Monday, December 1, 2008

Here it is...finally-our testimony!

So last week, I think on Tuesday, our Pastor called and asked if we would share our testimony. We had a Thanksgiving service yesterday and he wanted us to share our story and hopefully help someone...

Well, we of course said yes (even though my stomach went into knots the second he asked) and at 12:30 Sunday morning(we had NO CLUE what we were going to say before the morning of service) here is what just poured out of my heart...

At 19 ½ weeks pregnant we found out at a routine ultrasound that our baby to be was going to be born with a rare congenital heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. The left side of his heart was not there. It never grew. He was going to be born with only half of a heart. We were given no hope by the doctor that read the ultrasound-in fact he said that we should terminate Elijah because he would have no quality of life and we only had about a week to make up our minds…but this was our son. Termination was never an option. We had several family members fight us about “keeping” him, but we chose life for our child.

Devastation…that is what set in, in both of us. For the next several months we were scared, confused and alone. We struggled with our marriage, families, and most of all God. We were so angry and just didn’t understand why God would “do this” to our son. We didn’t have much support from church, or family and financially we just didn’t have a clue. Elijah: God’s warrior, was going to be very critical the very SECOND he was born. After a lot of research we chose to have a 3 stage repair done on Elijah’s heart…and so began our journey!

Elijah was born June 30th, 2006. He was beautiful! Picture perfect on the outside. We were in love! He had his first surgery on July 9th. The sight of our newborn child laying on a full sized stretcher was the most overwhelming thing in the world. The feelings are so indescribable. Wires, medications, tubes, life support, this poor innocent child lay lifeless on a bed. Then again at 4 months on November 2...the same smells, sights, feelings, and overwhelming emotions all over again.

During these first months, including the remainder of the pregnancy our family was falling apart. Our marriage was crumbling, Hannah and Travis were pretty neglected by us and you could tell that they felt like they were invisible…life was complete chaos! We were time bombs waiting to explode! It never seemed to stop. We always fought, there was never enough money, and the kids made us crazy! We felt like our beautiful son was such a burden. He made life so difficult which made us more angry and more sad. Our life was consumed by doctor’s and medicines and hospitals. We realized that it was time to find a church. We started attending the Freedom Center when Elijah was about 9 months old…just on and off at first. Our cousin Melissa kept on us about coming and finally we just gave in. We still weren’t going regularly and it was like we just went to go for a long time. Then finally we started getting more involved. Life was beginning to look up. We were finally getting some normalcy with all of the kids. We weren’t at the hospital as much. Elijah wasn’t so sick. We were still having a TON of marital problems and decided that we should go to the marriage retreat. We met some amazing couples there…Pastor Ben and Rachel, Pastor Adam and Brooke, and many others that it felt like God had just placed in our path that weekend. We also met our future e-group leaders Chris and Alise McAleer and really connected with them.

Fast forward about 3 months…we go in for Elijah’s heart cath to see how he is doing and find out that surgery # 3 is pretty necessary and soon! We were hoping to wait another year but plan’s changed. We knew that things were changing…he was having more blue periods, more tiredness, and more episodes of losing his breath. HE had a artery that was very narrowed and needed fixed along with needing his Fontan (stage 3). We had no money and no vacation time, and were worried. Our e-group and many other friends rallied around us and did 2 huge fundraisers for us and raised enough money to allow Jason to take nearly 2 weeks off! We had never experienced support like this and it was overwhelming! But oh, did Satan try with all of his might to destroy everything that was happening. Our whole group had everything from high tension, to bad weather, Jason and I wanting to divorce, even the extreme loss of a long awaited pregnancy…but we all kept trudging through for God’s glory.

So, on Wed August 6th of this year Elijah had surgery # 3. It was the hardest of all 3. He was not just this little baby any longer. He was our Elijah…he walked, he talked, he had a personality, and he loved with his whole heart. The surgical waiting doors open and you can smell the anesthesia…a smell that will always be a memory, we had to sit him in that wagon and watch him wheeled down the long hallway. We are both sick by now. Feeling as though we are going to pass out. We couldn’t move…just stand there and watch as they walk away with our child. Finally we go to the waiting room and are greeted by family, and friends. Which was different for us. The prior surgeries our family was there…but it was quiet and sad. This time we were SURROUNDED by people and we were sad, but when anyone saw the sadness or fear in our faces they quickly stepped in and prayed. They made us smile. They made an unbearable situation a lot more bearable.

Surgery was complete, and slowly our friends went home to their families. It was just us and Mom and Dad. We took turns staying at Elijah’s side. But things quickly went downhill and from bad to worse. Elijah was very critical…a call was made to our cousin Missy and friend Dawn which caused a domino effect of more calls and texts to go out and prayers began even harder for Elijah. People turned around and came back. Many people stayed until nearly 3 am so that we were not alone.

Elijah remained very critical for 5 days and on Sunday he took a real bad turn. He got an infection in his lungs. His BP wouldn’t hold. It was dropping. His oxygen saturations were dropping. We were told that there wasn’t much more they could do. We again made a phone call…which again, caused more calls and texts to go out and the prayers began even harder. The next morning Pastor Jim, Pastor Ben, and Jordan show up to pray over Elijah. Just interceding. It was a relief…to have people there again. We had family there, but the tension was very thick. We were all stressed and feeling it. We were finally breaking.

Pat and Teresa Brady come up a little later and prayed and prayed and prayed. I remember them praying over the hospital and the nurses and than just demanding healing. Demanding that our son make it. We needed to see certain #’s on the monitor for Elijah’s blood pressure and the pressure in his arteries and Pat began demanding those #’s and after a few minutes they rose. He would demand a number even higher and within a few minutes there it was. He just pleaded with Jesus for healing and to show us that he was working in little Elijah’s body . After about 45 minutes of prayer and seeing that the #’s had remained we left to allow other’s to come in and see. The next day we were holding our son! It was bittersweet! He turned around so quickly.
We met many families during this hospital stay. Single mom’s there all alone. Angry couples that reminded us of our prior surgeries, and other Christian’s that amazed us with their faith. Because of all of the kindness and generosity shown to us we were able to pay it forward and bless a couple of families there that had NOTHING. We were able to buy them some groceries, a little toy for a baby, give a little cash for lodging and gas and buy a hopeless couple a Bible! We were able to witness to them and point out scripture that may help them in the times that they felt hopeless. They were not Christian’s and had never owned a Bible. Their Little baby Colten was very sick. He passed away after a week and they came to us to help them through it. They came to us to pray with them and cry to. It was one of the greatest experiences we took from the hospital.

We were still surrounded by family and friends for the remainder of the stay. We had a lot of great conversation and great fellowship. We had mini bible studies (well just good support scriptures for us). We were brought meals, we were handed “extra cash” to help out, we were brought so many gifts that it filled our van. We had a whole month at the Med Inn paid for by an organization so we didn’t have to worry about where we would sleep or clean up… and the prayers and messages just never stopped. The amount of love that poured out to us and Elijah was incredible.

Elijah battled many other things while at the hospital…severe withdrawl, infections, PICC line insertion, fluid build up, tubes pulling out, and having 5 chest tubes replaced, a second surgery, and more dressing changes than I can count. He became terrified of people. He still has anxiety around strangers…but he is here! He is happy and doing better than ever! He is running and talking like crazy. He is finally starting to eat good again. He has graduated from physical therapy, occupational therapy, and no longer requires biweekly pediatrician appointments to check his weight, BP and oxygen sats. He is only on one diuretic once a day and a baby aspirin every M, W, & F. He doesn’t need to go back to cardiology until January. He is in the beginning stages of potty training and is finally drinking from a cup so he will be broke from a bottle soon. He is a happy healthy 2 ½ year old little boy. And this is all because of God’s grace and love for us and our son along with a whole lot of prayers from a whole lot of awesome people.

We are so thankful for the love that God has for our family and thankful that He is a forgiving God and can forgive the times when we don’t have faith in Him or get angry with Him. We are thankful that by the grace of God we pulled through this surgery TOGETHER as a couple without anger and bitterness towards each other like the previous surgeries. We didn’t allow satan to destroy our marriage or our relationship with the Lord. WE are thankful that when we began to get discouraged God put people at the hospital to lift us up without us even having to ask for them to come. We are thankful that Jesus died for our son’s healing. We are so thankful for our marriage and our children…all 3 of them. We are thankful that God opened our eyes and revealed to us the beautiful gift He in placed in our family by blessing us with this special child. We are so very thankful for God allowing Elijah’s life to remain here with us. Thank you all so much for your kindness, your generosity, and most of all your love to us.