This is a powerful and moving story of faith, life, and medical miracles.
This is a powerful and moving
story of faith, life, and medical miracles.
And it involves one of
southeastern Wisconsin's most prominent judges.
The Boston Globe
chronicles the agonizing choice that Mark and Mary Gundrum made to carry
Dominic to full term, despite a grim diagnosis. The baby "had an
encephalocele, a rare disorder in which part of the brain was exposed, covered
in skin, outside the head. In this case, the brain was growing down into the
roof of the mouth and protruding onto the face."
"If Gundrum decided to continue the pregnancy, she
and her husband, Mark, were told, the baby might not make it to birth. Or he
might be born, but die a few hours later. Or he might be severely
Here is where
Gundrum's faith came into play. And it turned out to be decisive.
The Gundrums, devout Catholics and the parents
of seven other children, decided to continue the uncertain pregnancy. The
decision would take them from their home outside Milwaukee to Boston, where a
family they had never met opened its doors and hearts to them, and where a
top-notch medical team at Boston Children’s Hospital performed groundbreaking
surgery to help their baby.
It was a journey that led them from despair to
hope, one that would test them and require deep contemplation.
“We did a lot of soul-searching,” said Mary
Gundrum, who is 40. “I was thinking, ‘That’s my child. It’s that simple. I’m
not going to take the life of my child.’
after Dominic was born, the medical issues were nearly overwhelming and the
Gundrum's found a doctor in the Boston area who could perform the necessary
When Dr. John Meara’s name popped up. The
plastic surgeon in chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, Meara had removed an
encephalocele from a Haitian baby in 2008. The procedure had been videotaped
and posted online. “We were just blown away,” said Gundrum.
power of community now came into play:
There was another concern, this one
logistical. Mary and Mark Gundrum, a former state legislator who is now an
appellate court judge in Wisconsin, have seven other children, ages 15, 13, 11,
9, 7, 5 and 3. The couple had met at a Catholic conference in Chicago when Mary
was 22 and Mark was 24. They married in 1996.
For Dominic’s surgery, they did not want to
leave the other children at home, especially around Christmas. But where would
a family of 9 — now 10 — stay in the Boston area, possibly for weeks?
The Gundrums homeschool their children through
a program called Wisconsin Virtual Academy, and the e-mailed word went out to
fellow homeschoolers about the family’s plight. [Note: The Globe misidentifies the online virtual school as homeschooling, but the sincerity of the outpouring of support is accurate]
The Gundrums received more than 20 offers of
shelter from the Boston area.
Ultimately, they connected with a couple from
a suburb west of Boston, who have four sons ranging from 1 to 9 years old. That
family vacated their home in early December and let the Gundrums move in for
nearly a month, over the Christmas holidays, while the host family stayed with
relatives. The local couple asked not to be identified....“
Like the Gundrums, the couple are devout
Catholics and homeschoolers, saw Dominic’s photos on Mary’s blog (www.dominicpio.com) and were touched by
is Dominic doing now? Here is where the medical miracle comes in.
The doctors have told the Gundrums that
Dominic will walk and talk. “Developmentally, he seems to be appropriate for
his age,” Meara said of Dominic, now 7 months old. “I think it’s entirely
possible that he will be an entirely normal little guy.”