Through the Valley
of
Serenity
Our Family's Miracle Journey
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Our Story

   

          
Serenity's Arrival

Serenity Rose was born November 7 at 3:22 pm. (3+2+2=7) She weighed 7lb 7oz.  She was conceived during the seventh year of our marriage. She was the seventh member of our family and the seventh grand daughter for my parents.  Now anyone who has ever studied the biblical meaning of the number seven knows that it stands for completion.  

We thought that are family was complete before, so much in fact that we made the decision not to have any more children.  We already had two boys and two girls and were very satisfied with our family.  So my husband had a vasectomy eight months before we conceived.  However, God had other plans.  He knew that our family needed Serenity. He knew that without her, our family could never be complete!

 Once we found out that we were expecting, The doctors needed confirmation.  So they tested my husband twice, both times proved that the procedure was a definite failure.  However, when they went in to fix the problem, they couldn't understand WHY it had failed.  God definitely had a hand in the matter. Unfortunately, he  had to repeat the entire experience.

You see, even her birth is proof that God is ALWAYS in control. She was destined to be, despite our attempt to interfere. It was obvious before she was ever even born that God had a mighty purpose for her.

  Upon her birth, Serenity immediately began having difficulty in breathing. They rushed her to the nursery and began placing IVs and oxygen into her. Serenity's God given fight was noticed right away. It took two hours, four nurses and two different doctors to hold her down and place the IV. After being poked and prodded many times, they were finally able to secure a vein.

Serenity fought them tooth and nail through the entire experience. Then after a few hours of being confined under the oxygen hood, she began to get a little edgy. At just a few hours of age, she managed to maneuver her hands up under the hood and with one swift blow, knocked it off her head and onto the floor. (Believe it or not that attitude has since only become MORE aggressive )

Her nurses were absolutely amazed at her 'supernatural' strength. One mentioned that in the many years she had been a nurse she had never seen that happen before. She also mentioned that we might need to rethink her name, for she wasn't very serene. However, It was never her personality that made her name worthy. It was the overwhelming peace that surrounded her entire life. God had His hand upon her from the very beginning.

While in the hospital, they ran many tests trying to diagnosis the cause of her problems. Over the next few days most of the tests came back with positive results and Serenity seemed to be doing much better. They were able to wean her off the oxygen and she maintained her oxygen saturation level very well. Her blood and lungs looked great.

The only test that we hadn't heard about was an echo cardiogram they performed to check her heart.

In the meantime, I knew something just wasn't right. I was a mother of four others, so call it instinct or maternal wisdom, but I just knew. Plus, I had heart problems as a child. I had a coarctation repair when I was just five years old and am living now with an unrepaired bicuspid aortic valve. Heart problems was a definite possibility and I made it known. I also sent her back to the nursery several times because of grunting with her breathes. The nurses would check her pulse ox level and then send her back saying she was fine.


After five days in the hospital, they sent us home without our echo results. The two days we were home with her were very long and sleepless. Serenity would wake up many times during the night crying. I now know it was because she was having trouble breathing. Not knowing then, I would pick her up, pray over her then lull her back to sleep. At first, Her grunting wasn't a constant thing. She would have little grunting phases that lasted only a few minutes at a time. Then return to regular breathing. Newborn babies breathe rapidly anyway. So it wasn't hard for others to convince me that I was just being paranoid.

The Monday after her birth, we went back into the pediatrician's office for her regular check up. On the way there, she slept very peacefully, breathing fine. While in the waiting room I began to notice her breathes coming more rapidly. After she was weighed, and placed on the examining table, we noticed her starting to grunt a little. Once the doctor entered the room, he sat down beside her and started reading her echo results that had finally been delivered. Even though he was very focused on the results, he suddenly stopped reading and looked up. Serenity was grunting harder than we had ever heard her before. With much concern the doctor asked, "When did she start doing that?" Very aggravated I replied, "She's been doing that all along! Just not this hard."

He then informed us that the results we had been waiting for almost a week were inconclusive on the cause but diagnosed her with severe pulmonary hypertension, which denotes some type of heart problem. Basically we had just spent the weekend at home with a baby who very well could have had congestive heart failure.

I thank God for sustaining her until the very moment we laid her upon that examining table. Whenever I think about what could have been if it weren't for our Heavenly Father.... well, all I can do is praise HIM for His mercy and grace.

                              Our Journey Begins

We immediately were sent to the PICU of a more equipped hospital. Once we arrived a pediatric cardiologist performed another echo herself. The results were devastating.

Like her mother, Serenity had a coarctation, which is a narrowing in the aortic arch and also a bicuspid aortic valve, basically that means that the opening to our valve has only two flaps instead of the normal three.

My worst fear had come true but that wasn't all. Serenity also had another problem that I did not have. She had a deformed Mitral valve. This was the kicker, because any surgeon knows that this is one of the most difficult valves to repair on an infant. It's hard to get to and because babies grow so fast, it has to be done again and again in the future.

When explaining these problems, the cardiologist gave us very little hope for Serenity's recovery. She said "You had better just hope that it's not the Mitral valve." Then stated that Serenity's Pulmonary hypertension was off the charts high and when asked what happened to babies with numbers that high if not corrected, she looked me in the eye and sympathically stated, "They don't live very long, a couple of months at the most"

I felt like those words had knocked the very life out of me. The good news, (if you can call it that) was that all these conditions could be medically fixed. Even the Mitral valve could be repaired. It was difficult and dangerous, but it could be done.

Once the doctor had finished her diagnosis, my mother who had rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard, began her pep talk. She reminded me where our hope is. Nothing is impossible or even difficult with God. Jesus took His stripes for this very reason, to bring healing to my daughter.

The doctors began to stabilize our Serenity. That night they intubated her. She no longer had to breathe on her own, but she now had a machine to do it for her. Because of the pain and discomfort this causes, they placed her on a continual drip of pain medication and sedative. They placed two IV's , one for meds and one for drawing blood on a regular basis. They also put in a feeding tube and placed her on medications to lower her blood pressure and heart rate and a med to help with the function of her heart.

By the time they were finished I could hardly recognize my baby. The first time I saw her, I cried both tears of sorrow and tears of relief.... Relief, because she no longer had to labor for breath. She wasn't struggling just to survive. She was sleeping more peaceful than I had ever seen her before and that somehow brought me relief.

                       

            
Once we were settled in, I pulled my chair up next to her crib and began reading healing scriptures over her. I would speak directly to her body saying...

"Body, I speak the word of faith to you. I demand that every internal organ perform a perfect work, for you are the temple of the Holy Ghost; therefore I charge you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the authority of His Holy Word to be healed and made whole. Father, we resist the enemy in every form that he comes against Serenity. We require her body to be strong and healthy and we enforce it with your Word. We reject the curse and enforce life into her body. Thank you Father that Serenity has a strong heart. Her heart beats with the rhythm of life. Her blood flows to every cell of her body, restoring life and health abundantly
.

Serenity shall not die but Live and declare the works of the Lord. Serenity shall NOT die but LIVE and declare the works of the Lord.

In the Holy name of Jesus we pray. Thank you Father for healing our daughter" ( scriptural references: Proverbs 12:14-18, 14:30, Psalm 118:17, James 4:7)

I sat there for hours at a time just reading, praying and crying. We would take the authority that Christ has given us to bind the sickness and disease, commanding her body to line up with the Word of God. Man said my baby was sick... God said my baby WAS healed. We were going to believe God's words. 

 

The nurses would walk by and stare. I could hear them whisper, but I didn't allow this to affect me. I continued to read my scriptures and pray. I knew that God would be faithful to HIS promises.

 

After awhile of hearing only the constant beeping and seeing only her chest move up and down with every breath the machine breathed for her, I began to fall apart. I would poke her and tickle her, doing everything I could just to get some kind of reaction out of her, but nothing. She laid there, not even a twitch. I picked her arm up and gently let go. It fell limp and lifeless to her side. I began to cry. I cried out to God.

"Lord please give me a sign that somewhere inside this body my daughter still thrives. I need to know she is more than a breathing machine." 

 

With a gentle touch, I took my hand and  caressed the bottom of her foot, what had  just laid motionless and lifeless before, suddenly jerked back. I thought my heart might leap right out of my chest. I began to play with her. I would tickle her foot and she would move it. We did this over and over for several minutes.

 

This was one of the first of many miracles to come. Still to this day, Serenity is extremely ticklish on the bottom of her feet. I know that God gave me this little boost to strengthen my faith. I had to have something to hold onto. He always meets us at our level of faith.     

 

A couple of days after arrival,  Serenity was scheduled for a Heart Catherization.  The cardiologist that performed it was very cautious and because of her size was unable to make it into the left ventricle (or atrium, I forget)  But based on the results, they diagnosed her with Shone's Complex, and he recommended that she needed the Mitral valve either repaired or bypassed.

In order to do this we had to once again travel to a more equipped hospital with more experienced surgeons. The night before we were to leave, we were awaken by the sounds of the alarms on Serenity's equipment. 

Somehow the respiratory therapist accidently pulled out her tube while suctioning it.  Reni's pulse ox level and heart rate rapidly began to drop.  The nurse informed us that in order to get the anesthesiologist there quickly to intubate her again, they were going have to call a code blue on her room.  For those of you who do not know, that's the code they use when someone stops breathing or their heart stops beating. It's never a good thing to hear over the loud speakers especially when the room number they are calling belongs to your daughter.  

When those lights starting flashing and people everywhere started running toward our room, I thought MY heart was going to stop beating.  It’s something that no parent should ever have to experience. 

Once the doctor arrived and replaced her tube, Reni began to stabilize again. But regardless, we will always remember the terror that one moment brought 

  
God Carries Us Another Step

 Three days after we arrived, we were life flighted to another facility.  Upon arriving, they performed another echo.  This time the cardiologist stated in his opinion that the Mitral valve wasn't the problem but rather the coarctation was the culprit. He expressed his views but after reading all the data, the other doctors and surgeon disagreed. After much heavy debate, they went ahead and scheduled Serenity for surgery on the coarctation. 

 On the day that her surgery was scheduled, My husband and I arrived to her room very early in hopes of spending some time with her before the procedure.  However, our plans soon changed.  We arrived to a room full of chaos.   People in scrubs were everywhere quickly unhooking all of her machines, preparing her to leave.  The moment suddenly began to overwhelm me as I realized that our daughter was about to embark on a very dangerous procedure. 

I began to panic, asking the nurse question after question.  How long will it take? Will she have to have blood? When will we be able to see her again?  The nurse very calmly answered each and every one of my questions while we watched the staff begin to wheel her out of the room.  Something just wasn’t right about this moment.  I definitely did not have a peace about this surgery. That's when I closed my eyes and began to pray. 

"Lord,  I can't handle this now.  I'm just not ready. If this be your will then give me the strength to endure it, but if it is not your will, then remove this cup from me." 

 At that very moment, the nurses phone rang.  A few seconds later he returned to say that the surgeon had canceled surgery for that day.  There was too much controversy about what procedure needed to be done, so they were just going to wait.  Whew!  A sudden relief fell over me.  I could not wipe the smile off my face as the guys in scrubs wheeled our daughter back into her room and began hooking her up again.

Over the next few days, we just waited for a decision.  We continued to sit and watch Serenity motionless, speaking healing scriptures over her day and night.  Then occasionally, I would tickle her foot just to make sure she was alright and Reni would jerk it back for me. 

A couple of days before Thanksgiving the doctors decided that the reason they were having so much trouble determining the cause of her problem was because the staff of the previous hospital had done such a great job of  stabilizing her. 

They decided that first they would wean her off some of her heart medications.  If she started to get worse, then we would know that it was the coarctation. If she didn't get worse, then they would wean her off of the vent.  If she started to get worse then, it was because of the Mitral valve. Basically they told us that in order to make her better, they had to make her worse.  

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, things were pretty quiet.  Our children and other family had to travel 200 miles to spend Thanksgiving with us at a local restaurant. Tommy's  place of employment blessed us by paying for the whole thing.  We hated leaving Serenity but we knew that our other children needed to spend time with us as well.  

Serenity did very well over the next couple of days.  They were successfully able to wean her off the heart medications.  Things were looking up.  Then the process began to  take her off the vent.    The first night was wonderful.  I had my daughter back again.  She was off the sedative, so she was alert and I was able to hold her.  I just sat there rocking her for hours until the nurse finally said it was time to lay her down.

  I left her room that night so full of joy and promise for tomorrow.  However when I walked into her room the next morning.  My parents were already there and Reni had a new contraption on, what I call the miss piggy treatment.  It was a hat with hoses that strapped to her face allowing her to receive more oxygen and the nurses had tied bows on it to make it pretty. 

                         

                         

At first I just thought, okay she just needs a little oxygen to get her going, but she'll be alright.   We joked about how silly she looked and just made light of the whole subject.  Until we began to notice her chest sinking in her under her ribs with every breath.  We could tell she was struggling.

When the doctors finally came in on the their daily rounds,  things got a bit more serious.  Serenity was having a hard time keeping her numbers up, even with the miss piggy treatment she was laboring very hard for her breathes.  They took her from my arms and said she would have to be re-intubated.  Now, you have to understand  that it had already been several weeks since I was able to hold my baby.  I  was just beginning to really enjoy having my daughter back. Now they were taking her away from me again.

 I could feel the tears swelling up, but I tried very hard not to show it.  I began to tremble all over.  I noticed one of the resident doctors who had always been very nice,  looking at me with empathy in his eyes.  He slowly walked over through the crowd and placed his hand on my shoulder.  He said, "Don't worry we'll let you hold her for a little while longer."   

He spoke to the Intensivist and they decided to finish their rounds first and come back to do the procedure.  I had  about half an hour longer with my daughter.  I held her just a closely as I could crying and praying.  I knew that when they came back it would be awhile before I would see my daughter thrive again.  

The half hour went by very quickly and they returned fully staffed.  We had to leave the room for awhile and were given instructions to come back in about 20 to 30 minutes.  We waited in the waiting room for a while talking with the other PICU parents.  

When time was up, we walked back to her room.  We immediately noticed everyone standing around her bed staring at her with very concerned expressions.  Then one of the nurses walked over and pulled the curtain back to block our view.  This did not sit well with my husband.  He rushed  to the door demanding to know what was going on.  They proceeded to tell us that during the procedure, Serenity had become ghostly white.  They were keeping an eye on her stats for awhile to make sure she was stable. 

  I know that there was more to this story, but we did not press the issue.  We just waited patiently, praying and speaking life into her body.  A few minutes later they walked out saying she was beginning to pink up and would be fine.  Once again we came face to face with the real possibility of losing our daughter and God had sustained her. 

 
A very discouraging part was knowing we would have to face surgery on the Mitral valve.  A date was set.  We began to fast.  However, the doctors didn't like the fact that we were never able to get into that left ventricle (atrium?) to measure pressures. They wanted to make sure they were doing the right thing, so they ordered another heart cath to be done the day before. 

 This procedure was suppose to take two hours and the nurse said she would call us half way through with an update.  Two hours into it we had not received an update yet.  We began to get a little concerned.  We continued to wait.  The more we waited, the more tension began to rise.  I started feeling very ill.  I hadn't eaten in a very long time and the stress was beginning to take it's toll.  

Finally three hours into it, the phone rang.  I jumped up and ran to answer it.  The woman on the other end began to explain that Serenity's heart rate dramatically dropped about 30 minutes into the procedure.  She said that they had to do chest compressions for 15 minutes in order to stabilize her but she was doing fine now and the doctor would be finished soon. 

 At that point, I thought that I was going to pass out.  I started getting very pale and feeling very faint.  My family instructed me to go get something to drink and rest awhile before we talked with the doctor.   I wasn't gone but just a few minutes and was heading back to the waiting room when I ran into my husband and my parents.  

           An Almost Broken Hope

I could tell that something was very wrong.  "Is it time to talk to the doctor?" I asked.  They just lowered their heads and my husband replied, "We already did."  Surprised,  I said, "You did? What did he say?"  I could tell something was very wrong. "It's the Mitral valve isn't it?" I asked.   My mother just shook her head. "No Dana, it's something much worse." Worse than the Mitral valve?  What could be worse than that, I thought. 

My mother continued to say,   "He says that only a heart transplant can save her.  There is nothing more that they can do for her here."   I stumbled back, gasping for air as if someone had just hit me in the chest with a baseball bat.  Heart Transplant?  I never could have imagined that we would be faced with THOSE words. 

I began to cry as they tried to explain her condition to me. "Why? Why can't they fix her? Why can’t they fix my baby?" I asked over and over again.  I could see the hurt in my dad's eyes as he watched the hurt in mine. He just softly kept replying, "It's the heart muscle itself, They can't fix the muscle."  

We all cried  for several minutes. Then my mother wiped the tears away from her own eyes, looked sternly at me and said.  "Okay are you finished?  Did you get it all out.?"  I slowly nodded.  She added. "Okay then wipe your tears and let's get back to work. Serenity needs you to be strong and God is still in control."  Together we prayed. 

Afterward, in a daze I walked back to the PICU. Once I arrived they told me that she hadn't made it back to her room yet.  So I walked over to the family room next to the entrance. 

The room was divided into two sections by a partial wall.  I noticed that no one was on the far end of the room.  I walked to the back and in privacy collapsed to my knees.   I began to call out to God like I had never done before.

By the time I finished, God had given me the strength I desperately needed  to continue on.    I was determined to find a way out of this situation.  I have always been one who enjoyed learning.  So I decided that I would find out as much as I possibly could about this condition called Restrictive Cardiomyopathy.    I wanted to know exactly what we were up against.  My husband and I made a trip to the hospital's computer lab. 

 It is the only time in my life that I have ever regretted learning about something.  I wished I had never typed in restrictive cardiomyopathy. It  is a physical hardening of the heart muscle.  The muscle tissue continues to harden until it is no longer able to perform. 

Every single article that came up read the words, "transplant or death", "irreversible damage", "no known cure,""Condition only progresses". The worse part was, most of them stated that it’s usually caused by a previous condition.  Meaning, most of the patients with heart transplants ended up being reinfected by the disease and having to have another transplant.  We walked away from the lab feeling like our faith and hope had just been crushed.  But God always knows when we need our faith boosters and He always comes through!

                  God's Assurance!

While on our way back to the room, my mother called my cell phone.  I immediately could hear the excitement in her voice. She had been desperately seeking God, praying for reassurance.  Through her tears of joy she said, "Dana, Reni's  going to be okay.  God has given me the assurance that she is going to be okay. " 

When I hung up the phone I was having mixed emotions.  I was ecstatic that my mother had received that assurance, but at the same time was annoyed at the fact that I myself had not yet received it. 

I knew that God could take me to the place where I know but I know.  Just as I know about my salvation, I could know about my daughter's healing.  I never would voice any doubt.  I only spoke the truth as God had written it but up until that time there was always this 'what if' in the back of my mind.  What if the doctors were right?  What if she didn't make it?  I didn't want to think those what ifs. 

 I wanted to know just as I know that the color of my eyes are brown and there is never a well… what if they are blue in the back of my mind.  I wanted to know that my daughter was healed.  I struggled with that for several days. 

One night, I came to the end of my rope.  I knew that without that assurance my faith was not going to make it.  I desperately cried out to God.  Within my spirit I heard him reply, "Would you still love me?" What? Lord is that you?, I thought.  "Would you still love me."  I sat there and thought about it for awhile.  If God chose to take my daughter from me today, could I still love HIM. 

My mind drifted back to Serenity and how much I loved her.  There is nothing that I wouldn't do for her.  I would give my life, if it meant it would save her from just a small amount of pain.  Then it dawned on me, how much greater is our Heavenly Father's love for us.  Our love fails dramatically, compared to HIS love for His children.  I knew that it He chose to take my little girl from me, It would not be because we were being punished,  But ultimately because that is what would be best for her.  You see, only God knows the future.  Therefore only He can determine was is best for us. 

At that moment, I fully trusted God.  Within my spirit I heard his voice again.  "Would you still love me?"  I replied, "Yes Lord, I would still love you!  I would still serve you and hardest of all, I would still praise you." 

I suddenly felt a release, like a 100 pounds had been lifted right off my chest.  I fell asleep that night praying.  Sometime in the middle of a very sound sleep, I was suddenly awaken.  Whoosh!  The Glory of God fell upon me and I began Worshiping and Praising the Lord. I was laughing hysterically. The only words I could  manage to speak through the tears of joy were, "Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus."  I immediately woke up my husband to tell him that I knew our daughter was healed. 

            Exercising that Assurance

Over the next few days, our assurance was tested.  We would talk with the Cardiologist that performed the second heart cath.  Every conversation we had was very negative on his part. Not because he was a negative person, but just because he had to lay out the facts, according to the medical side of things. 

He explained to us that a heart transplant wasn't as simple as just taking out an old heart and putting in a new one.  There were many, many side effects, such as possible rejection to the organ.  According to him our daughter would never live another day without taking medication.  There were risks of lung damage, liver damage, kidney damage even neural damage.  

 Through this all, I felt as if God had risen me above the situation.  Nothing this doctor said even phased me.   I didn't know how God would do it, I just knew that He would.  I wasn't going to tell God how to do His job.  If God miraculously healed her than wonderful. If it meant that our daughter had a heart transplant than so be it.  Either way I knew that she was going to be okay!  We were just going to walk through the doors that God opened. 

After he finished, the worse possible scenario speech, my husband politely stated. "Well, o-kay then, we won't be needing one of those, but thanks anyway." I laughed then said,  "What he means is…. we will go where God takes us, but our daughter is going to be alright."  Sounded annoyed the doctor replied. "I don't think you understand.  This condition does not just go away.  It only progresses.  You need to be prepared to face these things." I knew that he was just concerned with us. I smiled and very politely stated. "I don't think you understand just how BIG our God IS." The doctor just shrugged his shoulders as if saying, well I tried.  

From that moment on Serenity began to significantly improve.   They began to switch her medications from intravenous to oral, preparing her for transfer to a hospital that specializes in transplants.  They also decided to try extubating her again.  But not without making sure we knew that success was very unlikely.  One nurse said  "I have never heard of a baby with Reni's condition that was able to be taken off the ventilator before transplant and since she has already failed once, the odds are very stacked against her."

On December 1, they removed the tube again.  This time God and Serenity left all those doctors and nurses scratching their heads.              

                                                         
  

Another Step Toward Recovery

With the removal of the vent also came the removal of  her sedative and pain medication.  Serenity had been on a medication called phentanyl for about a month.  This is a pain medication that we were told is such stronger than morphine.  Without proper weaning the withdrawals can be horrible. 

We discovered this the hard way.  The first day of her withdrawals, I sat by her bed for 14 hours straight without even a bathroom break.  Up until this time, Serenity had slept most of the time.  So even though it was hard to be in the PICU and not home, we hadn't actually had to spend much time watching her suffer.  This by far was the hardest time for us as parents.  She would cry constantly with little to no sound because her throat was very sore from the vent.  Nothing we would do could soothe her.  She would have cold sweats and what they call "addict jitters." She would just shake all the time and throw up everything we tried to give her.

If you have ever been, known, or seen an addict on television, this is what our baby who was only a few weeks old looked like.  The doctors began to give her small doses of morphine and adavan to help with the symptoms.  Serenity would stop shaking almost immediately after receiving her "fix".   I stood by her side, praying and reading scriptures until she was through the worst part.  It took a few days but God brought us through that valley as well. 

                  
Good Things Continue

The day they told us we were moving to a regular room, We were ecstatic.  It was almost surreal.  The entire PICU staff was very sad to see us going but were happy that Reni was well enough to leave.  The doctors were pleasantly surprised that the oral meds were working so well.  We knew that the medications had a HUGE help. 

 After spending Thanksgiving away from home, I had made up my mind that we would be home for Christmas.  We were missing our other children tremendously and I knew that God wanted our family back together as well.  When we first mentioned this to the doctors, they were less than optimistic, (to put it nicely) they just laughed like, yeah right.  But the closer we got to Christmas the more realistic our request became. 

 On  December 14th we were transfered by ambulance back to the second hospital, this time to a regular room.  Then on December 16 we were released to go home.  Yes, that's right HOME!  Walking out of the hospital with our baby in our arms was like a dream.  I was in complete awe that the entire experience. The sky was bluer, the sun was brighter.  The world was beautiful.  I just kept saying, "We're really going home.  We're taking our baby home.  Tom, we're REALLY taking our baby home." 

Both of us could not stop smiling. Then when we finally arrived home with all of our children together again at last, things only got better.  My brother surprised us by decorating our home for Christmas.  His family put up outside lights and inside decorations complete with tree.  My favorite time of the year is Christmas.  I always love going all out for it.  I was feeling a little depressed about not having time to do all of that. So this meant an unbelievable amount to me.  Not only we're we blessed with decorations, but Tom's place of employment had all chipped in and bought our entire family everything on their Christmas lists.  Of course the greatest gift was having our entire family together and home. We had the best Christmas ever that year. 

                     

 However, before I get ahead of myself, a few days after we arrived home we were scheduled for a heart transplant evaluation.  We had to travel another approximate 400 miles.  Now this wasn't as easy as it may seem, because even though Serenity was home, she was on a very strict medication schedule.  


4 am, Propranolol,
6am captopril,
10 am, Digoxin, zantac, and lasix, 
12pm  propranolol ,
2pm, captopril 
8pm, Propranolol
10pm Digoxin, zantac, captopril and 1/4 of an aspirin


We had to stop several times to give her medications.  This all became a little overwhelming after while.  I was able to get very little sleep.  Having to wait until after 10 and waking up before 4 was hard enough, but it was hard for me to sleep in between those times as well.  I was concerned I might oversleep.  Then because I was so very tired all the time, I was afraid I might inadvertently give the wrong medicine at the wrong time and overdose her or miss a dose of a vital medication.  Some of these were very important medications and the function of her heart depended on them. She was on this schedule for approximately 2 1/2 months. It was a lot of stress and made traveling very interesting.  Nevertheless, we made it there. 

When we arrived at our hotel which was conveniently attached to the hospital, the first thing we noticed was the room they gave us was 322 (3+2+2=7)  Then when I picked up the phone to call and check on the kids, I noticed the last four digits of the hotel's phone number was 7777.  Now I am not one to believe in numerology.  However, I do see the significance in the number 7 throughout the bible. There are many examples of the number seven meaning completion (God created seven days, Jesus shed his blood seven times, etc.)  I believe this was God's way of telling us throughout our experience that He was in control and about to  make our lives and our miracle journey perfectly complete. 

 I turned to look at my husband and said, "This is where our journey will end.  God is going to complete our miracle from this hospital."  

 We spent an entire day going from one test to another.  She had x-rays, an echo cardiogram, blood work, we even saw a physiologist to prepare us for what a transplant would bring.  We saw the transplant specialist, two different transplant surgeons and two neurologists.

All of them were very impressed with our daughter's health.  The neurologists were in awe at the fact that she seemed to have no neural damage.  "Considering what she has been through, This is very rare." they said.  

The transplant specialist was even more amazed.  Serenity's records had been sent ahead, so he had already reviewed everything.  He said, "Looking at the records they sent and looking at her now. I can't believe I am seeing the same baby."  He then proceeded to tell us a story of a baby who's, by his own words, condition wasn't even half as bad as Serenity's, yet this baby was unable to leave the hospital or vent until AFTER transplant.  "Serenity is just unique!" He said many times. 

 After much deliberation he decided that Serenity was much to healthy to be place on the "A" transplant list.  They wanted her to keep her heart as long as possible.  But because of the condition that she had, they thought it eventually would be inevitable to face transplant.  So they decided to place her on the "B" list.  It is very rare that a child of any age be placed on this list.  That is how well she was doing. 

 We were very pleased with the results of our evaluation.  Not only had our Savior given us time with our family, but for HIS birthday he also provided us with another huge praise report. 

Even though we were home.  We never ceased from reading the healing scriptures over Reni.  Every morning when we awoke and every night before bed, we would claim God's promises for our daughter.  God continued to remain faithful.

                         
A Turn in Events

In the early part of January, we received a phone call from the hospital stating that our insurance had denied our claim to be placed on the transplant list.   When faced with a million dollar procedure this would have been very discouraging to most.  But after remembering how time and time again God had directed our path, we just knew He was in control. We had learned through our experience to never question anything, but just to trust HIM fully.

It turned out that the transplant specialist had written them a very encouraging letter.  Serenity just looked too healthy to need a transplant and he had to explain why a baby with this diagnosis  should be placed on the B list.  The insurance company was not about to put  so much money up front without more proof that she needed it.  So they decided we needed to come back to the hospital for another heart cath. 

So we traveled back the 400 miles, just missing the worst ice storm our area had seen in years.  Now remember, during the last heart cath, we almost lost little Reni.  The doctors had to perform chest compressions for about 15 minutes in order to stabilize her.  We were very leery of going through another cath.   So we made sure that we were prayed up.  We had people all over praying for our daughter. 

 I can not explain just how hard it was handing my baby over to that nurse knowing where she was going.  I had to dig deep inside of myself and pull strength directly from the throne of God.  It took all the trust in my Savior that my heart was capable of. 

 God did not let me down. Once again He met me at my level of faith and gave me the assurance I needed to continue.  This time my peace came through a vision while I was praying. 

 In this vision, I saw Serenity laying on a surgical table and the doctor standing directly over her.  Throughout the room there were many angels.  There were two angels guarding the door, one for very nurse, one directly over Serenity's head and the doctor had two, one for each one of his hands.  I can still vividly see their angelic hands cupped over his, guiding his every move.

This served as a constant reminder throughout our journey, that we were not placing our daughter into the hands of  any mortal man, but rather directly into the hands of God.  God never makes mistakes!  We knew that our little Reni was well protected. 

                  

                              Our Miracle Confirmed...

 Needless to say, She sailed though the whole experience.  All most exactly to the very minute they said they would be through, the doctors came into talk to us. 

 The transplant specialist said, "We have terrific news, bad news and some more good news.  First of all the terrific news is…. we can't see any myopathy.  I know that it was there before, but it's NOT now.  I can't really explain it except someone just messed up somewhere. So that just throws the whole transplant theory right out the window." 

 I thought my heart was going to leap right out of my chest. Did he just say NO transplant? YES HE DID!  Thank you Jesus!  No one messed up anywhere quite the contrary someone did something right.  God healed our daughter!! 

Then the specialist  proceeded to tell us, "Okay now the bad news, the more she grows the more narrow the coarctation becomes.  In that aspect, she is getting worse and it needs to be repaired as soon as possible.  The good news is our transplant surgeon can do it on Friday." 

All of this news just completely overwhelmed us.  The surgeon came in to tell us why Serenity's repair would be quite a more extensive than usual.  Usually when they repair a coarc. they just go in through the side and basically cut out the narrow area.  That is the way they fixed mine and the way the other hospital would have fixed Serenity's before. 

However, this simple procedure would not have been enough repair for Serenity.  Her arch was narrow in two places, not just one, so they were going to have to go in through the front and completely reconstruct the arch using donor tissue.  What better surgeon for this than a transplant surgeon?  This would be a cake walk for him.  Suddenly I realized God's reasoning behind stopping so many surgeries before and leading us to that hospital.  

The doctors wanted to do the surgery on Friday, that was the door that had been opened, so we thought that we would just trust God to walk through it.   Meanwhile we stayed in town and just spent some well deserved time with our daughter.  Laughing, playing and enjoying being with her. 

We were a little dismayed because, Serenity was going to need blood for this procedure and we were not going to have enough time to give it and have it screened.  We just prayed about it and decided to trust God. 

A couple of nights before the scheduled surgery, I was laying in bed praying and I had this overwhelming feeling that God was going to cancel surgery again.  I woke up my husband once again and told him the news.  He was very supportive but basically thought that I was just in denial. .  At the time I thought, Okay maybe I am. 

The night before the surgery, my parents drove down even though the roads still weren't completely clear.  We spent most of the night just loving on her and praying. 

 The morning of the surgery we went down, checked in.  They stripped her down.  I gave her a pre-surgery bath.  The anesthesiologist came over and gave us his hour long what might happen scenario.  Then the surgeon's assistant came over to give us our last minute instructions, when she suddenly realized an oversight.  "Serenity tested positive for RSV three weeks ago?"  "Yes!”  I replied, we mentioned that several times before.  She did test positive but she had been placed on the synagis shots to prevent infection and she never had much trouble getting over it." 

 The assistant looked very concerned.  "Oh?”  she said, “We never schedule a surgery until at least six weeks from the time they test positive.  I'll go check with the doctor, but I'm sure he'll want to reschedule." I just looked at my husband and smiled that "I told you so" grin. 

Sure enough, they apologized for the oversight and then rescheduled her surgery for the day before Valentine's Day.   This gave us plenty of time to get second opinions and get people together for a blood drive. 

 Always trust God, He always lead us in the right direction. If we were to get angry or frustrated because of all these changes, we would have missed out on God's perfect will.  We do not have to understand the reasoning, we just have to trust God to take care of us and when we do, I promise you…. He WILL.


             The Surgery!

       
Surgery was schedule for February 13th. We arrived in town on the 11th.  We knew that it was a good possibility that we might be stuck in the hospital for awhile.  So we decided to spend the first night in a nice hotel away from the hustle.   As always, when you are going though a trial, God's favor follows with you.  We had seen this throughout our entire experience. However,  now more than ever. 

While Tom was in the hotel checking in, he began talking to the manager.  Now these people live in a town known for their pediatric and adult transplant facilities.  They hear a lot of sob stories on a daily basis.  But because of God's favor, ours stood out to him.  He wanted to do something to help us out.  Not only did we get the normal hospital rate of $53 for a room, over half off the normal cost and that includes a full hot breakfast.  But he also gave us a free upgrade to their nicest suite.  They treated us like royalty the entire visit. 

The good treatment didn't stop there.  Once we arrived at the hospital, we had to spend the day doing more tests.  While we were in the lab getting blood work done.  A lady who was there with her own child, came up to us out of nowhere and handed me a check for $100.  She said that she just wanted to help out.   When I began to study the check I noticed that there was scripture on it.  I knew she was being obedient to our Heavenly Father to bless us.  It was as if He was saying, "Fear not my child for I am with you." 

While waiting in the family room during her surgery, I held onto the vision God had given to me before.  Once again I knew that I wasn't trusting any man with the life of my daughter but I was placing her directly into the hands of God. 

 However, despite my efforts there were a couple of concerns that I couldn't shake.  The main one was the fact that Serenity would have to be placed on at heart and lung machine.  One of the most dangerous parts of the procedure was getting her heart to beat again on its own.  I was also dreading having to see her with the breathing tube.  I didn't want to have to see my baby living by machines again.  God knew this and because of His love, He answered my prayers. 

We received several updates throughout the surgery, but the one I most remember is the nurse calling to say that they were surgically finished and were attempting to take her off the heart machine.  She said to be patient because it could take awhile. 

 We immediately called our prayer chain to start praying.  Then in less than 20 minutes, the surgeon came out to tell us all went well.  She was fine and would be heading to recovery soon. 

  When I saw my baby for the first time afterward,  I could not believe my eyes.  She was breathing on her own. (a miracle in itself) She wasn't swollen hardly at all and besides the draining tube, she just had this very small bandage over her chest.  Our God is so very good! He delivers us from even our smallest  concerns.

                       

                             Less than 24 hours after open - heart surgery    

                               
                    A Slight Set Back

Two days later, we noticed that Serenity was having a hard time breathing again.  After examining her, the doctor declared that during her surgery the nerve that controls the function of one of her diaphragm muscles had been severed.  They were going to have to go in and tie that muscle down.

They were able to get her in right away.  The surgery went very smooth and very quickly.  However, afterward they explained to us that this procedure was a lot more painful.  Unlike the last time, They had to cut through several layers of muscle and when that tissue tries to heal it can sometimes be excruciating.  

We were very leery of having to give Serenity more pain medication.  We did not want her to have to go through withdrawals again.  However, all it took was Reni crying hysterically and looking up at me with her eyes full of pain as if saying, "Help me Mommy."  

There is nothing worse than watching your child suffer.  Mommies are supposed to be able to kiss those boo boos away.   We decided pain medication was the best thing for now. 

Our family and the day shift nurse, spent the entire day figuring out a system to help manage Serenity's pain.  After talking with the resident doctor we decided that for the first 24 hours the pain was going to be unavoidable.  It was better to just go ahead and set up a schedule to automatically give her medication to avoid the pain from becoming unbearable.  Then the following day we would return to giving it only as needed. This, we thought made A lot of sense. 

The resident doctor also told us, right before she left that Serenity would probably not be too interested in eating and not to be concerned about it.  I mean, she had just gone through a second major surgery in just a few days and was in a tremendous amount of pain.  Who would want to eat, right?  Another, well Duh! 

Evidently though, the night shift nurse was either not informed or did not agree with our logic.  From the time she came in she was giving us attitude, making me believe that maybe she was just having a bad day.  Regardless of the reasons, it still affected my daughter. 

 Once Serenity started to wake up  and get a little fussy, I looked up at the clock and noticed that it was time for her scheduled pain meds.  I called the front desk and asked them to tell our nurse.  By the time she arrived, an hour later, I had already settled Reni
down.

I told the nurse it was time for pain meds and very hatefully she replied, "She's asleep."  I answered her by I saying, "I know she's not in unbearable pain right now.  But why should we wait to get in  under control when we know that it's going to get that way?  I'm concerned that it may get to the point of excruciating before we do something about it. I do not want my daughter to suffer if she doesn't have to"  I then continued to explain to her the day we had and the plan that we had set up.  She scuffed, then stomped out of the room to retrieve the medication. 

A few hours later, Reni woke up and again started to get fussy.  Again, I called to the nurse and again she took her sweet little time getting there.  By the time she arrived Reni was in A lot of pain.  I had been rocking her and trying to soothe her.  But the nurse wasn't about to admit that she might have been  wrong.  Instead she pointed the finger at me and said, "Has she eaten tonight?" 

If it wasn't for my Christian beliefs I would have jumped right up out of that chair and KNOCKED her OUT!  I said, "No she has not eaten,  She is IN PAIN."  She scuffed again.  "Well maybe you should try feeding her!" 

 Now you have to understand, these are the people who are in charge of the well being of my daughter.  They have all the power when it comes to taking care of her. If there is anything you do not want to do, it's make them mad.  So I bit my tongue and reached out to God for help with my anger.  I answered. "Anyone who has every breast fed a baby knows that when they are hungry, they root.  They practically eat you up alive, trying to find that nipple.  I have been rocking her pressing her right up against my chest all night long and she has not one time tried to root, but I will try to feed her."  

She left the room and my heart cried out to God.  I sat there watching my baby cry, knowing that she was in pain and knowing there was nothing that I could do.  It was about all that I could handle.  Once again I called out to God for help. "Lord, please help my baby!  I know that you are a God that loves us.  You don't want her to hurt either Please Lord.  You suffered so that Reni wouldn't have to.  Take away this pain!!!"

                      

                            

I immediately felt like I needed to anoint her.  However, I also remembered that I had forgotten my oil.  My mind began to wonder back to the story of Jesus healing the blind man. Jesus spat on the ground then made clay and anointed the mans eyes with it. Then within my spirit I heard, "Spit."  

Wow, wait a minute now, I thought. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a girlie girl.  I do not spit nor would I ever think about doing it on my daughter.  But then I heard, "I am within you therefore what is in you is anointed of me, Now Spit." 

"Yes Lord."

I spit into my hands and anointed my daughter saying "By the authority I have through Christ, Pain Be Gone!"  Almost instantly she stopped crying.  After that I was able to rock her to sleep. 

The next morning my husband went to the head nurse and simply stated that we did not want that particular nurse to care for our child.  He did not go into detail, because we were giving her the benefit of the doubt that maybe she was just having a really bad day. Besides, God had taken care of our baby despite her failure.  However, somehow our request got back to her and she went into defense overload… Stating that I was trying to give my baby pain meds when she didn't need them because I didn't want to feed her. 

When we heard this, we actually laughed. It  was so far from the truth that it was actually very funny.  I have been breastfeeding for 10 years now.  Every time I get pregnant with one child, I am still nursing the previous child.   I have endured engorgement, sore bleeding nipples, bite marks, and Mastitis five different times, all so that my children could have the best possible nourishment.  I have never been accused of not wanting to feed my babies.

Regardless of the truth, the damage of her word had already been made.  Giving her the benefit of the doubt and not explaining our side of the story first, had come back to bite us. The entire staff believed her story and because of it, the surgeon now wanted to monitor Serenity's food intake.  We really were not angry.  He didn't know us and he was just trying to insure our baby's well being.  We went along with a cheerful heart. 

You see, when you are on the brink of a miracle, Satan will come at you with everything he can to bring confusion, strife, or doubt.  He wants you to lose your focus on the prize, for where these things are, God can not move in the situation.  We have to be very careful of the way we handle circumstances. 

For the next few days, Serenity refused to take the bottle, (she wanted mommy's nipple) We had to syringe milk into her with a medicine dropper.  They threaten to put a feeding tube back in and we did not want anymore tubes.  So we syringed and syringed until finally she threw up and the new nurse told us to stop because we were OVERfeeding her. 
          
                  
Complete Rocovery...

Serenity was released from the hospital again on February 18, just five days after her first surgery. Upon dismissal her surgeon reduced her medication to only Propranolol three times a day and Lasix once a day.

 We have since never returned to that city.We have scheduled all of our follow-up appointments with our local cardiologist.  He firmly stands with us declaring a miracle of God.  His nurse tells Reni's story to provide hope for others in similar circumstances.

A couple of weeks after returning home, he took her off the propranolol and then a couple of months later took her off the lasix as well. Our daughter is completely medication free! I had the time of my life pouring them all down the sink, as well as sleeping past 4 am. 
 
                 
Our Serenity Now!

Serenity is by far the most active out of our five children.  She is constantly keeping us on our toes.  God places a fight in the ones who he knows will need it later for survival.  Now once they are well, that doesn't mean that fight goes away.  As a matter of fact, I think it gets stronger with age. :) She has quite the little personality!

It has been almost two years now since I poured her medication down the sink.  She has had no problems since.  At her last check up, her Cardiologist said, "Go home, you're too healthy to be here!"  God is so good and He always remains faithful to His promises.

God directed our steps throughout our journey! He placed every person in our path. He orchastrated every detail, constantly reminding us He was in control. For this reason we bring Him Praise and thanksgiving!

God taught us to trust Him in ALL aspects of His healing power.  He miraclously delivered her from a disease that no man could cure and blessed us with wonderful doctors who served as His instruments using the wisdom He was given them. In doing so, He reminded us to rely on Him and Him alone as our source.  We are so very grateful for both! We rejoice in the love of our Mighty Savior!

 Serenity's name continues to prove itself worthy, For the peace surrounding her life continues to touch the hearts and lives of those struggling to find hope!  She is a Living testimony of that hope. The kind of hope we can only find in Christ Jesus!

 Jesus suffered to provide Healing For Everyone, regardless of the who they are, what they have done or, the circumstances surrounding them! No one is out of the Master's reach!  There is HOPE for every man, woman and child!  Our God is THE healer - The Great Physician! 

                           

                                    Conclusion...
 Well, that's pretty much our story, the condensed version anyway.  There is so much, much more that I want to tell, but it would take a book to do it.  I hope to have the time to finish writing one soon.   In the meantime Serenity continues to thrive and God continues to receive ALL the Glory! If you are needing direction in your faith or are just curious about ours, you can check out our faith page to see exactly how we believe.  We have included the scriptures we stood on with our daughter and how we exercised our faith. Please sign our guest book and feel free to leave comments or questions.    We would also love the opportunity to pray with you.  So don't be afraid to leave prayer requests.  But don't just stop there! Please come back and watch our little Reni as she continues to grow and declare the works of the Lord.  We try to update the journal pages often with pictures and fun details about our family. The sole purpose of this site is to give Glory to God, so that others may find encouragement. God is no respecter of persons! Whatever your circumstances, no matter how grim they might seem, Jesus came to deliver you.  What He has done for our daughter, He has already done for you.  So reach up to HIM and receive it.  :)

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