We found out a few weeks ago that Thing 1 will need a heart transplant in the next few years. We knew this was a good possibility for our future. But, we expected it to be very far in the future. Now, we are learning it will, most likely, be much sooner than expected. This has been unsettling, to say the least.
My first instinct when I got off the phone with the cardiologist was that Armydad could not join the Army. How could we pack up and move to who knows where and then move every few years when Thing 1 needs specialized care and doctors? I quickly came to realize that Armydad signed a contract that he would have trouble getting out of. And, we are several hours from the nearest transplant center, so we would have to pack up and move, on our own dime, anyway. After doing some research, I have discovered there are several Army posts that are an hour or less from a transplant center. And, I have talked to several people about the health benefits. In the end, I think it will be a blessing in disguise that this happened when it did. We may get moved by the Army and be able to continue living as a family under one roof while awaiting the transplant. (If we are too far or the center we are near is not good enough, I will have to move to a different city with an acceptable transplant center on my own with the kids to await his transplant.) And we should have much lower out of pocket costs!
The downside: (Well, my son needs another child to die in order for him to live, so really not much other than downsides here…) We will never be able to be stationed OCONUS. I had just finally convinced Armydad that we should live in Germany, if at all possible. He was all set to request a station there! (He was VERY against it originally. He just had no desire to live outside the US.) Once I convinced him, we found out it was no longer an option for us. (I do, of course, realize that he can still get stationed OCONUS. But, the kids and I will not be able to go with him.) From what I have researched, even after the transplant, we will still need to stay near a transplant center. One of the things I was most excited about with the Army was the experiences we were going to have. The chances to live elsewhere and experience different lifestyles / cultures. Now, I am letting go of that.
Another (non-Army related) downside: I am working on giving up the dream for more kids. There is a good chance that Thing 1 could spend months in the hospital while awaiting his transplant. What would I do with a baby? I am already wondering what I will do with Thing 2 and he should be at least preschool age, if not school age. Then after the transplant, Thing 1 will be on very heavy doses of anti-rejection meds for a while. So, no new babies during that time. We cannot risk his health. Once we overcome that and things settle down, I fear the kids will be too old. We will be too far past the baby phase to go back. We will be too exhausted: physically, medically, psychologically.
We are still working to wrap our minds around this whole situation.
***Thing 1 is not, at this time, on a transplant list. Right now he is on medication. The meds are working and keeping him out of heart failure. At some point, probably in the next few years, the meds will stop working and he will go into heart failure. He will then likely be in and out of the hospital waiting for a heart. And he is 4 years old.***