Today, there is no talk about food allergies or recipes.
Instead, I want to share a story about a little boy who has inspired everyone who knows him and is, in every possible meaning of the word, an absolute miracle. It is the story of the amazing John Birtch – the son of some of our closest friends.
John was born November 30, 2005, 16 weeks too early, at only 24 weeks 5 days gestation due to a bulging bag and prolapsed cord from an undiagnosed incompetent cervix in his mom. He only let out a tiny cry before he was handed to a team of Neonatologists and level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses. He weighed in at 1 pound 8 ounces (680 grams)and was about 12 inches long – picture the size of a ruler.
Nothing prepared any of us for the roller-coaster that John and his family embarked on on that November day.
I remember anxiously awaiting all of the updates that Jill, Jamie, and the family would send out.
Some were of good news. “John opened his eyes!” Or, “He gained 5 ounces!”
And some would make your heart sink into your stomach. “John has Necrotizing Enterocolitis, (or NEC – a condition where the intestines become infected and can begin to die) and has to have emergency surgery to save him.”
Some would cause you to stop breathing for a minute while you let the news of what you were hearing sink in. “John has a grade 4 bi-lateral brain bleed and will have long term disabilities.”
But, after fighting for his life and overcoming every difficult obstacle possible that a micro-preemie can face, John Birtch amazed every single one of us. On March 20th, 2006, weighing in at 6 lbs 10 ounces, and measuring 18 inches long, he left Phoenix Children’s Hospital after calling that NICU “home” for the first 110 days of his life.
Since then, this little miracle has shocked, impressed, amazed, and astounded every one of us. He has accomplished every single milestone that his doctors told his parents he would not ever do. He is a fighter and just never gives up.
And although they do not ever really admit it, John’s parents and grandparents have been a HUGE reason for this as well. They have been ultimate crusaders, working tirelessly with him on his therapies and exercises.
And, for all of my healthy nutrition-minded readers, John’s mom, Jill, would make every one of you so very proud. Because John has been on a feeding tube, she has blended the most most amazing concoctions for him every single day for the last 5 years – she has packed them full of organic greens, vegetables, fruits, flax and fish oils, raw nuts, vitamins, and more. They are jammed with more nutrients than any of us could ever imagine getting our children to eat occasionally, let alone every single day. His brain has been fed with such nutrient-dense foods over the years that he has absolutely thrived and stayed so incredibly healthy! Another testament to what nutrition can do.
If you saw him today, you would never realize, or even believe, the dire prognosis that this little angel was given five years ago. Just watch this montage of his progress over the years. You, too, will probably have a tear stained face and be at a loss of words as you watch the journey of this little guy who was never thought to walk, talk, smile, or even recognize his parents.
And, a while ago, John’s mom, Jill, wrote a poem describing her feelings about her roller coaster of emotions that she went through on her blog.
With her permission, I am sharing it with you guys here. Get a tissue out first, though.
Imagine being told you were pregnant after having a miscarriage the month before.
Imagine hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
Imagine being air-vaced to the ER at 24 weeks pregnant , thinking that you have lost your baby.
Imagine being told that you are about to have a C-section, but don’t expect your baby to come out crying.
Imagine lying on an operating table feeling helpless because there is nothing you can do to help your baby.
Imagine your baby being born the size of a ruler, weighing a pound and a half.
Imagine your baby being 100% dependent on a machine to live.
Imagine your wedding ring fitting on your baby’s arm, loosely.
Imagine not being able to hold your baby for weeks.
Imagine getting a call from the doctor at 3:30am because your baby has an air leak in his lungs.
Imagine looking at your baby , praying to God, that he will live another day.
Imagine not being able to breath every time the phone rings.
Imagine your baby having life or death surgery when he is only 8 days old.
Imagine watching your baby being prepped for surgery, not knowing if you will ever see him alive again.
Imagine hearing that your baby has a grade 4 bi-lateral brain bleed and will have long term disabilities.
Imagine a doctor encouraging you to take your baby off life support because his quality of life is uncertain.
Imagine praying to God that the doctors are wrong.
Imagine loving your baby so much that their diagnoses means nothing to you.
Imagine crying your self to sleep EVERY night.
Imagine having a baby but going home without one.
Imagine what it feels like not knowing if your baby’s next breath will be his last.
Imagine going to the mall, too afraid to buy baby clothes, because your not sure that your baby will live to wear them.
Imagine bringing your baby home, but you can’t take him anywhere because his immune system is too weak.
Imagine being woken up by the sound of your baby’s heart rate monitor going off.
Imagine pumping every 2 hours because you know breast milk is the best thing for your baby.
Imagine the feeling of hopelessness when your baby will not eat.
Imagine having to feed your baby through a feeding tube.
Imagine trying to stay sane while all this has taken place.
Imagine having a micro preemie.
Can you imagine?
I cannot imagine. Can you? But for the very reasons that Jill talks about here, we have joined Team John in the March of Dimes March For Babies walk every year for the last five years. This weekend will mark another year of helping to raise money for the more than half a million babies born too soon each year. The money we raise supports programs in our community that help moms have healthy, full-term pregnancies. And it funds research to find answers to the problems that threaten our babies. These walks have been going on since 1970 and have raised an incredible $2 billion to benefit all babies.
We have so much fun every year and our team has gotten so big. We all wear matching green Team John shirts and the kids and adults alike have a total blast!! I always look forward to this day.
If you want to help support the March of Dimes and help save babies, you can Donate to Team John!
Can you imagine?