Thursday, December 19, 2013


I recognized the Canadian phone number as I answered, "Hey, Katy.  How was the doctor appointment?"

"It's not good news, Mama."

Katy was expecting their sixth child but something showed up on the sonogram so a second look was schedule in another city. Her due date was less than a month away. She explained that he (yes, he. . .also revealed by the sonogram) had AVM (a vein malformation) in the brain's vein of Galen.  Stunned, we all began a journey that carried a 77% chance the baby would die at birth.

My heart raced, breath grew short and my mind tried to grasp such devastating news.

"I'm coming, Katy."

"If there's ever been a time you want your mama, it's now," she murmured.  

"Of course, Baby.  We'll face this together." 

"We named him James.  James Robert, Mom.  We want him to have a name.  More personal." So plans to wait and be surprised by the baby's sex at birth were ditched. Enough surprises to deal with loomed for now.

Within 3 days of the news and scheduled induction in Toronto I packed my smallest luggage and boarded the plane.  It included funeral clothes.  My brain could not hold that image either.

As I descended the escalator in the Detroit airport, I scanned the baggage area for Dave, my son-in-love.  Then I heard a chorus of, "NANA!  There's Nana!  Hi, Nana!"  There stood the whole family, including a pregnant Katy to greet me. Joy overtook any shadow of death we all held at bay.

The one and a half hour trip to their home took almost four hours because of traffic crawling, sometimes stopping before we crossed the border.  At least we all had time to visit and catch up.  More than once I heard from the backseat, "Dad, I gotta pee."

Stuck on the bridge, Dave instructed, "HOLD it!"

The subject even came up at crossing as the border patrol questioned so many in one van. Then from the backseat my unnamed grandson said on the pee subject, "Never mind, Dad." Too late.

(Next week's blog will share a fascinating incident that happened at this point.)

This was Sunday.  By Monday evening the other five children were in the care of their Oma VanKesteren (Dave's mother.)  Katy, Dave and I drove three and a half hours to Toronto where the world-renown doctor on AVM surgery was notified.  Though he pioneered the surgery to save these children back in 1984, he only does 3 or 4  a year because most infants die.   If they survive the birth, more often they die of a heart attack as they struggle to supply adequate blood to the huge vein.  "It's like having another baby on board," one nurse explained.

So many friends and family began to pray for James, for us all.  We needed a miracle. The days ahead revealed how those prayers were answered.  Let me share some of those moments at Mt. Sinai Hospital through quotes we heard.

"We'll deliver your baby in the operating room right next to the resuscitation room for the baby," said the doctor, somber-faced.

"Most of us have never seen an AVM infant.  It's that rare."

"Katy, we'll induce now.  With your history of fast deliveries, natural childbirth is less traumatic."

"You're at about 2-3 centimeters."

Next check we heard, "You're TEN centimeters!  Let's roll this bed to the OR.  Call the doctor!"

"He's in surgery. We'll get another!"

Within minutes and one hard push, James was born.  I saw his blueish body breathe then cry on his own.  He's breathing, crying.  That's good.  He's alive.  But blue. . . I kept my thoughts to myself as they placed him on Katy's chest briefly before whisking him to the next room.  A door was between us in OR and James, struggling to live.  A shade was drawn on the door.  But I peeked in at a crack.

When I peeked in, he was pink. . .PINK!  What a beautiful color. The medical team in there is smiling!  I did share that with his parents.  

And then, we joined them for these scenes.

 Then a few days later we could relax, put our feet up and cuddle a bit!

Our miracle baby reminds us all of another miracle Baby born in Bethlehem.  For unto us a Child is born.  Unto us a Son is given.  Praise God!

He came in awe and wonder.

(Next week's blog will share more about our little miracle.)

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