I was at the gym Saturday night when I received a call from Bethany that our nine month old son, William Cole, wasn’t doing very well. She informed me that he had spit up a large amount of dark brown blood.
“Do you think we should go to the hospital?” she asked. Should we? Probably. Did I want to? Not really. This wouldn’t have been the first time that we had been to the hospital with William, and we didn’t want to be known as the overreactive parents that show up at the ER every time their child experiences something abnormal. But it’s better to be safe than sorry right? I left the gym and drove home while Bethany packed William’s things for a trip to the ER.
By the time I reached home, William had already slipped off to sleep. Since he was sleeping so well, we decided that we would wait until morning. Another few episodes of vomiting confirmed that he needed to see a doctor, so we left early the next morning for the hospital. At first, the doctor didn’t seem to be overly concerned. He contacted William’s gastroenterologist, who suggested doing some blood work just in case William had some kind of infection. On a whim, the doctor did a quick check of William’s sodium levels. To his astonishment, they were well below normal – so low, in fact, that the typical response should have been seizures or a coma. They quickly ordered an ambulance to transfer William to a larger hospital in a neighboring city.
When we arrived, the attending physician couldn’t believe William’s sodium numbers. He was convinced it had to be a fluke, so they retested, but with the same result. No one had ever seen levels that low, especially without severe symptoms. They ran tests, took blood samples, and put in an two different IV lines. By the time they had finished, we were all exhausted. William’s stay was going to last at least three days, so that they could raise his sodium level carefully, as well as run multiple tests to determine the cause behind all of it. I wanted to stay there with Bethany and William, but Adrian was staying with a sitter, and everything seemed to be stable and quiet, so I started back home.
Shortly after I left, Bethany stepped over to the bed and noticed that while William’s hands and feet were ice cold, his back was soaked with sweat. His temperature had risen to 105.6. The doctor was surprised, but they ordered some medicine to lower the fever. Then William began to struggle to keep his oxygen levels up. His tummy pulled in and out violently as he tried to breathe in enough air. They increased the oxygen flow around his trach, but he just couldn’t get comfortable. The stress of a high fever was sending his heart rate way up. When they checked his temperature next, it was 107.7. The room became very tense, very quickly. The respiratory nurse put William on a ventilator, they added a medication to try to control the fever, and they placed ice packs around his little body. In the midst of all the chaos, William’s nurse looked up at Bethany and said,
“You may want to get your husband to come.”
When I received Bethany’s text, my heart dropped. The thought struck me, “My son might…die.” Though my emotions were raging, I knew I need to act fast. I had just put Adrian to bed and I knew I didn’t want him to see my tears and pick up that something was wrong. So I dried my eyes and asked God for his grace. After dropping Adrian off at the babysitter’s house for the second time, I rushed off to the hospital. The 35 minute drive seemed to take forever. My mind was rushing in a thousand different directions.
“Is my son going to be ok?”
“How did he go downhill so fast?”
“Will he already be gone when I get there?”
“How is Bethany handling this?”
“Why did I leave the hospital in the first place?”
I was tearful, anxious, and overwhelmed. I was trucking down I-85 as fast as I could legally go, when I realized that there was some music playing softly over the stereo. I turned it up and heard the introduction of a familiar song. I tried to listen, but I was still very distracted. It was not until the middle of the second stanza that it seemed that the Holy Spirit turned the volume up. I was no longer distracted.
“Author of our days and hours; Things to come are held secure.”
The truth of God’s sovereignty and the fact that our future is secure began to settle my anxious heart. As the third stanza began, the melody lifted triumphantly:
“God of Power! God who breaks the darkness!”
But it was the fourth stanza that filled me with a joy that transcended my broken and fearful heart.
God who heals us,
God who gives us peace and hope.
God who listens,
Carries all our fragile
Dreams and heartaches,
Wins and failures;
Binds the broken; hides the weak.
New beginnings freely offered;
Who can make us whole again?
God who heals us, God of Power,
God of Ages, God of Heaven,
God of all the earth and sky.”
This is exactly what I needed to hear. Every phrase ministered to my heart! It didn’t take away the dread of walking into the hospital and hearing my son was already gone. But it did fill me with a confident, overcoming-peace that my sovereign Lord was able to carry me regardless of what I found.
I didn’t need loud, fun music to distract me, or some pep talk to calm me; I needed theology. I needed to saturate my fear-crippled heart with the reality of God.
When I walked into the hospital room, the nurses were still working hard with William. Around midnight, his temperature finally began to subside and he stabilized.
Right now we are still at the hospital trying to figure out what William’s condition is, and what caused it. Honestly, we have a lot more questions than we have answers, but we are thankful to serve a God who walks with us through every unknown.