In yesterday's update, I said that the surgeons suggested that we would have to "wait and see" the results of yesterday's surgeries. That "waiting and seeing" became very scary this morning when Elizabeth's abdomen started swelling quickly. Initial x-rays and an ultrasound could not clearly figure out what was causing the swelling. Some pockets of fluid were present and looked like "bowel contents," suggesting that placement of the G-tube might have perforated some adjacent small bowel (causing it to leak stool out into the abdominal cavity). If that had happened and wasn't fixed immediately, Elizabeth's life would be in serious danger. The only way to know for sure required another trip to the operating room for yet another surgery.
So at 3pm, Elizabeth went for an "exploratory laparatomy." This means they gave her a big incision just above her belly botton, opened up her abdomen and had a look inside. They found lots of fluid, but thankfully, no evidence of leaking bowels. The intestines looked fine as well. At this point, people are just speculating on where this fluid is coming from. However, the leading probability is that it is lymphatic drainage. Presumably, by tying off the thoracic duct yesterday, they have kept the fluid from leaking out around her lung, but now it is backing up into the space surrounding her intestines. The good news is there was no injured intestines. The bad news is, it's likely to be lymph fluid.
What this means for Elizabeth in longterm is anyone's guess. They are hoping that her intact veins and lymphatic channels will "pick up the slack" and start draining the fluid back to the heart. It they don't, a drain may have to be placed in her abdomen, which would leave us in the same spot we were with her chest tube. It's also unlikely that she can come off the breathing machine until this gets resolved- the distention of her abdomen pushes up on her lungs and would make it very difficult for her to breath on her own. Additionally, all these surgeries have left painful incisions and internal inflammation which are requiring large doses of morphine to control.
Sara and I are feeling somewhat demoralized right now. The ICU staff now walk by our room with expressions of pity on their faces. The surgeon today said, "I'm so sorry that nothing seems to have gone right for your daughter this last month." Our nurse turned to another RN and said, "This little one just can't seem to catch a break." We're feeling very similarly, wondering why God hasn't stepped in to relieve some of Elizabeth's and our pain. We still believe that He still could, and would ask you to join us in praying for a breakthrough in her recovery.
Matt and Sara
Additional Thoughts From Sara:
The last 33 days have been the darkest that Matt and I have faced. The circumstances have tested the very foundations of our faith...Does prayer work? Why would God allow something like this? What does God want from us in the middle of this? No doubt, similar questions have been asked through tears by people in similar and worse situations throughout the centuries. In our weakest moments, we have simply shut down our feelings....letting go of our need to know the answers, reconciling ourselves to the reality that we never may have the understanding that we seek. But in our strongest moments, we remember that our Bible says "We wrestle not against flesh and blood". We are not just fighting a battle for Elizabeth's life here in the flesh, but the enemy of Elizabeth's soul is battling it out over her in the spiritual realm. I don't think it is a coincidence that the two most recent down-turns in Elizabeth's progress have occurred, in one case, the day after we sent out an email full of praise reports, and in the other, after we asked dear friends to worship God with us in spite of our pain. The enemy is not happy that we still give God praise in the middle of this.
But as Matt and I determined, we have no other choice. Either God's word is true when it says He'll never leave or forsake us, or it's a lie. On a note card taped to our desk, Matt has written a Psalm he decided to memorize over a year ago...Psalm 146:3-6 "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save...Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God - the maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them - the Lord remains faithful forever." We believe God remains faithful forever. He loves Elizabeth and His plans for us and for her are good, because His word says so. So while we don't understand the reasons behind our current struggle and Elizabeth's pain, we choose to trust that God cannot lie. We write this, not so much to convince you of these things, but to "speak" out loud, what we know is true...to remind ourselves. God is faithful, God is sovereign, God will win...so even in the absence of understanding, and the answers we desire, we will continue to wait, and pray, and fight, and believe. Thank you for standing with us.
Sara & Matt