In fact, this entire experience has brought round a pretty good case of PTSD, and an enormous amount of retrospection over Jacob's life during the past 4 years - not to mention many prayers of thanks for Elisha's.
As I prepared for Elisha's surgery, I often wondered how many parents have aborted a fetus merely on the basis of a heart defect. Their worry that the child would not have a normal life, that it would be riddled with pain, sickness, or inability to be like the other kids. I know pain was my first thought with Jacob. How much pain would he be in? Could I, as his mother, handle watching my child with an enormous hole in his heart, suffer as a child? Would the operation hurt? Would he survive. After all, it IS his heart. It's not like they're fixing an ingrown toenail.
What I can tell you though, and I'm sure you've deduced from past and recent posts, is that the moment he had his surgery, a light flicked on and he turned into this crazy-busy fantastic little boy who laughs and giggles until everyone else around him is laughing and giggling. He's smart, and mischievous, and adorable, and stubborn, and everything I could have possibly hoped and dreamed for in a little boy.
How did this hole affect her growing up? Well, she had a few bouts of passing out, and she was constantly tired. She had little or no stamina during sports. But you know what else?
Elisha was also ASB president, All Conference Volleyball, 2-time state champion thrower for track, All-State/All-Northwest choir, went to state 3 times for choir, and is now a Division 1 track athlete. Did the hole in her heart affect her. Yeah. It did. If it didn't we wouldn't have been taking her to the doctors and found it in December. But the things she was able to accomplish in spite of it, are amazing. You can check out ELISHA's webpage here.
I wonder how many families choose to abort their fetuses because of a heart defect and never realize what an amazing opportunity they're missing, and how normal a child's life can be in spite of a congenital heart defect. I sit here and shake my head. What a loss. And how lucky I am to have had faith and know that everything would be alright.
With two children having heart defects, I'm not sure if their connection is genetic or just really really bad luck. But what I do know is that there was a lot to be learned from the eperience. Not only for myself, but Elisha has learned and matured from it as well. It puts life into perspective quickly.
We have several moments to pause and think hard in the last few days. Especially when her heart rate plummeted during the initial IV insertion from 78 beats per minute to 35 and the room went from 1 nurse to 4 in seconds. And again when her doctor came to us after her surger and mentioned that her heart had stopped for four seconds before they'd even begun the procedure. All the sudden even the most invincible person becomes mortal. And it scares you. It definitely scared me. And it prioritized my life quickly.
After much consideration, Elisha and I have decided to start a non-profit called Allred Hearts. It's for families affected by congenital heart defects. If you walk the halls of Sacred Heart, you see entire levels dedicated to people with heart issues. And having two in our family with a CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) we are acutely aware of how it affects a family and how much help and support a family needs during the process. The night before her surgery, Elisha helped me create the logo for Allred Hearts.
Our family has been through it all. Open heart surgery, a baby with surgery, a college student with heart surgery, being denied by insurance, the uncertainty of life with a CHD, and the promise of life after heart surgery. We've felt the pain, the stress, the hope, the love, and revelled in the little moments that such experiences help us to realize and appreciate. We hope to share that with others.
Please, help us to help others. Show your support to Elisha, Jacob, and our new endeavor, by clicking on the logo Elisha created, and helping us to create the non-profit.
Thank you, everyone, for your love, support, prayers, and help over these last few months (for Elisha) and years (for Jacob). We could never have done it without the help of such a great community of friends, family, loved-ones, and KC's work, Avista. It has been the thousands of acts of kindness that have helped us get through so many trials.
KC, Susan, Elisha, Nathan, Courtney, and Jacob Allred.