by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I’ve been feeling sorry for myself lately. I’ve had some dark clouds, and all I could see were my own problems.

Then, about 10 days ago, I got an e-mail. It was from a couple I know in Grand Rapids, Brian and Kathy. Beautiful people. Energetic. Upbeat. They have two young daughters and were expecting a third any day.

The e-mail, I figured, was the birth announcement.

I was sort of right.

“Kathleen and I went in for a final ultrasound on Tuesday afternoon,” Brian began. “The ultrasound immediately revealed a lot of abnormal fluid in all four ventricles of the baby’s brain. … All indications throughout the pregnancy were that the baby was very, very healthy. Needless to say, we were shocked. …”

It went on to say that the child had to be delivered through a C-section, a week earlier than had been planned. Despite the swelling around her brain, she was otherwise normal, beautiful, black hair, 6.8 pounds.

Her parents had chosen a name.


Photos of the little girl

From that point on, almost every day has brought a new e-mail on little Faith’s condition.

One of the early ones explained that “Faith suffered a stroke probably days after our last healthy ultrasound. … It is very rare. … They will never know why, it just happens sometimes.”

A stroke? In the womb? I didn’t even know that was possible. And yet here was this precious baby, her first hours in the world already in crisis. Talk about a preparation for later life!

The strange thing is, each new e-mail contained photos (Brian is a professional photographer), and had those photos not been accompanied by medical updates, you would have thought this was just another perfect child -“a little peach … so beautiful,” as Brian put it. She wore a newborn’s cap. She had a tiny dollop of a nose, full lips, a serene expression as she dozed, the sleep of the innocent.

And yet her tiny head was under constant pressure. A stroke? Blockage? Hemorrhaging? It just “happens”? A shunt was suggested to drain the fluid from around her brain. Surgery was required. More e-mails followed, updating the developments.

At a time when most couples are at home, receiving well-wishers who coo over the new arrival, Brian and Kathy were at DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, talking MRIs, pediatric neurosurgeons and intensive care units.

Hope for the little girl

And yet those e-mails. They arrived sometimes at 3 or 4 a.m., always with at least some ray of optimism, some little joke, like: “Faith eats every three hours (a slightly slower pace than her dad).”

They spoke about Faith’s older sisters, holding the baby, and how one said she had “extra juice” in her head. They spoke about their family and church friends who were cooking them meals. They spoke about the wave of prayers coming their way.

The world that swirled around this tiny child was many miles from me, and yet it pulled me in. I awaited every new photo. Every little update. I found that each new battle this infant soldier was waging made my problems seem pathetic.

A few days ago, I asked Brian and Kathy if I could write about their courageous daughter. They said yes, on one condition: “that you agree to play piano at her wedding.”

As this column was filed Friday, little Faith was undergoing surgery, a special procedure to place a small reservoir under her scalp to help drain the fluid from her brain. I can only pray it turned out well.

But I already know this: In her first days on Earth, this wordless child has put more sentences in my head than all those indulgent, self-pitying voices. She has made me think and cry and put the ridiculous problems I must deal with in perspective.

Brian and Kathy signed off their e-mails with phrases like “keeping Faith” and “holding Faith” and one that read: “Even in these difficult times there is still laughter, joy, peace … Faith.”

What a miracle life is.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR.


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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