(If you are just arriving here, this is a continuation of yesterday's story post.)
I didn't miss my calling as a nurse and just about had a panic attack each and every time I had to administer a shot. We got into a routine that allowed Tori to fall asleep on my bed, then I would give her the shot at 10:00 p.m.; she would wake and whimper a minute, then we would cart her off to her own bed. Alei helped me every single time and changed her mind about pursuing a career in nursing during the months of Tori's treatment. Throw in the simple fact that before we started this treatment, we also returned to Liberia for Ben and Julia. We assumed that Ben would carry the virus as well, and also require treatment, but were pleasantly surprised when his tests came back that he had fought it off on his own. This was also the same time that we were starting the build on our house, dealing with another child's trauma and I found out that I was pregnant with Elijah. It was a quite stressful on several levels.
During Tori's treatment, we had to monitor her progress with blood work every two weeks. It usually showed a decrease in antigens in her blood, which meant that the disease was slowing in the rate that it was damaging her liver. While this was good, we were always waiting and hoping for a "cure" and that by the end of the treatment, the damaging antigens would be reduced to zero. When we finished in June of '08, the antigens had reduced by 90%, which was obviously much better, but was not declared a cure of any sort. Since then, we have been monitoring her levels and traveling to Johns Hopkins once a year to remain a patient, thus allowing us to participate in any trial treatments that could surface in the future.
Towards the end of her treatment, the doctor also warned us that her levels could actually start to increase again after finishing the interferon; we just hoped for the reduction to permanently remain. Every year I have held my breath just to hear that her levels are still at only 10% and that she doesn't require an additional treatment that doesn't really offer much hope.
So, fast forward to Friday, the doctor told us that her levels had dropped a bit, then she stared at the paper and told us that in fact, the antigens were no longer present in her liver at all. At the examination, she marveled that her liver isn't enlarged and neither is her spleen, which normally remains enlarged after battling Malaria! So, at this point, 2 1/2 years after finishing her last treatment, her liver has cleared all the Hep B antigens. Now, due to information gleaned from recent clinical studies, her liver will even be able to start repairing any damage that is remaining from her early years. We honestly have prayed for her medical status every day since that day in 2006 when we were given the diagnosis, but we honestly didn't hope for a complete cure this late in the game.
My point in recording this story, beyond just giving God the glory for healing her liver, is to serve as a simple reminder that God has us in his hands. In reality, Tori probably would not have lived through the Malaria that she had if she had remained in Liberia. She definitely would not have lived a full and healthy life in Liberia without the Hep B treatment she received here. At the same time, with where we were at prior to our first trip to Africa, we would not have claimed a baby that had Hep B, neither would we have claimed Tori and Ben if they had appeared as a sibling group. God knew that they had to be temporarily separated AND her medical status hidden from us to place them in our home.
God has also used Ben and Tori to clear our fear to the place that we are praying and pursuing medically special needs siblings from Ethiopia! There is also a story on how God gave me a glimpse into our future children the day Tori was diagnosed. That will be part three for a later day.
"Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." Mother Teresa