A Dark and Stormy Few Nights

Picture a quiet and peaceful Sunday evening. It would involve watching the end of the football game, a snack and story with the kids, and then saying our prayers and getting them into bed. Such an evening would inevitably involve me laying down with my four year old and settling him down to sleep. He would snuggle in close, probably chat too much, and drift off with heavy and contented breaths.

The reality for that Sunday evening was that he was taken to the hospital once again to deal with an impetigo which, we were convinced, was not actually impetigo. Our suspicions were confirmed, and the young lad was given a large dose of antibiotics. We were told to bring him to the hospital every eight hours for more medicine. However, by 1:30pm the next afternoon his condition had deteriorated, and his sick body was filled with a painful rash. He could hardly move. We were stunned.

Now life in small town Saskatchewan can be wonderful, but a drawback is that it is nearly impossible to attract doctors to live a rural life. The doctors who do come work staggering hours. However, generally speaking, diagnosing ailments is not their strong suit. Mending broken bones and assigning medicine is one thing, dealing with a mysterious and serious rash is another. It just so happened that our town has one exception to this general rule. We have a doctor who is several cuts above the rest, and has saved many lives because of it. Thanks be to God this doctor was on duty when our four year old's rash became serious in nature. Immediately he was put on the correct medicine, and arrangements were made to transport him to the nearest pediatrics unit, some 150 km away.

With that our family's life was turned upside down. Scary hardly seems apt to describe it, but seeing our sweet but fiery four year old swelling up in pain with an unknown illness was scary beyond imagining. Later that night he was airlifted away. My wife went with him. The last I saw of him he was being raced through the hospital towards an ambulance. He looked terrified. I went back home for the night, but promised to leave for the new hospital as soon as I could the next morning.

When I arrived the next day our little guy was unrecognizable. The swelling had taken over his face. We had to show one of the nurses pictures of him so that she could see what he really looked like. He was finding it hard to open his mouth to talk. Yet bravely did he take all his medicine, swelling, and blood pricks. In fact, he still found time to beat his parents at card games, though he was unable to use one hand to due swelling and an IV insertion. What an amazing boy. I bought him a Lego set later that day to cheer him up, though he was still unable to hold it. He didn't seem to mind though.

That night it was my turn to stay with him in the hospital. He was itchy and very uncomfortable so I crawled into his bed with him. I held him. The machines he was attached to beeped and dripped and reminded us that not all was right. But he snuggled in nevertheless. His breathing got heavy, and in the dark he drifted into a heavy but contented sleep. Some things never change. For perhaps the thousandth time that day I began whispering the Hail Mary prayer.

The next morning Our Mother indeed took over. By lunchtime the doctor had a diagnosis for us, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and even suggested that we could leave the hospital sooner than expected. The recovery that day was miraculous. Also miraculous was when I left to make the 150km drive back home that afternoon. My wife and I decided to leave our one phone at the hospital with her. I packed my bags and started driving out of the hospital parking lot. Another lonely drive. Perhaps not as scary as the previous day's drive, but haunting nonetheless.

As I went to the exit my little parking ticket told me I hadn't paid. Ugggh! This was annoying. I had paid, the darn the just needed to be reset by the security people in the hospital. And so I re-parked the van and began running back towards the hospital. Little did I know that, like a scene from a movie, my wife was running towards me. We met right at the hospital doors.

"Thank goodness!" she exclaimed breathlessly. "We can go!!!!"

"What?! Seriously!?"

"Yes!" she gasped. "The results came back early. We can go!"

I was stunned. I should have been on the road. Instead Our Lady saved one last special blessing for us. Within minutes I was driving my wife and young boy home. He was still ailing, and his skin was peeling, but clearly he was returning back to normal. To go from fearing the worst to driving home together was too much. Thank you Lord.

Later I sat with him on the couch. His skin was peeling all over. So what. He was home. I held him, and his breath grew deeper. He was contented. So was I.

And now it approaches Sunday evening once more. I look forward to a relaxing evening. Perhaps some games and snacks will be had. Then, after saying our family prayers, we will put the kids to bed. I will hold that little four year old in the dark and marvel at the miraculous gift of life we still have. Never take a day for granted. Life is too precious for this. If the darkest hour approaches, be still and remember:

"Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, 
for darkness is as light to you" (Psalm 139:12)

Amen.



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