I was born in March 1990, two weeks late. About an hour after I was born the doctors realized there was something wrong. Though I was breathing in, I was suffocating because the oxygen was not getting to the rest of my body. I was diagnosed with the congenital heart disease Tetralogy of Fallot. I was born without a Pulmonary Valve, my arteries were one-fifth of the size they should have been, and I had a hole between the left and right ventricle. I had my first open heart surgery at five days old and my fifth, and last one, at the age of three. The way God’s hand showed up during those years built the foundation of my life.
The ductus arteriosus is a natural hole in a baby’s heart that allows the blood to skip circulation to the lungs prior to being born. If functioning correctly, it will close within 24 – 72 hours after birth, as mine did. However, when my first surgery failed, the doctors came to my mom and said they were going to try a procedure to open it back up. They warned her that what they were attempting to do had not ever worked before. They told her that they just needed the ductus arteriosus to open up just a tiny bit. When he came back my mom thought he was going to tell her I was dead. He said, “I don’t know how to tell you this but it opened up all the way.”
I don’t know what all happened during most of the other surgeries. I do know that during a catheterization the artery in my right foot clamped down and they predicted I would have a club foot. It never happened. Whenever my oxygen levels dropped, people started praying and the levels immediately went back up. Years later I was at a Women’s Luncheon with my Grammie and when I was introduced to some of the ladies they said, “Oh so this is the one we were praying for years ago”. I’ll always remember that.
There was a guest preacher visiting our church one day. He had no idea who I was or what my situation was but he called me out. As my mom carried me up to the front, he started shaking and saying, “Yes this is the one.” He told us, “God promises to give her a brand new heart.” It’s the one promise I’ve never had trouble believing.
During my fifth open heart surgery, they placed a conduit in my heart to replace the missing pulmonary valve. At the time, the conduit lasted anywhere from three seconds to thirteen years. When I was ten or eleven, God revealed to a fellow church member that He had healed the hole in my heart as I was worshipping in the Spirit. When I was in eighth grade, my cardiologist placed two stents in my artery to increase blood flow. At the follow up testing, he stated that my results showed I was in the top fifty percentile of children without heart disease. Though my conduit was still holding up, he wanted us to prepare for another open heart surgery to replace it when I turned sixteen. Through unrelated circumstances, I ended up with a new cardiologist. Though he has monitored me closely and has brought up options should I ever need a replacement, he has never unnecessarily scheduled me for another surgery.
At the age of twenty-two, I underwent another catheterization to enlarge my stents in preparation for future children. During the procedure, my cardiologist decided to take a look at my valve to see how it was holding up. When he reported back, he said the heart tissue had built up around it so much that he couldn’t see it. To my family and I, it was just another confirmation of God’s promise to give me a brand new heart. What was meant to be temporary has lasted for over twenty-six years. It is my belief that God supernaturally replaced the fake valve with a real one. But really, only He knows. I still see a cardiologist every two years or so and the report is still the same. I am healthy, nothing is broken, see you in two years. I’ll keep seeing them if only to have constant proof of what God has done for me.