Friday, June 28, 2013

The Journey - Waiting & Mercy

In my post on Wednesday I asked, what is your hardest wait. I received numerous responses from people who had truly lived through some very painful circumstances. It got me to thinking about one of my most difficult waits. I'd like to share that story with you.

     My four-year-old daughter, Kristi, snuggled close while I read Whinny the Pooh to her. All of a sudden, she covered the page with her hand and looked at me. I brushed a soft, blonde curl off her face. "What is it, Kristi?"
     "Mommy, I had a dream." She looked down at her hands. "It was a long, long time ago. In my dream I was dying. I was so scared."
     My throat tightened and memories of a frantic trip to the hospital three and a half years before filled my thoughts. I knew this was not a dream, but a little girl's memory.

     That day had started out like any other, but by late afternoon, my eight-month-old's early morning crankiness had shifted to a full-fledged tirade. Although she was running a fever I was convinced it was nothing more than teething and lay her down for a nap.
     A short forty-five minutes later, Kristi's moaning and whimpering drew me to her crib. She thrashed at the bedding. I picked her up and knew right away that she was very sick. Heat radiated through her clothing and her breathing was shallow and rapid. I took her temperature - 105 degrees! 
     "Lord, help us," I prayed as I called my husband at work. When he answered, I choked back a sob. "Greg, we've got to get Kristi to the hospital! She's really sick!"
     I'd never felt such fear for one of my children. For some reason, this time was different. 
     "Calm down," I told myself. "It's just a fever. Kristi's had fevers before." But my anxiety wouldn't be quieted.
     Dread hung in the air while I waited for my husband. Holding my daughter close, I paced the room, moving from window to window, hoping to see his car.
     When he pulled into the driveway, I raced outside to meet him. Clutching Kristi to my chest I slid onto the seat beside him. "We've got to hurry!"
     We headed toward town, and I wanted to believe Kristi was all right, but as the green hills flashed by, fear pierced my heart. "Lord, I pleaded, I've always believed you would protect my children. I can't bear to lose my baby. Please help her."
     The emergency room was packed with sick patients. Pressed for time, the doctor made a hurried diagnosis. "She has a sinus infection. We'll get her on an antibiotic, and she should feel better by tomorrow."
     Greg and I returned home, relieved and a little embarrassed by our unreasonable alarm. But as the hours passed Kristi grew worse and my apprehension returned. Could the doctor have been wrong?
     Throughout the night, Kristi moaned and whimpered. When her temperature dropped I whispered a prayer of thanks. I didn't recognize that her cold, clammy skin signaled a decline in her condition. She was in shock and I had no idea.
     When I tried to hold Kristi, she whimpered and pushed against me as if my touch was painful to her. It was a long night of tears and prayers. By morning Kristi was quiet, her eyes open but not responsive. Her cries had become pitiful and monotone.
     As daylight stretched its cool fingers across my living room floor I roused my husband and we set off for the doctor's office.
     The nurse peeked at Kristi and her face blanched. She snatched my daughter from me and hurried to the back offices in search of the doctor.
     Greg and I followed, knowing something was terribly wrong.
     The doctor examined Kristi, then turned to us, his expression somber. He placed a hand on my shoulder. "Kristi has an infection of the central nervous system-spinal meningitis."
     My legs went weak and my heart pounded erratically. I reached for my husband's hand and held on tight while the doctor explained Kristi was in a critical condition and needed to be hospitalized.
     I stepped into the hospital entrance and the odor of disinfectants burned my nose. A nurse met us and took Kristi from me. As she walked away I wondered if I'd ever see my little girl again alive.
     Greg and I filled out paper work, then waited in stiff-backed chairs, feeling invisible amid the impersonal antiseptic world of the hospital.
     After performing a spinal tap on our little girl the doctor's prognosis was correct - spinal meningitis. She was comatose, in shock and septicemic. She'd be treated with powerful antibiotics and other lifesaving procedures.
     The doctor's words echoed through my mind. "If she's still alive after 72 hours, she might make it. Right now . . . she's crashing and burning."
     I stood outside the viewing window of Kristi's room. She was so tiny and helpless. Her hands were tied to the slats on a metal crib, tubes protruded from her body and the muscles in her neck had pulled her head so far back that it laid against her back. I longed to hold her.
     A nurse stood beside me and rested a hand on my arm. "She can't feel anything," she said kindly.
     Sobs choked me. I had to get away. I ran down the corridor, pushed through the doors at the end of the hall and stumbled into a deserted playroom.
     Deep sobs wrenched themselves from me. Pain, unlike any I'd known, pierced my heart.
     "God, this is too much! I can't bear it! Please save my little girl."
     Quietly, my husband came up behind me and pulled me into his arms. I felt his strength. For a long while we held each other, without sharing a word. And then Greg said, "I know she's going to be all right. God loves her. He'll take care of her."
     Leaning on each other, we returned to Kristi's room. After donning gowns and masks, we went to her side, caressed her hands and asked God to touch our baby with his healing power. We also released her to His care.
     And then peace, beyond my ability to understand, replaced my fear. I knew God would do what was best. He was faithful.
     Kristi made it through that first day and night and the next.
     When we arrived at the hospital the third morning, Kristi's nurse greeted us with a big smile. "She's awake!"
     Joy bubbled up inside me and I ran to her room.
     I was finally allowed to hold Kristi, something I feared might never happen. Amid a tangle of tubes, the nurse gently placed my little girl in my arms. The sickly sweet odor of antibiotics assaulted my senses, but all I cared about was that my daughter was nestled against me.
     Convinced Kristi would live, death was taken off the list of possibilities, but there was another list, side effects - blindness, paralysis, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, mental retardation, water on the brain and others.
     In the days that followed, we watched and waited, seeking further signs of recovery - a smile, recognition in her eyes, a response to sound. 
     Doctors discovered Kristi was unable to use her left leg and there was weakness on her left side as well as lack of coordination. They suspected cerebral palsy. A CT Scan was scheduled, then postponed when she improved. Then postponed again and finally it was decided she didn't need one because she was doing so well.
     Fourteen days after being admitted, Kristi left the hospital. We were gong home - together!

     Kristi tugged on my sleeve and smiled brightly. "Jesus came and hugged me," she said, talking about her dream. "He held me in his lap and I wasn't afraid anymore."
     I looked down at my four-year-old bundle of energy and thanked God for her and for a Savior who always has time to hold his children. We didn't see Him there with her . . . and yet He'd been there.

Kristi's illness happened many years ago. Though the meningitis left her with some neurological challenges, she is happy and healthy with a family of her own these days. I'm so thankful for a God of mercy who still creates miracles every day.

Grace and peace to you from God,




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