Trip of a Lifetime ((part 5 – the end)) expectations…exceeded
This story as been harder to write than I first anticipated ((and longer than I thought it would be too)). Originally, I thought 2 parts would cover it. However, as I began writing it out, sections and divisions became clearer to me. Each portion of this story has been a contrast between need and provision, unexpected and providentially prepared, a time of peace and a sudden storm, needing guidance and a path made clear. But this last portion of “our story” is going to contrast something completely different and I hope, rather than being bored with a long story, what you will see in these final moments inspires you to shine in the midst of suffering.
We remained in recovery with Shep for a few hours and he slept. I kept watch over him, along with his recovery nurse. Strangely, I, like Shep, remember very little of this recovery time. I can hazily recollect his bare back facing me and my desire to cover him. I remember walking over to look at his still face and bending to bury my face in his neck. I remember taking a deep inhale and finding his familiar warm, sweet smell lingering in my nostrils as I lifted my head. Last, I remember him opening his golden brown eyes and locking them with mine as he slowly smiled.
The depth of relief and thankfulness that washed through me at this moment, was and still is a prize of a feeling. Few times in my life have I had that specific feeling. As I reflect on those unique emotions, I can’t help but flash back to the rare times in my life I have felt the very same way. Four times to be exact. Four times before, I have felt such abundant thankfulness, relief, joy and love all in one overwhelming wave. It was at the very moment, my very own tiny, freshly birthed, perfect, new babes were placed on my chest and nuzzled close to my cheek.
All I had been hoping for, all I had been praying for, all I had been waiting for came to be in that single moment our eyes met and he smiled. The days that passed were exhausting and blessed. I remember straining for Shep and relying on God to go before us. I remember staying awake to be sure his medications remained timely, urging him to drink, writing down his medication schedule, working with the hospital dietician to provide him an individualized eating plan. I remember loving his nurses, calling out for help and being given a pediatric consult ((Dr. W)). I remember walking with him, praying with him, singing over him, sleeping next to him, crying with him, hurting when he hurt and feeling sick when he was sick.
I remember straining toward faith and falling in fear. I remember the moment, in the middle of the night, he began throwing up bile. As I watched him, I felt hot and angry. The hot anger only lasted a second, but the door had been left open to ice cold fear. Frigid fear pumped quickly out of my heart and deep into my soul. I remembered hearing the words, “Yellow is good, green is bad.” I neither remember when I heard them nor who said them, just that they were said and that he was throwing up green.
I asked for the on-call pediatrician ((Dr. E)), but the nurse nonchalantly replied “She’ll be here in an hour and a half on her rounds.” I waited for the past due pain medication and it never came. Finally, as shift change was drawing near, my nurse entered the room with a bag of IV medication. I asked quickly, “Is this the pain medication we have been waiting for?”. “No, that is by request, this is his antibiotic.” With that flat answer, anger and fear mixed inside of me.
For the first time, I was truly struggling. Our new nurse was being apprised of Shep’s situation by our outgoing nurse and I interrupted. I demanded Shep’s pain medication and demanded to see the doctor. I am sure I surprised the new nurse and for some reason, she felt compelled to tell me the difference between appendicitis and an appendix rupture. I immediately cut her off and quickly let her know I knew more about those two situations than I ever wanted to know and I was sure there was nothing more I could stand to hear – from her.
Hours earlier that evening, prior to Shep throwing up bile, Dr. E came into our room and wrote new orders for Shep’s pain medication. She came in because he had just been given liquid hydrocodone and threw it up. Narcotics were making him very ill and he was unable to keep any medications in his stomach.
Dr. E ordered IV Tylenol and gave the nurse ((who was standing in the room)) specific instructions to administer this immediately. As the nurse left, the doctor lingered for a moment. I felt the need to ask her to have some additional words with the nurse. “Please” I urged, “Make sure she follows your orders exactly.” She gave me a strange look and said,”That is her job, I am sure she will.” I was not so sure.
I didn’t have that feeling of uncertainty very often with regard to our medical care, but I had experienced it enough and would be on edge the for the remainder of our stay. But this particular night, I had good reason to urge the doctor for an extra measure of assurance. The specifics are not important any longer and truthfully, they blur in my mind, so I won’t even try to recollect.
Several hours later, he was past due for medication, in pain and throwing up bile. Worst of all, he was asking – begging me for help, exclaiming “I just wish this would all be over, I just SO wish it!”, and I could do nothing but watch. I snapped at the nurse, “I just want to talk to the doctor, he is throwing up bile and past due on his pain medication. She told you to give it to him and you flat-out haven’t done your job.” As those words flew off my lips the doctor walked in.
The nurses immediately left the room. Dr. E could see I was markedly more upset than the last time we had spoken. I told her the IV Tylenol never came, I told her the nurse didn’t follow her orders, I told her Shep had been throwing up bile, I told her I had demanded they notify her and they refused. She was surprised and couldn’t believe what I was saying, “Are you sure?? She stood right here, I told her, it’s written in his chart – you must be wrong.” I knew I was right and soon she did too.
When Dr. E returned, she was frustrated that the meds were not given and the orders not followed, they would be coming soon but my fear had reached a high point. “Dr. E, he is throwing up bile, what does that mean? I was told that is bad!”, I said in a panicked whisper. I am sure she said something in response, but I can’t remember her words…I only remember mine. “I am afraid he is dying – I need to know…is he going to die?” I whispered every word except for dying and die – I mouthed those.
Even in the darkness of our room, in the middle of the night, Dr. E knew my fear, she knew the words I mouthed and she stopped me, stopped my mind and ultimately spoke words that God used to quiet my fear. “No, he is not dying. Children do die from this but Shepard is not dying. Emily, I would owe it to you to tell you if I thought he was dying because you would need to prepare yourself…” She continued to strongly protest my thoughts. As I recall that conversation, my hairs stand on end.
Fear – true, deep, cold, pulsing fear is a horrible feeling. Fear doesn’t stay small, it feeds and grows. Fear doesn’t want part — it wants all, and for 90 minutes, fear had all of me. Over the next two days, Shep indeed continued to improve. The IV Tylenol was a turning point in his recovery and looking back, I can see it was one of the many gifts poured out on us – directly from Our Creator.
Also, over the next two days, I reflected on those 90 minutes I spent in the ‘dark’ – in fear. I was justified in my words and tone with that nurse. I had been very cautious with what I said – “and who wouldn’t be mad?” I told myself. I texted my dear friend, who I had been texting all week, and asked her to pray for me – “I am struggling – I don’t know when to fit throw and when to faith show. I threw a fit last night” and proceeded to give her the details as best I could through text. I asked for prayers for discernment.
Our new shift nurse administered the IV medication and Shep slept soundly for the next 5 hours.
The next 36 hours were full of new trials and maybe one day I will share. But I want to tell you most about the nurse who came in at 3:00 pm 2 days before we left. It was THE nurse. The nurse who witnessed my fit throw, the one who neglected to follow the doctor’s orders, the one who left Shep without pain medication and ignored my demands.
When she entered our room, I sank. Not because she would be seeing us through another long shift, but because in that one instant, God whispered “Apologize, I brought her back to this room because she needs to hear you apologize.”
I stood up ((but inside I was on my knees – in humility)), wove around Shep’s bed and found myself standing next to her. I touched her arm and proceeded to apologize. “I am a woman of faith,” I said with tears pooling in my eyes. “I have trusted God’s leading and provision from the moment I realized Shepard was sick while still in our home on the island, and even long before. I believe our present circumstances are not a surprise to God, I believe His Word is true and I believe He will keep His promises to me. I have made a choice to walk in the truth of that knowledge – to walk this road in faith. I choose to believe it will be okay even when my present circumstances seem far from okay. But I didn’t show you that. For 90 minutes I let fear direct my words and thoughts. Fear and faith do not go together, and so, for 90 minutes my faith was hidden from you. I am sorry for my harsh words, and not walking according to who I have been called to be — and I am asking for your forgiveness. Please forgive me.”
It was as though a light turned on in her eyes and face, and she paused in silence and stared at me. And then she spoke, “I have never, in my career, ever had someone apologize to me. People talk to me the way you did everyday. You don’t need to apologize, I could have done better and I know that, I am sorry too. But your apology makes me think, I need the faith you have, I need more faith. I have watched you all week and I have seen the faith you are telling me about, I want your faith.”
I answered my own question that day. My anger was justified, it was time to throw a fit. But it was also time to show my faith. Regardless of my emotions and my circumstances ((which were pressing me on every side)), I hid my Light with fear and no situation will ever make that acceptable. It is possible to fit throw and faith show at the same time. Moreover, faith showing must happen ALWAYS, even in the midst of a fit throw. If a fit doesn’t get buffered with faith, an opportunity to show the power of Christ in me is gone, maybe forever.
2 Corinthians 3:1-5 ((in my own words))
My actions show what has been written on my heart and Who penned the words. They are intended for all whom I encounter to read. They either validate the power of their Author or discredit Him. The letter on my heart, the song of my soul, was not written by earthy powers but with the Spirit of the living God, through the resurrecting, death-defying power of Christ, my Savior. These words were not written on a heart of stone but rather on a heart of flesh. I say this not because I can do the work myself, but am able because of the power of the One Who dwells in me and wrote His Words on me. He made me able…
God didn’t let the story end with fear. He gave me the opportunity and power to shine. He is indeed the God of second chances. By the end of her shift, we became friends. I learned things about her life, her habits and her likes and we laughed. The last time we spoke, I knew, I would not see her again and was genuinely sad at that truth. This shows the power of the One in me.
Only God can change anger into peace, suffering into joy & fear into faith. Only God can bring light into the dark places, give healing to the sick and calm the storms as they rage around and inside. Only God can save. I think back on those days and I stand amazed. God used everything I packed, he used every ounce of my faith and gave it back to me beyond measure. He also used my fear, quieted the fear and grew peace and faith in its place. He used my mistake to teach me and to bless a tender, hard-working nurse who needed to be reminded that she matters to Him and needs more faith in Him.
It was only a day later, one of our attending doctors used these words “He has FAR exceeded our expectations. He is doing better than 95% of the patients I have ever treated with an appendix rupture. I am amazed.”
“Praise be to God!” I proclaimed. “Praise be to God!” He replied. I thanked him for the excellent care he gave Shepard and told him he ((Dr. W)) had been prayed for, he came to me as a distinct answer to prayer and Shepard and I were blessed because of him. He tearfully thanked me, “Those words mean so much to me.”
David arrived the day before we were discharged. He had been trying for three days to get a flight or a ferry back to the mainland. The ferries were full, the airstrip was closed and a tire was damaged – I knew I was to be alone for this journey. But David finally made it, and what a blessing, he tended to Shep, we laughed about Shep’s bathroom problems ((so did Shep)), and we rested.
The kiddos came the next day and stayed – we were all united again. My heart burst with gratitude and joy.
I smelled my babies and we kissed, they looked Shep over and hugged – and laughed. The nurses and doctors were so happy to meet our family – so very happy we were together.
David took the Kade, Brody and Gracie to a hotel for the night. The last morning, I knew our release was coming later in the day – I spent my time telling my friends at the local churches, nurses, nurses aides, the dietician, the doctors and the hospital staff and volunteers goodbye.
I was thankful I had moments to tell each one specific blessings and talents they brought when caring for Shepard ((and me)). Leaving hurt my heart – something I never imagined would happen.
I had grown to love these people who were once unknown to me, in a place whose name I struggled to recall – far from where I ever expected I would be and so far from all I thought I needed – my expectations indeed, had been far exceeded. ((the end))
Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”