For months, I followed the story of a baby named Elliott, who was diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition. My co-worker is his aunt, so I felt a connection that way.
Updates would look good, and then seem really bad. Hope would appear, only to be snatched away again. Life support and surgeries and months passed and, finally, Elliott was better and preparing to go home.
And then the news came. They found an aneurysm on his aorta. And it was growing. His parents were left with an impossible choice. They could take their baby home, knowing that the aneurysm could (and would) burst at anytime and Elliott would die immediately. Or, they could agree to have surgery on Elliott’s heat to try and cure the aneurysm, but the odds of him surviving the surgery were only 20%.
The day they posted this news, I cried. How could parents be expected to make that choice? How could this be happening after all he had survived to get here? How would I survive if this was my child?
In the end, his parents chose to have the surgery. It was the right decision–I thought–regardless of outcome. They chose hope. And that’s the choice you have to always make.
The surgery was set for two days before Elliott turned 1. In the weeks leading up to it, his parents prepared to say goodbye. They planned a funeral. They had what would likely be his only birthday party. They took family photos. They soaked up these moments with their son. And, they asked everyone to pray.
So, pray I did. As did thousands of people around the world. For weeks, I begged God for a miracle. To spare Elliott’s life. To let hope win, against the odds.
The day of the surgery, I was a mess. I can’t imagine how people who actually knew him felt. I prayed a Flying Novena, meaning I prayed the prayers every hour on the hour 9 times. I bet you I checked my phone 157 times for an update. I cling to the knowledge that God could save him, all the while knowing that the odds said he likely wouldn’t.
I couldn’t get this photo of Elliott with his Daddy and Mama about to be taken into the OR out of my head. How did they say goodbye to their baby knowing the odds?
The first update was not good. An initial procedure they tried didn’t work. It was expected, but starting off with bad news was not great. We all kept praying. My Facebook wall was flooded with prayers from people who never met this baby, but whose hearts were touched like mine.
Hours later, another update. They got in. His chest was open and the aneurysm did not burst during that process. This, his father cautiously reported, was the portion of the surgery they were most worried about. A glimmer?
About 7 hours later, still no word. I kept praying. Kept refreshing. Kept feeling sick to my stomach. Some jerk in the comments said that no news must be bad news, making me want to deck him.
About the time I was ready to give up, a text came from my co-worker. Elliott was…in recovery. He had made it through the surgery. He had beat the odds. God granted the miracle for which we begged.
And I sobbed. Friends of mine who I haven’t seen in years and who surely didn’t know Elliott did the same when I relayed the news.
A week later, sweet Elliott went home with his parents.
One of my friends from law school said that this–Elliott’s story–had changed her. I couldn’t agree more. I was reminded of the importance of always choosing hope. God used this as a reminder of the importance of interceding for each other, even for people we do not know.
My prayer life changed. My heart changed. My soul changed. The world seemed to change.
God answered our pleas. When the odds said He wouldn’t and the science looked bleak, He stepped in. Being even a small part of this was, well, it was being a part of a miracle. God didn’t need us to do His will, but he allowed us to participate in a miracle with Him.
A person can’t leave something like that the same. Thanks be to God.