Happy spoil you rotten day #TeamJustus. In the Pritchard home every Friday is spoil you rotten day, you might remember I told you in an earlier post that Justus calls it Robin Day! One of the traditions on Robin Day is pizza for dinner. Tonight, I was assigned the responsibility to go after the pizzas. I walked in to a fairly crowded lobby. There was one woman in particular that I noticed right away because she was wearing a UW Husky shirt. It was then I remembered I was wearing a Stanford shirt, this week’s Husky opponent. So it was no surprise that she was giving me a funny look as I was preparing to leave. I was prepared to hear some comment about my Stanford affiliation… instead she said, “I’m praying for your grandson.” I had this sudden urge to sing, Bow Down to Washington… after regaining my mind, I decided instead to say thank-you. But honestly, it was a great reminder of what’s most important. And a beautiful reminder of how much I appreciate #TeamJustus! BTW if she’s reading this right now… thanks for praying, but I still have to root for Stanford.
Justus is now at T minus 4 days – surgery Tuesday, October 27th. Thanks for all the wonderful prayers and comments, you are all such an encouragement to us. Samoans often get accused of being related to everyone, and I suppose that’s somewhat fair. One of those Samoan “cousins” is a beautiful woman named Pele, who grew up in the Puget Sound area. We’ve known her most of her life. The last 10 years she has been an attorney in Nashville and is part of the family there. When Jason and Alyse moved there in 2011 Justus was just 4 weeks old. So Pele has literally known Justus his entire life! Needless to say, she has been a part of #TeamJustus the entire time. She has also been part of the onsite team at times. She finishes her second trip out from Portland tonight and I asked her if she’d share some of her perspective with all of you. You are going to love her words.
I was first able to visit Justus while he was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit approximately 7 or 8 weeks ago. At that time he was in a medically induced coma and was fighting the inflammation/infection in his brain. I remember calling from Tennessee for an update and being told that there was nothing else the doctors could do for him if the inflammation didn’t stop (Day 14 – Post #2). I immediately booked a flight for my 4 year old daughter and I to Oregon that evening (she grew up with Justus and he is her cousin/best friend).
I remember entering the hospital and feeling anxious to see Justus and the family. I wanted to be a help and express our love for Justus by being there, but was also aware that he was fighting for his life. When I saw him hooked up to all of the machines and Alyse lying at the foot of his bed, I just cried. Like so many others, I had faith that God would restore and heal Justus, but the reality of this little boy lying on that bed hit me like nothing else could. There are no words that will ever be sufficient to convey the depth of emotions in that room as family and close friends begged God for mercy and healing for Justus. Throughout our week there, I saw Justus fighting day in and day out. The inflammation/infection slowed, but (as many of you know) there were battles fought on what seemed like a daily basis.
While back in Tennessee (like many of you) I continued to watch Justus’ progress through these daily posts and contact with Alyse. I was able to travel back to Oregon once more this week before his bone flap replacement surgery. Once again, I was anxious to see Justus, but also excited to see him conscious for the first time! I didn’t get into the airport until late that evening and Alyse picked me up while Kelli and Auntie Kathi held down the fort at the hospital. I remember walking in the room and seeing Justus breathing on his own for the first time. It was a moment I will never forget.
Since then, I have been able to watch Justus hard at work each and every day. He has made so much improvement, but still has a long, hard journey ahead of him. I’ve watched him strain while trying to maintain his balance in physical therapy, and his attempts to move his right arm to touch or point to an object. The pictures are so wonderful because they capture a moment, but things like shaking limbs or the absolute concentration it takes for him to move muscles that have not been used in a long time can never be captured in a screen shot. Even though he can’t talk at this time, Justus continues to fight new battles each and every day.
While here I have also been able to watch Jason and Alyse living out their lives with Justus in the hospital and Amaya Jean at home. I have so much respect and admiration for the way they have worked so hard to make sure Amaya Jean has a normal life/schedule/balance. Their love for Justus and AJ, along with their ability to work so hard in love, without complaint, is an inspiration to me. From the blending of organic (yes, Alyse, ORGANIC) foods which are fed to Justus via his g-tube to the bible scriptures and mutant ninja turtles hanging on the walls, this room exemplifies LOVE.
Speaking of love, one of the things I love about Justus is how his eyes speak even when he can’t articulate things with words. I have been able to see firsthand how his eyes track his mom and/or dad as they walk around the room. I have watched them light up and crinkle at the corners when he recognizes family or friends, or thinks something is funny. I am also not afraid to admit that I work hard to make him smile for me. I have held out my hand and felt his tiny fingers grasp mine. These are all little miracles that I have gotten to experience with this beautiful little boy during my time here. And they are priceless.
As I prepare to leave tomorrow morning, it is bittersweet. Although Justus has made significant improvement, he still has a long journey ahead and many more battles to conquer! PLEASE continue to fervently pray for his complete restoration and healing! Please pray for his surgery on Tuesday, as well as for Jason, Alyse and Amaya Jean. Please pray for his doctors, for transportation to and from the hospital, his rehabilitation, and eventual transition from living in a hospital to home. There are so many things that we can’t even grasp which go into his daily care and recovery. Please also play for strength and continued support for Jason, Alyse, AJ and the whole family. As I told Alyse, we are all committed to supporting Justus and the family with faithful prayers, love, and actions for the long haul!
What’d I tell you? Thanks Pele and thanks #TeamJustus. The moon is round… in Lakewood, in Nashville, and in Portland, Oregon! God is able and God is good.