Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Our sweet Bodie,

Your first two handed birthday. I know you had a hard time understanding what we meant by that when we said it, but you'll just have to trust us, it's pretty cool.

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was pregnant with you, that we were learning about how there was something wrong with your tiny, walnut sized heart? When we toured the cardiac ICU for the first time and thought "how will we ever survive this, spending even one night in here?" 

And yet, here we are, 6 years (and many, many nights - and days - spent in that cardiac ICU) later. And here you are, the bravest little boy we know. We are so blessed we get to call you ours.

I know as parents, we're supposed to be the ones teaching. And we have. 

Or, at least we've tried. 
You can strip a bed really well now, although remaking it still continues to be your Mt. Everest. And at least twice a week you magically forget how to put on your socks and shoes (somehow, it becomes a task fit only only for an individual celebrating a double digit birthday). But you have finally mastered underwear, so there's that. 

And yet somehow, you have taught us even more. In your early years, your infancy and toddlerhood, you taught us resilience. You taught us fight and bravery. You taught us to trust God with this tiny human being, and to trust others to help you when we couldn't. You taught us to revel in the beauty of life, to find the magic in every day. You taught us what our limits were, how far we could be frustrated before we could break (and, well, let's be honest, you're still teaching us that - you're kind of an expert in that area).

The past year, you have taught us even more, maybe even more than you did in your entire first 5 years of life. This was the year where you started to move outside the protective confines of our family, of a preschool, and out, just a bit, into the real world. Where you weren't the kid to be treated with kid gloves, the kid with a heart condition. You were just another kid. A little boy obsessed with Legos, Star Wars and paramedics.

When we got back from Boston last August, we weren't sure where this year was going to go, how you would do in school. The challenges before you seemed so daunting. But I remember daddy telling me 

"Just give him a chance. He's always risen to the occasion. I have no reason to think he won't this time, too."

And you know what, Bodie? He was right. You have totally risen to the occasion this last year. You have stretched and grown this year. So, so much. You have shown us that, no matter what you bring to the table, no matter what happened to you before you got there, you bring your A game and do the best you can. And you enjoy the heck out of it while you're doing it. 
Gah. Your joy for life is unreal, kiddo. I don't know where you got it from, but I thank God for it every.single.day.
This was the first year that you didn't have a birthday party where we invited a bunch of heart families and reveled in what a miracle you are. Because, of course, you are, but you don't need to dwell on that too much these days, lest you think it's an excuse on the whole socks and shoes thing. Instead we did a joint birthday party with your friend Garret, and invited only school friends and just did a regular kid birthday party. 
And it was pretty awesome. 
You're starting to grow up on us, just a little bit. 
Last night, you told me "mama, I don't want to be 6. I like 5." 

I know, buddy. Change is weird and unfamiliar. Tell me about it, kid. If daddy and I thought 5 was hard, where the statistics and survival rates stopped for kids with your heart condition, 6 is even harder. We're kind of into this weird abyss, where we don't have survival rates anymore and things might be really great or they might not. So, you know "go have fun and live life." It's weird and unsettling for sure. 

But you know what? It's also so so amazing. You're our pioneer. We get to watch you do things we didn't know you would ever do. And we can't even put into words the pride we feel when we see you doing those things. 
And we love every inch of you. 
Well, except for the inches that won't help clean the house or put your socks and shoes on. 
Because, seriously, dude. I don't care how many heart surgeries you've had, you can't walk around barefoot forever. 
We love you so much, buddy.

Mommy & daddy

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Change of plans

Dusk had another episode earlier this week. Thankfully, it was much less severe, but it bumped up the timeline of his surgery. So his surgery is now scheduled for this Thursday (Sierra was super happy to realize that meant her dental procedure was getting bumped because of it!). So if you could keep our family in your prayers this week, we'd much appreciate it.

In the meantime, we're celebrating Valentine's Day this year by trying to stay OUT of the hospital! 
Valentine's Day, 2015
Palomar Medical Center
Hours after Dusk's cardiac arrest 
(& subsequently having to leave his best friend's wedding in an ambulance an hour before it was supposed to start)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Surgery #…oh I don't know, I've lost count...

Dusk and I met with his cardiologist this morning and reviewed all of the tests run during his stay at UCLA last week and have a plan going forward. He has surgery scheduled for Monday, February 29th  to replace his current ICD/pacemaker with a more robust bi-ventricular device. 

His current device was only really intended to be a defibrillator, an insurance policy if you will, to shock him out of an arrhythmia back into sinus rhythm. And thank God for that, since that's exactly what it has done twice now. But it was never really designed to pace him for any significant amount of time. His heartrate has always been low, but when they implanted his device, it was not so low that it was causing him problems. As a result, they only put one lead to his heart, intended to provide very minimal pacing and be available to provide a shock if needed.

For reasons we don't fully (or heck, even partially) understand, his baseline heartrate has gravitated lower in the past year or so, and his need for pacing has amped up considerably since November. While he used to be paced hardly at all, he is now being paced upwards of 70% of the time. Which isn't ideal with a simple single lead pacemaker, since pacing from a single lead causes the heart to beat in a pretty funky rhythm. 

That funky rhythm alone puts him at a higher risk for more arythmias. His low heart rate puts him at a higher risk of arythmias. The medications he is on to treat his arythmias put him at a higher risk for more arythmias, particularly when combined with a lower heartrate and funky rhythms.

Did you follow all that?

The long and short of it is that his current device isn't helping his heart or protecting him particularly well, so, they will be doing surgery to remove that device and put one in that provides leads to 3 different places in the heart, allowing it to pace him more effectively. 

The surgery should be a relatively quick one. But, if you've been following our blog for any length of time, you know that Dusk's body doesn't always respond particularly well to medical intervention. So we're expecting at least one night in the hospital. We would appreciate prayers that it's ONLY that one night. 

And, while you're praying for our family, please keep Sierra in your prayers, as she has a dental procedure next Thursday. It's not a huge one, but because she struggles with dental procedures in general, it will have to be done under anesthesia. Please pray for a smooth procedure and recovery for our sweet girl.

Thanks, and, you know, Happy CHD Week!


Thursday, February 4, 2016

When my journey becomes his journey

If you've read my blog, you know I'm an open book. Blogging is my therapy. (and thank God for that, because, otherwise, with what we've been through, we'd have to take out a second mortgage on our house to cover my therapy costs.)

But I digress. Like I said, I'm open. I've openly blogged the good and bad parts of our journey.  I share our journey in the hopes that it can help others, inspire them,  give them hope in their own journeys. And I have a daughter just like me, who loves to talk about our hardships, our celebrations, how we're coping. 

And I have a son not like me. 
A kid who has a half a heart who would be totally cool with the world never knowing.
This sweet boy has such a big heart, but such a sensitive soul. And he hates being the center of attention.

So this week, before I asked everyone to wear red for him on Go Red! Day, I checked in with him, to make sure he was ok with it. And he was. And so I began asking people. And I had the awesome opportunity to speak before his school at Chapel yesterday about why we wear red on the first Friday in February and Congenital Heart Defects in general. Knowing how sensitive he is to being the center of attention, I tried to steer my talk to congenital heart defects in general, mentioning him a few times, but really trying very hard not to make it all about him.

Even so, he hid his face the entire time. And then told me afterwards

"I'm not wearing red on Friday."

Guys. His entire school is wearing red on Friday, for CHD awareness. But in reality, for him. Because for most of the kids, he's the first person they've ever met with a CHD.

My heart broke a little when I saw him hiding his face, and a little more when he told me he didn't want to wear red.

Of course he'll wear red. 
Even if I have to bribe him. 
Because the train has already left the station for this year's CHD Awareness Week. And the Bennetts are on it. 

But my heart broke because I know why he reacted that way. Because he's shy. Because, already, at the tender age of 5, he doesn't want to be known as the miracle kid, the kid who has survived insurmountable odds to still be here despite 5 open-heart surgeries and countless other procedures. 

Because he is all those things. And more. But he doesn't want to be defined by that. I knew this day would come. I have been warned of it by adult CHDers, by parents of older CHDers. That for a lot of kids (not all, but most), a day comes when they don't want to be a poster child for CHD. That they just want to be regular kids. 
I just didn't expect that day to come at 5 years old.

But then, Bodie's different than most kids. He has very big emotions for such a little guy. I guess I would too if I'd been through what he's been through. So, our journey is changing a little. We're starting to hit the parts of the journey where I pass the baton to him, where it's less about me and more about what HE wants, how open HE wants his journey to be.

So, we (all 4 of us) are wearing RED tomorrow (and really hope you will too, for Dusk AND for Bodie, and for heart disease and defect survivors and angels worldwide), and we'll be putting together a video showing our supporters (so please send me your pictures, tag me in them, etc.!!!). 

And at least 3 of us will be super excited to do so. 
It may look a little like this.

But we may not do it next year. 

It will all depend on Bodie and where HE's at, and how HE is feeling at that point. So, if we're quiet during CHD Awareness Week next year, know it's because I've passed the baton to my son and it was his choice to be quiet about it. 
(And that my therapy bills will likely have increased at that point.)


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Home is where the heart is

We're super grateful to report that Dusk was discharged late this afternoon and is now home!
He has an appointment scheduled for next week with his cardiologist to discuss next steps and schedule surgery (very very very soon) to replace his ICD with one that has more robust pacing capabilities. We're hopeful that better managing his bradycardia may also afford better opportunities to limit incidences like what happened yesterday.
For now, we are all so relieved to have him home and appreciate prayers as we navigate next steps.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

CHD Awareness Week can suck it

(sorry - not my most eloquent title yet, but it has been a very long day and it's where I'm at)

So…CHD Awareness Week (February 7-14) is right around the corner, and it's the time of the year that my Social Media feeds are filled with blogs and posts about Congenital Heart Defects. But CHD Awareness Week and I sort of have a love-hate relationship. When Bodie is in the thick of his CHD battle, I am all over CHD awareness week, posting like crazy, helping raise awareness. But, like everything else, as Bodie's personal journey ebbs and flows, so does my passion for CHD awareness. Some days I just want my kid to be a kid - not to be "the kid with a heart defect." I probably shouldn't admit it, lest I lose my heart mom cred, but hey, I'm only human. It is what it is.

Anyhow, this year, let's just say my passion had sort of ebbed. Ok, it had totally left the building. I changed my Facebook profile and cover pictures, and we're all wearing red on Friday, but that was kinda it. 

And then this happened.
What? A cool, fun picture of my family? Sure, yeah. Except one of us is in a hospital gown…again.

Dusk had another cardiac event. Sigh. Apparently, it's disputable what the proper term is for what he had - some say cardiac arrest, some say arrhythmia, one of the EP's in the ER today called it a "sudden death episode" (like that is somehow nicer to say than "arrhythmia"). In any case, Dusk had finished exercising, was getting ready to start his day, got lightheaded, laid down, passed out - and his ICD fired. He was alone when it happened, so when he came to (based on the pacer read out strips, the episode lasted approximately 20 seconds from start to finish), he called 911 and they sent paramedics out. He emailed me and I got home in time to talk briefly to the paramedics and then they headed up to UCLA. I stayed home briefly to reschedule our day, make the necessary phone calls (to his cardiologist at USC to let him know he was headed to UCLA, and then to his old team at UCLA to let them know to be expecting him), etc. - and then met him up at UCLA.

Dusk spent the day in the ER and is now checked into a room in the cardiac unit. There's still a lot of unanswered questions as to plan of action going forward, but for now, he's under observation to make sure he doesn't have a reoccurrence. There has been lots of chatter about possible surgical options for him, but for right now, they're just that, chatter. We really won't have a concrete plan going forward until we talk to his cardiologist.

For now, we know 
1. Dusk is ok.

2. He was nice enough this year to have a heart attack on February 2, instead of Valentine's Day (I have to take my good news where I can find it). 

3. His ICD worked appropriately (those of you with a medical background will appreciate knowing that his heartrate was over 300bpm, he went into VT, which turned very quickly into VF and then his ICD kicked in; it took one shock to get him back into a sinus rhythm).

4. The event was likely caused by his underlying CPVT. 

5. The episode was not as long or as traumatic as the last one, thankfully.

6. Our family has a lot of luck - whether you consider it bad or good depends, I suppose, on your perspective. But I will say this - the kids and I took Dusk dinner tonight at the hospital so that they could see that he was ok, and I think we all felt very, very lucky.

7. Our kids are really freaking resilient and roll with the punches better than anyone I know. When I picked them up at school, I sat them down and had to explain what happened. Their first question was "Can we go to the hospital to see daddy???" and they were totally excited to get to the hospital and have fun in daddy's hospital room, check out his bed, eat dinner in the window and check out the "city lights," try out the tv, etc. Bottom line is, these kiddos love their daddy and think nothing of seeing him in weird places like hospital rooms. I love them and their resilience so.freaking.much.

So where does this leave me with CHD Awareness Week? 

Grudgingly grateful. 
Grateful because someone once promoted CHD Awareness with everything they had, and wouldn't listen until someone else once put a ridiculous amount of funding towards it. Because of those someones, my son is alive and thriving, my husband is alive and thriving, and we as a family have a heck of a lot of HOPE for both of their futures. 

Because, at the end of the day, CHD Awareness Week is about educating people, yes. It's about making sure everyone knows the warning signs, and what to look for in a fetal scan and in their high school athlete children. But it's also about getting awareness into the right hands, the hands of people who can fund research to create insanely awesome innovations like pacemakers and ICD's and conduits and heart transplants and artificial hearts. And both of my boys are depending on more innovations just like those.
So, this year, CHD Awareness Week, we salute you.

But if next year you wanted to just let us have a February without any cardiac events, that would be cool, too.