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Happy Birthday Isaac
All was not well! But miracle after miracle demonstrated that God had His hand on little Isaac.

Todd and Jan Swisher, youth pastors at Calgary's Eastside City Church, were over the moon when they learned on March 14, 2003, their second child would be born in November of that year. The pregnancy progressed normally for the first three months.

Happy Birthday Isaac
Miracle baby, Isaac Swisher in the arms of Calgary Flames hockey star, Jarome Iginla at University of Alberta Stollery Children's Hospital in Calgary.

Jan's initial ultrasound looked good except for a small "echogenic focus" which, she was told, wasn't any real cause for alarm. Just in case, her family doctor booked her for another ultrasound two months later.

"On August 6, my entire world changed forever," Jan admitted after the second ultrasound. "After noticing that my ultrasound was taking longer than the routine 20 minutes, I began to grow concerned that there might be a problem. Four agonizing hours later, I had my answer. I was told my unborn child had a congenital heart defect known as Transposition of the Great Arteries."

In simple terms, it meant the two major arteries carrying blood away from the baby's heart were reversed from their normal connections. It is a condition that is not compatible with life, if left untreated.

Jan was numb and tried to absorb the news and its implications. "For the first time in my life I realized just how much I truly was at the mercy of God."

Arrangements were quickly made for Jan to have echocardiograms and ultrasounds to be done every week until the birth of the baby. Todd and Jan searched the Internet to learn more about their sick child.

"The information was unfortunately limited and outdated," Jan observed, "leaving us feeling intensely sad, scared and somewhat hopeless."

On August 28, a pediatric cardiologist explained the baby's condition and told them open heart surgery for an arterial switch procedure would be needed. During the appointment the parents caught a glimpse of God's hand on their child's life.

"We found out that this defect is normally not detected until after a child is born and is difficult to diagnose even then," Jan said.

The cardiologist felt that the ultrasonographer's detection of it in a child at 25 weeks gestation was extremely rare and quite frankly, a miracle.

Knowing this diagnosis so early gave the medical community a great advantage in helping to prepare for the baby's arrival and surgery.

Edmonton has one of only two hospitals in Canada handling pediatric cardiac defects. During the last week of September the Swishers made their first trip to Edmonton and met with the team of specialists scheduled to handle their baby's care.

On November 5 they rented a two bedroom basement suite in Edmonton. The perinatologist wanted them to be close to the Royal Alexandra Hospital, just in case the baby decided to come early.

"We waited and waited until finally we couldn't take it anymore," Jan said. "On November 24 I marched into the hospital and stated 'I want to have this baby today please.'"

Five hours later 7 lb, 5 oz. Isaac Rockne Swisher was born. He was transported by special ambulance to the University of Alberta Stollery Children's Hospital an hour later where the team ran more tests on him, watching him closely. The surgeon felt that Isaac was stable enough to wait a few days before going ahead with the surgery.

" … my father was woken up from his sleep, feeling compelled to urgently pray and intercede for Isaac's life."

"We saw a miracle as God sustained his life so that the medical team did not need to do any emergency life-saving procedures on him prior to his surgery," Jan observed. "This is something that I had specifically prayed for in the months leading up to his birth."

"On November 28 at 9:00 a.m. we watched the team take our little boy down the hall to the OR," Isaac's mother recalled. "For five gut-wrenching hours we paced and prayed as they skilfully repaired his heart defect. At the same time, thousands of miles away (in the Philippines), my father was woken up from his sleep, feeling compelled to urgently pray and intercede for Isaac's life."

"In just two weeks Isaac was born, had open-heart surgery and recovered enough that the Stollery sent him home to a hospital in Calgary," Jan said. "One week later Isaac got to come home to our house for good. Again, we witnessed a miracle, since not many people are recovered enough after major heart surgery to go home two weeks later."

Friends of the family in churches all across Canada, the US and around the world prayed for Isaac. "I have many people to thank for their constant prayers for us, but most of all, I am forever indebted to God for His mercies on our little boy."

Today, Isaac's a healthy and strong baby and needs no medications. "He's doing fantastic," his mom stated.

This miracle baby is celebrating his first birthday this month but his mom purchased all the party decorations while she was still carrying him.

"When they told me about the diagnosis," she concluded, "I didn't know if I'd ever be celebrating his first birthday, so I bought the decorations because I needed a reason to hope."

John Syratt is the editor of City Light News.

Originally published in City Light News, November 2004.




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