I’ll be waxing nostalgic today as I take you back to October 6, 2007. It’s almost exactly eleven years ago, and I nearly waited until then to post, but I have another obligation that day and I do not want to take away from that author’s momentum. I’ve never written this down before, most of the time I try not to even think about it, rarely ever even speaking of it…but it’s time. I hope you find the faith in this post, it’s not supposed to be a sad moment, even though the memory of it is painful.
There are moments in every parent’s life that they fear with such a soul-deep clarity that to even remember the moments cause their hands to shake much as mine are shaking now as I type this. I must give a slight backstory in order to bring you into the moment. In November of 2006, we noticed something odd about our then 2-month-old’s neck. Seemingly from one day to the next, a lump appeared on the left side between his ear and collar bone. After a few months, and several specialists, it was determined that he had what is called a cystic hygroma. Essentially, his lymphatic system misdirected and caused a tumor to develop in his neck. The tumor was benign, but it was pressing on his windpipe. This caused difficulty in breathing and eating (he choked consistently). It was decided that they would have to operate because the tumor would never stop growing since it had a constant supply from his lymphatic system. However, he was too young for the surgery. We would have to wait until he was a year old so that he would have a better chance of surviving the eight-hour operation. By the time they discovered exactly what the problem was, he was nearly 9 months old.
Fast forward to October. I was seven months pregnant with baby #2 when we arrived at the hospital for surgery. The team of surgeons met with us and discussed the procedure once again, then we were directed into the waiting room. That is probably one of the most difficult moments in a parents life, those moments when you’re helpless. Your child needs you, and there is nothing you can do. You cannot take it from them, but you would if you could. All you can do is pray, and prayer is a mighty, mighty power. But sitting there in that waiting room for hour after hour, it was heart-wrenching. The surgery was supposed to be the hardest part. That’s what your mind tells you so that you can survive the agony of waiting…but the surgery was only the beginning.
It took longer than they expected. The cystic hygroma is much like an iceberg, you only see 10%, and the 10% we saw was the size of a golfball. The remaining 90% was in his chest, with tentacles like an octopus that were working their way towards wrapping around his heart. The cardiac surgeon said he basically had to peel the veins of his heart like pulling plastic off a straw. For eighteen days after the surgery, it felt that Murphy’s Law was upon us. Things kept going wrong. That first night in the hospital, I sat in a rocking chair all night long, rocking our baby as his lungs collapsed. He was covered in tubes. I could name every one because the image is burned into my memory, but I won’t do that…this post is about faith…don’t worry, I’m getting there.
It would have been easy to give in to that panic…to that fear, and I so very badly wanted to fear. When his IV failed and the fluid started to build up, swelling his body to nearly twice its size, I had fear, but I also had faith.
People tell me now that there were times when they were sure he would not survive. God never let that thought take hold of me, at least not long enough for it to take root and grow. He made me focus on the moment, that was all I could handle. I could not think about tomorrow, or next week, or next year. All I could process was that moment, and then the next moment, and the next. God gave me faith when I could not find it for myself. He took an impossible situation and He made it bearable. When we experienced setback after setback, God saw us through. We were never alone.
Days blurred together, nights were sleepless, and the problems kept coming. The surgeons were unable to remove all of the cyst, it was too close to his heart. That meant that it could come back…that it probably would come back. And because it was so deep into his chest, we might never know it until it was too late.
After nearly three weeks in the hospital, things started turning around. Late one afternoon, one of his chest tubes came out. After an exam and an x-ray, the surgeon said it would have to be put back in. The procedure was planned for the next morning. Here’s where things get fun. Sometime that night, a man entered our hospital room. I remember waking from one of the few moments of sleep to see him standing next to our son’s bed. My immediate reaction was protective, I had no idea who this man was or why he was in our room. Rounds were done at 4 a.m. and this man was not one of the people I had ever seen before. Plus, it was nowhere near 4 a.m. I stood from the chair where I had been resting and walked over to put myself between him and the bed. The room was dark, with only shadows and the barest hint of light available. He was dressed in blue scrubs, like a surgeon, but he had long, curly hair that nearly brushed his shoulders. I can remember his face, but I can’t explain it to you. It was peace and comfort, and he spoke a single sentence as he glanced at me and then at our son. He said, “Why don’t we see about letting you go home tomorrow?”
I started to argue. Only hours before this moment, we had been told that it could be several more days before we would be able to leave. But something in his expression stopped me, and all I could say was, “That would be nice”. He turned and headed out the door without another word, and I remember watching him walk away. He had a loose, easy stride, and he gave me one last look before he turned the corner and disappeared. When rounds began at 4, I was still standing there. Instead of rolling our son away for a procedure to put the tube back, they started removing more. By the time darkness descended that night, we were home for the first time in three weeks. I truly believe I saw one of God’s angels that night. For whatever reason, He saw fit to bless me with a message of hope.
What followed that was a year of monthly doctor visits as they anticipated the return of the cystic hygroma. What they never found…was the bit they left behind. God not only brought us through, He healed what the doctors could not. Eleven years later, he is a perfectly normal kid. While this post outlines what happened during those days, here is what I want you to remember. There is always hope. God is always there. He sees everything, He knows every heartache, and He sees every tear. Yes, we go through bad things. What happened to us is a very small thing compared to what some people go through. I didn’t write this for sympathy, I wrote this as my testament to faith. Never be afraid to bring your fears to God…He cares. He always cares. You might think the problem is too small, too insignificant, for Him to bother with, don’t let that deter you. He cares about all of our problems. Have faith that He will see you through, no matter what the situation…no matter the outcome.