Friday, January 21, 2011

A Year After Surgery

Last year today the boys had surgery. It was a fifteen minute “procedure” that involved an incision running along the perimeter of the shoulder blade, gentle push to get the lungs out of the way, and a little metal clamp to solve the whole issue of “an open valve to the heart that should be closed.”

The surgeon and anesthesiologist (who came from Children’s Hospital of Oakland so we didn’t have to take an ambulance transport to them) were about an hour late. I spent that hour with my hands on Michael, giving him “compassionate touch.” Or as I like to think of it, a micro-preemie hug.

I had meant to spend equal time with each twin, but Wagner’s veins kept collapsing. By the time they had a decent open line, we felt he’d been through so much; it was better to let him rest before his surgery.

Michael was always the one who was more agitated during their time in the NICU, so maybe it worked out for the best that I spent more time praying over him than I did over Wagner.

The surgeon performed three surgeries that day, back-to-back-to-back; two in Room 2 and one in Room 3. Matt talked to the mom of the baby in Room 3. She was very young. Had twin girls. I had meant to talk to her, ask her how she was doing. But I didn’t do it that day and before I knew it, her twins were well enough to go home.

Michael went first. When he was done, he was all laid out on the base of his isolette bed, also the cutting table. It was the first time I saw him on a bed, not a in a box.

The nurse asked me, “Would you like to give him a kiss?”

Really? Give him a kiss? What about the germs?

It took a while to find a stool high enough to climb on so that I come down to kiss him from above. I gave him a kiss on the belly. You’d think that my arms would have ached because, up to that point, I still hadn’t been able to hold him, (and still wouldn’t for another week.) But they didn’t. The kiss was enough. A sweet kiss with a golden timbre, a warm rush through my body. Another bonding moment with my baby.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tub TIme!

Here are some cute pictures from Tub Time; the boys' first bath in the tub together.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Raging Success: The Michael & Wagner Kovac Christmas Gift Drive

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house … were boxes from Bed, Bath & Beyond. There was bubble wrap and packing slips and wrapping paper and handmade cards with messages such as, “Marry Chirstmas [sic]” from kids in Ohio—all evidence that a lot of people had donated to the Michael and Wagner Kovac Christmas Gift Drive--over $1500 in gift cards and blankets and socks like these from BB&B, all Christmas presents for cancer patients at the Moffitt Center in Tampa, Florida, with some gift baskets for the doctors and nurses who care for them.  

My niece (with help from her parents and siblings) wrapped forty-nine socks-and-blankets tote bag combos. Armed with $200 in gift cards and $50 in coupons, she made three trips to BB&B to pick out treats and sweets for the staff on 5th Floor North Side of Moffitt. The final gift card balance was $1.67.

It took nine people to carry all the bags and baskets to the 5th Floor North Side. The Michael and Wagner Kovac Christmas Gift Drive was among other gift drives that handed out presents to cancer patients on the morning of Christmas Eve, but the only one that also brought thank-you gifts for medical staff and caregivers.

In addition to fuzzy socks and cozy blankets and honey roasted peanuts, each gift came with a letter explaining why people from as far away as San Francisco and Italy thought that cancer patients should have fuzzy socks, cozy blankets, and honey roasted peanuts. Be sure to check it out here.

My sister-in-law (who—and I have this on good authority—has an entire wing in Heaven dedicated to her) wears many hats: wise and thoughtful person, wife, mother, chauffeur, Chex-mix Chef Extraordinaire and now, slide-show documentarian. She put together this youtube video so you can get a taste of how the gift drive turned out. Check this out, too. It’s really cool and it thanks all our donors at the end.

I am proud to be her sister-in-law and grateful for all her hard work. I am proud of my awesome niece and grateful for her shrewd eye for bargains and excellent math skills and wiliness to follow-through on the vision. I am proud that so many wonderful friends and family members donated to our cause and I am grateful for their contributions. You guys rock! Especially Jimmy Valdes and Heather Larrick who between the two of them, accounted for nearly half of all the tote bags purchased. I am also grateful to my friend and fellow micro-preemie Mom, Kat whose own gift drive (the Loki Sky's Holiday Gift Drive for Alta Bates NICUgave me the idea in the first place.

I know December is a crazy month for everyone. Many of you emailed me to say that you supported our cause and wanted to contribute. It’s not too late. Yes, there’s always next year, but you can also give back in a comment here to my sister-in-law CJ and my niece GJ thanking them for making it happen. Without them, this gift drive would have been nothing more than a blog post.

Tote bags with blankets and socks from Bed, Bath & Beyond
(They're now $3 cheaper than they were in Dec.  
Should we stock up for next year?)

UPS was busy

all the little touches

just a sampling

with the gifts for staff

all the loot

The Letter

Here’s the letter that went with the handmade card by kids in Ohio that came with the package that was bought by loving and generous friends and family members who offered some of their reasons for giving.

My name is Janine Kovac. I live in Oakland, California. Last year I spent Christmas and New Year’s in the hospital. I was pregnant with twin boys who were due in April but were born in December instead. The boys spent the next three months in the hospital and my husband and I spent those three months at their bedside.

We had the support of so many of our friends and family, not to mention the support of the wonderful doctors and nurses at our hospital. They saw us through our journey.

Now it is our turn to give back.

Together with one of our nieces, we started “The Michael and Wagner Kovac Christmas Gift Drive,” named after my sons and inaugurated in honor of their grandfather, who is a patient here at Moffitt. Our drive benefits the 5th Floor, North side: patients, families of patients, and doctors and nurses on the 5th Floor. We raised over $1500 from friends and family all over the country: Minnesota, Texas, San Francisco, Chicago, Columbus, Albuquerque, even Italy!

We give because we know what it’s like to be in the hospital during the holidays and we know that even the smallest gesture of goodwill can make a difference.

Here are some of the reasons our friends and family chose to give:

We gave because everyone deserves some holiday cheer!!
Marian Kramer & Eric Sampson
(Marian raised $4000 this summer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training)

There is so little in life we can control, we can contribute by giving
All the best,
Mims Mathers

We gave because
...everyone deserves fuzzy socks at Christmas! dad is a cancer survivor! So is my aunt! So is my mother-in-law!
-San Francisco mom!

We gave because we are grateful to our community and want to extend it across the country.
In the hopes of bringing you some warmth and smiles,
Daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor and parents of a brand new baby boy

1) I'm a breast cancer survivor
2) I believe in the power of praying and sharing
and last but not least
3) "It's not the strongest or the smartest of the species that survives, but the ones who can best adapt to change." (Charles Darwin)
Love and Hugs, Aunt Norma

We gave because we know that God doesn't always get us out of something happening in our lives, but He always takes us through everything so that we will always have Hope. Then we can be there for someone else who needs to know he/she will be able to face tomorrow.
Sister of a breast cancer survivor, stomach cancer survivor, and liver cancer survivor.

We gave because we know from experience what it feels like to spend time in the hospital.
Because we know all too well that it is even a little bit more challenging when it is the Holiday Season.
And because we know how "random" acts of friendliness from strangers during these difficult times really cheered us up.
Kathalijn, Jesse and Loki Reynolds

We wanted to donate to support our granddaughter Gen and also for the recovery of our daughter-in-law’s father, a Moffitt patient.
Norma and Wally, Ohio

We gave because…
… because our son, Matt, ran in a Moffitt race last year and had a great time
… because my favorite aunt’s a 2x cancer survivor
… because my niece is a cancer survivor too (but I can't say 'favorite' because her sisters would know!)
… because little things mean so much at Christmas
… because this year, we can afford to give, and in past years we couldn't (yea!)
Someone from the Columbus, Ohio Family

I did it!! This is such a wonderful thing to do!!!!!
Jan, 2 time lymphoma survivor

… because I love my father-in-law
… because my friend’s a cancer survivor—had chemo & surgery and is still just as healthy, strong, and fiery ten years later
… because I wanted to support my niece
… because cancer runs in my family
… because I spent Christmas in the hospital last year
Janine Kovac, Oakland

From our hearts and minds to your toes and feet!
Merry Christmas