♥ Jessica’s Heart Surgery Miracle ♥

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


hjessicabove2is 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's First SurgeryJessica 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.

In Peds ICU just hours before going into heart failure.

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!

Shortly before surgery

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.

jessicasurgeryAround 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.

Talking to siblings less than 24 hours after surgery

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.


23 thoughts on “♥ Jessica’s Heart Surgery Miracle ♥

  1. Dear Loni,
    I found your blog after reading your guest post this morning on Mipas Monologue. I’m so glad I came to visit! I can empathize with Jessica totally. You see, I also had open heart surgery as a child and well remember being intubated, chest tubes, etc. I remember not knowing if I would ever wake up as a seven year old girl. I became a cardiovascular nurse as an adult! For more than 20 years, I worked with cardiac patients in a variety of capacities from ICU, surgery, cardiac rehab, etc. For years I worked with a cardiovascular surgeon and was the nurse who did all the communication with the families. So the nurse who gave you updates would have been someone like me. I’m no longer working as a nurse but I still have relationships with many of the patients I met. God is so good and He will work in your daughter’s life in ways you cannot even imagine. Give her a hug from another survivor and thriver who also has a scar down the center of my chest. God will use this for His purposes!

  2. Dear Loni,
    I have not seen you since 1988, after a brief meetine when you bought my house on College Street. My heart is touched by what you have been through over the years. I will pray for your family. If at any time you need a place to stay, my home is open to you.
    May your heartaches turn to blessings, and may others see the hope that is within you.
    Deb Neiger Gemuend

  3. Loni,
    This just made me cry, I thank God that He brought Jessica thru this, and I just truly admire your family…(((((((hugs)))))))) someday we will have to talk, talk…
    Love you
    Cindy Loven

  4. Loni-
    Thank you for sharing this link with me in your email. I am touched by your faith & am joyful that you are continuing to praise God through all of this. I, too, am so thankful for the prayers he answered for your family. God Bless!
    Psalm 62:8 Trust in Him at all times, pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.

  5. So, Loni, I’ll assume with writing, blogging, reflecting, mothering (there was a misprint: I read “TEN”?!! and another misprint: “homeschooling”!!?), you are not on this site daily.

    Your site has been quite distracting. With other things on my agenda, I just had to read up on Jessica (noting the last entry was in January…that’s good, right?) and then on Matt. Wow.

    So I downloaded GASP brochure and forwarded it to my son, Matt, a therapist at a residential youth facility. Also forwarded a couple of your bloggie friends sites to my daughter who only home schools her five.

    Would like to pick up writing chat when you have a minute. I did sent you an interrogative out of Ransomed Heart Net.

  6. Pingback: Writing Canvas
  7. I know, we all know that God will always listen to us and give the best for our life (Jessica).

    Thanks for sharing this.

  8. I am in tears for your family. You have someone who is going to pray for your regularly. I know that you do not know me, but I have read through your amazing story of loss and the faith you have had throughout it all. Please believe me when I say I am so glad I found your blog and your story.

  9. there are no such things as coincidences, as you are well aware from this story! All went according to Heavenly Father’s plan. Thank you for sharing this. You have such strong faith, it is wonderful to hear your testimony. Gail

  10. oh my goodness! Wow! I stumbled upon you blog and I loved reading your story about your precious daughter! She is my heart-friend! I just had my second open heart surgery in January of 2012 (my first when I was 11 months old) to replace my pulmonary valve with a cow valve. Everything you wrote about helped me see things through my parent’s and husband’s eyes as they both endured me going through such a big surgery. I had a lot of fear, but God used it in my life to teach me some very precious truths about salvation, his love, and trusting him in weakness.

    Praising God with you! He is so good!

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