Many years ago, we left our beloved Vienna to return to the United States. Clay kindly stayed behind to manage all that had to be done with the movers, which meant I was alone wrangling little Sarah, 2 1/2 as well as baby Joel, 6 months, along with all the accoutrements common to traveling with children--big diaper bags, a stroller, and toys I hoped would help occupy and soothe them throughout the long international flight--through the airports. By the time we finally arrived at my mother-in-law's, 28 hours since we had started, I was not only exhausted, but extremely worried about Joel, and with good reason...
Sarah had trooped through the journey fairly well but nearly fell asleep standing up as I pulled her nightgown over her head. Joel, however, had refused to nurse for about the last ten hours and almost seemed to be falling into a stupor. As I changed his diaper and readied him for bed, I saw his little chest heaving with each breath he took. His body was exceedingly warm.
When I held him close to me as I rocked him, I could hear a deep wheeze. Dread began to wrap around my heart like a dark blanket squeezing out all light. Something was wrong with my little boy.
What was I to do? Nana lived deep in the Texas countryside, just outside a tiny town of barely 700 people. The nearest clinic or doctor was in a town 15 miles down dark country roads, but it was tiny and I had no knowledge of the doctors. Hoping that he just had a cold, I cuddled Joel and held him in my arms over the next hour, praying and crying out to God for wisdom. But his little body became more lethargic and limp, his fever climbing higher even with medication, and soon he was gasping for breath.
I needed to act. Nana was asleep by this time and I knew she would have to stay with Sarah. How would Sarah feel waking up in a strange place without me, to a sweet stranger she barely remembered? I made a quick decision to take Joel to the emergency room in the next town. Wakening Nana, I told her what I needed to do and bundled myself and my baby into the car as quickly as I could. I drove the dark miles in a haze of exhaustion and prayer with Joel gasping for breath at my side.
The doctor who sleepily ushered me into the emergency room did not inspire confidence, but I was helpless and didn't know what else to do. After examining Joel, he looked at me with serious eyes and said, "If you hadn't brought this little boy in, he wouldn't have made it through the night. As it is,it is going to be touch and go. He is getting very little oxygen into his lungs and seems to have some kind of a virus, but it also seems that his body is particularly shut down. Has he received any unusual medication in the past 24 hours?" Concern was written all over his face.
I showed him the bottle the pediatrician had given to me. When he looked up the equivalent in his medical book, he glanced at me with alarm. "This:' he said decisively, "is not a medication we would ever use for children in America. As a matter of fact, I think it has shut down some of Joel's system. It was far too strong a dose for such a young child. Combined with the viral respiratory complication, it could prove quite dangerous."
I felt sick inside and a sense of panic and fear swept over me. I had tried so hard to do all the right things. I was so committed to providing the best for my children. I had given my life to them. I had thought I was helping Joel by helping him rest on the long journey. I was following orders of my doctor. What had I done?
The doctor and nurse on call placed Joel on a tall table that had a very flat mattress. He was stripped down to only a diaper. He hardly moaned as they slipped an IV loaded with strong antibiotics into his frail body. The nurse gently attached a patch connected to a tube on his chest, which she told me was a heart monitor. They fitted what seemed to be a small, hard plastic, clear box over Joel that discharged oxygen.
"I'm sorry, but the few rooms we have are full," the nurse said in a matter-of-fact way when she had finished. She looked as though she was tired of emergencies and needed a rest herself. "You can stay with your son tonight, but all we have for you is a chair. It would be best if you could watch him to be sure there are no changes. We don't have any other staff here, and we have to attend to the other patients. Just push the button if you need us."
I wedged myself stiffly into the metal, orange vinyl-clad chair. Picking up a flimsy hospital blanket, I wrapped it snugly around myself. In the warm June Texas night, I was not cold, but I needed something around my shoulders to protect me from the impending feeling of doom I was trying so desperately to resist.
Tears began to flow as much from sheer overload and exhaustion as from sadness. I felt overwhelmingly isolated and alone. Clay was in Austria. My mother didn't even know I was back in America. Nana was asleep with Sarah in another town. I didn't even know a friend I could call. I was sitting by myself in a dark room just barely illumined by the lights on the machines, the only sound the hissing of the oxygen into the plastic tent as Joel struggled to stay alive... (from The Mom Walk)
I'm so grateful this story has a happy ending--which I will share with you tomorrow! That night so long ago, though, I didn't know what the morning would bring. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation today, not knowing how the story of your life will end. How might you reach out to God in this time? Are you trusting Him even when you can't see?