This post is part of a blog carnival I am participating in. To learn more about it visit Adventures of a Funky Heart.
This past summer Drew underwent his third open-heart surgery. We spent six weeks in the hospital due a sternal wound infection that wouldn't give up. While we were there we were put to the test once again. One of the things that is so difficult about being in the hospital for an extended period of time is that the place is so depressing. No matter what is going on with your own child, there are parents who are hurting and you can see it on their faces. You run into them in the hallways, in the playroom, in the parent sleep room. There are kids in the rooms next to you who are coding, or screaming during an IV poke. It makes you realize how very fragile life is and how things can change in an instant. It's inescapable.
I think the biggest challenge that we face as a result of CHD's is uncertainty. We don't know what the future holds for our son. We don't know if he will need another surgery next year, or not for 20 years. We don't know if the virus that is making him sick right now will get better on it's own or require a hospitalization. We just don't know...
Now that we've been in this very exclusive club for five years and have endured three open-heart surgeries, two heart catheterizations, and too many hospitalizations to count I can see the gifts more clearly. For every challenge we have faced there is a corresponding gift. Those sad, depressed parents we meet in the hospital? Turns out they really understand the thoughts and feelings that we are experiencing, because they have lived through it too. And when no one else can understand why I'm calling the on-call cardiologist over a fever of 101 all I have to do is call another heart mom to tell me I'm doing the right thing. We can turn to each other and share our fears over our own children, or others in the community. We educate and support each other. We cry together.
The uncerainty of life with a child with CHD can cripple you if you let it. Or it can teach you to treasure every moment and celebrate every milestone. Life just seems a little clearer to me now. I know what things are important, what things really matter, and what things are actually trivial annoyances. I celebrate the little things, like my son being able to walk around the zoo instead of sitting in the stroller the way he used to before surgery. That he has the energy to play sports. That he woke up this morning.
This journey has also strengthened my marriage. Going through difficult times together forced us to communicate our needs to each other, to offer support to each other and to cling to one another while the whole world spun out of control around us. It has also strengthened my faith. I may not understand why this has happened, but I do know that God is using it for good.
Would I trade all the gifts, all the good things that have come of this diagnosis if I could take away the hurt and suffering that my son has had to endure? Yes I think I would. But I know that I can't do that and these experiences are what shape me into who I am today. I believe I am a better person and have learned a lot about myself and about life through these experiences. And for that I am grateful.