SUFFERING: Eight Days in Hospital

Eight Days in Hospital
Posted on July 4, 2015  in Blog, Suffering

Last Sunday afternoon my wife and I walked through the door of our home, rejoicing, with a healthy six year old after eight days in hospital. Just over a week earlier we had taken him to emerg after he had very suddenly developed a bad cough and laboured breathing. He was immediately put on oxygen and diagnosed with severe pneumonia and a partially collapsed lung. Once on antibiotics he was expected to get better within a few days. He didn’t.
Though his little body was being pumped full of medication to clear up the infection he continued to be oxygen dependent 4-5 days later, to the puzzlement of the doctor.  Adding to the confusion, was that this was the second bout of pneumonia he had had within a month’s time.  That’s when, on Thursday morning, additional testing was ordered to look for an underlying cause; at one point, a potentially sinister underlying cause: a mass/tumour pressing on an airway. By God’s grace, though there was a blockage, it was nothing more than a mucus plug, which wasn’t confirmed until Saturday evening when it was removed at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Needless to say, the level of exhaustion and range of emotions we faced were unlike any we’ve ever experienced before.
Perhaps few, if any, will read these words, but since so many people expressed their deep burden for our family, it seemed appropriate to capture some reflections from those eight days.  At the very least, putting pen to paper, though difficult, helps process the events, thoughts, and emotions.  Since our return home was with a healthy son, it is only fitting to frame these with an emphasis on thanksgiving.  Here is what we are grateful for, in no particular order:
First, the privilege.  Our Father in heaven, in places like Philippians 4:5b-7, invites us to pray:
The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We have this privilege through our Lord Jesus Christ who, by His blood, opens the doors for sinners to the throne room of God (Hebrews 4:14-16). There, the Holy Spirit helps us to pray, even when we don’t know how (Romans 8:26).
Second, God answers prayer.  On Friday afternoon, while waiting on a transfer to McMaster, I sat on our front porch reading and praying, with tears, Psalm 40:13:
LORD, be pleased to deliver me; hurry to help me LORD.
A few moments later Meredith called to tell me a bed had opened up and Cole would be transferred within the hour.
Third, for the prayers of God’s people.  We felt, as Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 1:11, helped by the prayers of many, from Alaska to Thailand.
Ray Ortlund Jr. writes, “Common grace is the goodness of God that he showers universally on the human race.” John Calvin asks, “Shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God?”
We were blessed and humbled by the kindness and help of so many people.  God has created people in His image who are incredibly intelligent.  We benefitted from many nurses and doctors who have spent years of their lives training for and practicing medicine. Without them we would have been utterly helpless.  As we thanked each of them, we made sure they knew we thanked God for them too.
God has also created many people in His image who display unusual compassion.  For two nights we stayed at Ronald McDonald house, for $12 a night, which included meals and other necessities.  The staff and volunteers at this facility were amazing.
On Thursday morning, when the doctor told us he was ordering a CT scan, the nightmare scenarios that hover at the edge of thought, the ones you’re afraid to speak aloud, moved front and centre. This was heightened by the doctor’s presence before Cole was out of the imaging room. A few minutes later he told us he was going to find a radiologist. The prevailing question on our minds on the walk back to Cole’s room was: Lord, what news are we about to hear? Thankfully we were not kept waiting long. Words fail to express our relief that no mass was pressing on the outside of our son’s airway.
Later that evening, as parents, we took some time to tackle some of these questions out loud together: what if the results had been different? What would that have meant for our faith? How would we shepherd the heart of a little boy through something far more serious? What would trusting God look like if He had chosen that path for us?
The only place we could rest was clinging to the knowledge that God sits on the throne of heaven, He knows the end from the beginning, and that no matter how the circumstances of our lives change, He does not. We can do nothing else but trust God to sustain and fulfill His purposes in our lives for His glory.
Many times through the week, as stress and tiredness took hold, we found ourselves looking to harmless options for seeking both comfort and distraction.  We each had moments where the Lord gently reminded us that He alone was sufficient to comfort and sustain us.
One night during the week, before falling asleep, Cole stared at me as I read these words to him from Revelation 21:3-4:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
If there are any words that do not fit in a hospital room, yet are best read in a hospital room, or a cemetery, it would be these (and Revelation 22:1-4).
On Saturday night, in the midst of our joy at the instantaneous improvement to Cole’s health following the procedure, I lay awake in the hospital.  Despite what I was feeling for our own son, I could not help feel a deep sadness, one I still cannot shake. In the same room as us was a little girl with cerebral palsy and a very rare form of epilepsy. She has suffered much and so have her parents. The whole building I lay in, with all it sights and sounds, is one colossal groan from the weight and wages of the curse. I cannot wait until the day Jesus puts all His enemies under His feet, including the last enemy, death.
If the darkest hour in the history of the universe, the murder of the Son of God, brings untold blessing to an innumerable multitude, we can trust God to redeem our lesser sufferings. We read in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (see also 2 Corinthians 1:3-7):
So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Being armed with these verses helps a little heart contextualize their experience, even though it’s a truth big enough for all of us to grow up into.
Experiences such as these are magnifying glasses over relationships.  By God’s grace we are grateful that through the stress and exhaustion we were united rather than divided in our relationship as husband and wife. The same was true of immediate family, who helped us wonderfully by looking after our other kids, bringing us food, processing with us, encouraging us by their words and their presence. We couldn’t have gone through this as we did without them.
Last, though certainly not least, we are thankful for the body of Christ. The outpouring of love, support, encouragement, prayer, and help we received from members of our church was overwhelming: emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, food, cards, texts, listening ears, visits to the hospital, gifts for Cole and more. In a time of weakness we were greatly strengthened by God’s people. We count it a great privilege to do life together with them.
As always, much more could be said and no doubt we have much yet to learn from this experience.  Ultimately, we strive to trust the Lord to continue His work in us as He sees fit, with our hope being that Christ would increase and we would decrease.  I’ll let the psalmist have the final word:
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

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