The Heart of a Father: Essays by Men Affected by Congenital Heart Defects is a compendium of essays and poems by men from around the wolrd who have been affected by congenital heart defects. It is like a support group on paper. Topics discussed include the stress having a CHD child puts on one's marriage, faith and outlook on life. A must-have for anyone in the CHD community.
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Battling The Dragon
By: Andrew Ward
I sometimes wonder why we frequently expect a happy ending. I once went to the cinema to watch a film called DragonSlayer. It was traditional fantasy fare; a virgin sacrifice is offered to a dragon in return for sparing the kingdom, and a valiant young knight must save the day and win the princess' love.
Only in DragonSlayer, the dragon eats the princess, then nearly kills the knight. The knight is saved at the last minute from certain death by the timely intervention of a young girl from his village. Not the standard happy ending we have come to expect in our media driven, good-guys-always-win-in-the-end world. Of course, in our world, the prince is just an ordinary man, the princess an ordinary woman, and the dragon? The dragon is just the normal pressures and stresses that life throws our way.
The fact is, in the real world sometimes the good guys lose. Sometimes the dragon eats the princess. Sometimes there is no happy ending.
My wife and I met on a beautiful summer day. She was a student struggling to make ends meet; I was a salesman struggling to build a career. Less than a year later, we were married. We helped each other through thick and thin in those early years. Neither of us could hold a job for long, so eventually we gave up on the city and moved to a smaller town, where the living was less expensive. We walked hand in hand along deserted beaches. We sat and gazed into each other's eyes over candlelit dinners. We knew we would be together forever; we would be one of the couples to make it.
The arrival of our first child in our third year of marriage was cause for great excitement. We bought a house, and started renovating it. When he was born we thought that our new son Jamie was perfect. He filled a gap in our world that we hadn't even known existed. My wife elected to stay home with him while I continued working and we settled into a happy family life.
Two years later we were blessed with another child, Nicholas. He was the cutest baby, and we were convinced we had the two most perfect little boys in the world. How lucky we were we had each other, a home and two beautiful children.
Then the sky fell in. On his second day with us, Nicholas was flown by air ambulance to a specialist unit in a hospital three hours away. He was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia with atrial and ventricular septal defects. Roughly translated, his heart was missing one of the four valves and had two huge holes in it. We were told he would be lucky to see his fifth birthday.
The months that followed while we waited for him to be strong enough for surgery were among the hardest of my life. Too weak to breast-feed, we bottle-fed him. When he grew too weak to suck from the bottle, we used a tube in his stomach. He was often back in the hospital for monitoring, and we sat by helpless. At night, I would lie awake wondering if he would still be with us in the morning.
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