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Today (February 19th) is Emily’s 20th birthday! I cannot believe that our daughter is twenty years old! I have not shared much about Emily in this blog other than to say that she is away at college. Her arrival in this world is a somewhat unique story that I want to share. Many of you know some of the story, but most of you don’t know how Emily’s birth profoundly changed our lives, mine in particular, and not necessarily in the cliched way that one may think the birth of child changes a new parent.
First of all were the circumstances surrounding Emma’s birth. Vicki was more than 8 months pregnant when the infamous Ice Storm ’94 slammed into Memphis. (As it turns out, the night the ice began to hit here, I was stuck in Dallas dealing with the same icy weather.) We were without power for almost a week. Vicki was a bank branch manager and had to go to work regardless of the conditions. Needless to say, it was a crazy and extremely stressful time for us. As our power came back on and things began to get back to normal, Vicki kept complaining of back pains and just not feeling “right.” We finally saw her ob/gyn who told us that her water had broken, and we were going to have a baby in the next 24 hours!
Now our world was really getting turned upside down. We went to the hospital late Friday evening – Vicki was having serious labor pains at that point, and she spent almost the next twelve hours in labor. She was exhausted when Emily was finally born. (I was pretty tired, too.) Everything seemed to be okay as Vicki rested and Emily was in the small incubator near our bed. The neonatal doctor came in, did his examine, and matter-of-factly said he wanted to take Emily away to do some tests. We were so tired we didn’t think anything about it.
After a while, however, we started to sense something was not right. The nurses kept coming in to check on us and they kept saying things like, “Oh, they’ll be right back with the baby. The doctor just needs to check on one more thing.” The neonatal guy finally came back and basically said that Emma wasn’t “pinking up,” and he wasn’t sure why. He called a couple of specialists who were on call that day – thank God – along with our ob/gyn. Even though it’s been twenty years and a lot of these memories have begun to fade, I still remember – even now with so much dread – Vicki’s sad, sad face lying in that bed. She began to cry. I couldn’t believe this was happening to us…it was just one more incredible thing to pile on top of the ice storm and twelve hours of labor.
Stuart Birnbaum was a pediatric cardiologist, and, at the time, one of a handful of pediatric heart specialists who specialized in genetic heart defects. We, Vicki and I, still believe – even when our faith continues to be tested, even when I have this tenuous relationship with God, even at the worst of times – that we were meant to be in Memphis, Tennessee because of Stuart Birnbaum and the surgeons at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
|Recent pic of Emily playing in the snow at Maryland.
Dr. Birnbaum, who sadly died in a car wreck many years ago, quickly and gently explained to us what was wrong with Emily’s heart. Emily had transposition of the great vessels, a genetic defect in which oxygenated blood does not cycle back into the body like it is supposed to.
Thus began our unimaginable three-week journey of getting our daughter to remain in this world. The journey continues to this day – 20 year later – as Emily has annual and bi-annual heart check ups. She wears a reminder of her surgery – only five days old! – with a scar down the middle of her chest. Otherwise, she’s a normal, happy – sometimes – college student, who makes her parents proud each and every day.