This is the time of year when we all stop and reflect on the things we are thankful for. It has been a tradition for me to thank the people who are a part of my business life. To my clients, I am grateful that you have trusted me with your most important matters - your family and your dreams. I am grateful that your trust in me and my law firm has helped me provide for my family. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
I am also grateful for all of the wonderful financial professionals I am blessed to work with - the accountants, bankers, financial advisors and insurance professionals who help me put together solutions for my clients. Without you, I am only a stool with one leg. I can't do my job without your help and I am thankful.
But, this year I have something else to be thankful for - something that eclipses all of the other thanks I have given in my entire life. My beautiful little girl Marlee is alive and healthy. For that I am profoundly grateful. Eleven months ago, Marlee was born with a congenital heart defect called "pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum." (PA/IVS) Usually the word "intact" is a good thing. Here it is not. Basically, her heart had no natural way to pump blood to her lungs. Untreated, her condition means certain death.
After she was diagnosed, I did everything I could to learn about her condition. I read medical journals, visited websites, etc. I went on Youtube looking for a video illustration of how a PA/IVS heart functions. Instead, I found page after page of tribute videos to children with her condition who did not make it. I literally sat there for hours and watched videos honoring precious little lives cut short - by the same condition that my daughter had.
Now, truth be told, we knew early on that Marlee's condition was on the good side of the spectrum for children with PA/IVS. She was born full term, full weight, in a quality hospital with a prepared medical team. She was way ahead of the curve on nearly every measuring scale. Even still, we knew that she would require several surgeries just to reach survivability.
Professionally, I realized that I would not be able to maintain an office in Newport Beach - 15 miles from my home in Placentia. We shut down the Newport office and opened an office here in Placentia. That freed me up to attend the weekly doctor appointments and to switch off with my wife while Marlee was in the hospital - one parent in the hospital, and another at home with our three other children.
Marlee spent her first six weeks in the hospital, including two heart surgeries. She got to come home for a few weeks before she was back in the hospital for her third surgery. On October 5, Marlee had her fifth surgery. Over the course of these surgeries, she has had a shunt put in to connect her aorta to her pulmonary arteries, an opening cut where her pulmonary valve was supposed to be, and a widening of the pulmonary valve opening. Most recently, they took the superior vena cava, which returns blood from the upper body to the heart, and re-routed it directly to the lungs through the pulmonary artery. This surgery takes the heart out of the loop for the upper body "return" blood, which lets the right side of Marlee's heart not have to work so hard.
This is the time of year when we all stop and reflect on the things we are thankful for. It has been a tradition for me to thank the people who are aAs a result of all these surgeries, Marlee's oxygen levels are nearly normal, and she is on track for a long life. We can't presume to know the future, but for now she is safe. This ordeal has strengthened my family's faith in God, in each other, and in our friends and extended family. I am overwhelmed at the continuing offers of support from those around us. Countless people are praying for Marlee. And, I am thankful.
While I am always mindful that others have not had such a good outcome, I am truly blessed to have gone through this experience with my daughter. I have learned more about love in the past eleven months than in my entire life beforehand. For that, I am thankful.
I have also learned to rely on God to see me through difficulties - something that I've known to be important, but never truly understood until now. For that, too, I am grateful.
Lastly, I've learned that we can often find joy in times of difficulty, and that being thankful is a choice. It is the deliberate decision to focus on the positive aspects of our existence and to be content with our circumstances.
See, gratitude is not the product of good fortune. Instead, it is the perspective that realizes that life itself is good fortune. I realize that sayings like that are found most often in fortune cookies and on bumper stickers. They're the kind of thing we tell ourselves when we need a lift. But, the past year has made that saying a reality for me. I have learned the habit of gratitude, and for that most of all, I am thankful.