Apr 21, 2009

111- Tony

My Tony would be 37 today- seems hard to believe. Tony's story is a very special one.

My pregnancy was normal and there was no indication that there were any problems until he was born. (April 21, 1972) Tony had Gastroschisis. In a nutshell, his abdominal wall had never closed in utero (failure of fusion on the mid-line) and his intestines were protruding through this hole in his stomach. The doctors at Portsmouth Naval Hospital had never seen a case except in textbooks. The delivering doctor and pediatrician told us that he probably wouldn't survive more than 24 hours but if by some miracle he did, he would need so many surgeries his stomach would look like a road map.

They whisked Tony away as soon as they could get him breathing to the pediatrics building where he underwent his first surgery. We called our families and asked them for their love, support and prayers. That evening my mom opened the scriptures at random to Alma and read the discourse on faith.

The next day I was allowed to go to the other building to see Tony for the first time. He was in an isolete with a mesh bag sewn to his stomach to encase the intestines. There was an antibiotic drip to fight infection and keep them moist. The theory was that the intestines would gradually go back into the abdomen over the next week or so. (Interestingly enough, a friend had a baby 12 years later and as soon as I saw a photo of him in the isolete I knew he'd also had Gastroschisis.)

We asked our former Bishop to come and give him a blessing, but when he got there he encourage my then-husband to give Tony a father's and priesthood blessing stating that they both held the Melchizedek priesthood. It was a beautiful and moving blessing. The spirit was strong and I knew that Tony would be ok. During the night I determined that IF my baby lived... I would have milk for him.

My mom arrived on his 3rd day of life and was a wonderful source of support and love. What an amazing woman. I went home the same day, leaving little Tony in the Pediatrics 3-B. Tony continued to progress nicely and on day 6 he had a second surgery to close his abdomen. The worry now was that there would be blockage in the intestines.

Tony on his first day out of the isolete April 28, 1972.

The next day, at one week old, I was able to hold Tony for the first time. It was a wonderful feeling to finally be able to hold my son. The following day he had his first oral feeding. All went well and he didn't have any blockage.

Tony was sent home on Saturday, May 7, 1972 (15 days old) weighing only 5 lb 6 oz because he could tolerate breast milk but not formula (in those days they wouldn't let me bring in the pumped breast milk). The next day was Fast and Testimony meeting. We took him to church in our old ward in Norfolk VA to be blessed. What a special day. (Tony gained 4 oz in first 48 hours he was home.)

Tony in his blessing outfit. It said Happiness is... and then Mom embroidered- Tony. May 8, 1972 .

Despite all odds and the initial prognosis Tony never needed any more surgeries to deal with his birth defects. He truly was the miracle baby of Pediatrics 3-B... we used to say he just forgot to get his zipper zipped up before he came. It didn't take long for Tony to get caught up weight wise. He continued to thrive and grow.

Tony at 2 1/2 months. Happiness is... Tony outfit.

111- Tony 3.5 years
Tony at 3 1/2, October 1975

Raising a boy-child in the 70s wasn't as easy as it is now. ADD was just beginning to be diagnosed and I recognize now that Tony was classic ADHD. He was a loving and hardworking boy. I am amazed that I expected so much from him at such a young age. And although he frequently gave his two little sisters a hard time (he definitely felt the pressure of being the oldest) he would protect them. I only remember Tony getting into one fight and it was to protect his sister!

111- Tony 4th of July
Tony, consummate Cub Scout, July 4, 1981

111- Last day
My last photo of Amanda, Tony and Rebekah at Lassen National Park

Tony's short life came to an end on August 3, 1981 he drowned in the act of saving his sister.

I've been so grateful for the comfort and support from my Heavenly Father. I am grateful for the atonement and the hope of a glorious resurrection wrought by our loving Savior, even Jesus Christ.

I feel very strongly that Tony wasn't meant for this world but a loving Father rewarded our faith and prayers. I had Tony for just over 9 years instead of 9 minutes, hours or days. I am grateful for that time. I am especially grateful to know that my family is sealed in an eternal family unit and that we will be together again.


Dodge Family said...

Thank you so much for sharing that! As I sit here and ball, I want you to know how grateful I am to have you in my life. You are such an amazing example and strength to me! Love you!

Dean and Sheri said...

Thank you for sharing Tony. I was just checking in on a few things online before I leave to go to work and now that I have tears, I need to go touch up my make up. I had completely forgotten that Tony was born with the same birth defect that Justin was. Happy birthday, boy!
Love you,

Jessica said...

Mostly, I know that you were not putting this post together without crying and I want to hold you in my arms and squeeze you. I love you. Thank you for sharing him with us today.

Rosehaven Cottage said...

I want to add my birthday wishes... Happy Birthday Tony. It's hard to believe that he would be so old now because he seems forever 9 years old. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to build an important relationship with him over those extra 9 years he was given. My childhood wouldn't have been the same without him. He will always be the quintessential Peter Pan to me... that's the part he played in our pretend games as we acted it out to the record over and over.


Anonymous said...

I must not be meant to comment of this post because every time I do I lose it. I know you know my heart, so I'll just say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TONY,

love you, Auntie P

Anke said...

Oh Joanie, thanks so much for sharing this special story with us! What a story it is and Happy Birthday to your beautiful son, even if he has to celebrate in heaven. How can you even stand it? You had me in tears reading this....

Sarah Elizabeth said...

That is too sweet! What a way to celebrate your babies. Instead of feeling lonely for them, you shared all the good memories...thank you Auntie! And I love the happy mommy/baby picture, you smile is delightful.