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Thursday, November 27, 2008

PART THREE - My Very Own Miracle

(If you're just tuning in on this Thanksgiving Day, we are at the conclusion of our three-part mini-series story event.  Please read Part One and Part Two to catch up.  And check the sidebar for our special giveaway.  Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.  Happy Thanksgiving!)

We questioned ourselves for days, even weeks, after making our decision as Penni looked more miserable than any human being should ever look.  Penni went through more in her three months in the NICU than anyone should ever have to endure. There were countless down days and harrowing moments as the incredible medical team at PCMC kept her going. You would not believe the amount of medical staff it takes to keep one little tiny baby alive – we are ETERNALLY grateful for their knowledge and dedication! 

Little Penelope made it through it all and is a relatively healthy, only slightly behind physically 3-year-old child. She shows no sign of the brain damage everyone was afraid of – again one in a million – a “true miracle” as her surgeon calls her. Penni is so funny and so stubborn and so SWEET. We are all so in love with her we can barely stand it. My 13-year-old speculated recently what our life would be without Penni – I’m glad we don’t have to know. I would probably be working again, I’d be stressed about the house, school, work, all the typical things – but with a giant hole in my spirit. 

Now I get lonely for grown up conversation and a little time to myself and with my husband. We also miss the second income and that is stressful of course. But would we trade it? Can you even believe I’m asking that question? We are VERY blessed, and yes, we’ve asked ourselves many questions over the past three years. But did we EVER think this kid is what we would end up with when we were all in the NICU 3 years ago? I have to say NO WAY. You may think we’re pessimists to not have any hope. But you had to be there, you had to see her, you had to be in the moment. My husband, as a neuroscience trauma nurse, knew what we could be in store for – I could only think of what was happening in the minute, it was all I could handle. We didn’t allow ourselves to think of a future with Penni. It wasn’t a reality we could see. But here it is. We’re stressed a lot here and there, but truly we feel like we WON THE LOTTERY OF LIFE! ☺

I don’t know what we did to deserve it really.

When I think again back to Thanksgiving 2005, I have to give props to this sometimes extremely misunderstood city, county and state we now live in (Salt Lake City, Utah). No matter what you think of Thanksgiving, it makes you wonder what really went down all those years ago when the pilgrims settled in to what was to become our country with all its glory and imperfections. No matter what you think of the state of our country and world today. No matter what you think of Utah and its influences. This Thanksgiving truly try to think of your own blessings in your own tight circle of living. I mentioned the props that my community here in Utah deserve – we TRULY, absolutely, could not have made it through those trying days and weeks in the NICU without the support of family AND community. We have no family in Utah, our parents all came to us (my in-laws’ RV parked in the driveway - my mom, dad and stepmom all staying in the house with us at the same time! For WEEKS!) – And guess what? It all worked – everyone was one in their desire to help us and in turn help little Penni. Our neighbors, Dave’s co-workers, folks from our Presbyterian church, did I mention our neighbors… I don’t have words for how they rallied to help us. 

I hate to say this… but sadly, we’re pretty sure this would not have happened in Los Angeles, not to this extent – we had meals EVERY night made for us by church folks and neighbors, some we didn’t even know! We finally had to move the meal schedule to every other night so the leftovers didn’t pile up! Penni was born in November 2005 and we had meals still coming to us in MARCH 2006! It was HUGE! Neighbors, Mormons, Presbyterians, whatever – they were amazing! And we are infinitely indebted to them! Meals, groceries, babysitting, driving, praying, emotional support – and talk about praying - there were prayer chains across the country working overtime sending such love toward Penni and us that we could feel it – it was so tangible and real – I mean, truly – AGAIN, what did we do to deserve it???

Bottom line, folks, right now I am a stay at home mom with a lot of really strange perspectives on the world, politics, the Obamas, Sarah Palin, Joe Six-Pack, the economy, war, schools, the health system, the prison system, drugs and alcohol, religion and faith, teenagers, sports, nature, family and motherhood and I’m willing to talk about most if not all of these topics at some point. But when it all is said and done, in the middle of this crazy world, at the exact center of my universe in my soul, spirit and heart – no matter my daily struggles and rants, I am tremendously and overwhelmingly THANKFUL for who I am and for what I’ve been given.

Do I have any idea what God, the world, life has in store for Penni, for me, for the rest of my family? No I don’t. We still have some obstacles to hurdle with Penni medically, she’s still quite fragile, but she appears to have a long life ahead of her and plenty of time to conquer EVERYTHING! We’re excited to be a part of this journey with her and are grateful that we have this wonderful little human being to give us immediate perspective. 

Ultimately, this is it. The heart of what being thankful is all about – life, love, family, friends and peace in daily life. I mean peace in a centered, semi-confident sort of way, even in the midst of chaos. What are we without these things? Let's be thankful we all don’t have to know. 

Love to every last one of you who read this, 

Happy Day of Thanks, 


(Karen and Penni's story in pics)

11-23-08 - Right after 2nd run of ECMO started - much much more swelling this time, miserable baby

11-28-05 - Dad says goodbye before Penni's surgery to repair hole in diaphragm - still on ECMO.

11-29-05 - No more ECMO, diaphragm repaired - orange thanksgiving bow

12-1-05 - Me "holding" Penni for first time while re-positioning

1-22-06 - Penni comes home from the hospital!

1-22-06 - Penni's big sisters finally get their hands on her!

2-21-06 - First smile at home!

11-14-08 Penni's 3rd birthday - November 14, 2008

August 2008 - Penni's gorgeous smile

July 2008 - Penni's first ferris wheel ride at sunset - Santa Cruz boardwalk

August 2008 - Penni's an integral part of our nature loving family - even hiking to Provo falls, approx 9000 feet with no oxygen needed anymore!


  1. She is beautiful! I know almost EXACTLY what you went through. If it wasn't for my daughter's head nurse and all of the staff making outfits and keeping me up to date (I was 18 when I had her, and lived 45 minutes away from the hospital she was in) I don't know WHAT I would have done. Those people in NICU are AMAZING, they have really big hearts and I BOW to them, I don't know HOW they do what the do!

    I am grateful too.. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

  2. What a beautiful happy ending story. I'm so glad you shared it with us. Thanks to both you and Lee.

  3. Thank you for sharing that story! It was truly heartwarming.

    And that smile...Oh, that smile. ;)


  4. I am feeling the love, baby. I am feeling the love.

    sigh. God is good. (but don't tell anyone I said that.)

  5. You guys rule for making through the epic story of Penni - I'm glad you got out of it what I get out of it every single time I take the time to think of the miracle given to my dear friend Karen.

    Oh yeah, and Vodka Mom? Your secret is safe with me. : - )

  6. what a sweet heart. She is a true blessing. Thanks for your story.

  7. I am so glad your story had a happy ending.

    She is beautiful!

    Thank-you for sharing your heartfelt story.

    I'm amazed by people like you and your family.

  8. I think the words "Hold on to Dear Life" come to mind especially when you have no idea what will happen next. Penni is a true miracle. You have endured so much what more to be thankful for.

    ps...we miss being next door when the big RV comes to town, say hi to all

  9. I just have to say that Leane has attracted some incredibly gracious followers. Thank you all for your kind words and mostly for taking the time to read the ramblings coming out of my brain. It was a journey that even I can't believe we went through. I appreciate the support but I need to tell you that I think you are ALL amazing - new friends and old! I think we all cope with the hand we're dealt in this life as best we can. I appreciate my friend, Lee for her confidence in me and pushing me to write this story down - its great to have it in writing and it was cathartic in a way. Leane was truly there every step of the way, even though she was in LA (don't be fooled - I LOVE LA - I just don't think 5 MONTHS of meals would have happened there... maybe a couple weeks...). Lee called me almost every day because she HAD to know what was going on - she was a huge lifeline to the real world for me and a constant -only like a true friend can be. She admitted to me later that I changed in the midst of this journey with Penni - that I only started sounding like myself again after Penni was home for a couple months. I am still myself, but I do think I changed - my appreciation for the little things in life has changed - but all for the good. Thanks again everyone - I can't even explain what it means to read your comments. I'm thankful for you too. Really!

  10. I just read your story. I'm a father of 3 with a fourth who may or may not be on the way(?) Just wanted to say I love it when a story brings a tear to the eye of this old hard-ass.


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