I met the man who saved my life today.
When my mom was four months pregnant with me, the doctors found out I had something called a diaphragmatic hernia. At the time, the survival rate for babies with this condition was only 50%. Even after that, most of the babies that make it, rarely leave the hospital completely healthy and without any sort of contraptions or monitors permanently connected to their little bodies.
There weren't many doctors, let alone surgeons, specialized enough to handle the intense and immediate surgery required for this rare condition. With my dad still finishing his degree at BYU, the percentage of having one of those specialized pediatric surgeons around the Utah Valley area was extremely low. Most go to big cities to practice where there is a greater demand for their talent and expertise.
It wasn't just coincidence that one of the most highly rated pediatric surgeons (for this condition specifically) happened to work at the hospital right down the street from where my parents were living at the time.
His name is Dr. Dennis Vitale. He is now 77 years old. He saved my life.
I've heard my mom tell this story about a million times - each time I'd find myself formulating these silent questions about 'why' and 'how' and 'what if'...Why did this one man just happen to live in Provo, Utah? Why did he specialize in this surgery? How did he do it? What made him the man for the job? What if I didn't have him as my doctor? How did my mom handle it? Why did she choose to not just get the abortion when she found out I had this problem? What if she DID choose to get the abortion? How did I turn out so normal and healthy?
There have been many times where I've thought about why I even survived. Why I got the chance to come here to this beautiful earth and live a happy life, while so many others hadn't been lucky enough to make it through alive and as healthy as I did.
When I learn about the Plan of Happiness I just think big picture; like 'where did I come from', 'why am I here', 'where am I going' kind of thinking, often forgetting the fact that I hardly made it to step two - getting here to earth.
I think too often I take my life for granted. It's crazy to think that each of us has our own individual plan for our time here in this magnificent world. Do you remember those books you would read in elementary school - the ones that you could control the outcome for? Like you would choose between Sally setting her alarm the night before or not, and then you would either skip to page 15 or page 28 to see the outcome of either of the two decisions? I love looking back in my life and seeing what choices I made to get to where I am today. And then sometimes I look back and wonder how my life would be different if I had decided on something else.
But you wanna know what I love even more than looking back on my own life? I like finding out about other people and how their story panned out to play into mine. This morning was a complete eye opener. My list of questions about who this 'savior' was of mine - his history, his story...he told it all. I couldn't help but think that the interests he had in his younger years of school, the path he chose to specialize in, the places he went to do his residency and shadowing, the jobs he took, the experiences he had and learned from...I felt like every single one of them played into my entire existence. How amazing is it to think that our loving Heavenly Father guided this special man all those many years before in order to be in the right place at the right time to deliver me into this world? To have the knowledge and experience he did by that time in order to free me from my life threatening condition and send me out into the world free of breathing machines or little lungs; free to live life just like any other normal kid. I will be forever grateful to him. And eternally thankful to my Father in Heaven for the guidance he has given him and every other person involved in my life to get me to where I am today.
Talking to Dr. Vitale today made me that much more grateful for my faithful mother. I don't have kids just yet, but I can only imagine the pain and agony she went through dealing with the thought that her little girl may not ever be able to take her first breath. God was good to us. My mother never doubted that everything would turn out ok. To her I owe my heart - her love for me goes beyond words and I will always be grateful for her undying faith in our gracious Heavenly Father's hand in her life.
These two great people, both playing such a huge, but different role in my life, have taught me two very important lessons. First, to follow the spirit and make sure to be at the right place at the right time - because you never know who's life you'll touch at that moment. Second, to have faith beyond all doubt. Even when all my mom was hearing was negative, she had the faith to make it through.
Zoe is greek for 'life'. My mom gave me that name five months before I was even born.