"I wish the ring had never come to me." "So do all who live to see such times."
My son acted like he didn't feel well, it was Friday, and he had a little cough. By Saturday, he was good and congested, mostly in his chest, and we started with over the counter meds to clear him up. Wasn't the first time he'd had some congestion, certainly wouldn't be the last. Sunday his breathing seemed a little more difficult, and throughout the day although he continued to play, we knew something wasn't right. We called his doctor and he gave us instructions to do through the night and we were to be at his office by 8 am. By about 11:00 that night we knew there was something really wrong with the way he was breathing, so we went to the ER. We expected to get a couple of breathing treatments and probably a shot and go home. At 2:00 am we were informed we were being admitted into the hospital. We would live and sleep in that and one other other hospital for the next 17 days.
That first night we didn't sleep, our little warrior wouldn't let us put him down, and I don't blame him. His breathing continued to labor and get worse, and I began to have real fear inside of me for his health. After two more breathing treatments, he was struggling even more, and I was feeling angry. Why wasn't God doing something, this is my son! Why is nothing working, where is the doctor, this can't be right! Our respiratory therapist decided to try a different breathing treatment, and, finally, he seemed to make some progress. Still, after a pulmonary specialist had seen him, they decided to admit him to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, or PICU, so they could more properly monitor him and give him more frequent breathing treatments. It seemed that Tuesday passed and he continued to improve. Then came Tuesday night. He quite quickly began to struggle to breathe, with even more difficulty than when we checked in. We spent another sleepless night watching his breathing slowly deteriorate. At that point we had slept for six hours in a 72 hour period, and we were filled with anxiety and worry and had the heartbreak of watching our precious, beautiful boy fight for every breath.
By 7:00 am Wednesday morning the specialist prepared us for the fact that he may have to be intubated and put on a ventilator so he could rest and his lungs and throat get clear of the croup and pneumonia. At a little after 10:00 we walked out of the room knowing it would be 3 to 5 days before he would be awake again and we could hold him. I felt empty, exhausted, angry, afraid, and deeply saddened. Good thing we didn't know it would be 12 days before he was carefully lifted off of his bed and placed in his mommy's arms.
He finally began to rest with the breathing tube, and seeing him no longer labor had a degree of relief to it, even though we couldn't hold him. Throughout this process our friends and community wrapped their collective arms around us and refused to let us crumble. That first night we were unsure if we could go get sleep (the hospital had a room for us) and leave him alone in the PICU, so Kyle came and stayed up with him all night, reading and praying over him every thirty minutes (my computer screen is getting blurry from my tears as I type that). What also blew me away was that Kyle's wife Cathy and Steve and his wife Cathy were willing to do the same thing, to take turns taking night watches so we could rest. Dear God, I hope I'm that kind of pastor and friend to those in my life.
The next five days became quite frustrating for us. He just hit this plateau and quit getting better, and no one knew why. Everything they tried didn't work. I stood at my son's bed alone begging God to do something. Look, I know you work through doctors, but dammit! Do something! I felt so impatient and angry! And in the midst of those angry moments, cussing, crying, I would feel this peace begin to creep in, and I felt my trust and faith begin to stretch. You know, I never felt compelled to confess and ask forgiveness of my Heavenly Father, it was like He said, "About time you trusted me enough to be that honest".
At six weeks old my son had a procedure done on his heart, and the doctor at St John's decided it needed to be checked out. After a test and after speaking with the Intensivist at St. Francis, they decided to transport us. Those couple of hours when they believed that maybe it was a problem with his heart felt like someone tore something out of us, my wife put words to what we both felt "I'm afraid we're going to lose him" (blurry screen again). That night, a big group of people showed up at St Francis, our friends, our family, the voice, hands and feet of Jesus. Once they had him hooked up at the new hospital, we went to check on him and visit with the intensivist. He decided to clean him out, an intimidating procedure to watch, but I stayed in there. They squeezed air into his lungs then pumped on his chest to help him cough then sucked out what he was coughing. My teeth were clenched so tight they should have exploded. Then, boom, after they finished, his stats began to change, the first actual positive move in several days. Then the doctor pointed to one of the readings, and said basically "if there's a heart problem that would be different, but I have found a patch of pneumonia that is still really bad. We're going suction him like this every hour, and give the antibiotics time to work." Relief began to flood over me, a sense that we would be okay hit me for the first time in several days.
A little less than 24 hours after that the turn happened. One particular stat they were monitoring, his oxygen saturation, suddenly shot up to the levels they should be at, and they began to ween him off the ventilator. Over the next four days they weened the settings until he was essentially breathing on his own, then, out came the tube, or, in their terms, they extubated him. Shortly after that, they had some oxygen running to his nose and he had several iv's connected, they carefully handed him to my wife. By the next afternoon, which was Sunday and two weeks exactly from our original trip to the ER, he was free of all but one IV.
Three days later, on Wednesday, my wife and I's 10th wedding anniversary, we walked out of St Francis and came home, and our 17 day journey was complete. I had missed 3 weeks of work, my wife would miss two more. We have an appointment one week from today to do what should be our final chest X ray to make sure his lungs are clear, and he will be cleared to go back to church, to go see the fellowship that wrapped him with prayers warmer and softer than any blanket, and to bring to an end this chapter which will have stretched into nearly two months.
I'll do a follow up post to talk more about community and relating to God and each other in a crisis.
"You are bigger than songs, greater than words. And if words escape us now, you will still be God. So hear, hear our souls crying to You, for You, You are good, faithful King.
You are good, You are good. We are free, You are good. You're alive, we're alive and You are good. You are good."