Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A New Parish

Last Wednesday, my family and I did something that was very difficult, while at the same time the decision to do so came very easily.  After fourteen years, we changed parishes.  It was sad because of the things that we were leaving behind but it was easy for a couple of reasons.  We have so much to gain by changing and so much to lose if we did not.

Leaving after fourteen years in one place leaves me with a lot of sadness.   We leave behind a lot of memories and a lot of friends.

It was at my old parish that I was confirmed as an adult on Pentecost by the parish priest.    My wife, Abby, and I had been married outside of the church so during this same time period of "reversion" we had our marriage blessed there.   Abby had been raised in the Methodist tradition but she went through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and was welcomed into the Catholic church there at Easter Vigil in 2000.

My children, the biggest reason for my "reversion," received their sacraments there.  They were baptized and received their first communion.  My oldest was confirmed by Bishop Finn there.

I've spent hundreds of hours ministering and catechizing teens there.   I spent so much time in that church teaching kids about their faith.  I spent the night there several times for lock-ins.  I remember gathering there before going on retreats, canoe trips or mission trips.   My family and I had many laughs in the parish hall during different dinners, donuts after mass or trivia contests.

We will miss the friends we leave behind.  There are so many good parishioners there.  They are good, holy people that we love very dearly.

We will be losing a lot by leaving but we have so much to gain.

I love going to mass at my new parish.  It is so very reverent.   There is an attitude there that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.   I do not get the feeling that the mass is a show or a production like I did at my former parish.   I trust that, liturgically, everything will be done according to the norms and regulations set forth by the Church and not according to what the priest or liturgist thinks.

We feel welcome at our new parish.   Sadly, due to conflicts I had with our former parish priest and members of the parish staff, I did not feel that my family or I were welcome at our old parish.   I did not feel comfortable with the looks and attitudes I received by certain people there.  I want to reiterate---the parishioners there were wonderful and the parishioners made me feel very loved.

Finally, I feel that my new parish is faithful to all of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I feel that my family and I will be spiritually fed, spiritually challenged and spiritually defended.  I did not feel this way at my former parish and as the spiritual head of my household, I have a responsibility to ensure that they are not left spiritually hungry or vulnerable.

It really saddens me to leave.   We are leaving so much behind.  But it's what we feel we have to do.    I am excited about the change.  I can't tell you how much I love my new parish, priests and fellow parishioners (including my sister).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Prayer Works

My son, Max, has been suffering from horrible migraines since about last November.  At first we thought he was simply ill with some bug.  First it was strep and then mono.  He was given antibiotics and given time to recover.    After about a month, we went to Urgent Care and they diagnosed him with migraines and stated the nausea was due to the headaches and referred us to Infectious Disease (because of enlarged lymph nodes) and neurology.  After about another month with no improvement we were sent to the Ear Nose and Throat specialist who had an MRI done.  The MRI revealed a large tumor right under his left jaw and we were referred to other doctors and the decision to take the tumor out was made.
Max's tumor

I don't think I really expressed to people how scared I was.  I was scared as heck.  The tumor was intertwined with a bunch of nerves right near his carotid artery.  We had to have the surgery scheduled at the University of Kansas Medical Center instead of Children's Mercy Hospital so that a vascular surgeon could be on stand-by.  I had the worst case scenario's constantly in my head.  The only reason I was not in the fetal position and crying was because of the facade I put on for Max and Abby so that they would not be afraid.

So, I did the only thing I could do.  I asked people for prayers.  I asked priest friends for prayers.  I let the parish know.  I posted updates on Facebook which seemed to bring in comforting prayers.   The St. Brigid Needlework Group at Holy Family even made Max a prayer shawl.  I expect there were hundred's of people praying for Max.  People who have never met Max and probably never will.  

Finally, the day of the surgery came.  I was a nervous wreck wondering what the day would bring.   We got Max checked in and went to the surgical section of the hospital.  Max changed out of his clothes and into a hospital gown.  We met with nurses and doctors---who were all very wonderful people.   The anesthesiologist was wearing a cross necklace---which as silly as it sounds---was comforting.  We were told that the surgery was scheduled for four hours but that it could be five or six hours before he was actually out.   They started giving Max an IV and I was hoping they had a sedative for me.

We were taken out to the waiting room and given numbers.  One number was so that we could keep track on a monitor where Max was---pre-op, in surgery, post op.  Another number was on a sticker so that nurses could come out and give us updates.  We were told that Max's doctor would probably come out every couple hours to updates us also.  So we sat down for the long haul.  I had food and drink so that I would wouldn't have to leave.  I had my cell phone with charger.  I even brought the big-guns---my lap top.  I could have been there for days only having to leave for the bathroom.
The monitor with which kept us informed

We watched the monitor like a hawk.   Waiting for Max's number--406388--to come around.   Finally, it changed and said "In Operating."  This was going to be a long day.  It was nerve racking.  Occasionally nurses would come out, calling numbers and giving families updates.  I remember one young lady left crying with the nurse grabbing her belongings.  

At about 9:30--a couple of hours into the surgery, Dr. Francis (don't think she is any relation to Pope Francis) came into the room and had us step out into the hallway.   I was expecting her to tell me and update about how the surgery was going.  In fact, they were done.  It only took two hours.  The tumor was connected to a nerve in two places and came out very easily.   The surgery could not have gone any better.

The first thing I could think of was that prayers work.  The second was, "Oh crap, I left my wallet on the table in the waiting room.  I need to go get it!"   AFTER I got my wallet, all I could think about was how many people had been praying for Max and not only had everything got well, not only was my boy okay, but surgery was quick and easy.  It did not take 4-6 hours.  Heck, I had barely started my Three Stooges movie!

Pathology later revealed that the tumor was a neural sheath schwannoma---which is benign and non-cancerous.  Max is recovering well a week later.  It'll be seen if the tumor was the cause of his migraines but I think we have medication that has been keeping them in-line.
Max recovering--prayer shawl at his feet

Prayers work.  I didn't have any doubt that they worked before the surgery.  That wasn't the root of my fear.  My fear was that God's will was different than my own.  I am so thankful for God and for all the people praying for Max.   But now, I believe God has given me more time with my boy to help form him into a saint----which will take more prayers so keep them coming please!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Max Update

This update is several days in the waiting---I've been slacking.

Friday night, after I had gone home to sleep, they moved Max down to pediatric ICU.  The room was much nicer than the one we had up in the burn unit.  It was darker, nicer designed, and fortunately for Abby, it had a fold out couch she could sleep on and a bathroom in the room so she did not have to actually leave the unit.  It was a much nicer stay than I had the night before.

I can't complain because she let me go home to sleep and sleep I did.  I went to bed about 9:30 and woke up 11 hours later.   I scurried and picked up breakfast and ran down to the hospital.

I was there for about an hour and the doctor came in and checked Max out.  He removed his drain and said he was good to go home.  The nurse came in, gave us our discharge paperwork and we went home.

Max was happy to be home.  The main problem he has been facing is that the Tylenol 3 prescription that they gave him was in liquid form and it evidently tastes like poop (Abby won't let me sample any). Because it tastes like poop, Max won't take it.  He would rather suffer for hours on end having a neck that hurts and down a shot of medicine.

Other than that (like constant misery isn't so bad) things have been going well.   He has a doctor's appointment today so we will update after that.

The Grace Card

The other night I was watching a movie called "The Grace Card"--a faith based movie filmed by several churches in the Memphis, TN area.  The movie is intended to show the healing power of forgiveness and God's grace.  The Holy Spirit can use the same vehicle to pass different message onto different people.   For me, I took that I should trust in God.  The only problem was---I was having difficulty trusting in God until Thursday morning.

The movie deals with a Memphis Police officer, Mac McDonald, who's 4 year old son was killed after being struck by a car driven by a fleeing felon.    Mac lives the next 17 years as a very angry man, becoming racist and having problems with his wife and other son.  He is partnered up with Sam Wright, who is also a part time pastor.   The partnership causes Wright to question his ministry.

The part of the movie that spoke to me was Mac's--especially the way he dealt with the death of his son and the way he dealt with his other son.   Mac had totally pushed God out of his life.  Mac had actually pushed everyone out of his life and was about to lose his family and any friends he had.  He had totally lost trust in God and he was put into a position where it was very difficult to turn that around.   It wasn't until he allowed himself to trust God that things started to turn around.

The reason this movie was such a punch in the gut was because Mac was dealing with the loss of his sons---one who died as an infant and the other who he did not have a good relationship with.   At the time that I watched the movie, I had a great fear of losing my own son.   My thirteen year old son, Max, was having surgery in a few days.  I did not let anyone know this but the surgery scared me to death.  It was to remove a tumor from his neck that was near his jugular.  His doctor's did not make it out to be a real risky surgery but that did not matter.  The thought of losing Max on the operating table was a very real thought in my head and it scared the heck out of me.

I believe that the only thing that kept me sane the past several weeks was my trust in God.  Although, I have to admit, at the time it did not feel like I had much trust in Him.  After all, one would think that if they trusted God they would not have fear of loss.

In the end, everything ended well.   Surgery went fantastic and Max is doing well.  And I did not go crazy from the fear that was in my head.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Surgery Update #3

There was no room in the pediatric ICU unit, which is where Max needed to be because he has a drain in his neck so they moved him up to the burn unit-- which is an ICU Unit with the intent to move him down to the PICU if a bed became available but it never did.

Max did pretty well. Some really good times and other bad times when he was in a lot of pain. His Grandma Mary stayed until about 2 and his Grandma Dayle and Aunt Sara stayed for a couple more hours.

His Aunt Maggie came down and came into the room wearing a paper gown and rubber gloves saying they made her pour them on when she come into the unit. I don't think the nurse who saw her understood she wasn't going to a burn patient.

She stayed with Max while Abby and I went across the street to Jazz for dinner. Evidently I was the first person in 20 years to ever ask for the beans and rice with Huey, Dewy and Louis sausage.

We got back to the hospital and we were going to stay a few hours before going back to the hotel while Max slept but he started complaining about feeling all numb and having splotches. Evidently he was having an allergic reaction to something and was freaking out a little. Some Benadryl cleared it up but at that point I didn't feel comfortable leaving him there alone so I sent Abby to the hotel to sleep and shower and I stayed with Max overnight.

Trying to sleep in a chair wasn't easy but I managed for several hours. Trying to sleep in a burn unit wasn't nice either. There is a lot of pain there and people who need prayers.

Abby got to hotel about 730 and switched places with me. I went back to to hotel and got breakfast a couple hours of sleep and a shower. Abby called and said Max is going to have to stay another night because his drain is draining more fluids than they would like. But he is being moved to the pediatric wing sometime today.

So that's where we are now. Again, I'm very appreciative of everyone prayers. I know they've worked. Even if he won't admit it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Surgery Update #2

We just got word from Dr. Francis that Max is our of surgery.   She said he did very well.  The mass came out whole and was only connected to one nerve.   She said bleeding was at a minimum.   He will be moving up to ICU sometime this afternoon--it was already reserved because of the location of the tumor--but she acted like it wasn't really necessary.   He will be staying at least for 24 hours, maybe more--we will wait and see.

Right now we are just waiting for him to sober up to go back and see him in recovery---although, I think it would be kind of fun to see him all doped up.

Basically, everything went as well as can be expected.  I attribute that to everyone's prayers which I appreciate more than you know.  Thank you very much.

Surgery Update #1

Last night we spent the night at the Fairmont Inn off of Main St so we would be closer. Had dinner at Chipotle and spent some time visiting World Market. Getting Max to sleep was difficult.

The morning came quickly and we've gotten checked in. As we were going up to the surgery area we ran into my mom who made the trip down. Max was glad to see her even it was just for a moment.

We went upstairs to waiting room #1. They gave us stickers with a random number on it (#31) so that they give up updates. And a card with another number so we can see vague updates (scheduled, pre-surgery, in operating room, post surgery and patient to room) on a monitor.

We got called back and Max got changed into a gown, booties and a hair net. He got a chuckle because I was mooning me as I helped him tie the back.

We met the nurses, the anesthesiologist and surgeons. The anesthesiologist wouldn't give me any drugs so I can be sedated though. He was very comforting though and everyone seems great.

Finally, they took him out and we went back to waiting room #2. Sara and Dayle showed up a little bit later. The surgery is scheduled for four hours and as of 0815 hours he is still showing up on the monitor as pre-surgery. I'm surprised by the amount of surgeries that go on. The nurse said they have 100 scheduled for today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


My 13 year old son, Max is having surgery Thursday morning to remove a tumor from his neck.

Any and all prayers are appreciated.