I picked up Amanda, went home took out something for dinner, waited for Scott to come home and then left to Children's Hospital to drop off the baby's milk. I did a quick detour into the gift shop, grabbed a little bear for him and wrapped a rosary around the bear. I then went upstairs to see the baby. They had removed his eye patches and he was no longer in the incubator. His temperature was normalizing. We had moved a small baby step forward!
Two days went by and Angel was slowly improving. We were storming the Heavens with prayers and believing that God would heal him. The fluid in his brain had not increased, but had not decreased. His temperature was again normalizing. But his eye continued to secrete mucous. I called the opthamologist that afternoon with Maria by my side. He said he would order additional testing.
The following morning before I had left my house to begin my now common routine of driving 60 miles a day and going to the hospital, the phone rang. It was the NICU again. They wanted to know if Maria was going to the hospital on that day. I said yes that I was picking her up in about an hour or two and we would be there around noon. The nurse said, "You may want to come a little earlier. The opthamologist is here and wants to speak to her." So, again I rushed and headed out the door. I called Lucy from the car and told her to get Maria up and tell her that I was on my way. When I arrived, Maria was waiting. We hopped in the car and drove back to the hospital.
Upon arrival, the now familiar nurses we knew by name told us to wait and she would get the doctor for us. Within minutes, he was standing before us as we followed him into the dreaded conference room. We sat around the table and the doctor explained to us that Angel had developed a dangerous fungal eye infection. The infection was quickly spreading and that the hospital was not equipped with the care he needed. I immediately thought, "Wasn't it just over a week ago that we had heard those same words?" I was angry and couldn't help thinking, "What the hec good were these hospitals for if they couldn't ever provide the help needed." I turned to the doctor and said, "So, now what? You're moving him somewhere else?" He could tell I was very agitated and in a calm manner said, "One of the country's best eye institutes is The Bascom-Palmer Institute in Miami. If anywhere his eye could be saved and the infection can be stopped from spreading it would be there." I thought to myself, "Miami? That's over 2 hours away." Again, I took a deep breath and turned to Maria. I explained what the doctor had said and my questions to him, along with his response. She remained quiet. I'm sure at that moment her mind was as bogged with thoughts as mine was. Where would she stay? She was only 2 weeks post-op. How would she get there? What about my family? What will she do for money? So many questions and not one answer. The only thing we knew for sure was that the doctor was standing before us waiting for the OK to call the hospital in Miami to send a helicopter to fly the baby there. There was no option. Angel was heading to Miami, and so were we. We went into the NICU and said our goodbyes.
On the way back to Maria's, I called TGP and told the director, whom had no clue up to this point about anything, what had occurred. I told her I needed help. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. She told me she would arrange for Maria to stay at the Ronald McDonald house at the hospital. They provide housing and meals and TGP would pay the $11. per night that they required. She could stay there for up to 60 days. Maria had not yet received a release from her obstetrician to drive, therefore I would be driving her to Miami, checking her in and coming back to the west coast.
After packing everything up that she would need, we headed to Miami. We arrived at the hospital just after 9 p.m. The doctors had checked the baby and run all the tests they needed, but would not be able to meet with us until the following day. That night I spent at the Ronald McDonald house with Maria.
By 6:30 a.m., we were in the NICU again. The doctors made rounds around 8 a.m. and we wanted to make sure we didn't miss them. When we arrived, the nurse told us we would be seeing all of the doctors at once in a meeting that was being scheduled for late morning. Some tests results were still not in and they hoped to have them all in by then.
Almost all of the staff at the hospital spoke Spanish, which was a huge relief to both Maria and myself. One less thing to worry about when she's on her own, which I knew would be soon.
It took forever for our 11:30 appointment to arrive. As the group of doctors that included a neonatologist, a pediatrician, a neurosurgeon and an opthamologist gathered around the table we nervously waited to hear the news. It came fast and hard. "We're not able to save Angel's eye due to the extent of the infection. We need to perform surgery as soon as possible to remove it, cleanse the area behind it and administer antibiotics both topically and through his IV. If it spreads to the brain, it could be deadly." We both sat there stunned. He asked if we had any other questions. Maria gathered the strength to ask if there was no other solution. His answer was simple. "No, I'm sorry. If there were, trust me, we'd be doing it."
Next was the neonatologist. The baby's lungs were still very underdeveloped and they would be continuing the Surfactant treatment he was receiving to try and prevent his lungs from collapsing.
The neurosurgeon then pulled up his clipboard, reviewed some notes and said, "We must implant a shunt as soon as possible now. The fluid in his brain is not draining and it is beginning to put pressure on the brain." Again, silence from both of us. I couldn't even fathom what Maria was thinking.
Fast forward two days, both procedures had been performed. Angel's right eye was removed and a shunt was put in place. I returned to the west coast and Maria settled into the routine of living for the next 2 months at the Ronald McDonald house during the evenings and caring for her new baby at the hospital during the day.
I would travel to Miami about every 2 or 3 weeks or whenever a serious procedure had to be done to Angel. With some research and the help of some friends from my old hometown, we found Maria a great place to live within walking distance from the hospital. She also now belongs to a church community and has found genuine friendships with other Mothers of babies she met at the Ronald McDonald house during her two month stay there.
Angel slowly began thriving. Although he still continues to have some issues like a blocked shunt (which he just experienced two months ago) once in a while and some developmental and speech delays which he receives therapy for, he's a healthy and energetic four year old little boy.
Last week on one of my visits to Miami, I went to visit Maria and my precious Godchild, Angel. I was amazed at how big he was. He is in his last year of preschool and will be heading to kindergarten this fall.
Maria and I often talk about how God put us each exactly where he wanted us that very moment and how being obedient to what His call was has blessed us both immensely. We will forever have a friendship that was no doubt formed by God.
As to Maria's thought about her struggles with Angel's start in life, she continues to believe that Angel has "saved" her and that she would not know what path her life would have taken had he not come into her life. Those words are frequently followed by, "I don't want to know. I just thank God daily he's here." She truly treasures the gift God gave her. Angel's dad has completely remained out of the picture since her pregnancy, although they have spoken once or twice and he does know about how Angel's coming into the world came to be.
One thing before I end this, I just have to say that God has used Maria in a BIG way. If you have not had a chance to read the story of how God brought our baby, AJ, into our lives, please do so. Maria was "the friend" we visited who was watching a baby that led us to say yes to A.J.
And for God's glory, the most remarkable part is that the same baby Maria was watching that day we visited, was a baby that was going to be aborted. Maria asked God to use her to allow this baby a chance at life. She told the mother she would take the baby. Today that baby lives with Maria and Angel and calls her Mama. The birthmother has given her full power of attorney and since has left the country. Maria is now a legalized resident in the U.S. and is taking English classes and caring for her family on her own.
Now, the moment you've been waiting for. Are you ready for some "Angel"cuteness? MEET ANGEL!
Angel's preschool graduation picture last year.
(In case you're wondering, this tough little guy refuses to wear his eye prosthesis. :)
Admiring my adorable Godchild.
Total Angel Cuteness!
(The quality of this picture is terrible. It was taken with Scott's Blackberry.)
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