Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Beautiful Christmas

We had a beautiful Christmas. I dare say that for me it was perhaps the best Christmas I have celebrated in my 36 years of life. Of course the explanation is easy. First, Loki is here and he is doing well. He enjoyed tearing the paper off gifts and absolutely loves his walker wagon from Santa Nana and her Elf Papaw. Second, we were able to organize the Loki Sky Holiday Gift Drive and Fund. As said before, it was an incredible success and going to the Alta Bates NICU to deliver the gifts and gift cards was nothing short of amazing. Please allow me to share my recap of the experience.

After much anticipation, and an incredible number of hours collecting, sorting, wrapping and buying gifts and gift cards, we made our way to the Alta Bates NICU in Berkeley on Thursday December 24th Christmas Eve (which is in the US is almost equal to Christmas day in its "holidayness"). We were met downstairs by Misty, who used to be our social worker and has been instrumental in making this drive happen at Alta Bates, and one of her social work colleagues. We unloaded all gift bags from the car onto carts and were able to get it all up to the NICU in one trip. I must admit that I started to feel a bit nervous. I wanted it to be perfect for all the parents and wondered if I had divided the gifts in the best groups possible. In fact, I had barely slept the night before thinking, rethinking, and overthinking the division of gifts. I got up early in the morning, opened everything up, and made a bunch of changes! Those who know me will not be surprised by this.

We made it up to the 4th floor where we were met by some of our very favorite NICU folks. Although the actual handout of the gifts was an absolute highlight, Loki's meet-and-greet beforehand was fun, overwhelming, and heart warming as well. Among the greeters were Dr. Sandhu, the amazing NICU medical director and perhaps one of the most compassionate doctors one could meet. Our wonderful first neonatologist Dr. Goldie Dudell, who will always have a special place in our hearts, as she was the most gentle messenger of the difficult road ahead before Loki was born. She also was Loki's first neonatologist during our Alta Bates days, and she is one of several amazingly skilled and knowledgeable doctors. We were very excited to see Blanca, nurse practitioner and Loki's team leader extraordinaire. She supported us through some very, very rough patches during our NICU days with her optimistic, calm and always patient demeanor. Of course we saw many of our favorite nurses (see pictures). Perhaps one of the most surprising and humbling meetings was with the Director of Women and Infant Services, Ms. Katie Tobin. She came out to shake hands and was very, very sweet and outspoken about her gratitude for the outpouring of generosity on our friends' and families' part.

Throughout the first meet-and-greet Loki was a bit overwhelmed and often did not know whether to laugh or cry. Dad, Rebecca, and Loki left for a walk as I started the actual delivery of the gifts to the babies. Misty and Nicole (assistant to the nurse manager) were incredibly helpful during the handout of gifts and basically functioned as my brain. (As you all know, part of my brain has been missing ever since Loki was born.) There was a list with room numbers, sex, and weight of the babies. We approached it approximately three rooms at a time. I just grabbed bags from the stack, but Misty and Nicole kept track and knew what would go where. They were amazing and made the Loki Sky Holiday Gift Drive and Fund an actual smooth and successful experience within the NICU.

It is hard to describe what it felt like to walk around the NICU being able to briefly meet some of the parents and leave a gift for every tiny new person. I had the chance to talk a little bit with some of the parents. It was one of the most beautiful experiences to see the smile on some of their faces. I so very well remember what it felt like to be at the hospital with Loki. Seeing these parents at their baby's side, knowing and thoroughly understanding their worries, fears and pain but also their hope and love for their children made me very committed to the cause. Being a NICU parent is a very intense and often very traumatic experience. No gift, financial support, hugs, or words can make the path easy. But I do believe a gift offered through compassion can shine a light. I felt that during our stay and I could see it with some of the parents I met.

I want do this again; you may not be surprised. The format may change a little bit, but I will do this again. We do not know how much longer we will be living in the US. Next Christmas we may live in the Netherlands. Who knows? But I have thought about ways to make this work, even from a distance.

I want to wrap up this lengthy post by thanking all of you who so generously donated gifts, money, time and energy. It simply would not have happened without you. I want to thank Baby Batman's mother Nicola, for sharing the idea of a gift drive. I want to thank Misty for all of her support and helping me coordinate all the logistics. Of course I also want to thank Nicole for her wonderful help. In addition, if Loki would not have received the amazing care from nurses and Doctors at this NICU there would most likely not have been a gift drive at all, so thank you Alta Bates NICU staff. And finally, most of all I want to thank Loki Sky, the wonderful inspiring ever-growing human being who entered our lives in such a scary yet beautiful way.

It was an event to remember!

These photos are from our camera and phone. [Jan. 1: Post now includes Misty's photos.] Christmas photos coming soon.

Some of the gifts ready:

About $1200 in gift cards, plus five certificates for 75-minute post-natal massages!

Card with a gift (the "from" name would vary by who gave the gift):

Card with a gift card:


Mom unloads:

Rebecca holds Loki:

The team is ready to move the gifts:

Marching down the hall:

Director of Women and Infant Services Katie Tobin (in the read sweater) thanks Mom:

Tobin and Mom:

Blanca and Dr. Dudell:

Nurse Danielle always makes Loki smile:

Nurse Margaret, Loki, and some gifts:

Blanca, Social Worker, Dr. Sandhu, and Dr. Dudell:

Nurses Janet, Jeneise (sp?), and Margaret:

Margaret and Loki again:

With Nurse Margaret:

Nurse Blanca gets a laugh:

With Debbie and Brett of the NICU staff:

With social worker Misty:

Nicole gives flowers:

The NICu gave Mom a huge bouquet of flowers:

Most families have this shot as they are discharged from the NICU. We never had that opportunity:


Cheryl said...

Wow. that's all I can say. Rarely at a loss for words, but am here. Will add that I DO know you well enough to not be surprised about the overthinking problem...
You are wonderful, an inspiration, and the very definition of MOTHER. Kudos to Jesse, too,of course, Behind every great Mommy is a great Daddy..and thanks most of all to Loki Sky, caped crusader and elf all wrapped up in one. Now go rest. This looks like it took SO much work!

berkeleygal77 said...

same as Cheryl. Ditto. Loss for words. :-) JM

heleen en frits said...

Oh Lijn and Jesse. You make us so proud and happy making other people happy! Last years Alta Bates memories pass by and we really regret not being there with you to help you make this drive to such a big success. But fortunately you have Rebecacca there and she must be a big help for you. Seeing Loki, grown so big, on the pictures in the place where he started his precious life makes us so grateful and happy, and even more longing for him to be closer to us next year. Proud of you all making lots of tiny and big people happy! Love to all of you!

marieke said...

I'm so happy the gift drive was such a great succes!! I recognize your stress and sleepless nights mom, thats a thing that belongs to you:-)
Enjoy the feeling of making people happy for a long time. I'm very proud of you three!!! X

Richard en Maaike said...

Lieve mom,
Ik heb al vaker gezegd het laatste jaar dat ik je enorm bewonderd om je volharding, kracht en energie. Het is een tropenjaar geweest en het blijft hard werken. Tch vindt je dan ook nog de energie om iets voor andere mensen te doen. Ik hoop dat je nog lange tijd kracht kunt putten uit deze ervaring die voortkomt uit jouw dankbaarheid en ervaringen. Voor jou voelt het zo logisch om het zo te doen, maar niet iedereen kan zijn dankbaarheid zo omzetten zoals jij dat gedaan hebt (en ik zie jouw gestress voor me, ja). Ik wens jou, Dad en Loki een heel goed jaar toe, waarin jullie weer veel te wachten zal staan, maar jullie vormen een goed team met zijn drietjes, dus jullie komen er wel!!
Knuffel Maaike

Mitch said...

Incredible...absolutely amazing! Jesse and Lijn, you never cease to inspire me. To create the time, and I mean create because I know you have none to spare, to bring gifts to the NICU is nothing short of amazing.
Hope you continue to have a great end of 2009 and a happy and healthy neiuwe jaar! (Sorry about the incorrect spelling-- but you know that is the only Dutch I know).
Miss you!

Mascha said...

Very impressive. I am happy this was such a huge success.

Can't wait for more Christmas pictures of Loki's first Xmas at home.

Have a great start into the new year.


About Loki Sky

Loki Sky is a special little man. He was a very early micropreemie, weighing only 610 grams (1 lb, 5 oz) after 24 weeks, 3 days gestation, born to an American Father and a Dutch Mother in Berkeley, California on October 18, 2008.

On January 11, 2009, while still in the hospital NICU, his one kidney stopped working. It was repaired after three surgeries. After spending time in three hospitals in three cities, Loki came home on February 17. He struggled with eating, and then stopped in July, leading to 8 days in the hospital, a failure-to-thrive diagnosis, and a NG feeding tube. On October 10, a minor surgery installed a G feeding tube. Another procedure replaced it with a new one, and then again with a Mic-Key button in Jan. 2010.

In August 2010, he and his parents moved to the Netherlands.

Read about his first name.
Read & hear about his middle name.
See photos.
See videos.

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Loki's Holiday Gift Drive

Please consider donating to Loki's Holiday Gift Drive for the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center NICU. You can donate by Paypal or credit card here:

Click here for more information, including how to pay by check. For all posts on the Gift Drive, click here.