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The Faith and Fear That Comes When Your Child Falls Gravely Ill

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I once heard someone say that you can’t be in faith and fear at the same time. She argued that it was simply impossible. It was either fear or faith, black or white. You choose one or the other. She was firm that it just could not mix. I completely disagree.

The only way to move through fear is with faith. Walking through fear is a true testament of faith. Faith varies per individual. It can be faith in oneself, faith in a higher power, or faith that this too shall pass. I have experienced many things holding faith in my heart, while simultaneously quivering in fear. My own personal examples include: getting clean and sober, being vulnerable in my relationships, falling in love, giving birth, and experiencing powerlessness with my children.

When my 3-year-old daughter fell gravely ill in September 2019, hospitalized with a necrotizing pneumonia that developed an empyema and pleural effusion, followed by three weeks of chest tube placements, blood transfusion, and time in the intensive care unit, myself and my family lived faith and fear at the same time. While doctors scrambled unsure for over a week what was happening to my little girl as she spiked fevers of 104.6 every couple of hours, in spite of medication and placing ice bags all over her, my husband and I did not know if she would be OK. After spending one week in the back room of one pediatric hospital with her health deteriorating, we were rushed via ambulance to another hospital. No IV antibiotics were helping so they decided to proceed with placing a chest tube in her side to drain the empyema. Within 24 hours, the chest tube had fallen into her lung because the pneumonia was eroding her lung tissue. The doctor woke us up at 4 a.m. one morning to inform us that if we didn’t get a blood transfusion within the hour, our baby girl might not make it. Then, she was rushed into a second surgery to fix the chest tube placement and also place a feeding tube because she was becoming malnourished. When you’re forced into a position like this, it’s interesting what one goes through. There’s nothing more powerless than to watch your child passed out, being wheeled away from your sight, to hope she will be OK and there’s nothing you can do.

In that moment, there was no time or space to question life. All that could be done was to pray. The desperation in my cry to my higher power sat heavy in my heart while fear resided in my gut. I was living in the unknown. I was terrified to my core and had to hand her over to a power greater than myself. My fear and my faith partnered up to walk me through the scariest time of my life.

My husband and I crashed into each other outside the waiting room area of the hospital. The air from inside both of us felt unreachable while the tears almost drowned us. Our fears for our child pushed us deeper into each other’s holds.

“We need to pray,” my husband said to me.

Shaking with fear, we opened our hearts to faith and surrendered our baby to the unknown. It was our only option. As we clutched to each other and prayed, fear and faith collided. I feared for her life and not knowing what would happen next, but I trusted that her higher power was cradling her in its’ wide and expansive arms while I couldn’t.

The surgeon walked through the double wide doors and gave us a thumbs up. “It went good. She’s doing well,” he said quickly as he had to return back to the ICU where she was.

When fear and faith coincide, it looks like this:

“I don’t know what is going to happen. I am so scared. I feel powerless and I can’t breathe because of the heaviness that I feel as I can’t do anything. This is all uncertain and I can’t embrace the unknown with open arms, but I surrender. I believe in miracles and I believe that healing is possible. I hold faith inside me that this too shall pass.”

My daughter healed and recovered after two months of antibiotics and tests. The doctors still don’t know why she developed the necrotizing pneumonia and empyema.

As they said, “It could have just been a weird freak thing.”

Moral of the story: You can most definitely have faith while also trembling in fear. There is no all or nothing, black or white thinking when it comes to fear and faith. The most difficult and challenging life experiences are a mix of both. So, if you’re terrified right now about life and its circumstances, please know you are also allowed to carry faith that what is meant to be will be.

Follow this author’s journey at

Photo credit: saiyood/Getty Images

Originally published: May 11, 2020
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