Saturday, January 22, 2011

13.1 Miles of Meaning and Purpose

I am honored to run the Houston Half Marathon next Sunday, January 30 in support of Vanessa's Big Heart Foundation as part of *Run for a Reason to make a difference in the lives of children with heart disease and their families by supporting research at Texas Children's Hospital. Our family is forever grateful to Texas Children's Hospital and the Heart Center for saving our daughter's life and making her heart happy. This is an excellent article To Save a Child’s Heart: Chuck Fraser and the Unbelievable Life of a Pediatric Heart Surgeon in the University of Texas alumni magazine about our daughter's heart surgeon, Dr. Charles Fraser, Surgeon-in-Chief at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.
It’s easy to take for granted nowadays that doctors can open up a heart and fix it. The novelty of open-heart surgery has faded in the decades since it was first done. What was once a rare and brave new medical enterprise is now an everyday one. It’s not that it’s no longer impressive — it’s just not surprising anymore.

Yet something happens the first time you peer into an infant’s open heart, formerly beating, currently stopped, while a surgeon manipulates its innards, correcting with scalpel and stitch what went wrong when some tiny strands of genetic coding crossed. The sight defies belief. This isn’t a real 5-month-old on this operating table, with its chest sawed open and its strawberry-sized heart sliced down the center — it can’t be.

But it is. And not only that, but after hours of surgery, this child’s heart, stitched up and restarted, might well beat once again, sending blood and life and a future to a body that earlier this day was dying. What happens when you see this is something both unreal and hyper-real. It’s something awesome and emotional. Something spiritual.

For Chuck Fraser, this is why he became a surgeon. It wasn’t just because he had the brains, the hands, and the constitution for surgery. It wasn’t for fame, prestige, or money. He became a surgeon for those moments afterward when it becomes clear that a child’s life has been profoundly changed. “I became a surgeon because the results are immediate,” he says. “I became a children’s heart surgeon because the results last a lifetime.” It’s what gets him up every morning, what sustains him through emergency weekend-long transplant operations, and what makes the time away from his family worth it. His wife, Helen, says, “It’s the difference between a job and a calling.”
In memory of Vanessa Katherine Dale
December 1, 2004 - April 7, 2005

Janie Dale, Vanessa's mom, was also featured on Houston's KTRK- ABC13's Finish Line tribute in 2010

Running for a reason,

*If you would like to give to support Vanessa's Big Heart Foundation, click here. Thank you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Let Kindness Ring

Ornament on our tree- T Bar M Camps motto

This is a beautiful story about the difference one family is making by spreading the sound of kindness in the midst of heart-wrenching tragedy. It is born out of their own personal tragedy of the loss of their young son Ben. Tonight Ben's Bells will be featured on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams in the "Making a Difference" segment. Ben's Bells ring for kindness:
The depth of pain we were experiencing was beyond description. Every parent’s worst nightmare was our reality and we didn’t know how we would possibly survive. More than anything we just wished we could die. Perhaps we would have died if not for Matthew. He was still alive and he needed us as he had never needed us before.

Slowly, we began incorporating coping strategies into our lives. We came up with a design for Ben’s Bells and started making them in our back yard studio with friends. The therapeutic effect of working with clay was amazing as was the power of being surrounded by people talking and working toward a common goal. We decided to make hundreds of the Bells and distribute them randomly in our community to encourage the kindness that we so depended on to get through each day. Since Ben’s death, it had been the kindness of others, strangers and friends, that had helped us begin to heal. We wanted to find a way to pass on that kindness and to help others in the process.

On the first anniversary of his death, hundreds of Ben’s Bells were distributed throughout Tucson, hung randomly in trees, on bike paths, and in parks with a written message to simply take one home and pass on the kindness.

The ripple effect that followed was wonderful and startling. Individuals finding the Bells had stories to tell - lots of them - about grief and healing and hope. Our local newspaper printed the story - front page - next to fast breaking news of the recent war in Iraq. School groups and businesses and individuals began calling to see how they could get involved and in no time, hundreds and hundreds of Tucsonans were involved in crafting Ben’s Bells.

Ben’s Bells symbolize kindness and its power in healing. We hope that they will touch others’ lives and help to make our community a more gentle place to live. We are so very grateful for our community’s incredible enthusiasm for the project and we know that we can make a difference.

Jeannette, Dean and Matthew

In memory of our beautiful boy ...

"I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love..." Hosea 11:4


*update: NBC Nightly News Making a Difference segment featuring Ben's Bells

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Peanut Butter - Hot Fudge Crockpot Cake

1/2 C. all-purpose flour

3/4 C. granulated sugar - divided

3/4 t. baking powder

1/3 C. milk

1 T. oil

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1/4 C. peanut butter

3 T. cocoa

1 C. boiling water

In a medium bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup sugar and baking powder. Add milk, oil and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Mix in peanut butter. Pour into crockpot and spread evenly. 

In the same mixing bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cocoa. Gradually stir in boiling water. Pour mixture over batter in crockpot. Do not stir.
Cover and cook on high setting for 2 to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

(This recipe is for a small crockpot. I doubled it for my regular size crockpot, and it turned out great. And how can you have too much of chocolate and peanut butter in combination?)


God of Wonders

Banff, Alberta,Canada

God of Creation

At our church Second Baptist in Houston, our pastor Dr. Ed Young began a new sermon series last week, The Names of God. The first name in the series is ELOHIM, meaning the God of Creation. It was a moving message. It was extra special that during the sermon he had his son and daughter-in-law, Cliff and Danielle Young of the contemporary Christian musical group Caedmon's Call, sing "God of Wonders" which they assisted in writing. Here is the sermon in its entirety.

God of Wonders

This song was requested as a wake up call from NASA by Commander Rick Husband on board the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 just a few days before the tragedy:
Good morning...looking out the windows, you can really tell He is a God of wonders.
Amazing Pictures from Space: A Hero Comes Home: a third and final article about the amazing photos taken by Colonel Douglas Wheelock

Pictures from space: The approaching dawn... the aurora borealis... the cities awakening to a new day collide to make this masterpiece. "And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod the high untresspassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God." 10-26-2010. Pictures from space Photo: NASA / Douglas Wheelock

"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Something the Lord Made

Katie McCabe's account of a black carpenter turned lab assistant whose work with white surgeon Alfred Blalock revolutionized the field of heart surgery and defied segregation-era laws.

This National Magazine Award-winning article was published in Washingtonian's August 1989 issue, where it caught the eye of Dr. Irving Sorkin. A local dentist with big Hollywood dreams, Sorkin pushed for the story to be taken to the screen for many years, finally succeeding in 2004 with the HBO film Something the Lord Made.
The film won a number of awards that year, including an Emmy for Outstanding Made For Television Movie. Credited as co-producer of the film, Sorkin was recognized with a Peabody Award. Irving Sorkin recently passed away at the age of 88. To read the article that inspired him and others, click here.

To us it is not just a story, it is a true story that has changed our lives forever. It is the story of two men - an ambitious white surgeon and a gifted black carpenter turned lab technician - who defied the racial strictures of the Jim Crow South and together pioneered the field of heart surgery. It is a moving story of men who defy the rules and start a medical revolution. Their patients are known as the "blue babies" - infants suffering from a congenital heart defect that turns them blue as they slowly suffocate. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) make a brilliant team. But even as they race against time to save one particular baby, the two occupy different places in society. Blalock is the white, wealthy head of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Thomas is black and poor, a skilled carpenter whose dream of going to college and becoming a doctor was ruined by the Great Depression, although he was naturally gifted with the intuition and dexterity of a great surgeon. Even as they save lives and invent a whole new field of medicine, social pressures threaten to tear them apart. Ultimately, however, Thomas finds his dreams coming true in unexpected ways.

Watching this film was overwhelming and surreal for me and my husband. I cried lightly most of the way through it, then sobbed at the end, we both did. You see, in the film, one young med student by the name of Dr. Denton Cooley was featured . He just happens to be the father-in-law of the amazing heart surgeon who saved our daughter's life, Dr. Charles Fraser, Surgeon-in-Chief at Texas Children's Hospital. Praise the Lord. In the film, when Vivien Thomas builds the first successful bypass method using a dog's heart, the surgeon Dr. Blalock feels around and asks him, "Vivien, are you sure you did this?" Vivien answered in the affirmative, and then after a pause Dr. Blalock said, "Well, this looks like something the Lord made."

This is a movie worth watching for anyone, but especially any family affected by Congenital Heart Disease and can be purchased on or rented from Netflix.

Thankful and blessed,