Tag Archives: Children’s Hospital

If God Is Good: Question 1

12 Jun

Simple question:

If God is Good, then why do cancer wards exist in children’s hospitals?

 

Staring Into the Abyss-Part 2

25 May

You can read Part 1 here

After arriving home with my wife, we made hasty arrangements for our other children to be cared for.  It was hard, explaining to our young children why their brother had not come home yet.  We didn’t lie to them, but we didn’t want to overburden their little hearts.  We said that their brother was sick and that he would be home as soon as he was better.  They seemed concerned, but were soon back to playing with toys and excited that Grandma was going to be watching them for a while.

As soon as Grandma arrived, my wife and I jumped back into the car to be with our son.  The hospital had called while we were home and reported that he was not doing well.  On the drive down, my wife and I talked some, but mostly listened to some brooding songs from the latest Jars of Clay CD.  It was cold outside and the slow, brooding, acoustic based music seemed to fit our emotional state.

We arrived back at the Children’s Hospital, parked the car and embarked to see our son.  We also were scheduled to meet the head Doctor leading the effort to save our son.

The Gentle Doctor

As we stepped off the elevator, we were greeted and quickly escorted to our son’s bedside.  I already felt like this had become my second home, having already spent the night at his side.

He was still alive, but barely.  Not only was his oxygen low, but he was now fighting a “super bug” that was very deadly.  His heart rate was up too high…..a nurse would adjust something and his heart rate would stabilize but his oxygen would dive.   I could tell that a high level of concern was occupying the nurses tending him and his many machines.

After a few minutes, the head Doctor arrived to introduce himself.  He was a middle aged man, dark skin, gentle voice with a slight Indian accent.  As we talked, he very patiently explained that our son’s condition was very common.  He then asked, in his gentle voice, if we wanted the good news or bad news first.

We both said   “Good news…please!”.

The good news was that 90% of the children that have my son’s condition will eventually recover and the recovery will be 100%.  In other words, he would go home and grow up and this event would have no long term effects on his health.  We were relieved to hear it.

“But what’s the bad news?” I asked.

The Doctor lowered his voice a little and said,

“The bad news, is that the other 10% that do not recover, die.  No exceptions, either he recovers fully or he will eventually die.  At some point, if his body does not take over the proper intake of oxygen, the extra oxygen we are now using to keep him alive will saturate and poison him.  It’s not like he can go home with a breathing machine.  Either he recovers or he never goes home.  Do you understand what I am saying?”

That is bad news.  It’s devastating news.  Even a 90% chance of life means a 10% chance of death.  Oh God, Oh God……

We asked a few more questions.  The Doctor was incredibly patient to answer us and explain what they were doing to help and why.  On another level, this Doctor had just informed us that our son might die.  But he was so gentle and reassuring.  He exuded compassion and patience, and the fact that he had been so caring towards us made us both want to cry.

The Waiting

Over the next few days, I spent most of my waking hours at my son’s side.  Some days he was stable, but other days were filled with machine alarms and nurses scrambling in and out of his room to sustain his life.  I can’t even put into words the stress filled emotions that swarmed us in those moments.

When my wife and I weren’t in his room, we would wander the large hospital campus.  It was huge, filled with children facing the most serious medical conditions.  The entry way was filled with an amazing display of colors and children’s artwork.  It reminded me of the sort of thing you’d see at the entrance of a children’s museum.  But there was a certain amount of dread and sadness that filled the air.  You’d see families, silently strolling with downcast faces.  Children in wheel chairs, others walking but with no hair and a pained expression.  Sometimes uncontrollable weeping was heard, but not as often as I expected.  Places like this shouldn’t have to exist.

Other times, my wife and I would escape to a nearby sandwich shop and just talk.  We’d talk about the what ifs.  What if he doesn’t get better?  What will we do if he dies?  What will I say to our kids?  What if my heart never recovers?  What if?

The waiting was the hardest part.  Waiting to see him again.  Waiting to touch him and sing him another song.  Waiting to hear if the new treatment was working.  Waiting to hear if they had decided on a blood transfusion.  Wait, wait, wait.  There was nothing we could do, but wait.  So we did.

Days turned into a weeks.  Weeks of life on hold.  Weeks of little sleep and lots of coffee.  Weeks of tears and of friends simply loving us, by being there and sharing the time as we waited.

There was nothing we could do, but wait.  So we did.

Staring into the Abyss-Part 1

22 May

I can recall almost every detail that occurred after my youngest was born.  I can still recall the delivery room, the feel, the smell, the lighting.  I remember how relieved we were when my youngest son was finally born.  He was beautiful, tiny…yet fully formed.  His face looked just like mine, only smaller and with a full head of blazing red hair.  The nurses went gaga over him and his hair and they quickly extracted him from my wife’s arms to do his APGAR testing.

As they did their few tests, the nurses were amazed…I heard the one nurse comment that she’d never scored a baby a perfect ten on their APGAR tests, but if she did, it would be my son.  Whew…he really was a beautiful, healthy baby.

At this point, the nurses took him to the nursery to finish up some final tests, clean him, and dress him to bring him back to his mom and myself.  They assured us that he would be brought back in twenty minutes.  We kissed him goodbye and waited anxiously for him to return.

He never did make it back to the delivery room.

Emergency

After 20 minutes, a concerned looking nurse stopped back to let us know that they were a “little” concerned because his oxygen count was well below normal.  She said not to worry, his skin looked healthy and they were getting a new machine to test him on.  They assumed the machine was malfunctioning.  But the second round of tests confirmed that my son’s lungs were malfunctioning, not the machine.

He was only getting about half the oxygen he needed to survive and they immediately put him on breathing treatments.

At this point, we still weren’t sure if we should be concerned or not.  We were told that sometimes this can happen, as there is a valve blocking the lungs in the womb, that should open up after birth.  But in my son’s case, it hadn’t fully opened up.  In most cases, oxygen treatments would allow the body to correct itself, the valve would open, and normal breathing would ensue.

I was told to go home and get some sleep, so I did.

Phone Calls in the Night

I had been asleep for a few hours when the hospital called. My son had caught a deadly virus (probably from the IV inserts) and was now fighting to even maintain 10% of his oxygen level….he was fighting to stay alive, he was maybe dying.  They didn’t know, but they were about to transfer him to the local Children’s Hospital so that he could receive the best care possible.  So without his mother or I, he was whisked away at 3 in the morning, by ambulance, to the new hospital.

This is when darkness falls.  I am bleary eyed for lack of sleep.  I am alone, driving at night through the city.  When I arrive, there is a huge institutional sized building and parking garage.  I quickly park and run to the front desk.  I am informed my son is a few floors up.  I jump in an elevator to be with my dying son.  Is he really going to die?  Am I still dreaming or is this now my life?  I snap out of it as the elevator door opens and I’m met by a caring doctor and nursing staff.  They warn me that I am about to enter the NICU and that there are dozens of babies with all sorts of conditions.  They ask me if I will be ok to witness these things?  Yes, I answer.  Good, they explain that they’ve had many fainting spells of parents who are overwhelmed at the sight.  I brace myself and prepare for the worst.

I enter the NICU….to my left a young baby is having heart surgery.  I walk to the next room where there are incubators full of premature babies fighting to grow and to live.  I breathe deep, I want to cry, and I don’t really want to see….but I must. He is mine and I want him to know that he is not alone.  That I love him and want nothing more than for him to live….please live, please just live.

It’s an awful and beautiful sight at the same time.  Awful, because he has over 10 different IV’s and monitors hooked up into his body.  Beautiful because he is still alive.

As I enter they are switching an IV that is infected and now putting an IV into his toe.  I cringe, I fight back the tears.  And I look over into his crib.

There he is.

Small, fragile, beautiful.

Heaving his little chest, struggling to breathe.  The nurses tell me he’s the most beautiful baby they’ve ever seen.  And he is…light pink skin and that bushy red hair.  I reach out and stroke his hair and begin to sing him a lullaby.  I stay the night until his breathing stabilizes and go back to visit my wife.

As I exit the hospital it is now early morning.  The city is alive with activity.  And it hits me how normal it all seems.  But life has become anything but normal.  I’m only a few hundred yards from where my child is struggling to stay alive, but nobody seems to notice it.  The radio is reporting on a Space Shuttle that has blown apart on re-entry.  A tragedy to be sure.  But my tragedy is not yet resolved, and only friends and family even know about it.  Strangeness surrounds my over caffeinated mind.

I arrive to the hospital where my wife is to be released.   I help her to the car.  But though we arrived to deliver our son, he is not with us.  We walk out silent, empty armed, and heavy-hearted.

We make it home before we weep in front of our apartment.   The frailty of life has found us and we are staring into the abyss.  These are the days that you wished God actually answered prayers a little more clearly.  But no answers come, no healing occurs, and we resolve ourselves that this might not end the way we want….and we cry some more.