My husband and I always planned on adopting children. It's something we discussed while we were dating, and knew we would explore once we got married. The plan was to have two biological children then adopt two children. Though, as the saying goes, even the best-laid plans often go awry. We learned early into our marriage that having biological children would be difficult. Although we explored options to improve our chances of having biological children, we were still excited about the prospect of adoption. Eventually, we focused exclusively on family building through adoption and chose The Barker Adoption Foundation to guide us down this path. Through weeks of counseling and classes with Barker's Domestic Infant Program, we learned that the waiting period to adopt could take months or even years, so it was a complete surprise when we were matched with an expectant birth mother within weeks. Less than 2 months after turning in our profile book, my husband and I found ourselves rushing through the aisles at Target at 11 pm in search of pampers and pacifiers in preparation for our baby that would be born less than 24 hours later.
Life was moving at a breakneck pace, but time seemed to come to a screeching halt when Evan was born the following morning.
“It felt as though the world stopped spinning when I held him for the first time.”
Evan tested out his new lungs with coos and cries, and we could hardly utter a word, floored by the miracle we just witnessed and stunned into silence as our world changed in an instant. Since Evan was born a few weeks early he was quickly moved to the NICU. It was there, that we found out about his heart condition.
One of the NICU nurses noticed a significant heart murmur and requested follow up testing. The following day, a cardiologist meet with us and explained his condition. Evan had, Tetralogy of Fallot. His cardiologist, Dr. B, was so calm as she explained the details. She told us about the signs and symptoms, explained tet spells and the inevitable need for open heart surgery. She never appeared anxious or concerned, in fact, a smile never left her face. I will never forget her parting words to us that day, “If my child were to have a heart condition, this is the one I would want him to have. Don’t worry. It is extremely common and Evan will be fine.” I will always be thankful to Dr. B for the way she delivered this news. My husband and I understood the gravity of the condition but also had a sense of calm about it, we always felt Evan would be fine. Dr. B instilled that in us, gave us that confidence. Evan also gave us that confidence. It was evident from the start that he was a fighter. He pulled out his air tube and IV line in the NICU, seemingly determined to get out of the hospital. Satisfied with his progress, the doctors left out the air tube and IV line and discharged Evan two weeks later.
Once Evan was home we watched him closely, always looking for tet spells or signs that something was wrong. We followed up with regular appointments with Dr. B and Evan’s pediatrician to monitor his progress. As much as family and friends wanted to be there to support us, you could see the terror in their eyes when you said the words “heart condition” and “open heart surgery”. We love our family and friends, but most of our time with them was spent calming their concerns and explaining that Evan was fine. Armstead and I really did not rely on anyone except the doctors and each other during this time.
At nine months old, Evan had his heart surgery. Thankfully, the surgery went extremely well. Following surgery, he was supposed to
spend 10-14 days recovering in the hospital. By day 3 post-op he was playing around so much that he dislodged the IV line in his foot. He was very proud of his accomplishment but his nurse was none too pleased with his shenanigans. By day 4 post-op he was doing hip thrusts in the hospital bed which set off his monitors multiple times. The doctor came by a couple hours later, said she heard about the hip thrusts and declared that Evan was well enough to go home that day- or as Armstead tells it, "Our baby is part Wolverine with super-fast healing abilities and got kicked out of the hospital early!" Evan’s recovery has been uneventful since discharge. He had difficulty sitting and standing for about a year, but has since caught up with his age group and moves around great. He does not need medication or has any physical limitations at this point. Dr. B likes to say, “His heart is now as healthy as someone who never had a heart condition.” Evan is a true fighter and his feisty spirit helped him through the NICU, the heart condition and ultimately the surgery. As my husband says, “to show for it, Evan now has a cool scar on his chest to show how brave he was and what he went through.”
Evan is a happy and healthy, now 2 ½-year-old. He has a huge personality which is only surpassed by his even bigger smile! He is the ultimate jokester and the first one to laugh at his own jokes. As his daycare teachers say he is charming and has a personality larger than life. He loves trains, trucks, and books about trains and trucks! He also likes to play the piano like his favorite character, Johnny, from the movie Sing. Finally, he likes yoga and zumba thanks to his dynamic daycare class. We love reading books and watching movies together. On weekends, we walk to the neighborhood park or just lounge on our back deck.
We are so thankful that this amazing little boy is in our lives and it is hard to remember what it was like without him!
This beautiful family story and photos were submitted by our Barker parent Lisa for Heart Month 2018
Pictured: Evan, Lisa & Armstead