Thursday, September 1, 2011

Year One.

“Our girls are turning one.” That’s a phrase we’ve been saying a lot lately, many times with a sense of disbelief that it’s been a year since they were born. I’ve been staring at this blog for a week, trying to think of a way to sum up our year. Many of the past entries came naturally; there was something we needed to share, so we shared it. This one is a big deal, how do you put it into words? I don’t know that I can, but I’m going to try.
 We were looking through some early pictures, a lot of them for the first time since they were taken. I didn’t realize how hard it would be. Some of the pictures took us right back to a place that we didn’t want to be. We had prepared ourselves for a short NICU stay, which is pretty common for triplets, but nothing can prepare you for the ride we went on. I think it’s safe to say the pictures of Brenna were the hardest to relive, followed closely by the emergency baptism ones when we didn’t know if they would survive. Those images really reminded us how blessed we were to be able to bring all three girls home.

Angie and I talked a lot the first few months about what it would be like when we got the girls home. There were a lot of mixed emotions when Anna and Lucy got to come home. We were thrilled they were doing well enough at 36 weeks to be able to go home, but having to leave Brenna while starting our lives with Anna and Lucy was excruciating.   Splitting time between the hospital and home was a tall order. How would we be able to handle it? The situation, complicated by the fact it was winter, really made those last three months Brenna was in the NICU seem longer than they were.
Brenna came home January 31st, 2011. It was one of the best days we have experienced as a family. Finally having everybody together, was a fantastic feeling. It was also really strange. Imagine doing something every day for 5 months, then one day, it’s done. For the longest time, whenever I was driving on 235, I had the urge to take exit 8A, because that had been our life for 5 months and Mercy had been our home.
With everybody home, the focus of our conversations started to shift from, “I can’t wait for them to be home” to “I can’t wait for everyone to meet them.” We had always had Easter in the back of our minds as the time we could take them out. We *might* have jumped the gun a little early and gone to church on Palm Sunday, but hey, it was only a week early, right? Being able to get out and go really did a lot for us as a family. We have always said we want to try to make life as normal as we can for our girls. Just because there is three of them doesn’t mean we can’t do things. It might just take us a little longer to get ready. Have you seen how much stuff is required to take triplets anywhere? Short answer: a lot.
We have had a busy spring and summer. One thing that really stands out to me as something we hope to continue is the March of Dimes walk, which took place in May. Angie had mentioned it before the girls came home and we started talking about it more seriously as spring got closer. Angie did an amazing job with it, and for those of you who don’t know, Team Kamps^3 ended up as one of the top fundraising teams this year. It is a tradition we plan on continuing, so thank you to all of you for participating, and we look forward to seeing you all again next year.  Some other high points include the always fun Slater Fourth of July, a short vacation at the Honey Creek Resort, and trip to KC to visit Uncle Ryan.  It’s been a wild summer, but it’s been fun.
Team Kamps^3 March of Dimes 2011
Before Brenna’s last surgery, Angie talked about the term “miracle” and how she doesn’t use it lightly. Statistics show that 50% of 25 weekers don’t come home…we were blessed beyond belief to have all 3 girls stick around. I’ll never forget the mission mile preemie signs along the March of Dimes route that read “surviving triplet”, that was almost our story.  Being able to bring all of them home, despite their trouble, certainly qualifies as a miracle in my book. Our faith was absolutely shaken in the last year, but we are trusting in Him that this is His will for our family. God put some amazing people in our lives to get us through the last year. We would not have made it if it were not for you. Thanks to all of you friends and family who offered your help and support and prayers. You will never know how much it meant to us. And our nurses…I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again but I don’t think you can even imagine the gratitude we have for you.  You took care of our precious babies and us most times.  You had to tell us some of the worst news of our lives yet you also were our best friends.  We miss you terribly and will always, always consider you part of our family.
Today is September 1st, 2011. The last year has been the most difficult, most rewarding year of our lives, and we are stronger for having endured it. The girls still have to play catch up due to their extreme prematurity, but we have no doubt they will get there. They are making progress and that is all we can ask for right now. To sum up our year in numbers; 152 days in the hospital, 7 surgeries, 3 babies, 2 minivans, and 1 complete family. We have been blessed with these three little monkeys, and life would just not be the same without them. For now, we have to go. We have a birthday party to plan, our girls are turning one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Aaaand We're Back...

Aaaaand we’re back. It’s been a while interwebs, we’ve missed you. Things at home have been hectic as ever, and we are eagerly awaiting warmer weather. It’s been a long winter on lock down and we can’t wait to be able to get outside with the girls. I’m sure they’re tired of seeing the same three rooms in our house too.
What can I say about the girls? We are continually shocked at how far they have come. Looking at them now, it’s hard to believe how very very tiny and fragile they were when they were born. I dare to say if you had just met them today, you wouldn’t believe they were born at a pound and a half each. We’re thankful that now it seems like many of the things we struggle with are “baby” problems, and not so much “preemie” problems.
Appointments have finally slowed down now. We’re down to a few home visits a week for now. They’ll pick up again here in a few months, but it’s nice not having to run to the doctor all the time. In our last post, we had mentioned that feeding had been one of our biggest struggles. Things have improved greatly in that aspect. Anna has gone from not wanting much to do with the bottle at all, to our defacto “dinner bell”. When she’s ready to eat, she’s ready, and if she doesn’t like the service, she’ll tell you.  It’s been quite a relief to us knowing that feeding isn’t the battle it used to be. We still have our moments, but nothing like it used to be.
Socially, the girls are really making great progress. They are starting to recognize familiar people, and get excited when they see them. It really makes for a good start to the day when you pop into their room to wake them up for the morning and you’re greeted with a great big smile because they are happy to see you.  They are also becoming quite the little chatter boxes as well. Don’t tell Mom, but we do work on “da da da” quite a bit more than other sounds when she’s not around. It’s really fun to watch them start to become interested in their toys and the things around them. Before we were seeing random movements at objects, but in the last few weeks, the movements have become deliberate, “I want that toy” movements. And of course, everything they can get their hands on goes straight to the mouth. Teeth can’t be that far away as much as their drooling these days. Anna’s new favorite thing is blowing spit bubbles…kinda gross, but super cute.
Sleep had been hard to come by at our house, but thankfully we’ve been able to cut out a feed during the night so we are able to sleep for a solid 5-6 hours now. We get the girls to bed around 9:00 or so, and for the most part, they sleep until about 3:30-4:00am. We still have to get up for pacifiers and swaddles, but at least it’s not the 1.5 hour feeding event. Lucy is going to be the first to get to try cereal, probably here in the next couple of days. We are excited to see how it goes. It could be an adventure with her. We may be packing in our dining room area rug a bit sooner than we expected. The other girls have some work to do on their head control, but they’ll get there soon enough.
I’m sure there is more, but honestly I’m not the best at remembering things these days. Sleep has eluded me for a while, and I’m afraid I’m not as sharp as I used to be, but it’s coming back. I’m going to end today with this. Angie and I, along with many of our friends and family members will be taking part in the March of Dimes March for Babies walk this year. The March of Dimes is an organization that raises money to help us understand and hopefully one day prevent premature births. I don’t have the words to describe the first 7 months of our girls lives. Many 25 weekers never make it home. Ours did, and we thank God every day. Many of you who follow this blog have already made a donation, and we thank you. If you have the desire, please consider visiting our team page (link) and making a donation.  Your dollar could be the dollar that funds a breakthrough that ensures a preemie goes home where they belong. Here is what the March of Dimes has done for us…



Bundled up for a walk


Uncle Ryan and the girls


Lucy and Anna - Staring Contest

Brenna after bath



Lucy nomming rings

Three Little Monkeys

Cutest. Brenna. Bunny. Ever.
In His Name,
Brad, Angie, Anna, Brenna and Lucy Kamps

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Our story, In Photo

Here is a slideshow made by Grandma Sheryl of some of the thousands of pictures we took in the first few months of the girls' lives.  Some of these pictures are still difficult for us to look at because we will never forget the absolute fear and heartache we endured those first months.  At the same time, I look at these pictures and I see the amazing power of our God...he can heal all things.  He loves our babies and through all their pain He never left their sides.  Without our faith in Him and the hope He gave, we never would have made it through.

Long overdue update

I know I know, it has been a long long time since we have written...funny how 3 babies at home keeps you busy. Yes, you heard right, our sweet Brenna is home and doing great!  She has actually been home since Jan 31 (Brad and I thought we had posted that update but obviously we didn't).  Life is hectic but we are loving it.  Thankfully we get lots and lots of help from grandma and grandpa Kamps and grandma and grandpa Mortvedt.  The girls now weigh between 11 and 12 pounds and are starting to wear size 6 months.  I look at these clothes hanging in their closet and I can believe how big they've gotten.  I remember staring at the size preemie clothes in the closet after they were born and thinking, they are never going to be big enough to even wear preemies!  While the girls are significantly bigger than they were at birth they still have a long ways to go to catch up for their age.  Feedings have been somewhat difficult with the girls.  We are feeding the girls every 4 hours (day and night) to get them to keep gaining. In the last few weeks we have really struggled with Anna and Lucy to take their bottles (they would refuse) and Anna ended up losing weight.  So we've added yet another specialist to the list of those following the girls.  We now see a GI doctor.  He thinks Anna's difficulties are a result of reflux and heartburn.  Lucy's could also be reflux but I have a feeling it may have more to do with her personality...she doesn't want to take orders from anyone!  Both girls are now on medications to treat reflux and are doing better.  We still have struggles but overall they are eating more.

Playtime is getting a lot more fun in the Kamps household!  The girls are all so interactive these days.  They all love being talked to and played with.  They love batting the toys on their play mat, grabbing rings, kicking things and standing up (assisted of course).  We are working on tummy time, although none of them really seem to care for it.  Anna and Lucy have both rolled from tummy to back a handful of times and Lucy is really close to rolling from back to tummy!

We are anxiously anticipating springs arrival.  We can't wait to get outdoors for walks and trips to the park.  Also with the warmer weather brings the end of flu/RSV season that has kept us on house arrest since the girls have been home.  The only outings the girls have had since coming home have been dr appointments.  Not a single trip to the store, post office, mall etc. They still haven't met a majority of the family yet.  We look forward to being "normal" again and being able to attend family functions, church, visit friends and even being able to run errands!  We can't wait to introduce these amazing little girls to those that have prayed so hard for them.  They truly are a testament to the power of prayer! 

Well, feeding time is quickly approaching and the girls are starting to stir.  We hope to see you all soon!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Our Little Girl, Our Big Miracle

In general, I do not use the term “Miracle” lightly but I honestly believe Brenna’s life is truly a miracle.  Yesterday she underwent surgery to have a VP shunt installed to drain excess fluid from her head.  This is the 7th surgery Brad and I have endured on our girls (Brenna’s 5th) and I can honestly say it never gets easier.  In fact, this one was the most difficult for me yet.  I held her all night before the surgery and tried to prepare myself for the following day but nothing can prepare you for handing off your wide eyed baby girl to the pre-op nurses in the OR and knowing what awaits her.  After about an hour and a half the surgeons came out; the surgery was a success.  The most ideal place for the shunt to drain is the abdominal cavity and thankfully that is where the doctors were able to put it.  Unfortunately, when Brenna’s stomach was opened up it revealed numerous adhesions as a result of her previous perforated bowel which is not good news, but also not surprising.  The end of the shunt must be placed in an area free of adhesions or it will not function, thankfully the surgeons were able to find one pretty big pocket free of adhesions.  However, should the shunt need to be revised in the near future, it will not be an easy task and may not even be able to go to the stomach.  Please rlay that Brenna’s new shunt will hold out long enough for the adhesions to clear. We are told to anticipate at least 5 shunt revisions in her lifetime, we just pray she doesn’t need one anytime soon.  The next few days will determine whether this shunt is functioning as hoped.

Brenna’s surgery started around 8 and by 1 she was off the ventilator.  Soon after she decided she no longer needed her second IV and proceeded to pull it out on her own rather than wait for the nurses to do so.  By the evening she was back in mommy’s arms and playing and talking. Since the first self-performed IV removal was such a rousing success, Brenna decided to attempt to remove her other IV during the night.  While she was successful in removing this as well, it was short lived and another had to be put in for her fluids.  She is still rather fussy dealing with recovery and an empty belly but overall doing amazingly well. 


As I said above, I try not to downplay true miracles by using the term on a day to day basis but as I had a lot of time yesterday to reflect on these last few months I can honestly say Brenna is a miracle.  We are so very fortunate that given the circumstances surrounding the triplets’ extremely early birth and the complications that can result that Anna and Lucy have done so very well…this is not the norm.  While they had their issues and will likely face at least a few more, we are thankful for what we have.  It has been said that God never gives you more than you can handle (with His help of course) and I am so thankful for Anna and Lucy’s  paths thus far as we were in for a real rollercoaster with Brenna, one that we are probably not done riding yet. 

Brenna’s troubles started early on (about a week after birth) with her perforated bowel.  We knew things were serious when we received a call to hurry back to the hospital after just leaving one night.  We were told she was very sick and it was very obvious from her appearance that she was not doing well.  We were prepared by the NICU staff that it was possible she would not survive this complication.  Her very first surgery was to repair the perforated bowel.  There were 2 options for surgery that night, one to attempt to fix the problem and repair the bowel, the other a temporary fix to attempt to save her in the short term.  Brenna was in such bad shape that the first surgery wasn’t even an option as she would not have survived it.  So, we had to go with the temporary fix and hope she pulled through and stabilized for a later surgery to repair the problem.  Weeks later the doctors were astounded to discover than her bowel had repaired itself and wouldn’t require further surgery.  The gastro surgeon was so amazed with our girl, he had never seen this great a recovery in his long career as a surgeon.  Only later in talking to our NICU nurses did we truly understand how grim the situation was.  We are so grateful for the prayers raised up for Brenna and we know God answered those prayers.

Brenna is such a little trooper; having now endured 5 surgeries, battled IV infiltrations, infections, and undergone too many sample draws and blood transfusions to count and is still such a sweet lovable little girl.  She has many NICU nurses fighting to care for her because she truly is something special, a gift from God, and unlike any other.  Only after the girls were born and named did I take the time to look up the meaning of the names we chose for them.  Lucy means light and she definitely is the attention grabber with her funny expressions and vocal personality.  Annaliese means grace and she is our mild-mannered joyful little girl.  I was initially disappointed at the meaning of Brenna’s name, after the other two girls’ names having such pretty meanings.  Brenna means hill…how dull is that?  At least that is what I first thought.  143 days after her birth and many complications later, I think she has the most perfect name possible for her.  Since day one she has climbed hill after hill put to her and does so with a determination unmatched by anyone I’ve ever met.  As one wise nurse has said “I’m amazed that such a little person can teach us so much.”  

 Brenna is going to be a powerful warrior for God; an example of HIS undying love and faithfulness even in the most desperate of times.  One look at her and you have to know there is a God with the power to overcome all things and while I wish she never would have had to endure all this in her little life I know she will make the best of what she has been given and I pray I will always do the same.  In preparing for this shunt surgery one of the difficult things I’ve had to face is that this will make Brenna visibly different than “normal” babies for quite some time.  Her shunt will be very visible until she has enough hair to cover it.  It breaks my heart that my little girl may have to endure stares and questions that other kids won’t but what I’ve realized these last few days is if she can handle all she has, a few odd glances and inconsiderate questions will be nothing for her.  Still, I wish they weren’t going to happen but I have the utmost faith that Brenna will be just fine.  

I can’t wait for everyone to meet this little girl.  She is unlike any other and I thank God she was given to us. If all goes well, she should be home with us soon.

In His name,

Angie, Brad, Anna, Lucy and Brenna

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Update 1.18.2011

Hello world, it’s been a while. Now that things have calmed down a little after the holidays, we thought it might be time to try to write again. Life has been busy between appointments and trips to the hospital, washing bottles and changing diapers, but we are managing. Who knew babies were so much work? J
The holidays this year were a little difficult for us. We never thought we would be spending our first Christmas as a family in the NICU, but we were determined to be all together on Christmas morning. We packed up and spent the night in Brenna’s room, all five of us. FYI, it takes a lot of stuff to sleep over somewhere with two babies. We did get a couple of “You’re crazy” looks from some of the nursing staff, but it all worked out. We had fun, despite the circumstances we found ourselves in. Not being able to spend time with family was difficult, but it was in the best interest of Anna and Lucy. Cold and flu season is no time to take a micro-preemie out and about, no matter how well they are doing.
Lucy, Brenna and Anna at Christmas

Home life with two babies; where to begin? Anna and Lucy have been home for just about two months now, and they seem to have adjusted very well to it. It’s hard to believe how fast they are growing.  Both girls are pushing 9lbs and their little faces aren’t so little any more. Just this weekend, we noticed that their newborn clothes weren’t fitting so well anymore, so we had to quick pull tags off some 3 month outfits. Didn’t we just buy these outfits, how can they not fit anymore? We must be doing something right.
Since coming home, Anna has been progressing quickly. She was discharged on a ½ liter of supplemental oxygen. She is now down to 1/64th liter, and will more than likely be off oxygen all together in another couple of weeks. We look forward to upgrading her to the wireless version. No oxygen = no more monitors = no more annoying beeps for no reason. She has also become extremely active during her awake periods, talking, smiling, and tracking objects.  She is definitely a daddy’s girl. It never fails that when she hears Daddy, she’ll squirm, lurch, and crane her neck in every which way to find him. She has her days and nights figured out now, which is nice. When she came home, she was backwards, no doubt in part to some late night play time with some nurses who shall remain nameless.  Anna was also the first to roll over, front to back. She was apparently tired of her tummy at the doctor’s office the other day and rolled over. It caught all of us by surprise, even the doctor. She had been doing her baby pushups for a while, and then BOOM, roll over.  Anna does still have some fluid in her ear canal, so we haven’t been able to check her hearing in her left ear, but we go monthly to see if it has drained yet so we can get her hearing test done to verify everything is ok. But it is a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. She also still has some minor issues with her eyes, but the doctors don’t feel like it’s going to develop into anything they need to act on.
Anna Banana
Lucy has also been making great strides since coming home. She is still our vocal baby, but she talks more, and cries less. She is getting pretty good at focusing on and grabbing objects, and loves the bath tub. Not during bath time, she just likes to sit in the bath tub, but hey, who doesn’t? Lucy also rolled over for the first time last week front to back, and she’s actually almost got back to front down. She’s got the leg kicked over, she just needs to build up the momentum to flip over her shoulder, but it won’t be long. We’ve noticed that Lucy isn’t content lying on the floor any more, she really enjoys sitting up and seeing the world. So curious, so ready to get out there and explore.  Medically, Lucy is pretty much clear of any issues at this point. Her only real concern coming home was her eyes as well, but she has been cleared of any problems, so we are relieved with that outcome.
Lucy mugging for the camera

Now to Brenna; so much has changed with her since our last update. At the time, she had just gotten off a lot of meds and started eating regularly again. We are happy to report that Brenna is doing about as well as she can be at this point.  Her weight is on track with the other girls, almost 9lbs, and she is 22” long. Feeding is going well, most of her feeds are coming via bottle these days. It does seem to wear her out a little, but she’s a little champ and pushes through. Her jaundice is all but gone, and she is off all but a few meds. We did have to deal with a somewhat unexpected surgery to correct an issue with one of her eyes, but she bounced back extremely quickly from that procedure. Thankfully, the procedure corrected the issue, and the doctor’s don’t seem to think it will require anymore medical intervention.

Wireless Brenna before getting tubes changed
Even with all the progress our little Brenna has made, she still has one pretty significant hurdle to clear. Due to some complications of being extremely premature, we have known for a while that Brenna is going to require a shunt to help drain excess fluid from around her brain. With her previous abdominal issues, she hasn’t been medically ready for this procedure until now. Surgery is scheduled for Friday (1/21) morning at 7:30. Assuming all goes well and there are no complications after surgery, the only thing keeping her in the hospital will be learning to eat consistently.
Brenna helping Mommy hold the bottle just right

Daddy and his girls
We have asked for a lot of prayers in the last 4½ months, but this week we are asking again for all you have and maybe a little bit more.  We can finally see the end of the road. There are a lot of unknowns with Brenna, but the one thing we do know is we need her home with us.  Anna and Lucy have thrived at home, and we have no doubt Brenna will do the same, but we have to get her there first. She is our little warrior. We don’t know how she does it, but she does, and we will forever be inspired by her heart and her will. Please keep her in your thoughts this weekend as she takes her last big step towards coming home. Thank you and God bless.

In His name,
Brad, Angie, Anna, Brenna, and Lucy Kamps