The Sullivan Family

Told by Sarah Sullivan

When our first child was born, we were living in California. Shortly after she was born, I stopped working, and we decided to move into my parent’s home in Illinois. We had planned to stay with them for a short time, so we could save some money. But then Kate was born, and our plans changed.

When I was pregnant with Kate, we decided not to do any prenatal testing but we had ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy. I remember during one ultrasound the lab technician took extra time looking at the space where her heart was, but we were not told about any problems. Kate was born with two holes in her heart and she was also diagnosed with Down syndrome. She had to undergo open-heart surgery when she was just three months old; then a pacemaker had to be put in, as some complications occurred because of the surgery. She was in the hospital for two weeks! Gratefully, we were with my parents during that time as they helped with taking care of our older daughter. God knew what we needed when He moved us to Illinois!

I had studied early child development before our first child was born and worked with kids with special needs—even those with Down syndrome, but we didn’t know what Kate’s diagnosis would mean for her or our family. Looking back, I believe God was preparing me for Kate, and I think God knew that I needed to see her and hold her in my arms before we received the diagnosis.

Those first few years of her life were filled with so many visits to doctors. At one point, she had eight different doctors! She is quite healthy now and doing very well.

In Illinois, Kate was involved in a program for children with Down syndrome, where she received most of her early support. The program was so wonderful and it offered profound encouragement to her and our family! I remember thinking about how much we were going to miss the program when we moved to Virginia after a few years. But then when we moved to Virginia, we found Jill’s House!

When I first learned about Jill’s House, I visited their website and read Brenda’s testimony there. I remember being so touched by her words! In her testimony, Brenda shared about their busy life with their older boys, and when Jill was born and later developed very special needs, she felt she couldn’t leave Jill’s side. They were all in desperate need of rest, but Brenda prayed that God would use Jill’s life for a greater purpose. When I read her words, all I could think was that when Jill was born, God was also thinking about Kate, our family, and all the other families that are being served by Jill’s House today. God is sovereign over all, and I’m so thankful to Lon and Brenda for their faithfulness in trusting The Lord with Jill’s life.

God IS good, and He has a plan! Life can be hard, and we don’t always understand what is happening, but when you step back and trust that He is faithful, you can see that He is working. Brenda’s words really touched my heart and helped me to trust that God is working in our lives too.

Kate started going to Jill’s House when she turned six years old and has been going there for the last 10 years. When she was younger, Kate was quite active. So, we found it hard to do our daily chores or even take her to the park. We would often avoid engaging in certain outings as a family because it was such a challenge. Kate is 16 years old now and full of life! She has a wonderful sense of humor, and she loves her family. She enjoys going out to eat, playing basketball, and putting on dance shows (for us) at home and Jill’s House.

Kids with special needs might be overwhelming or intimidating to some people. But everyone at Jill’s House sees these kids for who they are. God doesn’t make mistakes, and He has a plan for every single person on this planet. Everyone at Jill’s House seems to know that; they embrace that, and they love and serve our kids and families so beautifully! Also, from a practical standpoint, we can truly rest knowing that while Kate is in Jill’s House, there are on-duty nurses and excellent staff to tend to her medical needs and any situation that may arise. Everything about Jill’s House is such a blessing to our family!