Friday, January 22, 2010

Jack Frost

This winter has been an especially cold one compared to ones in recent memory. Even Al Gore would have to admit that it's been rather frosty. It's probably a good time to have a nice winter where we have to hunker down and stay indoors since we really don't have much of a choice.

If you remember correctly, the Bennions in Clancy are in lock down mode at our compound in the outskirts of Helena waiting out this cold/flu/swine flu pandemic while our baby boy Jack gets his lungs and immune system up to snuff. I make it out of the bubble the most often since I have to go to my job in town, but we rarely venture out beyond our driveway. Other than the occasional doctor's visit, Jack has been largely confined to the house where he has now spent more time at than he did the NICU. In many ways, this last four months has been but a blink of an eye compared to his first four months of life (he's eight months old today).

While some may have been consumed by boredom after spending so much time inside, Jessi and I have appreciated being in our own home and observing Jack's progress. It's been two and a half months since I wrote any kind of update, so it's really hard to know where to start. Here is a short, incomplete recap of many of the highlights:

1. Poundage - In eight months, Jack has put on some pounds. More than 11 more than what he weighed at birth (a little over a pound), for a grand total of something over 12 pounds. We have worked hard to get those added pounds on him, and all those days and nights of force-feeding him formula that smells like skunky feet seems to be finally paying off.

2. Mini-Jon or Mini-Jessi - early on this summer we attempted to determine whether Jack looked more like me or like Jessi. I declared a fairly quick victory in that battle, but I am clearly losing the war over time. As Jack's features have developed over the past few months, I must admit that he has some strong Miller traits. When we compare his appearance to early pictures of Jessi's brother Bryce, they could be twins. I'm doing my best, however, to make sure Jack does not also inherit any loyalties to any Miller sports teams (Cowboys, Yankees, etc...). That would be a tragedy.

3. No More Surgeries - In the first six months of his life, Jack had no less than six surgeries. One Christmas wish of ours was for Jack to go surgery-free for at least a few months, and we were able to do that. His last surgery was just before Halloween to place a second shunt in his head for his hydrocephalus. We have been monitoring his brain with regular ultrasounds and check-ups, and the only changes there are the doctor's modifications of the shunts' pressure to slow down the draining of brain fluid. It's a little complicated, but the short story is that it's being treated successfully and these changes are largely micro managing.

4. Developmental Milestones - Because of his extreme prematurity and brain hemorrhages early on, Jack has a statistical 80% chance of having cerebral palsy. This could be anything from a tightness in some of his limbs to complete physical and mental disability. Signs of CP may not show up until he's a year old on his motor skills, so it's an uncomfortable wait as we hope for the best and get him weekly physical therapies to encourage good development. Right now, he shows great signs in his movements, grabbing, babbling, seeing, hearing, smiling, and strength of muscles. His left hand seems a bit tighter than the right, and he definitely prefers his right hand. So far, though, we are encouraged by these milestones and hope and pray for the best.

5. Oxygen - As you will notice with the pictures, Jack is still on home oxygen through a nasal cannula. We have recently done some tests to see how he does without it, and it appears he's very close to being able to trash the nose tubes and breath the nice, clean air we have out here in Clancy for all his oxygen needs. We're hoping that can happen in the next month or so.

2009 was both the worst and best year of our lives. But as time goes on and Jack gets bigger and healthier, the nightmarish memories of his delivery and NICU stay fade just a little as I'm overcome more with the joy and absolute happiness of being Jack's dad, watching him find his voice, listening to little giggles, and see him learn what life is all about. That's about as good as it gets.

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Barbara said...

Great picture of Jack! Thanks for the update.

Justin and Crystal Billing said...

Jack is so cute!

Julie said...

I think this is the cutest picture of Jack I've ever seen! I just want to hug him!!

Big John said...

Hello, I was just looking at random blogs, and came across yours.

When I saw the picture Jack, I let out an "Awww!"
He's a cute little guy, and he looks happy, considering what he (and you) must have gone through in the past 8 months.

Best of luck to you and your family and I hope the coming year brings you health and happiness!

LisasOwnBlog said...

I stumbled on to this page and now I am going to follow. Who can help but be drawn to this angel.