"Arden is one tough little kid!"

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Raised by 65 people in 18 days
That’s what the pediatric orthopedic surgeon said when he diagnosed our four-year-old granddaughter, Arden Olivia James-Rodriguez, with severe hip dysplasia. He couldn’t get over how far she’s gotten in life with such a serious problem.
Her femur is completely out of the hip socket. Yet only recently did she complain that her leg was hurting.
Remarkably, this problem never held her back. She’s been doing all of the active, high-energy things little girls do and more: running, jumping, swimming, ballet and tap, and tricycle races with Avery, her little three-year-old sister. Just a couple of months ago, Arden proved her strength by climbing a rock wall at a children’s activity center.

It cannot be denied. Arden truly is “one tough little kid.” But she is little and, with this serious medical problem, seems smaller than ever right now, especially to those of us who love her so dearly and are in this battle with her.
The battle ahead for Arden isn’t child’s play.
Heading for Seattle
She and her family live in the beautiful state of Alaska. Considering the severity of her condition, the surgeon in Anchorage referred her to Seattle Children’s Hospital (SCH). Arden’s consultation with her surgeon, Dr. Todd Blumberg, at SCH took place on Friday, March 22. Her mommy (our daughter, Allison) was at her side, along with Avery and “Papa” (my husband Frank).

Arden was a total champ throughout her first meeting with the surgeon. She cooperated with all the poking and prodding and requests to walk up and down in the room so Dr. Blumberg could assess the problem. But she finally reached her limit when he asked her to walk up and down the hallway one more time. She said, “I don’t want to,” and meant it. So he bribed her with animal crackers and juice. 
The news from that consultation was sobering and underscored the seriousness of her condition.
Wednesday, April 17  is her pre-op. The surgery to reconstruct and restore the normal functioning of her hip and leg follows on Thursday, April 18.

A friend of ours who works in the Orthopedic Unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) gave us this encouraging word: “Todd Blumberg came from CHOP and is well known for his surgical expertise. Saw many of his post op kids on my unit who did remarkably well. Arden will be in good hands!”
The family circle supporting Arden will be even larger this time. Trust me, I’m packing my bags.
But this is only the beginning of Arden’s battle.
The Long Road to Recovery
Like other children with hip dysplasia, when she emerges from surgery, she’ll be wearing a Spica (or body) cast—with a metal rod connecting her legs. She’s expected to remain in the hospital for five to seven days.

Six weeks later, she’ll return to SCH for the removal of the Spica cast (under anesthesia) which will be replaced by another new “slightly” less restrictive body cast. The second cast will be above both knees and will remain for another five weeks.
If you’re doing the math, that’s over two months in a body cast! After that comes physical therapy to regain her strength and learn to walk again.

Allison will be Arden’s primary caregiver during recovery. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
Still, two-plus months in a body cast inevitably mean a significant drop in income for this little family, as Allison can’t work and care for Arden at the same time.
Alaska is a continent away from grandparents who live on the east coast. That won’t stop us from pitching in and doing all we can to support and participate in Arden’s care as she proves once again what a courageous little fighter she is.
Since Arden was very little—before she could talk—she always wanted to help. We were constantly thinking of ways she could participate in whatever was going on.
Now we’re determined to help Arden in a crisis we didn’t see coming.

Thankfully, her parents have great medical insurance. But insurance doesn’t cover everything. We are grateful for all the friends and family who are willing to help.

All the money from this campaign will go to cover airfare for multiple flights between Alaska and Seattle and for meals and other expenses during time away from home at SCH. It will also cover household expenses that will quickly add up during Allison’s two months of unpaid leave to care for Arden.

So please visit this page often and share it with your friends! I’ll be posting regular updates here and also at www.carolyncustisjames.com .
                                               —Carolyn Custis James
                                                    “Nyla” to Arden & Avery
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We are relieved and grateful to be on the other side of Arden’s surgery. She did exceedingly well throughout a very complicated and long surgery. Her recovery has been steady and strong. She is eating solids, talking, moving toes on both feet, and watching cartoons on an iPad. She even downed a chocolate donut with sprinkles.

As her mommy commented on Facebook, “Arden is in and out of good spirits but she’s safe and healthy!”

And for that we are exceedingly thankful.

Mainly her “out of good spirits” is because she keeps hoping someone will help her escape her purple Spica cast. It’s hard to imagine anyone being okay with such confinement—especially such an active, energetic little four-year-old. It will take time to adjust.

Much as we dreaded the surgery, an awareness is sinking in for all of us that, despite our since of relief that the surgery is over, this was only the first battle in the long, hard battle that lies ahead to get Arden back on her feet.

Please pray that she'll adjust to this new normal, that the Spica cast will do its job to get her leg and hip in working order, and that Jesus will do a lot of healing to get our little Arden up and running again.

Thank you again for all your love, words of encouragement, prayers and support.
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ARDEN UPDATE #5: Arden is in surgery at Seattle Children's Hospital. Has been in surgery for about an hour. She was a total champ through all the pre-op. Her mommy put on scrubs and went with her into the OR and was with Arden when she went to sleep. Arden will have a purple Spica cast when she comes out. Her choice.

Please pray for a successful surgery and a smooth recovery. And thank you all once again for supporting our kids during this tough time.
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Arden, Avery, and Alli have been keeping busy doing fun things while the days tick off. In Anchorage, they took a trip to the library to check out lots of books to read when they return, followed by an afternoon in the park. Then a little bit of shopping, so Arden could pick out a nightie that will be “Spica cast friendly.”

Somewhere in there, hamburgers—Arden’s fav!
Yesterday the three of them arrived in Seattle. The Seattle Children’s Hospital shuttle picked them up at the airport and drove them to the hotel, where they are settling in. Pre-op was today at 4:10pm/PT. Surgery tomorrow at 6:30am/PT.

We’ll have around 7hrs of waiting while Arden is in surgery and recovery.

We all have mixed feelings as the surgery approaches. The same old wishing we would wake up and find out this was all a bad dream and at the same time overwhelming gratitude for Dr. Blumberg, Seattle Children’s Hospital, an army of family and friends who are praying, and so many who have contributed generously to Arden’s GoFundMe.

I am reminded of what my grandfather used to say, “The Lord has his arms around us.” That is the story of our lives, and we are hopeful.

Please keep Arden and especially her mommy in your prayers.
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Before traveling to Seattle, Arden wanted to take pizza to her class on her last day of school. Good thing her mom is a manager at Papa John’s. Little sister Avery got to take pizza to her class too.

Arden is wonderfully oblivious to the seriousness of her impending surgery. She knows the doctor is going to fix her leg and that she will wear a cast. She doesn’t have categories for what that all means. Which is just as well. Frank and I FaceTimed with them today. Arden and Avery were chatting, singing, and flitting around the room with butterfly wings on their arms.

Oh the innocence of childhood!

Arden, her mom, and Avery leave Anchorage for Seattle on Tuesday. They’re planning a last minute outing to the Seattle aquarium. Pre-op is Wednesday when both Tata (Hilda Rodriguez their other grandmother) and I will join them. Their Daddy, Tony, will be right there for his girls. Surgery is Thursday.

We’re grateful that our GoFundMe campaign has reached the half-way mark and then some. Notes from donors have been so encouraging. This is the big week, and we are standin’ in the need of prayer.
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Raised by 65 people in 18 days
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