Yesterday, I began to share with you the dramatic story of baby Ethan, the son of our niece Cassandra. From the moment Ethan was born, his life hung in the balance. As promised, here’s the rest of what happened.
Fifteen minutes outside of Vero, Florida, Cassandra and Shawn received much needed good news: Ethan survived the trip to Miami’s Children’s Hospital and was in the operating room. A fresh wave of tears hit them as they reflected on the goodness of God. Cassandra told us, “God was so faithful. For me an entire new level of peace entered my life.”
Cassandra attributes that sense of peace to the countless prayers offered on their behalf by their church family–as well as people praying around the world. The news of Ethan’s fight for life was broadcast via the internet and the local radio station. They later learned that family, friends, and complete strangers were fasting and praying for their son.
Having grabbed the necessary clothes for an extended stay, they traveled south and arrived in Miami at 10 p.m. where they were met with complete chaos. Three cardiologists and a fleet of nurses hovered around Ethan’s room. They were informed that Ethan had just gotten out of cardiac cauterization surgery–not open heart surgery, which would be necessary five days later. He was very unstable and very, very sick. However, since there was nothing else that could be done that evening, the doctors urged Cassandra and Shawn to get some rest.
God gave them the grace to trust Him and to know that He had placed Ethan in the best physical hands possible. They headed to the hotel after a very long first day. For the next two months, Ethan remained in the hospital. His first open heart surgery occurred when he was just six days old–the first of three such surgeries. As you can imagine, there were good and bad days. One minute Ethan was stable. The next he was clinging to life.
At one point, the doctors announced that Ethan might never get off of the ventilator. His heart was stable, but his little lungs were in bad shape. Breathing on his own might not be possible. That’s when Cassandra hit rock bottom. She broke down, rushed to a small procedure room, locked the door and cried out to God. Would Ethan really never recover? Would He really take Ethan? Over and over she asked God, “the breath of life,” to heal her baby boy’s lungs.
Looking back, Cassandra views that moment alone with God as a watershed moment in her thinking. She knew she had to give Ethan back to God, just as Abraham had to give Isaac to the Lord. She had to trust that God knew what was best for their son. If Ethan died, she believed God had a higher purpose and reason for their loss.
In the days and months that followed, Ethan needed six cardiac cauterizations, all including angioplasties, three of which involved stents. At four months old, Ethan developed pulmonary vein stenosis for which there is no cure. Most babies with that condition die before the age of one. Then, in November of 2007, a clot the size of a marble was lodged in his left ventricle. After five months of blood thinners, the clot was gone. Talk about a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
Today, Ethan is two years old. Not only has he survived, I’m happy to report he’s thriving. He’s caught up developmentally and, to the untrained eye, you’d never know this handsome boy has endured so much. Cassandra calls him their Miracle in Motion. As Jean and I watched Ethan playing with our boys, we were reminded of the intrinsic worth of his life–and of every other child’s life.
Ethan may be just two years old, but he has made a profound impact on our family. During Cassandra’s visit our boys, Trent and Troy, who had prayed for Ethan for two years, took delight in carefully giving Ethan wagon rides in the driveway. The tender interaction between the cousins and the nurturing way Trent made sure Ethan didn’t fall out of the wagon brought tears to our eyes.
Sarah Palin said something after giving birth to Trig that I, having spent three weeks with Ethan, especially resonate with. Regarding her special needs baby, Sarah said, “Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges, and we feel privileged that God would entrust us with this gift and allow us unspeakable joy as he entered our lives. We have faith that every baby is created for good purpose and has potential to make this world a better place. We are truly blessed.”
I couldn’t agree more.