Catholic commentary on culture, media, and politics.

Friday, September 29, 2006

St. Naomi Rose Coffin, ora pro nobis

Softer than sweet,
Lovelier than young,
Fairer than mild.

Born September 14, Feast of the Triumph of the Cross; entered eternity September 29, 2006, Feast of the Archangels.

Made in Canada, born in the USA, now residing in the House of our Father to make intercession for us her sorrowing family -- and for all of you, my precious and loyal readers (and long-lost friends).

I've written overmuch about the fearfulness and angst of this trial. I'll soon tell you about the graces, blessings, and absurdly generous signs God gave us of his presence and help. As a practicing coward, I need them. And, boy, did I ever receive them. It's embarrassing!

I suspect that sharing what the Lord has done for us in this painful time will be helpful to someone else. For now, though, I need to be numb. And I've miles to go before I'm cried out.

Requiescant in pace, mi amorcita.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

An angel with the Archangels

Or perhaps that should read an angel for the Archangels, for Naomi will in all likelihood charm and melt even the august trio of "big guns:" Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Tomorrow is the Feast of these awesome Archangels. At noon PST we will begin the ventilator disconnection and the removal of the sundry wires, tubes and heart medications that bar the way between hospital and heaven.

I'm quite numb to what this all means practically or even emotionally; yet. All I can say is, I can't wait to see her cherubic face without all that facial tape. Naomi will then be anointed with the Sacrament of the Sick -- not for the forgiveness of sins, which in her case don't exist, but for one last strengthening and healing as the Lord Jesus takes her from our arms to his.

We recall that our Good Shepherd began his death at noon on a Friday, and we pray he comes quickly for his little lamb.

How many 14-day-olds get to receive three sacraments? Naomi's life is full and complete. And your prayers have sustained her, and us. I never tire of thanking you, strangers and friend alike. Our family thanks God for you every day.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"One foot up, one foot down...

...all the way to Londontown," as my former boss, Father Mike Scanlan, TOR, used to say. It falls to me and my wife to pick the day and hour of our good-bye to Naomi. We've done some serious reading, praying and thinking in light of magisterial sources and got good advice from solid Catholics with medical experience. It seems clear that the breathing ventilator alone, in Naomi's particular case, constitutes extraordinary means. If her lungs were the only issue, we'd have her on the vent for as many years as she needed it.

But it's far more complicated and problem-prone than just her lungs. She is on constant antibiotics to stave off infection from renal reflux; (she has fluid backing up from her bladder into her kidneys that will eventually cause a severe infection); she is being fed directly into her unbilicus; and her aorta is being artificially dilated by prostaglandin (PGE) so her lower body can receive its life-giving blood supply. The removal of any one of these measures spells the beginnning of the end.

I keep returning to the intangible existential sufferings no heart monitor can detect: We can't be there 24 hours a day to sing to her, stroke her hair, cradle her in our arms. This is part of the family aspect of the burden, our paltry visits hardly put a dent in her lonely predicament; in fact, they only add to our sorrow. Speaking of sorrow, I'm not the one who carried Naomi beneath my heart for nine months nor did I undergo a C-section to bring her to us....makes me love my wife all the more.

One of the com box readers mentioned the worship we give technology. It's true. Human lives that once were clear-cut candidates for natural death can now be extended indefinitely. But why would you choose that for someone you loved? -- with no reasonable hope for a positive outcome or restoration of health? I recall that Pope John Paul II opted to stay in his apartment rather than begin another round of aggressive hospital interventions.

Please pray that we're able, by God's grace, to do the not-at-all-possible. Which has to be done soon. Very soon.

John Paul the Great,

Abraham, our father in faith, ora pro nobis.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Discernment and decision

I am overwhelmed with the words of support and encouragement from you all. You have no idea. If anyone has any experience with this kind of decision by all means, drop me a line.

My mind races between alternatives, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my motives and goals. Given how lovely and fair she looks sleeping there in no visible pain, am I being a more pious-looking version of Michael Schiavo?

I know deep down this isn't so, but that footage of Terri smiling mutely up at her mother plays over and over on my mental screen, and I get jolted with questions like, "What if we do get a superfantastic miracle?" "Doesn't God answer ALL prayers made in Jesus' name?" "Can't we just wait and see?" After all, we'd love to take her home as she is, and care for her for 80 more years.

Then reality returns, and not so gently. The tubes, wires, constant medical interventions, and the possible (probable?) internal suffering she may be undergoing on some primitive baby-sized level. The measuring of pain in these cases cannot be 100% accurate since they assess only objective facts, like heartbeat, blood pressure, sugar levels, not subjective truth, like the angst of loneliness and abandonment.

For Naomi needs what every newborn needs: her mom's arms and minute-by-minute caresses. Late last night Mariella and I had a good cry over the fact that Naomi lies alone under the numbing 24-hour light of the NICU room, surrounded not by teddy bears but the cold beeps and whirrs of life support systems. That right there has GOT to entail a level of discomfort that no machine can detect.

But the good Lord has been walking with us. Many actual graces have been given us. Just yesterday morning, I read a line from the great lay apologist Frank Sheed who said something to the effect that most people who enter the kingdom of God do so as babies. I never thought about that, but it's numerically true.

My parents arrived last night from Nova Scotia, and my only sister is coming Thursday. Tremendous consolations all.

I don't want these posts to become my personal Maudlin Hour. It's therapeutic to externalize what I'm going through, so thanks for listening.

Above all thanks for your prayers. When more dust settles, I'll circle back and post some more.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A far-too-early good-bye

I wish I could post more often these days. We are walking amidst an outcome we knew was a possibility, but dreaded to the bone. To our joy, Naomi Rose Coffin was born by C-section right on schedule last Thursday.

Thanks be to God, she is, in the parlance of medical cliches, resting comfortably. She's stable, and breathing with a ventilator, enjoying light pain meds, and looking like the sweetest angel who ever slept.

Devastating for us, though, is the unanimous opinion of the best neonatologists and surgeons on staff at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles that Naomi is not a candidate for any kind of aggressive intervention. Her brain was found to have many more (and more profound) abnormalities than was previously thought based on prenatal MRIs. And her condition will deteriorate day by day. Her cerebellum, cerebral cortex, basal ganglia -- the whole neurological motherboard, so to speak, is far too under developed to support the most basic elements of life. The particular type of trisomy 9 she suffers seems to have ganged up on her little brain. Ironically, the septal heart defect (hole), and the aorta choarctation, appear to have been healed.

One doctor told me last night that, yes, they could keep Naomi alive -- ie existing as an inert being attached to tubes, wires, and artificially assisted breathing -- for a long, long time. After a while, though, we're told, there is a law of diminishing returns, and distressing events will begin to happen. They already have. While she appears so peaceful and bears a strong heart beat, Naomi is already suffering kidney reflux, which can result in a severe infection. A blood transfusion resolved that. Two days ago she had some convulsions. A drug resolved that. Even the mouth suctioning is drawing pinkish spittle. And so on. We cannot let cat chase mouse for too much longer. Within days, likely.

Life sometimes includes some "It Must Be Done, Period" moments. This is one of them, God help us. We now face the impossible task of deciding when to finesse the end of her little life -- an event we're told would be peaceful, and well medicated throughout. Yet, we believe her true Father will give us the signs that it's time to help him greet her, as we helped him make her.

We're not talking about euthanasia. (I had the same questions myself when the hard facts of her very poor prognosis were given us.) We're talking about an extension of the comfort care she's already receiving. With no discernably good outcome, coupled with needless and steadily increasing suffering -- not to mention staggering NICU costs -- Naomi deserves the enjoyment of eternal rest. As brutally tough for us as it is, a quasi-orchestrated good-bye would allow her to fly non-stop direct from our weak arms to the Lord's strong ones.

How we'll do this, I have no idea. We want to keep visiting her; singing into her ear; stroking her hair (which, by the way, has hilarious-looking blond highlights -- who is this Fifth Avenue salon customer?); telling her we love her, and so on. But is that the best for Naomi?

Each visit invariably shows us another tiny thing about her to fall in love with, so each time with her becomes more distressing than the previous one. Then there's the questions from her three-year-old sister Mariclare at home. "Is she warm enough, Daddy?" "Does she have her blankie?" It is these innocent, lovely questions that undo me emotionally -- an undoing I have to hide from her, at least for now. (She only knows her little sister has a boo boo and needs to stay with the doctor.)

I baptised her the day she was born. And our good pastor Confirmed her today. Houston, we have a saint in the family! And we love her with all our bursting hearts.

Please pray for Mariella and I that we read the signs of the times properly over the next few days. Naomi is no longer in need of prayers; we are. And I have to tell you, our family is truly walking in the strength of the Holy Spirit thanks to your constant prayers and support these past six months. We're experiencing the mysterious Beatitude blessedness of those who mourn. It is a great consolation.

I'll tell you soon about the amazing actual graces our Lord has given us thoughout these months. I've been told that some of these "God-incidences" may be of great encouragement to the faith of other people.

John Paul the Great, ora pro nobis.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Naomi debuts tomorrow

The C-section is set for 2 PM tomorrow, PST, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

Our journey with Naomi has surely been roller coaster-like, complete with unforeseen sharp turns and terrifying dips. Yesterday we got some more news, described as "unwelcome." I don't understand much of it, but last Friday's MRI showed some necrosis in her basal ganglia. This finding is almost always associated with oxygen deprivation (which almost never happens in utero) or with some unknown infection. No one knows exacty what it implies. But it's not good news.

This latest joins her collective list of medical challenges: a ventricular septal defect (VSD or hole in the heart); a choarctation in the aorta leading out of the heart; enlarged lateral ventricle of the brain (too much cerebral fluid); and a severely undersized chin, which may necessitate intubatation to allow her to breathe -- either by nose/mouth tube or by tracheotomy in the throat.

One scary question mark after another, after another.

Her genetic condition is so rare that the medical team is working completely in the dark as to what we can expect. Even the MD geneticist who specializes in rare genetic conditions has never seen it before.

My wife's doctor is a good one, and a practicing Catholic. He said a wise thing yesterday, the essence of which is: in God's perspective, a human life is either 70 years or 70 minutes long, and all are equally important to Him. All of us are in His hands.

I'll tell you one thing. When I look at her ultrasound images, I see a gorgeous baby -- a virtual twin of her beautiful older sister Mariclare. So far, this little cherub has beaten very long odds. We're thinking about changing her name to Naomi Seabisquit Coffin.

Tomorrow and the days following will likely determine the extent of her medical "issues." Your prayers at this time are so appreciated.

John Paul the Great, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Servant of God Fulton Sheen, ora pro nobis.

Let's play Flip It Around

Flip It Around is a game I like to play while watching how the MSM sees and reports on the world. The game is simple. Just flip the event around and see if the coverage would stay the same. If someone accused of a crime is a Democrat, flip it to Republican and see if the media would treat it the same way; if a priest is arrested, flip it to rabbi and see if the coverage would be the same; if a black cop beats up a white suspect, flip it to white cop, black suspect, and so on. You get the point.

Here are two examples of flip it: First, imagine a movie made in a foreign county depicting the kidnapping and beheading of Bill Clinton. Can't you hear the screams from Clintonista lawyers, and the unanimous cries of outrage from the MSM?

Flip it to another president and another manner of murder.

Second, imagine a 23-year-old teacher who pleads guilty of sexually molesting a 13-year-old girl, including statutory rape. Imagine such a criminal getting no jail time, a light sentence of home confinement and some years of probation. Then imagine the judge letting him go on The Today Show and be interviewed by Matt Lauer. It would never, ever ever happen, right?

Well, flip it to female perpetrator.

Talk about glamorizing evil: The platinum blond highlights, the ruby red lip gloss, the soft lighting. Get me a bucket; my stomach is churning.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Has it really been five years?

I remember rubbing my eyes in disbelief at the news coverage five years ago today. I remember the anchor saying there may be more planes in the air heading for Los Angeles.

My wife was in downtown LA that morning at the Peruvian Embassy. Her cell phone wasn't picking up. I'll never forget that feeling of dread. I can not imagine what it must have been like in New York that day, or, God forbid, in one of the twin towers.

Yes, 9/11 changed everything. Except the Bush-haters.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Naomi debuts in nine days

Our third daughter, Naomi Rose, is set to be born on Thursday, September 14, by C-section. Through our worries, fears and apprehensions, our precious cargo has drawn all of us closer to the Lord.

Those of you who are parents know that calling things like this "difficult" is the world's biggest understatement. We still don't know much of anything about what her condition will bring.

All we know is, she seems to have a small portion of extra chromosomal material on the ninth chromosomal pair. Technically it's called partial trisomy 9q, partial monosomy 9p.

Whatever. I'm frankly tired of reducing her to some arcane science jargon. Naomi is our baby, as important to God as I am. We're crazy about her already. Her two older sisters are going to positively soak her in love every day.

She may need heart surgery at birth, for there seems to be a choarctation (an over-narrowing of the aorta near the heart). Or maybe not. She may need to be intubated to help her breathe at first. Or maybe not.

Welcome to the no man's land we've trodden for seven months. My wife and I are starting a Novena tonight, which will end on Naomi's day of birth, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

Any prayers you can spare will be so greatly appreciated. Thanks to them, Naomi has beaten the odds to a tremendous degree already.

Pope John Paul the Great, ora pro nobis.

"Crikey" guy finally gets his wish

TV's Crocodile Hunter, the late Steve Irwin once insisted, "My number one rule is to keep that camera rolling. Even if it's shaky or slightly out of focus, I don't give a rip. Even if a big old alligator is chewing me up I want to go down and go, 'Crikey!' just before I die. That would be the ultimate for me."


I say that with full sympathy for his widow and their two kids who must now deal with a dad-free life. It reminds me of insane base jumpers whose chutes don't open and they self-splatter on the rocks below. The media then lionizes them as brave pioneers of...what?

Is anyone else bothered by the death-wish lifestyle Mr. Irwin embraced, which led to his death? He regularly did very stupid things around, and in the face of, very dangerous animals. All for the fame that comes with faux heroism paraded before a voyeuristic TV audience, namely us.