A Boy Named Garrett
The power of prayer & presence of miracles
I never aspired to be a grandmother; I wasn’t against it, just never thought much about it. Then, along came my granddaughter, Madison, my first grandchild and I was in love.
A year later, my son and daughter in law brought Garrett into our lives. We were so excited to have a new baby coming. And I was in love again!
Garret was born on September 13, the day after his dad’s birthday. Before the end of the day, a very observant nurse noticed that Garrett’s breathing was not right. A cardiologist was brought in, and they found he had a very serious heart condition; a condition that he might not have survived had he been taken home. Thank God for that nurse! A decision was made to transfer him to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. By the next day, we had been advised that Garret was going to have open heart surgery.
A lot of future plans were dashed that day. My son who, to this day, is a diehard baseball fan and had his head full of teaching his son to play baseball, and probably have a catch with him. He was disappointed, but he was more concerned to do what was best for his little boy. He started to think about other things to do, now that baseball was off the table. My daughter, Garrett’s Aunt, thought golf would be good, but no one got really enthusiastic. Clearly, there were more important things to think about.
Of course, everyone was trying to maintain cautious enthusiasm, while being afraid for their little family, and for all of us. We had been given a date for the surgery; it was to be when he was four days old.
I was at my desk, in the call center where I was a manager, when I got a call from Diane, my Daughter in Law’s step mother. She told me that the “kids” were meeting with the surgeon in anticipation of the surgery, scheduled for the next morning and that they were “freaking out” and we needed to get there as soon as possible. It did not escape me that the close ties we have as a family meant that, to Diane, there was no question of my answer. Of course, I would get there as soon as traffic allowed. In California, traffic controls a lot of our lives!
On that day at work, there was a celebration going on, some ATT milestone, and there was a lot going on as well as a barbecue lunch in the parking lot. I went to the nearest manager above my level and simply said, “I have to leave.” Although she was not my direct manager, she was at one time and we were close. As soon as I told her I was leaving, she excused herself from the meeting she was in and walked me to my car. Along the way, she was shooting out orders to others along the way. One was directed to call upstairs to another manager to have him find me the fastest route to the hospital; another to gather my purse and keys from my desk, and another to go out to the luncheon and snag some cold bottles of water. As we walked through the call center, we encountered our director, who was with the General Manager of the company, along with other executives. As they started to talk to us, she put up a hand and said, “We don’t have time for you!” and left them a bit dumbfounded. As we approached my car, she offered to go with me. I told her that wasn’t necessary, but I will never forget her kindness, concern, and support that day.
When I finally got to the hospital, they had already gathered in a conference room. The doctor who would be assisting explained the procedure, which involved cutting his ribs open to get to his heart. To this day, that image haunts me, but they said the bones heal very quickly and go back to normal. During the course of the conversation, someone acknowledged the elephant in the room and asked what Garrett’s chances were. He explained that the primary surgeon did a lot more of this procedure than any other surgeons and had a 90 percent success rate. Several hours into Garrett’s surgery the next morning, something was said, and we realized that my son, Mike, had misunderstood what the doctor said, thus he spent hours thinking Garrett only had a 10 percent chance of surviving.
There were about 30 family members there, and we kind of took over the cafeteria and waiting rooms. It was a somber, but comforting group. My daughter had brought my granddaughter, who was just over a year old, and everyone took it on to watch and entertain Madison. She was the very first grandchild on both sides of the families, so she had the full attention of everyone.
I learned that day about the power of prayer. I’m not sure I ever believed in it before, but the prayers we all said, as a group or alone, were answered. Garret came though the surgery and defied all of the statistics. We were told he would be in the hospital anywhere from three weeks to three months, the latter not being a good sign. Garrett was home with his family in 10 days. Although he was on oxygen, he came off of it in record time, far less than they told us to expect.
As he grew, he was a dear, sweet little boy, healthy and happy. He was a joy to so many people, but we all knew we were staring down at another surgery that was due at his first birthday. I cannot say there was no apprehension; he was still a very little boy. When the time came, he again came through with flying colors. Throughout his first few years, there was always an issue of oxygen deprivation, and if you looked very closely, you could see the slight bluish tint in his lips. Other than that, one would never suspect any health issues. He was a normal, thriving, sweet, and adorable toddler.
Garrett’s next surgery was planned to take place when he was four years old. During those interim few years, he was a happy, normal, playful little boy you would never have suspected had a heart condition. Because each procedure was major surgery, it came upon us with some apprehension. During that time, my Daughter in Law, Lisa, had Garrett on routine visits with the cardiologist. During one visit, she asked the doctor what the benchmark was for this heart condition; what was the oldest a child had lived with this. The doctor pointed at Garrett, who was between two and three years old at the time, and said, “You’re looking at him.” It was a daunting and terrifying statement.
As Garret grew, following the lead of his parents, he was never treated as an invalid or kept from being a normal little boy. They were careful, but not smothering. As it got close to his fourth birthday and his next surgery, a couple of amazing things happened, evidence of the kindness of people around us in our lives.
The first came when a simple phone call to the office of a major league baseball player, and Garrett’s hero at the time, Tim Salmon, resulted in an invitation to come to the team’s practice, the afternoon of the day before his surgery. The team was the Los Angeles Angels. Garret had not only inherited or absorbed his dad’s love for baseball, but also his absolute devotion to the Angels. We were the only ones in the park, and as we stayed in the stands, my son Mike, handed Garrett down to one of the players, and Garrett was among his heroes. At the time, he was remarkably knowledgeable about baseball and the team, so he had great conversations with the players, coaches, managers, etc. They were all so generous with their time and presented Garrett with special gifts, including an autographed baseball, as well as a blank one he could have signed as he talked to the players. One player, also named Garrett, gave our Garrett his personal pair of batting gloves. It was a wonderful afternoon. Garrett, his Mom and Dad, and little brother, Joshua, stayed for the game, during which both little boys were taken to the announcers booth, where Garrett was interviewed. It was an amazing gift, and for a little while took our minds off of what was to come the next day.
The next morning, it was off to the hospital for the third and final scheduled surgery, As with the previous surgeries, there was a large contingent of family there to support and pray. Again, the surgery was a success and recovery happened in record time. During his hospital stay, he had not only family visitors, but an occasional “Angel” from the team would show up, including team announcer Rory Markus, who became a good friend. The year the Angels were contenders for the pennant, Rory arranged for them to be at the last playoff game that put the team into the World Series, but also sent them tickets for one of the series games. Their caring and kindness for a little boy is something I will never forget.
The second incident of caring and kindness was after the surgery, when Garret’s fourth birthday was upon us. A bounce house was considered, but the idea discarded as he was still recovering, so an offer was made by some good friends for a really unique alternative. These friends own a retired older fire engine—the husband, Randy being a retired Fire chief himself. The truck has been modified to talk to children about fire safety, and when it talks about children being burned, the headlights cry. The idea was to give the children at the party rides in the fire engine, however, the children were having to fight for places in line with the adults, including Garrett’s Great Grandmother, who was determined to get her ride. Because of his affiliation with the fire department, Randy was able to drive with the sirens and lights on for brief periods. It was an incredible day for all thanks to my friend, Linda. Normally, they take the engine, “Big John” around to preschool programs for which there is a charge, but on this day, “Big John” was a gift to Garrett.
After the third surgery, an amazing thing happened, the oxygen deprivation cleared up and miracle of miracles, he was cleared to play baseball. It was just in time for him to start with T-Ball, and he continued to play for over 10 years, quite a few of those as a star pitcher.
It was advised that eventually, Garret would need a heart transplant in his early teens. Over the years, he was a sweet, dear little boy, smart, polite, thoughtful, and caring, a good student, and of course a diehard Angels fan. Being part of an active family, who like to bicycle, hike, take active vacations—usually camping, Garrett always actively participated.
How have things progressed over the years? Well, we recently celebrated Garrett’s 21st birthday! His life now is that of a college student with a job and his own car, active travels with the family, and a blessing to us all.
If I ever doubted the power of prayer or the presence of miracles, Garrett is proof that they exist!