by Freida Harrison
The days following the birth of my grandson, Jayden, are a blur of emotional roller-coasters. We were dealing with a baby in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at Texas Children’s Hospital, his mother at St. Luke’s Hospital recuperating from his birth, and a two-year-old grandson who was confused and missing his parents, all while we waited for the news of when baby Jayden would have open-heart surgery to repair his heart condition called Transposition of the Great Arteries. (TGA)
Before his birth, we had been told that the surgery would probably happen around the time he was five days old. Those first few days after Jayden’s birth went well as the medication was doing its job to help him receive the oxygen that his body needed. At first, he was able to drink a little milk from a bottle, then only by a syringe. As the days passed, he began to grow weaker, until he wasn’t strong enough to take any nourishment on his own. Day five came and went with no news of when the surgery would be. Discouragement crept into our hearts.
During this time, the heart monitors revealed that Jayden also had Tachycardia, another heart problem, in addition to Transposition of the Great Arteries. The doctors explained that it would be corrected with medication until he turned seven or eight years old. At that time, the decision would be made to have another surgery or continue with medication. They would not be able to repair that problem when they performed the Transposition surgery—the surgery that we were still waiting for him to have.
My husband and I were at my daughter’s home staying with Bryce, their two-year-old son, while his parents were at the hospital. Little Bryce was quite disturbed with the interruption of his usual schedule and not getting to see his mommy and daddy. Our wonderful son-in-law, Bryan, came home to read to Bryce and put him to bed when he could, but for the most part, he had his hands full at the hospital.
One day at noon, my husband and I took Bryce to a McDonald’s restaurant on the bottom floor of the hospital, and he was able to see his Mommy for the first time in days. His Daddy, Bryan, showed him a video of Jayden on the small screen of the camera, and little Bryce astounded us by waving at the camera in a “melt-our-hearts” attempt to say hello to his baby brother. He was delighted to see pictures of Jayden.
The visit comforted Bryce for a while, but even at age two, children understand more than we realize. He knew that his baby brother was sick, and he was stressed and unable to comprehend why he couldn’t see him. There were times when he was inconsolable which was heart-breaking to witness.
Our son, Gina’s brother, and his family came for a visit when Jayden was seven days old. Immediately following his birth, some visitors had been allowed to see Jayden, but at this point, he wasn’t doing as well, and we, along with our son who is in the medical field, were concerned about possible infections. Jeff chose to go to the hospital to visit with Gina and Bryan but not see his baby nephew; he didn’t want to take a risk with Jayden’s health. Our daughter-in-law and their two children (our grandchildren) stayed at the house with us, playing and having fun with Bryce. Jeff joined in on the fun and laughter when he returned from the hospital. It was a joy having them there for the several days they were able to be with us. Being surrounded by family eased the tension a bit while communicating their love and support.
On day eight, we were relieved to hear that Jayden would have his surgery the following day. Hope surfaced again! We were very excited and made our plans, however, the surgery was postponed. When doctors have a hospital full of babies who need help, it is imperative that they take the most critical ones first. Even though it was distressing at the moment, we understood.
But the following day, we received news that baby Jayden would have his surgery the next day, which was Friday, November 13th, 2009 when he would be 10 days old. The doctors said it was his turn—Jayden was not doing well, and at this point, the surgery was crucial. Hope returned!
Another concern occurred—Bryce was getting sick with an upper respiratory infection. My daughter’s angel-friend, Martha, came and got him the morning of the surgery, took him to the doctor, and kept him all day long so that my husband and I could be at the hospital during the expected eight-hour surgery. Any attempt at counting all the ways that sweet Martha helped us would be like trying to count the stars on a clear, cloudless night. She was always ready and willing to do whatever was needed.
Jayden’s parents, his three grandparents, a great-aunt and uncle, and two close friends who have a son with a heart condition, were all in the waiting room during the surgery. Bryan’s uncle helped lighten the tension by providing some comic relief and making us laugh at needed times during the long, stressful day. Numerous friends came by wanting an update and checking to see if we needed anything. In fact, the lady at the front desk called Gina’s phone multiple times asking us to send some of our visitors home because there were too many. What a blessing to have an abundance of caring friends!
The doctors sent kind, understanding nurses to talk with Gina and Bryan throughout the day to give them updates on Jayden’s condition. All day long he did well, until the doctors were finished with the lengthy surgery. When they took him off the by-pass machine to let his heart beat on its own, his major organs began to shut down. The doctors rushed to put him back on the by-pass machine. They worked with him for a while, then tried taking him off the machine again—the second try was successful! We had come very close to losing him, but this time his organs began functioning properly, and his little heart could now take the amount of blood flow that is normal to mix his blood and send the much-needed oxygen to his brain. The surgery had lasted eleven-and-a-half hours.
It was a long, emotional day, but many people from all over the world were praying for our precious little one. Many of our loved ones sent texts with scriptures, prayers, and words of encouragement throughout the day, and God’s gentle arms of comfort were wrapped around us.
Following the surgery, baby Jayden was attached to a roomful of machines. I had never seen that many tubes before. I remember praying that there would be no power outage. I’m surprised at some of the tidbits that I remember while there are some bigger things that I had forgotten until I looked back at the pictures.
Needing to return to his job, my husband went home after Jayden’s surgery. Bryce and I were at my daughter’s house alone while we waited for his baby brother to recover enough for him and his parents to come home. That was a difficult time for Bryce, yet it was a time of special bonding between the two of us. He was a sad little boy, and I am thankful that I was able to be there to feed him, take care of him, play with him, and love him. It was a blessing to be needed and wanted.
Baby Jayden began the process of healing and gained enough strength to drink his milk. He progressed enough to come home from the hospital when he was 21 days old, which was the day before Thanksgiving. His big brother was jumping with happiness and excitement to finally get to meet his baby brother and have his mommy and daddy home! Tears of joy streamed down my cheeks as I watched Bryce’s eyes light up with amazement when he saw his baby brother for the first time. Remembering his gentle touch with Jayden still brings tears to my eyes.
My husband had come back to be with us on that special day, and with the help of many brothers and sisters in Christ, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving. At that point, we would have been grateful for cheese and crackers, however, much delectable food was brought to us, along with prayers of love and celebration. People, other than close family members who had taken the flu shot, were not allowed to be near baby Jayden for six months because of possible infectious diseases. But friends came and left food on the porch, along with cards of encouragement, love, and support. Even though we missed not having my son and his family there for Thanksgiving, we were joyful to have Jayden home and all of Gina’s family together. My heart was overflowing with thankfulness, love, and relief.
When the holiday was over, my husband left again to return to work, and I stayed to help them settle in with their precious bundle of joy. Those were fun, busy days and nights, with all the normal activities of having a newborn in the house. Bryce was happy to have his family together again, Bryan went back to work, and the days marched on toward Christmas.
After being with them for six weeks, Jayden was growing, having no adverse effects from his heart medication to correct his Tachycardia, and doing well. Gina was healing, everyone was adjusting, and I felt that it was time for me to leave.
On the day of my departure, I stood over my daughter as she sat in the big chair holding baby Jayden. I looked down at his chubby cheeks and praised God for His miracle. Bittersweet tears zig-zagged down my face with one splattering on Jayden’s forehead bringing laughter through the tears. My heart was overflowing with happiness for this precious, thriving baby boy, yet it was torn apart from the pain of leaving.
Bryce and Gina gave me big hugs, and as I stepped into my car, I looked back to see my sweet, confident daughter standing in the front yard holding baby Jayden, with Bryce right beside her. Tears glistened on her cheeks, but as our eyes made that mother/daughter contact and held for a few moments, I knew she was ready to take care of her family on her own. I could leave now.
As they blew kisses and waved goodbye, I drove away whispering a prayer of thanks to God that Jayden was doing well and for giving me the strength to help Gina and her family when they needed me the most.
I had no clue of what loomed in the future.
Copyright © 2014, Freida Harrison, all rights reserved, Breath of Life Women’s Ministries. Pictures from Freida Harrison, Copyright © All rights reserved. Bible scripture taken from New International Version 84.