Once in awhile in our community of heroes there is a family…a child…a story so similar to your own you feel like you are sharing one heart. LeighAnne’s fight for her daughter Addy mirrors my own battle for Danica in so many ways. Addy’s surgeries, her recovery and her personality are so like my brave girl. Their family’s faith in a good God, overwhelming prayer and financial support from people near and far and their hope for the future remind me “Where there is great love, there are always miracles.” –Willa Cather
By LeighAnne Busby
Many people have asked me, “What are Chiari, EDS, and Cranio-Cervical Instability?” I give simple as possible medical definitions. I explain they are a cluster of disorders inflicting great suffering on those diagnosed. In the same breath I also share how they have been the gateway to the unfathomable love, grace, and mercy of our Creator. Before diagnosis I didn’t need God this desperately. I didn’t collapse into my Heavenly Father’s arms this completely. I didn’t fall to my knees and worship Him this fully.
When my daughter Addysen was born she seemed as “normal” as my older 4 children. I now know she is anything but ordinary. Not because of her disorders, but because of how she lives her life. Her strength and determination make me believe God prepared her for for what she would be asked to endure for His glory long before He formed her in my womb and gave her breath.
When we received her diagnosis in October, 2013 I nearly fell to the floor. Her presenting symptom was a seizure which prompted an MRI. I was told by her doctor that the Chiari Malformation we saw was not to blame. I knew in my gut this was not true. I stopped living for the next few months in order to pray and research. God guided my every move. I felt completely powerless, and I still do. It was exactly where God wanted me. He needed to move and to be able to guide my husband and I to the right people at just the right time.
We met the first surgeon in February, 2014. He looked at me and said, “You and all your children need to be scanned.” In the next few months, we discovered that EDS was a genetic factor, and I passed it down to Addy and some of my other children. For just a moment I felt utter devastation, but there was no time for a pity party. A dear friend of mine encouraged me to travel to the best expert we could find. I told her there was no way, because we could not afford it. Her response was, “Whether you decide to travel or not, do NOT ever let it be because of finances. God is bigger than that!” It was the best advice I ever got.
One of the greatest blessings through all of this has been watching God use ordinary people in extraordinary ways. A month before Addy’s first symptom appeared we left our church family due to a painful chain of events. We settled into a new church a couple of months later, but we had no intention of really sharing our struggle. We now realize He placed us right where we needed to be so we could be ministered to in a way that we had never seen before! I don’t even remember ever fully explaining to anyone all we were facing, but God revealed it somehow. Before long Addy had an entire army around her. Even our local police chief heard about Addy’s situation and led the charge of fundraising for her. The teachers, staff, and parents at the elementary school that my children attend all took the “Polar Plunge” for her in order to raise money. Friends, family and strangers alike rallied around us and have never left our side. In our darkest moments we know the prayers and support of others have been the literal arms of God and carried us. We are forever grateful for God’s provision, and we are hopeful that each and every person who has helped us will receive a blessing that cannot be contained.
Addy has now had three major brain and spinal surgeries within seven months and two of those were done over seven hundred miles away from our home. God is faithful.
He led me to other moms and dads who spent countless hours answering questions before I even knew to ask them. He led us to Dr. Rekate in New York who has become almost a grandfather to my children.
There have been many good and bad moments in this fight. I will start by sharing the worst. Following the second and third surgery Addy was unable to swallow, and she was no longer talking at all. The speech therapist and several doctors came into the room and shared in front of her that she may have lost the ability to swallow on her own and would likely need weeks and weeks of therapy if it was to come back at all. Over the next few hours her whole demeanor changed, and she rapidly went downhill. We were very sure she may not make it through the night. I called a mentor of mine late that night, and I screamed into the phone pleading with her, “Please, please tell me what to do to save my baby!” She told me, “You go in there and talk straight into her soul as only a mother can, and you give her all your strength and the encouragement she needs to keep fighting.” It sounded very strange, but I did it. I wrote the words I spoke to her and shared them with the world later that night. I believed. I had nothing else to hold on to. Late in the morning on the next day Addy smiled at me. It worked! God breathed life into my words that night, and that life went straight into my little girl!
When Addy came off the ventilator, she spoke only a few words. “Hi Mommy!” Then she said pointing up in a circular motion, “They were up there. They said you are gonna be okay. Addy, everything will be okay.” She didn’t speak again for days. She didn’t need to. She said it all. They were there! Best. Moment. By. Far.
Addy is healing, but there is much more to fight. If you are on a similar journey my advice is simply this. You must BELIEVE. Believe there is a purpose for your hardship. Believe God is working on your behalf. We cling to Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Without faith and hope these disorders have the power to destroy you. In God they can be grace and gift.
You can continue to follow Addy’s story here: https://www.facebook.com/AddysArmy?fref=ts
About LeighAnne Busby in her own words:
I am a wife to Nick, a mother to five beautiful children, a friend, teacher, and a student of life. I am incredibly impatient, analytical (sometimes to a fault), and greatly flawed, but I am blessed beyond measure. I was born to a gifted, brilliant and spiritual mother who taught me more in the first seventeen years of my life than most people learn in a lifetime. Sometimes I feel that when she went to be with the Lord she poured all of her knowledge and fight into me. Music is an important part of my life. It has the ability to bring me up or make me broken depending on what I need at the time. My favorite pastime is driving alone in my mommy-mobile minivan and listening to Casting Crowns or other uplifting music (although I am known to listen to a little rap/R&B as well.) I am living my life one moment at a time and try to find God in every second of every day.
If you are walking a Gauntlet or are close to someone who is and would like to contribute to our Thursday community please email me at email@example.com, and I will send you the instructions for submitting. Share with anyone you know who might like to join our Gauntlet Story Feast. (Please use the hash tag #GauntletStoryFeast when sharing so we can find and follow one another.) Our Hope remains.