Joe and Lakesha Williams of Beaufort find hope in the eyes of their 5-month-old son as the couple prepares for the child’s third heart surgery.
“This little boy has some wise eyes,” Lakesha said Tuesday. “It is like he is saying ‘Mommy, it is going to be OK.’ ”
Joe L. Williams III was born in March with hypoplastic left heart syndrome — the left side of his heart did not develop while in the womb.
Some parents plan a nursery as they wait for the arrival of their child. The Williamses were planning a series of heart surgeries.
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The parents and child spent an hour at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park on Tuesday before separating in preparation for yet another surgery. Joe III smiled between sucks on his pacifier.
“He looks wonderful on the outside,” Lakesha said. “There is so much going on inside you can’t see. Just taking a bottle could send him into cardiac arrest.”
Scars from his first two surgeries and a feeding tube are hidden behind a shirt with the words “I was worth the wait.”
I lost it. This little bitty thing and all these tubes, you couldn’t even see his little body.
Lakesha Williams, mother of baby with heart condition
Later Tuesday, Lakesha will put their son in the car and drive more than an hour to the Medical University of South Carolina’s Children’s Hospital in Charleston for pre-operation check-in. Preparation for the eight-hour surgery — set for Thursday — will start Wednesday morning.
The risks are high and real for the Williams family.
Complications from a surgery in the weeks following birth left the infant on life support with a collapsed lung and kidney failure, his father said.
“We were able to look down into his chest and see his heart pumping for two weeks,” Lakesha said. “I have faith in God, but one day I stopped and I looked at everything around me,” she said. “I lost it. This little bitty thing and all these tubes, you couldn’t even see his little body.”
Lakesha said she refuses to think about the risks ahead. Thursday’s procedure will provide Joe III with the second heart ventricle he is missing.
“We really try to focus on the positives,” Lakesha said. “We don’t even want to think about the negative. We believe he is in awesome hands.”
It will be at least two months before Joe III returns to his Beaufort home, a place the doctors allowed him to visit for the first time only last month.
Again the family — including four other children — will be separated, spread between family members as Lakesha and Joe drive back and forth between home and the hospital.
Time and money are something the family simply can’t stress over now, Joe said.
“You just have to let it hit your credit (score),” Joe, a pastor at Jackson Branch Missionary Baptist Church in Brunson, said.
Lakesha, a hair stylist, had to quit working when her son was born to take care of him.
Joe continues to work at the church and works part time as a security guard.
Support from the community has kept the family going, Lakesha said. She said this includes donations through the United Way of the Lowcountry and a gofundme.com page at www.gofundme.com/qxeybbjp.
While the family has come far, they are only half-way through the journey.
Thursday’s surgery will not be the last.
The family hopes the next and final operation will occur when Joe III is 3.
The struggles are hard but worth it, Lakesha said.
“If we have to work for the rest of our lives, he was worth it,” she said.