Last night, as I watched the ball drop while holding both kids on my lap, I couldn't help but reflect on 2013 and where I was on New Year's Eve a year ago. December 31, 2012, I was rocking Gavin in his hospital room after five days of test after test and no answers as to why his abdomen was swollen and why he was unable to eat. The end of 2012 was rough to say the least, - Chris was deployed, Gavin made a dramatic entrance two weeks early, had two surgeries his first month of life and survived a very scary day involving a crash cart by his bed in ICU. He required oxygen his first 40 days of life. I learned how to insert his feeding tube and test for placement since he only fed by a tube, and through the few tips I learned from the OTs at Duke, I taught him how to eat from a bottle. On December 26, after having him home from the hospital a little less than a month, I found myself on the phone with a 911 operator with a shaky voice and trembling hands as I waited on an ambulance to rush Gavin to the hospital...again.
It took nearly two weeks to find a diagnosis for Gavin. But sitting in that rocking chair last New Year's Eve, uncertain of what was coming, I held my son with silent tears streaming down my face begging God to not take my baby from me and to provide the doctors with the wisdom they needed to diagnosis him and find a treatment. That treatment ended up being an emergency colostomy and learning to care of an ostomy, and eventually learning to put Gavin's intestines back in his body on a regular basis, was certainly something I was not prepared for. It has been nearly a year now that he has had the colostomy, and I have to say it's not nearly as bad as I originally thought it would be. It's just our normal life and it's not nearly the mountain of impossibility I had expected.
2013 started off scary. Gavin had three operations and two heart catherizations. We spent A LOT of time in the hospital and many hours in doctor's offices and testing areas and early intervention therapies. I was overwhelmed and exhausted at tackling life with two kids, working full time and dealing with all of the medical complications with Chris half a world away. I had the Marine Corps tell me that Gavin's situation was "unfortunate", but not an emergency. They also told me that if my son wasn't going to be dead in 72 hours, then his surgery and condition did not constitute an emergency. Life was hard, overwhelming and I felt downright defeated.
But, when God gives us more than we can handle, he sends angels to fill the gaps. He sent people to bring or deliver dinner. He had churches all over the country lifting Gavin in prayer. He led a complete stranger into my home to deliver a year supply of diapers, maid service, toys for Lorelai, an incredible spa package and a night on the Spirit of Norfolk. So many friends, family and strangers alike came together and wrote our Congressman to help file a Congressional Inquiry to get Chris home. And it worked. Strangers became friends and volunteered to help change Gavin's ostomy bags. And the outpouring of love and encouragement our family has received far exceeds anything I could have ever imagined. All of these things....these signs of humanity's beauty, empathy and compassion....all of these people who took from their family to give to mine...it all has combined to change me forever.
Despite all of the challenges and hardships of 2013, I will always look back on this year and remember these great moments. I cannot adequately describe what these moments have meant to me. I have been humbled, encouraged and inspired. 2013 changed how I look at the world. I have been through hell this year, but it doesn't feel that way. I feel as though I have been blessed beyond anything I deserve and I am eternally grateful for everyone that came to fill the gaps and show me that my journey was most certainly a blessing and not a hardship. So has this year been hell? Sure, but that's not how I see it or how I'll remember it years down the road. Someone once told me that a diamond is nothing more than a piece of coal that made it through the fire. I'm not quite a diamond, but not so much coal any more either. :)
So, as I look forward to 2014, I face this new year with many anxieties as I did last year. Tomorrow, Gavin will go into the hospital in preparation for his sixth surgery. He will go through some surgical prep procedures tomorrow, and then he will go into the OR first thing on Friday. This is a BIG surgery for him. We have our normal anesthesia concerns, but this surgery is going to reconnect and close his colostomy and to essentially make him whole again. This should be a 7-10 day hospital stay. While sitting in surgery waiting rooms doesn't necessarily get easier, it does become somewhat normal. The thing that I will never get used to though, is walking my baby to the double doors of the operating room and handing him over to a nurse before turning and walking away. That moment is always scary and intimidating as I kiss him and pray for God to watch over him through the next procedure he is going to endure. I find comfort in Gavin's strength and fighting spirit.
Gavin laughs hysterically these days and has started mimicking things that we do. He's sitting on his own and is making great strides in eating solid foods. He has the absolute best personality and is such a light in this world. Lorelai adores him and he loves watching her and playing with her. Their love for each other brings tears to my eyes sometimes. Gavin has been through so much in his 14 months, but he is stronger and happier than ever. If you could lift him in prayer tomorrow, Friday and through his recovery we would greatly appreciate it.
2014 is going to start off with major changes for my family. Most are a massive leap of faith and the future is very scary and uncertain. But 2013 started off the same way, and I think it ended up being an incredible year full of hope, faith and love.