DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It may be tempting to quickly look away, to avoid being accused of staring, or to have a moment of pity perhaps, or sorrow.
But if you look beyond the physical challenges, you might just learn that often the only thing separating sorrow from joy, is perspective.
“We don’t believe God makes mistakes,” says Janice Fletcher of Sherman. “We don’t always understand or like his purposes sometimes… but we strongly believe he had a purpose and a plan.”
When Fletcher was expecting her youngest daughter, Lindsey, she was warned at 19 weeks that the baby would have severe medical problems, diagnosed in utero with spina bifida and encephalitis.
“Lindsey has had 52 surgeries,” says her mother. “She was in surgery seven-and-a-half hours the day she was born.”
Her medical journey since has been long and difficult.
“She has had five broken legs, a broken hip, blood clots, kidney stones and 14 brain surgeries.”
Lindsey now takes nourishment through a feeding tube. Sometimes Janice and her husband all but lived in the hospital. And now at 30, she has more than a dozen tumors in her liver.
Still, the family remains faithful.
“She was in a coma for 11 days and they said she would never wake up again,” recalls Janice. “And on the 12th day she woke up again and said ‘hi Mom’ and ‘hi Dad’ and has been going ever since.”
And the family is grateful for doctors at Medical City Dallas and Texas Oncology who help her do just that.
“People that aren’t around special needs kids…think ‘oh, they suffer so much’,” shared Janice. “If you were to ask Lindsey, ‘have you ever suffered?’ She would tell you, ‘absolutely not’. She fights to live.”
“Life is precious,” adds her father, Bobby Fletcher. “Her life is precious to us, to her. We’ve had some doctors who had said, ‘she doesn’t have a quality of life, so why do you go to heroics to save her’?”
But she does have quality of life.
She loves her life and other doctors that know her, know that. And they argue with doctors that don’t understand it. Because she’s happy. All the time.”
I asked her father, a semi-retired pastor, what his daughter had taught him, about faith.
“That I don’t have much,” he answers quickly with a laugh, “not nearly as much as she has.”
But the family does have strength. And a commitment to love the daughter they were given: while appreciating how much she gives to others.
“She said, ‘God talked to my heart. Mom and he said I’m supposed to pray for all of Daddy’s pastors and give bibles away’,” shares Janice.
So that’s what her daughter does with her spare money.
“Today, she handed me a bible and I don’t want to cry,” shared Texas Oncology Medical Assistant Morgan Mosalmani. “She just told me that she buys bibles with her own money and hands them out to people!” The moment, perhaps, even more emotional for Mosalmani, because Lindsey had no way of knowing that the medical assistant’s bible had been destroyed in a house fire some years ago. And the bible was her favorite color: pink.
Her parents say Lindsey’s giving spirit isn’t confined to strangers.
“Our children and our grandchildren have learned about compassion, they’ve learned to accept people who are different,” shares Janice. “Our daughter is a nurse today, because of her. Our son is a pastor who is fostering two little boys with issues. I want people to be inspired and encouraged, and maybe it will give them a little”– and then her husband chimes in to finish the sentence in unison “perspective.”
But most of all, they say their family has learned “that you can choose to be joyful in whatever situation. But it is a choice.”
“I wouldn’t wish this for anybody, but I wouldn’t trade it,” said Bobby.
“The benefits and the blessings have far outweighed the heartache,” said Janice.