THE DAY MY LIFE CHANGED FOREVER
On September 22, 2016, I received a call from Youth Family Services (YFS) asking me if I could go love on a very sick baby that would never be coming home from the hospital. Without any hesitation at all, I said yes. After work that day, I went up to meet this precious child of God named Marlee. She was so cute and very sick. She was intubated because her heart was so large it was pushing on her trachea. Her nurse asked me if I wanted to hold her, I said sure. I held her for about two minutes because she had not been held in a very long time and the stimulation was just too much for her. Her heart rate got very high so I had to lay her back down. I kept going up to OU Children’s Hospital every day after work and on weekends, and eventually, I could hold her for a longer period of time. I was officially given DHS custody of her on September 29th, 2016. However, the next day DHS called and told me that they were giving custody back to Mom that the DA had denied Marlee to have surgery she needed on her heart. Marlee was born with severe Ebstein’s Anomaly, utero drug exposure, and failure to thrive. Surgery was her only hope of survival.
I was in disbelief at what he was saying… really let a baby die because she needed surgery. I asked him why and he said that the doctors said it was not against medical advice to start comfort care on her and let her pass away. I told him no way was I giving up on her and that to him she was just a name and a number. He needed to come and see her and look into her eyes. He once again told me it was not against medical advice to let her pass away. I asked him if she passed away what would happen to her. He said she would stay in the morgue until someone claimed her. I was in shock. I said, so you are giving her back to the mom that did all this to her and you expect her to make wise decisions for her care? I told him he had not heard the last of me. This was on a Friday. I just could not believe we treated our babies in this country like this. I told him that I could not live with Marlee not getting the chance at having the surgery. Even if she died on the operating table, at least we tried everything to save her life. I told him that I signed up to advocate for her not to give up on her like he was.
So now I was like, “God what do I need to do to save this baby?” My mind was still reeling over this. On Sunday I was to deliver a new puppy to a friend of mine, Jerry Anderson. He is a Kiowa Native American, like Marlee. After I gave him the puppy I asked him what I needed to do to save this poor baby’s life. He gave me some ideas – contact the Kiowa DHS and Kiowa police. He also went to work on his own to try and help me save this precious baby girl. In the meantime I called all the resources he had given me and all of them knew about her but did not want to be involved. I just could not believe it. In Jerry’s mission, he got ahold of family members who got ahold of bio mom and they got her up to the hospital on October 5th, the day before Marlee was to have her surgery. She had her first surgery on October 6th, 2017. They did the Starn’s procedure, RT BT shunt, PV suture closure, Arial Septectomy, and PDA ligation. They told me that it was possible for her to come out of surgery on Echmo, or with a trach. If she came out with a trach, she would not be able to have the second surgery she needed. Marlee’s biological mom stayed for the surgery and then left to never be seen again at the hospital. I sat on the 7th-floor waiting room and Brandy the nurse gave me updates all throughout the day. She would call and tell me how great things were going. I was just praying that Marlee would make it through the surgery and do well. She did amazing! It was a very long day, before I left the hospital I wanted to see Marlee with my own eyes and make sure she was doing good. I called up to the 9th floor and they said I could not see her because she was in her Mom’s custody. So I waited a little longer and went to the 9th floor with my DHS papers and told them I was not leaving until I saw her. They did let me see her but would not give me any information. I asked them when they got the clearance from Marlee’s social worker that it was okay that I saw her let me know. PICU called me on my way home to let me know I could call and check on her at any time. I continued to go see her every evening after work. She was in the PICU for 8 days after her heart surgery then she went back to the NICU. I spent every evening and every weekend with her. She did amazing. The only thing keeping her there was she would not eat enough from her bottle to be able to go home. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I stayed up there with her pretty much all day. She then started eating enough to go home. The doctor came in and said she was ready to go home, but at that point, I still did not know whether or not I was going to be able to bring her home. On Monday I called her social worker from the hospital and told her that Marlee was ready to go home. She called Oklahoma county DHS and they called me later stating I was going to bring Marlee home with me. I spent the night with her on Tuesday night in the “Village” and brought her home with me on November 30th. She went home on six different meds and a Lovenox shot twice a day. I was still having to do Methadone, and Clonidine weans on her. Every day she would go to work with me. On December 26th, she had her last methadone wean. It was pretty rough during the weaning process but we made it. When I brought her home she was on a program called Hearts at Home. I went home with a book that I had to fill out every day. How much she weighed, how much she was eating, how long it took her to eat, and what her saturation was. It was a lot of work but I would do it again.
I continued to love her as she got stronger and stronger. In February of 2018, Marlee had her second open heart surgery – the Glenn procedure. She did amazing. We were in the hospital for six days. While we were there she caught a bug, so we went home for a day and a half, then ended up at the emergency room. They admitted her and we were there for 12 additional days. She is one little fighter. After her second surgery, we graduated from the Hearts at Home program. Woo Hoo! We are making headway. We now see a pediatric cardiologist. Marlee will have to have another surgery when she is 2.
I have an amazing job that lets me bring Marlee to work with me every day so I can make sure she is not exposed to any more than she needs to be. She is part of the team here at Stan’s Plumbing, Inc. Marlee has one of the guys that she is really fond of. His name is Uncle Vic. He will come to get her from my office every morning and love her until it is time for him to go to work. Marlee loves this.
There have been so many amazing people God put in our path to help save this sweet little girl. She has an amazing pediatrician that helps us with anything that we need.
God had put fostering on my heart, but I did not immediately run out and sign up for fostering. I waited another couple of years before I finally did it. After I completed my paperwork and was certified I was not getting a baby. I kept asking God why had I done all of this work and now I was not getting a baby. God had the perfect baby in mind for me. That baby was Marlee. I know that God used me to save her life. I would do it over again. Being a foster mom to her was very rewarding. I got all kinds of cute little smiles on a regular basis from this sweet girl. When I signed up for fostering there is a place to mark if I want to adopt or not. I said no. I have 4 grown children and 9 grandchildren. I thought I was done with that phase of my life. Well, guess what – don’t ever say never. I am adopted sweet Marlee on August 15, 2017, just four days after her first birthday. We had parent termination in March. The tribe came and wanted to put her in a tribal adoption home. I told them there was no way that I would let that happen and I would fight for her.
After all, they wanted no part of helping me save her. When I left the courtroom that day I still had peace in my heart that God had this covered and He did. When we had our family team meeting the tribe called in and said to proceed with the adoption. We all looked at each other, the tears started coming. I could not believe that they were going to let me adopt this precious baby. I am so thankful to everyone who helped me to get to be this little girl’s mommy. She had so many wonderful nurses, doctors, specialists and surgeons that worked as a team on a daily basis to come up with a plan so she would have a bright future.
People ask me why I chose to foster. It is very rewarding when you know that you can make a difference. I am honored that God chose me to help save Marlee’s life. That is why I do what I do. If I can make a difference in a child’s life, I would gladly do it. Fostering does make a huge impact on these kids’ lives and without the foster moms and dads, these kids would not have a chance. You are never too old, poor, busy, or have a nice enough home to foster these kids.