Hayden Hoskin's omphalocele bobbed slightly with each of his tiny breaths.
The oddly named birth defect looked as though someone had taken a yellow softball, sliced it in half and placed it on the newborn's tummy. On Jan. 18, Hayden joined the 5,386 babies born each year with an omphalocele. The yellowing sac concealed a portion of his liver and intestine outside his body.
Still, the unusual defect isn't what I remember most about Hayden.
About three weeks after Hayden's birth, I met with Dr. Brad Warner, a specialist in pediatric surgery and Hayden's primary doctor, at Children's Hospital in St. Louis. Warner told me Hayden's outlook looked promising. The omphalocele itself wasn't dangerous, but the chromosomal deficiencies, kidney problems and heart abnormalities associated with it were often deadly.
But Hayden had two advantages:
º The little boy had, remarkably, escaped any additional difficulties.
º He was born into what Dr. Warner called "good Quincy stock."
Warner knew all about Quincy's tendency to rally around a family, a cause and a small child. Five years ago, he'd treated Quincyan Cadan Frericks, who died from a congenital diaphragmatic hernia 12 days after his birth. Warner had attended Cadan's memorial carnival and had seen the community's support firsthand.
The doctor also saw determination and commitment from Hayden's parents, Andy and Kelsea Hoskins.
Moments into my interview with Hoskins, I saw Hayden's advantage, too. His parents explained how they changed the wrapping on Hayden's omphalocele at least twice a day. Kelsea said she wouldn't return to her teaching job with Quincy Public Schools. The couple had even considered giving away their cats if medical bills became too steep.
"I'm totally capable," Kelsea said. "I'd rather have him with us. We know we can take care of him. It's all part of God's plan."
Doctors tucked Hayden's organs back inside his body earlier this summer. A jagged scar rests flat where the sac once bobbed. The Hoskins family has certainly had scary moments, but in general the little boy and that ongoing love have thrived.
Lately, I've seen that tenfold on the blog Andy has kept since Kelsea became pregnant. I've read through Andy's request for prayers for another child born with an omphalocele. I've seen pictures of Hayden omphalocele-free on the football field with his father, smiling with his mothers and cuddling with the family dog. I watched Hayden's doctor and nurses at Quincy Medical Group put together a benefit for the family. I ran into Andy, Kelsea and Hayden volunteering at Cadan's Carnival.
Hayden's story wasn't about a defect. It was about love.