Justus' chest prior to surgery. No scar yet.
Justus: day two. Notice the growing bruise on his chest.
Justus after the emergency re - intubation on September 20th, due to unexplained fever.
One year ago today we handed our little Justus over to a team of cardiologists for open heart surgery to repair Tetrology of Fallot. Justus was born with this condition that requires surgery because of the strain this condition puts on the heart. When first born, we were told that we were on a watch and wait type of game - in determining when he had to have surgery, hoping to reach a year, but not much past that. At four months old, Justus started to have a few "blue baby" or "Tet" spells. This indicated that his oxygen saturation in his blood was not what it should be. His pressures were also rising. These two things in conjunction with one another, was a strong indicator that surgery was needed. His surgery was scheduled at Seattle Children's Hospital for September 17th, 2009. We arranged to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, located a few blocks away. We also arranged for our friends, the Hand family, to stay with our other children. Many prayed, and we trusted Christ with our child; thus we felt as prepared as we could.
We had been warned, and yet - it was still so difficult to see for me. I was thankful, yet felt helpless. The next hours were filled with watching his vitals. He was on heavy doses of morphine, antibiotics, diuretics, and some other medications. That very next day they started the process of taking him off the ventilator. This required allowing him to come off the morphine, so that he would be awake enough, triggering his body to know that he actually had to breathe on his own. Later that day, we could hear a clicking or thumping noise coming from his chest, even when we just entered the room. We brought it up to the nurse, thinking maybe his sternum??? One doctor came in and reassured us that this could not be, that the sternum coming apart was VERY RARE. Meanwhile, we noticed a dark spot around his incision. He seem agitated, and I thought it was because of his surgery. He went through the night without pain medication, and quite fussy. That very next morning (early) his surgeon was doing rounds. He immediately decided that it WAS HIS STERNUM! That the noise was the bone rubbing against itself, and the spot was a growing bruise on his chest. He was put back on the ventilator and rushed in to repair his sternum, this time with wire.
Relief actually washed over us, at least there was an answer and fix. However, I did find myself questioning why this would happen. Why would God allow it? I got my answer. When Justus was taken in for the sternum repair, I broke down and started to weep. My husband comforted me and I wiped my tears away to see that the nurse was still in the room. I apologized to her and she was so kind in return. She then started to ask me questions about my faith. She had noticed how we prayed, how others who came into the room were "peaceful" and not wrought by strife or worry. She asked about heaven and hell. I knew, right then and there, why my boy was back in the OR. It was so I could witness to Aileen. I will never know what that will mean in eternity, but I can be thankful and glad for the opportunity.
Justus was now, on what I thought the road to recovery. However, there was one more bump coming. That very next day was my birthday. Justus seemed to be doing great. We even were moved to a different room, and he was once again, taken off the ventilator. Our friends, the Hands, brought our other children there that evening to wish me Happy Birthday. I went out to the waiting area, and had left Justus in a pleasant state. I had only been gone about a half hour. I walked back into the room to find my baby just didn't "look right". His eyes were rolled back, his hands and feet were blue, and he kept grunting. I looked on the monitor and his heart rate was 200 b/m. Not good. I told the nurse, and immediately a team was called in. He had a high fever, and his rates were not good. Low sats, high fever, high resp. etc. They packed ice around him. It was difficult to watch. There was no explanation for this. Could it be the worst case scenario ... infection? Justus was not doing well ... at all. They had to do an emergency re-intubation. (ventilator again) to help him breathe and give his body a break from working so hard, in hopes that this would allow his rates to better. It did not. All through the night he fought. Only one person could stay in the room. My husband chose to, and I went to the RMH to try and sleep. I called a friend that evening, and was so very transparent with her. Truth be told, I was scared. I trusted in Christ. I knew that He could do whatever He wanted. I knew that I should be okay with losing my child, if God saw fit to take his life. . . . . but I was not okay with it. I was not okay with the notion of losing my baby. I wept until I was sure there were no tears left. I just was at the end of myself, wanting nothing more than for God to hear my pleading.
He didn't have to - answer our prayer that is. He is a just God, despite what our notions are. Truth is: even if Justus had gone to be with the Lord that night, it was a far better place for him, than here. It was my selfish, mothering desire, that my son remain here. I again - questioned God. What in the world? Why this? I should have known better.
It was during this time, while Justus was being re-intubated, that I rushed into the waiting area - and wept. Not caring this time who was around. Not guarding any emotions. I truly thought that Justus was dying. The way he looked .... Our pastor came that evening (he left church on a Sunday evening with direction for them to just be in prayer for Justus the whole time) and prayed with us. We prayed in the waiting area. Near us was a group of women. I knew that, but had no idea what "their story was". As we said our "amens" I raised my head and saw through tears, that these women had come up beside us and prayed with us! They had no idea what we were praying for, they just felt led to pray with us. We asked what they were here for. A woman, by the name of Alecs, then relayed to us, that her son - David, was here awaiting a heart transplant, and was not doing well. Her husband was a missionary and was out of country. These other women came to pray with her from their Russian speaking church.
The next several days saw Justus getting better, and was opportunity for our family, friends, and pastor to be a blessing to Alecs and little David. We were able to pray with her, try and comfort her and bring her a few gifts. Justus improved rapidly and we were discharged. We went back on one occasion to visit with Alecs and David. We continued to feel so burdened for him. Unfortunately for Alecs and her husband, David went to be with the Lord in December 2009. He was almost four months old. I saw Alecs again at his funeral, and it was the most God glorifying memorial I had ever been to. It was powerful to hear the familiar hymns sung in Russian. There were three preachers who exalted the Lord with their messages, and even though it was a rough time - that room, overflowing with attendees, heard the gospel.
Fast forward a year. Justus is pink, thriving and healthy. Our past year has been ... a whirlwind. God has certainly brought us through quite a journey. Now ... we are adopting three children from Eastern Europe. We absolutely know, that the hospital stay, the Ronald McDonald House stay, and the meeting with Alecs and David - taught us and reminded us of the fragility and sanctity of life. That ALL life is precious and worth the fight. We know that this all had a part in bringing us to this point.
A few weeks ago, as I stood in the back of the church bouncing Justus on my shoulder, the sanctuary door opened. In walked ... Alecs and her husband, Igor. I just about started to cry. I could not believe my eyes. I was elated to see them. After service we sat and talked for a long time. We told them of our desire to adopt three children. We also learned that Igor not only grew up in, but also pastored in the SAME CITY we are adopting from. Wow! Praise the Lord for how He has led us on this journey. This journey that started over a year ago. This journey that has taught us so much, has allowed us opportunity to testify of Him. I would have never imagined. So, as I think back to a year ago today, I can't help but think of the journey that lies ahead. Praise the Lord!