Coach Chapman's Blog
Sorry it’s been a week since the last blog, didn’t mean to leave you hanging about the outcome of Fahlin’s heart cath. We did come home last Saturday, but the procedure kicked her little cutie [petootie] (can’t find the correct spelling) this time. However, like any good parents, we sent her off to school on Monday, fingers crossed. No word, so she must have done okay. When she came home, she flopped down on the couch, got out her kindle and didn’t move. Usually, she goes outside to play, but not this day. The same thing happened on Tuesday, then Wednesday.
Thursday, we, again being the great parents we are, took the girls out of school for the rest of the week, since it was actually my spring break and we wanted to get out of town for a few days. When the spring breaks don’t line up, it’s tough to plan anything. So it was off to my sister’s Lake-house in Kentucky.
But once we arrived, Fahlin seemed to have a whole new energy level. We assume it was because of the interventions the doctors did during the heart cath. Where the shunt was initially put in, they widened it a bit with two new stents. We were able to see the before and after pictures from a year ago. The new blood flow that the shunt provided to Fahlin’s left lung has paid huge dividends. The amount of vein growth into her lungs is five times larger than before (a year ago). It is amazing. They had expected more growth with the artery, however, they were not disappointed at all. What all this means I do not know. We will know more this week when the team conferences together on Thursday to discuss options.
It is quite journey. She is quite a little girl. And by the way, for the weekend, team Chapman caught 12 fish; Fahlin reeled in two. No, they were all on the small side, except the monster catfish Lydia caught, and the 10” Crappie Jayne reeled in. We threw them all back. After all, it’s not about the fish, its about the cherished time I have together with the little girls while I still can enjoy it. I know I had a blast. I’m pretty sure they did as well.
And for the record, my wife is the only Chapman who didn’t fish…tsk, tsk, tsk.
Tomorrow is Fahlin’s heart cath. It’s interesting to see how our perspective on things has changed since our adoption of two special ‘situation’ little girls. Way back in the day, college days in fact (Wright State University), I worked and coached at a residential center for [retarded citizens] (that’s what it was called). I’ve always been a kid person, and special needs children have always been one of my passions. In fact, let me tell you a story then come back to my initial idea.
The little boy’s name was Eddie. Eddie was Down’s syndrome. He was about 11 when I started working at the residential center as a freshman in college. He had a problem with pulling the fire alarms. He couldn’t help himself. If he saw an alarm, her pulled it, and yes, the fire trucks would come rolling up. Over the course of the next four years, the staff finally was able to get Eddie to control his urge to pull the fire alarm. He was a cute kid, lots of fun and was my favorite. He called me “Chappin.’” I loved that kid.
I remember it was my senior year, I was ready to graduate and I had turned in my notice because it was off to the real world (not that this wasn’t the real world, it was a very real world in which these kids lived, but you know what I mean). I had told Eddie that I was leaving him. In his own way he was sort of saddened. But my last day with Eddie at the residential center was a day I will never forget. I’ve often thought that that day would be great, heart-wrenching ending to Hallmark movie.
I clocked out for the last time and went to find Eddie. He was in the gym. “Hey, Eddie, come here!” I yelled.
“Yes, Chappin,’” he said as he came running over.
“You know Eddie, this is Chappin’s last day. I am leaving and not coming back.”
He looked at me with his sad little Down’s syndrome eyes. He was about 15 by this time. They where watering a little. As were mine.
“How would you like to pull the fire alarm one more time, Eddie?”
“REALLY, Chappin?!’” His eyes lit up. He gave me a big hug.
“Yes, really, Eddie…Go ahead, it’s okay,” I said. With that he turned and ran toward the other side of the gym toward the fire alarm, and I turned and walked out the door, across the parking lot toward my car. As I climbed in and started the engine, I rolled down the window and listened. Yes, Eddie had pulled the fire alarm. I waited a minute or two before leaving, savoring the moment and hoping Eddie wasn’t about to get into some sort of big trouble. Sure enough, the fire trucks were pulling in as I pulled out.
Now, back to my original point. How full circle has my life been? Starting out, pre- marriage even, my life involved special needs children. And now, here I am, all these years later, married, 600 kids, and poof, two little girls come into our life and they have special needs. Who knew? Maybe those formative college years at the residential center taught me something that we as a family are subconsciously doing right now with our ‘littles.’ I know we say ‘yes’ to these girls quite a bit more than we ever did with the others (we don’t encourage pulling fire alarms, however). Anyway, special needs mean special circumstance and special circumstances mean special procedures. We as a family seem to be getting used to heart caths, brain scans, and surgeries and take them in stride. I hope we don’t get too used all this, I mean after all, we’re dealing with serious brain (Jayne) and heart (Fahlin) issues, not a tonsillectomy. I simply long for and pray for the day when everything is behind us and we get on with the normal part of life, but then again, I guess this is normal for us…Isn’t it?
We are one week away from Fahlin’s next heart catheterization at Vanderbilt. It was almost a year ago when she had her last one. This time, the doctor’s want to see how her first surgery is progressing among other things. It is pretty amazing how well she has been doing since her heart surgery. As you have read in this blog, her color has improved exponentially from purple to pink (I should write a song with that title), her energy level has gone through the roof and she has shown many sides of her emotions and personality traits that we did not know existed. I’m pretty sure that last one is not related to the surgery, but rather just Fahlin pushing the envelope a bit.
We have coasted through this most recent time period. When I say coasted, I mean as far as health issues have gone, things have seemed pretty normal. No trips to the emergency room, no illnesses, no flu, no fevers. Pretty good run of good fortune I must say, and for that we are thankful.
But, as always, whenever Fahlin goes into the hospital, I become a bit apprehensive. After all, when you have a wife who works in the health care profession, and you hear some of the non-hipaa violating stories she tells, it can get a little frightening. I’m an emotional kind of guy as it is; what I don’t need is a reason to be even more emotional.
The comforting part about the whole thing is we have gotten to know and have gotten comfortable with Fahlin’s doctors. Her cardiologist is awesome, the cath-lab doctor is awesome, the surgeon is awesome; the whole entire team is awesome. We know that aside from obviously being in God’s hands, she also in good earthly hands. While we never want to take anything for granted, we know that the highly trained doctors with whom God has allowed us to be surrounded by are blessings themselves. So here we go again, round two, next Friday. It’s off to Vandy and the cath-lab.
I will now take a deep breath and exhale slowly.
Tonight was a first for Fahlin. She got to go to the Grand Ole Opry. And not to the Grand Ole Opry, but backstage to hang out and watch her Daddy sing with her Uncle Steve. Yes, the ole Bro-in-Law called and asked if I would I would sing with him at he Opry. Are you kidding me? Of course!
Now, it’s time for a little backstory. Way back in another lifetime a few years ago, I was in a band called 4Runner. We were signed by a man named Harold Shedd to his Polydor record label in the mid-nineties. He discovered such acts as Alabama, Billy Ray Cyrus and Toby Keith. And then us. To make an interestingly long story short, we were and instant hit in country music and climbed to the top of the charts almost immediately. It was a fun ride. Narvel Blackstock, Reba McIntire’s husband was our manager. John Huey and CAA was our booking agent. Buddy Cannon and Larry Shell our producers. The dream team of all dream teams surrounded us.
As a result of my time in the music business, I had the good fortune to sing on the Opry stage numerous times including the many times I was asked to fill in for one of the Carol Lee singers as the house bass singer. Since those days, while I have had opportunity to sing out at the Opry, they have been less frequent in recent years. So naturally, when SCC asked, I responded with a resounding yes. We sang My Redeemer is Faithful and True, and believe it or not, Herbie, Steven’s brother and I also sang BGV’s (that’s background vocals for those of you not in the music business) on Steven’s rendition of the old George Jones tune, He Stopped Loving Her Today (there’s a backstory here, too; buy his knew book and find out).
Fahlin did not truly understand the historical significance of the Grand Ole Opry, nor did she understand what was going on. She was just kid enjoying the entire experience. Her Aunt Mary Beth was there, cousin Rachel and of course, people who knew her but whom she didn’t remember knowing. Anyway, she got a cool wristband and a sucker and that is what seemed to make the evening memorable.
Finally, we went to eat across the street at Cracker Barrel and the server asked her if she was at the Opry. “Uh huh, yes,” she said.
“Tell her where your seats were, Fahlin,” I said.
“Back behind everyone.” I’m pretty sure the server thought she meant she was sitting behind some big oaf, blocking her view. What she didn’t realize was she meant ON STAGE at the Grand Ole Opry. Yep, pretty cool first trip, Fahl Fahl. I guess I should have gotten her a GooGoo.
The weather has been so nice lately, almost unseasonably nice. I’m not complaining because I can always do without winter. So the other day, I’m sitting out front on the porch, watching the girls play and ride their bikes. They are fun to watch, but the thought crossed my mind, whatever happened to the days when we would let kids just go outside and play? Times must have changed, but when? I pondered that very question for a while.
Anyway, Jayne fell out of a chair; Fahlin wanted in the wagon, Jayne wanted to shoot baskets and ride her scooter, Fahlin her bike. All of a sudden, I hear Jayne, “Hey, Dad, can we go to Miss Laura’s?”
They headed off down the road to Miss Laura’s. They were gone. So, like any good Dad, I got out my I Pad and watched a show while enjoying the evening. Then all of a sudden again, I remembered I needed to start dinner, as my wife was out with a friend.
“Girls!” I bellowed. The sound echoed through the neighborhood. “Girls!” I yelled again. “Jayne…Fahlin!”
No girls. I thought to myself, “Oh no, did they come back and I just didn’t see them?” I went into the house and yelled for them. Not a sound. “Where could they be?” I thought to myself. I went back outside and yelled again. I started walking towards Miss Laura’s. Whew! I saw Jayne’s pink basketball flying through the air. They were at Miss Laura’s. Of course, even though I may have ‘lost’ them for a minute, I still had to lecture them on the virtues of coming when called, however. Anyway, the girl’s were found, and the evening was saved. No one knew I was panicked, and besides, the hamburgers were delicious, by the way. I’m really glad I didn’t really lose them. That would have been terrible.
Yolanda was none the wiser…until she reads this, of course.
You know, just when you start to wonder what good you are actually doing in the world, something like this happens. I know we are doing what we are called to do by raising these ‘littles,’ but sometimes it does the soul good to hear positive things that do indeed remind you of your place in this world. I have left this exactly as I received it on Facebook. There are a lot of little backstories to go along with this and it brought back a lot of memories. Hope you enjoy it…
Dear, Mr. Chapman My name is Jarl Pedigo and I used to be one of your students. You we're my art teacher at Christiana Elem., Roy Rodgers Jr High, and Cedar Grove. I believe my first broken vivid tangerine crayon was in 2nd grade which was also the year I learned the most famous art song of all time called "I love art". When I was 14 I lived in the town houses not far from you in LaVergne and would stop by occasionally to say hi. It's been over 15 years since we last spoke and quite a few times I've tried to find you on Facebook to contact you. Mr. Chapman, you saved my life through art as a child and even into my adult years. My home was always broken, I bounced from school to school, home to home throughout my parents relationship. I was very troubled as young kid and even into my mid 20s my troubles lingered. I'm 34 now and I've found peace and made a new life for myself in CO. During my years in TN I struggled trying to balance being an artist and working. I've played piano since I was 4 and when I was 15 I started getting into producing, mixing, and mastering music. Through my ups and downs I consistently stuck with my arts. 2 years ago I was offered an amazing job in CO if I would help teach an old friend how to produce, so I took it. My life has changed dramatically over these last 2 years. I count my blessings and I am so thankful I had someone like you as a child who taught me a broken crayon is a good crayon. They say the biggest thing you can do in life is help someone who can never repay you, and that's what you did for me. From the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you and to let you know youve made an impact on my life in a way that I will always be humbly thankful for. I wish you and your family nothing but the best life has to offer and sincerely appreciate you being such a great role model and inspiration for little ole me. With never ending gratitude, Jarl Pedigo
Thank you Jarl!
Well, Grand-baby Nash is in town. Yolanda put Nash in the car and went to pick up the girls from school. As soon as Fahlin climbed in the car, she looked at Nash and immediately went into her ‘angry-eyes-I’m-not-happy-about-him-being-here-and-I’m-going-to-pout-now,’ mode. Sigh. Yes, little Fahl Fahl is jealous of ‘littler’ Nash. She will have very little to do with him. Of course, we tell her that the job of an Aunt is to have fun with her nephew. She is not thrilled with that job description.
“Fahlin, do you think we like Nash more that you,” I asked?
“Yes, you do.”
“What? You are crazy? We love both of you!”
“Hmphhhh,” came the response.
That’s how it goes in the Chapman household with Fahlin. One day she’s happy as can be, the next day she’s jealous. One day her heart hurts (when she doesn’t want to do something), the next she has ‘Super Cheetah Speed.” One day she watches Netflix and we never hear a peep, the next, it’s fighting with Jayne.
My Dad recently asked me, “Is your life the way you want it?”
Without hesitation, “Yes, Dad, yes it is.”
No doubt about it, God has us right where he wants us. It’s not necessarily easy, but easy isn’t in the Bible, and that’s okay. We just continue to take it as it comes. One day at a time. Sometimes we take it in stride, sometimes it’s stressful, sometimes I feel overwhelmed and sometimes, well sometimes we just take a deep breath, put our head down and trudge on.
Can’t wait ‘til little Millicent (our Grand-daughter in Dallas) shows up. I wonder what Fahlin will do then? Hmmmmm[ph].
Sorry it’s been awhile since my last blog. Craziness of life stuff.
Life is complicated. I thought life was complicated when we only had our first four children. But after awhile, we smoothed everything out and kind of cruised for while. My wife and I made a great team and we figured out to sail the ship. Then God took us on a second journey. The ‘next four,’ I’ll call them. What a journey it has been. My wife and I have been a good team this time around as well, however, this time we are dealing with health issues that make this go ‘round more complicated than the first time. I guess the first four prepared us (sort of) for the next four. Only we didn’t realize it at the time.
While we had never dealt with heart issues, or brain issues, or other issues related to the adoption process, we have never lost sight of the fact that God has orchestrated all of this and put us in this position to parent these girls. If we let ourselves stop and think about everything, it becomes very daunting. If we just go and go and go, and don’t overanalyze, it seems to fall into the category of ‘just living life,’ or ‘It’s just what we do.’
But it becomes a bit overwhelming when unforeseen circumstances come up. My dad recently had an emergency appendectomy. When the appendix was removed, it was the size of a golf ball. A huge red flag. It was cancerous. Now we add that layer of upcoming exploratory surgery on top of everything else in our life and a quick trip to Ohio and, well, complicated becomes more complicated. See what I mean?
On top of that, God has blessed me with artistic things to do. A LOT of them…with deadlines. Can I fit it all in? Can I do it? Can I get it all finished? And then, my grand –son comes to town and on top of all that, I have the state swim meet and trip to Knoxville. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!
…Lord, Grant me the strength…
It is truly amazing the amount of support Fahlin receives on any given day. People are always asking, “How’s your daughter?” “How’s Fahlin doing?” or “How’s your daughter with the heart condition doing?” We are so appreciative of everyone’s interest because we know if people are interested, people are praying as well.
I often find myself thinking about God, about life, about Fahlin about orphans about all kinds of things and how they all work together. If I think on these things too long, I get overwhelmed. I prefer the simple route, and that is this: we live in a house of miraculous-ness. Fahlin should be alive, yet she is. Jayne should not be alive, yet she is. Come to think of it, but by the grace of God, none of us should be alive. Each breath is a gift. Each moment a gift. My little girls do not understand nor do they comprehend the magnitude of their blessings of life that has been granted to them by God. I’m sure one day they will understand how close to death they once were, but also come to appreciate each and every day of life they have been allowed to live.
And I, we get to share that life with them. The other day, I was watching daughter number four, Lydia swim at the middle school championships. I started crying I do cry a lot, but not at moments like this, more so at children’s movie’s). Lydia is growing up, but she is tiny, 4’6.” The doctors are now saying, maybe 4” 8” if she’s lucky. She is technically going to live her life as a little person. A perfectly proportioned small, little, tiny human. An as I watched her swim, I was concerned about her future. I also remembered her humble beginnings, being found at the orphanage gate at five days old, umbilical cord still attached. Lydia has never met a stranger, is not afraid to do anything, extremely self sufficient, talkative, small, and I worry about her. Thing is, she doesn’t seem to be too bothered, nor even aware of her diminutive stature.
And, so it goes with my girls and me. Gifts all, blessings true, happy children. I need not worry about their future because I know who holds their future, and it’s not me. As much as I want to control everything that goes on in the lives of these girls, I know that that is not possible. The God who created everything out of nothing made these girls exactly the way he wanted and placed them exactly where they needed to be placed at the exact time to intersect our family and change our lives forever. So here we are, Fahl Fahl and her heart, Jayne and her very special brain, and Lydia, the small but mighty one. Since I do not what else to do except trust in the Lord, and as I close (In a former life I wrote and sang southern gospel music), I’m reminded of an old Bill Gaither song,
“…Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future,And life is worth the living, just because He lives…”
Hard to believe, but today is what we call “Gotcha Day.” Two years ago today, Fahlin became our daughter. In the two years since we have had her, she has had numerous tests, echocardiograms, and doctor visits. She has had a heart-catheterization, and a stent placed on one of her pulmonary arteries. She has been through one open-heart surgery that resulted in the now new growth of the missing pulmonary artery (yes, a new pulmonary artery is growing from her lung to the aorta…crazy to think about). She is no longer blue and has grown five inches and gained 12 pounds. She is still skinny, however. While the doctors expected success, she has far surpassed their expectations and is doing remarkably well. She is a different kid than she was two years ago. Next up for her is a second heart-catheterization over spring break in March. This is so they can see exactly what is going on. From there, a course of action that involves possibly two more open-heart procedures will be planned. While we know not what the future holds for this little girl, we do know she is a walking, talking miracle.
As you can see from the attached picture, Fahlin was more than thrilled to have a new Mommy and Daddy. Not! While she pined for family, when she finally got one, it was a scary ordeal for her. She was being taken away from the only place, the only ‘family’ if you will, she ever knew, and whisked off to a foreign land full of people who did not look like her or talk like her. While we were being attentive to her every need, she was scared. While we made sure she had clothes and food, she didn’t know if she could trust us yet. While she cried tears of sadness for leaving everything behind, we also cried. And the coat she is wearing? Two sizes too big with a huge word embossed on the back in six-inch letters, “MARY.” We still have the coat.
I remember how horrible the weather was while we were in China. It snowed almost every day. The snow was brown. It was bitter cold. And the days it didn’t snow, it was nasty and slushy and wet. One we got to Guangzhou, in the south, the weather changed. It was much nicer.
But, because of our agency provided guides, Rita in Beijing and Youyang, and Kathy in Guangzhou, the trip could not have been more flawlessly organized and we could not have been taken care of any better. They were both intently focused on making sure everything went smoothly, and that Fahlin would transition to her new family as easily as possible. They loved what they did. They loved their job. We could tell that it wasn’t a job to them; it was what they loved to do. They genuinely cared for each of us. The memories of ‘Gotcha Day’ will never be forgotten. Because of our four little girls, China will forever be on our hearts as we pray for the babies, the people and the country of China as a whole.
We hope to one-day return with Fahlin to show her where she came from. In the meantime, two years later now, we know she loves us; Jayne is her best friend and her sibling rival. Abby is her favorite big sister, she loves her big brothers but doesn’t understand why they can’t live with us. Not quite sure where Izzy and Lydia fit into Fahl Fahl’s big picture. She hates being called Fifi or Foofoo, or any other such silly name. And yes, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, she not only loves us as her parents, but she trusts us. She knows we will come home. She knows we will be there when she wakes up. She knows she will have food. She knows her Dad will pick on her. She knows Jesus and knows that God loves her. And, she knows she has a…family. Happy Gotcha Day!
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