Songwriter inspired by Oak Ridge Elementary student
Meet Jayken Beal, a 7-year-old second-grader at Oak Ridge Elementary School. His favorite song is “Amazing Grace,” his favorite television show is “Chowder” and he wants to be a missionary in Asia.
He also has only half a heart.
A few months before he was born, his parents, Tim and Paula, had an ultrasound done to determine whether their unborn baby was a girl or boy. The doctor was unable to see the left side of his heart, but maybe that was just the position he was in or because he was moving.
A few weeks later, Paula experienced a lot of kidney pain. A second ultrasound revealed the baby’s heart, and the left side was not there.
The Beals were told there was only a 2 percent chance he would live more than four days, and they were advised to abort the pregnancy. Since that was not an option for the couple, the other options were to move to California and try to get an infant heart transplant, or move to Dallas to have heart surgery done that would strengthen the right side of his heart.
The Beals, who lived in Wolfforth at the time, chose to move to Dallas a few weeks before Jayken’s birth. Before they left, they sought the prayers of just about everyone they knew, but when people met with them to pray for their unborn child, it was his older sister, Madison, now 11, who led them in prayer.
Jayken was born in January of 2002 in Dallas. Four days later, he had his first surgery, and was sent home within nine days by hospital staff who could not believe how well he was doing.
Jayken has since had more surgeries to strengthen his heart, and the family has been told to expect he could need a heart transplant when he is in his 20s.
But otherwise, he is doing well.
“He’s holding up pretty good with them so far,” said Paula Beal. He has to pace himself while running and can’t participate in competitive sports, but is otherwise leading a normal life.
“His quality of life’s great,” said Tim Beal. Since Jayken is starting to develop a passion for music, Tim is now trying to teach him to play guitar.
Paula Beal attributed her son’s survival to God’s grace.
Jayken has inspired a song on a newly-released Christian album by Josh Wilson, a Lubbock native. “Life Is Not a Snapshot” is Wilson’s second album, and includes the song, “Before the Morning” which was inspired by Jayken.
Wilson, who now lives in Nashville, said he met the Beals while they lived in Arkansas. He said he wrote the song because he’s found songs have stories behind them that really connect with listeners. Jayken’s story is inspiring and encouraging, he said.
“I’ve played it live a few times now. People seem to be really connecting to it,” said Wilson. “It’s been really fun to see how this is growing, how the story is getting out there.”
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