Thursday, August 30, 2012


There's a lot of healing going on around our house. It’s been a rough couple of weeks recovering from Matthew’s surgery, and on Tuesday night we ended up at the ER at Children’s Hospital in Seattle because Matthew was having some acute pain. He cried for three hours Tuesday afternoon and wouldn’t be comforted by anything, no matter what I tried. He refused food, didn’t want to be held, didn’t want to be left alone—and finally after trying about a hundred different things, I realized that he was probably in a lot of pain because of the stent in his nose. Fortunately our surgeon was at the hospital Tuesday evening and was able to come see us in the ER and remove Matthew’s stent. His poor little nose was raw and bleeding—I can’t imagine how awful it must have felt.

So the last two days we’ve laid low for the most part, and today I saw marked improvement in Matthew’s behavior and appetite. He was back to his smiley self again, which was such a relief. And he's eating, which is the best news of all.

And now that the stent is out, we can finally see our sweet boy’s face again, and we marvel at the repair work that was done and the artistry of our surgeon, Dr. Tse.

There are more stories to tell, but this mama is totally exhausted and ready for some rest time tonight, so I’ll just leave you with some photos so you can see for yourself how our boy is healing.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Morning Update

I’m happy to report that Matthew is definitely on the mend. He’s still waking up a ton during the night (and right now his parents are both running on fumes! We could use some serious sleep around here), but during the day, he has a bit of a renewed sense of energy. He is doing more playing and exploring, he’s back to his regular eating schedule (hooray!)

He is still preferring to sleep on the floor, as evidenced by the photo below of him napping in the middle of the kitchen (and believe it or not, he slept for over an hour like that with the rest of us going about our normal activities around him!).

The doctor told us that by day four (which is today), we would see a remarkable improvement in both the swelling of his mouth and his energy level, and it’s true. Thank goodness for the body’s amazing ability to heal and recover.

Unfortunately tomorrow we have to go back to Children’s hospital for a scheduled suture removal. That means no bottles in the morning and a procedure that includes some kind of anesthesia that’s performed in the surgery center. The blessing about our procedure tomorrow is that we are due to arrive there at 6:45 am, so Matthew won’t have to go the whole morning without eating. And the procedure should take just a coupel of hours, instead of the whole day.

This time my dad, Bruce, is going along with me while Maya and Sam stay in Everett with my mom. And if all goes as planned, we should be back home by mid-day.

We’ve had a couple of wonderful meals brought in from people at our church, and on Wednesday a good friend has offered to do some house cleaning for us. Neighbors have offered to have our big kids over for play dates, my parents and sister are lending an extra hand, and we’re continuing to move through this crazy surgery season and toward health and recovery for Matthew.

We’re grateful for all the goodness and love in our lives amidst what is truly a very strange, intense season!

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I’m not always sure how honest to be on this blog, mostly because I set it up as a place for interested friends and family to follow our family’s story, particularly with regard to our adoption of Matthew. It’s certainly not a place to vent my whole range of emotions.

And truly, we have a really good life most of the time, and we try hard to live out the things we believe with courage and conviction. But I never want to paint the picture that things are always easy or good or picture perfect. Because they are not.

We DID get to come home last night, but it was a terrible night. Not terrible in some forever way. We got through it, and we will continue to push forward, but it was one of those “so glad the sun finally rose” kind of nights.

We arrived home from Children’s around 7:30 last night, after Matthew drank a second bottle and the nurse got our discharge papers in order. The drive home was quiet—Matthew had to wear his mitts over his hands (he looks like a little boxer) and he just looked out the window. He’s just taking pretty good doses of Tylenol and advil, not any other kind of pain medication, so he wasn’t sedated—just quiet.

When we got home, Maya and Sam came right away to see us. They were thinking they might sleep at home, but decided at the last minute to stay one more night at my parents’ house. And boy, were we glad they did.

Matthew did a really good job coping last night, but it was hard. He didn’t want to be rocked or held . . . and he hated taking medicine or having his owies cleaned (which is something we have to do at least every 4 hours for him). The only comforting place for him was the kitchen floor.

So we let him fall asleep on the kitchen floor, and then Aaron laid down beside him from 1am until about 4am. After the 4am medicine and cleaning, I sent Aaron to bed and I laid next to Matthew until about 8:00. So our family basically slept on the kitchen floor last night.

Sometime during the middle of my shift, Matthew wrestled his mitt off his hand and when I woke at 8am, he was sucking his thumb. Poor kid—he’s not supposed to be doing that unsupervised, but it’s the only thing that comforts him right now. I can’t blame him.

He seems a little stunned and unsure of what just happened to him. From what I can tell, he’s not in huge amounts of pain, which is good, and he drank a full bottle this morning, which eased this mama’s heart. He just seems a little lost, which is no surprise to me.

And Aaron and I are adjusting too. We weren’t prepared for how different his face looks. As the swelling goes down, he starts to look more and more like himself. But he can’t smile, because his lip is really tight and swollen, so right now his eyes are the only familiar part of his face. We have found it a pretty significant adjustment, and I have to honestly admit that I find myself missing how he used to look, with his sweet smile and big open-mouthed grin.

I know that soon this new face will become the norm for him—and this is the only way we’ll know him. But the adjustment is taking time.

I say this in part because as you look at these pictures, I hope you feel free to have the range of emotions that we’re feeling. Of course some of you have never met Matthew so it isn’t such a big change for you. But for those of you who know him and have spent time with him, I wouldn’t be surprised if you felt somewhat like we do. And I think it’s okay.

The good news is that Dr. Tse did an artists work on Matthew’s face. It’s really beautifully put together—he has an intact lip and also the skin just below the nose. His nose is much more symmetrical than it used to be. It’s really rather miraculous to us, and we’re REALLY happy with the work that was done—despite the fact that it’s taking us a while to adjust to the changes in our boy.

What we know is that we love Matthew deeply and already feel so attached to him. We hope this surgery and the recover afterwards doesn’t affect how he feels about us—it’s hard to tell right now because he feels so crummy, but he appears to be comforted by our family and our home. And I’m glad for that.

I can’t tell you how grateful we are for the visitors who stopped by to see us while we were in the hospital: my parents, my sister, Tauni, Heather, Nina, and Eric. It’s such a gift to have community during a crazy time like this. And as always, all of your texts, emails and messages mean so much too. I can’t believe how many hits we’ve gotten to our blog during the past few days—It’s been nice to have so many people along on our adventure.

I will keep posting some updates in the days ahead with more photos as Matthew’s face really begins to heal and he starts to feel better. For now, though, here are a few photos I snapped a few minutes ago. He’s starting to look like more like his old self, while also taking on a new look too. We are grateful that lip repair and rhinoplasty are behind us for now, as we press forward into this season of healing and recovery.

At the fridge once again, playing with the letters.

The healing nose--is that a smile?

I love seeing those familiar eyes again!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Walking and Eating

Great news from the hospital: Our boy WALKS and our boy EATS.

This morning Matthew decided to stand on his own two feet and explore the hospital wing. He charmed the pants off all the people in Giraffe 3.

Then just a few minutes ago, around 3pm, he finally decided to try the bottle and liked it. He ate 6 ounces of formula. Thank goodness. We can go home tonight, later, if he will drink another bottle around 5pm. So we're hoping he will so we can head on our merry way tonight.

Here are a couple shots. A big thank you to Nina, who came for six hours to sit with me today, and also to Tauni and Heather again, who are checking in on us and taking such good care of us.

His first steps down the hall.

Walking with Nina

Playing with toys on the floor.

Heather and Nina

Taking his bottle--hooray!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sweet, sweet baby

Right now the sun shines brightly in our west-facing window in the inpatient part of Seattle Children's Hospital. Matthew is here with us, resting and feeling pretty miserable, but done with surgery. We are grateful, but also aware that he has some serious recovery ahead of him.

Maya and Sam (and my parents) got to see him for a few minutes before heading home--they were interested and not too freaked out by their little brother's new face. It was actually a sweet moment.

This has been a very long day, but we are grateful that surgery is done and we can support Matthew through the healing process. We continue to feel incredibly blessed by Seattle Children's--by their kid-centered care and all the communication and support we've received.

More photos to come later, but here are a couple from when they brought him back to us. His face is quite swollen and puffy right now--in the weeks ahead, it will flatten out and relax as it heals. I am still amazed that our son has an intact lip--what an amazing act of skill and artistry was shown by Dr. Tse today. We feel overwhelmed with gratitude for his steady hand and his skill in the operating room.

Here's our boy--still the same kiddo but on his way to a repaired and intact lip. We would appreciate your continued prayers for some rest for all of us (especially Matthew) and continued healing too.

He's All Done

We just got an update from Dr. Tse that surgery is done and everything went fairly well. Sounds like things took a little longer than they initially thought, but it was a success.

I think he just wants to make sure we aren’t surprised, but he did comment that Matthew looks quite a lot different than he did before. I’m not exactly sure what that means, or whether that’s good or bad, so I think both Aaron and I are a little anxious to see him, although it will also be SO good to see him and hold him.

We have about another hour until he’s out of recovery (more waiting) so we’re just hanging out in the kids playroom with Maya and Sam until we get the page. Can’t wait to see our boy, but I’m also SO glad he’s through surgery and starting to recover.

And boy, will that kid be hungry when he finally comes to!

Still Waiting

It’s almost 4pm and we are still waiting. We just got a call from the operating room nurse that they are still working on our boy but everything is going well. Ahhh . . . this has been a long day. I’m SO glad my mom is here with me to pass the time. We are sitting outside in the shade on the patio keeping cool in the breeze and taking deep breaths! Nothing like a mama to comfort another worried mama.

Aaron, Maya, Sam and my dad are on their way down and should be here within the hour. I can’t wait to see our boy . . . to have him wake up and be done with this big adventure.

Thanks for your texts, thoughts, prayers, emails and messages today. They are helping keep me afloat!


Heading into Surgery

Well, after a long morning of distracting Matthew from thinking about being hungry, waiting for an operating room to open up, and making these hours a fun adventure for our boy, they finally walked him back.

Surgery began around 11:30 am . . . which means he'll be done about 2:30 and in recovery for about an hour. Assuming all goes well, we'll see him again about 3:30.

Just finished eating lunch and visiting with our friend Heather, who is a nurse supervisor on one of the floors. Tauni, our friend who is a nurse in ICU, is also around and we look forward to seeing her too. The distraction is nice.

Here are some photos from the morning of our cute little patient in his teeny-tiny hospital gown and yellow booties. Our 20-month old field tester has deemed the booties "unfit for patient use," however, as they fell off within 30 seconds of putting them on.

More when we know more . . .

I think Matthew kept hoping some food would come out of his thumb this morning

Checking out the cool, abeit scratchy, hospital blanket.

I know I'm biased, but isn't he ADORABLE!!

Here he's doing his little hospital gown dance.

Getting extra snuggles from Marmie.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Counting down

We are counting down the days until Matthew’s surgery, and we're almost there.

Tomorrow (Thursday, August 16) is the big day. His surgery starts at 10:30 am, so we’ll have to arrive at Seattle Children’s Hospital by 9:15. Aaron is going to stay in Everett and see a few clients in the morning, so my mom will go with me and keep me company until Aaron comes down to join us.

Matthew will be on the operating table for three hours with an additional hour for recovering and coming out of the anesthesia. I think it might be four of the longest hours of my life, but we’ll see. My mom is such a good companion—so good at passing the ordinary and extraordinary moments of time in a way that feels comforting to me—so I am quite sure that we’ll survive the waiting.

I’m also blessed to have two good friends who work at Children’s. Our friend Tauni is a nurse in ICU and she’ll be working both Thursday and Friday. Our friend Heather has more of a nurse administrator role (not exactly sure of her title) and she’ll be there too. Both of them have promised to stop by and see us while we are at the hospital. Familiar faces will be comforting too, I’m sure.

Matthew’s surgery will require at least a one-night hospital stay. We are hopeful that we can come home Friday afternoon sometime. Our church is bringing in meals four different nights starting on Saturday night, so that will help ease things during Matthew’s recovery period too.

One thing we know for sure is that Matthew will have to wear splints on his arms for several days (even weeks, perhaps) so that he can’t put his hands in his mouth. He’ll have stitches on his lip and below his nose externally, and he’ll also have some internal stitches.

When we met with Dr. Tse (our surgeon) last week, he drew us a picture on a piece of paper of what he’ll be doing during surgery. Aaron commented on just how STEADY his hand was while drawing—this gave us a huge boost of confidence in his steady hand for surgery on our boy too. I think we’re in the best hands possible—literally!

We would love your prayers and thoughts for a successful surgery and a speedy recovery for Matthew. I think our whole family could also use an extra dose of patience and energy as we help Matthew through the recovery time. We’ve heard it can be kind of rough (of course, only in the short term!) on some families as they help their child manage pain and deal with all the obstacles (the splints being one of them) that come after surgery.

Next Tuesday, we’ll go back to Children’s where Matthew will go under anesthetic again and have his sutures removed. I’m hoping that at least by then, we are back to functioning in a fairly regular way.

I WILL be updating the blog a few times tomorrow, hopefully with a couple of photos each time, so that family and friends who are interested can hear how things are going. We don’t anticipate anything abnormal or dramatic occurring—the Craniofacial Center at Children’s does cleft lip repair surgeries all the time (truly) and for them, this is a routine operation.

We also keep reminding ourselves what a good step this is for Matthew; he’s bonding to our family and developing all kinds of skills, but he needs his lip repaired to begin speaking words and to start moving toward optimal health.

One last thing to say—I continue to be amazed and overwhelmed with love for this little boy who has already overcome so many obstacles, lived through a significant transition, and continues to thrive in life and development. He is an incredible example to me of the resiliency possessed by the human spirit. This kid WANTS to develop and grow, and now that he has a supported environment, he’s taking off! This step of the process is so important for him, and I know he’ll bring his same strength and courage to it.

I’m trying to learn from Matthew—to take my courage from him—so that I too might be a courageous mama, brave and loving and patient through it all!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Walking Man Walks!

I’m not the best at keeping up with our family blog on a regular basis right now. In fact, I’m not sure I’m good at anything much right now except being a parent—and as hard as this adoption transition is, I must say that I think both Aaron and I are giving it our very best efforts, and it’s paying off.

Matthew is thriving in our family, which is so exciting to see. He’s starting to communicate more through verbal sounds (although no words yet), he has learned one sign, and he’s acting really attached to us.

And our big news: OUR BOY WALKS!

Until last week, he had been pulling himself up and “cruising” around the house. But then while at Holden Village, he took his first real stride. We were on the deck of the snack bar celebrating our friend Julie’s 9th birthday (Julie and her extended family, the Petersens, were at Holden with our whole Eklund family). My dad (whom the kids call “Bapa”) was sitting on the deck playing songs on his guitar, and Matthew just TOOK OFF. He walked all the way across the deck, then back again.

And now the walking man walks. He walks everywhere. He has a freedom he didn’t before, and he’s taking full advantage of it. And I must say, I don’t feel one ounce of regret. I’m just so happy when he reaches each milestone, and I’m grateful that he’s learning so quickly. It’s wonderful to see.

That’s our good news. Our good/hard news is that Matthew’s lip and nose repair surgery is next week Thursday (August 16). It’s good news because it’s the first step in his cleft repair, something that’s been part of the bargain all along. But it’s hard for us, at least hard for me, because next week my baby will go under general anesthesia and be on an operating table for three hours while a surgeon recreates his face. We LOVE our surgeon—Dr. Tse—he has an amazingly steady hand and a very kind bedside manor. We feel very blessed to be in such good hands at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

But it also dawned on me today that we are in the last few days of knowing Matthew with the face he has now. His appearance will be permanently altered after next Thursday. And even though that’s a good thing in many ways, we’ve come to love and know intimately the little boy who has become part of our family. And we’ll miss his sweet lips and his smile as we see them now.

I’ll try to write more when surgery gets closer and also keep readers updated in the days during and after surgery. In the meantime, enjoy some shots of our adorable boy, including a video of him walking!

Matthew riding with Daddy in the backpack at Holden Village

Silly-faced boy.

There's that beautiful smile!

Funny family shot.

And some more funny Russell boy faces.

The kids playing at home.

Love that beautiful smile.

And lastly, above, here's Matthew taking some steps at home!