Every January I choose a word that captures where I want to focus my attention in the year ahead. This year I chose “gutsy.”
Most people are worn slick juggling the competing demands of career, children, spouse, personal goals, and extended family, but I’m in a season of life with very few external pressures. I can linger over my morning coffee, skip my shower and hang out in yoga pants all day. And while that’s lovely to a point, I don’t love feeling like a sloth. So “gutsy” serves as a gentle prod to challenge myself, take risks, and seek ways to engage with the world. It also makes me highly attuned to people whose lives demonstrate this quality.
One of those people is Kelly Davenport. Kelly and her husband Jeremy faced a life-and-death decision, and they responded with truly gutsy faith.
Anyone who’s ever yearned to have a child, fearing that yearning might never be fulfilled, can understand the overwhelming joy Jeremy and Kelly felt in 2005 when they learned they were expecting triplets! After three years of miscarriages and desperate prayers, this news opened a whole new world for them. They were over the moon with excitement.
Kelly had a normal pregnancy until 20 weeks. Because she’s a petite 5’2”, her doctor placed her on light bedrest at 16 weeks, then full bedrest at 20 weeks. And then everything changed.
“We went for a routine ultrasound and visit with our high-risk pregnancy doctor,” Kelly said. “We knew the tech pretty well by this point, and as she started the ultrasound, I knew immediately that something was wrong. She quietly excused herself and went to get the doctor. We received horrible news.”
“My son was in a separate amniotic sac and was healthy, but my girls, who are identical, shared the same placenta which was very sick. We were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Baby A (Bella) was receiving the proper blood flow and nutrients and Baby B (Bryden) was not.”
On their doctor’s recommendation, they immediately flew from their home in Alabama to a well-known children’s hospital in Pennsylvania. After a full day of testing, they were ushered into a conference room to hear the findings of the panel of physicians.
“They told us that Fetus B (Bryden) was in heart failure and would die within 24 to 48 hours. In addition, the death of Fetus B would cause Fetus A (Bella) to die or have a stroke in the womb. Because Fetus C (Gabriel) was healthy, they advised us to abort Fetus B as our best (and possibly only) chance to save the other two. They had scheduled the abortion for 8:00 the next morning.”
Jeremy and Kelly immediately rejected the recommendation.
“There was no evaluating, talking, weighing the options,” Kelly recalled. “Jeremy quickly responded ‘I’m sorry but we believe that God is the beginner and should be the finisher of life and we will not be doing this.’ We walked away that night not knowing what was in store but trusting that whatever was to come we were in the hands of our GREAT Physician.”
In the brief time since learning their diagnosis, Jeremy had been online researching Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and he found a doctor in Wisconsin who was having some success with an experimental surgery using a laser procedure to re-route the blood flow in the placenta. Within days, they drove to Wisconsin (her condition was too grave to fly). The surgery could not be done after 23 weeks, so they were just in time. The doctor agreed to do the surgery, but gave them only 50/50 odds at success.
Following the surgery, they had to wait two days to find out if it had been successful.
“We were in a wing of the hospital filled with women in the same situation, and we could hear the wails of women for whom the surgery had not been successful. Those were the darkest days,” Kelly recalls.
“I really cannot fathom life without the Holy Spirit. He truly was my comforter. Yes, we were constantly in prayer, but I cannot say we were filled with anxiety. My husband is very strong.”
With a flood of relief, they learned the procedure had worked! They returned home jubilant, but Kelly will never forget the cries of the women who left the hospital without their precious babies.
Kelly delivered at 32 weeks. Bella and Gabriel were healthy, weighing 3 lbs. 8 oz and 3 lbs. 12 oz, respectively, but little Bryden was sick. She weighed only 2 lbs. 8 oz. and had to be taken to Vanderbilt for emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction.
After 10 weeks in the NICU, Bella and Gabriel came home on Halloween. Bryden came home Nov. 26, the date of Auburn/Alabama game. And life’s been full tilt ever since!
Kelly is one grateful mama.
“If it wasn’t for that experience, I would not have the relationship with God that I do today. Worry and anxiety can eat you alive. God’s word was essential to me. I clung to it and it sustained me.”
Jeremy and Kelly could not be more grateful for their life-saving surgeon, Dr. Julian De Lia. As a man of faith, he impacted their lives through more than just his surgical skill. His investment in their family did not end with the surgery — he was the guest of honor at the triplet’s first birthday party!
God continues his work in Kelly’s life through the children He gave her. She certainly doesn’t linger long over her morning coffee! Life hits her at warp speed at each blare of the alarm, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I was way too confident in who I was before I had children,” Kelly laughingly admits. “They are all strong-willed kids, and God has humbled me tremendously. Being a parent is God’s refining fire in my life.”
Kelly’s faith was tested again when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor five years ago. It was a glioma, deep in the left temporal lobe. Two months after diagnosis, she went into surgery.
During those anxious weeks of waiting, Jeremy found refuge playing the guitar. The first song he learned was “Oceans” by Hillsong United. The lyrics speak of walking on ocean waves, where our feet may fail but our faith stands firm.
“I didn’t know the Holy Spirit was speaking to us through that song, but I would fall asleep at night listening to him play it. On the day of the surgery, we were headed to the hospital at 5:00 a.m., and God, our intimate Father, even played that song on the radio for us. The strength and peace I felt that morning defies comprehension. I know first hand how the Holy Spirit equips us in the very moment of need.”
After a successful surgery, Kelly had a four-month recovery, but no chemotherapy or radiation. On March 26, she will celebrate 5 years cancer free!
Through these trials, Kelly has learned to trust God, whatever comes.
“I’m so grateful for this season right now,” she said. “None of us know what tomorrow may bring. God Almighty truly is the center of everything, even though you don’t understand it at the time. We have to humbly be still and keep our eyes on him.”
And so, I celebrate Kelly, one gutsy gal. My own faith has been strengthened by her testimony. I pray to have that kind of gutsy response next time my faith is challenged.
For more information about Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, see www.tttsfoundation.org.
All photos property of Kelly Davenport, used with permission.