Today is our oldest son Peter’s birthday, he is 11 years old… Here is his birth story as well as my daughter Naomi’s story as told by my husband Norm ( written for a class autobiography ). I am using Norm’s words because as you will see there is much that I do not remember. I do know that God has had His hand on me and my children surrounding the births of our children.
Mary Jane and I had talked early in our relationship about the possibility of starting a family, and had even publicly announced several times that we did not plan on having children. We both felt that our individual family experiences and childhoods were so troubled that we were not comfortable with the thought of raising children of our own. In 1993, shortly before my graduation from college, we took a car trip to Rhode Island to attend a family reunion on my father-in-law’s side. The place was teeming with kids of all ages. I spent much of that week playing with them, teaching them how to play sports, and making them laugh. Being an only child with no cousins or other relatives, I had never had the experience of spending time with small children before. I had a blast.
During the long six-hour ride home from Rhode Island, MJ and I decided that we had made the wrong decision regarding children, and began a plan to correct our error. I knew that I wanted a better life for my kids than I had, starting with the house in which they would grow up. At this point we were still living in the same North Philly row house I had purchased years earlier, where I spent most of my childhood. Upon returning, we began looking into houses just outside the city limits, eventually settling into a small single home surrounded by lawn. Growing up in the concrete jungle, I never dealt with a patch of grass in my entire life: I bought my first lawnmower; we got my first dog.
We had the dog for about a year, and it had not died from abuse or neglect, which gave us the confidence to finally attempt to have a child. Six years into our marriage, Mary Jane was expecting our first child. We read all the appropriate books, and dedicated ourselves to a healthy pregnancy and delivery. We decided that Mary Jane would quit her job at CARDONE to become a full-time mom, and that we would live on my income alone.
When Mary Jane was in her eighth month, she called me at work one afternoon with some disturbing news: Her doctor had called and told her that some blood test results showed that her platelet count had dropped dramatically. Without an adequate supply of platelets, she would experience bleeding problems, being unable to clot. We were to report to the hospital immediately to deliver the baby which, the doctor told us, should solve the problem and cause her blood counts to return to normal.
That night our son Peter was born. Since he was one month premature, he had underdeveloped lungs, and initially needed to spend some time on breathing apparatus. It was Mary Jane’s condition, however, that had the doctors concerned. The delivery of the baby had not solved her platelet problem as they had predicted. Instead, it continued to plummet dangerously low into the range where spontaneous hemorrhaging occurs. Eventually, Peter was able to breathe on his own, and came home from the hospital several weeks before his mother did. Many friends from our church pitched in to help care for our newborn son and to allow me to visit MJ in the hospital each day. She was in the hospital a total of eight weeks, and had frequent follow-up visits with her doctors for more than a year, until they declared that her disease was in complete remission. We were overjoyed at MJ’s healing, but were saddened by the hematologist’s last piece of advice: He did not want us to attempt to have any more children, due to the risk of relapse.
We began investigating adoption, but found the costs could easily exceed $25,000, which was prohibitive. We returned to Mary Jane’s initial OB/GYN to ask for a reference so we could get a second opinion on the hematologist’s recommendation not to have any more children. The doctor who we were referred to gave us great hope, saying that relapse was highly uncertain, and that Mary Jane’s pregnancy would be considered “high risk,” and as such would warrant much closer observation than usual. This new doctor felt that if MJ’s condition should begin to show signs of deterioration, that they would be well equipped to handle her situation. After committing the matter to prayer, Mary Jane once again became pregnant, and again initially had an uneventful pregnancy, this time until her seventh month.
Two months before her due date, Mary Jane’s blood counts starting dropping again. Her doctors immediately admitted her to Jefferson hospital, and tried unsuccessfully for two weeks to keep her platelet count stable, holding off the baby’s delivery as long as possible. Concerned that her blood counts would continue to drop if they waited any longer, the team of physicians decided to deliver the baby six weeks early. After 16 hours of labor, our daughter Naomi was born the morning of June 13, 1999. Like her brother Peter, Naomi at first needed some help breathing, but within a couple of days was breathing easily on her own, even though she was born six weeks early.
Mary Jane’s condition was grave. The doctor who delivered the baby tried frantically to control Mary Jane’s bleeding without success. Her body simply did not have enough platelets to clot the bleeding on its own. She was given several blood transfusions and was rushed into emergency surgery in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Several hours later, the bleeding was stopped, but Mary Jane was in intensive care on a ventilator to keep her alive. Within a week, she was out of ICU and off the ventilator, but her blood counts had actually gotten worse. She had begun hemorrhaging, and again was taken for surgery.
I stood alone in a corner of the hospital, looking dazed by the rapid-fire trauma. A young doctor noticed me as he was walking by and began talking to me. I incorrectly assumed that he was going to try to make me feel comfortable, to tell me that things were under control. Instead, he looked me in the eye and let me know without hesitation that Mary Jane may not survive through the night. He told me that I would be wise to call her parents and have them fly out to Philadelphia. No one has ever spoken more devastating words to me in my entire life. He left me alone, wondering how I could raise two children on my own, planning my wife’s funeral in my mind. I cried out silently to God, pleading with Him to spare her life. I learned a short time later that Mary Jane was alive, but in a comatose state.
A new doctor had recently transferred from the Mayo Clinic, and was assigned to my wife’s case as an expert in her particular disorder. He began a new course of treatment that caused her platelet counts to slowly rise. She had regained consciousness and began to improve. After weeks of being bedridden, I spent hours with her in the hospital helping her struggle to her feet and regain the use of her legs. Standing upright and walking was difficult for her, and she was too weak to climb a few stairs, but together we worked on her rehabilitation. After 16 weeks in the hospital, Mary Jane finally was reunited with us at home. We spent another year in follow-up evaluation with the doctor, and he pronounced her in full remission of her disease, even though he was not sure why. We knew that her healing was nothing short of a miracle. God had heard my simple, clumsy prayer months earlier, and had given my wife back to me.