I am sure you have stumbled upon my blog because you were a recipient of a "Random Act of Christmas Kindness" in memory of my sweet baby, Sawyer and this makes my heart happy!
After some thought about how to 'survive' this first Christmas without our son, my husband and I decided we wanted to do something to benefit the community and share Sawyer's story and how the Lord has really been working through our lives. I wish I could take credit for the idea of RACK, but it has been around for quite some time. I am, though, VERY excited at the potentially large amount of people that will be blessed in memory of Sawyer. I am not sure what you may be facing this Christmas season, but I can assure you that God has not forgotten you in your time of struggle or even your time of gratitude. He has been and will be with you every step of the way, just as He has been with us.
My name is Ashlyn and my husband is Josh. We have been married almost two years and have one child, Sawyer. Unfortunately Sawyer was born with a congenital heart defect and was only with us for 18 days before he went to be with his Heavenly Father. Here is Sawyer's story.
Sawyer was born May 9, 2013 at 12:09 AM. I was in labor for 24 hours before it was decided I would need a c-section. He was an even 8 pounds and 21 3/4 inches long! We knew throughout the pregnancy that Sawyer would need to be evaluated immediately after birth, so unfortunately I was unable to hold him after he was born. During the pregnancy we were told that there was a chance he would be able to come home before needing surgery, but unfortunately this was not the case. He was taken directly to the NICU and was intubated in order to breath better. Our pediatric cardiologist did an ECHO and found that the condition discovered during pregnancy was very severe. Within twelve hours of Sawyer being born he was transferred to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Luckily I was able to hold him before he was whisked away to another hospital. The next 36 hours were a struggle because I wanted to be with my baby, but I was stuck in a hospital bed recovering from the c-section.
Sawyer's heart condition is known as Tetralogy of Fallot with Absent Pulmonary Valve Syndrome. It is basically five different defects all combined in to one. The defect caused his pulmonary artery to be enlarged and press on his lungs. You can read more about the condition here.
Once I was released from the hospital my husband and I traveled to Atlanta so I could see my baby! My grandparents graciously paid for a hotel room for us in Atlanta so that we would be closer to the hospital. I hated leaving him at night, but I was so thankful we were so close. For the first week the doctors tried to extubate him and allow him to breath on his own but unfortunately he was not able to because of how his pulmonary artery was pressing on his lungs. They knew that he would require surgery and it was finally decided that at 13 days old on May 22, he would have surgery to close the hole in his heart and also reduce the size of that pulmonary artery. He was scheduled for surgery that morning and it was going to be a 4-5 hour surgery. The surgeon came to get Josh and I after the surgery was over to let us know how things had gone. During the surgery Sawyer had struggled and the surgeon was worried. They finally got him stable and planned to move him back to the ICU, where he had been since day 1. We wouldn't be able to see him for an hour or two and we had not really eaten all day so we left to grab a bite to eat 5 minutes up the road. We had not made it to a parking space before they were calling us and telling us to come back, QUICK.
Once we arrived back at the hospital (after running almost every red light it feels like), we were told that Sawyer had coded for about 4 minutes and was being put on ECMO (life support). I crumbled when I heard the news because usually the prognosis for babies on ECMO is not good, at least from what I had seen through our time at the hospital. Through the next five days Sawyer fought hard and so did we. Our families surrounded us with love and support and prayers for whatever the outcome would be. On May 27, 2013 Sawyer had been on ECMO for 5 days. He had started having seizures, his blood loss through his chest tubes was increasing, and he had a blood infection. They were weary that giving him a coagulant would clog the ECMO machine and we would have no choice but to stop the machine so they waited until the last minute. Once giving him this medicine they saw he was using it to stay alive and it was doing nothing to stop the bleeding. We knew it was time to make the terrible decision to let our baby slip in to the arms of Jesus.
Losing Sawyer and these months that have followed have been the hardest days that Josh and I have gone through. No parents should ever have to bury their baby, ever. I have to be honest and say that it was hard to trust God's plan through all of this. Little by little and day by day I have seen parts of His plan revealed and the way Sawyer's story is touching people that I do not even know, and probably never will. My heartache is still very real, especially through the holiday season, but the strength and love of my Savior is even more real.
Christmas is a time when everyone is upbeat and bright and excited about Christmas morning with their children. I want to be excited about that, but it is obvious to see why Christmas is such a devastating time for our family. When everyone is asking us what we really want for Christmas, the honest answer is something that no one can give us. We really just want Sawyer here with us.
I had to take a step back from my sadness and try to think of something that would really share the love of Christ this Christmas. Because in all reality, Jesus Christ IS the reason for this season. We are celebrating His birth and without Jesus there is no Christmas. Without the birth of our Savior we wouldn't have the promise that we will one day see Sawyer again. Through our journey, though we feel weak, we know that our strength is from Christ alone. He has held us up and shown us His love in our darkest days. Christmas is not easy for everyone, whether they have lost a loved one, lost their job, or some other tragic event. My Random Acts of Christmas Kindness was designed to share Sawyer's story and how Christ has really been working through it and us to show love to those around us. Sawyer wouldn't want us to mope around, especially when the reason for the season is the One who healed our precious boy and is caring for him until we are reunited again!
My husband and I are praying for your family, whatever you may be facing this Christmas. We hope that this RACK you received brightened your day, and made this season a little bit easier. Know that you are not alone. The verse that has sustained us through this time has been Joshua 1:9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go." He IS with you, WHEREVER you go!
May you have a blessed Christmas!
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