Jeremiah: 5 Hearts, 7 Days
Jeremiah was Joselyn’s first baby. While pregnant, she spent her days dreaming about her baby’s future, praying over life, and wondering whether she’d be blessed with a boy or girl.
As it turned out, though, her birth story was nothing like she had dreamed. Jeremiah’s father abandoned Joselyn at the hospital. She has not seen him again, and he has never seen his son. Those first days with her child marked a difficult turning point in her life. She left the hospital as a single mom — a single mom of a baby with medical needs.
Jeremiah was born with a cleft lip and palate. She was told that feeding him would remain a challenge until he could receive the very costly, needed surgical repairs. Despite her heartbreak and concern for her son’s health, she loved him immediately and hasn’t stopped fighting for him. Feeding him became the single focus of her days.
“I’ve kept going by praying hard to God,” she told us.
Though Joselyn was left without a husband, she was not alone. Her older sister was able to step in and help. Since Joselyn could not work, her sister worked to provide diapers, food, and costly medications for Jeremiah.
Months later, it was time for Jeremiah to have surgery to repair his cleft lip and palate. Sadly, when the doctors performed their preoperative testing, multiple serious heart conditions were discovered:
Atrioventricular Canal (AV), which is a large hole in the tissue (the septum) that separates the left and right chambers of the heart.
Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), which is a combination of heart defects including:
A Ventricular Septal Defect, which is a hole between the lower chambers of the heart; overriding aorta, when the aorta is on top of both ventricles;
Pulmonary Stenosis, which is a narrowing of the pulmonary valve that affects blood flow from the heart to the lungs; and
Hypertrophy, which is where the right ventricle becomes thicker and more muscular than normal because it must work hard to pump blood through the narrow pulmonary valve.
In the US, treatment for these defects would have begun immediately. In Jeremiah’s case, though, doctors suggested only palliative care. They urged her to do the impossible for a mother. Jeremiah’s doctors suggested that with his level of heart defects and his cleft lip and palate, that she not pursue medical treatment for her son. They believed it best to just let him pass away.
Joselyn brought her son home, unwilling to follow that advice. She began the search for help, feeling stunned and helpless. She knew that his sick heart was in urgent need of a surgery that was both expensive and not an option anywhere in Uganda, due to the level of complexity. Nevertheless, she continued to fight for his life.
Joselyn was persistent and, “with God’s grace,” she eventually met Christina Lindseth, LWB’s Managing Director of Uganda Programs. She began to feel hope again.
While Joselyn waits hopefully for surgery, feeding Jeremiah has continued to be a challenge. He sweats, breathes heavily, and becomes exhausted while breastfeeding. So, unfortunately, it has been difficult for Joselyn to find work. She is the only one who can feed her son. Also, her sister lost her job, so even meeting their family’s basic needs, has been a critical change.
“Still, we are standing with God.” says Joselyn.
Sweet Jeremiah snoozed happily in his mother’s arms through most of our time together in Uganda, unaware of our hard conversation or of the great concern we all had for his health. His mother described him as a happy baby who likes to “play with people and his toys.”
Joselyn has grit and an inspiring spirit. Against all odds, she’s a mother refusing to give up on her son. Our hope is that Jeremiah will remain operable and that his broken heart can be healed.
Will you join us in standing with Joselyn and Jeremiah? Please donate today.
This week’s guest blogs are written by Rebecca Radicchi, author and adoptive mom