‘A Miracle in Front of Us Every Day’

Hammond Family

When her parents ask Olivia Hammond of Bryan, TX, to show what her little brother’s heart looks like, the adorable 4 year old makes the familiar shape with both hands. Then she takes half of it away.

That’s a quick explanation of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a rare and serious congenital heart defect. Deacon Hammond, who just turned 2, has already had two open-heart surgeries as a result of it; a third surgery is on the horizon, and a future heart transplant is all but inevitable.

Deacon’s heart is on the mind of every grownup in his orbit. But the toddler himself only has time for dogs—especially Reveille, the American collie mascot of his hometown Texas Aggies—and for getting into his sister’s stuff. Both are fine with mom Brittany and dad Walt, if not Olivia, because that’s what normal 2 year olds do. And that’s how they’re raising their son.

Hammond Family

Olivia Hammond, Deacon’s sister, demonstrates her understanding of HLHS, her brother’s congenital heart condition.

“We’re not going to put him in a bubble,” Brittany said. “We want Deacon to experience and enjoy life, for however long life is. It’s not always easy to do, but that’s our goal … to not let him think that he is different in any way.”

What that looks like right now is a blur of motion. As with many newer to walking, Deacon prefers running. He chases his sister everywhere, with an enforced pause in the action only when Brittany or Walt glimpse a blue tinge in Deacon’s lips or fingers. “That’s when we know, ‘OK, he needs to sit down for a minute,'” Brittany said.

Because Deacon’s sternum-to-navel “zipper scar,” usually hidden under t-shirts, is the only outward sign of the complex Norwood and Glenn surgeries that make it possible for patients like him to survive, many who meet him think he’s doing great. This is true. And false.

“People see him and say, ‘Oh, he’s fine … he’s fixed,'” Brittany said. “But with kids like Deacon, the situation is inside. You can’t see it, and when you do see it, then it’s bad.”

With no ability to control when Deacon will need a Fontan procedure—the third of three repair surgeries for HLHS patients—or possibly a heart transplant in the future, the Hammonds have chosen instead to celebrate what Brittany describes as “the miracle manifesting in front of us every single day.” Deacon continues to meet and exceed milestones, and his doctors say they can’t believe how well he is doing.

Hammond Family

Deacon Hammond takes a break from feeding himself, which is a major developmental, and mess-making, milestone. 

Reflecting on his son, Walt, who is an ordained minister and the grandson, son and brother of pastors, said, “Deacon is made this way. There is a reason for it, whether we know it or not, and he is going to serve a greater purpose.”

While Walt knows that some families in the midst of a child’s health crisis simply can’t imagine a greater purpose—”A lot of people hate God in that moment,” he said—his faith and Bible training have been his mainstays.

Citing Hebrews 11:1, which describes faith as the ability to believe in things unseen, Walt said, “As a believer in God, I also rely on science for my son’s medical condition” —and he sees the God-given talents that Deacon’s medical team uses to repair his son’s heart and lengthen his life.

While Walt, Brittany and their families and friends continually pray for God to make Deacon’s heart whole, that has not happened. But as he watches Deacon motor across the living room in his pajamas, Walt quickly clarifies: “Our son may only have half a heart, but he is whole. He is amazing.”

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Comments (5)

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Allyson Clouden Jan 18, 2019 2:41pm
God does have a purpose for this situation in your son. Keep trusting. I'll remember your family in my prayers . Your faith is inspirational!
Joyce Jan 14, 2019 2:57pm
To the dear family of Deacon, Oh how my heart goes out to you with love! Your precious child is a beautiful reflection of God. I love the following definition of children: "Children. The spiritual thoughts and representatives of Life, Truth, and Love." - Mary Baker Eddy I have used this quote as a basis in praying for children with wonderful results. Your sweet boy is a complete expression of the God of Life and of Truth and of Love. Might I suggest focusing on the beautiful spiritual qualities Deacon expresses as his true substance while praying. This has also helped me in my prayers for children. I am knowing that God's love and light surround you all. (SH 582:28)
Martha Kirkpatrick Jan 10, 2019 1:46pm
We're praying for healing.
Linda Williams Jan 02, 2019 2:00pm
I have a grandson with the same condition they did not expect him to live but with much prayers and Gods help he is a happy and energetic boy of 12 yrs old still going strong. He too had 3 open heart surgeries. God is a healer I encourage you during this time nothing is impossible. Believe. Trust. All is well.
B redeniud Dec 28, 2018 5:43am
My granddaughter is 10 and has the same condition, she had all three surgeries and is doing great. These kids wont over do it, they listen to their bodies. Pray they all live a full life with no transplant