Many times parents who discover their preborn child has a disability are told their child will be a “burden” or are advised to abort the child before birth. This story proves that no “burden” outweighs the gift of life.
Baby Zeke was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome—a deadly congenital heart condition. The doctors advised Zeke’s parents “adamantly and harshly to abort him in the womb,” saying that, statistically, death shortly after birth would be inevitable. Yet his loving parents knew that nothing could excuse the killing of an innocent human being, so they chose life.
Zeke’s mom, Lisa Smiley, wrote: “Choosing life for a child who is diagnosed with a severe abnormality can be one of the most heart-wrenching decisions one may ever make. Yet in my experience, it has become one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.”
Zeke’s parents understood that his life was fragile, so they never took a day for granted. Zeke was a happy child who loved spending time hunting, fishing, and playing with his father. Though his days carried much joy, they could be difficult as well. He had three open-heart surgeries, various operations, and suffered a cardiac arrest at the age of five that left him paralyzed and mute. At that point the doctors said he was in a vegetative state, but his parents had unfailing faith in him. With rehabilitation, Zeke was able to walk, talk, eat, and smile on his own again.
Unfortunately on December 26, 2015, Zeke passed away at the young age of seven after another cardiac arrest. Zeke left this world with a legacy of joy and hope. His story now reaches people all over the world.
Though the doctors warned Zeke’s parents about his health conditions, they had no idea that Zeke would touch so many people. Lisa states, “They never told us about the happiness, love and fulfillment that we would experience by having Zeke in our family. Zeke was our son—our flesh and blood—no matter what his condition. He deserved all the love and care we, as his parents, could give him.”
Zeke’s life was full of happiness; he loved to laugh, he made friends easily, and he enjoyed making jokes. He proved the doctors wrong time and time again.
Doctors push women to abort children with disabilities because they fear the child will be a “burden” and too much for a mom to handle. Yet, Lisa found that in caring for Zeke “the most valuable and meaningful lessons are sometimes learned in hardship and adversity—when we are sacrificing our own comfort and desires to serve another more vulnerable and helpless than ourselves.”
Isn’t that what true parenthood is all about—putting your child’s need above your own?
The legacy left by Zeke Smiley (2008-2015) will never be forgotten. His parents are a courageous example of what it means to #SeeDignity in every human being, even those with disabilities.