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Baby Receives Ultimate Christmas Gift

Marissa and Kale Waddleton were enjoying the Labor Day weekend at a beach house near Savannah, Georgia when their 3-month-old baby, Kaleb developed breathing problems. Marissa remembers thinking, “You know, I kept saying to myself everything’s fine, you know, he’s just either teething, he has a cold, maybe he’s got asthma. But something was telling me otherwise.” They decided to take Kaleb to an Urgent Care Center near their home in Covington, Georgia.

Marissa recalls, “The doctor walks in, looks over him and says, I don’t like that. I don’t like the way he’s breathing. And so multiple people started coming in, doing all kind of tests.” An abnormal EKG gave the doctor even more reason for concern. Marissa said, “She took us back to a room and looked at us and said there’s something wrong with your baby’s heart. And he needs to go to the hospital as soon as possible.”  Kale was devastated, “We fell to the floor crying. But I still figured medicine could cure it, you know, just get him to the hospital, get him on medicine.”

Kaleb was medevac’d to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. When Marissa and Kale arrived at the hospital, they learned he was in stable – but critical condition. Kale said, “My child’s on a ventilator struggling for his life. And just, I mean, there’s no words to describe walking in and seeing that.” Doctor Shriprasad Deshpande was a key part of Kaleb’s medical team. He recalls, “Kaleb came to us with very common symptoms of heart failure, which are often missed initially because we don’t think of heart failure in little babies. The heart would have continued to deteriorate, and more importantly, the rest of the organs would have continued to deteriorate.”

Kale and Marissa knew they needed God’s help, and called Kale’s uncle, to come pray with them. Marissa recalls, “And we went down to the chapel and just put it all in God’s hands. Because we just wanted our baby better. Because we knew we couldn’t do it. So it was out of our control.” Doctor Deshpande explained, “The heart function was poor enough that even on medications, there was really no improvement seen. And our only option may be a transplantation at that point.”

Kaleb was put on the waiting list, but they didn’t know how long it would be to find a suitable heart for the infant.  Through friends and social media, Kale and Marissa put out calls for prayer for their baby boy. Kale said, “We had like 15,000 followers on Facebook. People would text me prayers. Just hey, we’re thinking about you, praying, sending me quotes of, you know, Bible verses and all that. And just, and giving us hope.” Marissa recalls, “It just went crazy with the prayers and people reaching out to us and it just really –it really, really, really helped.”

As they waited, weeks turned into months. Marissa remembers, “It was tough. You know, because we prayed every day for that heart to come and it just, you know, there was no sign of anything.” Kale said, “Kaleb was always just happy as can be. His heart rate could be astronomical but he was always smiling.” Marissa recalls, “It was exhausting, mentally exhausting. Very much of a roller coaster. It has good days and then there were bad days. And it was, you take one step forward and there was three steps back.”

Then, on December 3rd, they got the call that a potential heart had become available.  When it was confirmed to be a match, baby Kaleb was taken into surgery. Kale recalls, “There’s no words to describe handing your baby over. Knowing they’re going to take the heart out of his body. Because I’m a big car guy. You take the motor of a car, put a new one in, sometimes it don’t crank right back up. That’s the only thing I’m thinking. You put the heart in, what if it doesn’t start beating. Then I don’t have a little boy.” Marissa said, “So we just, you know, had to pray like please be a perfect heart for Caleb. Let that heart be Caleb’s heart.”

The transplant was a success, and Kale and Marissa knew their prayers had been answered. Kale was overjoyed, “You walk in and he’s got the prettiest little skin complexion, his lips were pink. It was just –we knew we were on the road to recovery.” Doctor Deshpande explains, “The heart woke up very appropriately, very healthy, and has stayed very healthy more importantly.” Marissa was happy to finally be going home, “We went home 7 days later on December 11th. Being home for Christmas was—it was great. Just a blessing to be home.”

Today Kaleb is still healthy, growing, and showing no signs of slowing down. This and every Christmas, Kale and Marissa are grateful for God’s wonderful gift. Marissa said, “He is a definitely a reminder that God heals, God fixes, He, you know, takes a very sick child and makes him new again. I mean, He can do that and He did.” Kale recalls, “Our prayers were thank you, thank you, thank you. And it just totally changed our whole family’s outlook on life.” Marissa says, “You can’t give up and you can’t lose your faith you have to keep praying and never stop trust in God and knowing that He is there for you, everything will be okay.”

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