MOMentous Monday is my way of reaching more of you in hopes that you would not feel alone. On MOMentous Mondays I turn the mic over to someone who has a story I think you need to hear. I only have so much to offer and so many life experiences to share. However, I am surrounded with beautiful women with amazing stories of trial, struggle, and redemption. I am determined to use this space to bless more women with the bravely shared stories of others.
This blog is not about me, it is for us.
Today I have the pleasure of sharing this space with my friend Toni Koelpin. She and I first connected on our neighborhood Facebook page over buying/selling some used treasures but our connection is so much deeper now. She too knows what it is like to look into the eyes of her child and trust that God is good.
This is the story of her sweet girl and their journey. Toni, thank you for sharing and thank you for setting such a beautiful example of faithfulness.
Libby Kate does cartwheels. She has always done cartwheels. I guess you could say they are her “thing.”
Libby became our little heart hero in the blink of an eye. It was last Thanksgiving when her tears became so real we knew something was really wrong. It was no longer the “it’s okay” or “you’re going to be okay” and “brush it off” moments of parenting, but the opposite that scare you to death and leave you paralyzed in the fear of the unknown.
Libby had spent the previous couple weeks complaining of chest pain which we didn’t think it was anything more than growing pains or too many cartwheels, because, she was … always doing cartwheels. (Insert Parent of the Year Award HERE.)
Her teacher stopped me one day after school and mentioned that she had been crying at recess, struggling through quiet time at school, all the while saying, her heart was “hurting.”
When her “heart hurting” trip to our amazing pediatrician, Dr. Robert Froehlke, turned into being admitted to a cardiologist within the hour, and that led to monitors and a swarm of doctors…suspecting a type of tachycardia, abnormally high heart rate. We assured ourselves over and over that she was fine…totally fine. This was the normal precaution. This is what doctors do. They monitor. They hurry, then patiently watch. (No pun intended).
One night after tucking her into bed, my phone rang. I left Libby’s room, walked down the hall. LifeWatch (the 24 hr monitoring service) was one the other line. They asked if I was with the patient. Her heart was stopped. Was I prepared to resuscitate? They were prepared to dispatch EMS.
WHAT the WHAT? I had just kissed her good night. I had just walked down the hallway. This was for something we weren’t ready for. Her heart had stopped?
So, we crossed this ugly, rapid strewn river from the bank of her little racing heart, to that of a stopped one. This continued to happen over the next couple days, and her cardiology care team didn’t feel they had the expertise or understanding to know what was going on and sought out counsel from colleagues. This consult led us to the Heart Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
(Side bar…the cardiologist who referred us to Childrens said…”what a coincidence that we were watching for tachychardia and found a heart block.” I said it was a miracle…he proceeded to say, “Nah, coincidence.” I still pray for him. Ugh, I digress.)
The team sat down with us and patiently explained what was going on. All the while, Libby was still doing cartwheels…literally, in the clinic at Childrens. (Yes, I scrubbed and sanitized her hands the appropriate 3, 219 times afterwards).
Then the next phone call changed everything. From the initial holter results, Libby had what is called Total Intermittent A/V Heart Block. The options for moving forward narrowed quickly and the timeline shortened. Her doc suggested immediate surgery to put in a pacemaker. On the eve of Christmas Eve (is that how you say the day before the day before Christmas), this brought us to our knees and poignantly to the manger of our Savior. Our faith, rooted in Jesus’ birth, drew us to Him and compelled us to trust ever more in His promises.
This year for Christmas, we were not only given the gift of a Savior, but the gift of perspective. The hustle and bustle of the holidays quietly disappeared. My husband is a pastor at a local church. So, the timing…all things considered… coudn’t have been worse. It’s “go time” for him. For our amazing church family at Living Savior, this season is what it’s all about. A baby in a manger who erases every ugly. A baby boy who takes away the stain of sin. That stain that covers me, my husband, our family and our little girl and her broken heart.
Dozens of phone calls, favors, and scheduling hiccups, and tough conversations later, Libby’s surgery was set for the morning of New Years Eve. We took each day as it came and had to walk trusting that Libby was in God’s hands especially until we could get her into the hands of a surgeon. The perfect surgeon was put in place for us. God gave us a gift, Dr. Max Mitchell. The day before her surgery…we received another gift. The full panel of holter monitor results came in, literally hours before her surgery. They were results no one was expecting and her doctors and surgeon had time to adjust their game plan on the type of pacemaker they were going to implant. All this seamlessly orchestrated by the God who loves Libby more than we can ever know as He put the most amazing people in place for her surgery. All on His timeline. Each person and each situation weren’t a coincidence, but integral pieces.
As we finished our consult with her surgeon, and he gave us a promise we would hold on to for every second of the surgery and really, for every day of her life. He looked us in the eyes with incredible confidence and told us that not only would her heart be in his hands, but his hands would be in God’s hands. End of story.
This incredible confidence enabled our confidence. We prayed for him. We prayed for his surgical team. We prayed for each doctors and nurse there to support her. As we left her in the OR, the last thing we said was, “We’re praying for you.” What a gift! These were the people God had given us to make her better.
Within hours, Dr. Mitchell’s hands were on our little girl’s heart…closer to it than her dad or I will ever be. 5 1/2 long hours later (331 minutes to be exact) he was meeting with us, telling us everything went beautifully. His incredible talent and precision, along with the support and resources of the amazing OR cardiac team, gave her heart the very thing it needed. This little pint sized bundle of energy now had a pacemaker to keep those cartwheels going.
We were able to be with Libby within a couple hours. She was brave. She was strong. But she was weak and she was tired. She couldn’t do cartwheels. As parents, there are not too many things that are harder than seeing your child have to endure something you cannot take away from them. But with that perseverance and through that pain comes incredible strength.
Our time under the care of the cardiac team in the CICU was nothing short of amazing. They will forever hold a special place in our hearts and continue to be in our prayers.
Through the support of all our family and friends, we were able to patiently and successfully take one day at a time and get Libby home, healed and healthy again. There have been some bumps in the road along her recovery but we are able to look at each of them through that new gift of perspective. Our prayer is that we will always be able too. She’s still here with us. For that we are thankful.
It is an incredible privilege and a humbling experience to have God show himself in your life. He does it all the time, but sometimes it’ll drop you to your knees.
For a few weeks, our little girl has been in the hands of doctors like Max Mitchell and nurses like Jordan Brandon (our favorite kid ever…he dedicated a 181 mile, 3 mountain pass bike ride in the Courage Classic to Libby this summer), but she was never out of God’s hands or His control. Every second of every day, then and now…He holds her. It’s hard to understand that He loves her even more than we do, but He does. And an incredible peace comes with believing that.
Today, 10 months post-op, Libby is still on LifeWatch monitors. They don’t know what is going on. Something isn’t right. But, they’re trying to figure it out. Depending on how much her little heart paces (maybe that depends on the number of cartwheels she does…only God knows) she’ll need to have another pacemaker put in approximately every 8-10 years.
Our confidence remains the same. Our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He knows the quietest and deepest aches of my heart. He knows when she is scared and when she’s hurting. He’s there for her, for me, for my amazing and strong rock of a husband, He is there for her older brother and sister who worry about her continually, He’s there for all of us. I don’t know how I would face another day without the confidence He gives my heart, her pacer supported heart and our tomorrows.
I have read this post several times and I cried every single time like it was the first. Toni, thank you again for sharing this story. I will continue to pray for Libby Kate and for you as well.
If any of you sweet readers out there have a story you’d be willing to share… I would love to have you.