Ever since Vanessa got sick, Phil and I have wanted to go to Portland to help out. Phil's mom and dad went up right away and we wanted to wait until they came home before we took a "shift" so we wouldn't overcrowd the situation. When we arrived, Doug and Vanessa's good friends, Geoff and Shanna, were there with their little boy Jonathan. They had come up for Vanessa's birthday fundraiser at the Sellwood Public house (which was a complete success).
We really enjoyed seeing them. It had been a long time since we last hung out. I was also quickly snapping pictures of Carolina, Georgia and Jonathan. Carolina didn't remember me at first, but that lasted only about ten minutes, and then we were best friends for the rest of the time. I couldn't get enough of the girls.
Holding Georgia for the first time made me cry as I thought about her not being able to be held by her mommy. I tried to give her as many snuggles as possible in our short time there.
The second day we were there, we went to see Vanessa in the evening. Although I've known about her illness and the gravity of it, my memories are of Vanessa at the beach this summer. I didn't want to disturb those thoughts. I felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest and my legs were made of lead as we walked through the corridors of the hospital to visit. We put on gloves and masks and went in. She was sleeping and Doug woke her. She was more relaxed than she had been in previous days Doug said. She was very groggy. I did my best to talk to her like normal, but at one point, it was too much and I stepped aside. Doug came and gave me a gigantic bear hug and I lost it.
We left and went back to pick up the girls from Vanessa's mom's house. Carolina and her smiles and snuggles made everything seem better. I was amazed at Doug and how he handled it all.
On Monday, we had a lot of errands to run, one of them being to go back and visit Vanessa again. Doug said she is the most alert and responsive in the afternoons. When we got there, she had been having a really rough time. She had started running a fever and the doctors feared infection. They had run several tests and started her on antibiotics. All of this had made Vanessa's heart rate accelerate, which doctors were already having trouble controlling. Seeing her in an agitated state with her heart rate elevated was very difficult. Doug put Georgia in her stiff arms. He talked to her about what was going on and told her that Georgia was there. As she held her, her heart rate calmed a bit and her breathing improved. I was encouraged to see this, although it didn't last long. The moment was sweet and they seemed happy to be together.
The hospital had a childcare room for children of patients. We had left Carolina there. She was so happy to see us and was full of hugs again. I am amazed at how much gentler and sweeter little girls are in general. Instead of rough housing with babies and gathering toys like my boys would, she would gently push her sister in the swing or give kisses. She would talk about her in her own little made up language.
On Tuesday, Vanessa's article appeared in the L.A. Times. We were unable to find a copy in Portland, but our many friends and family in California were able to find us a few copies. I am amazed at how many people know about and have been touched by this story.
I can tell that Carolina was missing having her mommy at home and really gravitated to anything that I did. She wanted to be with me while I cleaned up the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. She would "help" me organize the tupperware drawer. While I did my hair and make up, she would sit on the counter and babble to me and hand me combs and clips and makeup. We would style her hair too. She wanted to go everywhere in the house with me. I treasured those moments, but I just wanted Vanessa to be there with her.
Doug has navigated these tough times amazingly well and the Lord has been looking after him. He is doing great as a new daddy and a new "mommy" at the same time. I was encouraged by his coworkers, friends, and doctors that are helping him with everything.
These girls make my heart so happy and I'm so glad I got to spend time with them this week. Saying good-bye was incredibly difficult. In times of need, having family far away is challenging. As Carolina cried and reached for me as I said good-bye, my heart was broken. I wished somehow I could stay there or have them come home with me. More than anything, I want them to get their mommy back, fully restored and able to hold and love them again. My heart will be continuously praying for this.