When I first had Patrick, I was told to check out a support group for parents of children with arthrogryposis. It was anything but encouraging. I only read a few issues of their newsletter and then stopped looking at them. But here is how some children are affected by it.
Some are unable to walk or run.
As I was doing research for this article, I found some other pictures online that were extremely disturbing, with bodies twisted out of all alignment and grossly misshapen body parts, but I believe that most people with Arthrogryposis are more like the way Patrick was.
The support group didn’t show those kinds of pictures, but the stories were not encouraging to me, because they told of many surgeries and lots of intervention and time in hospitals and doctors’ offices. That was not the kind of life I wanted for Patrick or my family. I prayed that God would just heal Patrick sovereignly.
One night, I was putting pictures in photo albums. It was kind of strange that I was doing it. I was way behind and felt like it was more than I could handle. I didn’t even know about scrapbooking back then, but there’s no way I could have done any of that. Just putting pictures in albums was a chore. There was so much going on in my life. It got very late, and everybody else was in bed. The house was nice and quiet, and I was getting tired. I kept thinking, “What am I doing? I should be sleeping while I have the chance.” But I kept working at my photo album. Finally, I told myself I was being foolish, and I just needed to go to bed and get the rest I needed. I walked from the kitchen through the living room where the tv was on. I was walking past the television when I heard Benny Hinn say, “The parents of Patrick should listen to this.” I stopped and stared at the tv. Benny started quoting some verses about how God takes care of his children. I sat down and listened as intently as I could. I was trying to memorize what he was saying. I knew that he was saying it to me. I remembered two of the verses.
Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
The other was really similar:
Psalm 34:17 The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
I was just sitting there soaking in what the Lord was saying to me. Then I was shocked to hear Benny Hinn say these words:
“Patrick is going to be fine.”
I knew that the Lord had just given me a promise.
I hung on to that promise and let the Lord lead me into a more “believing for the supernatural, less dependent on medical professionals” lifestyle.
When Patrick was 2 1/2 and 3 years old we went to a church with a little boy named Reggie who was about Patrick’s age who also had arthrogryposis. He was more severely affected by it. His wrists were bent like the wrists of the baby in the first picture above. He couldn’t straighten them out to hold a cup or get food to his mouth or anything. He needed help with everything. He had a really hard time walking, too. In fact he couldn’t walk when we first met him. He didn’t start walking until he was over 2 years old. Patrick had started right around 1 year old.
I was amazed that there were 2 boys in the same church with this condition. It is very rare – only 1 in 3000 births. And they were close to the same age. I talked with the mother. I asked if she had taken thyroid medication, because I wondered if that was what had caused Patrick’s condition. She hadn’t. She told me that Reggie was going to have surgery to straighten his wrists so that they would be stuck in a straight-out position instead of a bent position. The joints would be frozen, but he would be able to do more that way than he could with them hooked in the way they were. We felt so bad for him. We prayed for him a lot. Patrick saw how badly it could have affected him, and he became more thankful for what he had.
One thing that Patrick struggled with was breathing difficulties. He would run around and get all excited, and then he would come in struggling to breathe. One time, he was having such a hard time, he just laid on the couch and tried to get some breath. He was heaving, and I could tell he was trying to talk, but he couldn’t. I knew it was serious, so I took him to a pediatrician. She gave him 2 breathing treatments and then sent him to the hospital. They diagnosed him with asthma. But we never claimed it. I got a breathing treatment machine. We got him an inhaler. We used these things when he needed them, but we never said that Patrick had asthma.
During our travels across the country, we didn’t have the machine or inhaler. Patrick didn’t have any breathing problems. When we settled in Kansas City, he had some problems, but he experimented with sleeping in different parts of the house and found that he was okay if he slept in the basement. We never had to take him to the doctor because of breathing problems while we lived there. The rest of us seemed to have more problems than he did! In the last couple of years, he hasn’t had any breathing problems at all.
His club foot did start to turn in after the first surgery. He started to walk on the outside of his foot. It became more noticeable all the time. A Shriner saw him walking on the side of his foot and talked to Gary about doctors they had that would fix his foot for free if he went to their hospital. I was very uncomfortable about doing anything with the Masons, so I didn’t pursue it. I was trusting God to take care of his foot. The Shriner, Carl, started coming to our house and persisted in trying to convince me to send Patrick to their hospital and have him operated on. I politely refused. He started harassing me and telling me that Patrick would hate me some day for not taking care of his foot. He said that the things I had heard about the Masons were all false. He kept coming by and pestering me. It was really disturbing. But he came while Gary was at work, and I didn’t want to be rude to him. He stayed for an hour or more each time telling me all the wonderful things the Shriners do.
I started praying about Patrick’s foot more diligently. We took him to a church and asked everyone to pray for his foot to turn. We told the Lord that if He didn’t heal it by a certain date, we were going to take him back to the orthopedic surgeon and have him operate on it. The foot didn’t turn, so we did end up having the surgery. Patrick had a total of 5 surgeries on his foot and on the hypospadias by the time he was 6 years old. He has never had any other surgery since then. He never had anything done to his elbows, muscles, tendons or anything else.
The summer before that, he played soccer. He did really well, even with his foot turning in. And everybody loved Patrick. At one of the first practices, we were pulling up to the field, and I started hearing kids yelling, “There’s Patrick. Patrick’s here!” I couldn’t believe it. I think there had only been one practice before that, and he was homeschooled so he didn’t know anybody from school or anything. He has always been very popular everywhere we go.
A geneticist told us that it was not likely that any of our future children would have arthrogryposis. I prayed really hard about this because I wanted another child. Our plan had been to have four children, but I was unsure about whether I should have more if they might have birth defects. I went to a woman from church who had five kids and asked her how she felt about birth control and having many children. She and her husband used natural family planning. She knew when she was fertile, and they decided when they wanted to try to have a child or when they wanted to keep from getting pregnant. I heard more about this method on Focus on the Family later. I liked this method much better than birth control pills.
God took me even further and asked me to let Him be Lord of my womb. He showed me that people-making is really His business, not mine. If He wants to put a child in my family, I should not stand in His way. He knows what children are supposed to be in my family. I don’t. By trying to control that, I was meddling in His affairs! So I have let Him do His will in that area, and He has blessed us abundantly above all that we could ask or think, with 10 children. And none of them have any physical problems at all. And Patrick has been gradually healed from the moment we first found out that he had any problems.
We have been able to live life as a family at home, not in doctors’ offices or hospitals. I am so thankful for the wonderful blessings that God has bestowed on us.
The first part of this testimony is here if you would like to read it.