A Match Made in Heaven

A Match Made in Heaven

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

A Match Made in Heaven

There is nothing the body suffers that the soul may not profit by.

George Merideth

I scrubbed and gowned while my OB-GYN colleague explained the situation to me. A first-time mother carrying twins had gone into labor three months before her due date; all attempts to stop the labor had failed. As I entered the delivery room I noticed the father tenderly supporting his wife while she prepared for the delivery.

The obstetrician looked up at me strangely, then handed me an object as the father looked on. It was a tiny arm. Within seconds out came Twin A, crying and noticeably premature. I quickly took the baby to the bassinet, gave him oxygen and assessed his status. He was working to breathe. I was certain that with this degree of prematurity he would suffer hyaline membrane (a lung disease affecting premature infants). I left Twin A with a nurse and returned to receive Twin B, also vigorously crying. The only obvious deficiency was the absence of his left arm.

The twins were taken to the neonatal nursery. Chest X rays revealed moderately severe premature lung disease, requiring high oxygen support. After the twins had been stabilized, I finally had a chance to talk with the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold. We discussed premature lung disease and the potential complications, and how the first forty-eight hours were very critical in their care and prognosis. Then I addressed the issue of the absent left arm.

I explained that when an appendage of the baby in utero pokes through a developing membrane surrounding the baby, the membrane closes back again, amputating the limb or digit. The Arnolds’ responses to these grave conditions were full of hope, and I was struck by their strength of character. They remained strong through the next several days, lovingly encouraging their twins, Mathew and Jonathan, as the babies suffered complications.

The twins responded well. It was a joy to see them finally go home without any residual effects from their premature birth, such as permanent lung disease or brain damage. The Arnolds continued their dedication to their children, immediately exploring different prosthetic options for Mathew. Mrs. Arnold phoned and researched many sources to find out when and how a prosthesis should be utilized with a growing child. She read voraciously. She made contacts all over the world, trying to find the most knowledgeable individuals to help Mathew. It was an honor to witness this mother’s love, trying to solve this child’s special challenge.

Two years later our family moved to the Midwest, but Mrs. Arnold still kept me up to date on Mathew’s progress. About ten years later, while I was working as a pediatric radiologist at a children’s hospital, I met the Sanders. They had just adopted a six-month-old infant from Korea. Baby Billy had a swollen elbow, the result of a tumor in the elbow joint of the right arm. A biopsy revealed a malignancy, and because of the extensive involvement of the joint and bone, amputation above the elbow was the only possibility for complete cure.

Once again I witnessed the love and fortitude of caring parents. Right away, Mrs. Sanders set out to find all about the prosthetic devices. I knew Mrs. Arnold had thoroughly investigated this problem. It was an easy connection to make. The two mothers communicated by phone and by letter, and I know their connection became a tremendous support for both families.

Later, I learned that young Mathew began to write Billy encouraging letters. Mathew had become an outstanding young man, both academically and athletically. He participated in all sports, and excelled in basketball and soccer. In his letters, Mathew offered Billy helpful tips on shoe tying and tree climbing, and ways to respond to public stares. As Billy got older, Mathew became a very important role model.

One summer when Billy was five years old and Mathew was fifteen, the Arnolds took a cross-country vacation, which brought them through our city. We held a three-family picnic in our backyard. It was touching to see young Billy meet Mathew, his longtime hero and role model. I saw Billy on the sideline, awestruck as he watched Mathew play basketball, and I could almost see the wheels turning in his head: “Wow, if he can do that with one arm . . .”

At the end of the day, we were all sitting around the picnic table and I was saying what a blessing it was for the families to have found each other, and for Billy to have come to know Mathew. It was clear to me that problems surrounded by love become blessings that reap more of the same.

As we were talking, everyone noticed that Billy’s and Mathew’s absent arms were side by side. Billy looked around at everybody and said, “Yep, I guess we’re a match made in heaven.”

Everyone laughed—with tears in our eyes.

James C. Brown, M.D.

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