It was exactly four years ago today that we boarded a plane and headed across the world to meet a little boy who would change our world. A little boy who would soon be our son…
Rewind and I clearly remember the day we sat and filled out the agency checklist for which special needs we might be open to when considering a child to add to our family. We checked mostly what we felt were minor medical needs, as well as minor to moderate congenital heart defects. I will be honest, that one scared me the most. I can remember praying for the child God would lead us to and thinking to myself “any of those needs would be fine Lord but maybe not a child with a heart defect, it scares me…”
One night we received the call with a referral for an 18 month old little boy with a congenital heart defect. Our agency sent the file and even though we were told not to fall in love with a face, how could we not. His eyes looked so sad, so longing, so scared.
He was born with Tetralogy of Fallot with an ASD, VSD, and pulmonary stenosis. And he had already had surgery to repair his ASD and VSD in China. He seemed to be growing and developing well. We researched his condition and felt a great peace about the future. The fear that once lingered was gone. We knew that he would need additional procedures and possible surgery but we were ready and hopeful. We knew even though he had been born with a broken heart, what he really needed was a family.
We were so excited when the day finally came, and on February 29, 2012, we boarded a plane. Our time in China felt surreal and exhausting. At 23 months our son, Gabe, was the size of a one year old and still took mostly bottles, unable to chew food well. He barely could walk, had no real language skills, and was much like an infant. But he grew and developed fast once we came home.
Shortly after arriving back home we saw the cardiologist for the first time. The first echo brought news that they could not see his pulmonary artery at all. They were concerned the stenosis was so severe that it was too small to see and ordered additional testing. A CT scan showed the pulmonary artery was only 2mm where the stenosis was located and they mentioned possible open heart surgery. They were not sure if the team would be able to balloon it open in the cath lab. We waited to hear back from the cardiologist and prayed for good news. After a few days, we heard that the cardiologist wanted to proceed with a heart cath.
The day of Gabe’s procedure was an emotional one. It doesn’t matter how routine the procedure is for the physician, it is so scary to hand your child off and see the medical team walk away through the doors with your baby. But his procedure went beautifully! They were able to open up the stenosis to 10mm and were so pleased with the results. We stayed overnight in the hospital and went home the next afternoon. Our little man…he didn’t miss a beat.
We were told Gabe will need repeat heart caths, to open up his stent more, in the future as he grows. They think every 3-5 years he will have to go back. We are now 3 ½ years past the first one and are hopeful to get at least 5 or more years between procedures. He has graduated to annual follow ups with the cardiologist for now, takes no medication, and has no restrictions. Fast forward and Gabe has more energy than most and never stops going. He loves gymnastics, playing at the park, bible class, and playing board games. He plays hard and he loves fiercely.
On March 6, 2016 we will celebrate our fourth “Forever Family Day”. When I think of how fearful we were in the beginning, I realize how our true problem was a lack of faith. Faith that God would walk with us through any obstacles. Faith that we would be good enough parents. Faith that God’s plan was greater than our own. Don’t get me wrong, congenital heart defects still scare me. I know the possibilities that exist. Our son will have more procedures, and likely another open heart surgery to replace one of his valves. And that scares me. It scares me because God has filled my heart with so much love for our son, that to even think about him hurting, makes me hurt. I also realize that had we not taken this leap of faith in our lives, we would have missed out on the very best part of life, our Gabe. He is such a treasure and wow…God’s plan was so much better than mine!
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”