A Trip of a Lifetime ((part 4)), uncertainly certain.
If you have been keeping up with our story, we just received news that Shepard would indeed be having an appendectomy. Find out all of the circumstances that led up to this discovery and how this new information was a direct answer to prayer by reading part one, part two and part three of “The Trip of a Lifetime”.
At this point in our story, only 35 hours had passed since the first sign of Shepy’s illness, but looking back each hour feels like it was an entire 24-hour day. Strangely, from the moment I met Dr. Shinstrom and throughout the course of our hospital stay, it felt like time had stopped.
I was uncertain of where we were, uncertain of when we would leave and so uncertain of what would be happening while in this unexpected place. There was, what seemed to be an infinite list of uncertainties. And one lone certainty. I placed that list at the Feet of the One Certainty I knew. I don’t say this lightly – these moments and days were filled with some of the hardest, most difficult and painful circumstances I have faced to date.
When reading the simple words “I laid this at the Feet”, I imagine it is easy to interpret ((inaccurately)) my decision to do this was routine and effortless. It was neither – I am not a stranger to suffering and sorrow. ((But truly — who is?? We are not promised easy, we are not promised fun – we are not promised happy.)) I say this to explain, I have experienced crying out for help, I am familiar with deep need that can only be satisfied by One and, most importantly, I am a witness to His answer, His comfort and His saving power.
Yes – I had a long list of needs and unknowns. I felt the words of 2 Corinthians 4:8 & 9 coursing through me: hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. As much as I felt those words, I felt the words that echoed them, also in 2 Corinthians 4: 8 & 9: but not crushed, but not in despair, but not abandoned and praise be to God – not destroyed.
I was uncertain of so much – but more importantly, I was also certain. My list of certainties was short, so short in fact it couldn’t be classified as a list. It was a statement: My uncertainties are not uncertain to God. God knew exactly where I was and my circumstances and they were not a surprise to Him. Not only were these present circumstances on God’s radar, the outcome was known to Him as well. According to scripture, the outcome includes everything I needed right at the moment I needed it most: A plan, not just a plan but plans ((plural)):
- plans to prosper Shepard and me,
- plans not to harm Shepard and me,
- plans to give Shepard and me hope, and
- plans to give Shepard and me a future. ((Jer 29:11))
With this truth, I chose Him and I chose His plan. As I laid my troubles and needs at His Feet, my feelings of being hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down were met with faith, hope and the ability to endure. As I needed, He abundantly provided. The kindness of all whom we encountered and the prayers of the many who we couldn’t see combined with the power of the Holy Spirit carried me through the darkness. They didn’t remove the darkness, but praise be to God! they made the darkness bearable.
With word of an impending appendectomy, the pace within our little ER room began to change. Antibiotics were added to Shep’s IV, a more permanent room was being prepared for us and I began the process of signing a stack of medical waivers. Soon, the surgeon ((Dr. V)) came to visit us – he explained the process and his expectations. He was certain and confident, assuring me of the simplicity of this procedure. “You will be out of here in less than 24 hours” he promised.
His confidence seemed to be just the thing I needed, I trusted God’s provision and healing would come through Dr. V’s hands. It was a true privilege to meet him. He answered every question I managed to think of ((I imagine there were few questions – even now, I feel bits of the same foggy blur I experienced that night)). And then he left.
The nurse returned to check Shep and administer more pain medication. It was at this moment a complication was observed: Shep was having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. I had been paying close attention to Shep’s coloring and skin tone for this very reason. My heart felt hard pressed and peace-filled. Again, I was keenly aware of God’s provision. This complication would not break us.
Approximately 18 months ago, Shep experienced an excruciatingly awful case of rotavirus. He was sick for 14 days, missing almost three weeks of school and losing 10 lbs ((which was almost 20% of his body weight)). During that time I took him to the ER where he received IV fluids. It was at that ER visit that we learned some very valuable information: Shepard was very allergic to Zofran (a very effective anti-nausea medication).
Zofran was the first drug nurses attempted to administer to Shepard. Thankfully, earlier that day, while still on Orcas ((before even thinking he needed to be seen by a physician)), I felt a strong need to be reminded of Shepard’s drug allergy. I could not remember the name of the drug that caused his entire torso, arms, neck and face to turn bright red and break out in splotchy hot hives. I called my pediatrician’s office. “Do you want me to check on that now? she asked, hinting at the fact that this could wait until we returned to the office for a routine visit. “Yes, please.” I pressed.
She returned to the phone with Shep’s file in hand. “No allergies are indicated on the cover of his chart. If he had one it would be written there. I asked her to read the notes dated January 2013. “Here it is, it should have been written on the front – I will do that now. It’s Zofran, he is allergic to Zofran.” I made a note, as if I etched in stone, in my mind.
Knowledge of this allergy saved us additional stress and certain discomfort for Shep, how great is our God?! A Zofran allergy made Shepard’s care slightly more difficult because it is the drug of choice for this type of medical emergency ((I learned)). An alternative was given and at the moment was working great. ((This detail will matter more as the story progresses.))
The discovery of a new drug allergy ((this combination antibiotic has an ingredient which is in the penicillin family)) added an extra layer of difficulty to Shep’s situation. With one swipe, the most successful antibiotic in combatting the effects of appendicitis was also taken off of the table. At the news of an allergy to this antibiotic, Dr. V returned. He implemented a new plan which included slowly giving an alternate antibiotic. A slow influx would help avoid any new reactions to an antibiotic. We could not afford to have Shepard develop any signs of intolerance to any other medications because this was the last preferred choice for effective antibiotics. We needed an excellent antibiotic, more than we knew.
By now, I was feeling the effects of the once unnoticed time passing by. I wanted sleep but more importantly I needed rest. In this same day, I made breakfast for my herd, talked to my pediatrician, took Shep to a local Orcas clinic, flew into Bellingham, sat through both a sonogram and a CT scan – and now found myself on standby for Shep’s emergency appendectomy.
With every new person that entered our “room”, I made a point to introduce them to Shep. Every single time I found myself saying the same thing, “He’s my baby, my last boy. He is golden with such a great heart. But don’t be fooled, he is a golden boy with devil horns, a squirrel tail and an angel halo.” I would continue by saying, “when we see all three of these characteristics, we will know he is fully healed.” And then I would cry.
About this time, I learned dad received another stent. I was thankful for the care he was receiving and sad he needed the care to begin with. Selfishly, my heart sank at the news, mom and dad would not be hopping on a plane to Washington. I was, and would continue to be, away from two of the people I wanted most to lean on.
Finally, we were moved to the room that would be ours for the remainder of our time at Peace Health St. Joseph’s. The color of the sky outside matched both my exhaustion and the pressure I felt coming from the knot deep in my chest through my heart into my soul. It was very dark outside and seemed equally dark in me. I was walking through a shadow and every bit of me knew it.
Even though I walk this valley – I will not let myself fear. You are with me, You are showing me comfort and You will provide for my needs. As You have done, You will continue to do. Praise be to God. This is not a surprise to You. And with those words, I walked.
The wait seemed unending. What was supposed to be 1 to 2 hours ended up being 5 or 6. A complication occurred in the surgery ahead of us and, although there were 8 operating rooms at this hospital, this was the only operating room able to be used at this time of night. My cousin and I were able to find some much needed chuckles when we were mistaken for Shepard’s parents. Having known Zach since he was 2 and being 22 years older than him, we were shocked people assumed such a thing. Suddenly, those few strange glances made sense – the laughter offered a small relief.
Shep was in and out of awareness regarding his situation. Thankfully, his pain was being tended to and he was comfortable, except for the same problem he had been experiencing all day: he needed to pee and couldn’t. The nurse used an instrument to determine Shep had 467 ml of urine in his bladder. He was miserable.
He turned to me and sighed, “I need to pee so bad!”. “Do you want to try?” I asked desperately. He nodded yes, and a nurse helped us to a nearby bathroom. I prayed for his relief and together we praised as he found himself finally able to release the contents of his very full bladder. This was an amazing blessing which allowed him to avoid the misery of a catheter.
Throughout the evening, I was praying and singing. Shep told me those things comforted him and asked me to continue. “Our God is Mighty to Save. Blessed be Your Name and 10,000 Reasons” were a few of the requests he made. I felt bad for the nurses and patients who were subjected to my “off-tunes” which worsened as I fought back tears as I sang words declaring my acceptance of this suffering and my commitment to sing and praise Him and His Mighty-ness in spite of what lay before me.
Then, after waiting an eternity, in the middle of the night – about 2:00 am Washington time, they took him away. And I let them. “God be with them all”, I prayed.
Zach and I were ushered into a tiny, private waiting room with the brightest lights known to man. One chair and one miniature couch – both engineered to “recline” at an exact 90° angle. Apparently private waiting rooms are not for slouches. As I looked the room over, I immediately thought, I will sit here awake and pray the entire time. Then Zach kindly interrupted my thoughts by saying, “you take the couch – I will take the chair.” I figured out how to turn the lights off ((or at least set a strange timer to turn them off and amazingly flip them back on as soon as I fell asleep)) and curled up on the couch to pray and was asleep before I knew it.
The lights exploded back on for no apparent reason and scared me – hard, and yes it is possible to be scared hard…if you don’t know what I mean, consider yourself blessed. I prayed and fought against sleep. In spite of my heart’s desire, I was quickly back in a deep sleep.
Again, the lights blasted on. But this time a person was kneeling beside me. It was Dr. V. “He is being finished up now and will be in recovery soon, he did great. But… his appendix was ruptured, I cleaned it all out best I could. You won’t be leaving tomorrow, you will be here at least a week and you will not be going back to the island.”
And with that, I became so completely aware of the valley I was walking in and began to thirst, even more, for His comfort. What a strange place to find myself, in between praise and sorrow. ((to be continued–just one more time, sorry it’s become so long!!))