The Habbes: Holding on to Hope
By Cynthia Savage
The 700 Club
Marcy Habbe recalls, “At the 20-week ultrasound they realized his heart was incredibly messed up. It was on the wrong side of his body. It was backwards. Things didn’t match up.”
Doctors encouraged Marcy to terminate the pregnancy. Instead she and her husband Tom held on to the ten percent chance that their baby would survive. Michael’s heart rate was half of where it should be, and fluid was building up around his heart.
Tom says, “It was hard for me, because as a radiologist, I see all these ultrasounds. That happens in the textbooks, and I see it occasionally at work. But it doesn’t happen to me and it doesn’t happen to my friends.”
“I begged and begged all of my friends, family to pray,” says Marcy.
Everyone was surprised at how healthy Michael looked when he was born, even though he had a rare heart disease. Still, the doctors decided he was well enough to go home.
“So we just chalked it up as we’re done! This is great," Marcy says. "He’s had the miracle that we prayed for. We got on with our lives, and he was a beautiful, normal, healthy baby.”
When he was two years old, Michael began to lose his color and his appetite. Tom and Marcy took him to a cardiology specialist in Omaha.
Marcy says, “We really thought that they were going to change his medicines. We’d take him to the zoo. He’d get to see all the little animals, and we’d get to bring him home.”
Michael wasn’t going home. His heart was failing, and he had severe pulmonary hypertension. They air lifted him to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. He desperately needed a heart and lung transplant.
Doctors didn’t know whether Michael would survive the day, much less the potentially long wait for a donor.
Dr. Sanjiv Gandhi, cardiothoracic surgeon, says, “Over the course of the next few days, he had multiple cardiac arrests over and over and over again.”
“Now we are at the back watching our son being coded, trying with chest compression, with drugs,” Tom says. “Anything they can do to get his heart going again and all we can do is pray.”
Marcy adds, “When you are watching your son die and there’s nothing you can do but pray... I mean I watched Michael come in and out of life wondering, ‘Is he going to pull through this one?’”
“Close family and all our friends, the people at school continually prayed for us all the time, prayed for Michael,” Tom says. “When you are in that situation, you feel that. You feel the grace.”
Those prayers not only sustained the family but something amazing happened.
“Somehow every single time we were able to get him back,” Dr. Gandhi says.
Michael was alive, but seriously ill. Dr. Gandhi recommended using a Berlin Heart. The treatment could buy Michael more time. “It was a bit risky at that point. First we hadn’t done very many Berlin Hearts, and we’d never done one in this sort of circumstance. I think the chances of him living without this sort of therapy was zero. “
After almost eight hours in surgery, Dr. Gandhi successfully attached the device to Michael’s abnormal heart. Then five weeks later, Michael had another remarkable breakthrough… his lungs improved. He was totally healed of pulmonary hypertension. Now the Habbe family had one more major hurdle. They waited and prayed for a heart transplant.
Marcy says, “One morning when Dr. Gandhi came in, I said, ‘I think this pager is broken.’ I started joking about it. He said, ‘Your pager's broken?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it won’t go off!’ And he said, ‘Well mine did!’ I just looked at him and started screaming. ‘What?! I started screaming so loud. All the nurses came in. They thought something happened.”
A donor’s heart was matched to Michael.
“We were so excited to think that he may live! If we can get this heart, he has a chance,” says Michael.
Michael’s heart transplant was a success!
Tom says, “There was an electric buzz in the room. Everyone knew that this was something special.”
Dr. Gandhi says, “What happened to Michael is nothing short of a miracle. He’s one of the true success stories that I’ve dealt with. His brain works just fine, as well as the rest of his organs. You can’t really tell if he’s got his shirt on that anything’s gone on with the child.”
Marcy says, “In that time God was asking us to just trust Him. We got to see that He’s very trust worthy. He never left us high and dry.”
“God always was there. He was always pulling us through,” says Tom. “Michael’s short little life is so extraordinary.”
More than three years later, Michael is perfectly healthy and full of energy! “I’m glad to have a new heart. Dr. Gandhi helped me, and a lot of people prayed for me.”
Marcy says, “God has really showed me the preciousness of life. Life is a gift. God gives us that gift, and it’s something precious to take care of.”
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