Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Brida's Eulogy

Below is Brida's eulogy I gave during yesterday's service:

Thank you all for being here to support us and to celebrate Brida’s life.  The outpouring of love has been overwhelming and Erin and I can’t thank you enough.  I want to take a few minutes to share thoughts about Brida and how much she means to us.  Brida had a short time in this life, but we learned so much about God’s love through both Brida’s fighting spirit and the gifts we received on this journey.  In reflecting on Brida’s life, three lessons become apparent to me.  I believe these lessons are Brida’s legacy for our family.
The first lesson is that life is precious and worth fighting for. Brida fought for her life.  It is something difficult to explain unless you experience it first-hand.  When you held her you could feel her struggle, but stronger than that, you could sense her determination to overcome this condition with which she was burdened.  Before Brida was born, the doctors at the hospital cautioned us that it usually takes a long time for Hypoplastic Left Heart babies to recover from their first surgery because of how invasive it is.  They said we should expect her to be in the hospital for at least a month but to prepare for a longer stay, maybe 2, 3, 4 months.    When she was in the ICU, the nurses were amazed at how well she was doing and how quickly she progressed from surgery to having her breathing tube removed, to being released out of the unit. To everybody’s surprise, two weeks after surgery, Brida was released from the hospital.  Even more impressive than that was when she came home she survived her 2-year-old sister, who didn’t quite understand that Brida couldn’t be handled as her baby doll, including not being able to rub diaper cream on her head when her mom wasn’t looking.
A second lesson that Brida taught us is that we can do great things with God and each other.  When we first received the diagnosis about 5 months ago, Erin and I were devastated.  There were sleepless nights wondering what her life would be like and what it meant for our family.  We both questioned if we could handle the responsibility of caring for a child with her condition and her three sisters at the same time.  But, as we quickly discovered, God gives you the most strength in your most difficult moments.  As long as we have God at our side, we really can achieve a lot more than we think we can.   If Brida, a fragile infant, could accomplish what she did, why can’t we take the gifts we have and do equally great things?  
Brida’s third lesson for us is that Man’s capacity to love and care for those in need is without bounds.  Throughout my life, I prided myself on my self-sufficiency and not needing to ask others for help.  Without being asked, our family, friends, and this community prayed for us and served us and, honestly, I don’t know how we would have made it through these last couple of months without you.  Every prayer was felt and gave Erin and I the strength to do the best we could for Brida and accept that however it all turned out that God’s will would be done.
Erin and I want thank everyone that helped us on this journey.  First, our family.  My In-Laws: Pat and Colin. They didn’t hesitate to put their life on hold for a couple of months to live with us to care for our other three girls while we cared for Brida.  We want to thank my family members who continually offered us any help that we needed and came out here to support us during this difficult time: my sisters Joanne and Melody, my Brother-in-law Paul, my nephew Paul, my niece Auberey, my brother Scott and sister-in-law Diana and the rest of our families that have supported us.
We want to thank this entire Church community.  Especially Johanna and Mike O’Conner who did so much for us from organizing meals and mowing our lawn, to a baby shower, to everything else.  We want to thank the playgroup mothers, the Knights, the women’s group, our friends and neighbors, people in the LDS community; people who don’t even know us, but heard of our situation and offered us whatever we need; my co-workers, who were always supportive when they heard of what we were going through.  We are indebted to all of you, debts we can never repay.
I would like to close with a message for Brida.  Brida, we are forever indebted to you and what you gave to us.  We will miss you, but we know you are in a better place, a place far better than we as parents or as a family could ever provide for you.  If your short 6 weeks in this life is any guide, what you will teach us about heaven in the years to come will truly amaze. We love you, we’re proud of you, and we’re honored to be your parents.  We can’t wait to see you again. 

Brida's Memorial Slide Show

Below is the slide show video presented during calling hours before Brida's memorial service yesterday.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Obituary and Service Arrangements

Below is Brida's obituary that should be printed in Sunday's Salt Lake Tribune.  It includes information on service hours.

Brida Elizabeth Akins, born on June 25, 2012, daughter of Erin and Samuel J. Akins, passed away peacefully in her sleep and was reunited with her heavenly Father on August 9, 2012. She was an inspiration to all with her fighting spirit, having been born with a congenital heart defect and recovering from surgery at 3 days of age. She spent her six weeks of life being kissed and cuddled, read to, sung to and deeply loved by her parents, and three big sisters, Rosemary, Mairead & Maggie.

She was a tremendous blessing to her family, who are overjoyed to have had their short time with her. She will be remembered for her absolute beauty, innocent sweetness, and trademark snort. She will be forever loved and forever missed.

In addition to her parents and sisters, she is survived by her grandparents Patricia and Colin K. Kearns and Joan and Samuel O. Akins, her aunts and uncles Joanne and Paul Miller, Melody Englund, Patricia Akins, Diana and Scott Akins, Maura Kearns, Melissa and Colin J. Kearns, and Kelly Jean and Kelly M. Kearns, and six loving cousins. The family wants to express a special thank you to all the doctors, nurses and staff at Primary Children’s Hospital for all the excellent and tender care that Brida received.  We are eternally grateful.

Services under the direction of Larkin Mortuary will be held on Tuesday, August 14th at 6 PM at St. John the Baptist Parish in Draper, UT.  Services will be preceded by calling hours at the Church at 5 PM.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Our Angel

It is with heavy and grieving hearts that Erin and I announce the passing of our beautiful Brida Elizabeth to her heavenly Father.  She passed away yesterday morning peacefully in her sleep.  This is a very difficult time for us and we are requesting your prayers for Brida and her family.  

Thank you all for your prayers, gifts, and service to us these past couple of months.  We will be posting the schedule for services later today.

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Feeding Tube and Other Updates

It has been a while since we last posted.  Here is a summary of the last couple of weeks:

  • Last Wednesday, Brida or Maggie pulled out her feeding tube during the day (we think Maggie pulled her tape, which pulled out the tube).  Our neighbor graciously offered to watch Maggie while Erin brought Brida to the ER (for the third time).  They put an 8 Fr. tube in again (back to the larger size).  They had a much easier time putting this one in compared to the previous time and, consequently, got a lower radiation dose.
  • Brida had another cardiologist appointment last week.  Her chest x-ray looked good, so they took her off of the Lasix (diaretic).  She is now only on aspirin, Zantac, and amoxicillin.  They also increased her feeding rate to 23 ml/hr.  
  • Brida had another swallow study after the cardiologist appointment.  There was good news and back news from this test.  She aspirated much sooner than in the previous study (which isn't so good), but it wasn't a silent aspiration (she coughed) which is an indication that she is building strength.  She will need to stay on the NJ tube until the next study at the end of the month. 
  • Brida's two big sisters visited their grandparents in CT for the last couple of weeks.  They are  flying back home tomorrow.
  • Brida continues to gain weight.  She is now up to 4.415 kg.
  • Brida was visited by her speech therapist a couple of times.  The therapist says that Brida continues to show progress with her suction.  We are doing some oral stimulation exercises with her every day to prevent her from developing an aversion.  This mostly involves rubbing her lips with milk or flavored chap stick and encouraging use of the pacifier.
We are not sure if it is because of the new feeding tube, the increased fluid volume, or something else. but Brida has been gagging multiple times during the day and evening.  Sometimes she spits up bile, other times nothing. It can be a bit stressful since her face turns red and she shows a lot of distress during these episodes.  This happened sometimes when she was still in the hospital, but until this past weekend, she really hasn't had any issues since she has been home.  We have an appointment with the pediatrician on Wednesday and we will be discussing this. 

We will try to post some pictures later this week.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Not again Brida!

Brida has made it very clear that she doesn't like her feeding tube.  Last night as we were getting her ready for bed she pulled out her NJ tube for the second time.  Erin and I called the on-call high-risk nurse to see if she can call in the orders to the ER for a new tube placement.  She wasn't able to get the orders in after hours, but she directed us to the more local branch of the hospital in Riverton and said the ER department can write the orders and have it placed.  This was to save us time from having to drive the extra 20 minutes to Primary Children's in SLC.

We drove over to the Riverton Hospital and they registered us and checked us in.  After waiting 10 minutes, a nurse called us in and checked her vital signs, took her weight, and checked her out.  We were then escorted to another room where we waited another 5-10 minutes until a doctor came in to talk to us.  He then informed us that they couldn't help us there because their radiology staff left for the day.  After waiting another 10 minutes for release papers, we were on our way to Primary Children's ER.  I was a bit frustrated at this point since there were several opportunities in the communication chain where they could have told us they couldn't help us and limit how much time we wasted there.

At Primary Children's, they checked us in pretty quickly and we were able to head directly to radiology.  While we were waiting for the radiologist, I talked to the rad. tech about C-arms (the type of x-ray medical equipment my workplace develops).  I learned some things about their product preferences.

Brida had a tough time with this new tube placement.  The Radiologist had some difficulty getting the tip of the catheter in the jejunum, so it took longer than the other placements.  The whole process took about 20 minutes.  For some reason, the radiologist decided to put in a smaller catheter than the previous tube (from 8 Fr to 5 Fr*).

We eventually made it home around midnight.  Brida was wide-awake when we got home, but she eventually went to sleep and slept through the night.

Brida also had her first pediatrician appointment on Monday.  That went well.  She continues to gain weight every day:

   7/19: 3.77 kg
   7/20: 3.775 kg
   7/21: 3.79 kg
   7/22: 3.845 kg
   7/23: 3.935 kg
   7/24: 4.030 kg

(*Note: Fr stands for French units.  It is the standard unit for catheter diameter measurements.  1 Fr = 1/3mm.)