On January 20, 2010, our precious Callie Grace was born. Immediately after Callie was born, my OB/GYN told us that Callie’s umbilical cord was extremely short and had been hanging by a thread. He said that we should be thankful that we had a hospital delivery, because if I had not made it to the hospital in time, Callie would not have survived. This was surprising news, since, as far as the doctor could tell before her birth, she was perfectly healthy. We were concerned about this news, but he assured us that there was nothing to be worried about. We thanked God that He protected our baby, and sovereignly put us where we needed to be at the right time. We were later told by Callie’s pediatrician, as he was releasing her to go home, that we had “a perfect baby.”
Six months later, that same pediatrician rushed Callie to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN, after noticing that her lips were turning blue and hearing what he described as the loudest heart murmur he had ever heard. At LeBonheur, she was diagnosed with five congenital heart defects and was going into congestive heart failure. We were devastated to hear that she had to have an emergency angioplasty and would have to have heart surgery soon and open heart surgery eventually. The heart of a six-month-old baby is about the size of a walnut in its shell. One of the holes in her heart was as big as a bottle cap. Our hearts were laid in the dust when we heard her diagnosis.
By God’s grace, we had a large network of godly prayer warriors who lifted our baby girl before the throne. Callie came through the first angioplasty, and her oxygen levels were higher. Over the next four years, she would endure many more angioplasties, tests, RSV shots, hospital stays and a heart surgery (not open heart – they were able to get to her heart through her back). Her cardiologists at LeBonheur tried to close the big hole in her heart with a patch so that she wouldn’t have to have open heart surgery, but they failed every time. They finally decided that she would indeed have to have open heart surgery. That was a decision we could not accept. The thought of our baby lying there with her chest open was just too much. Ever since Callie was first diagnosed, we prayed every day that the doctors would be able to close the hole in her heart without open heart surgery and that her pulmonary arteries would grow along with the rest of her body so that she wouldn’t have to have multiple stents. Every day for four years we cried out to Him.
We began to see that we needed to get a second opinion, so we took her to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, TX. They were only supposed to do tests that day, using a balloon in her arteries measure heart pressures. About an hour into the procedure, they called us to ask permission to close the big hole in her heart with a patch. They had tried a temporary one, and her heart pressures and oxygen levels had responded positively. We told them that was exactly what we had been praying for over the last four years and praised God in the waiting room for everyone to see!
Since the large hole was patched that day, Callie has been able to run and play like a normal child, without her lips turning blue. Patching the hole forced her pulmonary arteries to start growing wider as well. We know that this outcome was a result of God’s mercy and grace toward us in answer to the prayers of His children. Every doctor we had spoken with had prepared us for open heart surgery. Some of them even told us that she might have to have a heart transplant. Those four years were not easy, but God knows exactly what we need to pass through that we might be conformed to the image of His Son. I didn’t mention this earlier, but my husband was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia only three months after Callie’s heart defects were discovered. Whoever said that God will never put more on us than we can bear was very mistaken. God put much more on us than we could bear, and He put all of it on at the same time. It would be more correct to say that the Lord will never give us trials to walk through in which He will not sustain us and work the trial for our good and His glory. Today, our little family is still together, serving God, fully confident that we can cast any burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain us. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).