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At The Heart of It All, Part 2

Following on from Part 1, which you can read here.

Fast forward almost four years. January 20, 2015. Jed was about to turn 4 and Henry would soon be 2. I was pregnant with Fletcher. We were serving in Geneva, outside of Dothan, in Southeast Alabama. That morning, I reminded Jake that I had what was to have been my last appointment with the maternal fetal specialists. Their practice was actually in Pensacola, at Sacred Heart. But a couple times a month, one of the doctors would come to a satellite clinic in Dothan, where I would see them. I was going to them because of my “advanced age”. I was 42 at the time. If everything had gone well at that appointment, I would have been released back to my regular OB for the rest of the pregnancy - about 10 more weeks.

Randomly, Jake decided to go with me to that visit. They were pretty standard visits by that time. It was our third child after all. But he suggested that he go too, and it turned out to be such a good thing that he did.

The sonographer that did my ultrasound that day had been with me through almost the whole pregnancy. So it was odd when she became really quiet. I asked - because I always asked - what is the baby’s heart rate? She hesitated and then said “245”. (My eyes opened wide in shock.) And then she quickly said she was going to get the doctor.

Dr. Schwarz came in, took over the ultrasound, looked at all the pictures that had already been made, then abruptly stood up and said “I’m sending you to Sacred Heart. Don’t even go home to pack a change of clothes. I’m not even going to call for an ambulance because that would take too long and you need to get on the road NOW.” I looked at Jake then back at the doctor. "I'm sorry - I don’t understand. What is happening?" He said some things that I still didn’t understand. And then he said, plain as day, “It’s like your baby doesn’t want to make it.” That was the last thing I heard him say. Thank goodness Jake was there to hear the rest of it.

Fletcher had a heart condition - supraventricular tachycardia - SVT. Because of an electrical malfunction, his heart was pumping too fast for the blood to be fully oxygenated when it went back out to his body. Fluid had started collecting around his vital organs, including his brain. It’s basically congestive heart failure…in an unborn baby.

The trip from Dothan to Pensacola should have taken about 2 1/ 2 hours, but Jake made it in 2 flat. Along the way, we prayed, I cried, and we started calling people to ask for prayer. From our friends and family, to our clergy colleagues, and specifically to two of the most dedicated praying pastors we know.

Once at the hospital, I was admitted and other doctors from the maternal fetal specialist group began to discern what protocol would be best to bring Fletcher’s heart rate back into normal rhythm. After 16 days in the hospital myself, they finally landed on a cocktail of medications that would keep Fletcher’s heart rate in check without doing too much damage to my own heart. The hospital pharmacist had to call upstairs for approval from the doctor before he filled my medicines because he had never dispensed them in such large dosages before. One of my doctors would later tell us, I was on a truckload of medicine, at much higher doses than typical elderly patients with congestive heart failure would ever have been on. I was in a very dangerous medical situation.

I was basically on bed rest for the last 10 weeks of the pregnancy. I spent three days a week at my regular OB’s office, under near-constant monitoring. After all those weeks, including a few more scary emergency trips to the hospital, Fletcher was finally, mercifully born into the world. They let us have him for about an hour before they took him to the NICU. He stayed in the NICU for 16 days and went through a very similar process that I had undergone - the doctors testing and trying different combinations of drugs to keep his heart in rhythm. They finally landed on the combination that would work for him - one medication to keep it from going too high, one to keep it from going too low. During those 16 days, I stayed at the Ronald McDonald house - I cannot say enough good things about Ronald McDonald. Jake commuted back and forth between Pensacola and Geneva to check on Fletcher and me. My parents came to stay for a couple days. Other folks came to take care of Jed and Henry in Geneva while we were gone. We had a couple friends come and check on us in the hospital. And we asked - repeatedly - anyone and everyone to pray for Fletcher. We over-posted updates on Facebook about his condition and how he was doing. Folks from all over posted comments that they were praying. People we knew and loved regularly called and texted to see how it was going. Calls for prayer went out way further than we even knew. And then finally came the day when he was ready to be released and we could finally go home with him.

Fletcher’s pharmaceutical protocol meant he was taking medicine around the clock. We had strict instructions how to not mess that up. He took it all like a champ. He had a phenomenal cardiologist in Pensacola. And, two years later, once he had grown big enough, a specialist in Orlando, FL, performed the procedure that corrected his issue. …

And just like that, he was “fixed.” He was immediately taken off all his medication. And he was just like every other little boy. If you would ever have the chance to witness him tearing through the Sanctuary on a Sunday morning, you would see that he basically has not slowed down since.

In the months and even years since, we still have people whom we haven’t seen in a while, ask us about how Fletcher is doing. Not long after we came to St. Luke, in fact, someone was visiting one Sunday and recognized our last name. They remembered that they had been praying for a child with the last name Brady. Could that be ours? And of course it was.

To be continued...

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