I shouldn’t be here. Thirty years ago, I was dying, but God breathed life back into me. Why? Well, I’m not sure. That’s a question I’ll ask Him one day. But what I do know is that, from my first days, God has shown Himself faithful.
Life hasn’t been easy. I have experienced lots of uncertainty and disappointments, but God has never forsaken me or my family. Every scar on my body is a visible reminder of that truth.
My trials began the moment I entered this world in August 1988. What started as a celebration over a healthy baby girl quickly turned to concern as my parents learned that my heart was not properly developed. I was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia (a defective heart valve) and ventricular septal defect (a hole in my heart).
My parents were told they could take me home, but I’d need surgery within eight months. I can’t imagine how frightened they must have been in those early days.
A high fever sent us back to the hospital when I was only six weeks old. After days of testing, the doctors discovered that my pulmonary valve was closing. My condition was critical; I needed immediate surgery, but my oxygen saturation levels were too low. They couldn’t safely operate.
Momma will tell you that was one of the worst days of her life. She watched helplessly as the doctors tried to stabilize me. She says I held on to her pinky finger and never took my eyes off her.
Daddy was at work when he got the news, and he rushed to the hospital. Medically speaking, there was little hope for me, but Momma and Daddy started praying, asking God to save me. Momma says when they ended their prayer, there was a bright light over me, and my oxygen levels began to soar. God had breathed life back into me!
The doctors rushed me into surgery, where they inserted a shunt into an artery in my arm. My condition improved. Back at home, I did fairly well, though I still struggled to do simple things like crawling and walking. But I kept trying.
When I was three, I had my first open-heart surgery. A year and a half later, I had my second. These procedures greatly increased the flow of blood to my heart, and I grew stronger. My doctors predicted I could live into my teen years. At that time, there weren’t many children like me who lived to adulthood.
Growing up, I enjoyed a fairly active lifestyle. I cheered and even took dance. But on July 4, 2004, the summer before my junior year of high school, things changed. My heart rate soared, and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I was cardioverted. (My heart was electrically shocked to return it to its normal rhythm). Once stabilized, I was sent home.
On Labor Day, the same thing happened again. I needed a revision of the surgery I had had as a toddler. I should have had the surgery right then, but I was a junior in high school and didn’t want to miss school and not graduate on time. I especially didn’t want to miss being in the school’s pageant. Since I was a little girl, I had attended the pageant with my momma and dreamed of being in it myself. I was finally of age.
My doctors respected my wishes but told me I’d need to make some changes if I wanted to postpone the surgery. I’d need to be educated from home my junior year by a teacher who would come to my house. We developed a plan and moved forward.
A few days into the process, however, something incredible happened. My heart rate rocketed, and back to the hospital I went—again. My poor momma and grandma were in the room with me when all of a sudden, my heart stopped.
It was quite a scene when the nurse yelled, “Code blue!” Medical personnel ran frantically around me, but before anyone could do anything, I came back to as if nothing had happened. My heart was beating normally. There was no explanation. Interestingly, I’m told my youth pastor and his wife were praying for me right at that moment.
A few months later, I got to participate in our school pageant. It was a dream come true. It was so nice to feel like a normal teenager again.
Three days after the pageant, I had the revision surgery, my third open-heart surgery. My recovery was challenged by a seizure that left me paralyzed on my left side. Fortunately, the paralysis lasted only a few days and left no permanent damage. I’ve never had another seizure.
I wouldn’t want to go back to my junior year for anything. It was difficult. I just wanted to be normal, like the other kids, but the scars on my body were constant reminders that I was anything but.
I hated those scars. People can be so cruel. Kids from church teased me, calling my scars ugly and making fun of the extra water weight I retained due to the medication. Someone even told me that no one would ever love me because of my scars. Satan has often reminded me of that lie.
Their words and laughter pierced my heart in ways a doctor’s scalpel never could. There were many times that I just wanted to die. I remember telling my brother Dustin right before my third open-heart surgery that things would be so much better for everyone if I just died on the operating table. I felt like such a burden and an outcast.
Boy, did he get upset with me. “Don’t you ever say that again!” he yelled. “Things would not be better if you weren’t here.” But I didn’t believe him. Suicidal thoughts found their way into my mind several times. Thankfully, I never acted on them. I did harm myself in other ways though—especially through my eating habits.
I guess maybe I figured if I couldn’t control what happened inside my body, then I could at least control what went in and out of it. Thankfully, Dustin recognized my eating disorder and told my parents about my struggle. They wrapped their arms around me, kept me accountable, and helped me through it.
There’s one beautiful thing that came out of that time. God sent me a friend named Kevin. Unlike so many others, he looked past my scars to see the real me. We became close friends and eventually started dating. Eight months later, we were engaged. Like any soon-to-be-bride, I went into full wedding planning mode, but those plans were interrupted when my heart rate dropped to dangerously low levels. This new problem required a pacemaker.
I have to admit, I was tired of these painful, inconvenient medical interruptions. My future had always been so uncertain that being a wife had seemed out of reach for me. Now, the possibility of my wedding being postponed was crushing.
The medical staff told me this would be a simple procedure, so I decided to go ahead and have it done sooner rather than later. Simple, it was not. I contracted a nasty infection that slowed my recovery, but by the time our wedding date arrived, I was feeling normal again. On September 24, 2011, Kevin and I were married. It was the happiest day of my life.
A few years later, we bought our first home and began pursuing our dream to be parents through adoption—until a diagnosis of cardiac cirrhosis of the liver and possible liver cancer sidelined that dream. As you can imagine, this really stretched my faith. It was hard not to doubt God, not to ask Him why I always had to go through so much. But God gently reminded me that He had never yet failed to show His miraculous power in my life.
Kevin and I continue to cling to this truth as we wait for our dream to be parents to come to fruition. It’s been four years now. But you know what? My dream of being a mommy keeps me strong.
Every day, Kevin and I pray for our baby and his or her birth mom, whoever she is. We are already so thankful for her, and we don’t even know her yet! We trust that God, in His faithfulness and perfect timing, will bring us together. And it will be an answer to both our prayers and hers.
As you’ve seen, my life has often been marked with pain, disappointment, and uncertainty. And I’ve only shared a portion of my story. But every step of the way, God has supplied one supernatural intervention after another. He continues to breathe His life into me, and I am thankful, despite the trials and uncertainties.
Maybe you’re in a trial right now. Maybe your future is uncertain. It’s okay—don’t give up! God brings dead things back to life. He creates new things out of nothing (Romans 4:17). It’s not over; nothing is impossible. Look at me. I’ve lived longer than anyone expected, and incredibly, my heart keeps getting stronger with every passing year. The doctors are baffled!
Keep living. Keep pressing forward. Keep dreaming. And keep surrounding yourself with faith-filled people who will spur you on and remind you of the beautiful possibilities you represent. Finally, refuse to listen to the voices of the world and the voices within your own thoughts that speak lies.
God has not left you to fight your battles alone. He never will. Give Him your situation. Trust His heart for you and His timing. He is the God of miracles. †