Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Choice of Life

In the election year, life is always a hot topic and this year is no different.

For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about life.

It was late August when she went for the first routine ultrasound. It’s a boy!
Something was abnormal. Something wasn’t right. The Dr. gave the report; a heart condition (it was uncertain if he had all the chambers of his heart), a skin condition, fluid on his lungs, fluid on his brain, and 2-clubbed feet. He sent them to the state university hospital for a second opinion. More doctors, more tests, a bleak diagnosis. With all the physical problems the baby had, there was a good possibility that he wouldn’t live to birth or if he did, he might die shortly after birth. The amniocentesis revealed Down syndrome. The options presented by the professionals were a) do nothing and see what happens or b) terminate the pregnancy.

The joy and excitement of expecting a new baby was suddenly overshadowed by devastation and grief. This can’t be real. There must be some mistake. Two previous pregnancies were uneventfully normal. There was no reason to believe this one would be any different. By number 3 the unknowns of pregnancy are ordinary expectations. What will this child look like? What will he need? What will he be capable of? In light of the diagnosis, these normal questions that accompany every pregnancy now hold new meaning. Now, a whole new set of unknowns and expectations are looming. Will he live? How long will he live? These questions are rarely asked during the cheerful expectation of a new life. Months of prayer by people across the nation, research of all the medical terms, uncertainty, and sorting through up and down feelings followed.

By January, check-ups with the Dr. had become a weekly occurrence. Every week that the baby was growing and developing was a good thing. Every week that there were no signs of stress in the womb meant that he would be stronger when he arrived. During one of the weekly check-ups in mid January the Dr. did a stress test and suggested that she be induced so the baby could be born as soon as possible. She went home and told her husband, packed a bag, got a few last minute things in order, and they checked into the maternity ward at the hospital. The Dr. told them that there would be a fleet of doctors present at his birth to assess all his conditions and that they needed to decide how far they wanted the doctors to go to keep the baby alive.

Once labor was induced, it progressed very quickly. So quickly in fact that he was born on January 19th without any doctors present. The nurse and his father delivered him.

Soon after birth, the doctors began a series of tests. Down syndrome was again confirmed. There was talk of open-heart surgery and a liver condition. He had one clubbed foot. Further tests revealed that his liver was enlarged but functioning ok, although he had a small hole in his heart, it would heal on its own and there was no need for surgery. His heart was in the right place and all the chambers were present and working. His foot was fully in tact just turned in at the ankle. An orthopedic doctor said it would be easy to fix with a small surgery and casting. By the time he’s old enough to walk, he would have no problems. He had no skin condition. The way he cried when they poked his foot to draw blood proved that his lungs were just fine.

He went home 2 ½ days later.

That was nearly 10 years ago.

My nephew, David is a miracle child. He was healed of many things that were originally diagnosed. He is now in 3rd grade. He is healthy. He talks, reads, runs and is able to do most things that any other child can do; he’s just a little slower to learn how. One thing he isn’t slow at is making people smile. David will find the kid at school that is having a meltdown, give him a hug and ask him if he is ok. David will talk to anyone, young or old. He’s quick to say ‘I love you’ and hold the hand of someone he senses may be scared or lost or sad. At age 5, when his great grandfather was dying, although he didn’t understand what was going on, he kept saying, ‘granpa you ok?’ until grandpa was no longer conscious. David is acutely sensitive to how others are feeling and by just being himself, offers inspiration to everyone who meets him. He goes to his sister’s volleyball games and his brother’s football games and he sits in the bleachers and cheers the loudest. He tells them ‘good job’ with a pat on the back, when they get done playing. David is devoted to his family. He fights with his brother and sisters just like anyone else but at the end of the day, he makes sure they are all ok. He likes cartoons and his flag that he waves as if he were a war veteran. With everything inside of him David is alive and happy to be so.

So, thinking of life as I have these past few weeks, I think of David.

My brother and sister in law had a choice to not bring him into this world. The doctors didn’t give him a chance but if his parents had given up on him, there would be innumerable people that would not have experienced the joy that he has given them and continues to give everyday.
I can’t imagine my own life without his impact. This is why my choice is for life.
(Dave is a him 3 bunny ears are better than 2)

No comments: