So here’s what you missed about our summer:
About a month ago my three year-old, Harris, broke his leg. I was eating breakfast, he and Evelyne were chasing each other, he tripped on a toy, and fell down with a broken tibia. Right in the middle of my living room. It didn’t look broken or swollen or anything, I couldn’t tell anything was wrong other than the fact he wouldn’t stop crying or put any weight on it. A trip to the emergency room happened, he got a splint put on, and five days later, a cast all the way up to his upper thigh.
The first few days were HELL where he was in constant pain. We were giving him ’round the clock pain meds, but it only took the edge off. For a couple of days he was just crying all the time in pain and there was nothing we could do. It was awful. We were doing everything we could to distract him from the pain, whether that was playing Legos at 3 a.m., letting him watch movie after movie, and just letting him be pretty testy when he was in pain.
I remember sitting next to him as he cried and writhed in pain, knowing that I couldn’t give him any medicine for another hour and a half, and there was really nothing I could do but be with him. I cried as I watched my baby suffer, and I thought about all the parents out there who suffer with their children. I thought of kids around the world who don’t have access to medicine when they break a bone or get their leg blown-off by a landmine. The parents who don’t have food to offer their child who cries from hunger. The utter helplessness that so many people find themselves in when confronted by their child who is in pain. Surely parenting is the great leveling of the playing field of the heart, for I felt in that moment that the mother in a refugee camp in Africa loves her child just as I love Harris, and it’s no easier for her to watch him suffer than it is for me.
Last Sunday Evelyne was sick. She must have caught Sullivan’s cold, and by late afternoon she was running a pretty good fever. High fevers are pretty typical for her, so I wasn’t worried until I saw how fast she was breathing. We took her to Urgent Care at Children’s Hospital in Bellevue where they saw that her oxygen level was down to 84. They put some oxygen on her and started her on Albuterol while she struggled to breathe and lay feverish and lethargic in my lap. Her oxygen level raised a little bit, but not enough, so they took us by ambulance to the main Children’s Hospital in Seattle. We stayed in the Emergency Room for about 4 hours while she received some more albuterol breathing treatments. Her lungs were slowly opening-up, but they decided to keep us overnight.
We ended-up staying at Children’s until the following evening while Ev received breathing treatments and was closely monitored. They call it Reactive Airway Disease, an asthma-like syndrome that produces wheezing and a closing airway after a trigger, for her it must have been this virus that triggered it. We don’t know if this is a one-time thing or if she’ll continue to do this in the future. Clay had asthma as a child, so there’s a good possibility that this isn’t going to be our only time to deal with this.
The past week she’s been receiving albuterol treatments every four hours around the clock because her breathing is still not back to normal. The doctor thinks she started to develop pneumonia, but everything seems to be slowly getting better now, a week later.
A couple of nights ago I was trying to sleep and was processing through the whole ordeal for the first time since being home from the hospital. I realized that somehow through the whole event of taking her to urgent care and staying with her in the hospital, I didn’t spend much time really praying for her. I remember praying when when we were at urgent care and all the doctors were crowded around waiting for her oxygen levels to go back up… that was the only time I got a little scared. I had a reassuring sense throughout our time in the hospital that Jesus was with us. But in all of the rush and information and exhaustion and the just being with Evelyne, I didn’t have a chance to process and pray about the whole situation with very much clarity.
I began to pray that God would heal her, that He would open her lungs and allow her to breathe normally. And then I started thinking of all the sick children around the world. I had just finished reading a blog about a little boy with cancer who is receiving treatment at the same hospital where we had just been. I thought of children in third-world countries who struggle with chronic conditions and terminal illnesses with no hope of treatment. And of the parents who must watch them suffer, no life-giving medicine in their hands like I have.
And it all just became too much. It started to feel really selfish and confusing. How do I pray for my child and ask that God relieve her symptoms when I know so many other parents’ prayers aren’t answered? As I had prayed for Harris’ broken leg pain, I had somehow tapped into a tiny bit of the shared experience of pain that parents around the world feel for their children who suffer. As I prayed for Evelyne, I felt their sorrow even more deeply, and it was overwhelming. I’m not sure how to balance feeling grateful that my child is for the most part healthy and we are privileged in this hard world to receive excellent medical care when that is an impossible dream for so many.
I don’t understand how God allows this kind of suffering… tiny, sick little bodies, tiny caskets. The poor, the rich, no parent is immune to the fragility of life held in their child. My prayer grew into an angry questioning of God’s goodness on behalf of every parent who has watched their child suffer. On behalf of every child who has experienced the brokenness and injustice of this world.
And I felt like God was with me in this wrestling. Rather than feeling guilty for doubt, I felt like it was a part of my humanity that was pushing through the callous privilege of my life circumstances to share in the sufferings of others… my heart was cracked open, and it was groaning for new life and restoration. For a new kingdom.
Maybe part of this is what Jesus felt when He wept for the death of Lazarus. A knowledge that all is not right in this world and a longing for what is yet to come, the day when God will put our world to rights again. When every pain and every wrong will be redeemed, every wound bound and healed.
“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21: 3-5)
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.