The Year That Changed My Life – Brian Rooney
The Year That Changed My Life
By Brian Rooney
The Lord works in mysterious ways. At the time, life was going pretty well. The Pittsburgh Steelers had just won the Super Bowl, my older brother had just been elected to Congress, and my wife and I were happily expecting our third child.
We did know, however, that our son, Blaise, had a congenital heart defect before he was born. At the time, we understood that we were going to be able to take Blaise home after he was born for some time before he was to undergo the surgery to repair his heart.
Needless to say, our lives were uncertain. Before Blaise’s surgery and recovery were to take place, we were considering moving back to Florida to be with our families, after residing in Michigan for three years. Furthermore, after serving my country as a Marine officer in Iraq, I was contemplating a shift from fighting for my fellow citizens on the battlefield and in the courtroom, to fighting for them in Washington. My brother, Tom, was encouraging me to come “home” and run for office in Florida. God, on the other hand, had different plans.
Blaise was born premature at 34 weeks on February 6, 2009. The doctors found unexpected complications, which required immediate surgery. Our lives, as we had known them, were over. We spent the first three months of Blaise’s life at his hospital bedside praying for the best.
In all, there were two open-heart surgeries, two brain surgeries (numerous brain procedures), uncontrollable seizures, a cardiac arrest, and a stomach surgery. Any previous talk of moving away and a possible run for office were over. We were determined to make sure that Blaise got the best possible care he needed provided to him right here in Michigan.
We had always loved Michigan, and through this difficult time, Michigan proved to be our real home. Our community rallied around us. Friends and coworkers helped watch our other two children, brought over food, and helped with our dogs. I was allowed to work from the hospital. Our priest and nuns were always there when we, at times, were on the precipice of utter, crushing despair. The other families in the 15-bed ICU supported one another. The doctors, nurses, specialists, and support staff were all truly amazing—many remain close friends to this day.
In the background, the health care debate was raging in the country. As Blaise improved, I became upset with the prospect of the government taking over health care. The eventuality of rationed care could destroy the specialized care that saved Blaise’s life, as well as other children’s lives.
Families all over the world come to Michigan to save their children’s lives. Congressman Mark Schauer kept talking about refocusing on preventative care. There is no preventative care for congenital heart defects other than termination. One in a hundred children are born with a congenital heart defect. I knew this man was ignorant to the potential disaster he and his colleagues were about to cause by their all encompassing reform.
On your way in and out of the University Hospital there are pictured banners of patients that read, “We are Michigan.” I’ll never forget when I told my wife during this crucible, “You know—‘we’ are Michigan.” My wife and I cried for the thousandth time. We both knew we were staying in Michigan because we wanted to raise our children here in this giving, helpful, and loving community.
As Blaise got better, my brother Tom started encouraging me to run for Congress again. I told him I would—here—in MY family’s home of Michigan.