Friday, October 14, 2011

To Hell and Back Again

Sometime in the early afternoon on October 14, 2009, my week old son felt warm. I didn't think much of it until a few hours later, he felt even warmer. I took his temperature and the thermometer read something close to 100. I would then make a call to my pediatrician who would send me to the hospital. What happened next changed my life forever...

I never thought I would have children. Not that I wouldn't be able to. Just that having kids was something amazing and wonderful, something I didn't deserve after all the horrid things I'd done in my life. There isn't a time in my life where I can look back and say that I wasn't doing something wrong. I mean, really wrong. Not just stupid little things like wearing make up to school when my parents said no (which I actually never did) but things that would eat up my soul and hurt others in ways that were irrevocable. I believed that having children was something that God allowed to happen to people who were good. Such a silly thing of me to think though. Look at how many terrible people have children every day. But I didn't think that good things were going to happen to me since I knew what was Right and Good and turned my back.

I had my first daughter a week before my 23rd birthday. She was the center of my world. In some ways she still is but its different. Hard to explain. When she was about 7 or 8 months old, we got pregnant again. This time with a boy. I had so much pride in the fact that I was going to be able to give my husband a son. Some one who would carry his name and his legacy. Some one that he would bond with in the way that only fathers and sons can. I was ecstatic. When I actually gave birth to him, that pride was probably the most dominant emotion. As I watched my husband hold him and talk to him, I knew I was a good wife.

My poor child
Then, a week later, I was sure that it was all coming to an end. My husband had already had to go back to work (he traveled and worked several states away) and my mom had come to visit and help me with the baby for a week. If she hadn't been there, I don't know what we would have done. When I realized that my son had a fever and the pediatrician told me to take him to the ER, my mom was able to stay with my daughter and I headed out. I'm pretty sure I hadn't showered that day, I don't think I had brushed my teeth and I can promise that I hadn't put deodorant on. I was in that weird panic mode that one goes into where they have tunnel vision and can only think of the task at hand. Everything around me was a blur. As soon as we got to the ER, they took him back and began to explain to me what was going to happen.

A baby that small with a fever has to go through a series of tests. They have blood drawn, urine samples taken and a spinal tap. It turns my stomach even to this day to think of the things that my poor baby boy had to go through. And that was only the beginning. They also took him back for x rays to make sure there was nothing in or wrong with his lungs. Seeing a tiny baby on an xray table is scary in and of itself. By the time we got back from the x ray, we were being prepped to have him taken in an ambulance to Children's Hospital. I broke down here. Everything was happening so fast and I had no idea what was going on and his fever kept getting higher. I began to cry and the kind nurses gave me juice saying that it was just my pregnancy hormones getting to me. While I appreciated their kindness, I knew it was more than that. My baby had just had his toes pricked, a needles stuck in his spine and a catheter. He'd had to be stripped down to his diaper and placed on a cold table for an x ray. And now, he was going to be placed on a gurney and taken away with strangers by ambulance to another hospital. On top of it, I still had no answers as to what was going on.

I told the EMTs to just take him to the hospital and that I would get there when I got there. I immediately got in the car, called my husband and mom and let them know where I was going. The drive from the local hospital to the Children's Hospital my son was being taken to was the longest car ride of my life.

When I finally got to the hospital and up the floor that I was told he'd be at, I had a director take me aside and tell me that something had happened in the ambulance and that I needed to follow her. They had had to take him to the ICU because he went into shock in the ambulance. Don't ask me what this means though. I'm not a doctor or an EMT. And I'm sure they tried to explain it to me but I just needed to see my baby. When I was escorted into the room that he was in, he was already hooked up to all kinds of machines and a doctor was suited up to begin the next procedure. I was only able to see my baby for a moment before I was taken to the waiting room and told that my son had to be put on a breathing machine because at this point, they didn't think that he'd be able to breath on his own after going into shock. I can't tell you how long it took for them to put in the tube. It felt like an eternity. Even thinking about it now and how hard that was makes me cry. Even two years later. I can't help it. It was scary and sad and I had never felt so alone in my entire life. As I sat in the waiting room, I noticed other mothers in there with suitcases and lunch boxes and laptops. It hit me then that I would probably be here for quite a while. I sat and cried until they came back and got me.

You can tell how swollen he is by looking at his hands
Seeing a baby with a breathing tube in and hearing the terrible machines with all the wires and the annoying beeping is hard. But its even harder when its your own baby. On top of everything that was happening, I wasn't allowed to touch him. Because they didn't know what was wrong with him, we weren't allowed to touch him for fear that it may cause him to go into shock again. Not being able to touch your baby when he's hurting, when you're hurting is SO difficult. I can't express how much that alone affected me.

I called my husband again to give him an update. By this time it was after midnight and so he went back to sleep and caught one of the first flights out in the morning. I left the hospital only to pick him up from the airport. Bringing him in there to see our son was not easy. I knew how hard it would be for him to see his boy like that, when only days before he saw him healthy and happy. I wont share his reaction because that is his story, not mine. My father called later that day and asked for an update from me. He asked me if I wanted him to come down. I didn't know how to say the words, "Please come meet your grandson before he dies." So I simply said, "yes".

The days all ran together. My husband and I shared the tiny couch in the room to sleep on. We went over a week before our son even opened his eyes again. Because of whatever happened to him, he swelled up, going from 8 lbs to 12 lbs in days. My husband had asked a doctor what she thought about his survival chances. Her answer, just like the other doctors was, "We cant say because we dont know." Between the stress and not eating right, my breast milk dried up quicker than I thought it could. I think it was something like 5 days before I actually left the hospital and went home for a few hours. They were having to prick his toes so much for blood tests that they evenutally decided to put a PIC line in. No one else in the universe would notice unless I pointed it out but he still has a scar from it and it breaks my heart every time I see it.

Towards the end of his stay in the ICU. His color is good.
After about 7 days, his fever went back down and they were able to give him some medicine that helped with his swelling. They moved him to another ward where he didn't have to be on the breathing tube any more. My parents came up often with my daughter and we got to spend time with them with out leaving my son's side. The doctors never figured out what was wrong. They never discovered what had caused the original fever. We still don't have answers. The struggle didn't really change from there. He couldn't eat solids until after his first birthday. An endoscopy  showed that there was nothing phyisically wrong with him but he just couldn't swallow anything other than formula. When he was about 4 months old, he got a rash on his face which eventually spread, erupted and got infected. The poor kid had a staph infection in his face. Turns out, it was just exema but because I put all the wrong ointments on it and it spread so quickly...

I wish I could say that while he was in the hospital though, hanging on for dear life, that I was strong. That I was hopefull. I told people that I knew he'd be ok but I didn't believe it. I was angry at God. Very angry. I hated him for what He was allowing to happen to my little boy. I was angry that he would tease me with a son just to take him away. I was angry that He wasn't giving us any answers. I was angry that I had to be strong for others when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and die. When you have no hope, you don't want to live. I didn't think my son was going to live and I didn't want to have to live through losing him. I know its selfish and pitiful but its the truth. I wanted nothing to do with God. I found Him cruel and abandoning. Harsh. When I wasn't talking to the doctors or pretending to put on a good face for the people around me, my life was dark. I really don't remember anything specific about our stay there besides my son laying on the table, not being able to touch him, to sooth and comfort him. Not being able to hear his cry. To know that he was hurting and I couldn't do anything about it. I couldn't comfort my husband's hurting soul. I couldn't do anything to ease his pain either. Darkness. Complete darkness. And I let it take me over. I went through the motions but inside I was empty.

Foolish me. Who am I to question God? Who am I to blame him for what sin has done to the world? My son getting sick was not God's fault. It wasn't something God "allowed" to happen. But it is something that God used to change my life. It is something that He used to show his power. He took my son's broken body and healed it. Not just made it better. He healed him. He carried my son away from death's door and brought him back to live a healthy and hopefully happy life.

I can't tell you how many people were praying during this time because I don't know. However, I do know that there was prayer and there was a lot of it. Prayer from all over the world. Earnest, honest, loving, genuine prayer. On behalf of my son. I know that God could have healed or not healed my son as He saw fit but I think that He waited for hearts to open and ask for Him to show His mercy and power. I'm not going to say things like "It was a miracle!" because I know that it was God being God. He took care of my baby boy because I couldn't. He worked in ways that only He can.

I look back on that time in my life and cringe. I didn't want to give God the credit then. I didn't care to talk to God or see His face since I believed that it was His fault that any of it happened anyway. The months that followed got darker for me and only because I allowed the darkness to take over. I got angrier and angrier and it affected our family greatly. Those months were miserable. I do not wish to go back to that place again.

I was raised in the church, went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high school and then to a Christian university. I have heard over and over again to "count it all joy when you fall into various trial..." (James 1:2). I never fully understood it until now though. Seriously, not until very recently. Through what my son went through, God was glorified. It was obvious that it was He who healed my son. Who loved me enough to keep my son here when it would have been better for him to be with God. Who blessed me with a wonderful, albeit crazy, little boy. Who has blessed my son with healthy and life in a abundance. It wasn't the doctors or modern science. In fact, I'm convinced that they (modern science, the monetary and prideful greed of the doctors) made it much worse than it needed to be. However, through it all, those who knew and now know about the situation know that my son is breathing and running and laughing and growing today because of God and His infinite and loving power. I can look back on those dark, lonely days now and see that God was always there, waiting for me to acknowledge Him. I am only sorry it has taken me so long. I look back on that time and I don't see so much of the pain as the saints that came together in loving, fervrent prayer pleading to God for my baby's life. I see my mothers face as she tells me about some new person that let her know they were praying. I see my daddy sitting next to me when I got to hold my baby again for the first time. I see the tears on my husband's face as he got to hold our son. I see God's presence through the whole ordeal. Not in a taunting "oh, I could make it all better at any time if I wanted to" kinda way. But in a, "Dont' worry. I have all of this under control. I will take care of your prescious child in ways that you will never understand" kinda way. I look back on that time and I am thankful for the lesson I have learned from it.

2 years ago today changed my life. I went to hell and back again before I finally learned what I was supposed to learn but I'm glad it finally happened. I am thankful that it happened so that God's grace and love can be made known it ways it may not have otherwise.

There is a song called Saint Veronika by Billy Talent that makes me think of that time in my life and my son. A small excerpt from the song goes:
"You can't leave this world behind
So be strong enough to hold onto us
We're still right here by your side

No one ever thought that she was capable
And the damage done is irreversible
Now she clings to life inside a hospital
Like she's trapped inside a frozen waterfall
Always said her life was never meant to be
Stuck here living someone else's dream
Well beyond your window there is so much more
Even every prison has a open door

Veronika, Saint Veronika
You can't leave this world behind
So be strong enough to hold onto us
It's just not your time to die

And while the angels sleep
All of the devils are awake
Waiting to steal your love
Right outside of Heaven's gate
And all the sacred hearts
Can't numb the feeling from the pain
Cause when the drugs don't work
You're gonna curse His holy name"

Its almost ironic how terribly fitting this song has been.

Feeling so hopeless will eat you alive. Dying a slow and painfilled death. Because of the greatness and love of God, my baby boy gets to live a healthy fulfilled life. Because of the mercy and forgiveness of God, so do I.

Dad sitting with me as I got to hold my son for the first time in over a week

My baby in the ICU

My happy little boy 2 years later

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