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Mother and Baby See God’s Faithfulness

“I just stood up and said, 'Listen, guys, I got an unbelieving wife and a critically ill child. That's what I need prayers for." Ron desperately needed prayer for his family. In 2016 his wife, Alma, gave birth to their daughter Hunter, who faced a myriad of health issues, a single kidney, a cleft palate, and a rib deformity among them.  

Alma recalls, “She would be aspirating at night, turning blue. Where I'd have to take her up, try and put her over my shoulder, trying getting her to breathe again. And this was before, all before she's three months.” None of her known health problems could explain why Hunter had difficulty eating or why her oxygen levels dropped below life sustaining levels multiple times. Then, at 3 months old they discovered a fistula. 

Dr. Wootten is a Vanderbilt surgeon who cared for Hunter. He explains “a fistula, the type that Hunter had is a persistent, and, you know, less than ideal connection between the esophagus, which is the feeding tube and the airway, which is the breathing tube.” Dr. Wootten continues, “The condition is serious because, obviously after birth, we need to be able to breathe safely without having our lungs contaminated by what we're trying to feed on. That can lead to very catastrophic lung complications including aspiration, pneumonia, and even death.”

Ron and Alma kept Hunter’s health issues private and grew weary as multiple attempts to repair the fistula failed. “It was horrible. I mean, as a mother you – you'd rather be in the place of your child. Watching – like, you don't want to see your child go through this,” remembers Alma. Ron adds, “In the beginning I was, uh still a lot of self. Like I can fix this. Or I don't want to, uh, publicize any problems that my daughter has because I don't want it working against her.”

After two surgeries in Chicago and two more in Denver they finally thought the fistula was repaired. But as Dr. Wootten worked on her cleft palate he noticed something disheartening. He explains. “They certainly believed that the last operation they'd had in Denver was going to be the one that sort of fixed her forever, and so in that context of that cleft palate repair, I was able to take a look at the airway and I discovered that that fistula had reopened. The connection between the esophagus and the airway was in fact not fixed, or at least not durably fixed.” While working on the cleft palate, Dr. Wooten prepared the fistula for a follow up surgery then told Alma and Ron the news.

“I felt like this monster . . . that we had fought that . . . was gone, . . . I just felt it all coming back. I had to excuse myself,” says Alma.

Ron recalls, “And at that point we're like, 'Oh, man,' we just got our, you know, wind taken out of our sails. But it was really, I think, a God moment where He was saying, 'You actually really need to rely on Me. You can't rely on yourself. So, it was really after that that we really let the – let the guard down and really said, 'We need help, we're in a bad spot.' And that's where the real prayer and the intercession came in.”

Alma chimes in, “I was agnostic. But I thought there was no harm in praying. And so we had people praying all over the world for her. Like I've got family in Australia that were praying for her and getting their church to pray for her. And we've got my family all in the UK praying. And, yeah, so she had a good network of people praying for her.” 

With prayers from their family and community, Hunter went in for her tenth surgery. This time Dr. Wooten found a pleasant surprise. “I found that the fistula was totally healed. There was barely even a visible dent in the back wall of the trachea where once a very large fistula had set,” says Dr. Wootten.

Ron thinks back, “He came out the door. And started talking about, you know, the pictures, 'Here's her airway, here's her bronchia, here's this and that. And here's the fistula, but it's not there anymore.' What do you mean, it's not there anymore? 'Well, taken care of, it's gone.' And there's a visual, right, so I'm – and I'm a very visual person, charting all of her medical records and we have pre-surgery pictures and we have post-surgery pictures of this fistula that's, you know, this huge hole, and it's just gone. It was medically, there is something that you can physically see that's no longer there. So I was like, I knew what I was seeing and I knew that was the hand of God, I knew it. Like, 'Thank you.' Prayers answered. But then I also knew that this was gonna have to be the turning point for my wife, because how could she deny what just happened?”

When asked about it Alma responds, “I was like, oh, oh holy crap, there is a God, because there's no other way actually explaining how that actually happened. There's no other way.”

When thinking about prayer Ron says, “We need to petition the Father when we're in these type situations and when we're not. So prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of intercession, continue to pray. Pray without ceasing is a real thing.“

Dr. Wooten adds, “As a surgeon who's a believer, I think obviously prayer matters. I think, you know, lifting up what you're going through to God, is critical.”

Alma, who had previously doubted God’s existence, now is a firm believer in the God who answers prayers. “When you open it up and you open up to your church and open it up to fellow believers, it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities and definitely the power of prayer. I mean that can work wonders. And just to know that God's walking side-by-side with you and that, yeah, He gives you trials and tribulations but, I mean, He's got an ultimate plan.”

Ron smiles and says, “It was God's answer to prayer on His time, according to His will. And we felt very fortunate, because we know not everybody gets that same result. I was just humbled and affirmed that the power of prayer was real.”

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