If there was one thing I was certain of in this life, it was that I wanted to be a mom. I was so excited when I found out I was pregnant, I just had no idea what that meant for me. It has been a journey of incomparable joy, indescribable fear, gut wrenching pain, and a complete overhaul of my Christianity.There is an earlier blog post I wrote about a year ago talking about our experience at Dallas Children's, but I didn't touch on the overwhelming power of prayer or how our whole community fell to it's knees rallying along side my family to keep my baby boy alive.
After several doctor's visits, a case of Hand Foot and Mouth, and two professional opinions, we arrive at the pediatricians office in hopes of finally getting an answer as to why our ten month old son's stomach is protruding. I was terrified. I never imagined being so scared, but the answer we received was nothing that I expected.
While waiting for the doctor to enter the room we called our priest. the only thing we knew was that we needed to pray.
I want to pause for a second and give you a little background on my experience with church. i have always been a Christian and have always believed in God, but obviously I am not a "perfect Christian". I have been to a few churches in my adult life and never felt quite at ease. I continued to feel uncomfortable and I wasn't becoming any closer to God. There was a time when I was married to my ex-husband where i was desperate for my church and yet I didn't feel I could ask for help. I was lost and felt alone. I needed guidance and there wasn't any. After that i never went back to that church. It wasn't' where I needed t be. When my current husband and I decided we were ready to start a family, we wanted to also find a church home that we could raise our family in. Not a fake church home, but one filled with positive fellowship where we could nurture our faith and feel welcome.This is when we found Father Puckett.
After we prayed over the phone we received a text from Father saying God was telling him too get up and drive to Longview to pray with us in person. Sitting in the exam room with my husband and our son, I felt sick. It took around two hours for them to come and give us any kind of answer. I just knew the doctor was going to come in before Father Puckett even arrived since he had to drive 45 minutes and we had already been waiting for an hour. It didn't matter though, we would have waited for him and prayed in the parking lot.
All of a sudden the door to the exam room opens. In walks the pediatrician, followed by Father, followed by the words, you need to get to Dallas NOW! There were so many thoughts running through my head.... My baby.... my ten month old sweet baby boy... God please don,t take my baby boy.... how can this be happening to him, to us?.... GOD PLEASE! I felt exhausted, beaten, terrified, sick to my stomach, dizzy, like I was going down the proverbial rabbit hole. Everything was spinning. This child is my whole world. My helpless angel. It is my job to protect him and keep him safe and there's nothing I can do to make this tumor go away. Then Father starts to pray. I looked at my husband and said, ok, we can do this. Let's call our family, pack our bags and get to Dallas. We can get through this. God will not take my baby away.
Loaded up in the car at 8 pm with my parents behind us, we head to our hotel. We made the appointment for the next morning as early as possible. The night seemed to be darker than normal. Neither of us were saying a word and our anxiety was sky high. My heart felt like it was going to suffocate and it felt like the world outside kept getting darker by second. I was on the verge of having a panic attack and the darkness just made it seem like everything was closing in on us so I closed my eye', caught my breathe and prayed as hard as I could. When I opened my eyes I saw this big shining light coming from the top of a hill. Leward and I looked at each other with tears streaming down. We knew, we were not alone. A massive, white cross, stood magnificent and bright on top of a hill, shinning over all the tree tops in the middle of no where. It was a sign. God is good y'all and we cannot lost faith in his plans. I have never seen that cross again. The next few weeks following our drive to Dallas Children's we did a lot of waiting, a lot of searching for a surgeon, i did a lot of cussing and a lot of worrying. All they did that first morning was draw blood and send us back home. SERIOUSLY??? Then we couldn't find anyone willing to do a CT scan on a baby....COME ON PEOPLE!!! THE CLOCK IS TICKING FOR THIS INNOCENT CHILD! Why didn't they think it was important to have surgery ASAP??? Why was the surgeon going on vacation first? Why were we having complications with insurance? Was my baby not important? This surgeon should be shot! Why is this happening to us? My baby deserves so much better than these people!!!!! I was angry. I was beat down. I wasn't giving up. I demanded we search for another surgeon IMMEDIATELY and dad offered to pay cash for whatever necessary as long as it would expedite surgery. Finally, we receive a call from our pediatrician. Not only did he find someone to do the CT scan (who didn't even work on children) and a top of the line surgeon specializing in liver surgery on kids. Coincidence? I think not. Mesenchymal Hamartoma Those two words changed my life forever.
When we finally made our first Facebook post, our whole community hit their knees in prayer for our child. It didn't matter if we were friends, strangers, foes, or people from our past, everyone rallied in prayer. You could feel it too. It was spine tingling and awe inspiring to see everyone not only put differences aside, but put their lives and their problems to the side to lift my angel up in prayer. This mama was amazed. The power of God is mighty. We were on every prayer list in every town. Every Episcopal Church in America prayed. Strangers. People we never even met reached out to us. There is definitely something to be said about that moment in time, especially in this selfish world we live in. There are some pretty inspiring people out there. Coincidence? I think not. Turn out, Tripp would be spending his very first birthday in the hospital. I wasn't too excited,
but getting him healthy and bringing him home is much more important than any birthday party.
Surgery day came at last and we sat in pre-op for a bit, playing with Tripp and preparing for the moment when they take him away from us. My stomach was in knots. We have a pretty large family, so we brought about 20 people with us, including our priest. We prayed the night before surgery, the morning of and right before they took him back, we prayed with the hospital staff.
I truly believe the first surgeon went on vacation because we were meant to have the second surgeon. Not only did she let all 20 of our family members in to pre-op (you can only have 3) but she talked with each of them in order offer some kind of comfort. She even took me outside, after i passed out, to speak with me about her plan and what was running through her head. She told me i was going to be a major surgery, but she was very confident in herself. Ya'll, she didn't have to do any of that. They could have ripped my baby away from me without a care in the world for my feelings. coincidence? I think not.
Giving up my child knowing he could die during surgery was the worst thing I have ever been through. I felt powerless and I just didn't understand why. The hospital was great, but why were any of these kids here?? There were babies! There are babies! All at once, it is the best and worst place I have ever been. The first few hours of surgery were like flying in an airplane for me. (I really hate flying) There's a panic attack at take off, then when you level out, you start to relax, just a little. The second you hit any sign of turbulence, there goes your gut, your heart, your thoughts, all of it. There's no real relaxation until you start to descend. This describes our whole situation, not just surgery.
Surgery went well for a minute, then Tripp's blood pressure plummeted. I tried to be strong, put my faith in God''s hands, but honestly, I lost it. He was all the way back in surgery, dying. All I could do was pray, just pray. That's all I could do? How is that even enough?? I wanted to take action... I wanted to fall apart. I was shattered. What I did was walk right back in to the waiting room, gather everyone in to a prayer circle, explain what was going on, and with Father Puckett taking the lead, I think everyone in that waiting room prayed harder than they ever have.
Hours went by.
He was stable and taken up to ICU. It was time for us to go and see our baby for the first time.... There are no words. No words can describe what I saw in that room. As if motherhood isn't hard enough. My child. This innocent child of God, strapped down to a hospital bed, forced in to a coma, cut open like a fish, and trying to stay alive. There are no words. I took turns with family members so everyone could have a chance to see him. The waiting area wasn't too far from the room he was placed in. Right when I started to relax just a little, I hear my husband screaming for me. I bolt through the doors and get to the entrance to Tripp's room and I hear him flat lining. All I remember is hitting the floor. I am telling you, after all we had been through thus far, I was losing hope, losing faith. "Father God PLEASE!!!" Wrap your arms around my sweet baby boy! I beg of you!!!! Beep..... beep... beep.... he's breathing again. It happened several more times. We didn't sleep for days.
We continued to update Facebook and anyone who was calling and texting. They continued to pray. Facebook was busting at the seams with prayer warriors and church's everywhere were joining in prayer. News of his tumor spread far and wide. It really was a something to behold. They lifted us up day after day. No matter how hard it got, they kept my faith alive. It was like they were keeping us afloat. Then, right when we started to wonder if he would ever come out of a coma, we were moved into a new room out of ICU where they threw my baby the best first birthday party we could have had! Not only did I have a one year old baby boy, I also had a healthy baby boy. He was so weak, I wondered how long it would be until he could walk again. We updated everyone...THANKS BE TO GOD! The next day, the next day, he got up, out of his bed and we walked down the hall to the playroom. It was truly a miracle. An excruciating, faith testing, miracle.
Today, he is 2 years tumor free and as I sit here and type this, he has messed up the TV. He's so curious. I literally thought he broke the TV, until it came back on... on a church channel. coincidence?
I think not.