|By Suzanne Mazer Stewart|
The following story is true. It is my son's story.
Eight and a half years ago today was a beautiful late Summer day. It was late August and the blue-golden days of Autumn in Appalachia were just beginning. My daughter was getting ready to celebrate her 2nd birthday and we were all excited about the arrival of a little brother or sister for her in about 6 months time. The sun was shining, big puffy clouds hanging in a deep blue sky, the Twin Towers were still standing in New York City and it was to be the last "normal" day of my life.
As I got my daughter off the backyard swing, I felt something pull or pop low in my body. It didn't hurt so I didn't pay it too much notice. After I put Miss K down for her nap, I went into the bathroom (I was 3 months along - I knew the location of the nearest bathroom no matter where I was) and discovered that I was bleeding. I prayed, tried to stay calm, prayed to stay calm, prayed some more and then dialed the OB. My husband, a patrolman, was on the afternoon shift, third watch, and wouldn't be home for another 7 hours. I explained this to the nurse at the OB's office when she asked how quickly I could get there. She informed me that waiting 7 hours wasn't an option. So, I hung up, prayed again and called the dispatcher. When he finally called me back (it was only about 10 minutes later, but it seemed like an eternity at the time) I could no longer maintain cool, calm and collected. He made the 30 minute trip home in less than 15, lights and sirens all the way. With him at the wheel and Miss K in her car seat in the back, we made the 45 minute drive to the hospital in less than 25 minutes. Then, the real nightmare began.
After examining me, the doctors all agreed that I had the "worst case" of placenta previa they'd ever witnessed. In no uncertain terms, we were informed that I would miscarry within the next 12 to 24 hours. We prayed and I stayed the night. Miss K went to stay with my mom, and my name went on prayer lists from London, England to Alaska. We waited and prayed. And prayed and waited. After 48 hours and still no miscarriage, they sent me home on bed rest and told me to prepare for the inevitable. I went in for an ultrasound every week, and every week it was the same - no change, "and we still have baby."
We waited and watched and prayed for 12 weeks. Then, in mid-November, the week before Thanksgiving, at the weekly ultrasound something happened. The tech got a really weird look on his face. He left to get the doctor. The doctor came in and he got a really weird look on his face, too. Now, the fetal monitor was going strong, so I knew "we still had a baby" but up to that point, no one had said what all the weird looks were about. Then, with a perplexed look, the doctor says, "Well now, I don't know what you've been up to, but there's absolutely no evidence that anything has ever been wrong!" It wasn't as if the placenta had "shifted" or "lifted" or any of those other things that can happen to fix a case of placenta previa. It was if it had never been there at all! So, they sent me home with instructions to "take it easy" and "get us close to the due date."
We waited and watched and prayed some more. Then, at 36 weeks, the OB tells me that he's not taking any chances with me going into labor. We're taking this little boy at 38 weeks, maybe 39, but no later.
So the date for the C-section was set for March 16, a Friday. Excitement builds, as there's a definite day and time to meet our new little one, who by all medical rights shouldn't be there at all. Friday the 16th was cold, dreary, blustery - typical March West Virginia weather. At 8:25 a.m., Taylor was born, via C-section and everything goes off without a hitch. At 10:45 a.m., I'm already back in my room and awaiting the arrival of my son from the nursery. Only he doesn't come. And he doesn't come. And he doesn't come. At 11:30, the pediatrician arrived bringing the news that Taylor can't breathe on his own. They can't get him to start breathing, and when they do, he can't keep up respirations effective enough to sustain a normal oxygen level.
They are going to have to transport him to WV Children's Hospital in Morgantown. Then came the knockout blow - because of the weather, the helicopter won't or can't come. He'll have to go by ambulance and they don't think he'll make it. Once again, my son had been given a death sentence.
We prayed and waited and waited and prayed. After 45 minutes, the call came that he had, in fact, made it and that they've begun trying to determine the cause of his respiratory distress. If things don't improve, however, they really don't think he'll make it through the night.
The next 2 days are a blur of agonizing waits for phone calls from Morgantown, only to hear the same news. "We don't know yet what is wrong and he's still hanging in there, but he may not make it through the night/day/afternoon." When I was finally discharged and able to make the trip to Children's, I was greeted with the sight of my precious son lying in an incubator, tubes poking out from all over his little body, and a definite bluish tint to his skin. My son, the baby in the box. He looked rather funny there, as the other occupants of the NICU were all preemies. He looked like Goliath among the Davids, a giant of a full-term baby among his tiny premature neighbors.
They did all they knew to do. Then they tried things they weren't sure would work. They sent cultures and blood samples to Cleveland, Baltimore, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, you name it, in an effort that someone, somewhere might be able to diagnose a cause and recommend a treatment that would lead to a cure.
For 9 days my son lay there, in that box, unable to breathe. For nine days we prayed and waited and watched and prayed some more. Then, on his second Sunday, a group from our church went to Children's. They prayed over him, anointing the box and blessing the staff. Then, they left. At 3:30 that afternoon, about 3 hours after they'd gone, the nurse said she needed to see us. She had me sit in a rocking chair in a dimly lit corner of the NICU, behind a curtain. I had witnessed one family taken in there to be told the "worst" and was sure it was our turn. Then, the curtain was drawn aside and the entire staff was crowded around our nurse. As they separated, she said, "I'd like you to meet your son." There he was at last! Pink and healthy and hungry as a bear!
The doctors on his case told me later that they hadn't cured him. Even if they had stumbled upon something when they'd changed his treatment that morning, it would not have had that dramatic an effect. They'd played no part in his recovery, and medical science couldn't explain it. Tay was labeled the "Miracle Boy" and that was that. They did tell me that no child who had sustained such low oxygen levels for such a long period of time could ever have a hope of being "normal." "You'll be lucky if he ever learns to sit up and feed himself. Don't get your hopes up." We took him home and prayed and waited and watched and prayed some more.
Well, Broccoli Boy (as his big sister nicknamed him after hearing him described as a potential "vegetable") is now 8 years old. He's got problems with ADD/ADHD and allergies. He's got problems with slamming the door as he runs in and out. He's got problems figuring out his new Star Wars Lego video game he got for his birthday. He's got problems annoying his big sister. He's got problems remembering to do his chores. But those are all problems we can live with!
Like Hannah in the Bible, "For this child I prayed." And I still do...only now it's that I'll have the strength, courage and energy to keep up with him!