Thursday, August 2, 2012

Not the Beautiful Life She Expected, Even MORE Beautiful!

I started to write about my beautiful friend, Hannah, when I noticed a post on Facebook from her husband, Joe.  He was, once again, declaring his love for her.  At that moment, I realized that there is no one else in the world who knows how beautiful Hannah is than Joe.  I asked him to write about her.  I was expecting a short post, he's a guy after all...but what I got is a story about the life of a young woman, the plans she had, and the way those plans changed into the beautiful life she now has with her fabulous husband and her precious children Esther, Zac, and baby Benji.  

Piercing behind the soft and gentle demeanor is the spirit of an independent, determined, and beautiful woman. Hannah Elisabeth never imagined the turns and twists that her life would take when she stepped onto the campus of Liberty University in the Fall of 2005. Determined that she would set off on her own and make a difference in the world, she never thought that she would be back residing in Upstate New York with her husband and three children. 

Why? She had plans already set out of what she wanted to do and where God would want her. That is, she would finish her degree at Liberty University in Nursing. Then she would serve on mission field somewhere in Africa. She did not have her heart set on a family and if she happened to meet someone to share her life with on the journey, so be it. But that was not her intention. She was not a “boy-crazy” college girl who was looking for romance. She had a goal – to meet the needs of others. 

Little did she know that romance would find her... In a fast paced series of events, she became involved in a local Church, met the Youth Pastor who misread her genuine kindness for flirtation, fell in love with him, and was married by the next summer. Then a few months later, she found out that she was expecting a bundle of joy who would change the direction and plan that she had for herself. Quickly finding herself engrossed by morning sickness and the prospect of taking care of a little one, she changed her major so that she could finish her degree from home. 

Then just a few months after their daughter, Esther, was brought into the world, she relocated to Southwest Virginia, in the Hills of Appalachia, to join her husband in Youth Ministry. There she felt an immediate connection with the youth and began to pour her heart into them. Shortly after, Hannah and her husband decided that they wanted to continue to add to their family; however, this time the pregnancy was a little more difficult. Facing bed rest for herself and then later a premature birth, Zac was born into the world at 34 weeks gestation. The next week felt like the most difficult one that Hannah had to ever have encountered as Zac spent the time in the NICU in Johnson City, TN. Hannah remained strong during this entire time and used the knowledge she had received from college to help take care of Zac. However, that would not turn out to be her largest hurdle.

Just over a year later, Hannah would find herself in the same hospital going through labor. This time, after feeling confident that the pregnancy would go smoothly, they ran into some difficulty that they did not anticipate. During a routine ultrasound at the beginning of pregnancy, the doctor indicated that there was a strong possibility that the baby had a genetic abnormality. After further testing, it was indicated that the baby not only had Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), but may also have a heart condition. And like Zac, but at a much faster pace, Hannah’s pregnancy led to bed rest and early contractions. At 26 weeks gestation, Benji entered the world at only 2lbs. During the next 77 days, Hannah stayed primarily in Johnson City, TN with Benji in the NICU while her family was an hour and a half away. 

While there, she learned better than the doctor and the nurses Benji’s needs and often instructed them on the procedures that were set in place. She advocated for him relentlessly, even once stopping an almost accidental overdose of caffeine into his system. When he was finally released, he found himself only home a few weeks before he contracted RSV. The results were a series of hospital stays which involved surgery and then later pneumonia. Medical tests concluded that Benji did indeed have a hole in his heart, had chronic lung disease, pulmonary hyper tension, and silently aspirates. Throughout the entire time, Hannah remained strong and poised in front of others. Seldom, did she let others see the weight that was upon her shoulders. 
With almost mathematical precision, Hannah balances the medical care for her son, the role of a mother, keeping care of the needs of the home, and being a supportive wife to her husband. She works endlessly around the clock to make sure that everything is in order. She considers the needs of everyone else, before she looks to herself. She goes almost every night with broken sleep as she responds to her children needing assistance or to malfunctioning technology which needs to be reset. 

Hannah may not have earned her degree in nursing, but she certainly has earned an honorary one. She has also earned the deep love and respect of her husband and children. She has also changed her world for the better. She is a Beautiful Girl. 

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