"Oh dear Lord, what is wrong with my precious grandchild? " This was Linda Hatcher's cry when she realized her newborn grandchild had a serious affliction. Read her story below as she shares with us how she reached out to the Lord and how He answered her prayers.
Thanks, Linda. What a beautiful story of God's grace, peace, and presence. I am sharing this story because you said you want to "bring Him glory far and wide." -Billy Long
The Gift of Avery
By Linda Requard Hatcher
By Linda Requard Hatcher
A bright shaft of sunlight welcomed me to the window and warmed my face. Spring blossoms peeked out of their buds across the lawn. What a lovely April day. A car door slammed, and I moved to the front door and stretched it wider to catch the first glimpse of the excited couple approaching. My daughter, Becky, and her husband, Ferris were finally home. And, when my daughter turned the corner of the house, my arms flew open.
"Hurry!" My feet danced in place. "I can't wait another minute."
The flannel bundle Becky bore wriggled in her arms, and my heart did a flip flop. A sigh escaped my lips as my chest rose and fell with a grandmother's pride. A fifth grandchild… Avery Lynn. Hadn't I relocated near my daughter for this moment? Between a newborn and an active toddler, she needed me. After being widowed, how I longed to be useful.
Avery's tiny features mirrored those of her mother's as a babe. So sweet… But when I lifted her higher and the blanket slid down to her shoulders, my breath caught in my throat. Her skull was like a coconut—too small and underdeveloped. The top of her head appeared darker than her face and across her forehead ran a deep ridge.
Oh dear Lord, what is wrong with my precious grandchild?
Craniosynostosis, a condition gripping our baby girl and challenging her future, served up daunting prospects. How would God provide healing?
Becky and Ferris began searching for medical help. We all sought to understand this condition which held our newborn hostage. What was craniosynostosis? What were the treatments available? Did other families face this challenge, and were there groups to support us on this road filled with surgical options and difficult decisions? Avery had no soft spot (fontanel) on her head, and the skull sutures over both her ears were fused shut. Without a surgical correction, her growing brain would have too little room to expand, risking brain damage and making her head distorted.
Becky and Ferris traveled to a consultation with doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital more than an hour away. The news was heart-wrenching as the specialist described a long, extensive surgery which the baby would not be strong enough to undergo until she was 10 months old. A blood transfusion from the mother would be necessary, and there would be risks involved in opening the cranium.
The news hurled me onto my bed in prayer. I grabbed my Bible and thrust it open in desperation.
God hear my cries for help…
My gaze fell to a verse in Proverbs 10:6 (NIV). "Blessings crown the head of the righteous." With this specific promise in mind, I searched the concordance for references to "the head" in the Bible. I combed the Scriptures for verses to jump off the pages and into my believing heart. His comfort came.
Jesus was crucified on a hill shaped like a skull and named Golgotha meaning skull. He was pierced in his head as his captors forced a crown of thorns to his brow. Oh how Jesus suffered in his skull. I even found strength in the description of the Levitical priests. God had prescribed the priests wear elaborate headwear made of white linen as they went about their duties. He was able to care for the heads of His saints.
The Lord’s presence cloaked me. A supernatural peace enveloped my heart, and I envisioned my baby girl in some sort of white turban God would somehow provide. When I stood, the burden I carried for Avery rolled from my shoulders. God took my fear and heartache and made them His own while promising me joy was to come.
The first miracle came when we heard about a support group for parents of children with these birth defects. The group, Children's Cranio Facial Association, offered testimonials from other families faced with my granddaughter’s same heartbreaking condition. Again and again, the name of a medical group in San Antonio at the University hospital drew my attention. This team was seeing great success with an endoscopic alternative to the full open dome cranial surgery. I read with keen interest about this team headed by Dr. David Jimenez, a distinguished neurosurgeon who was operating on young infants using endoscopy before the fused bones had time to harden. So my children and I investigated the possibility of Avery seeing this San Antonio group of specialists. With approval from my son-in-law’s insurance company, a few photos of Avery, and medical records—she had her first appointment and was approved and scheduled for this corrective procedure.
How faithfully our Father God cared for Avery and our family. We received a generous care package from Cranio Care Bears, a loving network of families with like challenges. We learned that the Cranio Facial Association would help underwrite our traveling expenses to and from the hospital, for the initial surgery and follow-up care. Friends from St Andrew's church in Little Rock organized a garage sale to defray the expenses in going so far for our medical care.
One of our former pastors who now leads Grace Fellowship Church in San Antonio learned of the upcoming surgery. His wonderful church folks readied meals for us and prepared to babysit Avery’s three- year- old big brother during her surgery and hospital stay. Ronald McDonald House, located near University hospital, welcomed the family to stay with little expense.
On and on, provisions presented themselves as we walked out this adventure in faith. Our own Fellowship Church of Arkadelphia encouraged us with prayers and traveling money. God blessed every detail of our Avery’s medical journey.
The musical mobile above the hospital crib played a soothing tune while little Avery recuperated in her white turban of bandages. She smiled and cooed at the mobile, and I wept at home as I watched the video of our brave girl. Thanks to our wonderful Father's grace, Avery joys in a future and a hope.
A year later, our precious gift takes her first tentative steps in my direction. "Come on, baby, walk to me. You can do it." Her clear plastic helmet is sporting a red gingham bow that matches her seersucker sundress. I am secretly thankful she has this sturdy headgear during this season when she takes falls daily, learning to walk. Becky strides through my door to retrieve her child from grandma. "Only three more weeks with the helmet, Mom. Can you believe it?" "Well, yes I can sweetheart. I saw that white turban when I first prayed for God's help." The Lord crowned Avery's head with blessings. I did not realize that would mean three different helmets that have guided her cranial expansion into beauty we will never take for granted.