Friday, October 26, 2018

Twelve Years Later: The Josefina Story

When I posted on social media about Josefina's 12th birthday, I realized that a dozen years is no small period of time.

I have made many new connections and acquired new readers since our youngest child was born. Many of them don't know the crazy story of the first year of this irrepressible kid's life. From the beginning, she was small in size but with a personality big enough to fill the room.

Josefina was "supposed to be born" in December, so when Eileen began having what seemed like the early stages of labor on the morning of October 26, 2006, we called the doctor. They didn't think anything unusual was happening. "Still," they said, "why don't you come in and we'll make sure...."

It's a good thing we went in that morning.

By the time Josefina was born a few hours later, the hospital had already detected her undeveloped intestinal tract, and we knew she would need major surgery (although it was hard to imagine what that could mean). In view of the emergency situation, I baptized her right away. The chaplain arrived some minutes later and administered Confirmation, which in the Latin rite of the Catholic Church is given to babies who are in danger of death.

Before long our tiny daughter was behind glass in an enormous, technologically decked out mobile incubatory contraption in order to be transported immediately to Fairfax Hospital for emergency surgery, where the neonatalogists amazingly connected her intestinal tract, using surgical techniques that were truly marvelous. She was then set up with an intravenous feeding tube and given her place in the "NICU" (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). We were told that when the operation healed and she began digesting normally, we could bring her home. The original estimate was that it would take three weeks.

But Josefina kept having setbacks. Weeks turned into months. She wasn't healing properly. In March she needed another emergency surgery. There were some scary points as the time stretched on. There were infections and breathing complications. My mother-in-law came from California to take care of the house and kids while Eileen drove every day to Fairfax to be with Josefina. We will always be grateful to all of our extended family members and friends who helped us in countless ways.

My wife once again proved to be heroic.❤

I was still working full time as a teaching professor at the college. My health had been good for a while up until then. Indeed, I had had a lengthy remission, and was in great shape until the strain of all this started to wear me down again. I would go to Fairfax Hospital with Eileen as often as I could, and I took videos so that the other children could see their sister (older children were not allowed in the NICU).

Recall that, way back in '06, I needed a digital video camera that used micro "digital video cassettes." I would then use a special "DVD Burner" to transfer the video to a disc (we called it "burning a DVD" in those primitive days). Then we could watch the videos on our analog television using a triple-color-corded hooked-up DVD player. I was like "Wow this is the future, man!" (Meanwhile, I also had my rather uninteresting "cell phone" in my pocket, for phone calls. Period.) I did my best to make humorous and happy videos for her siblings who were 9, 8, 6, and 3 years old. It wasn't difficult, because the "subject matter" was so cute! (We still have all those DVDs, though we haven't watched them for a long time.)

Josefina charmed everyone with her enormous eyes and dimply smile. She was adorable, but also fragile. The problems, and the length of time it was taking to resolve them, baffled even the doctors. After nearly seven months of the tension of living this way, everyone was exhausted and I was headed for another major relapse. The whole experience contributed to the subsequent ruin of my health (which I have written plenty about elsewhere). It was an extraordinarily difficult, uncertain time for us all.

But Josefina made it. She finally came home on May 16, 2007, still weighing only ten pounds. She started out with a nasal-gastric feeding tube, but soon she was on her own. She needed a special formula, had some digestive problems, and a moderate asthmatic condition for the next few years, but everything was fine after that.

By now, she has been eating a normal diet for most of her life. She is still on the small side, and looks younger than 12 years old. But she's in good health, and she has so much to give and is so very much loved by us all.

It was, indeed, a long time ago. Many things have changed since then. Many circumstances have been hard and some have seemed impossible, but the Lord has led us through them, or He has at least enabled us to endure them without losing confidence in Him.

I'm so grateful for Josefina. It has been a tremendous gift to have her and her three sisters and brother with us in our journey through life. Family life is our vocation. It has many joys and many challenges, but they constitute what God asks of us. They are the way that He is drawing us to Himself, according to His wisdom and love.

Really, we cannot control our lives in this world. (Through affluence, humans tend to forget this.) Of course, we must try to make prudent decisions and plans for the future as far as we are able to judge its probable courses and potential dangers.

But we are not in control. Our possession of things is fragile, and our passage through time radically unpredictable. Really, we must hold on to God's plan, with prayer and hope, because He brings good out of everything.

Happy Birthday, Josefina. We love you!