It’s been a long, bumpy and uncertain road for Piper Jae Paddock, a baby who was diagnosed in utero with severe and life-threatening heart defects.
Gia and Tim Paddock, who are both New York State Troopers, saw their entire worlds rocked during a routine, 28-week ultrasound last year when they learned that Piper suffered from Ebstein’s anomaly with pulmonary regurgitation, a life-threatening condition.
The loving parents immediately responded by starting a harrowing quest to fight for Piper’s survival.
And after numerous surgeries and procedures, profound tests of faith — and an inspirational story that has been covered by major outlets across America — Gia and Tim are celebrating their baby girl’s first birthday on Friday.
Gia, who has regularly communicated with thousands of the family’s supporters through the Facebook page, “Prayers for Piper Jae,” released a birthday message addressed to Piper as well as a video that recaps the family’s harrowing journey.
“Happy 1st Birthday, Peanut. You have taught your dad and I so much in this last year,” she wrote. “You have shown how strong you truly are and what a fighter God gave me! This time last year I didn’t know your future and if you would survive.”
Despite the “painful memories” and events that have unfolded over the past 12 months, Gia said Piper’s journey has been “a beautiful one” and pledged to continue fighting for her baby.
“I love you with all of my heart and I will fight with you every day,” she continued. “I can’t wait to see you on your 18th birthday … God truly blessed us with you!”
And Gia’s comments about God and about Piper being a blessing are anything but mere lip-service, as she told Faithwire earlier that her baby’s struggles have left her with many lessons surrounding her Christian faith.
“Faith in God is the most important thing you can have during these hard times,” Gia said. “If you don’t have faith, you won’t survive.”
The journey has certainly been difficult, with Piper undergoing nine procedures — including three open-heart surgeries — in her short lifetime.
Despite those difficulties, the overall emotional toll as well as temporary relocations from Gia and Tim’s home in Upstate, New York, to Boston Children’s hospital where Piper receives treatment, the parents are elated with Piper’s perseverance, saying their daughter is a “fighter” who continues to beat the odds.
Doctors echo this sentiment, with Dr. Sitaram Emani, Piper’s surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, telling People earlier this year that the baby is “one of the most amazing fighters” he’s seen.
Describing her condition as severe, he said that a baby facing what Piper has generally has just a 50-50 chance of survival.
“It’s one of the cardiac conditions that is most feared in our community, because there really isn’t a very easy or great option and many kids can be very sick after birth,” Emani said. “There were times we didn’t think she’d survive but she held our hand and said, ‘No you can do this!'”
Gia also shared that, at the start of the ordeal, she initially found herself asking God, “Why us?” and pondering why Piper had to go through so much pain.
In those tough moments, though, she often felt God responding: “Why not you? You have faith, you can show the world through Piper that I am here with you. Throughout the trials and tribulations and I will guide you and show you that all things are possible with me.”
The loving mom specifically recalled one painful moment in which she found herself angry and crying out to God, begging for him to spare Piper. In the midst of Gia’s sorrow, she once again felt the Lord speak to her.
“I collapsed and was begging him for my daughter’s life and he said to me, ‘Don’t worry, child, she will be okay,'” she told Faithwire. “From then on out I never question him ever. He is faithful!”
Ironically, Piper’s story has been widely told in media, with outlets ranging from the Daily Mail to Inside Edition to People magazine sharing her struggles and triumphs — and, along the way, Gia’s faith has beautifully shown through and inspired the masses.
In the end, Gia said that she worried about taking a leave of absence from work to be with Piper in Boston, but said God has come alongside her and her husband every step of the way, providing travel, lodging, food and other needs.
“It’s amazing how he works,” she said.
Follow along on Piper’s journey here.