Heart Stories

A letter I wrote a few weeks ago for my friend… but finally had the courage to share it. I hope its message can not only help her family, but many others! You will find normal again, you are not alone!

you-will-find-normal-again-you-are-not-alone-dealing-with-grief-and-children-in-the-hospital-hypoplastic-left-heart-syndrome-children-in-the-hospital

You will find normal again, you are not alone!

We all know the saying you never know someone till you have walked in their shoes?  I don’t think any of us can 100% understand what someone is going through because we are all so different. But you can at least have a better understanding of what it is like when you have had similar experiences.

This morning I woke up and saw a Go Fund Me account set up for a family friend. My Mom and several  people from our town had shared it. My heart sank, I saw a photo of her sweet lil baby girl.  I then found out that she had fallen into the camp fire and been life flighted to a burn center.  This was awful, but at least the burns were on her arms and chest, not her whole body.  But I also understand how traumatic and critical burns can be. Clearly she is a very sick little girl, and has a long road ahead of her. Likely years of healing and therapy will be needed.

I got the kids ready for school, yet in the back of my mind still feeling a bit sick knowing someone you care about is hurting.  We said our family prayers to get the kids off to school,  I asked my Father in Heaven to please be with this little girl. But also to be with her parents, and grandparents.  Asking that they will have the strength to care of her.  Being in the hospital with a critically ill child, is honestly one of the hardest things you will ever do. I know because  I have been there.

“In an empty hospital room, numb, confused and heart broken”

My oldest son was born missing half his heart. When the doctor delivered that news to us about 12 hours after my son was born, my whole life changed.  Life changing decisions were made within a matter of minutes my son and husband left on a life flight to Seattle in an attempt to try and save his life.  I was left there in an empty hospital room, numb, confused and heart broken. How did this even happen, and how was life ever going to be normal again?

The tears seemed endless, and as kind as the nurses and staff had been, I felt so alone. My Mom was there with me, yet I still felt so empty.  I really wanted to just go to sleep and wake up and find out all of this was a bad dream.  This is not how my life was suppose to go? I was suppose to be bringing my baby home and starting my new life as a mother. Instead I was laying in an empty hospital room, looking at the empty car seat that I had brought with me the day before. The car seat that was suppose to bring my baby home.

“Constant Praying”

I prayed a lot, almost constant. Praying and crying was about the only thing I felt like I could do.  At that point they only gave my son about a 30% chance of living through his first surgery. I had just gotten word from my husband that they did not even think he was a candidate for surgery, he would most likely die on the operating table.  My baby was going to die? Those are words no mothers should ever have to hear. I was not even there to hold him, I could not fly out till the next day. I never really understood heartache till that day. Like I said before, my life changed forever on that day.

“To say I felt hopeless was an understatement”

I was worried about my son, but I was also worried about myself. How was I going to do this? How was I going to pay for his surgeries? Where was I going to stay?  How was I going to pay for food and travel?  Would I be able to learn to care for him if he did live?  How was I going to give him all his medications? Would I be able to learn all the medical terms?  Am I going to loosing my baby?  HOW WAS I EVER GOING TO DO THIS? To say I felt hopeless was an understatement.

As I lay looking at the window, tears running down my face,  I was turned away from my Mom so she could not see me crying. I heard the phone ring, my Mom answered it for me.  Still looking out the window I did not turn over, instead I just listened. I heard my Mom say, “She is doing ok, she is just really scared and wants to get to her baby.”  My Mom then tipped the phone down and said, “Sarah, it is Aunt Susan she wanted to let you know she loves you and that she knows how scared you must be right now, and she is praying for you.”

“She was the first of many people that gave me the courage to keep going”

Once again the tears started flowing down my face, but this time it was a little different. You see my Aunt Susan had lost her baby minutes after giving birth about 20 years before. I had always heard the story, and thought how sad that must have been. Yet I never understood it, I had never felt those feeling because I had not lived through that same experience.  That phone call brought me so much strength, it was if she had reached through the phone and given me a hug. I was still terrified and scared. Yet I felt such love from her, she had been there before, she knew what I was feeling. She helped me feel safe, and that I could get through this.  I had not lost my baby yet, but if I did I knew that she was one of the few people that understood my heartache. She was the first of many people that gave me the courage to keep going.

“Outpouring of Love”

Over the next few years I saw an outpouring of love from friends, family and even total strangers. Money to help pay for flights, rides to the airport, meals, cards filled with encouragement, strangers who let us borrow their car while we were out of state at distant hospitals.  People coming to sit with me so I was not alone, since we were in the hospital for weeks at a time. It was a long and often lonely journey.  Everyone else was moving right along with their lives. Yet mine seemed to be moving in slow motion and it seemed my “normal life” was only a memory.

One of the things that gave me the most hope was seeing other heart families that had made it, or other parents that had sick kids that were now well.  I knew they understood what I was feeling, the heartache that seemed to consume me, they had felt it too.  But here they were a few years later with smiles on their faces, going to school, having family dinner around the table (instead of in a hospital room). They were planning vacations, they were going to church, going to the movies, or just going to work everyday…  they were just living normal lives.  And that gave me more hope than anything.

“Not just for your little one, but for YOU”

So as I sit here, I want to tell my friend who’s lil girl is in the burn unit right now… my heart aches for you.  My prayers have been constant for you today and will continue to be offered in your behalf. Not just for your little one, but for YOU.  I pray that you can feel them, I pray that you have the strength it takes to watch your little one hurt, and know that there is nothing you can do to make it stop.  You never understand how much you love someone until they are hurting and you can’t fix it.

Your journey is not going to be easy, there are going to be days you are going to want to give up. You will feel anger, sadness, confusion,  joy, hope and even total emptiness during this journey. But you will find joy again, and it will be more meaningful than ever!    I can also tell you, you will find normal again someday.

Our stories are different, but I hope you can find comfort in me telling you. You are not alone, you can do it, you are loved… and with time you will be able to smile again!


Watch my recorded video on answering your questions and telling my sons story

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Today my oldest son turns 15. This is a milestone for most kids. But for my Matthew, this is so much more. Some of you know his story, but for those of you who do not let me give you a brief history.  Matthew was born missing half is heart, a condition called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  A word that when I first heard I could not even say. The doctor wrote it down on a piece of paper for me, with a rough sketch of what a normal heart looked like and what his looked like instead. I held that paper and just cried, the tears would not stop. He looked so perfect, how could he be so broken?

I did not know anything was wrong with him, till a few hours after he was born. One of the first miracles in Matthew’s journey is the fact that his pediatrician noticed the small signs that something was not right with him and pursued further testing. The pediatric cardiologist happened to be in the hospital that day too. She normally only came to our small town hospital once a month, but she was there that day. The two of them together discovered that Matthew had one of the worst heart defects, he was literally missing half his heart. Sadly the only other person I had ever know with this condition was our pediatricians daughter, she has passed  at 3 weeks old about a year before.

We were given three options. We could choose compassionate care, which meant we would hold him and love him until he passed away. This option would leave him free from any needles, tubes or surgery.  Second option was heart transplant. He would be intubated and in the hospital,  but most likely he would pass away before a heart would come available for him. Third option was surgery. A series of at least three open heart surgery’s where they would try to reroute the heart, they gave him about a 30% chance of making it through the first surgery.hypoplastic left heart syndrome, HLHS, echo Matthew

As I sat on my hospital bed holding this piece of paper, trying to make sense of it all I felt hopeless. I was suppose to be picking out what outfit to put him in to take him home. Instead I was trying to decide if he was going to die today, or possibly on an operating table.  As I looked at my baby, I could not imagine putting him through all that pain. Plus I was paralyzed by fear and not knowing what was ahead. In my heart I thought maybe compassionate care was the best option. Just letting him pass without pain, and without struggle.

I looked at my husband… He had  sat and listened to everything the doctors had told us together. When I heard it, it was all a blur. But my husband had heard every word, every detail. He had mapped out in his head how each surgery would go and what changes would be made to his heart. He understood the risk, he understood it was going to be a long journey… But he said we had to give him a shot.  Our son had not given up yet, so how could we?  He stood up from the side of the bed and said, ” I will sell everything I own, I will go wherever it takes… I will give my son a chance to live. If he dies on that operating table that is ok. I can live knowing that I gave my son every chance he had.”

He made the choice I was to scared to make, the choice to give our son a chance at life.

As I sit here  today and think about our journey over the past 15 years, it has been a long hard road. There were days, nights and even weeks and that I wondered if life was ever going to feel normal?  Would there ever be a day that I didn’t feel the need to count his heart rate, or watch to see how heavy he was breathing. Or would I ever be able to take the emergency bag out of my car, that was packed and ready for the next life flight trip?  The first 4 years were the hardest, we lived in and out of hospitals in three different states. Matthew was very sick and ended up having over 14 surgeries.  Some days I wondered if I really had what it took to be his Momma. But he has been worth every struggle, every tear, every heartache.  He never gave up, so how could I?

Not a night goes by that I don’t check on him before I go to bed.  I still place my hand on his chest to just feel his heart, and I  kiss his forehead. I say a prayer in my heart, thanking my Father in Heaven for him and pleading with the Lord for another day. His journey has taught me that each day really is a gift.

Happy Birthday lil buddy… praying for another healthy year with you!

 

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James Hoyt Baseball, sure did make this cute lil special needs baseball player smile

If you don’t know who James Hoyt is, then you should…. but don’t feel too bad, because I didn’t know who he was either.  Let me tell you a fun little story of how James Hoyt in his first game as a MLB pitcher for the Astros, totally made my son smile!

A few weeks ago I was on an early morning flight to New York City (with a layover in Phoenix).  The night before we had just gotten home from a 2 week road trip with our kids, so I was running on only 4 hours of sleep and I was exhausted.   I had planned to try and sleep most of the plane ride.  My husband had the window, I always get the awkward middle seat.  That is when Marcia sat down next to me in the isle seat. I had never met her before, but after a little bit of “small talk” while others were loading. I could tell that she was just a bubbly, adorable woman. My plans to sleep were put aside and I found myself talking for almost 3 hours to Marcia.

Marcia told me all about her family, her dog, making her own almond milk, growing up in the big city then moving to the west and traveling with her kids.  But when she asked me questions about myself… I could tell she was not asking simply  to just fill our time while stuck on a plane. Instead she was asking about  my family because she was just a “good soul” and kind hearted.

Matthew baseball

She happened to be on that flight to Phoenix to watch her son James Hoyt play his first MLB baseball game.  He grew up here in Boise, and over the years has played for an independent league in Texas and even pitched in Mexico for some time. But he also cleaned boats to earn money… yes he was the guy you would hire to scrape the barnacles off your boat.  Time, and hard work paid off and at age 29 he finally got drafted ( I think that is what it is called, lol) by the Astros and now is a MLB pitcher.  She was so excited to go support her son, and cheer him on.

I then told her about my oldest son Matthew.  Matthew is 14 and has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  Long story short he was born missing half his heart and after 14 surgeries he is well enough to be a “normal boy”.  He still only has half a heart, but it is now routed in a way that allows him to stay alive.  Matthew also has seizures and significant learning delays.  He is 14, but is the size and tends to act more like a 6 year old.

Matthew has played special needs baseball the last two years. It is the highlight of his year and he just loves every minute of it.  When you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he will tell you, a baseball player.  I told Marcia that Matthew and I will have to look for James, and Matthew would love to watch him pitch.

A few days after I got back from my New York City trip, I get an email from Marcia;

Hi Sarah,

I hope you and your husband had a great time in NYC:-)  Houston was such a fun time!!!  Jimmy gave me a strike ball for Mathew that he pitched during his first outing with the Astros.  Maybe when Jimmy comes home for a visit maybe they can meet each other!!
Have a terrific day and let me know the best way I can get this ball to you all.  I am always running circles around town and could meet you anywhere.

Happy Wednesday!!

 

She went out of her way to bring my son,  my lil Matthew a ball back from a MLB game.  It was signed by James and even had dirt from the game on it.  From his first strike out in the Major League. Who does that…. who goes out of their way for a total stranger just to make a little boy smile? Marcia does, see I told you she was a good soul.  I was so touched by her generosity.   Matthew has the ball in a plastic bag on his dresser, and wants to get a special case so he can display it.  It was one of the first things he wanted to tell his classmates at school about, as he went back to school. He sure felt special that he has his very own ball from a MLB game.

So…. Mr. James Hoyt, I have never met you, I didn’t know your name till about 3 weeks ago, but it will now be a name I will never forget. THANK YOU for making my son smile,  thank you  for making him feel special!  And by the way, you have a pretty amazing Momma, but I am pretty sure you already know that!

Matthew baseball

Matthew at his special needs baseball game.

James Hoyt 

pic from MiLB.com

JamesHoyt

Pictures from his first game on Aug 3, 2016 in the 7th inning and the same day he gave us this ball from this game.

Aug 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher James Hoyt (51) pitches during the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros relief pitcher James Hoyt (51) pitches during the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Here it comes—-

james hoyt signed baseball houston astros

James Hoyt 7th inning Houston Astros

Pretty sure he’s telling the catcher that he needs that ball back to give to Matthew.

James Hoyt signed ball Houston Astros

Above three pictures credit from the Houston Chron

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On the one year death of Mia McDonald her family has asked that in her memory we do a service for another, I could think of no better service than to share her story and have you ASK YOURSELF the question… If the day came would I be able to give the ultimate gift and in my own grief save another?   Organ Donation changes and saves lives!

Mia your have touched our hearts in ways you will never know, we love you and your family!

mia

Last October I shared a post with you called The Text That Made Me Think About Never Blogging Again.  I told you the story of sweet little Mia who’s heart stopped and she went to live with her Father In Heaven.  That was not just a fancy play on words and a way to grab your attention to read my post.  I really did think about never blogging again.

I have a confession to make, since that day my heart is still aching I have really been looking at my life and trying to put things in order.  Some days I am consumed with sadness that I can not shake off on those days I feel hopeless, sad, overwhelmed.  The days I feel that way are the days I feel like my life is out of balance, I feel like all my energy is going to the wrong thing.  I have been given this wonderful family, I have been given the gift of mother hood.  I have been given this special boy, in which each day is a truly a gift.  But I also have this amazing blog that I get to help people save money, I get to share our story, I get to connect with so many wonderful readers.

But there are not enough hours in the day to be the mother I want to be and be the blogger I once was.  Many of you have noticed I stopped posting my shopping trips, I am not at the store as much, I am not listing my menu plan, or my budget review.  I want to… but some times you need an event to SHAKE YOUR SOUL to remind you once again what you are here on this earth for.  As I have spent the last  year thinking about it.  I am once again trying to fit my life together as God would want it to be.  Putting my family first, not knowing how it will all work out?  But somehow it always does when you put the important things first all the other things fall into place.  This is not easy for me, but I have faith that I am doing the right thing.

I am still blogging don’t get me wrong but at some point I had to realize that I am NOT super woman and working 15 hours most days is not what is best for my family. But I did not know how to stop, and put my life in order.  I have amazing helpers on my blog and I need to let them do just that, and “help” me.

Trying to remember why I started this blog 4 years ago… it was help others.  But somehow on that journey I kind of felt like I lost myself.  I wondered if I was to die would people say ” She sure was a great coupon shopper”… I sure hope not!  That is the last thing I would want to be know for. Sure it is a great skill to have but not the title by which I strive to live my life.  I asked my friends on facebook to list one word that described me little did they know I was really struggling and I needed it as some sort pathetic validation that I was ok.  As I watched the replies I was pleased to see NOT ONE OF THEM listed anything to do with coupons.  I guess I am headed in the right direction.

But what if I asked that questions to you my readers… would you know the the heart behind the person on this blog?  Do you know that saving money is part of my life but SO MANY things are much more important?

So today I share with you one of the things that is on my top 10 most important things in life.

Give Life: Be an Organ Donor
Paul Cardall

Watch it on youtube here.

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