Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Walk (07/20/06)
TITLE: The Greatest Gift
By Ann FitzHenry
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Stunned, my husband kneeled by my bed. “Ben’s having trouble breathing,” he stammered, “but it’s going to be okay.” As my heart ached to believe him, my mind knew the truth. Our baby boy, born weeks too soon, had a small chance for survival. When the medivac helicopter landed, the chopping of the blades shredded the remaining pieces of my heart. With hollow looks on their faces, the nurses continued making preparations. Ben, only hours old, faced the most important flight of his life.
Arriving at the university hospital, the doctors and nurses battled to save my little boy. As word spread in the maternity ward, I soon became known as “that mother.” Walking the halls, snippets of Ben’s diagnosis played in my mind. “Ben suffered oxygen deprivation at birth,” the doctor said. “He has a high likelihood of brain damage. The extent of his injury is unknown at this time.”
When he was released from the hospital three weeks later, I entered the sleepless world of new motherhood. In a state of disbelief, I read baby books and tried not to think about the future. Over the next few months we watched, waited and prayed.
At Ben’s six month checkup, the pediatrician showed grave concern at his inability to roll over. Diagnosed with severe developmental delays, the verdict was in. Like an executioner swinging an axe, the doctor handed down her sentence. “He’ll never walk,” she said. With three little words, Ben was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Thrust into a flurry of doctors’ visits, Ben endured countless evaluations. At seven months old, he failed every test. After one particularly grueling session, the doctor peered over her glasses and sniffed, “According to my medical books, Ben has the physical capabilities of a newborn.”
“My baby hasn’t read your books.”
Unimpressed she continued, “Our goal is to establish as much mobility as possible. It’s unlikely he’ll ever crawl let alone walk.”
Enrolled in an early intervention program, Ben attended weekly sessions focused on balance, strength and coordination. Over the next year, I grieved over the child I was supposed to have. In utter despair, I boiled with hurt, anger and blame. From morning to night, I couldn’t stop hoping for a miracle.
As the cool breezes of autumn turned into the frigid winds of winter, Ben continued to fall behind. With a lump of coal in my heart, I grudgingly set up the Christmas tree. “No reason to celebrate this year,” I thought.
One evening while Ben played on the floor, I cupped his tender little ear in my hand and told him my Christmas wish. “Honey,” I whispered, “I pray that someday you’ll walk.” On a quiet night a couple of weeks later, Ben seemed to play with exceptional zeal. Scooting to the couch, he clawed his way up and pulled to a stand. With a mischievous look in his eyes, he let go! Perched on his toes, he teetered around the living room for the first time. Flashing a toothless grin, Ben experienced freedom he had never known. With tears streaming down our faces, we witnessed a miracle. When he finally tumbled onto his diapered bottom, our cheers reached the sky. Like a most valuable player, my husband hoisted Ben on his shoulders and paraded around the room. Laughing in triumph, we beamed with pride.
Even though Christmas was days away, Ben had already received his gift. Wrapped in the special joy of the holiday season, God answered our prayers. For one little boy, walking with God became the greatest gift of all.
*Dedicated to Ben, my every day miracle. Now an active three-year-old, Ben doesn’t walk: he runs! :-)
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