Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fun Homework

I am having a lot of fun with this class, and I have learned a lot. This summer, I finally figured out how to use the manual setting on my camera and get consistent results. During the course of the last few weeks, I have been practicing using the shutter speed priority and the aperture priority settings on my camera. I am really enjoying them...and it all seems to be clicking. Below are the first two weeks assignments:

The windmill was spinning in both photos. The top photo was shot with a higher shutter speed, making it appear stopped.

The poor quality of the photos is due to a save-for-web attempt I tried. Saves space, but I am not a fan of the quality. Learning as I go...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Ellie Updates

Update 10.27.09
Ellie is home now! She did end up having a permanent shunt placed to allow for drainage of the fluid in her brain. Now, she is home and the Lively family is adjusting to a new life with many challenges ahead. Please keep praying for Peter and Alana as they take care of Ellie and Katie...and each other. Thanks so much!

Again, please pray for Ellie Lively. God has been good and has answered prayer. Please continue to pray for our friends.

From Peter tonight:

Hello friends and family,

Wanted to give everyone an update. We're still very thankful for the returned blood flow to the right side of her brain, but our emotions get tossed back and forth as it seems with every two steps forward there are one or two steps back.

Ellie's been having seizures with some regularity, including four seizures Tuesday night. They could be caused by brain damage leftover from her stroke or possibly her sodium levels. Ellie's sodium (salt) levels have been very inconsistent, mostly low if not very low. They're not sure why, speculating it could be because of brain injury, could be because her system's adjusted for all of the fluids being pumped into her, or maybe because of a thyroid issue, or maybe it's metabollical, or all of the above. They don't really know and are doing a lot of tests. If we don't get a good handle on it, Ellie will continue to have seizures, it could damage her brain further, and she could go into a coma. Sodium is very important for nerve conduction, and could severely limit her development, to say the least.

Ellie's been throwing up last night and this morning, which is another symptom of low sodium. Whenever her eyes are open she always has a kind of 'panicked' look on her face, and she doesn't track extremely well with her eyes (but at least she's opening her eyes). She doesn't have the breathing tube anymore, which is great, or as many arterial lines.

The fluid from her brain is still draining, and hopefully we'll see the last of the blood left over from the hemohrrage out of her brain. The hope is that her head will be able to naturally absorb fluids so that she won't continue to have abnormal pressure placed on her brain. If this doesn't happen then a permanent drain or shunt will have to placed in her head, which will make her very prone to infections, could further hurt her brain development, and may not succeed in it's purpose anyway (though, we have many of the best pediatric surgeons here that should really help improve probable success).

We can't thank everyone enough for praying for us. We've sensed God's presence and voice with us through all of this. Two days ago I was having a difficult emotional time and was trying to read some psalms to Ellie, while wondering where God was. Some nurses came in and after they left I felt like I 'should' read another psalm to Ellie, but I didn't want to. I didn't feel like it. Right then I sensed that God said, "That's ok, you don't have to." Such understanding! I broke down, experiencing the reality of a God who 'sees' people in their distress, like the passage about Hagar in Genesis 16. I felt assurance that God is seeing us while we're in this nightmare, that He cares and He's 'seeing' us through it. After this I wanted to read a psalm to Ellie.

We don't know where all of this will lead, but God is still good. Please continue to pray for us. The prayers are being heard. Sometime early next week the neuro-surgeons will order another CT scan and evaluate how her brain is doing, probably determine if she needs the permanent shunt. Please pray that she won't need it, that her sodium will come under control, that her brain will continue to be heal, and that someday she'll be able to run around with her sister.

With love,

Peter and Alana

From Peter on Monday:

Hello everyone,

As many of you have heard, Alana and I received some great news about Ellie today. If you'll remember, the doctors had told us the aneurysm had disrupted the blood flow in her right cerebral artery, blood that was supposed to be completely stopped by the coil embolism Dr. Kumpe inserted. This stoppage of the blood flow would continue to severely damage the right side of her brain, basically causing it to die. This loss would greatly decrease if not paralyze her ability to move the left side of her body.

Well, we got back the results from an MRI taken Friday and the results were shocking. Ellie has blood flowing in those arteries! The doctors were very surprised. They had been speaking about the right side of her brain becoming necrotic as a past and finished event. However, Ellie has been moving her left arm and leg consistently (albeit, with less strength than the right) and it was never understood exactly how until now. Somehow, through something called collateral blood flow, blood has gone around the aneurysm and the coils, somehow, and found it's way to the affected arteries.

This is almost too incredible for Alana and I to believe. We had come to accept that those arteries and the associated brain tissue were a lost cause. We've been wrestling with this 'fact', wondering what kind of life Ellie would have should she survive all of this. We were glad she was alive but sad for the horrible damage done to her brain. Now, it seems, God had other ideas.

She still needs much prayer for continued restoration of her brain. Also, they've inserted a drain in her head to relieve the fluid build-up, especially the blood from the aneurysm burst. They gave her a powerful blood thinner to break up the blood clots left over from the hemorrhage. The thinner is so powerful they almost never give it to children as they're not sure what it does to them. But it was determined that the pressure in her brain was becoming too great.

Please pray that the drain will do its job, that all of the blood from the aneurysm would leave her brain, and that her brain's natural fluid equilibrium would be restored. This way, she won't need a permanent drain placed in her skull which would bring with it a whole other set of problems..

Again, thank you so much for praying for us and our little daughter. I don't think this would have happened without the sort of prayer covering we've enjoyed. God would have been good regardless of the new MRI's revelations, but we're so thankful that He answered our prayers with a miracle today. Incredible! It is so thrilling to get good news.

As always, we or others in the know will keep you posted as news comes. God bless you!


Peter and Alana Lively

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oh Shoot: Beginning Digital Photography

For my birthday, Brandon gave me some money to take an online photography class, taught by Candice Stringham. She is a photographer I have admired for a while...and she is a really great teacher. It is on I took a free class from Jessica in July, and I am hooked. They are so helpful, and I am learning a lot. The picture I took above was one of the first times I have used Shutter Speed Priority Mode...because the light was low and the strong winds were making a sharp shot almost impossible. Such a helpful class! Check the site out.

Happy Birthday, Little Man!

Our baby is three! I tend to round up when people ask how old he is (I do this with myself too), and so I have actually thought he was three for about four months now. When people have asked him how old he was, his response was "I turn 'tember." As in, "I turn three in September." This past Monday marked the day God blessed us with this incredible little person in our family. And we had lots of fun celebrating his little life.

My family growing up always had a tradition of breakfast in bed on birthdays and mother's/father's days. We continue that in our family, and Brandon made Caleb this adorable pancake mouse. My husband is amazing.

He loved eating in his bed.

He wanted a choo-choo train party, which was a bit more complicated than the baseball party he had originally asked for. But, I found this Wilton Puzzle Cake and it turned out better than expected. Many good friends came over to help us celebrate, and we all had a good time. Caleb did, at one point, become a little overwhelmed by the attention and said, "I don wanna go to my birfday." Apart from that moment, he had a wonderful birthday.

One unexpected blessing happened a few weeks before. At a garage sale, I found a Thomas the Train wooden train set complete with several buildings and numerous trains for $20!!! This set is something we have been eying for a long time, but I wasn't about to spend the money it would require to begin the collection. I think this set would cost $300 new. He has not stopped playing it since he found it all set up in his room on Monday morning.

Note to self: Next time, ask someone to take pictures for you. You will be too busy. :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mexico City: In Summary

I realized a little bit ago that because I have been so random about blogging, I never posted anything about D.F. (Distrito Federal, or Mexico City). We really had a great time. After moving it from May to August due to the swine flu shutdown of the city, we had to shorten our trip to one week....and what a packed week it was!

We spent two days of the week at an orphanage. The kids were wonderful and so eager for attention and love. I so wanted to take a few home. We spent another day with street kids (one of them only two months old)...hanging out with them in their homes: under a bridge, in some drainage pipes, and in a fountain. It was difficult to see them live such lives. The home we were partnering with is a great place that provides education, shelter, food and teaches them about Jesus.

We also got to spend time with the terminally ill in a home where they had been abandoned by their families. Some were paralyzed, others had HIV, and another had been left in a trash can as an infant and was severely handicapped as a result. We really enjoyed hearing their stories, reading to them, and even crocheting with them. It was a highlight for several of us.

At a home for teen moms, many of whom had been abused on the street and became pregnant as a result, Angie and I gave them pedicures while the guys tried to build a swing set for the kids. I ended up getting the opportunity to take some photos of the kids for their moms. Mexican kids are so photogenic. Their beautiful dark brown eyes sparkle so much!

We had a wonderful time and of course were blessed so much more than they were. I am so grateful to God for the opportunities He gives us to see how great the need is in the world. I want to learn to be more sensitive to His voice so that He might meet more of those needs through me.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ellie Updates: PLEASE PRAY

Yesterday from Peter:
(though it seems like it's been much longer than that)

Dear Family and Friends,

Our precious 6 week old daughter, Ellie, has a serious medical problem and is currently hospitalized in the pediatric intensive care unit at Denver Children's Hospital. Early Wednesday morning, she started to screech inconsolably. She wouldn't eat, was very pale, started moving her eyes in a very panicked and unfocused manner, and (though, we didn't know it at the time) she had a few seizures. We took her to the hospital where it was discovered her skull and brain were full of fluid creating extreme pressure.

Many guesses were made as to what was happening. It was discovered, after a CAT scan that Ellie had had a major episode of bleeding into the right side of her brain. A later MRI and MRA revealed that the bleeding was caused by an aneurysm in the right cerebral artery. This aneurysm was present at birth and a weakness in the wall of the aneurysm caused the bleeding. The hemorrhage into Ellie's brain has resulted in some brain damage, probably permanently.

Ellie is currently not conscious and is at risk for another bleeding episode, which would probably be fatal. The doctors and nurses have been very kind and helpful. They are watching her closely and are exploring all possible avenues of treatment, but the outlook does not appear to be good at this time. One option is to send a probe up her artery that would place a titaniumEndovascular coil directly into the aneurysm hopefully stopping blood flow to it. The other option is to clip the artery effectively stopping all blood flow to that part of the brain. Both procedures are extremely risky, especially given her age and condition, but we don't have many options.They won't be done until Monday.

Three weeks ago she had to go to the hospital after showing similar issues, but it was never determined what was wrong. It was guessed that she had an infection of some sort. She got better and was released. We had her for a week believing things were returning to normal. Four days ago, Ellie was lying on her Baby Einstein mat smiling, happily watching her sister run everywhere. Feels likes months ago.

Please pray for Ellie. She needs a miracle. Thank you for your concern and your valued friendship and support.

Peter and Alana Lively

Tonight from Peter:
Hello Family and Friends,

Wanted to give everyone a quick update on Ellie. She's had a relatively good day, no major changes. She's been stable, almost like she's preparing for tomorrow, which could be a very big day.

We've all been anxiously awaiting the arrival of reportedly Dr. David Kumpe, a very well-respected professor of Radiology. Apparently, he is the expert when it comes to situations like Ellie's; there isn't anyone better. His clinical interests areStroke Therapy, Cerebral Aneurysms, Central Vascular Malformations; everything Ellie's dealing with. He hasn't been able to help until now because he's been on a trip. He'll be the one to operate on Ellie, either tomorrow or Tuesday.

Please pray that:
Ellie will continue to stay stable (which means no more seizures, good vitals, no bleeding, etc) so she can go into surgery as planned.
Dr. Kumpe can get caught up to speed on Ellie's condition. We've learned that this episode is very rare, someone getting an aneurysm this early in life and not be a preemie, which would usually be part of the reason. There may be 20 or 30 cases like it on record.
Dr. Kumpe would make the most appropriate decision on how to proceed. I had mentioned the titanium coil embyllism being placed directly into the aneurysm or a clip cutting off the affected artery entirely. I'd prefer the first option because it still gives Ellie a chance of saving the artery and, therefore, the right side of her brain which the artery feeds. However, Dr. Kumpe is the expert. His opinion will be huge.
The procedure, whichever one it is, will go well. Dr. Kompe will have the team he needs in place (which is complicated by the Labor Day weekend). Pray that Ellie survives, that it takes care of the aneurysm, and that her brain would begin a healing process.
As far as her brain, please do pray that it will fully heal either quickly or eventually. Most of the doctors here believe Ellie has probably suffered moderate to severe brain damage that will never heal, especially to the right side of the brain. I'm not ready to believe that yet. Please pray for a miracle.
Pray for Alana and I. If tomorrow is the day Ellie goes into surgery (it may be Tuesday because Dr. Kumpe might need more time) the Alana and I may need to make some difficult decisions about Ellie's treatment. We want them to do whatever it takes to save her life. That's our decision, which may mean she could survive but, prognosis-wise, battle long term brain related difficulties. Grappling with the possible ramifications adds another level of stress to a situation that's been nothing less than a nightmare. Depending upon the outcome of the procedure, we may have many decisions to make none of which will be easy or desired. We'll need wisdom, strength, and protection from the evil one who we think has been attacking us and our family severely in this.
The way our days have worked, generally, is that we wake up angry and in denial, we talk with the doctors and become discouraged, our family or friends come over and cheer us up, we see that not much has changed with Ellie (for the worse, anyway), and we feel a little better. This was especially true today. The start of the day was difficult, but then pastors Michael and Brenda Walker of Church in the City, and Alana's uncle Jim and Aunt Reenie, who are in ministry, prayed for us and Ellie. Alana and I both felt a peace afterwards that we hadn't had yet through this. Nothing had changed with Ellie, so we can't explain the peace, but it was there nonetheless. It must be from God.

We're so grateful to have all of you praying for us and Ellie. It's an incredible blessing. The magnitude of the support has been overwhelming. Thank you!

We'll let you all know how it goes.

Peter and Alana Lively

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Roughing It

Last weekend, the three of us went camping to celebrate my birthday. I had never been to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and so we took off Friday night and spent a few days in the wilderness. Apart from the skunk that boldly wandered into our site and stole our marshmallows, it was a stress-free, relaxing time together.

I love these extended arm shots and always take tons of them. I somehow like them so much more than formal portraits. We couldn't get any with our eyes open because the flash was so bright. And, I was playing with textures in these shots. Our faces really weren't that dirty.

**Side note: If you want more updates on Ellie, there is a Facebook group now called "Ellie Updates." She got an MRI this morning and they think she may have been having mini-strokes. Please pray for her.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Please pray for our friends...

...Alana and Peter.  Their new little baby is in the hospital in critical condition.  Here is an update from our friend, Angela:

Dear Friends of Peter and Alana...Please pray for their baby Ellie Marie. She is in the hospital, having fluid drained off of her brain right now. I just talked to Peter. Ellie is in critical condition. They are hoping that the drained fluid will relieve pressure. They will do a culture to try to find out what is causing the swelling, but they won't know anything for 36-72 hours. Peter asked me to ask you all to pray. I will keep you updated as I find out more...

And then a more recent update from Peter: 

Thank you so much for praying for us. We had no wish to return to the hospital this soon, but it's very serious. She bleeding from the interior of her brain and they're not sure why. It could be an infection of some sort or perhaps something else. As Angela mentioned they're doing several cultures to determine that. She's also having problem with her blood clotting. Our heads are spinning. That's all we know for now.

Please pray for them.  Pray for faith for them...for strength...and for Ellie's healing. Pray too for their little girl, Kate, who is Caleb's age and has a birthday two days after his.  Thanks so much.