December 14th, 2012, Gio is coming home for the first time. Finally the time was here. Although he came home with some medical equipment, we were excited to have him home. His medical equipment included an oxygen concentrator that he used 24 hours a day, a feeding pump since he had surgery to close his esophagus and a feeding button was inserted directly into his stomach, and he also came home with a pulse oximeter that measured his oxygen concentration levels in his blood. Fairly difficult and concerning as new parents, but this was better than the alternative. He was home, and although it was a constant concern at least we had him at home.
It was around 2010 we decided something was missing. We felt we had the world in our hands, but there was a void. It was time for children. We had visited many places but we found ourselves watching parents enjoying their kids and we wanted to feel that joy for ourselves. We tried for a while, and we had to consult doctors because it just would not happen. Then in December 2011, GREAT NEWS!!... We are pregnant with our little one. We expected smooth sailing, well, since pretty much everything to this point went pretty smooth. Then the shock of our lives happened in June of 2012. Jenny came home from work, and my mom and I were preparing dinner. Jenny went to the bathroom before dinner and opened the door to tell us that her water broke. She was only 4 months into the pregnancy, this does not happen... Wait, it definitely doesn't happen to us. Next move, how do we fix this... We rush to the hospital, they fix the situation and we go home and continue our picture perfect lives, and a beautiful pregnancy. The doctor comes in the room and says all we can do now is pray.
A couple of weeks after his first birthday, we finally got the news that he was going to be released from the hospital once again. As you can imagine, we were overcome by fear. We had been through this once before, and our baby almost died on us at home. We were extremely concerned with the entire idea, besides, now his medical equipment list was a lot longer, but we did receive 24 hour home nursing. The day finally arrived, and Gio was home once again, but we had eyes on him every second of the day. Now aside from the other medical equipment he had before, he now had a tracheostomy (that needed to be changed twice a month), a ventilator that breathed for him thru 2 tubes, he also had a mediport under the skin that went directly to his heart for any emergency medication, this needed to be flushed once a month. However, as difficult as this seemed, we felt blessed to have our little man alive and home.
Jenny and I met in the Summer of '92. She was 15 years old and I was 16, just kids. We were both working at American Express, Latin American Division in Miami Lakes. That's when we started our relationship, not having a clue of the ride that was in front of us.
In August of '93, I joined the United States Marine Corps, and Jenny stayed back finishing high school. I served 4 years while Jenny was accepted, and received a full scholarship to University of Miami. After my service, I came home and joined Jenny in furthering my education.
From then to now, we have still had a few moments. He got sick and hospitalized a couple of times, but nothing compared to what he had already been through. He is now a beautiful healthy (with a little bit of an attitude) 4 year old big boy. He just started VPK, he plays PeeWee Basketball, and is already moving on from White to Yellow belt in Taekwondo. We could not ask for a bigger blessing. This kid is amazing and his story will always choke me up a little. His determination and will to live at such a young age is one to admire. Gio is truly my hero.
In 2003, Jenny and I got married in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. At the time, we had the life. Both of us had great jobs and we made decent money, we also had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. We had no idea some of the difficulties that were waiting for us.
The Lopez Family
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At this time we had no idea what to expect. Thank our Lord, Jesus Christ, within a few days he began stabilizing. The doctors at Miami Childrens let us know that we were not out of the woods yet, but things we looking up a little. He was in a medically induced coma, but his numbers were improving day by day. It was a slow process, There were many, and I by many, I mean "a lot" of ups and downs. We saw many children improve and go home, and we saw a few children get sick a pass away. It was an extremely difficult time, but our faith in God is the only thing that kept us going. Gio spent his first birthday in the hospital, but that didn't matter, what mattered was that his health was improving.
March 2013, Gio had been home for a couple of months and we had a few scares, but for the most part, things were going smooth. Then we noticed he started having episodes when he would completely freeze up and stop breathing. We asked his pulmonologist about these episodes and he said it was normal as his lungs were still developing. We were extremely worried, and the doctor's words were of no comfort to us. Another episode happened, but this time it lasted a lot longer and he was completely blue, so I rushed him into the emergency room. He was then rushed up to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where he would be for the next month. A few weeks went by and there were no episodes, then one day out of the blue, it happened again. The doctor had to intubate him again, but they could not stabilize him. They recommended an emergency tracheostomy. Of course, with broken hearts, we agreed. The doctor said it was the only option we had at saving his life, possibly... No guarantees. A few days went by and the doctor still could not stabilize him. April 14th in the afternoon the PICU physician called us into his office only to tell us that he did not think Gio would make it through the night. He believed that it would be Gio's last day of life, but the PICU closed at 10pm, so we would have to go home. Then the next morning at 7am I received a call from the hospital, and as you can imagine, my blood pressure dropped, my heart was racing, I was sweating... expecting the doctor to tell me that my baby had passed away. Thank God, that was not the case... The doctor was calling to get Jenny and I to the hospital immediately to sign a release to have Gio transferred to Miami Children's Hospital. The doctor said that if Gio was to have any shot at surviving it would be at Miami Childrens. We signed the transfer documents and a few minutes later, the Trauma Hawk helicopter was there to pick up our baby and transport him to Miami.
Now Gio was really moving, it wasn't short steps anymore, he was taking long strides. Improving everyday. Three months after having his trach removed, the stoma had not closed so he was going in for surgery once again, to have the stoma surgically closed. As the ENT performed that surgery, the general surgeon was removing the mediport that he no longer needed. At this time, the only thing Gio still had was his feeding tube, but we started taking him to speech therapy just to get him to learn how to chew and swallow. As you can imagine, he did not have the opportunity regular kids normally have, there was no step-by-step process. He needed to catch up, and he was pushed to learn. With all of this, and the entire time, Gio always maintained a smile on his face. He knew he would be alright, even when the rest of us had our doubts.
The doctors and nurses at Miami Children's were amazing. So calm, but yet so responsive. They had seen it all before, and although we would panic at a moment of crisis, they didn't, they kept their composure. We were not sure how we would react if another moment such as these would arise again. Nonetheless, we managed. The doctors told us it would be a while, possibly a couple of years before Gio would not need the vent anymore, however, just a few months after being home, his new pulmonologist, Dr. Napchan from Joe DiMaggio Childrens Hospital, began the process of removing Gio from the vent. Again, every step is difficult, with the vent we did not have to worry if Gio was breathing because the vent did it for him, but we had to move forward. It happened quickly, he was off, and then the talks of removing the trach began. Again, another scary step, we would lose access to his lungs in case he needed any support breathing, but by faith we moved forward. May 10th 2014, Gio had his trach removed.
Specialist after specialist came into the hospital room, each one giving us less hope. Each one telling us why this pregnancy was as good as over. Very few nurses gave us hope. At this stage of the pregnancy, the success rate was extremely low, nonetheless, the doctors gave us the opportunity to stick it out. The count down begins, Jenny would have to remain on bed rest the remaining 3 months and her body would have to fight off any infection. The baby will have to remain calm despite not having any fluid. We knew, if we were to make it through this process, the baby would be born with under developed lungs, since the lungs were developed using the amniotic fluid. The day came, August 24th 2012, Gio was born. Immediately during the C-Section, Gio was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he would be for the next 4 months of his early life.