When your heart is in two places

Sorry for the lack of updates. We have been in the United States for just over 5 weeks and it has been BUSY. On top of everything, my laptop decided it no longer connects to wireless connections and so my internet options have been limited.
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We were in the St Paul, MN area for the first month or so of our time. I am so blessed and thankful for the Thorson family who graciously hosted us, and continue to be our “home base” while stateside. Also a huge huge huge thank you to Jonny and Breanna who lent us their car for our time. It has made all the difference to be able to travel freely. On July 22 we traveled south to Okoboji, Iowa, where we are staying with for three weeks. We have just started our second week here. It is a joy to be back at the camp that was so instrumental in the beginning of my faith journey. From here we head to New Hampshire for a week where we will see many of my family, then return to Minnesota for just shy of a week before heading home to Tanzania.
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Home to Tanzania. Within the first few days of this trip it was confirmed for me America doesn’t feel like home anymore. Half of my heart is still in Tanzania. My husband and my little boy are still in Tanzania. But to be honest, even if we were all here together it would still feel like some luxurious vacation. America feels so familiar yet so foreign at the same time. I am so thankful we were able to make this trip happen though. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to meet up with us, to share a meal with us, to catch up on life. We look forward to many more meets ups!

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While we are here we are taking the opportunity to stock up on some needs and wants, for myself, for my family, for vulnerable children that have a special place in my life. If you want to help, you can find our wish list at amazon. And if you want to help some special kids this is our current needs list:

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You can also give through the paypal link on this page, or my following this link. 

On Tuesday afternoon…

Abigail and I will land in Minneapolis. It will have been 1,365 days since I was in America. Almost 4 years. I have been living in a developing country in East Africa for almost 4 years…

I know things will be different. I know I will feel different. I will probably be confused about a lot of things. I might wonder where your water filter is and why you are drinking water from the tap. I might freak out that the cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. I might even accidently start speaking to you in Swahili instead of English…

Here are a few things on my mind in between trying to get everything done and pack suitcases….

1.) I am not culturally relevant.
  I don’t know what’s cool. I don’t know the newest slang. I don’t know what season Game of Thrones is on, or even really what it’s about. I don’t use snapchat, or know anything about all these filters I see. I don’t know anything about whole 30. What is popular music these days? Macklemore’s thrift shop was where it was at when I left…

2)My clothes are awful
Yup. In addition to not being up with the times, my fashion sense is also…. not with it. My clothes are old. Most I bought at the second hand market in town, which means who even knows when they were in fashion. Many have holes and stains and are stretched from hand washing and line drying. I need to go shopping.

3)We’ve experienced trauma
Abigail had open heart surgery not even two months ago…. In a rural African hospital. I watched as a child died. I’ve shared condolences for countless funerals. I’ve held newborn infants who were left to die. I’ve seen children so malnourished, they can’t even try to eat. I’ve seen and heard things you could never believe still happen today.  I’ve lived in a culture that doesn’t cry in public unless you are mourning a death. I am raw and my emotions live just under the surface. Please don’t be afraid of that.

4)I need more than 5 minutes
When you say, “So tell me about life in Africa”, I have no idea what to say…. I might say, “It’s good!” but really, what does that even mean? I’m hoping more than a few people will say, “Welcome back! Let’s go for coffee and talk!” and we can both listen and share about our lives over the last 4 years.  I am not the same person I was when I left and I am sure you are not either.

5)My ‘Thank You’ isn’t enough
How can I adequately express just how thankful I am for everyone who prays, encourages, and supports us? I’ll bring back a beaded bracelet or some other unique thing from my overseas home and say, “Thank you. I wouldn’t be able to do this without you.”  I am so aware how short words and trinkets will fall. However sincere, my ‘thank you’ isn’t enough, but I still hope you know how much you mean to me.

To Mend a Broken Heart

[[If you are on my email list, you have already read this]]

Tuesday afternoon we were admitted at Tenwek Mission Hospital, where Abigail’s surgery was to take place. There was a medical team mostly from Maine Medical Center in place to provide utmost care. The waiting began.
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I handed Abigail over to the team at 5pm on Wednesday the 3rd of May. My eyes instantly welled with tears. The next 4 hours were the longest 4 hours I’ve ever experienced. At exactly 9pm the head Surgeon, Dr. White, came and found us in the pediatric ward. “Everything went perfect,” he said, “they are finishing up and will be moving her to the recovery room and then you can go see her”. We waited and waited some more and then I got impatient and went up to the recovery room around 9:40pm.18198758_10154284011021567_4279908786265358608_n

 

They were just about to call me anyway, so I had good timing. It was hard to see her, but at the same time I felt so much relief.  That night I stayed by her bed until 2 am, when the nurses made up a bed for me in the emergency receiving area so I could rest a bit and promised to wake me up if anything changed. Regardless I was up at 5 am and back at her bedside. That morning she drank almost 5 ounce of formula and it was like I had a different baby. Previously she would never take more than 3 ounces in a setting because she got too tired.

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18221585_10154286387396567_2607254800345547281_nWe stayed in recovery (post-anesthesia care unit) until Friday morning, where we were moved to HDU (high dependency unit) where they can closely monitor post op patients. We moved from HDU back to the pediatric ward on Saturday afternoon. We were then discharged Monday afternoon! Abigail passed through post-op with flying colors and all the Drs were very impressed with her recovery. She continues to do very well and in 6-8 weeks she should be able to do everything a baby her age would do. She is already sitting with much more strength and endurance than pre-op and is taking her bottles like a champ. She turned 7 month old on the 6th while we were in the hospital.
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There is something that brings you together with strangers when your child is sick. We made bonds with 5 other families whose children were having similar surgeries. The families of baby Fiona, Faith, Matthew, Joseph and Chara. I believe 11 surgeries were done in the 5 days the team had to do them. Abigail was by far the youngest and smallest of them. We shared stories with these 5 other families. We checked on each others children. We laughed, we cried, we worried, we prayed. Unfortunately less than 24 hours post operation, baby Fiona passed away. She was 2 years and 4 months old and weighed a mere 12 pounds. She was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot and suspected to have DiGeorges syndrome. If she had lived in a western country she would have had surgery shortly after birth, and I am sure her life would have looked very different. Instead I watched as the team worked for almost an hour to revive her, doing everything they could possibly do. I heard her mother’s shrieking cries in the hallway when they told her, I watched as they carried her lifeless body out in a cardboard box. The harsh truth of being born in Africa. Please pray for baby Fiona’s family as they grieve. And please pray for these other families as their children recover.

The time has come

[cross posted-everywhere]

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We got the phone call from the hospital. We need to go in after lunch today to be admitted and Abigail will be having open heart surgery tomorrow! (That is as long as the children prior to her stay on schedule). When we met with the Dr team Saturday evening we received a mix of good and bad news. The good, her ASD (the smaller of the two holes) has been closing on its own and is no longer an issue. The bad news is the larger hole, VSD, is much larger than expected. She is also in heart failure which pushed us up near the top of the list for operations. This is common in children with defects like hers, and should be completely reversed with the operation. The head surgeon assured us it should be a straight forward closure, which brings some relief. But this is still our itty bitty baby girl going into major surgery. Please please please pray. Will update if they tell us a set time, though I won’t have my laptop it will probably be through FB/instagram.

http://www.instagram.com/kellymarietz
http://www.facebook.com/kellymariemollel

The constant battle

I’ve been going back and forth on if I wanted to write anything before we go to the hospital. If you are on facebook or Instagram you’ve seen what we’ve been up to. Seeing the giraffe’s and the elephant orphanage. Eating our way around Nairobi. I had set up those few days in Nairobi to try and distract myself from what was coming. Though I could still feel it. In the fun and excitement of Nairobi something loomed over me. It sat on my shoulders and weighed me down. It casted a shadow over my head. It slipped in through all the cracks.

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Abigail at 6 weeks and 29 weeks. Same shirt. Sized 0-3 months

It’s fear.

I’m afraid. I’m terrified to be honest. Why is it my baby girl? Why was she born with this condition? Why do I have to place her in the hands of a surgeon at a mere 6 months old. She’s not even 12 lbs yet. She’s still so tiny and fragile.

Though we were told upon her birth she had a heart murmur, I didn’t think twice about it. They didn’t recommend anything else, they didn’t set a follow up.

She had symptoms from the start; we just didn’t quite know what we were looking at. The symptoms are so subtle for her type of defect: constant feeding; falling asleep quickly when eating, but not staying asleep very long before needing to eat again; sweating while feeding; fast breathing; trouble growing and gaining weight. It was so easy to explain these things away, which is what I did. Breastfed babies eat frequently, so intervals between feedings don’t matter. Some babies are not sleepers. I’m so hot all the time so she’s probably just sweating from me. Babies breathe faster than big people. It was all so dangerously easy to explain away. CHDs can be subtle and insidious, even when your baby’s heart is literally failing. We were incredibly lucky that the delay in diagnosis didn’t cost her her life.

Even when we finally received her possible diagnosis, at just over two months, I didn’t yet start to worry. But that day in the cardiologist’s office in Dar es Salaam, when I heard the words, “your daughter will need surgery”, my world collapsed. Every moment of every day I worry. I know I shouldn’t, please don’t write to me and say things like “Don’t worry, God’s in control.” I know that He is. And trust me, I am trying to surrender everything to Him. But if He decided to take my daughter home, how would I handle that? I can’t even begin to think without tears.

We meet with the Dr(s) tomorrow. From there they will give us a surgery date (within the week). I will update when I can.

In the meantime, even if you are not on facebook or instagram, you can follow us on http://www.instagram.com/kellymarietz without an account.

 

One in a hundred

I never would have thought or expected it.  A few hours after Abigail was born and the pediatrician came to examine her I heard the words “heart murmur”. I didn’think any thing of it. Heart murmurs can be a normal thing right? My worries went away when no follow up was scheduled. “She must be fine” I thought. 

Time passed and I talked to some friends. They told me to schedule an appointment with our pediatrician to double check. Sometimes heart murmurs can be a sign of bigger problems. I started to get nervous and set up an appointment. They day came and for sure I was told, yes, that’s a large heart murmur. And then he said “I think she has a hole in her heart.”

We had to go to the other side of the country to see a pediatric cardiologist. There is not a single one in Arusha. We sat in an overcrowded room of people with all sorts of different heart problems and waited for our number to be called. When we finally got in with the Dr and saw and heard Abigail’s heart during her echocardiogram we knew something was wrong. What the Dr said next tore my heart into a thousand pieces.

“She has a large hole and a moderate hole in her heart. There is no way they will be able to heal on their own. Surgery is your only option.”

My heart sank and the tears started leaking out of my eyes. How is this possible? Why my little girl? Why was she the 1 in 100 to be born with these Congenital heart defects. There is no reason or any answers to why her. There is still no known cause for congenital heart defects. 

Abigail is almost 6 months old. She is barely 11 lbs. Because of these holes in her heart, her heart is constantly in overdrive making it very hard to gain weight. It’s like she’s running a marathon all the time. Since our appointment in January she has been on diuretics to help prevent heart failure. She gets tired when nursing and so it’s hard for her to even get full. She still needs to nurse every 2 hours to be satisfied.

I have spent hours and hours researching where we could have surgery. It’s not an easy thing here in East Africa. We have found a mission hospital outside of Nairobi Kenya through a friend. They have an American surgeon team coming the first week of May and have already put Abigail on the schedule. The only thing standing in the way of our daughter having this life saving surgery is $3500.

The place where I have volunteered during my three and a half years here in Tanzania, has offered to help fundraise with us. Please message me or email me at g.kellymarie@gmail.com for a way to donate that is tax deductible. If you don’t care about that, feel free to donate at http://www.paypal.me/abigailsheart

Thank you for your prayers and support to save Abigail’s life.

Abigail Nainyori Dickson Mollel

img_7121I’ve always believed names carry strong significance. Naming a child should be no easy task, and we thought long and hard about the name for our child. I wanted to share what we are speaking over her life when we say her name.

img_7104Abigail – “Joy of the Father” or “Cause of joy”
Scripture References1 Samuel 25:1-42; 2 Samuel 3:3
Abigail is as “a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.” In her, winsomeness and wisdom were wed. In her, loveliness and intelligence went hand in hand. Her own soul, like that of David, was “bound in the bundle of life with the Lord God.”

Nainyori –  This name comes from the language of Maasai (KiMaa) and was given to her by her grandmother. Nainyori means beloved one, one who is dearly loved and loves greatly. Her essence is love, and from her comes loves.

img_7114Dickson – In Tanzanian culture, all children are given their father’s name as their middle name.14671098_10153773772941567_3953655848242299353_n

Mollel – Our family name. One of the most common surnames in Northern Tanzania, as part of the Maasai tribe. img_7345