Dear family and friends,
Once again, it's our pleasure to report loads of good news about Jake & Josh. (We also have other serious stuff below, so please read beyond the update.)
We'll start with the best news: We got to hold them! Lori went first, getting to rest Jake on her chest for more than an hour Sunday. On Monday, it was Jaime's turn with Josh, for another hour-plus.
The skin-to-skin contact is known as "kangaroo care," and it's as therapeutic for the babies as it is for the parents, although it's hard to say who benefits more. Because it's still traumatic for them to be moved from their incubators, we get this treat only twice per week per child. That's a total of four "holds," which means each of us gets each of them once a week.
Another reason they were able to come out of their incubators - or "rocket ships," as we've told Zachary the boys are in - was because they had their most fragile catheter lines removed on Tuesday (their 1-month birthday). They still have breathing and feeding tubes in their mouths, but that's all they're hooked up to.
It's also worth noting that, for the first time since they were womb-mates, the boys are neighbors again. Josh was having a great day last Wednesday and the spot between him and Jake was available, so the nurses got approval to slide him closer to his big brother. The logistics sure make it easier for us.
The boys are continuing to gain weight nicely. As of Wednesday, Jake was up to 1 pound, 13 ounces, and Josh was just shy of 1 pound, 15 ounces.
They're getting weighed three times a week and their feedings go up accordingly based on a percentage that involves way too many numbers to be repeated here. What matters most is that they've settled into a beautiful cycle in which they gain weight, which means getting more food, which turns into more weight … and so on. They've also had a teeny tiny amount of vitamin drops added to their diet, another sign that their digestive systems are maturing.
There are still many concerns, of course. Infection remains the silent enemy capable of striking any time and there are ongoing lung concerns -- their X-rays have hardly improved, although it's a decent sign that they haven't gotten worse either. We're also several weeks away from their initial eye exams.
Away from the NICU, we remain overwhelmed by all the calls, cards and other gestures of love and respect we've received. An indication of the incredible attention the boys have drawn is that more than this update email (our third) is going to twice as many people as the first. (We're happy to add more, too, so don't hesitate to pass it along to anyone interested.)
When the boys are older, we look forward to telling them the story of their early days and all the wonderful things done for them, their big brother and their parents. The generosity shown toward us has provided the perfect examples we'll draw upon when teaching our children about mitzvahs (good deeds). We consider it their first lesson in becoming kind, caring and considerate adults.
We're still often asked what people can do to help, even from folks many miles away. So far, we've asked you to keep the boys in your thoughts and prayers. Well, that's been so successful that now we're asking anyone who is willing and able to please donate blood, and/or to consider becoming an organ donor.
None of this is needed directly FOR Jake and Josh, we're simply asking that it be done in their honor. (We certainly owe the blood bank for plenty of withdrawals -- the boys have received multiple transfusions and continue getting blood about once a week to replenish what's lost for various tests; Lori also received blood following their birth and after delivering Zachary, too.)
After discussing this with our doctors and rabbi, we feel that this is a perfect way to satisfy people's willingness to do something for us/the boys and, most importantly, is a way to benefit the community at-large.
Part of the reason we feel comfortable making these requests is that it helps us deal with the questions of "Why us? Why were we picked to go through this?" We believe the answer lies in the opportunity to help others. As the parents of these two miraculous fighters/survivors, we can't think of any better gift than passing on the gift of life.
Unlike the grief-filled blood drives sparked by the 9-11 attacks, we'd like this to be a celebration of how far the boys have come, and an attempt to keep steering fate in the right direction.
We certainly understand if you have medical or religious reasons why you can't, or if it's simply something you don't feel comfortable doing. We also hope no one is offended by these requests. There's no need to cite the statistics behind the need for blood and organ donors; suffice to say, the medical world can't get enough of either.
For those of you who are interested…
There are two primary organizations that handle blood donation: The American Red Cross and various independent agencies under the umbrella group America's Blood Centers. Here are links to Web sites that can help you find the most convenient location:
In Dallas, the local group is Carter Bloodcare:
A nationwide locator for America's Blood Centers sites is available at:
http://184.108.40.206/aboutabc/membership.htm. They also can be called at
More sites - including some Red Cross facilities -- are available through the American Association of Blood Banks at:
The Red Cross' site is http://www.givelife.org - although it's much easier to call them at 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543) because the Web requires you to answer lots of questions before giving any locations.
The eligibility requirements are pretty standard: You must be healthy, at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, not have donated blood in the last 56 days or donated double red cells in the last 112 days.
Most states have no upper age limit. If you have any other questions, ask when you call to schedule an appointment.
Becoming an organ donor is even easier -- all you have to do is let your family know that you'd like to.
Don't just mention it in passing. There needs to be a full conversation so they understand that it is something you truly want because, ultimately, they will be the ones making the decision.
Signing an organ donor card or putting it on your driver's license (if you're in a state that does that; Texas used to but doesn't any more) isn't enough. An official at the Southwest Transplant Alliance, the Dallas office of the United Network for Organ Sharing, said those other tools are merely a way to promote discussion about organ donation. The reality is that once a person dies there's no time or sense in digging through their wallet for a piece of paper. The key is letting your relatives know.
For more details - including email postcards and printable forms that can be sent to family and friends to inform them of your choice -- check out http://www.shareyourlife.org, or the Southwest Transplant Alliance's site at http://www.organ.org.
That's it for now. For the next update, in addition to hopefully having more good news, we plan to have either pictures of the boys or a link to a Web site with their pictures.
Until then, feel free to call our update hotline (214-692-1810) or to send emails. Lori's email address, for those who have asked, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jaime and Lori