Monday, July 11, 2011
Max from the minimum
What a beautiful weekend in northeast Ohio. Aside from the perfect summer weather this weekend, there was more to celebrate. This past Saturday, I had the privilege of attending a first birthday party. Now, I have four kids so I have planned a few of these myself. I have been to quite a few of them that my friends and family had for their little ones who are crawling out of infancy and stumbling into toddler land, however this one was different.
You see, on July 7th of last year, my nephew Max was born at 24 weeks. He was a mere 1 lb 9 oz at birth and was the tiniest baby I had ever seen. This little man was a fighter from the beginning, and he had quite the haul ahead of him. As the story of Max unfolded, we braced ourselves as we had no clue how this story would turn out. Nothing could have prepared my brother and sister-in-law for this roller coaster ride that they were on. Anyone who has had or knows someone who has had a baby in the NICU knows what I am talking about.
Each day, we would receive updates from his mommy and daddy. It seemed as if the direction of the story would change from hour to hour. Each update would bring you either to a place of comfort and joy or fear and uncertainty. As I said before, baby Max was a fighter, and fight he did.
While in the NICU, Max endured heart surgery, eye surgery, a collapsed lung, an infection in his trachea, and he had a hernia which would be corrected later, just to name a few of his struggles. Max was not the only miracle during that time. I got to witness my brother and sister-in-law grow closer than ever, which I didn’t think was possible.
At the same time that my sister-in-law was on bed rest at MacDonald Hospital fighting labor, her father rested at home as he fought his final stages of cancer. Since Max was born the week her father died, my sister-in-law was released from the hospital one hour before her daddy’s funeral. Though saying goodbye to her father was tough, it helped to be able to be there with family and friends to comfort her.
The story of this now 20 plus pound Max has been so beautiful, however there is more to the story. My brother and sister-in-law had another son together a little over a year earlier while they were on vacation. His name was Jackson and he was born at 23 weeks. He tried to fight however; he only made it about an hour and a half and before passing away.
I was blessed to watch my brother and sister-in-law go through these trials with such trust and grace. I watched them take this situation and all that surrounded it and just hand it over to God, knowing He was in control. I watched them as they turned their pain and hurt into trust as they believe that Jesus holds Jackson now. I watched them stay so positive throughout this journey, knowing that all would be ok, no matter what.
To celebrate this year, my brother and sister-in-law decided to give back. They invited friends, family, and even the nurses who cared for him to celebrate. But in lieu of gifts, they asked for donations. All money donated was going to buy things for the families at the NICU. There are so many things you don’t think of as parents as you just prayerfully watch your child be cared for through the holes of an incubator. So they decided to take some of that frustration away by having these items available for the families. They have also started a website for the parents of preemie babies. This site will bridge the gap between what the doctors say and what that means for the baby and parents. It will prepare them for the emotional battle that they are about to embark on.
So as I sat at Max’s 1st birthday party, I was reminded of the entire year that he endured. I was reminded of all of the ups and downs, hope and confusion. I thanked God for the wonderful nurses at Rainbows as I watched them care for him yet again, playing with him at his party. And I thanked God for the amazing journey that my brother and sister-in-law are just beginning in their life with Max as a toddler.