99902_000_010Doctors had performed this kind of surgery seven times before; only four babies had survived.
Born 10 weeks early, Benjamin Bullen Crosland weighed just three pounds seven ounces and had already had a tumor removed from his chest before he was born. What normally would have been a joyous occasion was terrifying and worrisome. Here is his story.
I should start from the spring of 1992. My husband, Todd, and I had three wonderful children, two girls and a boy, and we were very content. One day our middle child, Cliff, asked me when he was going to get his brother. I explained to Cliff that even if we had another baby there was no guarantee it would be a boy. But Cliff said, “Mom, Heavenly Father told me that when you go to the hospital you will come home with a brother for me.” Cliff talked constantly about his new baby brother. One night as Todd and I were watching the news, Cliff came in and said, “Dad, I want to say a prayer.” Todd turned off the TV, we knelt down, and Cliff began to pray. In his prayer he asked Heavenly Father to send him a baby brother.
Cliff’s persistence started me thinking. Maybe he knew something I did not know; maybe I was supposed to have another baby. I began to pray about having another child and received a strong confirmation that I should. I knew there was another spirit waiting to come to our family.
Soon we discovered we were indeed going to have another baby. Everything seemed normal with the pregnancy. On 3 December, 18 weeks along, we went to the clinic for a routine ultrasound, which revealed we were indeed going to have a boy. When we told the children, our oldest daughter, Brooke, said, “Yes! I am proud of you, Mom. I knew you could do it.” Cliff said, “I’m proud of Heavenly Father and Jesus.” It was a great day for our family.
The next day my doctor called and told me they did not get a good picture of the baby’s heart and wanted to have another ultrasound done, this time by a perinatologist. We set up an appointment for the following Monday.
Two minutes into this second ultrasound the doctor told us our baby’s heart was pressed against the left side of his chest. She explained that this was caused by a problem called Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation (CCAM). This CCAM was a nonmalignant tumor that filled the baby’s chest cavity, causing heart problems and precluding lung development. The doctor was very blunt and told us our baby would probably have other chromosome abnormalities. Todd and I were devastated. The doctor then took us next door to speak with a genetic counselor, who told us our baby would probably not live. She explained our options were either to have an abortion now or wait for the death of the fetus.
Todd and I could not believe this was happening to us. How could we tell our children? How could we tell Cliff about his brother? We cried uncontrollably on our way home from the hospital. Upon returning home, we went to our bedroom and poured out our souls to Heavenly Father. We pleaded for help and guidance.
Todd and my father gave me the first of several priesthood blessings I would receive over the next few months. After they gave me the blessing, I felt the Comforter near. Todd told me that if we had faith in our Heavenly Father and the priesthood that a miracle would be performed; for indeed, it would take a miracle to save our son’s life.
We heard from a relative that there was a hospital in San Francisco where fetal surgery had been performed on babies with this problem. We contacted the Fetal Treatment Center at the University of California, San Francisco Hospital. After viewing a videotape copy of our ultrasound, the specialists there confirmed that our baby had a CCAM. They told us they would perform this experimental surgery only if the tumor became life threatening to the baby.
Our doctor scheduled appointments every week to monitor the development of the tumor, and a copy of each ultrasound was sent to San Francisco for their review. We prayed and fasted for a miracle. Each night we knelt down and poured out our hearts in prayer. And each night as we prayed we felt the comforting presence of the Holy Ghost. As Todd gave me blessings I felt the assurance that Heavenly Father knew of our plight. We knew our prayers were being heard.
One night after a weekly visit to the hospital, I was sobbing. Todd gave me another blessing. During the blessing Todd’s voice sounded different; he used words that were not common for him to say. He told me that our boy had a special mission here on earth and that he would live, prosper, and achieve great things during his life.
Shortly after our first ultrasound we met with our bishop, a tremendous man with great faith. He suggested we ask members of the ward to fast and pray for a miracle. He told us it was not hopeless and that if it was the Lord’s will our baby would be healed.
On Christmas Eve the doctor told us that as a result of the tumor our baby was developing fluid around the heart: our baby was dying. We went to San Francisco for the experimental fetal surgery immediately. We called the doctors in California, who concurred that the baby’s only hope would be surgery, so we booked a flight to San Francisco for the next week. The bleak reality of our situation made our Christmas gloomy, although we did our best to stay positive so our other children might enjoy the holidays.
The Saturday after Christmas, the ward fasted for us. The outpouring of love and support was humbling. Following our Church meetings, we held a special prayer. Our family members, the bishopric, a member of the stake presidency, our home teachers, and other close friends gathered together to give me a blessing. As Todd began the blessing, the Spirit was strong. Todd told me that our baby’s life was in Heavenly Father’s hands and that He would be by my side in San Francisco for the surgery. Todd continued with the promise that Heavenly Father would spare our baby’s life so he could fulfill his mission here on earth. I had seen a video of the fetal surgery and was terrified, but after the blessing I felt calm and reassured that everything would be all right.
We flew to San Francisco on 29 December. At the medical center we met with nurses, radiologists, and all sorts of doctors with the fetal surgery team. They performed numerous tests and examinations. After surgery they discovered that in addition to the lung tumor there were cysts on our baby’s liver. The doctors voiced concern about the cysts but told us the cysts would have to be dealt with later.
The compassion of the fetal surgery team was incredible. They were caring yet direct and informative. Meeting so many people that day, we were bombarded with information. Everything was happening so fast. Still, Todd and I felt we were in excellent hands. We felt sure that through the help of our Heavenly Father and through the skill of gifted surgeons our baby would live.
At the end of the day we met with all the doctors on the fetal surgery team. Our baby’s was the biggest tumor any of them had seen. They were certain that without surgery the tumor would take our baby’s life in the next couple of weeks. We discussed the risks of the surgery to both the baby and me. The doctors explained that they had performed this kind of surgery only seven times before and that only four of the babies had survived. They reaffirmed that the decision was ours and that they would support us in whatever we decided. We told them we could not just stand by and let our baby die. We had to give our little boy a chance at life. There was not a dry eye in the room.
I felt at peace with our decision to go ahead with the surgery. That night I had a dream I was holding a chubby, six-month-old, dark-haired little boy. I felt it was Heavenly Father telling me everything would be all right.
The next morning as I was wheeled into surgery I felt like Heavenly Father was there holding my hand. During the three-hour surgery they performed a C-section and partially removed our little 24-week, one-pound baby boy. They cut into his tiny chest and removed the tumor. Then they put him back into the womb to heal and grow.
After the surgery I remember a nurse patting me on the cheek and telling me the surgery had been successful. I was thrilled. The doctors told us it was the most successful surgery they had performed. Within days new ultrasounds showed that Benjamin’s lungs were beginning to form and that his heart was shifting back to normal. After four days in intensive care and eight more days in the hospital, I was sent home.
While we were away during the first two weeks of January, Salt Lake City had the worst snowstorms in 50 years. Our walks and driveway were the cleanest ones on the street. Neighbors anonymously shoveled snow and cleared our walks while we were gone. Upon returning home, I had to stay in bed until the baby was born. People from the ward brought in meals for the next six weeks. Family members kept a constant vigil in seeing to our needs.
On 9 February 1993 I went into labor. All night at the hospital the doctors gave me medications to help the contractions subside since Benjamin was not due for 10 more weeks. Finally, at 6:50 P.M. the next evening our three-and-one-half-pound baby was born. Benjamin spent the next six weeks in newborn intensive care, where he received expert care and numerous priesthood blessings.
Seeing our baby struggle to survive those six weeks was very difficult, but through it all, Todd and I had a peaceful feeling that Benjamin would be fine. Two weeks after Benjamin was released from the hospital, he received an X-ray scan to examine the cysts on his liver. To the doctors’ surprise the cysts had miraculously disappeared. Six months later, Benjamin was the chubby, healthy, dark-haired baby I had dreamed about all those months before.
Though I grieve with other parents who have lost a child despite exercising great faith, I am grateful that, for whatever reason, our son’s life was spared. Today Benjamin is a perfectly healthy five-year-old who loves to ski, swim, and ride his bike.
Through this experience I have learned a great deal. I have seen what faith, prayer, and fasting can do when a child “is not appointed unto death” (D&C 42:48). I have felt the presence of a loving, caring Father in Heaven. I have witnessed a great miracle named Benjamin.