Shawn and Alicia Castillo say the faith that brought them into a conflict with the state over the care of their 15-week-premature son has also carried them through their recent trials and tribulations.
The Castillos returned with their son, Conner, to Waco last week, more than two months after the child was transferred from a Waco hospital to a Houston facility so he could receive specialized treatment more in line with the family’s beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Conner was born at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center on Nov. 16, weighing merely 1 pound, 9 ounces. Because of his size, his body could not produce blood. Doctors said he needed blood transfusions to survive. When the Castillos refused to approve of the transfusions because of their beliefs, state Child Protective Services officials stepped in and took custody of Conner.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible prohibits them from participating in any medical practice that gives a patient blood.
CPS officials and the Castillos later agreed to joint custody, which gave the state the authority to have transfusions performed. The parents had custody in all other respects, including choosing who treated Conner. In mid-December, Conner was transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, which employs doctors who are familiar with techniques that can reduce the need for transfusions.
By Feb. 19, Conner’s weight had increased to 5 pounds, 10 ounces, and his condition had improved, so doctors were ready to release him from the hospital. But just as the family was driving to the hospital to get Conner, their car was badly damaged in an accident, and the vehicle remained in the shop Saturday.
The accident was but the latest misfortune to plague the family while they were dealing with Conner’s health issues. Over the last few weeks, four of the couple’s relatives have died, including a grandfather who learned of his terminal cancer about the same time Conner was born.
In addition, Shawn Castillo lost his job when the company he worked for “down-sized,” he said. The loss of income coupled with the growing expenses of Conner’s care forced the family, which includes 21-month-old Aaron and 14-year-old Ryan, to move out of their home and in with Shawn Castillo’s parents.
But on Saturday those problems were nowhere to be seen as the family smiled while showing off Conner.
“Well, we have to smile, otherwise I think we might be in a psychiatric ward,” laughed Alicia Castillo. “We really are going to have to take this day by day. If you try to think about it too much, look six months down the road, you’ll probably lose it. I’m just glad we are over the biggest part of the hump.”
Shawn Castillo said doctors were encouraged by Conner’s strengthening over the last weeks, something not taken lightly in babies born so prematurely. Doctors only had to administer one transfusion while Conner was in Houston. Laser surgery to correct an eye condition went well, and the only remaining sign of Conner’s ordeal is a breathing tube to assist his still developing lungs.
On Monday the Castillos are set to attend a court hearing in which the state is expected to return to them full custody of their son.
Shawn Castillo said he wanted to thank all the family, friends, businesses and even strangers who contributed to an account that helped soften the family’s financial blows.
“We had a lot of support from our friends and family, and everyone who helped us with our expenses,” he said. “But I would like to say a special thank you to all of our Christian brothers and sisters who helped us through this with their prayers.
“What helps us and humbles us is prayer. God Jehovah helps us understand why those bad things happens. And he is there to lean on when those things do happen.”