Monday, April 19, 2010

Chloe update - yes, we're still here!

It is very hard to believe it has been almost six months since Chloe's surgery. Some days we really don't even think about it at all because she is doing so well, but it is always at the back of our minds. Maybe we'll see her scar at the top of her shirt or come across a receipt from the doctor or a paper from the hospital, and she still takes medication every night. But Chloe had probably the best winter she has ever had as far as illness goes: only a few colds, no flu, no stomach bugs, and no major breathing issues. Ever since her pneumonia last September, she gets wheezy when she gets a cold, but either her inhaler or a nebulizer treatment will do the trick. She has a cardiologist appointment at the end of this month, but other than that, she has not been to the doctor all winter! She is having an awesome year at school and had absolutely no problems due to all the days she missed this fall. She had some fun things happen recently, including turning ten in February, winning best in show for all the girls with her car at our church's pinewood derby race, enjoying St. Louis with her family over spring break, going to the American Girl store in Chicago with her mom, sister and both grandmas, and winning a gorgeous brand new bike from the Grand Rapids Griffins, our local AHL hockey team!

Last month we had parent-teacher conferences at school for our children. Chloe's teacher shared this paper that Chloe wrote about how God has been with her. We so appreciate all the support and prayers we received before, during and after Chloe's surgery; we thought you might like to read it:

God has been with me a lot this year in many ways. First and the biggest way is my second heart surgery. He gave the surgeon a new idea he had never thought to try before and when he tried it, it worked! All through the I.C.U. and general care with His healing hand holding me. He has given me the energy to get back to normal, catch up on school work, and recover from it quickly. He answered all those prayers and concerns.

This year I've also gotten much closer to God than ever before. I accepted Jesus last year and this year I've seen Him work many miracles in my life and they just keep on coming. When I talk to God I feel that my prayers will be answered every time. Not always with a yes but answered. I know I can say anything and He won't care.

Chloe VanderLaan, March 2010

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Back to school

It has been almost three weeks since we updated! We are slipping so seamlessly back into "regular" life that it is hard to believe over a month ago we were sitting by Chloe's bedside in the hospital, waiting for her to wake up from surgery.

She has been healthy, with no complaints about pain or discomfort. Her incision site is healing nicely. Sometimes at the very top and bottom, where it is just a bit scabbed still, it itches her. But other than that, unless you can see the site at the top of her shirt collar, you would probably never know what she has been through. We will see her cardiologist again in a couple of months, unless something comes up that we need to see him sooner for, but so far, so good!

Chloe went back to school half days the week before Thanksgiving, and then she went all three days of school the week of Thanksgiving, full days. She was just a bit anxious about going back full time, but she has done great and has not shown signs of being too tired for it. She is caught up on school work. We are so grateful to her teacher and classmates for helping her, encouraging her and praying for her. They read this blog every day during her hospital stay and home recovery and prayed for her. We have been so blessed by them and our school community!

About ten days ago, Chloe and her dad went out on a date for dinner. They started this after her first heart surgery, which was in October 2003. They go out to eat on the anniversary of that surgery, just the two of them. With all the activity and planning for her second surgery, they never made it out on their date in October. So they went out in November to celebrate a successful second surgery and to remember the first. They had a wonderful time and had some delicious pasta downtown Holland. Now Chloe is busy making her Christmas list and getting ready to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This Little Piggy

Chloe got her H1N1 vaccine today. We were on the fence about this one, but her cardiologist strongly recommended it. Our pediatrician's office has had a hard time getting their doses in - their shipment this week was mistakenly delivered to another office, which promptly used them up! But we were able to get her in to another place today, because of her high-risk status. She is unable to have the live virus, which means she cannot have the mist. She was NOT happy about getting a shot. NOT. HAPPY.

After everything she went through with heart surgery without a complaint, she decided to put her foot down about one little shot! But when all was said and done, it was just a tiny poke, and mom got her a vanilla frosty from Wendy's, so the day was not ruined after all.

We are almost done with thank you notes. We have so many people to thank for delicious meals and thoughtful gifts for Chloe. We hope we remembered everyone, and we also want to say thank you here for all the prayers, emails, phone calls and kind words we received before, during and after Chloe's surgery. As she gears up for going back to school, and her steri-strips start to fall off her incision site, it is amazing to think what she has been through and that she gets to resume being a regular giggly 4th grade girl!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cautious Progress

It is a beautiful November day here. It seems like most of fall passed us by as we prepared for Chloe's surgery, and now Thanksgiving is just over two weeks away!

Chloe had an appointment with her cardiologist this past Friday. She has been going to him since she was six weeks old. He first diagnosed her defects, after her pediatrician referred us to him. He is a wonderful, caring doctor, and we are fortunate to have Chloe under his care.

He examined her, did an EKG and echo. More often than not, he has a med student or resident shadowing him, and he always makes sure to give the students a listen to Chloe's heart, because her murmur sounds quite different from usual heart murmurs! Chloe is used to people asking if they can listen to her heart and is always very obliging.

A few things came up during this visit. Her pericardium, the fluid filled sac that surrounds the heart, has a little extra fluid in it, probably due to being irritated from surgery. It is not enough to warrant medication, but it is another reminder for her to take it easy. Also, her blood pressure and heart rate are good, but her heart is beating hard - you can see it beat through her chest. Her cardiologist thinks this points to her being anemic, because as anemia reduces the amount of oxygen blood can transport, the heart pumps harder to distribute enough oxygen throughout the body. These factors, added to the flu going around, caused him to say we need to be very conservative in sending her back to school. Her incision is healing nicely and she doesn't really have any pain, so it is hard not to look at her and think she should be back to school and back to normal. But we also don't want to wear her out and have her be even more susceptible to illness and infection when her heart and body are still healing from surgery.

As far as how her heart looked on the echo, her cardiologist said the repair is working for now and things look good. But he also said, to be blunt, this is a fix for now, and he can't guarantee anything for the future. We know that; that is not a surprise to us. We knew that six years ago after her first surgery, and we knew that even if the valve was repaired this time, it would not be the end of this particular road for Chloe. We are learning to appreciate each day and each piece of good news, because it doesn't help any to worry about what's next. Her case is a bit unusual, as her doctor said most children with this defect are repaired as infants and rarely need a second repair done on the valve. Her valve happens to be atypical in the way it is defective, so there are no hard and fast answers to how it will hold up over the years. But we are thankful for the great medical care she has received so far, and we are optimistic that with each year this crazy valve decides to keep working, more technology and advancements will occur in the field of cardiology and heart surgery. So by the time Chloe may need more work done on her heart, it could be a whole new ball game.

Today she is playing outside in the driveway with a neighbor, enjoying the unusually warm fall day. Yesterday she went to church and was excited to attend Sunday school. We have much to be thankful for and will take each day as it comes.

Chloe and little brother Garrett goofing around while waiting for the doctor!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A New Week

It is almost impossible to think that one week ago Chloe had just finished a full day of pre-op testing, and we were facing her heart surgery early the next morning. And now surgery is done, and we are all home together, and Chloe is feeling great. She hardly complains of pain; in fact, what seems to bother her most is itching around her incision and chest tube stitches! Those stitches can come out tomorrow, and we are in process of setting up an appointment with her cardiologist for a post-surgery visit. Her teacher brought over a little homework for her to start with, and she has been working on that this afternoon, after a lazy morning of TV and a little Wii time with her younger brother! She received more cards today from classmates, and it is such a blessing to read the kind words of her fellow fourth graders, who tell her to get well soon, we miss you, we're praying for you.

Just for fun, here's Chloe...
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

We Will Remember

We forget a lot of things. We forget a relative's birthday, we forget to pay a bill, we forget to return a library book. We forget to return that phone call, to switch the load of laundry, to buy eggs at the grocery store. At the end of the day when we fall into bed, we forgot to let the dog out, we forgot to pack a lunch for the next day, we forgot to give the neighbor back their leaf blower.

There are certain things we remember. We remember our first kiss, we remember when we landed that coveted job, we remember receiving a new bike on that special Christmas day. We remember how bad that sunburn hurt three summers ago and we remember the taste of Grandma's apple pie. We close our eyes and remember the sight of our firstborn child in our arms moments after birth, the face of our third grade teacher, the soft fur of our favorite pet cat.

We try to forget that embarrassing thing we said at work. We wish we could forget the angry disagreement we had with our mom. We really want to remember the recipe for that awesome dessert, and we pretend to remember the name of the person we were introduced to last Sunday at church.

God gave us something this past week. Besides the obvious gift of a successful open heart surgery and restored health for our daughter Chloe, God gave us His presence. We felt Him when we released our daughter for surgery, when we anxiously sat in the pediatric surgical waiting room, when the nurse practitioner slowly sat down by us and said the valve might have to be replaced, when the surgeon smiled at us and said everything turned out fine after all. We knew God was holding us when we read all the comments and emails from the people praying for Chloe, and the strength of their conviction that God would answer helped us through each hour. We knew God had Chloe in the palms of His hands when we saw her in the ICU, and she couldn't talk because of the breathing tube down her throat but she painstakingly lifted her hands and tapped her mom's glasses to signal that she wanted her own glasses. We knew God was walking the hospital halls with us when he sent a hurting single mom our way to pray with and comfort even in our time of need, and two days later she glowed with relief and joy as her little boy was healing and recovering. She told us how much better she felt after praying with us because it reminded her God was still with her, even in the hospital, and there would be good to come out of this. We know God is watching over our home now, as our family is back together, and we sit at the table and eat pancakes together and bat around the shiny balloons that tell Chloe to Get Well Soon and yell at the television that shows our favorite football team losing. We know God is pressing His healing hands upon her stitched-together chest as we see her progress more and more each day, walking around the house, climbing in and out of the tub, laughing with her siblings over a silly joke.

We don't want to forget a single second of this. We want to remember each tear, each smile, each squeezing fist of fear and each sigh of relief, each nurse's face and each tube that came and went from Chloe's body. Because each one of these tells the story of what God has done and will continue to do through our daughter's life, and this story is for all of us who know Him as "our creator, our life sustainer, Deliverer, our comfort, our joy.....our shelter, our peace in the midst of the storm."

**The video isn't working. Here is another one, but without the lyrics.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Goodbye, hospital...

Hello, home!

There is more to say, but tonight we are exhausted. We thank you all so much for your prayers, support, love and encouragement. One chapter is done, but there is so much more to the story. We will share more updates and pictures, but for now, we are going to sleep in our own beds!