by Susan Mathews
“No hope.” Those are the two words I distinctly remember from that day in March 2000. My husband Santhosh and I, along with my parents and brother were shocked to hear that our first baby had no chance at life due to the multiple birth defects found on the ultrasound. “We like to see perfect pictures, but these are not perfect,” explained the on-call obstetrician who reviewed the ultrasound results. She made arrangements for us to see the perinatologist immediately to clarify the ultrasound. As my family rushed to the specialist’s office, I couldn’t help but wonder about our baby’s future. I was working as a nursing assistant and finishing my last semester in nursing school. I knew the road ahead for a baby with a cleft lip and palate would not be easy.
The specialist confirmed what my obstetrician saw in our first ultrasound. Our baby had a cleft lip, cleft palate, and a ventricular septal defect. However, it was what he could not find that concerned him. He could not find the baby’s stomach. While there could be multiple reasons for the absent stomach, the most likely diagnosis was a diaphragmatic hernia. Basically, the stomach was trapped in the lung cavity, which wouldn’t allow the lungs to develop and function at the time of birth.
“There is no hope that this baby will live.” According to our specialist, with all the birth defects, the best medical option was an abortion.
Shock, grief, disbelief and so many questions flooded our minds as we left the office. After we reached home, our pastor, V.P. Abraham, gathered with us to pray. As we wept before the Lord, God gave Pastor Abraham a word from Jeremiah 18:3-4:
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, hewrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
The verse was a beautiful illustration of the miracle we believed would take place for our baby. Even though the potter’s vessel was marred, he did not discard it, but used the same clay to make another vessel. We put our trust in God and His Word. The Bible says that Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but also for our sickness and diseases. His sufferings on the cross and His resurrection not only ensured eternal life for those who believed on him, but also clearly shows that by His stripes, we were (already) healed!
The news of the poor prognosis for our baby spread to our relatives and friends throughout the world. People were praying for us. The following weekend was our annual church revival meeting. The visiting minister, Pastor Vaidyan, called Santhosh and myself up to the front of the church for prayer. As Santhosh placed his hands on my stomach, the whole assembly began to intercede for us. Later, Santhosh said he felt fire in his hands. We believed that God was healing our baby.
We were not able to schedule Philip’s cleft lip repair, until cleared by the cardiologist. This finally happened in January 2001. Philip went on to have his cleft palate repair, a tube placed in his left ear for frequent ear infections, right ear tag removed, right eye cyst removed, and right jaw extended all since 2001.
In September 2001 he received clearance to begin eating food by mouth; yet he was scared of anything being around his mouth. I was so anxious to cook for him or buy him a Happy Meal! In God’s own time, at 1 ½ years of age he finally started to eat by mouth.
In early 2003 we noticed a curve developing in Philip’s spine. Philip’s 30 degree spinal curve has been followed by a spine surgeon. The plan initially was to keep Philip in a brace to slow the progression of the curve. In spite of the brace, his curve has worsened to 90 degrees measurement. Even if our spine surgeon fused Philip’s back, he told us his back would never be straight. But I serve the Great Physician who says that the things that are impossible with man are possible with God! We are praying for a miraculous deliverance and healing for Philip’s spine.
Developmentally, when I think about where Philip is now and where he was twelve years ago, I cannot help but give thanks to God. Because of his oral surgeries, Philip had more difficulty putting sounds together and communicating. He attended Siskin Children’s Institute where the speech therapists taught us all sign language. Again, in God’s own time, he finally began to speak fluently by age three.
Philip used to be so fearful of unfamiliar faces or even unfamiliar toys. Over time, he transformed into the social butterfly he is today. No one is a stranger to him, he only meets friends.
In spite of hardships he has endured, God has given him a heart to trust Him. In April 2009, he asked Jesus to come into his heart and be his Savior. In his childlike faith, he has inspired and strengthened and blessed us. He was advised by some new friends of mine to begin to pray for his own health and healing. My friend said, “Philip, you must pray that God heal the right side of your face and make it like the left side.” Philip’s response? “I am praying for God to heal me, but sometimes He tells me I have to wait.”
The Word tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know that the God who created a stomach, where there was no stomach can in the same way straighten the spine that is curved. He alone can change the hopeless situations and turn it into one full of hope. He is the God of all hope.
A copy of Philip’s medical report is shown below
Susan and Santhosh Mathews