Every winter, I am reminded of God’s goodness to our family. I praise Him for what is, and for what could have been, but wasn’t.
On January 1st, 2005, we rang in the New Year at the hospital with our 3 1/2 month old baby boy, Aidan. He and his 2 1/2 year old brother Caleb had both been diagnosed with RSV the day before. The doctor sent us home with armloads of medication and a nebulizer. I didn’t even know what a nebulizer was; we never had so much as a chest cold in our house before this.
We nebulized the boys every few hours and finally put them to bed. In the middle of the night, I knew something was not right with the baby. I couldn’t get him to wake up, and my champ of a nurser was flopping around like a newborn. I took him to the pediatrician first thing in the morning. The doctor listened to his lungs and muttered, “Oh, $%@*!”
Um, did the guy who graduated from medical school just swear after examining my baby? I was pretty sure that wasn’t a good sign. He told me to go directly to the ER. A Parenting Magazine article I had recently read flashed through my mind: BABIES DIE FROM RSV EVERY WINTER.
I spent the car ride over to the hospital bargaining with God. I promised that if the baby would just be okay, I would be a better mother. I would never yell at my kids again. As a Christian, I was well aware that God doesn’t really work this way, and I could never keep my end of the bargain anyway, but in my panic, I was desperate.
I spent the next five days watching over Aidan’s treatment. I left the hospital room four times in those five days, and only for a few minutes each time. For the first two days, I asked everyone who came to care for Aidan if he was going to be okay, and for two days, no one answered me. I found comfort in being able to nurse him and rock him throughout the day. The nurses loved stopping by to visit, because he was such a smiley patient.
Meanwhile, John was busy running the older two kids between my parents’ house and some dear friends from church, nebulizing Caleb, who didn’t require hospitalization because he was older and stronger, and making sure the big sister, 4-year old Katie, didn’t get lost in the shuffle. It took the entire month of January to get the boys better. Aidan developed bronchiolitis after he came home, and Caleb went from RSV to bronchitis to pneumonia. At the end of January, we finally got a clean bill of health. Caleb ran around the doctor’s office exclaiming, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” We rejoiced and thanked God, certain that February would be a better month for our family.
Three days later, Caleb developed a low grade fever. I was discouraged, but not too concerned. On Super Bowl Sunday, he was still running low grade, around 100 degrees. He was hungry, so I thought maybe he was starting to get better. Since he wasn’t feeling well, he sat on my lap while he ate some lunch. He was almost done when he said, “Mommy, I don’t feel good.” He shook a few times, his eyes rolled up into the back of his his head, and then he just faded away.
As I dialed 911, Caleb was turning blue. I was frantic. I sat on the living room floor cradling his upper body as he stared off into the distance and began convulsing. I called out to him, but he was so far away. We gave him the nebulizer, because we figured that would get some oxygen into him. A police officer finally arrived and told us that Caleb was having a seizure. I had never seen anything like it. He gave Caleb pure oxygen and waited with us for the ambulance. It felt like an eternity, but at least Caleb was pinking up a bit. Our neighbor, who had tragically lost her teenage son in a car accident that fall, was on our doorstep the minute the ambulance arrived. She asked where the formula was and assured us Katie could help her with everything else. Thank God the hospital gives out sample formula! I am eternally grateful that our neighbor was there, because John and I climbed into the ambulance together.
We headed towards the local hospital, with Caleb still seizing. I was strapped to the gurney and he was strapped to my lap. I will never forget that ambulance ride. It was wild and frightening. Caleb had a total of three grand mal seizures that day and never regained consciousness. I asked the driver where we were going. It was the same local hospital Aidan had been in. I didn’t think they could help Caleb, so I insisted that we go to the area children’s hospital. It is much farther away, and the driver didn’t even know how to get there. Everyone, including John, said, “Are you sure?” With a confidence and calm that could only come from the Holy Spirit, I was sure.