Heart Surgery and the Faithfulness of God

July 30, 2020 ~ Four years ago this week I stood and watched as my barely one-year-old son was wheeled down a hall away from me and towards the operating room at the University of Minnesota Children’s Hospital.  Mercifully, the medicine the nurse had given to make him sleepy was already working, and he was as calm and happy as if he was snuggled in his own soft bed at home instead of laying in a sterile hospital crib.

Heart Surgery and the Faithfulness of God

This was his second open-heart surgery, but the first one we were going through as a family since he had just joined our family four months earlier, and his first open-heart surgery had been completed days after his birth.

Riding the Amtrak
Riding the overnight train to Minneapolis!

Michael and I had taken the train from North Dakota to Minneapolis one week before his surgery so that he could be admitted into the hospital and begin the necessary IV medication that he needed in preparation for his surgery. As it turned out, it would be nearly two more weeks of recovery before we would be able to return home.

Though his actual heart surgery went wonderfully that day, following the surgery it became evident that he was experiencing a very severe and rare complication as a result of being on the heart and lung machine. His kidneys were filling with broken red blood cells and eventually, they became clogged to the point where they were no longer functioning. As his medical team prepared to take him for dialysis, miraculously and in answer to the prayers of many friends and family, a small trickle started in his urinary catheter, and ever so slowly his kidneys began to clear out and function again.

Holding my baby's hand during recovery
Until the third day after surgery, we could only hold our son’s hand since he needed time to heal before being picked up and held.

He still had a difficult climb back to health ahead of him, but we knew his little life was in the best of hands – not just the amazing, highly skilled, and deeply caring, staff at the UMMCH, but much better than that, the hands of our loving God.

picture of Jesus helping surgeons
I came across this picture as we were preparing for our son’s surgery, and it was truly comforting

When Michael was finally strong enough to be discharged, my husband and our two other children made the 14 hour round trip to come and pick Michael and me up, and we arrived home in the wee hours of a Monday morning. We had an appointment with his regular cardiologist that Wednesday and everything looked great. He appeared to be healing well, gaining a bit of weight and was alert and so happy to be out of the hospital and able to play again.

Playing at the Ronald McDonald House after discharge
Playing at the Ronald McDonald house on the day of discharge before heading home!

But by Friday, we noticed that he seemed to be gaining a little too much weight. It was obvious that this wasn’t just a little pudge that was returning to his cheeks. He was retaining fluid, which was concerning to us, especially since the cardiologist at the Children’s Hospital had discontinued his diuretic medicine before discharge reasoning that our son no longer needed to be on it. Saturday was even worse, and when I put him to bed that night, I told my husband that if he wasn’t starting to look better by the morning then we would take him into the hospital straight away.

After a fitful night, Sunday morning dawned and our little guy was beginning to experience obvious distress and shortness of breath. We texted his pediatrician who agreed that he needed to get to the hospital quickly. At our small, rural hospital the staff assessed him and felt that his needs were beyond what they were able to provide care for, so they began to make plans for him to go by ambulance to the nearest big city hospital, three hours away. That hospital contacted the team in Minneapolis, and gratefully they agreed with what we suspected: he simply needed to go back on his diuretic medicine and get rid of all the extra fluid his body was holding on to. The local hospital staff agreed to begin IV medication and said that if he responded well we could stay there and they would treat him locally.

Back in the hospital a week later
Back in the hospital a week after discharge.

We are forever grateful to our Lord that our son responded so beautifully to the medication. He went through a lot of diapers that Sunday and through Monday morning! Later in the day Monday, we were able to return home, this time for good.

Home for good after second hospitalization
Home for good!

That summer four years ago held some of the hardest experiences my husband and I had ever been through as a couple. Besides our son’s heart surgery, some other crushing things were also going on and we felt like we were being pushed to a breaking point. We still look back at that time in our lives, shake our heads, and know deep in our hearts that it was only the grace of God that carried us through that time. (I talk about this all a little more in my post on why I started choosing a Word for the Year. You can read more here.) But I am here to tell you that we did indeed make it safely through, stronger in our faith in God and our commitment and love for each other. And our little man, now a very robust five-year-old boy,  continues to astound his doctors every time he sees them.

I don’t know what you may be going through right now, but if you are alive, I know you, too,  have burdens you are carrying. But I want you to be reminded today of God’s faithfulness. I know I continually need to be reminded because the pressures of life push in so hard and it is so easy to begin to doubt. Even as I write this post, my body is exhausted from the busyness of summer, a week of a houseful of sick children, and difficult situations and news coming in from several directions. But just as I have seen God work on my behalf in times past, I know I can trust Him to continue to guide and provide in my and my family’s future. I love this quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” Corrie Ten Boom

Printable Corrie ten Boom quote
This beautiful quote by Corrie ten Boom is still true today!

(I’ve made a free printable of this quote, available right here!)

Back in Old Testament times, God instructed His people to set up stones of remembrance (Joshua 4). Visible, tangible reminders of what God had brought His children through and how He would continue to guide and provide in the years to come if only they would believe and follow. If you are walking through a difficult time right now, may I encourage you to think back over some times when you have seen God work on your behalf? If you weren’t journaling at the time, maybe you can write down a few things right now. Was there a special Psalm or song that God used to minister to your heart? For our family, Psalm 91 was a psalm we read over and over through the time that Michael was hospitalized, and four years later it still holds such deep meaning for us. Taking some time to remember God’s faithfulness to you in the past can bolster your faith for today and tomorrow. If you are young in your faith, and you are just beginning to grow in your relationship with Christ, I highly encourage you to seek out and listen to the stories of others who have walked with God through all sorts of circumstances and let their stories plant seeds of faith in your own heart. Most of all, dig deep into God’s Word for yourself because it is there that you will find strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31:6




Here are a few of my favorite books that I know will encourage you too! (Amazon affiliate links)

How I Know God Answers Prayer by Rosalind Goforth

In Trouble and in Joy by Sharon James

Suffering is Never for Nothing by Elisabeth Elliot

3 thoughts on “Heart Surgery and the Faithfulness of God

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart. It will be an encouragement for all those going through difficult times, as it has been for me in the past. You and your family are a very special part of my life. Love you

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