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Watching My Son Fight for His Life in the Pediatric ICU

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We didn’t expect to be back so soon, to this building that has become an extension of our lives. It’s a place we are so very grateful for, yet also a place we never desire to go. Just last month we were here for 11 days. Little did I know this time it would be for weeks.

The space between life and death is so small. At any moment you can be watching your child struggle on the fence that divides the two. You realize you have absolutely no control over the outcome of any minute, hour, or even day.

It’s such a busy place, yet as a “busy mom” I found I had very little to do. There are no dishes to wash, or laundry to switch over from the washer to dryer. In this place, my child doesn’t even wear clothes… there are just too many wires and tubes coming from all directions.

Methodically I go through my hospital routine, marking the days by taking a shower and changing my clothes even though I’ve hardly done anything. At the same time though, I’ve done the hardest things I’ve ever had to in my entire life. I’ve watched my son pant for hours on end in attempt to keep breathing while his heart rate went through the roof. I’ve watched our room be transformed in moments to a miniature operating room so that they could place an emergent central line into his neck to gain access to give him fluids and meds. I’ve watched his weak body finally give up, unable to breathe in air any longer… all the while rubbing his legs and calling out his name while they bagged him so he would know I was still there. I signed consents for procedures and a surgery that I knew he very well might not come back out alive.

Witnessing the suffering and gravity of your child’s condition can make any parent buckle at the knees. Yet that’s exactly what we need to do in those moments. We need to recognize our humanity and weakness. Only then can we experience strength. Choosing to do that means recognizing we are not in control. Sometimes that’s the most terrifying reality we face.

One day a doctor came in to check on us and I asked him if he had any new insights on our son. He humbly said, “No… the only thing I can think of to do is pray — can I do that right now for you?” It was the first time I felt like we might have hope to get through. People think it’s such a small thing, to let you know they are praying for you when you’re in the deep waters, yet for those that have been there it can mean so very much.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” — Isaiah 40:29

Four weeks later it was time to leave this place and go home again. It felt like we’d been given this enormous gift… to take our son home. We hope to never take a moment for granted. As I looked out the window and saw the glorious shades of autumn, I was reminded that just as the seasons pass, we will make it through each one… with the strength that comes from having others help hold us up.

Originally published: November 30, 2018
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