How a Sick Newborn Changed a Bishop’s Life

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Baby cries on hospital bed

Our little boy, Joshua, was born on June 21, 2013, in Provo, Utah. He is the youngest of our five children and the only boy. When he was born, his coloring did not improve over time like most babies. He wasn’t getting the oxygen he needed. The nurses assured us that he likely just needed a little help inflating his lungs. They told me that he would be back in our arms in about 20 minutes. He was quickly sent off to the NICU where the doctors inflated his lungs, but there was no improvement in his color.

Discovering his diagnosis

Helicopter-mormon

A pediatric cardiologist happened to overhear the doctors as they worked to figure out Joshua’s problem. The cardiologist immediately ordered an ultrasound to be done. They determined that the two main arteries to the heart (the aorta and the pulmonary) were crisscrossed where they connected to the heart (also known as transposition of the great arteries).

Joshua’s blood was running in two separate circuits in his body. The blood flowing through his lungs was a closed circuit that contained all of the oxygenated blood. The rest of his body was getting continuously recirculated blood that had no oxygen. It is a miracle that Joshua was born when the pediatric cardiologist was making his rounds early that morning.

Joshua was a dark bluish gray by the time he was diagnosed. He needed to be life-flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City immediately. I asked a doctor who was present to assist me in giving Joshua a priesthood blessing. In all the chaos, instead of blessing Joshua to be given a miracle and to be immediately healed, I felt inspired to give him a different blessing. I blessed him that doctors would be able to perform any needed procedure with precision and that he would recover from his surgeries and go on to live a normal and active life.

At this time, I had no idea if there were going to be any long-lasting effects from what needed to be done. When the helicopter landed at Primary Children’s Hospital, we were rushed to the operating room. There, about 12 doctors, surgeons, and nurses were anxiously waiting.

Surgery and surprises

People wearing surgical clothes inside operating room

They began a procedure to temporarily open a hole between two chambers of the heart for blood circulation. However, the oxygen levels were not going up as desired. It was a very tense moment. I remember going into the bathroom next to the room and falling on my knees.

With all my heart, I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to please let this little boy live. I do not think that I have ever prayed so earnestly in my life. As I prayed, I felt the Spirit testify to me so strongly that my Heavenly Father was in charge. His will would be done and Joshua would be okay. Joshua’s oxygen levels rose to the level they needed to be as hours went by. He stabilized over the next day in preparation for open heart surgery to relocate the two main arteries to the heart.

When Joshua was born with this heart defect, it really surprised my wife and me. All of our other children had been born healthy. In my wife’s patriarchal blessing it stated that all of her children would be born healthy and fit. Joshua was indeed perfect in every way—except for his main arteries being crossed. He was a strong, 8.5-pound baby.

I came to find out that of all major heart defects to have, this defect was the one that could be fixed. Joshua could live a normal and healthy life—if he survived the surgery. He would actually be able to do all the activities that other children could do. After this surgery and recovery, he would indeed be a healthy and fit child for the rest of his life.

Seeking God’s will

Mountains and tree range during golden hour-mormonThat first night I sat next to Joshua’s bed with my hand on his chest and just began to think. I asked myself, “What is Heavenly Father’s purpose for this to have taken place in our life? I am serving as a bishop, and we have always tried to live the gospel in every way. Please help me to understand why and what I need to do.”

As I thought about these things, thoughts began to come to my mind. I thought of my family. Was this an experience that we needed to have to bring my small, immediate family and my extended family closer together? Could this an experience to help us increase our faith in prayer and fasting? Was this an experience to help me, as a bishop, to have more empathy and compassion for the members of my ward?

Until this time, had never had any major trial in our lives. We have always been so blessed temporally and physically. Would this allow some member of my ward that thought I would never understand what they were feeling to finally approach me? Did this experience take place so that I could stand and share my absolute testimony of prayer, fasting and priesthood blessings with the members of my ward?

I think it was partially all of these things. At this time, I was also receiving voicemails and text messages from family, friends, and members of my ward. As I heard their messages of how they were praying for us, I could feel the Spirit and literally feel that their prayers were being heard.

A trial turned into an opportunity

a baby with tubes in his nose-mormonIt was then that I discovered one of the main purposes of this trial in my life. This experience became a missionary opportunity in my eyes. I had the impression that I should do everything possible to qualify for a miracle from my Heavenly Father. I began to text and call everyone that I could think of. They were asked to join us in praying for Joshua and his upcoming surgery. I contacted many non-member and less-active friends, subcontractors, and less-active members of my ward.

The response was incredible as they said they would definitely join us in our prayers. They sincerely thanked me for asking them. It was an amazing experience as these individuals would call and text me to find out how the surgery went. I was able to say the surgery went perfectly, thank them for their prayers. I then, very briefly but confidently, testified that  “prayer, fasting, and priesthood blessings are real!”

Blessings are real!

A man delivers a sacrament meeting talk-mormonJust two days later, on Sunday, I was able to briefly go back down to Provo early in the morning and attend my sacrament meeting. It was a great experience to stand the last few minutes of sacrament meeting. I thanked the ward for their prayers and the ward fast they organized without my knowledge. I shared my testimony of prayer, fasting, and priesthood blessings.

One might question why such a thing would happen to his family while trying to live the gospel. However, I explained, had I not had this experience, I never would have turned to my Heavenly Father this way. We created a relationship that I did previously have with Him. My testimony has always been strong but never stronger than it now is.

Joshua’s surgery was a perfect success. His recovery was remarkable. He came home two weeks after birth looking like a perfectly healthy baby boy—which he is to this day. It is amazing that a three-day-old baby can have open heart surgery to relocate both main arteries to the heart and then be home from the hospital within the first two weeks of his life. I am so thankful for priesthood blessings, prayer, fasting, and modern medicine. It is real!