2012 was a rough year for our family. The struggles started in January when our youngest child Apollo, was diagnosed with a rare heart defect; a double aortic arch. He was 18 months old. He had struggled with his heath from the beginning, but none of the doctors he saw could figure out what was wrong. We were told it was everything from reflux to allergies.
Apollo’s diagnosis was just the beginning of the challenges we would face that year. Initially we were told he’d have one closed heart surgery and be on his way to a healthy childhood. That’s not the way it went, though. Six weeks after his heart surgery, Apollo was still struggling to eat and had a g-tube surgically placed in his stomach. The local Children’s Hospital is 100 miles from our house, so it meant none of his siblings could visit, or see him in the hospital. Every appointment (and there were nearly two dozen that year) meant a day long trip down to the hospital. Sometimes I took all of the kids, sometimes just a few. These were always long, hard days, no matter which option I chose.
Apollo celebrated his second birthday, still weak and sick from his two surgeries. Throughout the summer we learned of complications from his surgery and knew we were in for the long-haul when it came to his health. After countless hours of research we decided to have Apollo’s next surgery, halfway across the country in another state.
We had ten children at home, the oldest was 16. How in the world could we take Apollo out of state for the surgery he needed?
How could we not?
If ever we needed to come together as a family, it was now. First, we enrolled all of the younger children, who had always been homeschooled, in our local public elementary school. The first day of school, six year old Tucker marchedright up to his teacher, looked her in the eye and said, “I’m only here because my baby brother has a heart defect!”
Next, we talked to the pastor of our church and arranged for volunteers to come out to our house from 4 o’clock in the afternoon (just before our children got off the school bus) until 8 pm. The volunteers brought dinner, played games with our kids.
Our teenagers took over and ran the house. They did laundry, made breakfast, and got their younger siblings on the school bus. It was a challenging time for our entire family. Thankfully, my husband only had to be gone about 10 days. He headed home three days after Apollo’s surgery, while me and our 14 year old daughter, Tilly, stayed in Texas with Apollo.
It was a rough time for everyone, and I wouldn’t want to relive any of it, but it showed us how capable our teenagers were, how flexible our younger kids could be, and how strong our family was.
When Tilly, Apollo and I returned from Texas we were greeted by a houseful of happy children. They were so relieved to see their little brother. They were happy to have mom back. My teens were happy to pass the responsibilities of meals and laundry back to me.
Looking back to three years ago, my kids now have happy memories and playing games with the couples who came to help out with our family. Time soothes so many wounds and traumas. Now five years old, Apollo is well on his way to healthy childhood. Our family is strong, even in difficult circumstances. With faith in God, team work and some good friends, we were able to make it through an extremely difficult time.