There Were People Praying

There Were People Praying

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

There Were People Praying

Wherefore it came to pass that my father, Lehi, as he went forth prayed unto the Lord, yea, even with all his heart, in behalf of his people.

1 Ne. 1:5

We were your typical LDS couple, married for less than a year and already expecting our first baby. We were ecstatic and joyful as we waited for our little boy to make his arrival. Based on how big I had gotten, we knew he’d be a handful, but little did we know what the Lord had in store for us. . . .

Andrew James Abbott arrived on June 5, 2001, after a long, difficult labor. After three hours of pushing, my doctor decided Andrew was not going to come out nature’s way, so we proceeded with a cesarean section. As the medical team lifted him out, I had five seconds of pure joy seeing his beautiful face for the first time. That was followed by 119 days of unbelievable pain, grief and shock as we struggled to keep him alive.

He was floppy and gray at birth, nearly unresponsive. He was rushed to the neonatal intensive-care unit, where they began a battery of tests to determine what was wrong with our baby. He had a few stable hours before things grew very serious. He was then taken to the operating room, where the surgeon discovered that all of his large bowel and 75 percent of his small intestine had been attacked by aggressive bacteria— and had to be removed. He was near death as the bacteria shut down his liver, kidneys, lungs and heart. We were horrified at this turn of events. I was now facing the prospect of selecting a funeral home instead of birth announcements. I’ve never felt such pain or sadness.

Several doctors told us we’d need to decide if or when we wanted to withdraw the life support that was keeping him alive. Was he suffering? If we kept at it, what quality of life would he have? Our bishop gave us permission to give him a name and blessing right there in the NICU. As my husband laid his hands on our precious baby’s head, the Holy Spirit confirmed to him that Andrew was a very special child of our Heavenly Father and his mission here on Earth may indeed be very short. We opted to keep the life support going and leave it in God’s hands. It was the best decision we’ve ever made. He survived his ordeal and has taught us more about gratitude and compassion than any book or lesson ever could.

Andrew was in the NICU for 119 days. He was on and off life support, and endured nine surgeries, unending pain and thousands of blood draws. He also required twenty-three blood transfusions, because his own blood was so toxic from the bacteria and its by-products.

I won’t lie and say that I never lost faith. I did. At times I questioned why God would allow this to happen to my sweet, innocent baby. At times, I prayed for God to let him die, let his suffering end. What kind of God would let this drag on for four months?

I’ll tell you what kind of God would do it: our Heavenly Father. He has unending wisdom, and His plan for each of us is not haphazard or random. He knows our needs. He knew that our baby needed to come to Earth to teach our family, our ward and the world about the strength of prayer and faith. You see, even when I was weak, curled up in a fetal position and so sad I didn’t want to be alive anymore, there were people praying for our miracle baby. There were people in holy temples who had faith in our Lord and who knew of our son. Word spread all across the country—people in our home ward called everyone they knew and asked them to fast and pray, and they did.

My visiting teachers never failed. They visited me at least once every week as I sat by Andrew’s isolette. They brought me healthy snacks because they knew I wasn’t eating. They prayed with me and for me. They cried with me. I felt the love of our Savior through these sisters. I will never forget all the kind acts that were bestowed upon us.

Ultimately, Andrew defied all the odds. He is now three years old—and unless you lift up his shirt, you’d never guess there was ever anything wrong. He was on IV nutrition and tube feedings for two years, but now eats a regular diet by mouth. He is tall and stocky and smarter than his old mom! He runs and talks and sings and smiles and lights up the world with his energy. Every medical professional that knows his story is amazed. His odds of survival were next to zero. His odds of being a “normal” kid WERE zero. But here he is, as normal as he can be. He goes to preschool, he colors outside of the lines and he loves to kiss his new healthy baby brother.

People ask me all the time, “What did you do? How did he turn out so great?” As if I had something to do with it. . . . It was purely God’s grace. He is the result of sincere prayer and faith. He is a walking miracle, and I have the unbelievable joy of spending each day with him. Through him, Heavenly Father has given our family gratitude that defies description.

Heather Abbott

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