As I was sitting here reading this, I kept on asking myself, “Should I really be this amazed that our Heavenly Father works out these intricate details like this?” I mean, there’s that part of me that knows God works things out like this, but I just can’t help but stand in awe of how He does it sometimes. God must really have something special in store for Jessica…
Josh & Connie
his is Jessica’s story – . . . a miracle that we do not want to forget. I hope Jessica and her siblings share it with their children, and their children’s children, should Jesus tarry. It’s my desire for you to see God written through every word – Him in every detail of her being so uniquely, precisely and delicately loved and cared for. Often it is hard to comprehend God’s love more for our children than our own. I’ve witnessed it. But her story does not begin December 19th, the day of her emergency open heart surgery . . .
Jessica had two open heart surgeries as a baby, spending 11 weeks in ICU at the University of Michigan. That whole story can be read here, including about her Make-A-Wish trip. She has done very well through the years, and we knew eventually she would need her mitral valve replaced.
Through this past summer of 2008 she began complaining a lot of back and neck aches. She has had problems all along with not being able to turn her head far to the right. We had been told it was nerve damage from her long stay in ICU and all that was hooked up to her. However this past summer we noticed that the right side of her neck looked swollen and it was very hard to the touch. We took her to our family doctor and she had x-rays taken on August 5th. We then saw a local orthopedic doctor on October 8th who told us Jessica had a “hemi-vertebrae”, meaning vertebrae C-7 was 50% gone – never developed – and it was moving on an angle pulling her neck. He ordered physical therapy for her, which we started on November 12th and went for five visits. She seemed to be in more pain from it.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, as Jessica still remained in a lot of back & neck pain, we discussed it with a medical professional who had concerns as we did. He looked at the x-rays and told us what to look into more, including if she has a hemi-vertebrae and the muscles are all loosened around it, what kind of stablity will she then have. We discussed this with Jessica’s cardiologist and she also had great concerns and recommended she to the University of Michigan to see an orthopedic surgeon there. We were first given a date of January 7, 2009. However, with Jessica’s continued pain and having a hard time sleeping, I called on December 15th and asked if there was any possible way to get in sooner. The gal kind of laughed, because she said we did get a quick appointment! Normally there is a three month wait! But she checked the scheduling and there was a cancellation, so we could have an appointment on Friday morning, December 19th.
We went the night before because of a snow storm and being it’s a three hour drive. We arrived at the University of Michigan around 7 p.m. and checked into the hotel that is in the hospital. We then took Jessica up the the Peds ICU to show her where she had spent 11 weeks as a baby. We talked to several nurses, and even took this picture of her there.
We went back to our hotel room and got settled for the night. Jessica took her normal heart medications and got in bed. Within a short time she was having a hard time breathing, we could see her heart beating hard through her PJ top, and she had a gurgly cough. I thought maybe she was just nervous about tomorrow and so took her for a ride in a wheel chair. We went to a large picture window looking at the beautiful snow dancing in the Christmas lights. At one point, Jessica says to me,
Mama, I keep thinking of that song –
‘no more tears, no more pain, and no more fears’.
Mama, something is wrong with my heart.
(If you read the lyrics to this song, There Will Be a Day by Jeremy Camp you will see how it was so relevant for her in so many different ways. I cannot read through this song without tears).
I calmly (if you know me, you know this was of God) prayed with Jessica and went back to the hotel room to get my husband. We quickly made our way down to the Peds ER (less than a 10 minute walk). As soon as we arrived and told them we were concerned about her heart, the first nurse took her pulse which was very high and quickly brought her to a room. Immediately there were numerous doctors and nurses all over her.
By 6 a.m. we were told she has double pneumonia but as soon as they told us this, my husband and I knew it had to be her heart. It made no sense that a perfectly healthy child with no cough, fever, etc. would suddenly have pneumonia. We were thankful that the cardiologist on call was one that also was Jessica’s cardiologist as a baby, and remembered her. Soon an echo (ultrasound of her heart) was being done. While this was happening, her oxygen saturation levels were dropping before our eyes, even with being on oxygen. Norm could tell by watching the echo that something was wrong with her mitral valve. By noon it was confirmed that she would need open heart surgery to replace her mitral valve that was failing and she would need emergency open heart surgery. We could sense the urgency around us as they prepared her. Three times Jessica asked me,
Mama, what if I don’t make it?
Two times I could tell her with full confidence, that if God allowed her to be here precisely this time I believed with my whole being that He would allow her to live.
But what if . . . mama?
With our tears mingling together, I told her, if Jesus decides to take her, she will wake up in heaven and be in no more pain. There will be Matthew and Angela along side Jesus, joyously greeting her. But, I told her, that again, I did not believe Jesus wanted her yet, and besides . . . it just would not be fair if she got to see Angela and Matthew before me!
There was another detail that we know God worked out to give us this assurance. The surgeon that did Jessica’s surgery as a baby was available to do her surgery on this day. But he’s not just any surgeon. Dr. Edward Bove is known around the world. Wikipedia refers to him stating “Dr. Bove is considered one of the world’s outstanding pediatric cardiac surgeons.” We were told Dr. Bove is gone often, doing speeches and surgeries around the country and in England. God had him there, for Jessica, just minutes from starting another child’s surgery which he postponed.
There were many tears as they prepared her for surgery, including from the nurses and the cardiologist that knew her as a baby. I whispered prayers in her ears several times. Shortly before they took her, Norm, our 17 year old daughter, Heather, Jessica and I, with nurses and doctors watching, held hands and Norm prayed aloud for her, and the doctors and nurses. There was not a dry eye around. We also told her that besides Jesus being right there in that hospital room, guiding the surgeon’s hand, that there would be a host of angels in there as well. Right before they took her, one of the nurses was telling Jessica who would all be in the operating room, and Jessica told her,
and a host of angels!
Friday, December 19, 2008 around 2 p.m. our precious Jessica Joy was wheeled away to the operating room. As a mom, it was hard knowing she was awake, and knowing I could not be there to calm her fears until she was asleep. (Notice her PJ top says “Sweet Dreams”) I held her Winnie the Pooh pillow and just sobbed in it. There is nothing like watching your child go, not knowing if we’d ever see her alive again. We remain so grateful for the many who were praying for her (and us).
A nurse from the operating room came up several times to give us updates. By 5 p.m. we knew her mitral valve had been replaced and they were working on the pulmonary stenosis valve, replacing it with a cow valve (it had previously been a pig valve). Around 6 p.m. we were told that her surgery was done, though she still needed to be taken off the heart/lung bypass machine. At 7:00 p.m. the surgeon came up to tell us she was all completed, and her heart was working wonderfully.
There is something quite amazing shaking the hand of the man who touched and fixed our daughter’s heart – and knowing God’s hand was on his.
Around 8:00 p.m. Jessica was in the Peds ICU – less than 24 hours earlier, we took the top picture – never imagining she’d be back here as a patient. She was doing good, and told that she was even breathing above the ventilator. She woke up briefly, but we were thankful for the heavy sedation so she could sleep – and so could we.
Saturday, December 20, 2008 – By 5 a.m, Jessica was extubated (which she remembers with two big burps following!) and using only minimal nasal oxygen. Before 8 a.m. she was asking for food and something to drink though they kept it to just ice chips before noon. This diminished though as they had to give her stronger pain medications. The ICU bent the rules a little and let both our pastor and siblings talk to her on the phone. At this point she had a very soft voice, breathing between each word. She was put on a pacemaker, but later it was removed.
In the ICU they had a special name for her:
♥ The Christmas Miracle ♥
May we never forget. May this be our reminder to Jessica that as Joshua reminded his people, this
. . . shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.
Copyright © 2009
Please do not copy, quote or reprint without prior authorization. You may leave a comment below to contact me.
From here, if you want to read the day by day updates and of her coming home 8 days after her surgery, just click the dates.
- Sunday, December 21, 2008 – Four lines out and first time sitting & walking.
- Tuesday, December 23, 2008 ~ Out of ICU and diagnosis of Klippel-Feil Syndrome & meeting the Christian family whose child was bumped on Friday for Jessica’s emergent surgery.
- Wednesday, December 24, 2008 – Christmas Eve Day
- Thursday, December 25, 2008 ~ A quiet Christmas Day – but we received a wonderful “real” Christmas dinner.
- Friday, December 26, 2008 ~ The announcement of going home on Saturday and the wonderful gifts Jessica was blessed with.
- Saturday, December 27, 2008 – HOME!
- January 2, 2009 – Update – Risk of Paralyzation