Sunday, August 26, 2012

Burgin Gathering

After flying back to Atlanta from Iowa, we had to quickly make our way back to Norfolk for a Burgin family gathering. The whole family came to visit us in Norfolk, see our new house, Stephen's office, and celebrate Stephen's graduation. The first part of the family consisting of: Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Andrew, Aunt Patty, Uncle Luke, and cousins Anna Kate and Caroline, all arrived on Thursday, August 16th. Aunt Sarah, Uncle Dustin, and cousins Wesley and Cooper got here on Friday. So, our need to be quick with unpacking just the week before was because we were going to have a house full of guests (and then some) as soon as we got back from our trips to Gainesville and Iowa. I know I said it in an earlier post, but I don't know how we would have done it without the help of my mom and Andrew. We had a fun time showing them around Norfolk, including the really awesome huge 3 story mall that's downtown, Virginia Beach (we only put our toes in the water), and of course Old Dominion's campus. It really is a very pretty campus, especially right now. The campus is covered in crape myrtles that are all in bloom. It was also special to take everyone to show Stephen's office (with his name on the door!)
The main lawn of ODU looking toward the student union
Dr. Burgin, at his desk
It really is his office!
It was fun to show the family around our new town. We're excited for everyone to come back and visit again. One of the hardest things for us was saying goodbye to Andrew. Leah is especially going to miss her Uncle Andrew. They developed a special bond this year.  We have loved getting to live with him this past year. He has become so much a part of our daily lives, it's going to be hard to not have him near. We'll just have to go see him and make sure he visits us here!

So, we have had the last week with just our family, officially starting the time of adjusting to our new home. Stephen had his first week of real work: going to lots of meetings, getting his syllabus together, and spending time preparing for his first class on Tuesday. I spent my first week as a stay-at-home mom: going shopping (and feeling strange that I wasn't buying school supplies), doing laundry, and even met up with some new friends we met for a play date at the park. I also got Leah registered for school, so she is set up and ready to start on September 4th. We have meet the teacher this Friday and Stephen will be going with me. The teacher specialist who helped me with registration said it would be a good idea for us to make a "facts about Leah" sheet for her teacher to get to know her, so I am starting to work on that now. Life is starting to feel normal here in Norfolk, VA, right down to the rainy summer days.

A trip to Iowa

On Sunday after graduation, we drove to Atlanta to fly to Iowa for an appointment with a new doctor - a molecular ophthalmologist who specializes in rare genetic eye diseases, Dr. Stone. We were referred to him by Dr. Murray, Leah's ophthalmologist in Miami. When we went to the hospital (at the University of Iowa), we were surprised that we actually had appointments with 2 doctors. First, we saw Dr. Wilkinson, (who was in the exam room waiting for us!) a low vision specialist. He assessed Leah's functional vision and was able to determine that Leah has more than just light perception. She doesn't have much more, but she can see some objects if there is a high contrast. We already believed this to be true, but it was nice to have it confirmed by a doctor. He talked with us about the importance of maximizing her functional vision and told us that he works with the schools in Iowa to help students with low vision. He said that we could email him with any questions about how to best support Leah in school and that he would personally respond within 24 hours. We were so impressed with a doctor who seemed to really want to help Leah. After seeing Dr. Wilkinson, we saw Dr. Stone, who repeatedly told us that he really appreciated our coming to see him. After he and a fellow doctor both examined Leah's eyes (having already seen images sent to them from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute), he told us that he thinks Leah has a condition called Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). This is a genetic disorder that affects the retinas and causes poor vision. People with LCA often have slow pupillary response and nystagmus (rapid unusual movements of the eyes). There are several other characteristics involved with LCA that Leah does not show, which is why she was never tested for it. There are many different genes that are known to cause LCA, which can be inherited or might be a new gene mutation. Dr. Stone's team drew blood from Leah, Stephen, and myself, to test and see if we have any of these known genetic mutations. A diagnosis of LCA would mean the possibility for treatment in the future, so we are encouraged. Right now they are doing gene therapy with some forms of LCA in animals and successfully restoring vision. They have even done some clinical trials with people in one form of it. There is no official diagnosis yet and it will take weeks to months to get the results in from the test, but it's nice to have a direction to be heading in. In the meantime, Dr. Stone's team have found us an ophthalmologist here in Norfolk are are looking for a pediatrician who specializes in genetics. He wants Leah to be seen by someone who will be looking at her in a different way and not just as a typically developing child. We go back to Iowa next summer for an annual exam and are looking forward to it. Dr. Stone and his team were so different than the other experiences we have had. Usually we go to an appointment and feel like we are just another anonymous face in the crowd. In Iowa, we felt like we were valued and that they really want to help Leah. In fact, when we left, Dr. Stone's nurse gave each one of us big hugs. It's a lot farther to travel, and not as convenient as going home to Miami, but it was definitely worth it!

As an aside, Leah did awesome traveling! She loved having her own seat, looking out the window, and feeling the engines roar. Oh, and she loved all the snacks I kept coming to keep her happy and quiet! We got several compliments from other passengers and flight attendants about how good she was. What a relief!!

It's a... Baby!

While we were in Gainesville for graduation, I also had my final appointment with my doctor before moving and the anatomy ultrasound. Most people know this ultrasound as the one to determine the gender of the baby, though the purpose is really to take thorough measurements of all parts of the baby to make sure he or she is developing normally. We were so fortunate to be able to share this ultrasound with both of our parents. It was really amazing to see the baby moving around in there. In fact, the baby was so active the technician had a hard time getting some of the measurements. This was very different from our ultrasound with Leah. She didn't move around very much and they were able to do the whole ultrasound in about 10 minutes. This time took over 20 minutes! It also may be that we had 4 extra people in the room asking questions!! These technicians are so amazing with how quickly they identify all of the parts of the baby, she never once told us to look away so that we wouldn't see whether it was a boy or girl, but she knows. Of course, we won't know until sometime around New Year's, but both Stephen and my dad have their guesses. We'll see who's right soon! You can compare profiles and see what you think!

Baby # 2 at 19 weeks
Leah at 18 weeks
We told the technician about Leah and that when the anatomy ultrasound was done with Leah, her brain was measuring bigger than how far along I was and that we now think that may have been a sign of Leah's enlarged ventricles (precursor to her hydrocephalus). She looked at this baby's measurements and told us that this baby is measuring well within the normal range, but that she would make a note for the doctor to look at and determine if there was a need for more extensive ultrasound images. We haven't heard anything, so we are assuming everything looked good to the doctor as well. We are continuously praying for a healthy development and no complications with this baby.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Phinally Done!

We headed back to Gainesville in a rental car (at this point we hadn't gotten our van) for Stephen's final graduation from UF. This is the fourth degree he has received from UF, so I think he has pretty much done it all! After 3 years of being a full-time student and writing and defending an over 300 page dissertation (Stephen can send you a copy if anyone is interested in reading it), Stephen is now a Doctor! 

Both sets of our parents were able to be in Gainesville to celebrate in this momentous occasion, which was really special. It was very strange to not being sleeping in our house while being in Gainesville, but it was nice to be back for one last visit. While in Gainesville, we also went to church for one last time. Stephen got to play piano one last time and the church recognized us and prayed for us. Leaving Creekside really is one of the hardest things about leaving Gainesville.

Goodbye to the Matrix

On Friday, August 3rd (after having only been in Norfolk for 2 days) we were involved in a car crash that totaled my matrix, but left all of us unharmed. We were on our way home from the grocery store, with big plans for the night, when all of a sudden there was a car coming head on into our lane. We had no time to do anything except brace for the inevitable accident. As soon as it was over, Stephen and I looked at each other (ask me sometime about Stephen's face) saw that we were both okay, and then immediately got out of the car. I told Andrew to get Leah out (who was very upset!) and we got away from the vehicles to the side of the road. In a matter of seconds, everything changed!

Here are the praises:  it was a smaller road so none of the vehicles were traveling more than 30 mph; we were the only car on our side of the road, so when we were hit by the other car and spun perpendicular across our side of the road, we didn't have to worry about being hit by anyone else; no one had injuries more severe than bruises and scrapes; the front of my car took all of the damage, while protecting the interior of the car so well that the dozen eggs that were sitting on the floor board under my feet were not harmed in the slightest; our insurance company came through very quickly for us in a great way. My car was considered a total loss and our insurance company gave us more than we thought they would for it, in fact it was enough to buy a mini-van outright! We now own a 2005 Honda Odyssey. We knew that we were going to need a bigger vehicle soon, with a new baby on the way, but were planning on waiting a year to get one, knowing that we would not be able to trade in the matrix for enough to buy a van.  God's provision for us never ceases to amaze us. The whole accident experience has been a reminder of His sovereignty.

Good-bye, little car...
Hello, big van!

The Big Move

It has been a very busy month for the Burgin family. There is so much to share, so first we will start with our move to Norfolk. My mom came up the week before we moved and helped us pack all of the boxes for the move. We were so thankful too, because she is basically a professional mover and we knew that our things would be taken care of. We picked up the U-Haul on Saturday, July 28th and had some very helpful guys come help pack the truck. On Monday the 30th, we closed on our house and drove out of Gainesville and away from our house.

Everything packed and ready to go!
It was definitely a bittersweet experience. We have lived in Gainesville for over 12 years and I lived in that house for 11 of my 12 years in Gainesville. Leaving Gainesville has meant leaving the friends and family who have loved and supported us during our 8 years of marriage and through the last few years, that have been some of the hardest in our lives. Our church family from Creekside Community Church is going to be close to impossible to replace.

We got to Norfolk and moved in on Wednesday, August 1st, and hired movers to help unload the U-Haul. We were very glad for those three guys who had to carry the piano up the stairs and make the turn into the house!

Now it's time to unpack!
By the way, check out the crape myrtle in our front yard! Our whole street is lined with them!

Andrew came back from his European trip just in time to come with us and help us unpack and move in. My mom was only able to stay for a day once we got to Norfolk, but we were able to have the kitchen completely set up in that one day! Andrew was also invaluable in helping us get everything unpacked and set up in a short amount of time. The reason for such a short amount of time will be in the next couple of posts. This was only the beginning of our crazy summer adventure!

Final step is the Gator flag - we are officially moved in!