2011...A Year in Review

Saturday, December 31, 2011


What a year!! What a tragic year, what a scary year, what a sad year, what a good year!

We began 2011 with the heavy weight of losing our daughter, but we also began 2011 with an expectance of a miracle. It honestly feels like a dream typing this now, thinking that it's been an entire year since our world was spinning out of control. It was all so hard, but one of the hardest things was having a life growing, make that trying to grow, inside me and being told that life would never survive, that she would never be ours here on earth.

January through March were a complete blur. While I do have some memory of that time, it mostly comes in small bursts or flashes of a moment or moments that occurred. I remember being on bed rest and longing to go sledding with Anna Claire and John, I remember wondering if Ava would ever talk, I remember lying on an operating table and listening to a team talk through and work to save my baby. I remember how tiny Alli was, actually I don't, but I think I do. God has blocked that one out for me. I remember the night after she was born we were awakened at 3 am and told it didn't look good.  I remember receiving a phone call at 5 am from our favorite doctor telling us it was "time" to come back to the hospital. I remember merging off the ramp and actually looking at UT for the first time as my daughter's "home" and crying because we weren't taking her home. I remember how the girls ran to us when we walked in our door and how they cried, hugged us, and gave us so much love. And then, I remember how our precious Anna Claire couldn't understand why in the world we were NOT happy, after all, we had just had a baby. I remember how they both held onto us for dear life, I know sensing our fear as we tried to reassure them life was "normal" and "fine."    

Apil began to bring some relief. It was my due date and preemies generally go home around their due dates; although, this was not our case since Alli was nowhere close to ready. What we finally did discover in April was our new normal. Alli was "out of the woods," which translates to "Alli was off the ventilator," so we began attempting to make a normal life for our girls. It's not that we hadn't tried; it's just that it seemed impossible. We gave ourselves a little more freedom in our hospital visits spending the mornings with the girls and getting to the hospital around lunch. We took the girls to the Zoo, Wonder Works, and Dollywood more times than I can imagine a "normal" family doing, but we were loving on them and I guess trying to make up for the not so normal they were experiencing.

May brought a MUCH desperate trip to Hilton Head with John and the big girls. I have the BEST husband EVER! Mother's Day weekend was approaching and to be honest, I was in a funk. Mother's Day is the day children are dedicated in our church.  John, sensing the funk I was in by not having our baby with us to dedicate, whisked us away to Hilton Head on a whim.  Seriously a whim! We made the decision on Thursday night around 11 pm, went to see Alli early Friday morning, and were off to HH by the afternoon! I laugh SO hard looking back at us loading the car. I know the neighbors thought we were running from something or setting the house on fire! We were chunking stuff in that car like we would never see our home again! Anna Claire insisted on bringing half her playroom-we of course agreed!

June was pretty perfect, minus having Alli home of course! We celebrated both our birthdays, father's day, and our 7th anniversary. We waited patiently for word that we might even be slightly close to bringing Alli home, but all we received were more questions about our daughters future and no answers. I visited Alli during the days and was home in time for dinner and swimming with the girls. We would swim until dark and then curl up in a blanket and just lay by the pool watching lightning bugs. John and I had started a "date night" on Saturday nights....dinner at Cafe 4 and then off to the hospital for Alli loving time until midnight! We had Ava's 2nd birthday at the end of June with great friends and family. I can't go into details about the events of early June that led to the events of July because quite frankly, we had some MAJOR favor! God blessed us with an amazing team of neonatologist that set a plan in place to get Alli "Alli healthy" and home.  Up until this point everyone was spinning their wheels about how to proceed with getting her home.  Without a doubt we were going nowhere!  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!    

July brought our Annual 4th of July festivities with great friends. Alli was responding well to her new treatment plan and was actually on a rate of oxygen she could go home with. The only think lacking was her feeding ability. We had exhausted all avenues here, there, and everywhere and agreed to have the g-tube and fundoplication surgery.  Alli came through surgery well and was actually extubated in the OR, something we were told wouldn't happen.  That nightextubated, and finally back in my arms. It never felt SO good!

Are you sure? Don't you think she needs another week?" We had doctor’s appointments after appointment 3-4 times a week for 6 weeks. I can pack a "Go Bag" (i.e. emergency bag), diaper bag, oxygen tank, spare O2 tank, pulse ox, apena monitor, car seat, and baby like no one's  business! Anna Claire started pre-K, or affectionately "free-K," at King's Academy in Seymour. I can assure you there's nothing "free" about it! We are IN LOVE with King's and excited about all of our girls attending school there!! Alli was readmitted to Children's after 13 glorious days at home for acute respiratory distress, hypoxia, and a pulmonary hypertension "flare." THANKFULLY, our stay was much shorter than our stint at UT, 24 hours and we were home!

September and October were spent weeding through nurses that the nursing company sent over.....we had chain smokers on our front porch (Um, hello, baby with chronic lung disease), wrong medications given, and nurses covered with blankets snoring on my couch at 2 am (Alli's blanket mind you). We played, felt like we were getting reacquainted with everyone and tried to again, make a new normal-this time with us all home!  Alli began receiving her therapies in early September (Speech, Occupational, and Physical).  We celebrated Anna Claire's 5th birthday in Gatlinburg with amazing friends and family. Can someone tell me where my baby went and how I ended up with a 5 year old, because I certainly don't know!??!! We prayed and witnessed yet another miracle when our sweet friend Audrey was diagnosed with Cancer, only to receive miraculous healing weeks later.

November we were ever so thankful for our blessings, even the hardest parts of this year we're thankful for. I think that was one of my biggest lessons learned and blessing...finding joy and being grateful in the darkest time of our lives.  Those moments have shaped and molded us, all of us. During November we were also cut down from 24 hours of nursing to 16 hours and loved the beginnings of being on our own, our new freedom!  Alli started sitting up and was making great strides in her physical and occupational therapies! We're still struggling in the feeding department. Last year I was in the middle of decorating for Christmas when we received the first news that things didn't look for Alli. I stopped where I was decorating and sunk into my funk/depression. This year, I was decorated before Thanksgiving with great joy, happiness, and celebration for where we were in our lives.

December brought the survival of our 1st Smokey Mountain Christmas! Let the record show, that neither John nor I have been away from our families at Christmas-ever! That in itself made it a little tough, but honestly, we LOVED being at home. We loved our girls waking up in their bed. Who am I kidding!??! We loved our girls waking up in our bed and knowing that Santa came to their house! We started several new traditions, thanks to my Pinterest addiction, and carried on several of our families traditions. We also were able to bless every family spending Christmas in the NICU in Knoxville with a nice keepsake baby blanket for Christmas! This will also be a new family tradition of ours!  Alli finally rolled over, clapped, and stuck those tootsies in her mouth, all in the same day!  What a feat for such a little toot toot!  We also added Belle to our bunch-our precious chocolate lab was a Christmas present for the girls! 

We are leaving this year of great pain and joy with great hopes and belief for amazing things for our family in 2012. We are still praying and believing for complete healing for Alli; that she will continue to be "made new" here on earth and will lack nothing physically or mentally!  The effects of prematurity are long lasting and we still have many mountains to climb with her health and development.  I feel blessed to know and believe that His grace is all I need to know that that can be done. We have witnessed God's Divine Providence in our lives; we look her in the face every day. Our family still has a lot of emotional healing to do as well. Kids are so resilient, but I'm certain this year has greatly affected them. It would be crazy to think otherwise. I know John and I didn't arise unscathed from this years happening. But through it all we've remained happy, intact, and have come out on the other side still broken, but healing. I'm ready to move past survival mode to living, in our little bubble full of Germ-X of course!!  

We can't wait to see what 2012 has in store! We are weeks away from Alli's 1st Birthday!! In 2011 we launched our JG New Life Exerciser, under the radar, while Alli was in the hospital and are looking forward to the things to come with that endeavor.  We have SO many "projects" in store for this year; business, personal, and organizational! The good thing about RSV lock down is that we're all home, together, and are hopefully going to get a lot of things accomplished during this time!

Oh and sometime during this year, I'm not certain when, but Ava started talking and now won't stop!!! Whatever it is....the girls voices, laughter, and screams, the feet running through the house, Alli's monitors beeping, her babbles, and now the dog barking.....it's all music to my ears and I'm looking forward to soooooooo much more of it all!  And that expectance of a miracle we were seeking in the beginning of 2011...we received it in more ways than one!   Alli's survival is a miracle, our survival is a miracle, the fact that we are now a stronger family is a miracle! 

Happy New Year! Prayers and blessings to you all! Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and love along the long road of 2011.  I hope you continue to join us on this journey and follow our family and The Saving Grace Foundation in 2012 and beyond! 

One happy, one sad, and one could care less about saying goodbye to 2011! 
Happy New Year!!

1 comment

  1. Jackie,
    Your little family is such a blessing to me. I absolutely love you and John and adore those 3 precious girls of yours. I am so blessed to know you all!


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