There is a quote by Roger Crawford that says, “Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” We all have our challenges and difficult journeys to travel. Never in a million years did my husband and I dream that we would have to say goodbye to one of our children in this lifetime. Children are supposed to bury parents, not the other way around.

May 26, 2005….A day that brought joy and heartache to our family within a short eleven-hour time frame. My husband Tim and I along with our small children, Sam (7) and Sophie (4) were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our 3rd child, Gabriel “Gabe.” Despite receiving regular prenatal care with no obvious signs of concern, Gabe was born with HLHS (Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome). He was a handsome and strong little man with wavy brown hair, brown eyes, and considered to be our “chubbiest” baby topping the scales at a healthy 7lbs and 7 ounces. To look at him one would have never known there was anything wrong except for his blue coloring due to a lack of oxygen seconds after his birth. With all of his strength, he cried three times when I held him in my arms. I like to think that was his way of saying, “I love you, Mom and Dad.” 

When we first heard the words “heart disease” we couldn’t quite wrap our brains around it. I had taken care of myself throughout the pregnancy, exercised, ate healthy, took my vitamins and had never experienced anything like this with our other children. Later, we would discover there had been no genetic markers indicating heart disease. Just something that happened. No parent ever expects to lose a child but life doesn’t always go as planned. We all know that. 

After what seemed like an eternity, Gabe was life flighted to Children’s Hospital in Omaha. With the support of my family, we drove to Omaha to face the worst moments in our married life. You know things are bad when you receive a call from the Pediatric Cardiologist encouraging you to exceed the speed limit in order to make it to the hospital on time. At 3:00 a.m., May 27, 2005, Tim and I sat in a large conference room surrounded by many medical professionals telling us there was no hope for our son. It was too late for a heart transplant and he’d been without oxygen for longer than he should have. It was a miracle Gabe had survived the flight to Omaha, they told us. I didn’t want to hear all the things that could go wrong IF we decided to keep him on life support. At that point, I had taught special education for over 10 years and I felt like I understood what quality of life meant. Tim and I decided we didn’t want that for our handsome little boy. We wanted him to have freedom from pain and sickness so we let him go at 7:30 a.m., holding him in our arms as he took his last breath on earth.

Through our short time with Gabe, we decided we had two choices: Either be bitter or better because we had been blessed to have him in our lives for 9 months and 11 hours. It’s funny how the mind works, but I discovered a newly found empathy for parents who had lost children through other tragedies, experienced the disappointment of a sick child, or even for those who so desperately wanted to experience having children but for whatever reasons, were unable to experience parenthood. Pain, albeit a very difficult option, can be a great teacher, if we choose to embrace the moments. We had no other choice except charge forward, educate ourselves and now, volunteer for an organization that we truly believe in. If you feel as passionately as we do about helping children, please support the Children’s Heart Foundation.


Gabe’s Family


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Click here to read their honest stories of loss and survival. 


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Lisa Cass

Lisa is a UNK graduate and has spent the last twenty years teaching special education in Kansas and Nebraska schools. She lives in Hastings, Nebraska with her husband Tim, also a UNK graduate and children, Sam, Sophia, Addison, and Ian. Over the years Lisa has served as a respite care worker, tutor and volunteer for the Nebraska Army National Guard Family Readiness group, Special Olympics, UNK Gold Torch Society, and Nebraska Children’s Heart Foundation. She enjoys attending her children’s school events, substitute teaching, and traveling with her husband.

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