Every year the DCHS Student Government nominates a charitable cause to be the recipient of all funds raised by the individual classes during Spirit Week (the week prior to Homecoming). Spirit Week is a “battle of the classes” type week where the winner is awarded the Spirit Stick (a broom stick decorated in purple and gold). Points are awarded for having the best t-shirt design, or producing the best class video, but 35% of all the points are reserved for the class that raises the most money for the charitable cause chosen.
This year DCHS Student Government has chosen Mrs. Lawrence and her baby, Beniah (see the photo above,) to honor as the recipient of the funds raised by our student body. Please read the following excerpt about Beniah’s story from Mrs. Lawrence:
My husband, Chris, and I went to our son’s 20-week ultrasound in April of this year. We were expecting to hear a great report and to continue on in our pregnancy. Unfortunately we heard things like, “swelling in the brain”, “lemon head” and “potential opening in the spine”. Two weeks later it was confirmed that our son, Beniah, had Spina Bifida. Spina Bifida is where the spinal column doesn’t finish closing within the first few weeks of development. Folic acid in prenatal vitamins helps to decrease the incidence of neural tube defects like this one, but Ben’s Spina Bifida occurred despite this precaution. I was very emotional as I researched Spina Bifida and dealt with the idea that my child would have challenges and medical conditions that I never would have wanted for him. I also had to reconsider the life I had been imagining for my son. Would he walk? Would he need a wheelchair or braces? Would he have to deal with teasing and awkward stares from other children for the rest of his life? Would he be able to go to the bathroom on his own? Would we need a different kind of house? Could we still pursue a life as long-term missionaries? Will he accept the way he was made or will he wrestle with God about it for his whole life?
Amidst these questions, a more immediate decision had to be made; there is a surgery that can be done in-utero to close his open spine and to give him a better quality of life. This surgery is not a cure for Spina Bifida but studies so far are showing that it improves their mobility, decreases the swelling in the brain to the point that 60% of kids do not need a shunt to remove excess liquid in the brain, and it improves hindbrain herniation, a condition where the brain is pulled down onto the brain stem and can cause headaches and difficulties breathing or swallowing. We had less than two weeks to find out if we qualified for this surgery and then to choose to have the surgery or not. It was an emotional decision with a lot of doctor’s appointments, research and prayer, but we elected to have the in-utero repair surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
On April 28th, the day after my husband finished his last final exam for nursing school, Beniah and I underwent fetal surgery. He was 25 weeks along. My husband and I spent the rest of my pregnancy at the Ronald McDonald house in Cincinnati going to two appointments a week to monitor Beniah’s progress and keeping me on modified bed rest. The highest risk after the surgery was prematurity, so it was important for me to take it easy and to stay close to Cincinnati Children’s should Ben get in to trouble. On average, women with this surgery carry their babies to 31 weeks gestation. Babies born at 31 weeks are at risk for Cerebral Palsy, dying off of the bowels, brain bleeds, breathing problems and more.
Despite the potential anxiety, it was a season of rest and peace as we waited for our son to make his appearance. The Lord truly gave us His peace that surpasses all understanding. We met so many amazing families at the Ronald McDonald house and truly joined a community. Our heart was to minister where God had put us and we were able to encourage and be encouraged by our new friends.
God’s timing was evident in so many ways during this time, but perhaps the greatest way was that my husband was able to spend the summer with me. I was not allowed to be alone after surgery and before the baby came and he was able to be my companion. He was able to study for his nursing board exam and pass it on his first try, then apply for jobs. God gave him the job he desired and our son came the day before he started work, which was also the day after my parents returned to town after a week-long vacation with my brother and sister-in-law and their son.
Beniah Michael Lawrence was born on July 6th, 2015 at 35 weeks and 6 pounds. He was a premie, but his only complication was learning to eat. He spent two and a half weeks in the NICU and left eating just fine. Since his birth we have had nothing but great reports. By God’s grace, he has movement and feeling in his legs all the way to his toes. All his doctors and therapists feel he has the movements he will need to walk, we will just need to wait to see if he needs help building strength. For now, the swelling in his brain is mild and does not require shunting. He will be monitored closely for the first 18 months of his life as this is the time frame when that swelling is most likely to occur. His hindbrain herniation greatly reversed and is unlikely to cause him problems. He is also able to empty his bladder and bowels on his own at this point in time.
Beniah will have regular MRI’s to check his brain and spine. He will have renal ultrasounds to check how his kidneys and bladder are emptying. He will have many therapy appointments to make sure he gets the help he needs to crawl and walk and hopefully, to one day run and jump. He may need leg braces or a walker. He may need future surgeries like placing a shunt, detethering his spine, or repairing his bladder. We will pray and hope that he will not need these interventions or corrections, but they are not uncommon in people with Spina Bifida.
We have been surrounded by God’s goodness in His peace and His church. He has provided for our every need financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We are so honored to be Beniah’s parents and to help him to see the Lord’s mighty hand in his life. His name, Beniah, has been another way the Lord has been good to us.
Beniah is the name of one of King David’s mighty warriors (2 Samuel 23:20-23) and we had chosen it for him before he was conceived. We didn’t know that our Beniah would already be a mighty warrior before he was born. Even greater is that his name means “Yahweh has built him”. We discovered the meaning of his name after his diagnosis and it was a great confirmation that the Lord was with us.
Thank you for reading our story and for your prayers. God is good. I will leave you with a verse that God used to encourage me greatly through this season. May it encourage you through whatever you are walking through.
“For the king trusts in the LORD; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” Psalm 21:7
– Katie Lawrence