The first time I saw him, he was ten months old, and we had gone to volunteer in the sweltering month of August. He was wearing not only a million-dollar smile, but double leg casts that stretched from his little hips to his tiny toes from a recent surgery. He was sweet, laid back, adorable.
Although I didn’t know at that time he would be ours in a few short years; there was a pull in my heart to love on him differently. Looking back now, I know it was time spent with what God intended for our lives. As I prayed fervently for his future family to arise, I began to fall deeply in love.
Our son was “labeled” with the special need as severe bilateral clubfoot and developmental delays.
What does it look like day to day with a child that happens to have bilateral clubfoot?
At first, our days consisted of castings each week. Then began with hours upon hours of bracing while we counted the days and years until we had some free time off from bracing and casting. Honestly, eventually the days ran together, and it became the new normal. As he got older in years, he could put on his braces without help and no longer begged for the breaks that left me in puddles of tears as I said the hardest of nos.
As each year passed, the pain became more significant. And the realization for him that his feet were not as capable as his older brother. As much as I kissed those sweet feet and as much as I told him how amazing he was… he just wanted to run fast and not end or start the day in pain.
Andrew has always worn AFOs and night braces. He had braces on his feet the day we “met” him for our official adoption in December of 2008. It has been part of our life, and I assumed it would be that way for his lifetime. We have seen some of the best doctors in the US who never offered hope for a different way of life. One well-known doctor, known for this exact specialty, sat us down and asked if we could be his “what not to do with clubfoot” patient. We agreed, and each year would make the drive out of state so doctors from around the world could poke and prod our son in the hopes someone would tell us something new and hopefully prevent the same surgical fate for another child.
But alas, this doctor sat us down and said that our son would permanently be in a wheelchair by the time he was ten years old. Furthermore, the best chance he has at a pain-free childhood was to make him a double amputee. At first, my heart was broken for this sweet child. He just has the best attitude, and although we would make it work, I felt clearly God was saying “wait”.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14
We told the doctor that Andrew needed to be older before we made a final decision. This would allow his feelings to be part of the decision-making process. We also felt that this doctor had given up on our son and we needed to allow for as much of a carefree childhood as possible.
We wanted to talk to more doctors. We needed a different opinion. The problem was that I forgot to speak to the only one that had answers. Our great Physician. When we started seeing another doctor because of a military move, he too agreed with the previous doctor and told us to make our son a double amputee.
But again, I felt we needed to wait.
Fast forward, and we moved to St Louis, courtesy of the military, and I knew that there was a doctor who specialized in Pediatric Orthopedic care. We decided it was time to talk this out because Andrew was in an incredible amount of pain each day. He was no longer able to walk down the stairs, run, or participate in certain activities. It broke this mama’s heart to watch Andrew walk as if he was 90 years old and for him to ask each night if the pain would ever go away.
He would cry these gentle tears and smile saying that God made him, but if He could take away the pain, he would be okay with losing his legs. He was not afraid.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
For the Lord God is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation. – Isaiah 12:3
When we sat down with Dr. Dobbs at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, we fully anticipated making a surgery date to amputate. Andrew had never been able to rotate his ankles, flex his lower legs, and certainly had no muscle tone below the knee. However, through his gentle tears, the doctor said, “I can fix this.” In shock, my heart leaped for joy. Dr. Dobbs said, “I am so glad you waited to amputate. Within a year, Andrew will be pain-free and AFO free.”
I must admit it seemed like a tall order, even for God, but it brought hope to our family. Where was my faithfulness to the Creator who made this child and only wanted the best for him, whatever that may look like for his life? Was I simply not trusting or was I protecting my son’s heart? Why would I step out in blind faith and actively pursue Andrew yet not trust the One who moved mountains for it to come to fruition?
For You have been a defense for the helpless,
A defense for the needy in his distress,
A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; – Isaiah 25:4
Andrew had surgery this past fall (and turned 10!), and it was successful. He was non-weight bearing and in a wheelchair for a good bit then to a walker and later to no aids at all in the daylight hours.
He has gone to Physical Therapy three times per week since surgery and is now down to two days per week. We anticipate he will be at one day per week by the end of June. Andrew is still in his night time dorsiflex braces but tolerates them well. He will need to wear some form of these night braces for the rest of his life. We are learning yoga to keep him stretched, and I find it makes for some pretty hearty laughs. He has had a long road of pain and therapy, but he has done it all with a smile on his face that could light up a room.
For the first time, our son can rotate his ankles, and while it may not look the same as my ankle making the same motion, it is huge in his world. We are witnessing an itty-bitty muscle starting to form in his calf!
He is our hero, our role model for the right attitude when life gets tough, and our inspiration to endure all things. As I have been writing this article and praying for the right words, I can hear my children running through the backyard sprinkler, and I am humbled that this child can run and participate with full gusto.
We don’t know what the future holds, but we are sure that Andrew’s life has a plan and purpose.
For You have worked wonders,
Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. – Isaiah 25:1
And we are so incredibly blessed that we didn’t say no but stepped out in faith with a lot of unknowns.
– guest post by Jill