It was May 1996, when the pediatrician told me, “I keep hearing this murmur.” She was speaking about my, then 6 month old son, Alec. I told her he had been tested at 10 days old because of this “murmur” and they said he was fine. The doctor said, “Well let’s just get a specialist in to take a look at Alec’s heart”. Thus began our adventure in Faith.
The pediatric cardiologist was a very friendly and deeply caring man with whom I felt a great kinship. He listened to Alec’s heart and decided a sonogram would be necessary to determine the reason behind this “obvious” murmur. He said he had never seen a heart like Alec’s…the deformity was rare to say the least. Even by sonogram he couldn’t determine the specifics of his deformity. We were told he would require open-heart surgery. My son was now 10 months old. (Army medical treatment can take some time to seek out a specialist.) The words echoed through my head as he spoke ever so gently about my only child. I looked at my somber faced husband, then I looked at my mother…a look of fear was on her face. Now I knew this was real. As we drove two and a half hours back home, I watched my carefree boy in the back seat sleeping like an angel and my husband fighting back the tears of utter helplessness.
We decided to have Alec’s surgery after Christmas, in two months. For those months, I rocked my baby, prayed for the strength to endure this and for Alec’s recovery. During this time, I received an abundance of love, strength, and compassion from the Universe. I knew Alec would be all right, I knew that I would be too. I even remember thinking and praying “Thank you God for this gift. He is such a miracle. He may not be with me for a lifetime, but I will forever be grateful for his imprint on my heart.” My connection to Alec goes beyond this Earth… we are Soul mates. God gives us what we need in the optimum time. Alec began to have physical symptoms of heart failure a few days before surgery…it was time to mend my baby’s heart. God delivered to Alec one of the top cardiac surgeons in the United States. The physicians found after performing a heart catheterization that Alec had a hole between two of his heart chambers and total anomalous veins (his veins were so deformed that only 20% of his blood volume was being circulated through his body, the other 80% stayed in his heart being circulated there.) They could not believe he had grown and thrived so well, a miracle in itself. God watched and protected my angel everyday of his life. This was my proof. Alec was now 13 months old and ready to begin his repair.
I held my baby tight as they medicated him before going to the operating room. The doctor took my angel from my arms and walked away with his limp body in his embrace. I sat and held his “blankie”; his security had now become mine.
The ICU nurses let us know when Alec was on the heart/lung bypass meaning my son’s heart was no longer beating on its own. When I heard my son was off this machine, I felt such a relief to know his heart was independently functioning. During the surgery I felt all the prayers, all the love and comfort from friends and family. We literally had a chain of prayer across America. I felt the incredible power of this.
When the surgeon appeared, he said it was more in depth than he had originally thought. “I’m not sure why Alec did as well as he did”, said the doctor. My husband immediately said, “Lots of TLC”. The surgeon said, “You’re probably right.” The surgery was a success, and now recovery was to begin.
The first night of recovery my mother sat with Alec. When I went to relieve my mother, she looked as though she had been through a battle. I asked her what was wrong. Apparently, Alec’s breathing tube was inserted too deeply and caused a bronchial spasm. Alec could not breathe. He attempted to compensate and override the ventilator having 80 respirations a minute (16 being normal). The doctors did not know what to do. Alec began to panic and started flailing in his bed. They disconnected the tube and manually bagged his breathing down. My mother spiritually bonded with Alec that night. She felt she almost lost him.
Due to a respiratory infection, he was kept on the ventilator a few more days. The doctors were concerned he would have congestive heart failure due to this fluid buildup.
Loren and I were given great support and love from our mothers. I could easily see the love they had for Alec. Each obstacle was met with faith in God and a love for Alec. Together we would survive.
Alec lost a great deal of weight and was restricted fluids. (Alec’s only joy at this time was apple juice). I could only give him an ounce an hour. There were times I could see desperation in his eyes. I truly feel he thought he was dying. Other patient’s family members would look at my son, and the horror on their faces spoke volumes. This was my reality check. Thank you God for protecting my family and me and for giving us the faith to know beyond a doubt my boy would be home soon. “Give him the strength of angels,” I prayed as the staff removed the ventilator and chest tubes. Alec gave his dad and I the cold shoulder, upset that we hadn’t protected him from this pain. Just as we blame the Universe for our disappointments, the truth is we loved him immeasurably, but we knew for him to thrive and grow old he needed to go through this challenge. Two minutes later, we were forgiven.
After another week in the hospital he was released to continue his life at home. Alec is a healthy and happy 4 1/2 year old today. His dad and I often wondered why this happened. Was it a random genetic error…. the Gulf War chemicals? The only thing I am sure of is that through this experience I have grown. I do not take anything for granted. My soul was able to stretch its wings and FLY.