Sunday, August 28, 2011

Watching Tangled with my big brother

it has got to be hard for an older sibling to understand what goes on in the day of a life like Ava. I mean sure Aohdan has been around her since birth, and he does love her and asks about her. But often it is as if there are two worlds co-existing together under one roof. Aohdan is battling challenges of his own when it comes to PDD-NOS (or high functioning autism), so he just sees that his little sis gets an awful lot of attention. But sometimes, just sometimes, he snuggles up next to her and their worlds come together in a beautiful way....


Praise and Worship

Ava loves praise and worship service, she always watches the band so intently.  This morning I looked up and Ava and our nurse were holding hands during the music service.  I just thought it was so sweet I couldn't resist taking a picture!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Medicaid is re-assessing our nursing hours

I'm not getting worried yet. But since the State of Ohio is basically broke, they are cutting back everywhere they can. So I get a call from Ava's CareStar Case Manager asking me all these questions regarding her condition, her daily cares, etc. So I ask her, "they aren't cutting our nursing hours are they?" And she informs me that they probably won't but since we are so 'heavy' on hours (well, YAH, we have a vent-dependant daughter) they 'scrutinize' us more closely than other cases. We've kept Ava out of the hospital for 3 years now. And I feel it is because we have such an awesome nursing staff who not only follow strict aseptic technique, but they also know Ava so well.

Just pray that with everything else going on they do not mess with our nursing hours. I don't think they will, but let me tell you if they try...I will fight like a mad woman. I feel like we've entered a new season in life. With Aohdan's autism diagnosis, and the upcoming fundraiser, it just feels like our life has taken on a new dynamic.

Blessings everyone!

Vicki

Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 River Car Rally Video

Need strength to carry out this fundraiser

So with everything going on with Aohdan's new autism diagnosis, my head has not been on fundraising...  I think the reason I feel so stressed is because Aohdan is due to start school so soon and it kinda takes priority over other things.  Then if he goes to Haugland's private school he will have to be driven to Marysville every morning.  I know things will work out, but from inside my world it looks very chaotic right now.

So as for fundraising, I'm not giving up on our goal of getting a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for Ava.  One thing about me, I am stubborn, I guess that can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the circumstances.  I had made by goal to start selling tickets and promoting by September 1st.  What I need the most right now are the following:

1.  People to sell raffle tickets
2.  People to pass out flyers to friends and local businesses
3.  Ask your church to sponsor the event

For #3, if there are any local churches that are willing to join in and help promote the fundraiser, I would be more than happy to come in person and talk about Ava and her story. 

So that's all for now I guess.  I am just trying to stay focused and on task. 

Love you all and God Bless!

Vicki

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dentist visit and blood draws



Well we took Ava took a dentist appt on Tuesday and her teeth look good, they just need to finish coming in!  They are all pretty much poked through, but several are resting right at the gumline.  The dentist explained that most kiddos encourage things along by chewing on toys and eating and such.  Since Ava can't do that she depends on us to give her gums stimulation with tooth brushing, gum massage, etc.  It just sucks because she has tooth pain A LOT, and I hate giving her tylenol and motrin all the time.  They want to see her every 6 months now for regular cleanings.

As for the blood draw, that ws horrible by the way.  They have to fill 2 pipets with capillary blood from her finger tip, so they 'milk' her finger for blood until they are full.  Ugghh..  Can you say big crocodile tears?  Poor baby.  So the results of this will tell us how much CO2 is in her blood, which will tell us what to do with her vent settings.  If her CO2 is low, which her pulmonologist suspects, it is likely due to her breathing too fast during the day and basically hyperventilating.  Which would explain why she allows the vent to breathe for her at night.  CO2 is your body's respiratory regulator, so if your CO2 is too low your breathing slows down because your body things there is too much oxygen..  Our bodies are amazing machines aren't they? 

So anyhoo, Ava is doing well.  Nothing major healthwise to report except her muscle tone continues to give her problems. 

I am busily working on fundraiser stuff so we can get that rolling.  I am so excited about the fundraiser, it's just been hard to focus with everything going on with Aohdan and his autism diagnosis.  Just gotta suck it up and keep on truckin! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just venting...

If any other special needs mom's are reading this pleeeease don't get offended.  I just need to vent a little.  For some reason I was visiting some of the old yahoo groups where I spent a lot of my time in the early days after Ava's birth.  There were a lot of new faces on there, lots of great inspiring stories.  One of the things that stuck out was a lot of kiddos nowadays are recieving these cooling treatments soon after birth.  Basically minimalizing the brain damage.  Ava's birth injury was pretty severe, no breathing, no heartbeat, apgars of 0-3-3 (1 min, 5 min, 15 min) after birth.  I read some stories of kids who experienced the same level of injury as she did, but are now only classified as 'mildly brain damaged' as they are learning to crawl, walk, talk, and eat, all of the things I PRAY Ava will do someday.  SHe just seems a lot more severe than a lot of these kids:(  Again, if any of those moms are reading this, do not misconstrue what I am saying as I am very happy for you!  Just sad that my baby girl struggles so much. 

Well, Goodnight all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trying so hard!

This is Ava working with her Physical Therapist on a special swing. Sweet baby, she was trying sooo hard.
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Enjoying Sunday Morning Service

Ava loves listening to our praise and worship band (who rock by the way) and always watches and listens intently while they play. Our Pastor even commented one time how much it blessed him to see her listening intently as he preached one day.
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Sleeping Angel...

I love to watch Ava when she sleeps. Often times I go in her room late at night, lean over her crib, and just look at her. Everything is silent except the steady 'breathing' sound of her ventilator. Sometimes she coos and sings in her sleep, as if she is entertaining Angels in her dreams.
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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser and Prize Raffle

The River Church will be hosting a spaghetti dinner and prize raffle on Saturday, October 15, 2011 from 3:30-7:30pmRaffle tickets are $10 each.  Each ticket is good for admittance into the all-you-can-eat speaghetti dinner and also gets you entered into the prize drawing.  If you cannot make it to the spaghetti dinner but would still like to participate in the fund raiser that is okay!  Simply purchase your raffle tickets, your name will still be entered into the prize raffle and you do not have to be present to win! 

How to purchase tickets:
In person at
The River, Church in a Barn
2419 State Route 42 North
Delaware, Ohio 43015

By mail:
Mail your chack made payable to Vicki Ballenger
(write Support Ava Fundraiser in memo section)
2419 State Route 42 North
Delaware, Ohio 43015

Or email:
vicki_ballenger@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Once again it has been way to long since my last update. There is lots and lots to share since, what, November? Gosh it has been awhile! Here goes...

AVA: All has been good with her. We made it through, yet another, cold and flu season without a hospitalization! The Docs tell me they don't have many trach patients that have managed to make it 2 years without an illness requiring an overnight stay. We absolutely feel extremely fortunate to have stayed out of the hospital. We also have a freegin awesome nursing staff who know Ava very well and watch her like a hawk! There are a couple things that have developed recently. #1, she is not growing. Literally. She has not grown an inch in over a year. She is the exact same weight and length that she was this time last year. So currently we are working with endocrinology and nutrition to come up with a plan to help her little body kick into gear. I know a lot of kiddos with her type of disability do not grow well, but no growth in a year? So we're digging into that mystery. #2, her little feet are turning in and dropping. No matter what we do we cannot keep it from happening. So we took her to see physical medicine, and they have approved her for botox treatments. Sounds wierd, I know, but botox has been used to treat spaticity in kiddos with CP with great results! So she is getting botox sometime in March. Keep her in your prayers for this procedure, both for minimal pain and for the procedure to correct her little feet!

AOHDAN: Aohdan is doing well! He is in pre-school and scheduled to start kindergarten this fall. He continues to be his funny, witty, and ornery self!

KENNY AND I: Kenny and I are doing well. I am scheduled to graduate from nursing school in June, and life is just...well...hectic right now. I am not sure of my plans once I graduate. I entered into nursing school with the lojg-term goal of getting my nursing license with Ava's disability in mind. We have an excellent nursing staff right now, and I really don't see things changing, so I have some decision to make. Continue my education on a part time basis and get some experience out in the field. Go back into the car business full time. Or just hang out and wait to see where God takes me. Kenny and I are also doing well. We are still renting the same house in Ashley. Though currnently it does not look very promising to purchase this home, I am hoping for a miracle. We definitely do not want to move again! But the two of us are doing really well! We make an effort to get out of the house and go on 'dates.' We also try once a month to go away somewhere for a night, just the two of us. We bought tickets to go and see Kirk Cameron's, 'Love worth fighting for.' It is a marriage conference for couples. It is great to go to marriage 'tune-ups!' Kenny and I have a Great marriage..and I want to keep it that way!! We actually try to go to at least (1) marriage-related event a year. We were told once (shortly after Ava's birth) that the divorce rate after a child death/major injury is like 80% within 5 years. Crazy huh?! We both decided that THAT is not an option for us! Besides, we're like peas and carrots=v)

Well, sorry if some of this kinda runs together! Haha! I made up my mind I was going to FINALLY update her caring bridge site, but typed really fast cuz I have clinicals tomorrow at 6:30am.

Thank you all for your continued prayers! God bless you all!           

Monday, November 8, 2010

So..people often ask me "How are things?" I always try to acknowledge the tough stuff but focus on the positive stuff and moving forward. The reality is, life is really hard right now. Kenny and I have very little income, we have a special-needs daughter, a 4 year old son who is having difficulty adjusting to pre-school, and I am in nursing school. So needless to say our plate is full. So that's the tough stuff. On the positive side, we are fairing very well despite our circumstances. I have said it before, and I'll say it again...God has blessed our family soooo much. Sure things are tough, but things are also blessed! I still struggle with missing my old career, missing the fast-pace (a different kind of fast pace), and I miss the independance I once had? I guess that's the word I'm looking for. I notice that these days I seek out solitude. I never used to do that before, I was always the social butterfly, always wanted people around me. Not so much now. I used to always hate going to lunch by myself, no I love that time to be alone with myself and my thoughts. I find myself growing in humbleness and humility, life will do that to you. I took so much for granted for so many years...I pray every day that I will never again take for granted my health, my family's health, our finances, the roof over our head.

I do not yet know what the future holds, I try to not worry about tomorrow and stay focused on today, you know, leave it in God's hands. It is hard thing to do for someone who for 15 years their life was focused around planning. Haha. Like for example, Kenny and I are renting a gorgeous house, and would love to buy it, but have no idea right now how that's going to happen. We both would love to think that this will be our home, but if it's not I am ok with it. Neither of us doubt God's ability to provide for our needs.

If you're reading this and you pray, this is what we currently need prayer for:
1). To make time for 'family time' in the midst of the chaos.
2). For Ava to remain healthy through the cold and flu season
3). For Kenny to remain healthy and strong as he takes on my duties and responsibilities.
4). For myself (Vicki) to have a peaceful heart and not let myself get bound up in worry
5). For wisdom in making decisions regarding finances, housing, etc.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to read our updates! We appreciate everyone's continued prayers and encourage you all to share this website with anyone experiencing a health concern, child or otherwise.

Thank you all and God bless!!!           

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today, for the first time, our baby girl GIGGLED!

I was tickling her neck and kissing her hands and out of nowhere, she smiled big and GIGGLED! We were sitting there with our Medicaid Waiver Case Manager (who I do not think was aware how big of a deal this was) and we were all discussing business (at least the nurses were--lol) and I was cuddling with Ava and the first time she did it I don't think it hit me. And then I looked at her and she still had this big, goofy smile on her face, so I started kissing her hands again, and she giggled AGAIN! 3 times in all--what an exciting day!

After it happened, I thought about it several times. Most parents love to hear their kids laugh, but with Ava, every 'first' has been painfully late and slow.

Heres a quick list of firsts for Ava:

11 days old: Opened her eyes
21 days old: Breathed on her own without a ventilator
12 Weeks: Cried for the first time (and it was so quiet it sounded like a tiny kitten mewing)
4 months old: Lifted her head unassisted
1 year: grabbed and held a toy
18 Months: The faintest hint of a smile
18-24 Months: Started to really coo and vocalize
20 Months: Rolled onto her side while getting her diaper changed
2 Years, 2 Months: Smiled and giggled at her mommy:)

So continue to pray for her development, each of these milestones are cherished! We're still waiting to her her wheelchair, but Columbus Medical has made us a gracious offer to lend us a KidCart (a type of wheelchair) until her Kemba comes in. So we're picking that up on wednesday.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh! Almost forgot to mention this. Ava has had a HORRIBLE time with her teeth. I have been told that kiddos with brain injuries often times do not get their teeth on time, if at all in some cases. Well, Ava is 2, and only has 4 on the bottom and 1 on top. Her poor little gums are so red and swollen and have been this way for months and months. I am seriously considering taking her to a pediatric dentist or a consult to see if they can do something to 'help' things along. SO if any of you reading this has any info that might help, please, send me an email to: vicki_ballenger@yahoo.com

Thanks!           

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Well, it is the end of February...almost 5 months since she was fitted for her wheelchair and STILL haven't gotten an approval from medicaid. Very frustrating! I mean they DID tell us it could be upwards of 5-6 months before we get her chair, but the people at the seating clininc really didn't think it would take that long and, from the looks of things, it may take MORE than 6 months:(

Another frustrating thing we're going through is therapy. PT (physical therapy) seems to be trucking along without a hitch, but OT (occupational therapy) and Speech, that's a WHOLE different story. We have an OT, but there has been some tension due to us not being able to get the proper equipment to fit Ava's current needs. We're in kind of a catch-22 if you will, because medicaid won't pay for it (or they'll make us take it to the state level) and we definitely cannot afford it. Some of the 'special needs toys' are hundreds of $$. We're doing okay right now, since Ava is on a vent and will probably require home-based therapy for some years to come, but one day we will probably have to take her to a therapy place 2-3x a week, something that makes me cringe to think about.

Another disturbing thing that has started, is that Ava has begun to twitch. Her RN consulted with neurology and we think that she has simply outgrown her keppra dosage, so we made some adjustments, but just keep her in your prayers.

For those of you who do not talk to us on a regular basis and may only get updates via this website, here's an overview:

Ava is now 2 years old, she turned 2 in December. She is on 24-hour ventilator support, though she actually breathes well off the vent. We are able to take her off for a couple hours a day and allow her freedom from all the 'tubes.' She currently has 3 full times nurses who are like her 2nd, 3rd and 4th mommies:) We really are so blessed to have such a wonderful nursing staff, that has been a journey in itself let me tell you!

As for Aohdan, he is now 4 years old, finally potty trained and in pre-school 3x a week. He is smart as a whip but we still battle his mouthiness and defiant behavior. Though I am told that he really is just a normal 4 year old boy who has learned how to adapt to having a little sister who gets ALOT if attention.

Kenny and I are doing really well. I am a full time nursing student, and should graduate in the spring with my initial Practical Nursing License. This will enable me to earn an income working in home health and, therefore, give me the freedom to continue my pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I still shake my head at where our lives are now. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, but if you would've told me 10 years ago that at the age of 36 I would be a full time college student and have a daughter with CP, I would've looked at you like you were crazy. Funny thing is, I remember for weeks and months after Ava's birth I would lay in bed begging, pleading and praying for the Lord to take this burden from us, from me. I couldn't bear the thought of what was happening. I can now say, without a second thought....I wouldn't change it. It has been such a wonderful ride, and the Lord has revealed Himself to our family and blessed us so, so much. I remember my mom would tell me stories about what the Lord had done in her life, and I was too stupid and self-centered, and focused on myself to care about what God had for my life. How I wish I could just have lunch with her one time, I would love to share with her that she was SO RIGHT! I never saw my mom happier than in the 10 years she was battling cancer! Seriously. The week before she died, she had this glow on her face and a smile that would not quit, and here I was sitting by her bedside bawling my eyes out and asking her, how she could be smiling. She knew where she was going, she told me, "I going to be with my Jesus." I don't mean to talk about a sad time, but seriously anyone around my mom will tell you that she was the one comforting all of us during her battle. I mention thid because a lot of times people will still look at me with pity, or talk about Ava like she is such a burden and 'how do we do it.' Ava is disabled, no doubt about it. We have long ago accepted whatever her little life is. If she never walks, talks, or gets off the vent, we will still cherish the time we have with her. We continue to pray for her complete healing. But we do not know what God's Will for her life is. We do not know how He plans to use this situation, though we have already seen so many great things come out of all this.

I'll write more soon. But I do want to ask all of you to keep a few things in your prayers:

#1: Pray for Ava's continued healing, always pray for this
#2: Pray that we get the equipment she needs for OT & PT, (also for her wheelchair)
#3: Pray for guidance on our future housing plans. Kenny and I signed another year lease on our current home, but with our recent bankruptsy, we need serious guidance on how to get approved on another home in the near future
#4: and finally, Pray for our marriage to remain first priority. Pray specifically for us to keep our marriage focused on God and His will for our lives, pray against arguing and fussing, pray for closeness and oneness to remain.

Thank you all and God Bless!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Just a quick update, not a WHOLE lot going on really. Which is usually a good thing--Haha!! Ava turned 2 on December 31. It was a bittersweet day for me. Happy that our baby girl made it to her 2nd birthday, generally, in good health. But bitter because the entire day of her birthday I battled horrible memories from the day she was born. To some extent the memories have softened, but there are times I remember every single detail of that night.

Ava is, in a lot of ways, experiencing the 'terrible 2's.' It may sound funny to think of a child that cannot walk or talk, but it is true. She loves to be snuggled and played with and has figured out ways to get attention. One of her biggest tools is her ventilator. The vent goes off for many reasons, but the biggest 2 are 'high pressure' and 'disconnect.' Ava has learned how to set of the high pressure alarm by exhaling really hard. It sounds like she is going, "HHMMPPFF!" She has also learned that if she pulls the valves on her circuit open or pull the actual vent off her trach port, it will alarm. And guess what? When a vent alarns, someone comes running:) Sometimes you'll go running into her room and she's holding onto the circuit (right next to the port that is now opened) and it almost looks like she's smiling at you! The nurses can always tell when I've had a rough night with her because they'll come on shift in the morning and they'll find medical tape all over her vent circuit. it is from me taping shut her ports, and taping the circuit joints together. I've even had to put tape on g-tube before because she like to pull on it. Crazy kid!!! She continues to amaze me and really helps to continually mature me through this experience. 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Just Need To Vent...
We live in Central Ohio, and found out that a town very close to us (Mt Vernon) put out the Nativity Scene and someone complained, so the ACLU told them to take it down or there would be trouble. Now I may not have All the facts, but that is irrellevent. Some God-Hating organization is running our country and telling us how & when we can worship!!!

Bottom line is this...

There would not BE a Christmas without Jesus Christ.

There would be no stories of Saint Nicholas, unless Jesus had been born....

There would be no Christmas trees....

No Christmas presents...

SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME TO UNDERSTAND HOW an organization like the ACLU, and anyone who stands against Christ, is allowed to gain ground on issues like this???

How is it that OUR BELOVED COUNTRY, whose Declaration of Independance was signed by CHRISTIAN men, has allowed this to happen!

It makes me so sad to listen and see these things take place. But we need to STAND UP!! This is the United States of America! It makes me downright ANGRY that the Lord has stood guard over our country for so many years, the most prosporous nation in the world, and THIS is how we thank Him?!?!

STAND UP CHURCH! MAKE A STAND! DON'T LET SOME ORGANIZATION that is probably run by an Aethiest or Agnostic TELL US HOW AND WHEN WE CAN WORSHIP THE LORD THAT HAS BLESSED OUR COUNTRY!! 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I've been wanting to tell this story for some time now...

Ok so first I must say that this story actually happened last
year during our 'Year of Hell' which I will tell at a later time. This story is just one of those that you will remember for years to come, and it will make you LAUGH OUT LOUD I promise! So let me set the stage for you...

It is the fall of 2008, and we have just brought Ava home from [yet another] 3 month long hospital stay. She has added a trach and a vent to her list of 'stuff' now and her daily cares have just become a LOT more complicated. So due to her 'extensive' (as the medical world calls it) daily routines, Medicaid graciously increased her nursing hours, so I have been interviewing nurses for the past several weeks, with no luck. I had been working with 2 different agencies and interviewed and/or oriented at least 5 nurses, all of whom did not work out for one reason or other. One girl was very large and had a hard time manuvering among all Ava's stuff, another girl kept forgetting to turn on Ava's feeds at night, another girl disconnected her vent circuit to fill her humidifier with water and was oblivious to her pulse-ox going off until her oxygen level dropped to 67 (seriously) and I literally had to grab the circuit out of her hand and vigorously rub Ava's chest while holding the ambu-bag in my other hand. THAT was the last straw! I officially turned into an obsessive person after that. A few days after the last scary incident, the agency called with [yet another] hopeful candidate, and I realized that I had to be at my part-time job early the morning she was coming to orient. So I made sure my husband had his alarm set and gave him strict instructions to take his time and show the new nurse EVERYTHING about the vent and NOT to disconnect her from it if she was asleep! I am quite certain I lectured Kenny way longer than I should have, but what can I say, I was a nervous wreck to leave her in the hands of a strange nurse after what we had experienced thus far. So we go to bed that night and, as usual, my dear Husband lays his sweat pants and sweat shirt beside the bed so they are within close reach in case he needs to get dressed in a hurry right?

So I get up the next morning for work. It is still at least 2 hours before the new nurse is due to show up. I gently rub Kenny on the forehead to wake him up. He opens up one eye and looks at me...

"Hey babe?"
"Yes..(mumbling and very tired)"
"I'm leaving ok?"
"Ok...."
"Make sure you show the new nurse everything about the vent ok?"
"Ok...."
"Hey babe are you awake enough to understand me?"
"Hmm?...."
"Kenny. (more loudly than before) Are you hearing me?"
"Yes, yes... I hear ya I hear ya"
"Ok. Well I love you. Bye. Is your alarm set?"
"Yes Vicki."
"[chuckling] Ok, bye."

So I go to work, and arrive home about 8 hours later to find Kenny working on something in the garage. Typical stuff. I ask him how the new nurse is, and he shrugs and says, 'She's alright. We should keep looking, but she's ok for now." So I walk into the house through the back door and towards Ava's area. I am greeted [very shyly] by a sweet, middle aged woman who is having a hard time looking at me in the face. I notice this right away, and am trying to figure out why she won't look at me. So I try for about 10 more minutes to make small talk with her (which I do with every new nurse) and she doesn't seem very talkative. So I change out of my work clothes and decide to go hang out with Kenny in the garage for a little bit and enjoy the fall weather.

"So what did you think?" Kenny asks me.
"She's ok," I replied, "not very talkative. She seemed almost scared, I don't know, she wouldn't look me in the face."

Kenny laughs and proceeds to tell me that they had an interesting introduction that morning.

"What do you mean by 'interesting introduction? " I said.

He tells me that some time after I left for work he must have accidentally shut off his alarm, or changed the time something. He said he fell back asleep and next thing he knew he was awoken by the sound of Ava's vent going off telling him it had disconnected, AND the sound of someone pounding on the front door...as if they had been pounding for awhile. So, he continues, he had to make a quick decision. Check Ava's vent or answer the door. So he hurredly pulled on his pants and hurries over, yanks the front door open, hollers at the new nurse to come on in, and runs over to Ava's vent to see what is going on. He said the nurse followed him to Ava's bedside, and watched as he held his pants up with one hand and looked for the vent circuit disconnect with the other hand. After he makes sure Ava is ok, he dutifully takes at least 10 minutes, maybe 20 he says, and shows her everything he can remember about the vent and Ava's specific needs, etc. He again mentioned that he was frustrated while he was 'teaching' her because he couldn't figure out why his pants didn't want to stay up, and had to continually reach down and catch them as they, repeatedly, tried to fall off. He said first he tried holding them up from the side, then the back, then the front. he said the nurse kept glancing down, and was nervously asking him questions as he went through everything.

He continued...After showing her as much as he could remember, he said he had to practically run to the bathroom, as most people have to 'relieve' themselves shortly after rising and he had not done that yet. So off to the bathroom he goes, closes the door, looks down, and realized in hurrying to get dressed, he was wearing his sweatSHIRT as pants! He said from trying to keep them on, the cuff was clear up to his knees, and the hood, was conveniently hanging in front.

So here was this poor nurse, who had never met us before, is greeted by a swinging door and a voice yelling, "Come on in." Only to see a man standing there with his legs stuck through the arms of a sweatshirt. Is it any wonder she told the agency she didn't feel right coming back? Haha! We have had many, many laughs over that one. Good thing Kenny is good natured, because he has been ribbed about that one A LOT!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ever have a song whose lyrics keep running through your head and really touch your soul? When my mom was dying of cancer, I remember listening to Josh Turner's song, Long Black Train, and the phrase that kept running through my mind, "Cause you know there's Victoryyyyyy in the Lord I say, Victoryyyy in the Loooord. Cling to the Father and His Holyyyy name..." When I get stressed I drive, anywhere...and usually listen to music very loud. So I put a lot of miles on my car in 2003 when we were losing Mom....

I told you that story to tell you this one.....

So all of you know Ava's story, and her diagnosis [which] according to the medical world is not good. But I HAVE to rest in the Lord and trust her to Him. He has seen us through so much to this point. {Going of on a rabbit trail aren't I?} So Ava had to go in this to Children's Hospital last night to have ear tubes put in for her multiple ear infections. Since she has never had her vision and hearing 'officially' tested, they offered to do both while she was under sedation. So I agreed, I mean why not get it all done at once right? I knew in my heart, long ago, that her vision and hearing were probably impaired, so I was prepared for bad news.

So I spent the night with her at the hospital last night and, as always, she was happiest when she was laying on my chest, snuggled as close as she could get, and then I hear her start making sucking sounds, which [in her world] is a sign of great contentment. So I did not get much sleep last night because she wanted held, and besides, the couches in patient rooms don't exactly come with memory foam, so I didn't exactly get restful sleep last night. So about 6am this morning, I feel a 'tap tap' on my shoulder, and I turn around [with I guarantee the WORST case of bed head ever] and I see Dr. Kong, Ava's surgeon standing there smiling at me. Such an awesome guy, he did her trach surgery last year also. He always makes a point of coming to see us beforehand. He spoke to me briefly about the procedure, asked if I had any questions, and told me if all went well we could take her home a few hours after she came out of recovery. So I thanked him, shook his hand, and left the hospital so I could get to class on time, which was all the way in Marion--about an hour + away.

So I decide to stop and have a quick breakfast, and get back on the road and I get a call from Dr. Kong. He tells me that Ava is already out of surgery and is doing well. Awesome! He continues to tell me that they performed a brain stem hearing test while she was under sedation and that is appeared her auditory nerve received the signal, but it was not registering in her brain stem. So they did not believe she was able to hear at all. [I brace myself] He continued...They also tested her vision and, although they cannot know for sure, her optic nerve was sluggish and pale and they do not believe she can see either. He pauses and then tells me he is sorry to have to deliver this type of news after an, otherwise, successful procedure. I assure him it is not surprising news and I knew her vision and hearing were impaired to some degree. So I hang up.... By this time I am on St Rt 23 heading to Marion and my mind starts thinking, her brain cannot control her muscles, and now I find out she cannot hear OR see. My heart breaks all over again thinking about this sweet precious child trapped inside a body that doesn't work like it should. I try to shove the thoughts out of my head but they won't leave. I think of all she has been through, all We've been through. So I reach over and turn on the radio [my cure for everything, driving and music--haha] and what do I hear? "But you know there's victoryyyyy in the Lord I sayyyyy, Victoryyyy in the Lord. Cling to the Father and His Holy name..." All the way up 23 to school, I am wiping away tears and singing along with the music. Thank you Lord. Thank you for reminding me [yet again] that You are in control.           

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lots and lots going on! Before I get into Ava's new updates, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our Aohdan who turned 4 years old on Veteran's Day! We took him to Pizza Hut to celebrate--he had a blast! So hard to believe he is 4 years old already--my goodness! And such a little man he is! He is so sweet and so caring, such a joy to be around! Mommy & Daddy love you little man!

As for Ava...she was fitted for her new wheelchair on thursday, and I was kinda bummed when they said it could take up to 5 months to get it:( Bummer! I am hoping they are wrong and it comes sooner! I talked to a friend of mine who was told the same thing and hers came in 8 weeks--so I hope that we get it sooner! We also took her to Audiology the same day to get her hearing checked and found out that, yet again, she has fluid behind her ear drums, so we have decided to get tubes put in her her ears. I hate doing surgery, but Kenny and I both agreed this is a good decision for her, and she has had soooo many ear infections--poor baby! So she goes into Children's this coming monday night, to be admitted, and her surgery is 7am tuesday morning. THEN, I have exams tuesday afternoon, exams wednesday afternoon, and Kenny and I are leaving thursday to GET OUT OF DODGE! WOOT WOOT! I cannot wait! So I am just telling everyone right now---we will not be answering our cell phone! Lol! Love ya'll but we REALLY need a break!

Kenny and I are doing well, still just taking things day by day, week by week. We have a great nursing staff now, and (hopefully) we won't have to deal with any staffing issues for awhile now. School is going well for me, although juggling everything have been tough to say the least; full time student, leading a workout group 3x a week, organizing Ava's stuff. It sounds like a lot, but it's really not as bad as it might sound. I talk to other moms and sometimes wonder how THEY do it, but life is really good, God has blessed us in so many ways I cannot begin to count. He placed us in a beautiful home, He has made a way [financially] for us to survive, He has protected, He has brought people into our lives to help us along. I think sometimes of the Israelites, wondering in the desert, complaining for various reasons, and God always came through. I catch myself sometimes getting grumpy, complaining, worrying about money and various things, then I have to stop and remind myself, "You know, God has come through every. single. time." It really is So true.

So back to updates....In December Kenny and I are going to Weekend oto Remember, it is a marriage conference that comes to Columbus every year (usually December) and we had such a great time last year that we decided to go again this year. It is Dec 11-13. Also, if anyone wants to stop and pay her a visit, we are having a birthday party for Ava early on December 31st. Just an informal gathering to give everyone a chance to see her.

I hope everyone is doing well and, again, thank you all for the well wishes!           

Friday, October 30, 2009

IF YOU LIVE IN MORROW COUNTY OHIO - VOTE FOR THE WHETSTONE/DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITY LEVY!!!
And here is why...

1st of all it will cost the average household approx $28.45 A YEAR!!! And let me tell you who it would benefit....kids like our baby girl Ava! This levy would put $650,000 into the Morrow County budget SPECIFICALLY for special needs programs that will directly benefit kids like Ava. This program would pay for a speech therapist(s) that we DESPARATELY need! Most people think of speech therapists as not such a big deal, but let me tell you that for a child like Ava, a speech therapist plays a fundemental role in helping her learn to EAT! And we have a very small window of opportunity to get as much of her oral skills back as we can. We need to get her as much early intervention by age 5 as we possibly can. We have not had a speech therapist since moving from Licking County in Feb...there are none!

As of right now we are being forced to face the fact that we will have to end up driving her to Children's Hospital in Downtown Columbus 2x weekly. And taking a kid with a trach & vent into a hospital in the middle of old & flu season? It is like playing Russian Roilette with her respiratory system

So if you know of anyone who lives in Morrow County, pleeeeease ask them to vote YES for the LEVY! It is very little money, and the benefits faaar outweigh the costs.

Thank you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hmmmm...I think God is trying to tell me something. Over the past couple of years, I have had so many people come to me and mention how I should write a book about our...ummm...journey? I guess as good a word as any for the past couple of years. At first I just shrugged it off, then another couple people would make the comment. And it's cooled off for several months, no one has mentioned the book thing for awhile. So then I am sitting at Perkins the other day with a lady I go to college with, and out of nowhere she goes, "Have you ever considered writing a book?" I just stared at her. So just how DOES someone go about writing a book? Haha! I have always stood on faith that God uses EVERY hard circumstance for some good. And if our journey can help other, I am absolutely a willing participant....I just don't know where to start.

Then again, if God wants me to write a book, I am QUITE certain He will figure out a way for it to happen! Lol!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hey Everyone! Lots to update you all about regarding Ava:) So let's begin with... Ava is coming up on 2 years old in 2 MONTHS! It is so hard to believe that a little under 2 years ago we were going through the toughest trial of our lives and now we are on the other side looking back through different eyes!

So Ava has had a lot of clinics and check ups lately...and still more to come! We have struggled for months to get a group of nurses dedicated to our case and getting everyone happy with their hours...oh what a learning experience it has been let me tell ya! So anyhoo, on with Ava updates. Comparing her with her first 6 months of life--what an incredible difference! She fought so hard to breathe and live her first 6 months of life, that I don't think her little body had a chance to do any 'developing' or so to speak. Her therapists have been working with her for months on, what seems to be, very basic things...like sitting up...reaching for toys...things that seem so easy to you and me ya know? But her little brain was not making the connection for a longggg time. So after almost 2 years, she is sitting up, basically, on her own with a little support. She has a chair called a 'Bumbo' seat that giver her a little extra support from behind, but she holds her own and it is so COOL to see it! I've got a picture so I'll try to get it posted:) She still have a trach and is still on the vent (a lot of people ask me about that so I thought I'd just answer that up front) but she breaths very well when we take her off the vent, we just gotta watch that she doesnt get too thick (meaning her lung secretions) or that she doesn't trick us and fall asleep off the vent, since she doesn't breathe real well off the vent:)

As far as other things, she is still waiting patiently to get into audioology and opthamology so we know where her hearing and vision are. She IS, however, finally getting into a seating clinic this November on the 12th, to get fitted for a custom wheelchair that will not only conform to her size and support needs, but it will also enable us to be SOOO much more mobile with her! She doesn't get out much except for clinics and such. I wish we did get her out more, but it is just very hard. So getting her chair is a very, very exciting thing for us. And I believe we are going to be getting a stander as well! the stander will allow us to take advantage of her willingness to put weight on her feet and legs and allow her to enjoy standing--Yay!! So back to her wheelchair, this custom wheelchair has nifty little custom 'cubby holes' for all her equipment, so we can just strap her in, put her equipment on the back and underneath, and OFF WE GO! Sooooo much easier than what we go through now. one person makes 2-3 trips out to the car to carry all her 'stuff' then we go back and carry her out...ugghh! It IS tasking but we do it. Yay for a wheelchair coming soon! The next thing I need to figure out is a van. We HAVE a van, but it is older and have unknown mileage. It SAYS 140,000, but since we bought it with unknown miles it is hard to say. My wonderful hubby IS an awesome mechanic and, as he puts it, as long as they sell parts fot it, he can keep it on the road. My challenge is this....medicaid will PAY for a wheelchair lift, which is approx $8-10,000 +/-, so I am having a hard time justifying putting a $10,000 lift into a $2,000 van, not that I mind about the van so much, but medicaid will only put a lift in about once every 5-7 years, and I am just not sure if THIS is the van I want to put it in. Decisions, decisions. So I am pondering holding a fund raiser to help us buy a new or newer van (either one I am NOT picky). It would just be sooo nice to have a vehicle with a lift it would make taking her places an absolute BREEZE! So anyhoo, that's been on my brain lately...

I'll post more in a few days. And again, sorry for the inactivity this past summer, it's just been so crazy! I am in school full time, and we are JUST NOW getting to a point where I can plan ahead for things and know that we're going to have nursing coverage. In fact, Kenny and I are making plans to get away for a few days the 3rd week in November, and this will be the FIRST time we have gone away by ouirselves since our HONEYMOON! So I am very excited to say the very least! So again, I'll update more very soon everyone! And THANK YOU all for everything!
Vicki

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Before I forget, I have 2 sites running now (simultaneously). I have this CaringBridge site and I also now have a Blog; the address is www.avaballenger.blogspot.com . I made the decision to start a blog because it allows more contect (i.e. videos, music, etc) and I am finding it a little more use friendly. I will continue to keep updating the CaringBridge site, so no worries for all of you that enjoy checking on Ava's progress. I just wanted to let everyone know, because the blog has some really cute videos of Aohdan singing and such.

Okay, here goes the updates, there's been a lot happening. Ava is REALLY doing well! She has been weaned off of Phenobarb (for seizures) and Digoxin (for rapid heart beat). Both of these meds had a sedative effect and being off of them, along with just overall improving, it's been a lot of fun to see her little 'antics.' First of all, she is 18 months old, so even though she may not be able to perform the 'typical' tasks of an 18 month old, she sure tries! Haha! She throws tantrums, she has hands everywhere when you're trying to do her daily cares, she is sitting up (in a special chair of course), she is making more and more noises and distinctive coos everyday, she will STAND supported against you--she really loved this, and she's really aware of her surroundings. If I come into the house and stop and talk to the nurse and don't go over and talk to her, oh it's all over, she's fussin and throwin a fit until I come pick her up.

I have a bunch of new pics I need to post, hopefully I'll get that done yet this week.

*Aohdan* Aohdan is in such a fun phase right now, aside from the typical 3 year old power struggle, he is SOO smart and comes up with the funniest sayings. He is always making Kenny and I laugh. And he is so thoughtful! If you are laying on the couch or the floor and he thinks you're tired or not feeling well, he will give you his blue (which is his blanky), and he'll make sure you're covered up....and I DO MEAN covered up...the last time I fell asleep on the floor I woke up with a mountain of blankets on top of me about 2 feet thick. He had stripped EVERY BED in the house! He wanted to make sure I was warm:) We still have not figured out potty training, I have just gotten to the point where he'll do it when he's ready and I cannot make him. But he is saying his abc's, knows all his colors (even the weird ones like silver, gray, ...) he knows a lot of songs and loves singing, he knows his shapes and really carries on very intelligent conversations for a 3 year old. He reminds me a little of my niece Jessica, she used to always pronunciate her words really well from a young age also. The biggest areas we're working on with Aohdan is potty training. It is a little frustrating to me, but it's in his own time. So if anyone wants to share with me their potty training tips feel free!

Thank you all!           

Saturday, April 4, 2009

We have had a good week, though I wouldn;t say uneventful, but good. Last saturday, our cousin Neal Glenn passed away from cancer. What a wonderful man he was! I feel so blessed to have spent so much time with him over the past 3 years. He and my dad were 1st cousins, and it was so cool to sit and listen to them talk about the good 'ole days. Those of you who know my dad know that he is just ornery, harmless, but ornery. It was funny to sit and watch the two of them at lunch. Here was my dad trying to talk the waitress at the local truck stop into a date, and you look over and Neal is blushing from embarrassment, dad is loud, Neal was soft spoken, Dad cussed like a sailor at time, Neal barely swore if ever in his life, dad had to be prompted to pray before a meal, and Neal never missed. Neal and Dad were just Good for the other to be around and he is going to be missed! I still chuckle to myself when I think of Neal telling us a story of when Dad fell asleep while doing an alter call and actually started snoring--haha! Oh such good times the past couple of years. Neal would always ask about Ava, and assure us that he was praying for her. I could go on and on, but all of that aside, I am sure that Neal has heard the Lord say to him, "Well done good and faithful servant, well done." So we had Neal's funeral last wednesday, and then received a call that one of Kenny's friends had lost their twin babies in the 6th month of pregnancy. The twins' funeral was today, and it was tough. I have never been to a funeral for a baby, it is a much different kind of sorrow. My heart went out to the mother, so would everyone please also say a prayer tonight for Josh and Christine Butcher? I cannot imagine the pain of going through labor and delivering identical twin boys only to turn around and bury them. I saw their pictures, and they were beautiful, each weighed a little over a pound at birth and were absolutely perfect. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Before I forget, I now have a facebook page. So if you don't see updates and such here, look for them there. It is under Vicki Ballenger, Columbus Oh
So, first of all let me begin by saying I am sooooo sorry that I am a loser and have not updated Ava's site in nearly 2 months! Haha! Really though, I apologize that it's been so long. I know that so many people depend on this site to keep up with our little sweetie's progress. There is MUCH to tell, oh where to start...
Well, I'll just start with some great news we recieved today. We have been waiting and waiting to get into neurology and finally had a follow-up clinic today and the Doc gave us the go ahead to start weaning Ava off of Phenobarbitol. Many of you may remember that Ava was in an 'induced' coma for 11 days following her birth. That was due in part to being loaded with Phenobarbitol, an extremely nasty and strong siezure medication. Although necessary in her early days, I am happy to see it going BYE BYE! So great news there.
Next piece of good news is that, although Ava HAS battled several viruses and such this past winter, she has been able to stay out of the hospital. When you have a child with a trach and on a vent, they pretty much prep you to have 2-3 hospitalizations during the cold & flu season. Praise the good Lord she has weathered all of it at home!
By the way, if you took a look at the new picture I posted of Ava sound asleep in her chest percussion-therapy vest...I just wanted to assure everyone that she really IS AWAKE ALOT I just always seem to snap pictures of her cute little self asleep. I don't know why:) I am not a real natural picture person, as far as I'm not that person who has 10,000 pictures of their kids. I actually wish I was better in this area--haha! I HAVE pictures of my kids, but I'm not great at getting their pictures done at holidays, and you know:)
Aohdan is doing really good, and sooooo smart. He really amazes me with his intelligence and his wit. He is always doing something funny to make someone laugh. He actually reminds me a lot of my oldest brother, mark, the way he is just goofy, but goofy because he enjoys making you laugh. I always think to myself how our kids are on two extremes. Ava is extremely physically challenged and is not able to communicate with us real well, and it is almost as if God gave Aohdan a little extra in the area of communication to make up for it. And he is always so concerned for his little sister. Always coming in her room to check on her and asking how she's doing. He knows all the nurses (even ones who don't work for us anymore) and even knows when they are supposed to work. Like is Mikki and Dee switch days, Aohdan knows it and asks us why so and so is here ...
Ava has made many many strides both physically and mentally. She is 15 months old, is becoming very vocal with her grunts, coos and cries. She definately makes her wishes known. Last week I had to lay her down while I got her meds ready, and she was MAD let me tell you! I heard her crying from the kitchen, but figured she would be ok until I got her stuff ready. Next thing I know I hear her ventilator beeping like crazy, telling me it was disconnected. So I run in there...Oh it's disconnected alright...IT WAS ON THE FLOOR! I looked over and Ava looked over at me as if to say, "Well. I was trying to tell you I wanted picked up!" She had thrown a little temper tantrum, and smacked at her trach, which in turn popped of her vent circuit, then smacked at her vent again, which sent the whole thing sailing to the floor. Unbelievable. Here is a little girl who was not supposed to live, suffered a severe brain injury, and every therapist who works with her is like, "she doesn't act like a typical infant who has suffered brain damage." GO AVA! I remember a little over a year ago I thought my life had come to an end, and now I can assuredly say that she has brought so much to our lives it cannot be expressed in words. Sure, there are still days I yearn to see her pull herself and start walking, or hear her say 'Mama.' I have accepted whatever her life is going to be and I love her like crazy regardless.
I also have to say that I have the greatest husband ever. Seriously. Kenny is so good with Ava. Those close to us know that we have had a lot of, well, let's call them 'nursing challenges' lately. So there have been many, many nights and weekends that we have had no coverage. I got sick right after we moved into the new house. And I mean sickkkk. Upper respiratory virus, double pink eye, uggghhh. And I am sure I wined a lot--hehehe. All I wanted to do for a solid week was sleep, but we had no nurse at night for almost the entire week. One sunday after church, we came home and I laid down on the couch, and that's all she wrote. I was gone for hours. When I woke up, Kenny had cleaned the house, had candles lit, dinner made AND had done all of Ava's cares, including trach care, bath, diaper, g-tube site. It is no small feat to care for her, and it is time consuming, so I just want to take a minute to say how much I appreciate my hubby.
So the last thing is that Kenny and I have moved into our new home and have finally gotten settled. We story about how we found our house is a story in itself, too long for this time around, I'll share that story later:)
Thank you everyone for all your prayers and Praise the Lord for being with us every step of the way. I hope if any of you are going through tough times in life I just want to say, "Stay encouraged." Sometimes life just sucks, but remember to stay positive and keep praying and praising throughout! We love you all!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Conversation with Aohdan…



Considering everything going on in our lives, I have had a lot on my mind lately.Today was no different.Kenny and I found out yesterday that our home had been sold at a sheriff’s sale almost a month earlier and we had JUST found this out.So this morning I woke up with several things on my agenda to get done…Go look at a couple of rentals, return some things to the store, go grocery shopping…So after Ava’s nurse arrived at 8:00am, I decided to go ahead and wake up Aohdan and take him out to breakfast with my dad.He gets so excited when he gets to go see ‘Papa’ and I thought it would be a good distraction for me as well.So as I’m getting Aohdan and myself ready this morning, I’m carrying on a silent conversation with God about what we’re about to walk into, where are we going to live, can we afford it, on and on and on.So this is a conversation between Aohdan and I today.It lasted from about 8:30am this morning until Noon.



(On the way to breakfast)

Aohdan:“Mommy?”

Me:“Yes Aohdan”

Aohdan:“We pray Jesus mommy?”

Me:“You want to pray?”

Aohdan:“Yes.”

Me:“Okay baby, let’s pray…”

Aohdan:“I wub you Jesus!Ok mommy we go bye bye see Papa?!”

Me:[laughing] “Ok baby let’s go see Papa.”

Aohdan:“Mommy we get pancakes?”

Me:“Yes we can get pancakes.”

Aohdan:“Mommy we get eeeegggggs?!”

Me:“You want pancakes AND eggs?”

Aohdan:“Yes!”

Me:“Ok.”

Aohdan:“Mommy!?”

Me:“Yes Aohdan?”

Aohdan:“Mommy we wuv Jesus?”

Me:“Yes sweetie, we love Jesus very much.”

Aohdan:“Yes.”



(After having breakfast, heading to Delaware to look at a couple rentals)

Aohdan:“Mommy?”

Me:“Yes Aohdan.”

Aohdan:“I love Pancakes…I love eeeggggs…I love oats…THANK YOU JESUS!:

Me:[laughing]

Aohdan:[pointing up to the sky] “Mommy?Jesus up there?”

Me:“Well, yes, Jesus is everywhere honey.”

Aohdan:“Oh.Mommy play music, play Jesus!” he wanted to hear this gospel bluegrass song by Austin’s Bridge)

Me:“Ok sweetie.”[turning on the cd player]

Aohdan:[rocking back and forth in his car seat] “Clap mommy!Clap!”

Me:[trying to clap and drive at the same time] “Ok”



(Getting close to Delaware at this point)

Aohdan:“Mommy!We go see Jesus?!!!!”[he thinks Jesus lives at our church-lol]

Me:“You want to go see Jesus?”

Aohdan:“Yes Yes Yes!”

Me:“Ok.We’ll go see Jesus after mommy looks at some houses ok?”

Aohdan:“Ok….”[with a sad look on his face]



(after leaving the second rental property)

Aohdan:“Mommy?”

Me:“Yes Aohdan.”

Aohdan:“We go see Jesus nowwwwww?”

Me:“Ok sweetie, let’s go see Jesus.”[not thinking anyone would be at our church at 11am on a Thursday]



(pulling into our church parking lot I see 2 vehicles)

Aohdan:“Mommy!We go see Jeeeeessssssuuuuussssssss!”

Me:[how can you help but not smile at this]



So we walk into the front doors of our church and, so as not to scare anyone, I went to the church office first to let someone know we were there.I was greeted by Dorcas, whom I informed that Aohdan and I were here to visit Jesus.So she smiled and told us to have a good visit.So Aohdan and I walk up the long flight of stairs to the sanctuary, which was completely dark except for some light peeking in through the blinds, and walked up front.Aohdan just stood there looking up at the stage where the praise and worship band performs on Sunday morning.



Aohdan looks at me and says, “Mommy Jesus sleepin?”

Me:“No sweetie, Jesus isn’t sleeping.”

Aohdan:“Sit mommy sit!”[motioning me to sit beside him in the front row of chairs.

Aohdan:“Mommy, that Jesus up there.”[pointing to the cross]

Me:[I’m sitting there with tears in my eyes.]“No honey, Jesus isn’t there anymore.”

Aohdan:“Not there anymore?”

Me:“No baby.Jesus is with us all the time.”

Aohdan:“Oh!Ok Mommy!”



So, my goodness where do I start.I woke up today feeling kinda sorry for myself and here’s my 3 year old who absolutely idolizes Jesus putting my mind back where it should be.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Well it’s official…



Kenny and I have to move and it looks like sooner rather than later unfortunately.I had hoped to be able to remain in our home until cold & flu season was over, but that does not appear to be the case.We were notified today that our home has, indeed, been sold by the mortgage company so….we’re moving on! A very dear friend of our's, Pastor Jesse McLeod, talked about how life has 'seasons' and I guess this season is complete.


Once the initial shock wore off that we really had to leave I was ok with it.We just need prayer to find a suitable place to move to [and be approved] and do this soon.We will be packing up and moving over 8 years worth of stuff and I just pray that all will go smoothly.I am thinking that I will get Ava settled in first, maybe at a ‘donor home’ temporarily so that her respiratory issues will not be aggravated by the moving and all the cold air and such.
So here goes! We knew it was inevitable, just didn’t know when it would happen!



Thank you to everyone for your support and love and prayers and everything!



Vicki

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ava’s little personality is beginning to blossom!



Just a short recap…when a child suffers a traumatic brain injury, whether at birth or in early childhood, it can take months or years to regain what was lost.When it happens at birth, like Ava’s did, they are periodically evaluated by an Early Intervention Specialist (usually employed by your county of residence) and they tell you where your child is, developmentally.The last time Ava was evaluated, at around 9 months of age, she was said [developmentally[ to be that of a 3 month old infant.This basically means that she can ‘physically’ do what a 3 month old can.Like I said, when you have a child that is recovering from a brain injury, you learn to relish the little milestones.Well, we had an exciting last couple of weeks!Our first shift nurse, Mikki, and I were talking by Ava’s crib one day and heard her cooing.The cooing was rather persistant and it made us look over.We saw the bumper of her crib pulled down with this little hand on top of it and two little eyes looking at us like, “Are one of you gonna pick me up?”We laughed and grinned and just were amazed at what we were seeing.She heard us talking and, in order to get our attention, had grabbed the crib bumper and pulled it down to see us!For a little girl that has gone through what she’s gone through—that was cause for celebration!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

To Aohdan & Ava, our two precious gifts from God.We, your Mommy & Daddy, would like to dedicate these letters to both of you. We wrote these letters to each other in December 2008 at a couples retreat called Weekend to Remember. It was such an awesome experience! These love letters are not only a tender moment we shared...they are a promise we to made to each other and the two of you!


_______________________________________
Dear Vicki,


When we first met I was not walking with the Lord.I did know something was different about you.I was attracted to your physical appearance.You looked good in your outfit, but not promiscuous.I liked the fact that you seemed strong and confident but not focused on yourself.I was “interested” in you from the first time I saw you.This was a significant change for me-something was different!Now that we are married and have spent a significant amount of time together, I understand a few of the things I love about you that God had obviously placed in you for me.I love your strength of heart, yet soft touch.I love your understanding in times of uncertainty.I love the fact that no matter what I do, you still love me.Even if you want to strangle me in my sleepJYou still love me.I love your faithfulness to me.Your unfailing commitment to make me happy.These things are all prayers in some way, shape or form that I asked God to place in my mate.They are all in YOU.Your differences have also helped me in many ways.For example, you are very good at putting together an event, raising children, or planning for a future item.This has inspired me to do the same.I wish for some of these same qualities to be in me.I also like your assertiveness in the business field.Unlike my more passive style this is a good quality to carry out for any future business.In my eyes the list is long of our differences, but they are good differences none the less.I wish to recommit our time to God and each other.This is not the first time we/I have made this commitment, but I wish to continually do this until it becomes a fundamental part of our lives.I wish for us to ALWAYS look to God first, then to each other second.Finally I pray that I will always see the face of God in you, even during times of disagreement.I do and will always love you!


Your loving husband,


Kenny

________________________________________
Dear Kenny,


When we first met I was most attracted to your kind heart, how you always thought of me first in everything you did, how you were always so protective, how enthusiastic you were about us spending time together and experiencing new things together and, as I would find out, your willingness to put yourself aside & allow God to lead your life.Since we’ve been together I have learned to appreciate your resourcefulness and attention to detail.I appreciate your love of being a father and playing an active role in the rearing of our children.And I appreciate your love of our Heavenly Father.The differences in ourselves have helped me to move from independence to interdependence.From impatience to patience.From living in bitterness to walking in grace.From anger to joy.And from trying to handle everything myself to learning to lean on God the Father.Starting today I am committing to love you and God more.I will accomplish this by learning to recognize ALL negative feelings about you or our marriage as an attempt by Satan to destroy what God has planned.Starting today I am committing myself to read. Study and meditate on the Word of God.Starting today I am committing to make prayer, God’s perfect weapon against Satan, the #1 priority in my life.Starting today I am committed to hold fast and cling to God in everything.Starting today I enthusiastically receive you as God’s gift from Him to me and to love you unconditionally, just as Jesus did for us.


All my love,


Vicki

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Ava turned 1 on 12/31/08!
...And though she cannot yet eat by mouth, she had fun sucking cake icing off of my finger *smile*
It is so hard to believe that a year has passed! I hope that everyone had a wonderful year. Me, Kenny, Aohdan and Ava spent Christmas and New Year's surrounded by our family and friends. There was so much to be thankful for this year! I could fill a book with all the blessings in our lives. God is good, and He has shown us just How good He can be. I'm enjoying so much being a mom to two wonderful kids and having a wonderful husband to share it all with.
It is my hope that all who read this website have a wonderful and blessed 2009!
Love, Vicki

Friday, December 19, 2008

What I have learned this year

By Vicki Ballenger



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God reveals Himself to His people…

…God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

1 Corinthians 2:10



“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but shall have eternal life.”John 3:16.Probably the most well known verse in the bible.I don’t know about most of you, but I believed this verse.I mean I believed God loved me…didn’t I?I guess you could say I just didn’t get it.This past year brings to mind so many memories and emotions.What a journey it has been. And still is.Kenny and I welcomed a baby girl, named Ava Irene Ballenger, on New Year’s Eve of last year.Hard to believe it has been almost a year.The events that unfolded that night were like a scene out of ‘Trauma-Life in the ER.’This letter is a journey through great tragedy and even greater triumph.



To begin the journey, I must share a dream I had in early November, 2007.Just to set the scene for you… I was 8 months pregnant with Ava, had a great career, beautiful family…life was good.I go to bed that night [uncomfortable as usual] and, after talking with Kenny about his day and saying our prayers, I fell asleep.Let me just take a quick moment to comment…most everyone has a picture in their mind of what they believe Jesus Christ may look like right?I mean there are several books and movies, but I’m sure you, the person reading this letter, has an idea in your mind of what Jesus looks like.That being said, in the middle of the night I had a dream that Jesus was standing in front of me.Now this was not your typical dream.You know, usually dreams just have a lot going on and most of it doesn’t make sense.Like you’re dreaming that you and the waiter at Applebee’s are chasing purple monkeys through the Syrian desert.I mean, dreams are usually like that.This dream was different.It was just myself and Him.Nothing else was going on.I remember in this dream I felt an overwhelming sense of love, kindness and gentleness just emanating from Him.He didn’t say anything, just stood there in all of His awesome glory.In the dream I dropped to my knees and, as I did, He took my hand.As He took my hand I wept, and He said to me, “I am always with you.”And that was it.I woke up.Whoa!I thought.WHAT was THAT all about!?Why would Jesus come to ME in a dream?And I felt like He was comforting me in some way.But THAT didn’t make sense because life was great, why would our Lord and Savior come to comfort me in a dream?I just laid in bed for a long time taking in what I had just experienced.I only told a few people about the dream, my husband [of course], my great-Aunt and our associate Pastor’s wife.I didn’t tell anyone else, I mean what would people think if I said, “By the way, Jesus visited me last night.Yeah, seriously, in a dream.”Kenny didn’t know what to make of it.The following week I received a phone call from my, normally calm, husband trying to hold back tears as he informs me that he had been fired that morning.“Fired?!Seriously?The day before Thanksgiving?”I was mad let me tell you, and scared.I was getting ready to have a baby.My husband’s income was supposed to support us while I was on maternity leave.As it turned out, Kenny was able to transfer to a different dealership and stay with the company.“Phew!”I thought.Now everything would be ok….









God is still in the business of Miracles…

Jesus said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

John 14:11



…I had been in labor all day and arrived at St. Ann’s Hospital ER Department deep into advanced labor and with fetal heart tones dropping quickly…at times barely audible.They put a fetal heart monitor around my belly (you know, the ones that look like a belt?) and saw the expression on the nurse’s face as she kept moving the belt around trying to find a heartbeat.There was none.I had decided to pursue a natural birth, and so had no pain relief at all.For the past 2 hours I had been trying in vain to push the baby out but she would not budge.I kept begging them to take me into surgery and do a C-Section, begging them to get the baby out.I was in pain, yes, but I was begging them because I heard her heartbeat getting slower and slower.Now in the trauma room we couldn’t hear anything at all.Could you imagine?It would be like one of your kids falling into a lake and drowning and you can do NOTHING but stand on the shore and watch.I couldn’t do anything.She was literally stuck inside me, dying (or already dead), and I could not get her out.Worse yet, I had heard her heart slowing down, I had heard her die.We would later find out that a placental abruption had been the source of this tragedy.



I was lying on a trauma room bed and in walks this Dr.I see him getting forceps ready.I’ll never forget the words he spoke as he leaned over and talked to me.“Honey, there is no time for a C-Section, and all the surgery units are in use.You are going to have to sum up whatever strength you have and push as hard as you can while I pull ok?”A few moments later I was slammed with another contraction.And…I just went to another place.I prayed, I cried, I screamed.While I pushed, and the Dr pulled steadily with the forceps, a [very large] male nurse shoved his elbows into my abdomen…and Ava was born.I didn’t see her as the Doc cut her cord and immediately handed her off to the team from the NICU.Ava was, for all intents and purposes, dead at birth.We estimate that she had been without a heartbeat for between 5 and 15 minutes.The NICU team commenced to performing full CPR on Ava, trying feverishly to revive her.“1 min!”I heard them say.“2 min!”time creeped by….”3 min!”She was dead.I couldn’t fathom the thought.I just laid in the bed in shock.“How would I tell the family that we lost our baby girl?How would we deal with the loss?”I grabbed Kenny by the shirt collar, “GO PRAY FOR HER!!!!!!”I screamed.Poor guy was still clenching the hospital bed rails.He made his way over to the table where they were performing CPR on our baby.I saw Kenny bow his head and I closed my eyes along with him.“5 min!”I heard them say…It seemed like time was just creeping by.”We got a heartbeat!She’s back!”She was alive!My midwife and I just grabbed each other and cried tears of joy.She was alive.It was a miracle!Our prayer had been answered immediately.God had given Ava back to us…





“4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I Corinthians 13:4-7



…After Ava was revived, the NICU team quickly rolled her over to my bedside so that I could see her.I was only able to get a quick peak at her as her condition was dire.They said they had to get her ‘settled in’ as quickly as possible.It took them a couple more hours to get me into a room and STILL no one came to give me an update.I kept asking staff members, “How’s my baby?How’s Ava?Can we see her yet?”“Not yet, it shouldn’t be long,” I kept getting told.Ava was born at 9:15pm on New Year’s Eve, and I didn’t get into a room until about 4:00am.STILL no one had come to give me an update on her.Finally, at around 9:00am, the Neurologist on staff came in to talk to us.“Do you understand what has happened to your baby?”He asked.“No,” I replied with a puzzled look.I mean they revived her and she was breathing I didn’t understand what was going on.“She has suffered a severe insult to her brain resulting from going without oxygen during her birth.Her brain is swollen and she is in a coma.”He continues, “she is not producing urine.”“What?”I still didn’t understand.“What this means is that all of her organ systems have shut down in order to preserve her brain.”The Dr continued.“She is fighting…but the outcome doesn’t look good.We’re going to transport her to Children’s Hospital to give her the best possible chance of survival.You can go back and see her now if you’d like.”



After he left I looked at Kenny and the two of us just sat there.I don’t think we even blinked.We made our way down the hall to the NICU, stopping at the sink to wash our hands, and waited for our nurse to come and take us back to Ava.When we arrived at her bedside, they had her laying on her side, she was so beautiful…perfect.She had a head full of dark red curly hair, and little red puckery lips.She looked perfect.It was so hard to imagine that she was so sick.The nurse caring for her explained that we could touch her but not to make any stroking motions because it would cause her irritation.She was not breathing on her own and had been having seizures since shortly after birth.I felt a lump in my throat.I was trying to hold back tears (in vain of course).I was overcome with love for her, and I wanted to take her place on that table.It wasn’t fair that this tiny little baby was suffering.



After arriving back at our room, we had several people come to the hospital and pray with us.The love was starting to pour in from all over.Several staff members had heard of the tragedy and came in to give their condolences and reassure us and offer prayer.The sweet Dr who just ‘happened’ to be at the hospital that night came by to check on me, to check on me and to tell me how sorry he was he couldn’t do more for Ava.He also offered said he would keep us in prayer.People from Germain, the company I worked for, were calling to say they had heard and were praying.I had voice mails from pastors of other churches, family members, we had voice mails from complete strangers.ALL reassured us that they were lifting up Ava in prayer.At one point Kenny and I counted several dozen churches in several countries around the world praying for our baby.We felt so wrapped up in love it was amazing!Despite the tragedy that was unfolding in our lives, God had wrapped His arms around us in love.Through the love of many people, he was reassuring us of His presence and His love.I was still trying to wrap my head around the reality of our situation, but I felt God’s love around me.It was like warmth enveloping my entire body.Ever had anyone offer to pray for a bad situation in your life?I mean sincerely, with heartfelt love, offer to pray for you?Kenny and I had people call us and offer prayer that I never knew even prayed….but they prayed for Ava.For a lot of the people that called us, it was the first time in a long time [if ever] that they had ever turned to God in prayer for anything. But they prayed for our baby, and us. So in the midst of this tragedy going on, I was able to sit back and literally watch God’s love all around us.In action.Very cool…



God gives us the strength to endure…

“…Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Nehemiah 8:10


…In the first week or so after Ava was born, we were so overwhelmed with love it could only be God at work.We also started having an unusual amount of ‘favor.’Things just started falling into place for us.Aside from the many offers for prayer, we had people walk up to us in church and hand us money, people brought us food, staff members at Children’s Hospital would go out of their way to come and talk to me and pray with me…I remember the day I came to understand that Joy that everyone talks about.It had been a hard day for me.Ava was about one week old, and we still had a long stay ahead of us.That morning, I had been approached by this nurse in the NICU that just had a bad attitude.She started telling me about all the bad stuff that Ava would probably have to endure in the weeks and months to come.When she walked away I grabbed the curtain, yanked it closed and pulled up a rocking chair beside Ava’s crib.As I took her out and settled into the rocking chair with her, I looked down on her beautiful little angelic face [still in a coma], and the tears started to flow.They were actually dropping onto her face.My mind was filled with anguish.I started asking God, “Why God?Why her?Are you really here?Are you really in control of this situation like everyone keeps telling me you are?Really not feelin it God.God?”At that moment I felt my pocket vibrating.“Who’s calling me?”I thought.As I looked at my phone I saw I had a new text message.I pressed the ‘Read Now’ button and as I read the text message the hair on my arm stood on end.The text message read, “Vicki, I felt the Lord wanted me to give you this verse to read.‘Be Still and Know that I am God and I am With you.”Had God actually answered my question?It was as if He were listening and spoke right to me through Vonnie.I felt warm all over again, my cheeks were actually warm to the touch.I felt this Joy welling up inside me.My bad thoughts had turned to pleasant thoughts.I was no longer worried about Ava.I KNEW God had this situation under control.My joy was real, and it filled me up.I told Kenny about it and I don’t know if he didn’t believe me, or it was just hard for him to fathom, but that night it happened again.We were lying in bed, and Kenny was having a hard day.Questioning whether he was praying in the right way, questioning whether we could have done something differently, and on and on.As we were lying there, he turned to me and said, “I just feel like I should be doing something differently.”As he said that, HIS cell phone beeped with a new text message.It was from Vonnie again.It read, “Kenny, I feel like God wants me to tell you to be still and wait.”“….Are you kidding me?”I thought.We both just laid there staring blankly at his phone like, “Did that really just happen?”Now Kenny believed me.Man did he ever!We both were humbled at how God was moving in our lives.It made our hearts ache to see Ava in the hospital, but God was very clearly telling us, “I have this under control!Just have faith in me…”I was filled with joy knowing that God loved us, and revealed Himself to us in such a spectacular way…



…to give it all to God...

“…I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”

I Timothy 1:16



I like that verse, “Unlimited patience.”The Lord’s patience is unlimited.I wish mine was.Those of you who know me, know a person who is goal oriented, lives life by her planner and likes things in order.I’m pretty much a professional control freak.But I couldn’t control this situation.In fact, I felt completely out of control.The next few weeks after Ava’s birth I would learn that I would have to give up my career, learn extensive medical procedures and learn to depend on other people.Very hard for a professional control freak to do let me tell you.I remember like it was yesterday, our first care conference with all of Ava’s Doctors.Let me just set the scene for you.Down the hall from the NICU, there is a board room, literally a board room.It is a long table that seats probably 30 people.So we are ushered into this conference room and seated on one side of this massive table, and then here come the Dr’s.The Neonatologist, Neurologist, Developmental Specialist, Cardiologist, Pulmonologist, Nurse Practitioner, Hospital Social Worker, NICU Discharge Planner….I looked out the door to see if they were going to call in the cafeteria workers and cleaning crew as well.I mean, might as well have a staff party right?I just sat there silently praying that I wouldn’t have an anxiety attack from all the stress.We were informed of the grave condition she was in, and advised that she would require extensive specialized care even after coming home.After the meeting, I sat there with Kenny and the hospital social worker and just broke down crying.I was just so scared.I didn’t know how I would handle a child with such in depth special needs.Could I do this?I had always been able to stay strong through everything that life had thrown at me, but this?I wanted my mom so bad at that moment.Isn’t it funny no matter how old you are, when life sucks, the person we want the most is our mom.



“Let’s go have dinner somewhere quiet,” I told Kenny.I will always remember that dinner.We drove out to this remote truck stop by Buckeye Lake, and just sat there and talked about how our lives were changing.It was as if we were standing at the edge of a cliff getting ready to dive off into a new life…and I was scared to death.I couldn’t take much more, I really felt at times like running away.Not literally, but you know what I mean.You just want to crawl in a hole and disappear.Many times I prayed for God to take this away.I prayed for Ava to be completely healed overnight.But it didn’t happen that way.She was making slow, steady progress, but she was getting better.I went to bed many nights thinking that maybe I would finally wake up from this bad dream and find a healthy baby girl sleeping in her crib the next morning.I remember one day when it got really bad.I literally could not stop crying.I cried from the time I woke up until I went to bed.Hysterically.Kenny was really worried about me.The next morning I woke up and my eyes stung so bad I could barely open them.I went back to bed and, you guessed it, started crying again.Then I just stopped.I laid there in bed and said, “God, I can’t handle this anymore ok?I’m going to put this one up on the shelf because no matter what I do I can’t change it.I trust that you are in control and will bring some kind of good out of this.I know that you gave Ava back to us that night in the ER, and that you must have something pretty special planned for her life.I know that she was yours before she was mine and so I’m trusting you with her.Ok God?”I decided to change the way I prayed.Instead of asking God to remove our burden, I asked Him to show me what to do with it.There is growth in everything.Amazingly, after I said this I experienced a deep, inner peace.Peace that surpasses all understanding…

God's infinite grace…

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Ephesians 2:8



Grace, by definition, is free and unmerited favor of God.Unmerited.Interesting.So basically grace is a free gift from God that we do nothing to deserve.Remember how I mentioned that Kenny was fired the day before Thanksgiving?He was able to, Praise God, transfer to another dealership within the company.But after Ava’s birth, neither one of us were in any condition to work.One of my first thoughts was, “How are we going to survive financially?”Like a lot of people, we had a mortgage, car payment, several credit cards, utilities, and others.It was amazing the outpouring of help.We received favor from our employer, I received cards in the mail with money, members of our church shoved money into our hands…I do not think I paid for a single lunch or tank of gas the entire time Ava was in Children’s Hospital.I would get so overwhelmed by the outpouring of help I often times wondered, “Why?What have we done to deserve all of this kindness?”A friend of mine told me one day while sitting by Ava’s bedside, “Honey, that is what grace is.God loves you, and He is showing you He loves you.You do not need to do anything to deserve it.”With my eyes now open, I could see God’s grace and favor everywhere in our lives.Seriously.Everywhere.From how the staff at Children’s seemed like they were extra watchful of Ava and our needs.How our private insurance company agreed to pay for private duty nursing (which is unheard of).How Ava was able to get on the Medicaid Waiver program in only one month, seriously unheard of.How we prayed for a Christian nurse, and we found a wonderful nurse…who had been praying to get placed with a Christian family.Isn’t God so cool?!How, despite Ava’s challenges, our lives have been so richly blessed…



God’s refining fire…

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25 NIV

This is one of my favorite scriptures from the bible.It is talking about how God creates good fruit in your life when you allow Him to lead you.I actually keep this scripture in my planner because it describes the kind of person I strive to become.Can you imagine what kind of impact you would have on the people around you if you were constantly walking in; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?I know that God brings good out of every bad thing that happens to us, and turns it around to bring honor and glory to Him.I am now starting to see how, going through this, has refined me.Ava spent 12 weeks in the NICU and, throughout this past year, has spent a combined total of 6 months at Children’s Hospital.I have taken the trip down I-71 South more than 200 times this year.I remember my first day back to work after being off for months, I actually drove to Children’s Hospital and pulled into the parking garage before I realized that I had intended to go to work that day...



Our journey has made me a better, more patient wife and mother.It has made me humble and appreciative of every little blessing in my life.It has allowed me to let go of the love affair I had with my career.It has opened my eyes to see the bigger picture.I am just now starting to learn about all the miraculous ways God moves in our lives, and I am sure that I have just tapped the surface.But after what I have experienced in my walk with Him this year, I am excited to see where He will lead our family.



I came across a copy of last years Christmas Letter and was reading Mom’s journal entries.She was so passionate about the Lord.She absolutely infected you with her love of Jesus Christ.In her last journal entry, she wrote that her greatest wish was that her friends and family would come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.That is such a cool and selfless wish isn’t it?And you know, I cannot imagine going through what we went through this year without Jesus in our lives.He held us up, He comforted us, and gave us peace that surpasses all understanding.Just like He said in my dream, “I am always with you.”



Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6



I pray that this Christmas Season will bring a new [or renewed] relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.I pray that blessings will rain down upon you and your loved ones.I pray for the Lord’s favor will be on you in the coming year.I pray for peace that surpasses all understanding.I pray for you to experience vibrant health.I pray for all of you, each and every one.



Merry Christmas and God Bless,



The Ballengers

Kenny, Vicki, Aohdan & Ava