I shouldn’t be here. Thirty years ago I was dying, but God breathed life back into me. Why? Well, I’m not sure. That’s a question I’ll ask Him one day. But what I do know is that from the beginning of my life, God has shown Himself faithful.
As you’ll soon see, my life hasn’t been easy. There’s been a lot of uncertainty and many disappointments, but God has never forsaken me, or my family. Every scar on my body is a reminder of that truth.
Trials entered my life the moment I entered this world in August 1988. What started as a celebration over a healthy baby girl quickly turned to concern as my parents learned that I had a heart disease called Tricuspid Atresia and a heart defect called Ventricular Septal.
My parents were able to take me home but were told I’d need to undergo surgery in 6-8 months. I can’t imagine how scared they must have been in those early days.
We were only home six weeks, however, when a high fever sent us back to the hospital. For days the doctors performed many tests and finally discovered that my pulmonary valve was closing. My condition was critical and I needed immediate surgery, but my oxygen saturation levels were so low they couldn’t safely operate.
Momma will tell you that that was one of the worst days of her life. She watched helplessly as the doctors tried to stabilize me. I held on to her pinky and never took my eyes off of her.
My dad was at work when he got the news and he rushed to the hospital. There was little hope medically speaking. Momma and Daddy started praying over me, asking God to save me. Momma said when they ended their prayer there was a bright light over me and my oxygen levels began to soar. God had breathed life back into me!
The doctors rushed me to the operating room where they inserted a shunt into an artery in my arm, and my condition improved. I went home and did fairly well, although Momma says I struggled to do simple things, like crawling and walking. But I’m told I always kept trying.
At three years old I had my first open heart surgery. A year and a half later I had my second. This procedure greatly increased blood flow to my heart and I grew stronger. My doctors estimated I could live into my teen years. At that time there weren’t many children that had lived to adulthood.
I lived a fairly active lifestyle up until my junior year, all things considered. I cheered and even took dance. But on July 4, 2004, the summer before my junior year, things changed. I started feeling very strange and my parents took me to the local fire station where it was discovered that my heart rate was dangerously high. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital and cardioverted. (This means my heart was electrically shocked to return it to its normal rhythm). My heart rate stabilized and I was sent home.
But on Labor Day, the same thing happened and I was cardioverted again. I was then told I needed to have a revision of the surgery I had as a toddler. I should have had the surgery right then, but I was a junior in high school and I didn’t want to miss school and not graduate on time. I especially didn’t want to miss being in the school’s pageant. Since I was a little girl I had attended the pageant with my momma and dreamed of being in it myself. I was finally of age.
My doctors respected my wishes but told me I’d need to change medications if I wanted to postpone the surgery. I’d also need to be educated from home my junior year by a teacher who would come to my house. We developed a plan and moved forward.
A few days into the process, however, an incredible thing happened. My heart rate soared and I had to be admitted to the hospital—again. My poor momma and grandma were in the room with me when all of a sudden, my heart stopped.
They said it was quite a scene when the nurse yelled, “Code blue!” and medical personnel frantically ran around me. But before anyone could do anything, I came back to life, as if nothing had happened, and my heart was beating normally. There was no explanation. Interestingly, my youth pastor and his wife were praying for me at that exact moment.
I was released from the hospital and a few months later, I was in our school pageant. It was a dream come true. It was so nice to feel like a normal teenager again. Three days after the pageant I had the revision surgery, my third open heart surgery. The recovery was challenging. I experienced a seizure and was paralyzed on my left side. Fortunately, it only lasted a few days and there was no permanent damage; I’ve never had another one.
I wouldn’t want to go back to my junior year for anything. It was a difficult. All I wanted was to be like other kids, to be normal. But the scars on my body were constant reminders that my life was anything but normal.
I hated those scars for a big part of my life. It’s amazing how cruel people can be. Even some of my church peers poked fun, calling my scars ugly and making fun of the extra water weight I retained due to the medication. I was even told no one would ever love me because of my scars. That was a lie that Satan often reminded me of.
Their words and laughter pierced my heart in ways a doctor’s scalpel ever could, for decades. In fact, it’s just been in the last few years that I’ve been able to work through those painful memories and start seeing myself in a healthy way. The way God intends.
On several occasions during this time I wanted to die. I remember saying to my brother, Dustin, right before my third open heart surgery that things would be so much better for everyone if I just died on the operating table. I felt like such a burden and an outcast.
Boy did he get upset with me. “Don’t you ever say that again!” he yelled. “Things would not be better if you weren’t here.” I can’t say I believed him and even after that, thoughts of suicide entered my mind. Thankfully, I never acted on them. But I did harm myself in another way—through my eating habits.
Maybe I figured if I couldn’t control what happened inside my body then I could at least control what went in and out of it. Thankfully my brother, Dustin, recognized my eating disorder and told my parents about my struggle. They wrapped their arms around me, kept me accountable, and helped me through it.
One beautiful thing that did come out of my junior year was my relationship with my now-husband, Kevin. God sent me a friend in him during one of the darkest times of my life. Unlike many, he saw past my scars to see the real me.
We started dating in junior college and 8 months later, we were engaged. Like any soon-to-be-bride, I went into full wedding planning mode. But my plans were soon interrupted when my heart rate dropped to dangerously low levels. This new problem required a pacemaker.
I have to say I was growing weary of these painful, inconvenient medical interruptions. Being a wife had always seemed so far out of reach as a heart patient with an uncertain future. And the possibility of it being postponed was crushing. I decided to go ahead and have the surgery sooner than later especially since I was told it would be a simple procedure. It was not! I contracted a nasty infection that slowed my recovery. Fortunately, by the time our wedding date came, I was beginning to feel normal again and on September 24th, 2011, Kevin and I were married. It was the happiest day of my life.
Life continued and a couple of years later we bought our first home and started pursuing our dream to be parents through adoption. But a diagnosis of cardiac cirrhosis of the liver and possible liver cancer quickly sidelined that dream.
I have to admit, this really stretched my faith. It was hard not to doubt God and ask Him why I’ve had to go through so much. But amidst the tears God gently reminded me of His faithfulness in the past. He has never failed to reveal His miracle working power in my life and to help me. Kevin and I have clung to this truth as we wait for our dream to be parents to come to fruition. It’s been 4 years now. But you know what? It is this dream of being a mommy that keeps me strong.
Every day Kevin and I pray for our baby and his or her birth mom, whoever she is. Just like my parents prayed for me. We are already so thankful for her, and we don’t even know her yet! We trust that God, in His faithfulness and perfect timing, will bring us together. And it will be an answer to both of our prayers.
As you’ve seen, this life of mine has often been marked with pain, disappointment, and uncertainty. And I’ve only shared a portion of my story. But every step of the way, my life has been marked with one supernatural intervention after another. God continues to breathe His life into me, and I am so thankful…even amidst the trials and uncertainties.
Perhaps right now you are in a trial. Maybe your future is uncertain. I just want to encourage you: don’t give up! God is able to bring dead things back to life, and create new things out of nothing (Romans 4:17). It’s not over!
So keep living. Keep pressing forward. Keep dreaming. And keep surrounding yourself with faith-filled people who will spur you on and remind you of the beautiful possibilities within you. And finally, refuse to listen to the voices of the world and the voices within your own thoughts.
God has not left you to fight your battles alone. Give Him your situation and trust His heart for you, and His timing. He’s a God of miracles. For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13