Gratitude

I realize it has been a couple months since I last posted. We have been busy going on two vacations (hooray!), recovering from vacations and getting sick. I can be guilty of making “Perfect the enemy of good”, maybe not perfect, but at least “great” and that makes me slow to post because I want a well thought out post and to share some great pictures of Hana on vacation because I know how much people want to see them (and they are pretty awesome, if I say so myself).

In this post I am not going to tell you about our vacation or how we all got RSV and Hana spent two nights in the hospital. I will share that in the next few days (I promise). In this post I want to share the letter I wrote for the Gallery of Gratitude for the new children’s hospital that is almost completed at Stanford. They requested anyone who wished, to submit letters, notes, pictures or art work expressing their gratitude. Gratitude for the hospital and its staff is something I feel every single day but I hadn’t given it the time to really express it other than out loud at home. It was really rewarding putting it down in words, especially with the thought that someone who I am expressing gratitude for might actually read it. I came to learn later that the letter was passed around, to whom I don’t know, but when we ran into Hana’s primary transplant cardiologist he thanked me for writing it. Of course, I didn’t know what he was talking about at first because I think my brain is just a little too busy and a lot too tired.

So, now I will share with all of you the letter, just in case you might want to read it too:

Every day I say, out loud, “Thank you for another day with Hana.” Often, its just a whisper at bedtime, as Hana is wrapping her 3-year old arms around me and saying, “I love you mama.” Every single day I am so grateful that Hana got to see this day, another day, another chance. At six-months old we thought we might lose her when we got the shock of our lives with her sudden diagnosis of dilated cardiomyopathy and severe heart failure. But she was treated at your hospital for three weeks and we miraculously got to go home with talk about an eventual heart transplant. I remember bending over her in the CVICU sending out whispered “thank yous” to everyone I could think of, the life flight team, the doctors, the nurses, the nurse practitioners, the social worker and child life specialist, the pharmacists, case managers, the woman who spontaneously grabbed me a stack of napkins in the cafeteria when I started crying uncontrollably from all the stress and shock and emotion.

At 15-months, Hana’s left lung collapsed and we were back in the hospital, this time for an unknown amount of time, while Hana was placed on the Berlin Heart to help her heart pump blood until a donor heart became available. It ended up being seven months while your hospital became our home where we slept, ate, and raised our only child.

After Hana got her donor heart and was recovering, she was in a funk. She really didn’t want to sit up or walk around or play, she just seemed in a very down mood.  We were warned that this often happens to patients after their heart transplant. Her nurse, Jay, thought it would be good to take her on a wagon ride to see the fountain outside of the Stanford adult hospital next door. Hana had never seen it before, despite being in the hospital for so long, as she was never able to travel that far while attached to the Berlin Heart.

When Hana got outside and she saw that fountain she started climbing out of the wagon! Then, she started walking for the first time in almost two weeks! Then, it dawned on her that she was walking, for the very first time, unattached to the six foot drive line that had connected her to the 200-pound Berlin Heart. That’s when she started a very wobbly RUN around the perimeter of the fountain. Finally, she was free. Finally, she had gotten her second chance at life.

Although she still didn’t appear joyful or happy, somehow the gravity of this moment was beyond that. It was the earnestness in her steps, the resolve in her chosen path, and the determination on her face that were so compelling. The rawness of her condition – so soon after open heart surgery, and the innocence of her age – just under two-years old, uplifted all of us who witnessed this and brought tears to our eyes (including Jay).

Thank you, all of you, all of the hundreds of people that make this moment possible and all the other moments that follow it. I know its more than just the hours of face-time with medical staff, its the hours of work from people behind the scenes and the hours of research and study and thought and its all brought to us with compassionate hearts and caring minds. Thank you for another day with Hana.

The letter from the Gallery of Gratitude
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Hana at the fountain after her transplant.

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1A

Sorry for the delay in this post, but Hana had another biopsy on Monday and when we got the results back late Tuesday she got a 1A. They treat this the same as 0 rejection. So this is great news and a HUGE relief! They will do another biopsy in a month. One great result of this news is that we will get to go on our VACATION! We haven’t left the Bay Area in two years. We haven’t visited family in 2.5 years. We are really looking forward to our trip.

The downside of all this is all the medications (other than the worry). Hana is back on steroids and three additional medications that go along with long time steroid treatment. Her face has gotten puffy, her blood pressure is higher, her appetite is voracious (now we have the opposite problem of trying to get her to eat) and she’s prone to moodiness (on top of being almost 3-years old). But we will take it! It’s great to have options to keep rejection at bay.

Thank you for all your prayers, thoughts and well wishes! It means so much to us! 


Rejection

I wanted this next post to be about how great the Summer Scamper was (It was great) and how much fun we had (a lot) or how amazing our team was and how we can’t wait to do it again next year. But instead it’s about rejection. Yesterday Hana had her 1st annual biopsy. We got the results today and Hana has 3a rejection of her heart. It has been a real blow. The rejection scale is this: 0, 1a, 1b, 2, 3a, 3b, 4. 

Most often 3a rejection means that you are hospitalized while they treat you with steroids, but since Hana is doing great clinically, her echocardiogram looks good, the pressures in her heart are good and her coronary arteries look great they decided it’s better to treat her with oral steroids and keep her out of the hospital. So she starts back on steroids tonight and all the medications that go along with long term steroid use. She will be on steroids for 4-6 months. She will go back to the Heart clinic next week and will have another biopsy in two weeks. They also went up on some of her anti-rejection medications. I hope and pray her next biopsy will show no rejection and we can go on our first family trip in August!

With this news, all kinds of thoughts have bombarded my head. Many are dark and terrrible or very sad. I’m trying to stay positive and remember what’s happening in this moment. At this moment Hana is doing great! Please keep her and us in your thoughts and prayers. We are hanging in there, although I’m especially exhausted today!



Why We Scamper

The Summer Scamper is just a couple days away! This big fundraising event for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital has the slogan “Why We Scamper” and this week I’ve been taking that to heart and really contemplating, more than usual, what that means to me, especially one year post-transplant.

When you have a baby your life changes, you change, and parents everywhere know this. The person they were before that baby was born is not the same person afterwards, you can never unknow what it is like to be a parent. It was the same when we so suddenly learned about Hana’s heart condition. Bam! All of a sudden, in an instant, our lives changed forever. I have changed from the person I was before, I can never unknow what it is like to have a child with a life-threatening condition. Maybe if you know me fairly well you may not necessarily see these changes, but something fundamental shifts deep inside. I can’t even really explain, with words, what this means. What I can explain is that amazing people were able to save Hana and give her a second chance at life. So, when asked, “Why we scamper?” its because for me, that second chance and the amazing people who gave that to her, touches a place deep down inside where the shift occurred, a “something” I can never unknow.

The Summer Scamper is about kids, of course, but behind all that are the people that save the kids. Some of these people are the amazing doctors, at the top of their game, in an elite class. If they were professional athletes they probably would be famous and get paid lots of money. They have dedicated so much of their lives to saving the lives of kids. It has been a very humbling experience watching (of what I get to see) them work. So, I Scamper for them too – so I can support their dedication to saving the lives of kids.

Lastly, I Scamper for all the kids who are no longer here with us. Well, for the families too, because if there is anything that might create another fundamental shift deep within a person, it might be losing your child. I have seen these parents (and grandparents) and the pain in their eyes shows that it runs to a deep, deep place. So in what small way I can, this is my show of support for them. To honor their pain, I feel like we should not take for granted the life we have. So, I Scamper in gratitude for life.

Please consider supporting our Scampering by donating to Hana’s Heart Scamper team:
https://my.supportlpch.org/fundraise/team?ftid=116471

Here are some images from this past week:

Our amazing Hana’s Heart Scamper team, besides me and Paul, includes: my best-friend Suzanne and her two kids, Delphi and Travers (they are doing the kids Fun Run), our friend Megan who came to the hospital every week to play with Hana, our friend Katie whose daughter, Maya, also has dilated cardiomyopathy and lastly, my friend Brenna who I’ve known since I was a little kid, is participating as a virtual runner!

To sum up Why We Scamper, its for videos like this (Hana leaving the hospital after her transplant. After seven months in that building, she finally got to walk away and leave it behind her):

Possibility and Hope

I’ve got something special to share. This past week we passed the one-year-out-of-the-hospital anniversary. The hospital, including the Heart Center, showed us what was possible by giving Hana her second chance in life and it gave us, all of us including family and friends, hope. When everything seemed too heart-wrenching and terrifying to cope, there was that whisper of possibility and hope that called us to pick ourselves up and keep dealing.

I am forever thankful for all the professionals who made saving Hana’s life their job. From surgeons, transplant cardiologists and cardiac intensivists to bedside nurses, child life specialists and social workers they all play a part in touching the lives of children and their families. I remember once being at Hana’s bedside during an intense moment, unable to do anything but just be there, and I started feeling gratitude for all the people NOT in the room who had a hand in keeping Hana alive – like the person who invented the ventilator and even the person who invented the material to make the tubes that were used in the equipment keeping Hana alive. There are many people behind the faces we see at the hospital who have a part in giving us possibility and hope.

Part of how I show my gratitude is by participating in the hospital’s fundraiser each year in June, the run/walk called the Summer Scamper. Last year was the first year I participated and I got in shape to run while Hana was in the hospital. During her naptime, I would sneak out and run around the Stanford campus. Little did I know, that Hana would be discharged before the actual event! It made the race that much more special, that much more real. I remember crying while running at all the t-shirts and signs that people had made mentioning all that I was so grateful for – possibility and hope, it all felt so fresh. This year’s Scamper will be equally as special as Hana will be the Patient Hero representing the Heart Center (I mentioned this many weeks ago in the post Patient Hero). Since it will be 8 weeks after having a baby, I decided not to do the run when I registered for the race (although I’ve started running and I think I could do the 5K). Instead I will do the walk with Hana (and maybe Corrina if we get our double stroller in time).

The special something I’d like to share is Hana’s Patient Hero video. I wrote the words and provided most of the photographs but I was really surprised by the result. I really loved it and watching it brought tears to my eyes.
https://youtu.be/_fMUkeQfzY8

Please consider showing your support by contributing to our team, Hana’s Heart:
https://my.supportlpch.org/fundraise/team?ftid=116471

Here is a link to the rest of Hana’s Patient Hero page:
Meet Hana, Your Patient Hero

Dear Hana,
We love watching you sing and dance:

 

and cook in your kitchen:
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and laugh at yourself in the mirror:
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We hope you always keep your sweet spirit:
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and resilience:
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You are our greatest inspiration:

 

You are extraordinary:

You are Why We Scamper
Love, Mommy and Daddy:
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Here are a few recent pictures:

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Hana’s Heartversary

On Sunday two weeks ago, May 28th, we celebrated Hana’s very first Heartversary – one year with her new heart.
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It turned out to be a wonderful celebration! We invited some of our local friends and supporters for a big picnic in Golden Gate Park. We were even lucky enough that some of Hana’s medical professionals came! This was a party to celebrate life (Hana’s) to give thanks (to you – all of our supporters) and to commemorate the donor. I think its this last point that really has me thinking these days. It has been a year since the donor family lost their small child and made the courageous decision to donate their heart. Not a day passes where I don’t stop and think of them, hope they are able to find some peace and maybe some solace in their decision.
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I wish we could have had a chance to have all our family, friends and family from everywhere come to the party. You are what has carried us through! On that note, you may wonder how we managed to pull off having a huge party with a four-week old baby. Our local village here in San Francisco is that answer! A small group of our friends rallied together and took care of all the party details, I just took care of all the big things before the arrival of Corrina. It was amazing. All Paul and I had to do was just show up on the day of the party! Balloons, tents, chairs, tables, food, drinks, a cake, picnic blankets all just showed up at our reserved party spot and all of these wonderful woman (it was mostly the woman, but I know the husbands helped too) have their own toddlers to run after! This is such a perfect example of how important our village is and what an impact they make on our lives.

For our family, life is moving along, especially with the addition of Corrina to our family. Hana is doing great thanks to the medical professionals who dedicate their lives to these kids. This past week she had her one year clinic visit. Coincidentally she was checked out by the original director of the heart transplant program (now semi-retired). There was a tiny bit of concern over Hana’s persistent cough and runny nose (they are thinking possibly allergies) although it doesn’t seem to bother her at all and her lungs sound perfectly fine. We were able to drop two of Hana’s medications – Valcyte and Amlodipine. As long as Hana’s blood pressure stays within normal range she can stay off of the Amlodipine. Hana’s weight gain has been good (thank goodness for all the great summer produce!) She has her annual biopsy in a week, which will be more invasive than any other biopsy since they will look at both the right left sides of the heart (its normally just the right). It will be an all day affair at the hospital. Let’s hope and pray for zero rejection and ideal heart pressures.

I can’t believe it has been a year already. Thank God. What a miracle.

I’m sorry this update is getting posted so late, it has been really hard to find time to sit down at the computer when you have a newborn (and you don’t fall asleep). Corrina is six weeks old today!

I do have something exciting to share in the next or so. It brought tears to my eyes. I hope you like it too!

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She picked out her outfit for the day.
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Hana is signing, “Good Job”.

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This amazing cake was made by our friend Carole! Amazing!
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Our friends Isai and Alison from Tamalitos Catering did all the food.
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Take a heart. Sign your name. Say a prayer or well wish. Drop it in the frame.
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The cookie decorating bar.

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This is The Amazing Rachel, our kid entertainment. She was truly amazing!

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Grandpop helps Hana fly with her butterfly wings (Thanks to the Amazing Rachel).

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The Amazing Rachel had all the kids captivated.

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Paul says a few words of thanks before we cut the cake.

Our great party planning crew!

Patient Hero

We have two special things to share with you! The first one is that on April 30th, Hana became a big sister! Corrina Mae Yago arrived after a fairly quick and easy delivery. My mother was here for a few days before the birth and several weeks after to help everyone with the transition. Hana has been really great with her baby sister and is very sweet. She is feeling the pull away from me (to take care of a baby) and has been understandably emotional but really, she’s handling it like a champ!



All of this made Mother’s Day really special for me – I had my two girls and my own mother and we didn’t have to spend it in the hospital (like last year)!


So far life with a newborn has been pretty good – I say that and I fear that Corrina’s fussiness has not yet completely shown itself. The last few days has included those crazy, fussy late afternoons/evenings that challenge your mental health! Before that and while my mom was here we did get out and about and helped Hana have some fun. Hopefully I’ll still be able to get out of the house for some fun outings with Hana and Corrina.

This brings me to our second special share – in about a month will be the annual Summer Scamper fundraiser race for the hospital and Hana will represent the hospital’s Heart Center as the Patient Hero! You can read Hana’s Patient Hero bio by clicking on this link:
https://scamperblog.squarespace.com/home/2017/4/21/meet-hana-your-patient-hero-for-the-betty-irene-moore-childrens-heart-center
You may remember that last year, just a week after being discharged from the hospital after her transplant, Hana attended the Summer Scamper – you can read about it in “A Great Summer Scamper“. We are putting together another “Hana’s Heart” team and you can donate to our team by clicking on the link below:
https://my.supportlpch.org/fundraise/team?ftid=116471
If you would like to join our team, please let me know! I will be walking in the 5K with Hana. Although I would love to run the 10K again this year, I think it is too soon after having a baby to be running!

We are VERY excited to have Hana represent the Heart Center and to support their continued research into treating children like Hana. Because of them, Hana has survived her hospitalization and thrived in life. Because of all they have done for Hana and our family we have enjoyed an amazing year together outside the hospital – that’s right, its been almost one year since Hana’s heart transplant! Hana has never been stronger, happier or healthier! She has been eating and gaining weight and enjoying all the activities a toddler should get the chance to enjoy! She is living life!

As I write this, it is the last evening of my life as a thirty-something. Tomorrow I enter a new decade. As I reflect about back on my thirties, but more this last year of being 39, I feel like this last year has been the best of my life – Hana finally got her gift of life, we all got to move out of the hospital, we got to move home after being at the Ronald McDonald House, we got to live life (with Poppy) back at home in San Francisco, we got to add a new baby to the family. All of this happened in the last year. It is all so incredible to me. It has taken a village of people to help us get here and we are incredibly grateful! I am excited for our adventures of the next decade!