Zach was born on May 11, 2010. Soon after his birth, it was apparent that something was very wrong with him. He was unable to keep his ammonia levels down. After being admitted to the NICU at Children’s, it was discovered through genetic testing that Zach was missing an arm of a chromosome. This meant he was missing a very important part of the cycle needed to break down protein, that he would have retinitis pigmentosa (degenerative disease of the retina leading to blindness) and have x-linked mental retardation. The only way to truly fix the ammonia issue was through liver transplantation since high ammonia is not compatible with life.
In order to receive an organ transplant you must be able to provide a stable environment for the child, and at the time his biological mother was unable to do this. DHR became involved, and Zach was placed in foster care. Around the same time as Zach’s birth, John and I began heavily feeling the call towards orphan care. We were unsure if it meant international adoption, foster care, or maybe even domestic adoption. We started praying that God would show us exactly the path he had in store for us.
A few months went by, and Zach was stable enough to be moved out of the NICU and into Special Care. I still remember the first time I ever took care of him. He was so grumpy because his ammonia levels were so high. I really didn’t feel any connection at all to him. I was merely completing my nursing task of taking care of my patient. Well...I kept being assigned to take care of him, and my heart just starting connecting with his. I started going at night to rock and bathe him. The bond started growing stronger and stronger. One day one of his genetic doctors jokingly said to me, “Want to take him home so he can get a transplant?” She had NO idea the seed she had just planted. You see, John and I had decided that God was indeed calling us into foster care. We had started the classes in August 2010 along with four other couples. Honestly, our plans were to foster one healthy, younger child.
Our lives would stay the same, and we would be obeying God’s calling for our lives. We were in for a rude awakening!! I came home from work one day, and casually asked John what he thought about praying to take Zach home. He agreed, and I got in touch with several social workers to let them know we were considering doing this.
We were told that it wasn’t going to happen. We moved on. I still remember so clearly getting ready for work one morning, and God just telling me to pray for Zach. I got down on my knees in my bathroom and wept for him. I asked God to please direct his life, and if it meant us being his caregivers, to make it happen. Honestly, I was a little on the demanding side!
Exactly one week later, a social worker at Children’s came up to me right as I was getting off work, and told me DHR had called...AND they wanted US to foster Zach. I am really not sure what my reaction was. It is a blur. John was in Haiti on a mission trip, and I had to tell him over a breaking up cell phone call. I’m sure he was in quite a state of shock! He got home, and we started the process with the transplant team of being able to list him for his liver.
On October 20, 2010, I was rocking Zach to sleep, and the transplant coordinator left a message on my phone to call her. I called back, and she didn’t answer. I called John, and we decided there was no way it was about a liver being available. Well, next thing I know she is standing at his bedside and tells me to get ready because there is a possibility that he will be transplanted. I ran home, got bags packed, and arranged care for Sallie and Luke. Our friends and family will never understand what their support through this meant to us.
John and I headed up to UAB, where we were in a private room with Zach for the night. The entire thing was just insane at the time. The next morning he was taken back to the OR. We sat in the waiting room for 10 hours with his biological mom and a DHR social worker.
This is a day that will forever be etched in my memory. The transplant was a success. Three weeks after transplant and several complications later, we were able to take Zach home just in time for Thanksgiving. We began adjusting our lives to a family of five. Zach was precious, and our family was so in love with him
It has now been over two years since we brought Zach home. He has had such a difficult path post-transplant. Nothing has really gone his way, and at times I have been so angry with this. However, I know God makes NO mistakes, and every hurdle and obstacle he has faced is preparing him for much bigger things in life.
We were able to legally adopt Zach on May 23, 2012. This is one of the happiest days of our lives. Zach would now have a forever family! We also found out this week that... SURPRISE... I was pregnant! Nothing about this journey has been easy for us, but why would we ever expect it to be? Satan fights what he doesn't like with all he has. We know who wins though! We have gone through some dark times, but through prayer and faith in God, we have been able to push ahead.
Currently, Zach is very stable from a transplant perspective. His liver is working great, and he is just full of life. He is very involved in Early Intervention, and the progress he is making is truly amazing. He is a walking, talking miracle.
Without the selfless decision of another family to donate their loved one’s organs, Zach would not be alive. This past month we were able to meet this family, and spend a day with them.
Zach’s donor was a 22-year-old boy named Josh. Josh was also a special needs child. He was born with spina bifida and faced many obstacles in his own life. His family was so precious to us. This is an exert from a letter that his sister, Brianna wrote to us.
He was handicapped but that never stopped him from doing anything in this world. I like to believe God put him on this earth to make people realize that just because something is wrong with someone doesn’t mean that they can’t do anything in this world. JOSH DID. He made people realize what faith and love is supposed to be. After he was done with his purpose in this world, God wanted Josh to be with him. I do believe that.
This is an exert from a letter from his Aunt, who raised him after the death of his mother and grandmother.
Josh also had a great love for God and wanted to share that love with everyone he met. Josh always made us laugh and reminded us constantly that LIFE WAS FOR LIVING! You see, Josh was born with many physical challenged but he never let them slow him down.
It is no mistake that Zach and Josh had so much in common. God was able to shine in Josh’s life as he overcame obstacle after obstacle. God is now doing the same in Zach’s life. He just keeps carrying him through each trial that he faces. He is defying odds, and that is only because of God’s power. This week our little miracle turns three. I couldn’t be prouder of him, and I just look at him in awe for getting up every day and pushing himself as hard as he can.
May is also national foster care month. Without saying, “yes” to fostering, our lives would look so very different. I can’t, nor want, to even imagine it!
We have also had the privilege of caring for another medically fragile child, precious twin girls and currently a rock star three-year-old girl. I pray that our story brings glory to our heavenly Father, and that if anyone is feeling led at all towards foster care that they would earnestly seek God’s direction in their life. It is truly a picture of the Gospel, and what our Heavenly Father has done for us. REDEMPTION!