they do come. Every day is a gift and every day we have opportunities to see miracles all around us if we will just look. I owe everything to my Father in Heaven and I know that it is only through the Atonement of my Savior, Jesus Christ, that I have been, and still am able to overcome the trials and tribulations of this life. Even though life can be hard, the miracles that come are always worth it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

INSPIRING WOMEN {Skye Longhurst}

This months inspiring woman is Skye...

Her testimony of God and His plan for each of us is undeniable. Her words have helped heal my heart and gave me hope that all will work out in the end. Skye is an amazing mama, wife, friend, and person. She is the first woman I have asked in person to share their story, her reaction to my question gave me an instant feeling of peace. I knew she was supposed be May's inspiring woman. She was so humble and so touched. It surprised me how surprised she was that I wanted her to share her story. She seriously has no idea how inspiring she really is. I am so grateful she was willing to share.  

Here is her story....

My name is Skye Longhurst. I’ve been married to the most wonderful man, Bracken for almost 11 years. We have four beautiful children we get to raise in this life, and two more who were only with us for a short time. Our two oldest children, Hayes and Kamri were relatively easy pregnancies. With Hayes I had some complications at first and learned I had a bicornuate uterus that makes me high risk for pre-term labor and placental abruption. The placenta did end up tearing at 38 weeks so he was delivered by C-section. Kamri’s pregnancy was smooth sailing until I was in the hospital, in labor, fully dilated and complete when the doctor checked me and the baby was breech. Kamri was delivered by C-section as well. Born 3 days before her due date, she was my largest baby at 8 lbs 13 oz. Although the complications at the time were scary, both of our children were healthy so we were not nervous when we decided to get pregnant with our third.

We moved to Las Vegas, NV when I was 14 weeks pregnant. Even though the decision to move had been done with a lot of prayer and I knew we were making the right choice, it was really hard for me. I often questioned why we had to leave a good job and a place and people we loved to move where we knew only a few people and Bracken would have no income because he was attending law school. One night, when I was 26 weeks along, I started bleeding. We called my dad’s cousin who was the only family we knew well in Las Vegas at the time. She came and stayed with our kids while we rushed to the hospital.

That night was full of a lot of pain and waiting. The specialist on call was trying to determine what was causing my bleeding and trying to get contractions to stop. They weren’t successful and my doctor came in (even though he wasn’t on call so the hospital never called him) and took over the situation. I’m not sure why it wasn’t obvious before that it was a placental abruption since I had that with Hayes and everything was pointing to it being the same. Our doctor sprang into action to help me deliver the baby, I pushed once, he gave me a numbing shot (which were super painful) then an episiotomy, (now grateful for the numbing shot) and I pushed once more. After one more push the doctor could see the baby’s face presentation was wrong and the baby’s heart rate was dipping. The baby’s little body couldn’t handle more stress so my doctor yelled for an emergency C-section. What happened next was a blur of movement, nurses throwing sheets, lifting me onto a wheeled bed, holding my arms and legs as they splashed me down with antiseptic solution. I was out in ten seconds as they rushed me down the hall. One minute pure panic, then nothing. Bracken was left alone in a room that looked like a crime scene, not knowing what would happen to me or our baby. Dane P was born Sunday, November 15, 2009 he was 2 lbs, 6 oz and 14 inches long.

Monday and Tuesday were full of visits to the NICU from my hospital room, updates from the nurses and doctors, and many visitors from people in our church and a couple we became friends with from law school. I was so grateful for every single visitor while Bracken was away at class. Most of them didn’t know me well but came and provided me comfort and a temporary distraction from all the stress. The doctors had told us that being born at 26 weeks Dane had an 80 % survival rate. It seemed like none of them were worried that he would die, just what minor setbacks we would have and what would be done to fix them. I was worried but truly felt peace from all the visitors, calls, text messages and prayers that were said on our behalf. Another tender mercy was one of the nurses who worked there was in my ward at church. I had only met her once before I got to the hospital, but she took care of me on one shift and made sure I had the best nurses for other shifts.

Wednesday morning the NICU called and the doctor wanted to meet with me and Bracken. A whole group of doctors and social workers came into our room and we knew it wouldn’t be good. We were given the news that ultimately our son wasn’t going to make it and we needed to prepare to say goodbye. The doctor was choking up as he told us the news, and I kept thinking that this can’t be real. One of those bad dreams. We talked to a second doctor the next morning and he unfortunately had the same conclusion.

Thursday night Bracken and I held our son for the first and last time. It was a tender mercy from our Heavenly Father that we were able to hold him as he passed away. It was the hardest thing, the worst thing, and yet the most amazing thing I had ever done. There is nothing to describe the mixture of utter heartbreak and complete peace that I felt. I know that my love is not perfect but the love I felt for Dane was so immense, I can only imagine how strong God’s perfect love is for all of us. As I sat there holding my baby as he took his last breaths, I was in despair but enveloped in pure love. November 19, 2009 was the day that cemented in my heart the importance and truth that families are eternal.

Two weeks later, I was sitting in church and we were singing hymn number 97, “Lead, Kindly Light.” The words struck me as I sang. The first sentence seemed to be my life the two weeks before, 'Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom..' There were days that I still felt gloomy but when I would think about all Heavenly Father has blessed me with and the experience of holding Dane, I felt His Light carrying me on.

Besides having lost a baby, I also grieved over life not going as Bracken and I had planned. It had seemed perfect, Hayes and Kamri were 21 months apart and I loved it. Kamri and Dane were going to be 21 months apart and now we didn’t even get to have him with us. Why couldn't it just go like I had planned, 'I loved to choose and see my path; but now, Lead thou me on!' but I started to realize (oh so slowly) that Heavenly Father does know what he's doing, he does love us, and we need to sit back and realize how little we can really control that happens in our lives. But oh how much HE cares for everyone. And even if life doesn't go how we planned it, we'll be better for it because it goes how He planned it.

About 9 months after we had baby Dane we felt like it was time to get pregnant again. When I was about 20 weeks pregnant I was hit with a bout of anxiety. In some ways, I had been in denial that anything bad could happen again and I suddenly realized that one loss didn’t negate the possibility of another. I was frozen in our rocking chair with fear when I had a sudden small prompting to study hope. I grabbed my scriptures and studied everything I could find about hope. I was filled with a feeling of peace. Even if things didn’t work out again, I could be filled with hope, that through Jesus Christ’s atonement and temple covenants we could be an eternal family.

I ended up on full bedrest at 26 weeks, although not ideal, we were grateful to keep our baby in there cooking! This pregnancy humbled me. I’m a very independent person but being on bedrest I had to have help with our two older kids. Bracken went to law school full time and would come home and take over everything I usually did. People we barely knew brought us meals. For two weeks, friends and acquaintances took turns taking my kids for the day while Bracken was at school. Family took my kids for a week at a time and finally one of my cousin’s sacrificed two months of her life to come live with us and care for my kids. I don’t see many of them on a daily basis anymore but I think of them often. The love that so many people showed my family I will never forget.

Our beautiful baby girl, Lyla Hope, was born 6 weeks early in April 2011. She was 5 lbs 1oz. Even though she was in the NICU for two weeks, none of it was for life threatening reasons. Her calm demeanor helped to heal our hearts. I’ll never forget the look on Hayes’ & Kamri’s faces when we finally brought her home to them. Pure love shone through their faces as they held this little baby sister they had waited and prayed so long for.

We had another beautiful baby boy, Hansen, join our family in February 2013. My pregnancy with him was similar to Lyla’s. Weekly shots, bi-weekly appointments, lots of praying and nervousness. I would lay down multiple times during the day to try and avoid full bedrest. Thankfully, this time around I was able to be up more. Hansen was born at 34 weeks as well, weighing 4 lbs 15 oz. He was also in the NICU for two weeks. We probably seemed a bit odd to the nurses since we were so calm about him being there. Hansen has the funniest personality. He spreads happiness to everyone he interacts with. I really believe that my children were born in the order and time they were for a reason. We would need Hansen’s cheerfulness for what was to come.

When Hansen was 4 months old we moved back to Cedar City where this story all started. As much as I hated Las Vegas when we moved there, I had come to love it and it was really hard to move away, even if it was moving to my hometown! From the time Hansen was a few months old I had this incessant feeling that I needed to decide what to do about more children in our family. Were we done, should we get pregnant again, should we do foster care and adopt? We spent a year and a half praying, discussing, and searching for what we should do. We met with a foster care recruiter and an OB/GYN doctor here in town to discuss different options hoping we’d find confirmation in what we should do. Through prayers and promptings from the Holy Ghost, Bracken and I individually came to know it was God’s will for us to get pregnant one more time and that this would be my last pregnancy.

As expected, this pregnancy was anything but easy. There were ups and downs from the beginning. One night the bleeding was so bad that I was sure I had miscarried. A doctor appointment the next week showed that miraculously there was still a heartbeat in my womb. I went through my weekly progesterone shots, bi-weekly appointments and at 18 weeks had a cerclage in hopes that a stitch would help strengthen my shortening cervix. After three weeks of bedrest, including missing out on our family vacation (Bracken is a rock star to take all four kids on his own!) I started having contractions. They were able to get the contractions to slow and labor wasn’t progressing so they determined I would be on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy in the Saint George hospital. I was feeling much better and we were optimistic that I could handle a long hospital stay. Bracken headed back to Cedar to get my things I would need. About 10 minutes before he made it back to Saint George I started shaking and felt freezing cold. A nurse came in and took my temperature. I had a fever. They ran to get the doctor. Bracken came right as the doctors were discussing what to do. An amniocentesis was done and found that I had an infection in my uterus. The baby would have to be delivered.

Our tiny little girl, Naomi Faith, was delivered still at 6:22 p.m. on June 11, 2015. She was 15 oz and 11 inches long. As they handed her to me, I realized the sheer beauty of being able to deliver a baby and the baby being handed directly to you. It broke my heart that I was being handed a baby that would never breathe, who I would never get to know in this life; but the act of being able to deliver her was a tender mercy. I am grateful to have been able to experience that instead of having to have a sixth C-section. Her body was perfectly formed, beautiful nose, fingers, ears, legs, arms, toes, tongue, eyebrows, hair. It was all there in miniscule. I couldn’t stop looking at her and saying I’m so sorry, over and over. My body had let her down.

Heartbroken again, Bracken and I headed home the next day. Hayes and Kamri had asked after every doctor’s appointment if the baby was still alive. We dreaded getting home this time and having to tell them no. I had been home an hour or so, we had told them, and I started feeling feverish again. I had to go back to the hospital. I spent three more days in the hospital with IV’s full of antibiotics to save my life. As hard as it was to go back and sit for three days in the hospital after everything that had happened, I was filled with gratitude that through modern medicine I would be able to go home and be with Bracken and our four living children.

It has now almost been a year since we had Naomi and six and a half years from Dane’s. Those two children have brought our family closer together. Dane & Naomi are talked about often by their siblings and parents. My children have learned at a young age that death is not the end and we will see them again. I have learned and continue to learn the power of Jesus Christ’s atonement to bear our burdens. There are still days and moments I struggle with my grief but most of the time I am in awe at Christ’s power to bear our burdens and make them light.

I don’t feel like I’m an inspiring person or that my story is particularly inspiring except that through these experiences I have come to know of God’s love for me and for everyone. I have felt God’s love through the hundreds of meals that have been brought to our house, the hours of care that have been lovingly given to my kids, the visits, the calls, the text messages of comfort and support that have been sent and the countless prayers that have been given on our behalf by friends, family, acquaintances and strangers. I have been amazed at how many people have reached out to me at random moments when I have needed it the most.

I am learning to not be critical of others’ choices and try my best not to judge. I am not perfect but these experiences have helped me strive to be better. You never know all of a person’s backstory. I often get the well-meaning comment from strangers when they see me with my kids, “Two boys and Two girls, what a perfect family!!” and while I appreciate that I am significantly blessed to have the children I have, I can’t help but think of the two who are missing. I’m grateful that I know this life isn’t the end, that one day I’ll have my family all together but until then, I hope to help others feel of Christ’s love for them by serving them as so many have done for me.

Monday, April 11, 2016

INSPIRING WOMEN {Melissa Powell}

This months inspiring woman is Melissa Powell. I met Melissa at church when she was pregnant with Kiera. She was so excited to be a mother and couldn't wait to hold her baby in her arms. When Chance and I moved out of that ward we lost contact with many of the couples there. I was friends with Melissa on Facebook and loved seeing pictures of Kiera when she was just a newborn. 

I watched Kiera grow and hit mile stones on Facebook. Then one day I read a post that they had just found out that their sweet baby had a brain tumor. My heart broke for their family. It hit me rather hard because at the time I read the news I was feeling down about my situation. I was so upset that I hadn't been able to get pregnant. After reading their news I immediately started crying and became so mad at myself for not being grateful for what I have. As I followed Kiera's story I was continually blown away by Melissa's positive attitude. She was always so full of hope and strength. She bore her testimony on Facebook often and she always touched me so deeply with her words. 

I reached out to Melissa a few months ago and asked if she would be willing to share her story. I was so happy when she agreed and we were able to get together for pictures. It was so fun seeing Kiera in person, she is one happy child! I'm grateful for the opportunity to know such an amazing family! I will continue to pray for Kiera and the miracle that she is!

Here is Melissa's story....

When we first found out that our sweet fourteen-month-old daughter had a large brain tumor, I could feel my heart shatter inside of my chest. My world came crashing down around me. I was shocked. I was terrified. I couldn’t believe it. The tears came pouring out of my eyes and I couldn’t stop them. I felt physically ill. I was so scared and angry; I begged Heavenly Father not to take my daughter. It didn’t seem fair. We were in the emergency room at the hospital and Kiera was sitting on my lap. I held on to her so tightly, never wanting to let her go. 

Ten days before this time, Kiera started throwing up her milk. We thought that she had the flu, but it wasn’t going away. Then we thought maybe she had a milk allergy. We talked to her pediatrician who said that it was probably just the flu, but that if she started throwing up dark yellow bile we would need to take her to the emergency room right away. 

On the tenth day of her sickness (March 23, 2015), I woke up in the morning to the sound of Kiera gagging in her room. I went to get her and I found her lying in a puddle of dark yellow bile. I picked her up and she continued to throw up over and over again. I started to panic. I called my husband Aaron and he came and picked us up and took us straight to the emergency room. I called Kiera’s pediatrician to let her know what was going on, so she called ahead to the hospital to order a catscan. She had a feeling that there might be some pressure on Kiera’s brain. I didn’t think much of it, I just thought that we would get the catscan as a precaution, but I was sure that they wouldn’t find anything unusual in her brain, or anywhere else for that matter. The doctor came into the room with the results of the catscan. She told us that they usually don’t find anything abnormal on these scans, but in this case, they found a tumor. It was on the back of Kiera’s brain and was about the size of a golf ball. We were completely blind-sided. 

The next few days were a whirlwind. I cried myself dry, and after a while I just felt numb. I had no idea what was going to happen. I never would have imagined that something like this could ever happen to our family. Aaron was also very emotional during this time. It was difficult to see him crying so hard because he had never done that in front of me before. I was so grateful that he was there with us; I don’t think I could have faced this without him. Numerous doctors, nurses, and specialists bombarded us with information about what was going to be happening in the coming weeks. I only heard bits and pieces of what they said. I was still in shock and in denial. 

Kiera cried every time a nurse walked into the hospital room. She knew that they were going to poke her, or hold her down, or bother her in some way. We got very little sleep over the next few days. I was praying to Heavenly Father throughout this whole time, asking Him to bless Kiera, to give her strength, to help her to be safe, and to protect her throughout this hard battle she was facing. I prayed for the doctors that they would know how to best help her. I asked Him to give me strength, and to help me to accept His will. During this time I felt a strong sense of peace come over me. I got a very strong impression that Kiera was going to be alright. I knew it was true. I didn’t know what obstacles we would have to get past in order for her to get better, but I knew that she would be alright. 

The doctors told us that Kiera would have to undergo brain surgery to remove the tumor. The morning of Kiera’s brain surgery came and I was so nervous, but I still felt in my heart that she would be alright. I asked Heavenly Father to send angels to be with her and to comfort her, and I know they were there. Five hours later Kiera came out of her surgery. I was so happy and relieved that everything went well! The doctor was able to completely remove the tumor! Kiera was swollen and there were many tubes coming out of her, but she was alright. There was a massive incision on the back of her head where they performed the surgery. We later found out that the tumor was a desmoplastic nodular medulloblastoma, and it was cancerous. That meant that she would be starting chemotherapy in a few short weeks. It was so hard wrapping my mind around the fact that my baby had cancer. It just didn’t seem possible. The word cancer was so foreign to me. I didn’t let myself think about it too much at that moment though, because I needed to focus on helping Kiera get better and heal from her surgery. 

After Kiera’s brain surgery was over I began feeling a little bit better about things, although it was SO hard to see my baby in so much pain. Kiera had just been through a surgery that no child should ever have to go through, and that no parent should have to watch their child go through. She didn’t like to be moved or lifted because it caused her a lot of pain. It was a hard process every time that we wanted to hold her. We had to hold her completely still because movement caused her to get headaches. I would sit in a small chair and hold her very still for as long as I possibly could (until my limbs were completely asleep from lack of movement). It was worth it though. I love holding my beautiful baby in my arms. 

I was starting to think that the worst part was over. Kiera was recovering, and five days after her surgery she started smiling again! It brought me so much joy to see her face light up and to hear her giggle again. A few short hours after this happy moment, my world was shattered for a second time. 

A cardiologist (heart doctor) came into the room and said that one of the nurses had noticed that Kiera had some irregular heartbeats, so they were going to do an ultrasound on her heart just to make sure that everything was okay. Several of the nurses had told us that many people have an irregular heartbeat, and it probably wasn’t anything to worry about. So, I didn’t think much of it. Then the doctor went quiet. A minute later he told us that there was a mass on Kiera’s heart, and it was very worrisome. I couldn’t believe it. It was like déjà vu. Aaron and I looked at each other and then we both burst into tears. I kept thinking, “How can this be 
happening? She just underwent major brain surgery, now she will have to have heart surgery? Why was she being asked to go through so much? This DEFINITELY isn’t fair!” In a matter of minutes we were transferred to another hospital. I rode in the ambulance with Kiera and I cried the whole way. I couldn’t understand why someone so small, innocent, and perfect would be asked to go through such terrible things. The thought kept creeping into my mind, “Can she survive another surgery?” I felt like I was in Hell. 

The doctors at the hospital met with us and discussed what they were going to do. Kiera would undergo open-heart-bypass-surgery in order to remove as much of the heart tumor as possible. The doctor was optimistic, and I was so grateful for that. Kiera would first have to have surgery for her VP shunt to be put into her body. She needed it in order to drain the excess fluid from her brain that her body was producing as a result of her brain surgery. After that, she would have heart surgery. 

The shunt surgery went very well with no complications. It looks like a big bump on the side of her head. You can feel the tube travel down the side of her head, and neck, and then it goes down the side of her stomach and ends at her belly button. The doctor said that it will grow with her, and she will probably have it for the rest of her life. 

The day of the heart surgery came, and I watched as two nurses took my baby down the hall and into the operating room. By this time Kiera had already had two surgeries and numerous MRI’s and catscans, but every time I had to watch them take my baby away it ripped my insides apart. I knew that I had no choice but to let them take her. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I was so scared because I knew that the doctors would have to stop Kiera’s heart in order to perform the surgery. I paced the floor, waiting for the hours to pass. I knew that the doctors could only do so much; she was in Heavenly Father’s hands, and I knew that He would take care of her. 
After several agonizingly long hours the surgery was over, and we got to be with Kiera again. Once again, the surgery went very well! I was SO happy and relieved! Kiera was extubated and breathing completely on her own! The surgeon was only able to remove 60 percent of the tumor because if he had removed any more than that, it would have compromised the integrity of her heart. Kiera will have to have regular checkups every year for the rest of her life to make sure that the tumor doesn’t grow. He was optimistic that it wouldn’t grow anymore, and he also said that it might shrink over time. (Over time we learned that the remaining tumor did in fact shrink! There is now only a tiny bit of the tumor left on her heart! That is a miracle!) We also found out that the heart tumor was benign (non cancerous)! I was so relived! Kiera’s heart was working great, and the remaining tumor wasn’t causing any problems. I knew that we would have to keep an eye on it throughout her life, but I still felt like she would be alright. I was so grateful for all of the doctors that had been helping her. They truly are amazing people who use their talents and knowledge to help save lives. They have helped save my baby’s life multiple times, and I will never be able to adequately thank them for that. We offered up so many prayers of thanks and gratitude to our Heavenly Father for helping Kiera to pull through all that she had been asked to go through. We knew that there was still a long road ahead, but Kiera had more than proven her strength and bravery. She is a fighter, and I know that she has so much left to do here on this earth. 

About a week later Kiera had surgery for her broviac catheter to be put into her body. It was inserted on the left side of her chest, above her heart. It would be used as a port for chemotherapy, medications, and IV fluids during her treatments. Again everything went well, and the next day we were released from the hospital! It was such a wonderful feeling to be at home with my family for a few days! Spending four weeks straight at the hospital was way too much. It was crazy to think about all that had happened in the past four weeks. Our lives are forever changed. 

Throughout the previous four weeks while we were in the hospital I had a lot of time alone with my thoughts (which probably wasn’t a good thing). I felt depressed, angry, and scared, but somehow we were getting through it. Many times I felt guilty because I didn’t feel very close to my Heavenly Father. I still continued to pray to Him, and I knew that He was still there and that He loved me and my family, but I was having the hardest time accepting what was going on. I knew that there was a reason for all of these things that were happening to Kiera, but it was so hard because I couldn’t see the bigger picture. I remember one night I was standing in the hospital bathroom getting ready for bed, and I couldn’t hold my emotions in any longer. I started crying uncontrollably. It was the hardest thing in the world having to watch my baby suffer, knowing that there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I wished with all of my heart that I could take her pain away and experience it for her. I would have done it in a heartbeat. I love my baby so much and it hurt me so badly to have to watch her go through such unimaginable things. I felt so alone. I felt like there was no way that anyone could possibly understand what I was going through. 

All of the sudden I felt the impression that I was wrong. Heavenly Father knew exactly what I was going through. He sent His Son to die for us so that we can all return to Him again someday. He knew how much it hurt. He knew what it was like to watch His child suffer, knowing that He had to let Him go through it. And because of this, our Savior was able to take upon Himself all of the pains of the world. My Savior died for me so that I could receive comfort in my darkest hour. I felt very humbled in that moment. There was a reason why we were going through such a terrible trial, and I knew that I might not understand what that reason was until after this life, but that if we would endure it well, we would be blessed. I knew that I had a choice to make. I could either be angry, bitter, and let myself be overcome with despair, or I could let my Savior help me carry this load, and allow His atonement to take full effect in my life. I knew that I had to trust in my Savior. I knew that I wasn’t alone, and that He was constantly encircling me in the arms of His love. I knew that through Him, we would make it through this trial, even though it would continue to be a very hard road. I knew that He would continue to watch over and help our sweet Kiera. This knowledge helped prepare me for the long, hard months ahead. 
After spending four wonderful days at home, we were re-admitted to the hospital so that Kiera could start her chemotherapy treatments for the brain cancer. We were in and out of the hospital for the next ten months. Kiera’s treatment protocol consisted of six cycles of chemotherapy and each cycle was about 28 days long. She had to go through several types of chemotherapy in different amounts over specific periods of time. We were able to do two of her chemotherapy cycles at home because they weren’t as intense, so during those times we gave her the treatments through oral medications and shots. The other four cycles we spent all of our time in the hospital, and the chemotherapy was given intravenously through her broviac. 

Nothing can prepare you for a cancer diagnosis. Out of the blue we were just up-rooted from our normal lives and thrown into a scary world where we had to watch our baby fight for her life every single day. Our days and nights spent at the hospital were long and hard. They were filled with chemotherapy, IV fluids, antibiotics, to many medications to count, blood/platelet transfusions, scans, physical therapy, fevers, throw up, and doctor visits. We had to try to eat our meals, stay entertained, and sleep comfortably in a very confined space. It was difficult for us. Kiera’s favorite part of the day was when Aaron was able to come and be with us at the hospital after his long hours at work. He would always take her on a wagon ride down the halls of the hospital, and she absolutely LOVED it! It was so much fun seeing her find joy in such a simple thing. Getting out of the hospital room for a small moment each day was wonderful. 

The chemotherapy was really hard on Kiera. Although it did kill the cancerous cells in her body, it also killed the healthy cells. It was difficult seeing the physical effects that the chemotherapy left on her little body. Her hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows fell out. A lot of the time her eyes looked tired, and during the most intense parts of her treatments the rosiness faded from her complexion and she was very pale and sick. She threw up a lot, and that made her not want to eat at all, so she lost weight. There were so many times where I was worried sick about her. I often thought to myself, “What have I done? How could I have ever consented to this?” But I knew that this poison was ultimately going to save her life. 

We had amazing nurses and doctors taking care of Kiera the whole time we were in and out of the hospital, and we also had so much support from our family and friends. Their prayers, love, and generosity helped strengthen and sustain us. They will probably never fully understand how grateful we are to them. 

Each cycle of chemotherapy introduced new challenges. After Kiera’s third cycle of chemotherapy she endured a second heart surgery because there was some fluid buildup around her heart, and after her fourth cycle of chemotherapy she got an infection and had fevers for five days straight, reaching as high as 105 degrees. During those times I was absolutely terrified because I didn’t know what was going to happen to her. I felt completely helpless. I didn’t want to lose my baby. But no matter what she was faced with, she always pulled through, and she remained incredibly strong. Even though the chemotherapy made her tired and drained her energy, she still smiled and played throughout the entire process. Her bravery and resilience is so inspiring to me. She is my hero. 
After the sixth cycle of chemotherapy Kiera had a stem cell transplant to help recover her bone marrow that had been completely depleted as a side effect of the chemotherapy. This was a planned transplant; they used her own cells that they had harvested after her first cycle of chemotherapy. Everything went well, and slowly Kiera started to get better. We were excited to finally be finishing up her treatment! 

A few weeks after Kiera finished her last planned cycle of chemotherapy, an MRI revealed to us that there was something abnormal on the bottom of her spine. We were devastated and so worried for Kiera. That fact that something was growing all the while she was going through high dose chemotherapy was terrifying. At this point we were completely exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It seemed like her treatments were never going to end. Many nights after Kiera fell asleep, I would sneak away for a moment so that I could cry without anyone seeing me. I tried not to cry in front of her, because I didn’t want her to be scared or think that anything was wrong. I thought if I could appear strong that she would be able to draw from that, and continue to keep fighting despite the devastation that we faced. 

Because of the questionable spots on Kiera’s spine, she had to go through a seventh round of chemotherapy with another stem cell transplant. This seventh cycle of chemotherapy was the hardest on her. She was SO sick; she threw up almost every two hours for an entire week. Her nose was almost always bleeding. You could tell that she felt absolutely miserable. It broke my heart. The acid from her frequent vomiting caused her entire esophagus to be burned, so she cried out in pain whenever she tried to swallow food or liquid. She was sick for weeks, and she didn’t want to do anything except be held and lay down in her crib. We spent Christmastime in the hospital, which was very lonely and so hard. I longed for my baby to be healthy and at home, enjoying the holidays like children should do. 

After her seventh cycle of chemotherapy Kiera had another MRI. I was very anxious… but we soon learned that the images from the scans came back completely clear! It was a MIRACLE! The doctors still strongly urged us to do an eighth cycle of high dose chemotherapy with another stem cell transplant because it could lessen the chances of the cancer coming back in 
the future, but Aaron and I just didn’t feel good about it. We prayed, pondered, discussed, and read our scriptures. Aaron, Kiera, and I were all given priesthood blessings to help us feel comfort and guidance while we were trying to make our final decision of whether or not to go forward with more chemotherapy. During the blessings we were told that we would make the right decision, and that Aaron and I would both be in agreement about it. We were also told that we would need to take a “leap of faith” regarding our decision. The risks and harsh side effects of another cycle didn’t seem worth it to us. We wanted Kiera to have the best quality of life possible, and doing more chemo when it probably wasn’t necessary didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Kiera’s scans were clear, and we knew that the cancer was gone. Deciding NOT to continue chemotherapy treatments despite the doctor’s firm suggestion that we should do more, was one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. 

We know that there is always a chance that the cancer could come back, regardless of whether we were to do more chemotherapy or not. We will continue to hope and pray that it will NEVER come back. We put our complete trust and faith in our Heavenly Father. We know that He will continue to watch over Kiera and our family like He has done throughout our entire journey. We have felt peace about our decision. 

On February 24, 2016 Kiera had a four week follow up MRI, and again all the images were clear! We made the right decision! Kiera has finished her treatments and the cancer is completely gone! After 11 months, five surgeries, seven cycles of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, and 153 days spent in the hospital, Kiera has won her battle with cancer! I am so proud of her for never giving up! Her doctors are amazed at how strong and full of life she is despite everything she has been through. We made it through a year of Hell. We could not have gotten through this without the help of our loving Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. They carried us throughout this entire trial. I will forever be grateful for them, and for the knowledge of their restored Gospel. We are so blessed. 
I can honestly say that I know more about cancer than I ever wanted to know. My eyes have been opened to the horrible reality of it, and the fact that thousands of innocent children are suffering from cancer right now. I have met so many “warrior” children and families that have been so kind and supportive to us, all the while fighting their own hard battles. I am so grateful for them and for their good examples. I hope and pray that there will one day soon be a cure for cancer, so that children and adults won’t have to suffer from it anymore. 

Today Kiera is happy and healthy and recovering wonderfully! She is an active, fun, and curious two-year-old. She brings so much love and joy into the lives of everyone that she meets. It’s been both exciting and hard trying to adjust back to “normal” life, but we are so grateful that we have made it to this point. 

Kiera was so incredibly brave throughout everything that she was asked to go through over the past year. She is an inspiration to me and she makes me want to be a better person. She has helped me learn that I should never complain, because she had every right to complain about the terrible things that she had to go through, but she never did. We will live each day to the fullest, and never take this life for granted. We are so grateful that no matter what, our family will be together forever. I am eternally grateful that I am Kiera’s mother. I love her so much. Kiera is proof that miracles happen on this earth today. She is proof that Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers. She is my miracle baby.