Tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia. That is the name of the heart defect that Lauren was born with, and although she was born with it, we had no idea that anything was wrong with her until she was ten months old. Many people ask, “How can that be? Weren’t there any signs that something might be wrong before that?” Oh yes, there were signs, but nobody noticed them until one day in May of 1982.
Earlier that year, the oil and gas lease business in Oklahoma had begun to decline, so my husband Tim began looking for a new job. In April, he flew to Atlanta, Georgia and was offered a job preaching for the Duluth Church of Christ. Before we moved, we decided to take one last trip down to Fort Worth, Texas to see Tim’s family. Their home was about four hours from Oklahoma City, so it was fairly close. The day after we got there, Lauren began to run a high fever. It was not the first time that she had been sick. In fact, she had been sick a lot during her young life and I was always quick to take her to the doctor that had a family practice in our neighborhood. He was a good man, and I had complete faith and trust in him.
We made the decision to go back home so that I could take Lauren to see him. After examining her and noting her high fever, he looked at me and said, “I think you should take her to a pediatrician.” That was a defining moment, one that would change our lives forever. What made the doctor suggest it at this time? I don’t know. Lauren had previously had high fevers and he had always treated her with antibiotics. Nevertheless, on his advice and assistance, a quick phone call was made and an appointment was set for the next day.
I do not remember the name of the pediatrician that we visited, but I will never forget what happened. He did an initial check of her – fever, ears, and throat. Then, he asked me some strange questions.
“Is she always this color” “Um-m, yes.”
“Do her lips usually look like this?” “Yes.”
“Are her hands and feet always this way?” “Yes.”
And then, he left the room. I sat there wondering why he asked me those questions. Wasn’t she the same color as all babies? What does lip color have to do with anything? Looks normal to me. And her feet and hands, well, I always thought she must be cold, so I kept her wrapped up in a blanket most of the time.
I waited …and waited …and waited. I had no idea what he was doing, but whatever it was, it was taking a long time. It was at least thirty minutes before he came back into the room. He didn’t say anything; he just began looking at her hands, specifically her fingernails and her feet. He listened to her chest, and I finally got up the nerve to ask, “So, what does Lauren have?” He seemed distracted by my question as he continued his examination, but he finally turned and looked at me. “Oh, she has an ear infection.” Then he continued, “But that’s not what’s bothering me. I think your daughter has a problem with her heart.” There it was, that defining moment and I was speechless.
“You’re going to need to take her to the hospital tomorrow for some tests.”
My mind was now racing. To the hospital? Tests? I don’t have time for that.
“We’re moving in a couple of days,” I told him.
“You’ll need to take her to Children’s Hospital tomorrow.”
It was not a choice. It was a matter of fact. No matter what else was going on in the world, I would not be a part of it. I had a new path. I was just beginning to find out.