All clear!

Thank you to all of you who have sent messages and called about our plans and Tabitha’s progress. Tabitha is recovering extremely well from surgery and we’ve been given the all clear to go to Tanzania. The surgeon will see her again in a few years time, assuming we have no more problems in the mean time.

It’s been amazing to see Tabitha’s lip transform over the past couple of weeks. They are particularly pleased with the repair of the muscle. I had always noticed her lip sort of ‘hung down’, but I put it down to weakness or habit. Tabitha’s haemangioma appeared a few days after she was born. It grew rapidly and ulcerated very early on, causing her a great deal of pain and leaving her with scarring. She used a special feeder bottle as a baby, that didn’t require her to use her lips. I assumed she hung the lower lip down when feeding to avoid the pain of contact, and thought perhaps this habit had lasted.

Having now repaired the muscle, the surgeon was pleased to see her how her lip is moving normally when she speaks. There was no haemangioma there when Tabitha was born, and to me her lip now looks like it did when during those first few days before the problems started.

Simon is keeping himself busy with the house. It feels like the last opportunity to get everything up-to-date and there’s quite a bit to do. Thankfully no massive jobs, but enough small ones to keep him going for quite a while! We’re also home educating now. We haven’t really changed anything and I don’t plan on doing any official project work at the moment. I think project ‘moving overseas’ is enough for her to get her head around. We’re just trying to make sure we keep up with a bit of reading, writing and maths. Most of the syllabus stuff I’ve ordered is to start from next September, as I figured we’d take things fairly easy until then. I’ve just finished reading her Charlie and the chocolate factory, which she loved, I think that counts as work…?

We sent out a bag of stuff to Tanzania this week. It went out with a contact of Simon’s and it arrived in Mwanza the next day. We wont be in Mwanza until we’ve finished language training, so we had to plan ahead a bit, but exciting to know that our things are waiting for us!

We’re still not quite ready to book flights. We’ve received our work permits, but the next stage is our residents permits. We’re working out with those on the ground whether to wait for these to come through, or book without. Without them we’d need to book a return flight and waste the return component. With them we’d just need a single. Still lots of planning to do, but we’ll get there…

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Loose ends

It’s definitely time to start tying up all the loose ends. The visa application process was started this week, and it’s all starting to feel real. With an estimate of pledges that have come in, added to a few that we know are on the way, we’re about half way to having enough sponsorship. EI, the mission organisation we are going to Tanzania with, are sufficiently confident we can raise the funds, and have given the go-ahead to start preparations for us to leave. All very exciting (/horrifyingly scary).

We’re now talking with Tabitha about Tanzania in definite terms, rather than maybes and what ifs. It’s also given a bit of an impetus to start getting everything in order…overdue dentists appointments; new trainers; a purse that doesn’t leak money all over the place (although Tabitha is getting quite good at collecting up the dropped coins!). And more seriously, it feels a good time to make sure we’re all in good health.

Some of you will know, or have noticed, that Tabitha has a birthmark on her mouth. It’s a haemangioma, a kind of benign, vascular tumour. Haemangiomas generally grow rapidly for about the first year of life, then enter a resting phase, before, in most cases, disappearing before the age of about seven. Usually they follow this pattern without problem, or any sign left that anything had ever been there. For Tabitha this is slightly different. Due to the location, early feeding problems and associated ulceration mean that the area is quite scared. Not all haemangiomas go, and although most of the red of the birthmark is now gone, she is left with quite a bit of bulk. The combination of ‘bulk’, which could be mistaken for swelling; redness; and scaring, gives her lip the appearance of having been recently damaged in some way. She therefore gets asked very regularly whether she’s had a fall. Right now this seems to go over her head. She actually sometimes thinks they’ve asked whether she’s four, which she’s quite proud of now being. I fear though that as she becomes older, this extra attention may be less welcome.

We’ve been extremely grateful to be living resonably close to Great Ormond Street Hospital. We’ve been able to benefit from the superb service they offer, without it being a massive inconvenience. Tabitha had a two-year dermatology review this past week. She was initially treated with beta-blockers until she was about 14 months old. These reduce the bulk and speed up the natural process of healing. There is no more the department can do for Tabitha, so she’s been discharged and referred onto plastic surgery. This was always a potential option, and I have mixed feelings about it. For one thing, I’m really praying the appointment comes through before we leave. We’re massively grateful that we know the surgeon she’s been referred to is fantastic at lips. He works on the cleft lip and palate team, and I’m sure that by comparison to other work he does, the surgery she would potentially have would be a walk in the park.

I’m also really keen for Tabitha to be confident in who she is. I know that her lip isn’t a big deal for her at the moment, and I don’t want to make it a bigger issue than it is. I don’t want to put her through anything unnecessarily. But equally I don’t want to deprive her of anything beneficial. Basically, I think the prayer I’m praying is, that her appointment will come through speedy time, ie before we leave. And that the decision will be one of three options: they’ll do the surgery before we go, and it will have a fantastic outcome; they’ll decide treatment would be best delayed, and will review in three years; or they’ll decide not to operate, and either the haemangioma will disappear of its own accord, or Tabitha will be totally unbothered by its presence.

It’s kind of funny timing that this appointment came through now, but I’m just seeing it as part of the final preparations. The house clear out continues slowly. After a brief foray into the world of selling on ebay, I now know that it’s really important to not give stuff away, without first checking whether it’s something you’ve listed to sell… We’ll get there, bit by bit…