Last summer my youngest son was in the middle of undergoing medical tests to determine the cause of some abnormal blood work. It had been a long journey leading up to this point. What started out as multiple missed days of school in late January ended up leading to rounds of blood work, a CT scan, an MRI and a liver biopsy all by the end of February. I wasn’t terribly worried at that time, considering doctors thought he was fighting off an infection. But when all the results indicated this was not the case and we were referred to a pediatric neurosurgeon I started worry. We found ourselves exploring medical conditions I never considered. Specialists were certain he had a very particular type of Muscular Dystrophy and sat with us parents, as well as my son discussing life expectancy, heart problems, wheelchairs and the fact there was no cure….only management for the disease.
We left the specialist’s office visibly shaken and perplexed. How is it that our son who plays soccer and baseball might have a disorder that would progress to him being bound to a wheelchair? As a mother my mind started to question everything and began to realize the hopes and dreams I had envisioned for my son may not come to fruition. Had I mislead him when I had told him he could be anything he put his mind to, that the “sky was the limit,” and nothing could hold him back? How could I face my child and tell him he would face a life of challenges. I ached inside thinking about the possibilities – partly for me, but primarily for him. How do I help him manage this information? How do I help him cope?
There were many nights my son and I talked before bedtime about his questions and fears about the road that was ahead of him. I felt helpless to answer some of them because I did not know the answer, nor did I understand why it was happening to him. I held him and talked with him about prayer. Honestly, I remember talking with him about it from the perspective of “of course this is what we will do, we will pray.” But somewhere deep inside me I questioned if this would even help us. Prayers work for other people, but my son’s medical condition was almost a given based on the specialist’s assessment. I was lost in a state of confusion, depression, anger, fear and grief. That was my helplessness and hopelessness talking, not my faith.
Friends and family began to pray for my son. Entire congregations began to pray for him and I was emotionally touched, and overwhelmed by this. I started to think maybe prayer might work for my son, and if it did, why would it work? One night in particular I was feeling so vulnerable and distraught I could not contain my emotion. I felt completely helpless as a parent, unable to protect my child. Scooping him up and holding him was not going to fix the situation, nor stop the physical and emotional pain. I did not want to frighten him so I went into the bathroom, locked the door and turned out the light. I literally sank to my knees in tears. All I could say was “help.” It felt like I had lost my ability to pray, my “right” to pray and ask God for son’s healing. How did I know what God wanted for my child and who was I to think I had the right to ask? All I could muster was “please help us. ” I left the rest in God’s hands hoping at the very least He would help heal our aching hearts and give us the strength to travel the road ahead of us.
After several months of anxiously waiting for genetic testing to confirm the specialist’s assessments I had received a call from the doctor. The voice on the other end of the phone was subdued and expressed reluctance to give the information over the phone. It seemed at that point I had been given the results without her coming out and saying it directly. No one wants to give bad news over the phone. I started to quietly cry and thought “here we go.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to breath in every ounce of strength possible. She informed me the test results for the two types of muscular dystrophy they were looking for were negative. NEGATIVE? Negative. It was like someone had just slid the needle off the record and a screech was heard around the world. How could this be? The doctor was so certain, so sure this is what we were looking at and the results are negative.
I was reminded of the story of Hezekiah when he was told by Isaiah that he would die and God wanted him to get his affairs in order. In 2 Kings 20:5 it says “Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” I realized the Lord heard my anguish, saw my tears and also knew my son’s fears. The amazing power of prayer was being played out in my family’s life. When I told my son that the results were negative he let out a sigh of relief and expressed confusion and started to say, “but the doctors said….” All I could say was “yes , the doctors did say that and we have had a lot of people praying for us.”
We still do not have all the answers or a diagnosis. The doctors are perplexed. Maybe it was not so much they were wrong, but that God heard the prayers of His children and offered help. Where do we go from here? More tests and biopsies in the next month, but we enter this round of testing with greater hope and strength to conquer whatever comes our way. And….we continue to offer our prayers to our loving Father.
Next week’s author: Kelly Patchin