First Public Speech

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
We have already been home now for about a week and a half from our trip out East. We had a wonderful time with our family and friends and got to enjoy the peak of the foliage season.  The trip back went almost without a hitch.  We did have a minor breakdown when our fan belt went on us.  Pulling off for that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The mechanic checked our transmission fluid only to find that it was very low.  A hose was leaking it seems. Had we not realized that we could have lost our transmission. God was with us as we pulled off not far from a garage, and we were back on the road in 1 1/2 hours. Thanks to a gift from a dear lady in Harlan, Indiana 2/3 of the repair bill was covered.  God had us covered all the way.

Stuart was able to read a short speech I helped him prepare for our so Kaleb’s marriage vow renewal.  That went well for his first time speaking like that in public.  Many of our family members noticed an improvement in his speech.  However, maybe it was the coming back to normal everyday life that left Stuart a bit discouraged.  The other day he said he was depressed which came as a surprise to me.  He said he needs to get back to work.  We will have to find some tasks for him to do so he can feel more useful.  There are certainly plenty of things for him to do.  So, please continue to lift him up in your prayers.

Thank you again for your calls, letters and cards that still come in on occasion.  We appreciate your continued help.

May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving surrounded by your families and friends.  It will be nice to be here in Des Moines with 6 of our nine children and their families for this season.  We have so much to be thankful for.

Merrill's at Kaleb and Renee's renewal

Love in Christ,
Stuart, Valerie and family

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All done with flying colors!

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Well, Stuart is all through his procedure with flying colors.  The doctor said it went smoothly and without a hitch.  They checked before they started to be sure there were no clots and found everything clear. There were only small restrictions put on Stuart.  He couldn’t drive for one day, and he cannot do any heavy lifting for one month.   He is a bit hesitant to get started up at the YMCA for some reason.  I am sure it is OK for him to do his walking and swimming.  We did go for a bike ride yesterday which he wasn’t sure he should have done.  We will call the doctor tomorrow to double check about his activities.

Hopefully, things will be pretty much back to normal so we can take a trip back East in October.

Please remember Kaylona in your prayers.  On Tuesday the 1st she has all four of her wisdom teeth extracted by the dental surgeon.  Two of the teeth are bone impacted so pray that this goes smoothly and that her recovery isn’t too painful.

Also remember the church we are attending in your prayers.  This past week they fired the preacher of 36 years.  They sent a letter out to explain the reason for this.  We are not sure they told everything. There are some of us who may be looking for another place to attend once we see what is planned. For many of the long timers there this seemed to be quite a shock. Please remember Doug Reymen in your prayers who is the one they fired.  He seemed like a man who stood for what was right, but we really didn’t know him that well.

Thanks again for being our prayer warriors in lifting us up before our God who is every faithful.

Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie, Adrian, Zachary and Kaylona


Pray for encouragement!

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Just checking in again though not much has been going on.  Before I forget, please lift Stuart up in your prayers.  He seems to be going through a time of discouragement.  His moods are rather low which could be helped by medication which he won’t take.   Pray that he will realize he needs to work harder to gain back what has been lost.  On the more positive side he tries to get involved in helping people out in the physical area. Last week he helped our son Justin do some work in his basement.  He also helped out one day at VBS.   Then he also went to the “On With Life” annual picnic.   He attended that without me as I was in Texas celebrating my Aunt’s 80th birthday. Doing all these activities is very good for Stuart in order to make him feel more useful.

We have a house guest for the next 3 months or so.  Kaylona’s very best friend from Belarus is visiting us.   Her name is Tanya.  Her mother is the one that has a congenital heart problem.  Please pray for Lena while her daughter is gone.  Tanya is a great help to her mother.   Lena’s son Sasha is also gone as he is with a family in California.   He is attending college there.   Kaylona is very happy to have Tanya here, and you can hear them chattering away in Russian day and night.

Stuart’s surgery is still scheduled for the 25th of August which will be here before you know it.   Pray that all goes well for that.   I will probably not put another update on until then.

We pray that all of you are having a great summer.  I wouldn’t mind hearing from some of you.  Our e-mail is merrillopenby@hotmail.com in case you don’t know it.   God bless!
Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie, Adrian, Zachary and Kaylona


Can I drive!! Please??!!

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
Well, the word is go for the procedure to close the hole in Stuart’s heart.  However, he does need to get his cholesterol checked and do a stress test.   Those must be done before the final, final word on the operation.  Stuart is scheduled to go in for the stress test on the 11th of June. They wanted to do it this week, but due to some changes in his health insurance we needed to wait.  We are now going to have to pay for his medical insurance through Medicaid.  That change occurred when Stuart starting getting Disability.  Praise God the amount we need to pay is not too high with the same coverage.

Stuart has been driving our van since Kyle brought it out a couple of weeks ago.  The doctor asked him not to drive at night until he gets checked out by this special rehab program.   He is driving more cautiously these days but is doing a good job.  One disadvantage to regaining this privilege is that he is not walking as much.  I am having trouble getting him motivated to do this.  He really needs to get in a regular exercise schedule.  Our bikes need some repair work before we can ride them.  Pray that we can get Stuart motivated.

This week also saw another accomplishment that was a biggie for Stuart.  He prepared all the things for us to get our taxes done for last year.  He had some trouble pulling out the records he had on the computer and had to do things another way.  Praise God he got pretty well done this week and should get the information sent off to Howard Herdon who will prepare our taxes.   It is just exciting to see Stuart be able to do things like this again.  It is a much slower process as his typing skills have not returned but at least it got done.

I am sorry that I have not been getting updates on more regularly.  It should have been done since we haven’t gotten a newsletter out.   We are still hoping that will get done soon.  So, I will try to do the updates even if nothing much is going on.  We still appreciate your prayers and financial help.  For now we are still in need of both.  Thanks again for being there for us.
Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie and family.


Hello Again!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Dear friends and family,
We finally have some news to report since the last time I wrote.  Things had just been going as usual with continuing progress with Stuart’s speech.

Since then though he had a couple of tests.  One test was done to see if there was any clot left in his heart.  Praise God that is all gone.  At that time the doctor said that they might consider closing the hole in Stuart’s heart. This is a hole that everyone has before birth that generally closes up after birth.  Well, Stuart’s didn’t.  Normally this doesn’t cause any problems.  However, it appears a clot broke loose from his leg and traveled to the heart getting lodged in this opening.  Then part of it then went to the brain.  This is the thought of all the doctors.

Well, last week Stuart went to speak with the heart specialist who told Stuart it would be a good idea to close this hole, and he went into detail how this is done. Then Stuart saw his neurologist who agreed that this should be done if all looks favorable in his brain.

So, this week Stuart had an MRI.  The result was that it showed all the blood is reabsorbed, and Stuart will be able to go on a blood thinner to get ready for the procedure on his heart.  When all of this will take place we don’t know yet.   I know they would like to do it as soon as possible.

This week Adrian is coming home to us here in Iowa.  As I write this he and Kyle are traveling here in our van from Newark where Adrian flew in to.   He hasn’t seen his dad since we left the Ukraine.   It will be good to have him with us.

We will let you know when Stuart goes in for this procedure on his heart.  It is done using a catheter.  He will go in one day, stay overnight and go home the next day if all goes well.   With anything like this there are certain risks so keep Stuart in your prayers.
Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie and family


Progress is being made…

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,
This is just a quick note to let you know that all is well here.  We did have some concerns last week as Stuart’s blood pressure was elevated a bit.  However, it seems to be ok now.  He is scheduled to see the doctor on the 7th.

Progress is being made in his speech as I noticed he spoke easier with his brother on the phone this week.  The speech therapist said he should be able to preach again.  The steps he is making now are not going to be as noticeable but should be slow but sure.  Of course, it is difficult to watch him struggle to get his thought out, but he has a great sense of humor through it all.

Pray as we plan to make a trip to Topeka to get a new license for Stuart to replace his lost one, and I will renew mine. We are also trying to get our van out here which is a process.

Thanks again for asking about our needs Marette.  Right now we are working on getting furniture for our apartment which we move into this coming Friday.  We are trying to shop for the best buys which takes time.  We are also grateful for the continuing financial support that is coming in to help with the medical bills and loan taken for the airflight for Stuart.  Thanks to everyone’s help, progress is being made on getting those paid.  God is so good to us!

Pray for our trip to Kansas this next week.  Tiffany will be driving us out there and back.
Love from us all,
Stuart, Valerie and family


Life goes on…

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Hi, I just thought I would let you know how our first week went at home. We were so thankful that Stuart was able to have his rehab at On With Life. The staff there not only does their job well but truly have a compassion for the people they serve. The patients there are not referred to as patients but as “persons served.” When people leave the facility to go home they send a booklet signed by staff and “persons served.” Stuart will possibly even go back to On With LIfe (OWL) to do some volunteer work.

In the first week home Stuart adjusted very well with no problems. Stuart and I try to get out each day for a nice long walk of about 4 miles. We hike it down to the bike trail and have a nice stroll. One day we even took the grandkids with us in a double stroller which Stuart pushed the whole way.

This week Stuart gets started on his 3 times a week speech therapy. Pray that this will help Stuart to stimulate the brain to process thoughts into words in the proper way. For someone who always had thoughts running through his mind it can be frustrating when the thoughts are just not there.

We also have a praise. God provided us with a nice apartment that we will be moving into at the beginning of April. Now we just have to work on getting furniture for the 3 bedroom duplex. It is located not far from Bill and Tiffany. There is a nice bike trail not 2 minutes from us. Stuart has not tried to ride bike yet, but we hope to try that soon. Also, we want to thank you all so much for your continued financial support for the bills that were not covered by our insurance.

You cannot imagine how blessed we feel to have such a suppotive christian family. Your prayers have surely carried us through. I don’t know how people in the world make it through trials.

Stuart would like to try and put a newsletter together within the next couple of weeks. Of course, I will have to help with this so you can pray for that, too. Thanks again for being there for us.

Love in Christ,

Stuart, Valerie and family