It was an uneventful first two months for my son, and I was a proud new mom. So when the doctor exclaimed at the two-month visit that my son had a heart murmur, I was stunned.
“Huh?” I exclaimed, looking down at my son's smiling face, his big brown eyes gazing back at me.
The next 10 months held twists and turns on a roller coaster ride of emotion. From one doctor telling us, “He'll get congestive heart failure and die; there's nothing you can do about it” to the cardiologist telling us, “He'll be fine, but he'll never play team sports” it was all I could do to hang on to my faith. But I believed God had plans for our son, plans that included growing up, and playing sports.
Now, why were sports so important? At age 1, our son was alive after surgery closed the hole in his heart. I was thrilled with that miracle. However, the week after surgery, something intriguing occurred.
We were sitting in a room on the Pediatric Ward at Duke University Hospital. The NCAA tournament was in progress, and Duke was successfully weaving its way through the playoffs. Excitement hung in the air!
My mom, an avid Duke fan, had the television on. At one point during the game, I glanced over at the hospital bed. There sat our son, mesmerized by what he was seeing. His little right arm and hand were positioned in a perfect dribbling stance, and he was wide-eyed with wonder.
I held that image in my heart for the next 10 years, as the emotional roller coaster ride continued. The cardiologist continued to proclaim, “no team sports!” Consequently, our son would cry himself to sleep many nights, because all his friends were playing basketball.
Finally, during the beginning of his 6th grade year, he announced, “Mom, I have to know if I'll ever play basketball. Please take me back to Duke.” So, we scheduled the appointment and made the drive.
The cardiologist, a compassionate woman, talked to our son about his hopes, dreams, interests... and basketball! She smiled with understanding, then looked at us and said, “Well, he's old enough. Let's do a treadmill test.”
After instructions about being allowed only to drink something before the test, my husband and son headed for the testing facility. I sat and waited and prayed. Was the emotional roller coaster ride coming to a good end? Or was it going to crash?
When they returned from the test, neither looked very hopeful. As a matter of fact, our son looked awful.
“Well, he got sick at the end of the test.”
My heart sank. This didn't sound good.
We sat down outside the doctor's office to await her decision. So much time passed, we thought she had forgotten about us. However, we soon heard a flurry of footsteps down the hallway, and when we looked, here she came, with others following.
Bracing ourselves, we all stood up to greet her, but she jumped into the conversation first.
“Where have you been?” she exclaimed, out of breath. “We've been looking all over for you!”
“Well, he got sick, so we came back to your office, to see what your thoughts were,” my husband explained.
“Oh my goodness! We went down to the testing facility when we got the news!” The doctor beamed. I didn't understand her expression. What news?
“I'm sorry I messed up the test,” our son began, almost in tears.
“Messed it up?” she responded, her mouth wide open. “Messed what up? You did GREAT!”
I couldn't believe my ears. What did she just say?
The doctor turned to face us both, and continued.
“Your son... oh my gosh, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen the written report... your son did way beyond what any other boy his age has ever done on a treadmill test!” She took a deep breath, and continued. “Play sports?? Yes, he can play sports! He needs to play sports, to keep his heart in shape! I WANT him to play sports!”
“HUH?!?” our son gasped, totally taken back by the doctor's good news.
Two days later, our son played in his very first team game, and sunk his first shot with a “swoosh!”
The roller coaster had returned to the station, safe and sound.
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