frail, blue baby who would be whisked away immediately.
But instead, I got to hold our little miracle in my arms for a
full 20 minutes. Todd kissed me then followed behind the
transport team to the cardiovascular intensive care unit. He
was still pink and gorgeous when they arrived in his new
room, and even the staff asked if he were truly an HLHS
baby. That was our first clue that he was going to show the
world just how strong he really was.
We were being prepped for our son, whom we named
TJ, to have a series of reconstructive surgeries to repair his
heart. The paperwork was signed, he was baptized, and our
prayers were being sent up. But then the surgeon came into
the room and, with tears in his eyes, informed us that TJ’s
only hope was a heart transplant. We froze. What?! No. This
was not the plan. The scheduled Norwood procedure was
canceled, and TJ was immediately listed for a transplant.
We felt completely helpless. Lost. We knew nothing about
any of this and had much to learn.
Well, that’s where the biggest lessons began. That very
day we felt the incredible peace of God’s arms around us.
We knew that, no matter what, He was with TJ. And with
us. And the nurses and doctors — the entire staff at the
hospital. God was right there. And I trusted Him. I had to.
Around 5 a.m. a week later, I was startled awake by my
cell phone at the Ronald McDonald House. It was the call.
The team had accepted a heart for TJ. This had been the
most difficult prayer I have ever made. Praying for a “new”
heart for TJ meant another child was going to die. Nothing
seemed fair. To this day I pray for the donor family.
Fast forward to just after the transplant — TJ was doing
great. We began to breathe again. The days flew by as
there was so much information to digest. So many meds.
And precautions. And germs — there were so many germs
to know about! But before long, we were able to take our
bundle of joy home. He was finally in the real world! The
birds were singing and the wind blew through his hair. It
was Halloween — my new favorite holiday.
TJ was hospitalized three times his first year, but his
team is amazing, and he was always okay. Nine years
passed with only a few speedbumps. Then, this past
September, he contracted hand, foot, mouth disease. He
got through that fairly well, but then it came time for his
annual heart biopsy. We were all set to go home afterward,
but they wouldn’t remove his IV. Something was wrong.
And sure enough, his cardiologist came in with a long face:
TJ was in rejection — his immune system had finally found
and attacked his heart. (The human body will never see a
transplanted organ as its own, so it will attack the “new”
organ when it is found.) His immune system may have gone
into overdrive fighting the virus. This was all new territory
for us. But again, we felt God’s love and knew our son was
in His hands. After a hospital stay, medicine change and
another biopsy, TJ came home.
Our doctors told us that it is inevitable that he will
experience a rejection again and that he will need another
transplant one day as his body will eventually succeed in
attacking his heart. But one of our greatest lessons is to trust
God. From that trust comes a certain indescribable peace.
The past 10 years have brought us immeasurable joy.
And worry. But mostly joy. I have our incredible son to thank
for teaching me about true strength and courage. He is
one amazing young man with a big, beautiful heart. We are
blessed beyond words.
Knowing that tomorrow is never promised and feeling
grateful for every yesterday, I thank God for the gift that is
Robin and Todd Resch with sons Donnie (l) and TJ (r)
We felt the incredible
peace of God’s arms
around us. We knew
that, no matter what,
He was with TJ.
And with us.