September 22, 2012

A Chance to Thrive (Part III)

A New Start

“You need to hold my hand in the parking lot, Sweetheart.” 
“Hey Buddy!  Don’t run in the store!” 
“Whoa!  Stop touching, Big Guy!  You might break something!”

No one who sees the lively, active, energetic three-year old today would ever possibly guess that he had experienced a difficult, almost unthinkable infancy.  That just two short years ago, his chances for survival were next to impossible.  It’s like looking at a “before” and “after” make-over photo; you have to look twice to believe it’s the same person, and even then the resemblance is barely recognizable!

The transplant itself was successful, although his health remained precarious the first few months.  Unforeseen complications, his frail body, and fluctuating vital signs and lab results all conspired to keep the doctors concerned.  I naively thought that after the transplant he would live happily ever after.  As a few days in the hospital turned into a few weeks, which then turned into several months, the calendar sort of melted together like rain washing away sidewalk chalk.  I lost track of time as I made the daily trips to the hospital (the doctors were right: it’s a good thing we lived nearby!), and I would sit for hours listening to the high-pitched beep beep beep of the monitors and watch the fluid rhythmically drip drip drip through the IV.  I searched gingerly to find places on his body to caress and kiss, and sang softly into his ear.  Even while he was sedated, I chose to believe that he could hear my voice, singing melodies of God’s love and power and sovereignty.

The improvement was so infinitesimally small, that it was almost impossible to detect.  But slowly, day by day, he began to show signs of progress.  He would wake up for longer and longer periods, his cheeks began to show the slightest hint of color, and the tiniest of rolls began to appear on his skinny thighs.  And his eyes, those deep black eyes that had previously been such an ugly mustardy color were now clear and bright and beautiful as they locked onto mine without hesitation or fear.  He knew I was right there with him, and my heart filled with joy at that proof of attachment, evidence that he hadn’t been emotionally damaged after all.  The little soul that had struggled for survival for so long, that lived in a body that had failed him, was finally free to thrive!

Eventually he was healthy enough to come home again, then amazed everyone at his rapid growth and progress.  A loving, nurturing family, consistent routines, and a healthy body will do that, I guess!  Like a marathoner at the back of the pack who suddenly surges forward into the lead, this child, who for the first 18 months of his life on earth had barely left the starting line, now raced to catch up on all of the early milestones that he had missed.  Rolling over.  Sitting up.  Reaching for toys.  My camera was always nearby to catch all of those “firsts” that he accomplished, one right after another in unbelievably rapid succession.

It has now been two years since his transplant, and he has celebrated his third birthday.  Gone are the weekly physical therapy and speech therapy sessions; he has long since “graduated” and met all of his developmental goals.  Gone is the medical equipment and lengthy list of medications.  Besides the enormous scar that covers the entire width of his belly, no evidence remains that he had ever been labeled “Failure to Thrive.”  He has become a normal child, a wonderfully average, gloriously typical, miraculously ordinary little boy. 

Today he loves to sing, possibly as a result of all of those hours of hearing songs while he lay in that hospital bed.  There’s nothing like hearing a 3-year old sing “Amazing Grace” at the top of his little lungs!  Today he is surprisingly compassionate and loving, especially towards the other special-needs babies who have been in our care, possibly as a result of the compassion and love that has been shown to him.

How can I help but think of him when I read Jeremiah 29:11:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future?”  I have been amazingly blessed to get a front-row seat as I have watched the Lord’s plans for this child unfold right before my eyes.   How can I help but believe that the same God who has sustained this child for the past three years in such a miraculous way, is the same God who has great plans for his future?

My husband and I had envisioned a comfortable route for ourselves, a four-lane highway that would allow us to leave our long foster care years far behind.  However, God had another road mapped for us – a scenic, adventurous, less-traveled byway filled with twists and turns and unknown curves.  Some of it has been very difficult and exhausting, and I have often felt ill-equipped for the task.  I mean honestly, does anyone really love to spend hundreds and hundreds of hours at the hospital?  Is it really exciting to patiently entice a resistant child to take “just one more bite” in an attempt to wean him off of a feeding tube?

But oh, the breath-taking scenery we would have missed had we avoided this path!  We have witnessed a child go from apathetic to athletic.  From struggling to strong.  From dying to dynamic.  What a journey it has been!  How can I ever thank the Lord enough for allowing me to play a part in this young boy’s life, for giving this precious child a chance to thrive?!

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