Every Day With Her Was a Blessing

Heart Condition

The meaning of the name Isabelle is “Devoted or Consecrated to God”. I did not know this when my husband Rob and I decided to name our first bright eyed baby girl. Becoming pregnant was a surprise about a year after we had been married and the news came soon after some health challenges I had faced. Due to my high risk associated with Lupus, my pregnancy with her was under much observation and it was determined early on that something was wrong with her heart. At 18 weeks of pregnancy, we went to Salt Lake for extensive color-coded ultrasounds and even though a diagnosis could not be made, it was certain there was a heart-defect. At that time, my husband and I were young and inexperienced as parents. A doctor who we had never met came into our room and urged us to abort the child. She pressured, stating that since we were from out-of-state they could arrange for it to be done THAT day because in Utah, a woman is able to abort up to 20 weeks gestation. We had a bad feeling about this doctor and told her we would speak together and get back to her. We spoke with a few other medical associates asking many questions regarding the outcome of the pregnancy if we continued and there seemed to be many more positives than negatives even with a heart defect. Through prayer, education and our moral beliefs we firmly believed that keeping the baby was the only option. And what a blessing that was to us.

I progressed under the care of a physician and when my water broke three weeks early, I was put in an ambulance and driven to Salt Lake to deliver this bundle of joy. After forty-two hours of labor and exhaustion, our little girl arrived with chubby thighs and squeezable cheeks. She was amazing! I was able to touch her and talk to her for a few moments before they wheeled her away to the adjacent Primary Children’s Hospital where they immediately began to diagnose her conditionEvery. She had Truncus Arteriosis caused by a duplicated and inverted DNA strand. This is where a single blood vessel comes out of the right and left ventricles instead of the normal two vessels. In Isabelle’s case, a valve was not present in the heart to separate them and the body adjusted by combining the vessels.

A few days in the PICU led to a scheduled open-heart surgery at 5 weeks old and the implementation of a donor valve and separation of the vessels. She was 6 pounds when she underwent this surgery and the surgery was performed on Halloween of the year 2000. Halloween night, she coded and the surgeon rushed away from his family to come back to the hospital to open her chest back up and perform CPR directly to her heart, massaging it ever so gently with his fingers. She came back to life and stayed in critical care. A week later, she coded again. Other hospital parents had told us about a certain room – a room where staff took parents to tell them their child had died. They took us there. We waited and waited and were finally brought the news that they had resuscitated her again and that she was ok. She stayed in the hospital for 5 weeks with Rob and I by her side taking turns sleeping at the Ronald McDonald House and at the hospital. What a blessing to be able to be with her. After five weeks of recovery in Salt Lake, we were able to bring this wonderful little being into our home in southern Idaho and enjoy life as a family. We had a wonderful Pediatrician/Neonatologist that cared for her locally and we worked with Speech and Physical Therapists weekly. She was my little buddy and our pride and joy. We celebrated her first birthday with all of our family and extended family and took as many pictures of her as we could because we knew every day with her was a blessing!

As she got older, her body grew – and as we had researched, we knew she would need another surgery. The donor valve placed in her heart would not grow with her and it began leaking. We made the necessary arrangements and scheduled a surgery date to replace the valve. Appointments to Salt Lake were becoming normal again and the leak became worse causing pulmonary hypertension. Isabelle was placed on oxygen and under treatment to prepare for surgery. During this preparation time, I kept receiving thoughts in my head of the funeral arrangements I was to prepare for her funeral. What? This was not ok! This was not something I wanted in my head and I thought I was going crazy and denied these thoughts – pushing them away. But they kept coming! Yet as they came, peace followed. It was a cold Sunday morning – February 10th, 2002, when I noticed that Isabelle (16 months old) was not breathing easily and that something was wrong. It didn’t seem urgent, she was not in a critical state. Rob and I packed her up and took her into the emergency room as a precaution. The nurses and doctors called life flight in Salt Lake to come and get her because attempting to put an IV in this little one was near impossible. It only took two hours – two hours of her fighting her body and giving us last glances – and she was gone. There’s no way to describe what it feels like to be holding your whole world in your arms, and it’s gone.

It’s even hard to write about what happens after that. The silence, the business of the world around you fading away into nothing, people who love you chatting around you and you can’t hear them, the pain and most of all the loneliness. My little buddy was gone. I was five months pregnant with Valette (my second daughter) when Isabelle died and when she was born, she was my savior at the time. And a year later my third daughter Jenny lifted all our hearts with her constant joy and teasing personality. My husband and I received priesthood blessings the day Isabelle died, mine from my father and my husband’s from our wonderful bishop at the time (Rob’s parent’s were in Grenada on a mission). Peace came to us immediately with a knowledge that families can be together forever and that Heavenly Father has a specific plan for each of us. This knowledge and conviction will never leave us. The Lord above has a purpose for each of us, even for Isabelle. She remains in my mind as chosen for her specific purposes on this Earth and the fulfillment of her divine nature here was complete. Her name truly and literally represents its purpose as being Devoted and Consecrated to God. Rob and I were sealed to each other and to Isabelle in the Bountiful Temple in July of 2002, two weeks before our wonderful Valette was born, fulfilling sacred covenants to enable our family to return to Isabelle who I am anxiously waiting to hold and I know she is anxiously waiting to be with her mamma!

Story written by: Mary Cummins

This story appeared first on Real Imprints.