Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Happy 16th Birthday Josefina Janaro!πŸŽ‚πŸŽ‰

Today is Josefina Janaro's 16th birthday. Happy Birthday Jojo!

I can’t believe she’s 16 years old. When I began this blog in 2011, she was only four! Of all our “kids,” Jojo has been the most featured on this blog. It covers most of the years of her life, and recounts many funny observations and anecdotes of her growing-up. Back in 2011, it was still evident that Jojo had been a “premee” with a unique history of challenges. Now I have almost forgotten about that time long ago (n.b. I said “almost”…). But it’s hard not to remember the drama that began 16 years ago on this day. It was a difficult beginning not only for her, but also for us.

I have made many new connections and acquired new readers since our youngest child was born. Many of them don't know the crazy story of the first year of this irrepressible young lady's life. From the beginning, she was small in size but with a personality big enough to fill the room.

Josefina was "supposed to be born" in December, so when Eileen began having what seemed like the early stages of labor on the morning of October 26, 2006, we called the doctor's office. They didn't think anything unusual was happening. "Still," they said, "why don't you come in and we'll make sure...."

It's a good thing we went in that morning.

By the time Josefina was born a few hours later, the hospital had already determined by sonogram that she had an undeveloped intestinal tract, and we knew she would need major surgery (although it was hard to imagine what that could mean). In view of the emergency situation, I baptized her right away. The chaplain arrived some minutes later and administered Confirmation, which in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church is given to babies who are in danger of death.

Before long our tiny daughter was behind glass in an enormous, technologically decked out mobile incubatory contraption in order to be transported immediately to Fairfax Hospital for emergency surgery. The neonatalogists operated on her, and amazingly connected her intestinal tract, using surgical techniques that were truly marvelous. She was then set up with an intravenous feeding tube and given her place in the "NICU" (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We were told that when the operation healed and she began digesting normally, we could bring her home. The original estimate was that it would take three weeks.

We thought three weeks was going to be an unbearably long time to wait for our little girl to come home. But we had no idea what was coming…. Josefina kept having setbacks. Weeks turned into months. The NICU staff took wonderful care of her. Still, Josefina wasn't healing properly, and no one could explain why. Christmas came and went. The Spring semester of 2007 began, and I returned to my classroom even while keeping one ear on my phone in case the doctors called. .

Josefina continued in the NICU, her condition varying, but still causing concern to her doctors and staff. Their concerns were justified. On March 6, 2007, Josefina needed another emergency surgery. Things improved after that, although there were some scary points as the recovery time stretched on. There were infections and breathing complications. My mother-in-law came from California to take care of the house and kids while Eileen drove every day to Fairfax to be with Josefina. We will always be grateful to all of our extended family members and friends who helped us in countless ways.

My wife once again proved to be heroic.

I was still working full time at my university as a teaching professor. My health had been good for a while up until then. Indeed, I had had a lengthy remission, and was in great shape until the strain of Josefina’s odyssey started to wear me down again. I would go to Fairfax Hospital with Eileen as often as I could, and I took videos so that the other children could see their sister (older children were not allowed in the NICU).

Recall that, way back in '06 -‘07, I needed a digital video camera that used micro "digital video cassettes." I would then use a special "DVD Burner" to transfer the video to a disc (we called it "burning a DVD" in those primitive days). Then we could watch the videos on our analog television using a triple-color-corded hooked-up DVD player. I was like "Wow this is the future, man!" (Meanwhile, I also had my rather uninteresting "cell phone" in my pocket, for phone calls. Period.) I did my best to make humorous and happy videos for Jojo’s siblings, who were 9, 8, 6, and 3 years old. It wasn't difficult, because the "subject matter" was so cute! (We still have all those DVDs, though we haven't watched them for a long long time.)

Josefina charmed everyone with her enormous eyes and dimply smile. She was adorable, but also fragile. The problems, and the length of time it was taking to resolve them, continued to baffle the doctors. After nearly seven months of the tension of living this way, everyone was exhausted and I was headed for another major health relapse, with a debilitating flare up of Lyme Disease that ultimately necessitated my retirement from active teaching in 2008. It was an extraordinarily difficult, uncertain time for us all.

Seven months in NICU… actually it was six months, after which she was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (or PICU). I was wondering if I should call the Guinness Book of World Records at this point, but I never got around to it.

But Josefina made it. She finally came home on May 16, 2007, still weighing only ten pounds. She started out with a nasal-gastric feeding tube, but soon she was on her own. She needed a special formula, had some digestive problems, and a moderate asthmatic condition for the next few years, but everything was fine after that.

And now Jojo is a healthy, energetic, omnivorous, sweet 16-year-old teenager who does Irish dancing, sings beautifully, and has performed on stage the past two years with her drama club. She has grown to be a very socially oriented young lady; she is good at getting to know people, making them feel welcome, and putting them at ease. She makes friends, and is kind to everyone. 

She also loves watching T.V. with her Dad, which is good because some days it’s all I can manage. But we do get to spend lots of time together, and we also have many great conversations. She empathizes with me in my pains and frustrations, but she also brings me out of myself and challenges me to be more human, to be fully engaged with life.

We thank the Lord for Josefina. We love her so much, and we are so proud of her. We look forward to the years ahead with her and all our children (and, of course, grandchildren too☺️).