A Broken Heart

I was six weeks postpartum with my second child when I found my husband unresponsive on the floor. You know, my thirty-one-year-old, former athlete husband who was at the peak of his physical prime.

It was a Saturday morning and I awoke to a thud—a body hitting the floor, a spine breaking apart as it collapsed on our nightstand. Shawn was conscious, but disoriented. And in his typical, fly-under-the-radar fashion, he didn’t even want help getting back into bed.

After some coaxing, and securing childcare for our two babies, we went to a free standing ER. It would be ten days, three hospital transfers, one defibrillator placement, and countless needles, tests, and surgeries later before we’d return home. Forever changed.

Because this wasn’t just a fainting spell or something minor we could brush behind us. This was a rare version of an already rare disease. My husband’s heart was three times the size it should be. It was overworked, and tired, and giving out. In fact, that’s exactly what it did that day, it gave up. Doctors told us the shock of breaking his back on that fortuitous piece of furniture saved his life. If he would’ve fallen gracefully to the carpet instead, I’d be a widow right now.

shawn steph wedding

We now belong to a select group of people who can say, “My entire life changed in an instant.” But I didn’t want to belong to them. I wanted the safety and security Shawn offered me when I offered him my hand in marriage. It was one of the traits that attracted me to him the most—predictability. After a life of chaos and turmoil, I could rest at ease with this man. What you saw was what you got, and I got a lot with him. But now? Now my future was one big question mark and relying on a piece of machinery to keep him alive until a heart transplant could be had.

And then there was the other kicker. The one that would rob me of every joy I had fought for and earned in this lifetime: his condition was genetic. My children had a 50% chance of having it as well.

Nothing prepares you for this—the dismantling of your family. I had a two-year-old and a newborn. I should’ve been at home breastfeeding and bonding, not in an ICU bathing my husband. But in sickness and in health, right?

And in the upcoming year I was going to learn exactly what it meant to honor that vow as we faced the complete demolition and rebuild of our faith and family.