“I just need you to trust me.”
The look on the doctor’s face was genuine, but I wasn’t fully convinced. He was smiling, but his response felt more patronizing than uplifting. I responded slowly to calm the frustration that was beginning to ignite in the pit of my stomach…
“It’s not a matter of a lack of trust,” I retorted. “It’s more about the records we have been keeping. According to our charting, Jesher has been experiencing an up-tick in his apneic–spell-count over the past 24 hours. He has had five spells already today. That’s a record for him! So it’s hard for me to feel good about this report when our own records seem to suggest that something might be wrong.”
For the last five minutes, the doctor had provided us with a colorfully optimistic assessment of our son’s progress. Jesher was off of his nasal cannulas; he was beginning to finish his bottles in under fifteen minutes; he was void of infection; he was knocking on the door of his original due date, and he now weighed five pounds. Enthusiasm glimmered in the doctor’s eyes. If retinas could dance, his were doing The Harlem Shake. He was really excited about Jesher’s improvements! I, on the other hand, played the role of the protective parent who would not be easily pacified by smiles and inviting gestures.
While the doctor’s hands were just seconds away from orchestrating a praise dance, my fingers were gripping the seams of my jeans. I was attempting to remain poised, but my composure began to give way to the pressure-build-up caused by holding one’s tongue. No one seemed to be listening to our concern! Lhorraine and I weren’t looking for encouragement. We only desired to engage an understanding care-giver who was willing to look at the data and acknowledge the validity of our hypothesis. We didn’t need a morale-boost. We didn’t ask for that! We only required the answer to one, simple question: Why are Jesher’s apneic spells increasing?
As the doctor drew in a breath to begin his response to my inquiry, I attempted to divert anxiety from my fingers by clenching my jaw. I shot a quick glance in my wife’s direction to see how she was doing, and, as in most cases, her poker face exuded a regal coolness most often attributed to members of the royal court. She appeared to be doing much better than I was.
“You are correct,” the doctor affirmed. “Jesher has been showing us signs of fatigue, but that’s normal for babies who are adjusting to bottle feeding.” I released my jaw and felt my fingers once again squeeze the sides of my trousers as I anticipated another unsatisfactory answer. The doctor continued, “But let me assure you; I have no concerns about this little guy. In my 25-years plus of neonatology experience, I have only seen four medical miracles—situations where you look at a baby and you can’t give a scientific explanation for what you’re seeing. Jesher is the fourth.”
My hands began releasing the denim material that I was using as a stress-ball replacement. It wasn’t the response I was looking for, but his words were dousing the smoldering flames in my chest. He continued to talk in a reverent tone—almost as if he believed he was standing on holy ground. “When Jesher was admitted, he was experiencing multi-system organ failure, and if someone came to me on his first night and told me that this sick baby would be breathing room air and laying in an open crib by his due date, I would have told them that they are crazy. Jesher is one of the four miracle babies I’ve seen, and I don’t think five spells in one day will change this fact….”
The doctor finished his statement with a sentence or two more, but his words hit so deeply that my sense of hearing was disrupted for about 20 seconds. I don’t remember how he closed his remarks. I only remember noticing that a smile had come over my face without my consent. As Jesher slept in the crib next to us, I felt the spirit of God descend upon my anxiety and transform it into thanksgiving. I knew the doctor was right. Jesher is the product of divine intervention. The doctor’s words continued to echo off the walls of my ear canal as he shook my hand and beaconed the nurse practitioner to follow: “Jesher is one of the four miracle babies that I’ve seen.” Although I wanted a scientific explanation, I got a spiritual reminder. Although I desired a direct answer, I got an authentic testimony. Although I wanted medical intervention, I got an arresting appeal. Our son had experienced a set-back; however, none of his care-givers were concerned. Because, if Jesher’s God could bring him through multiple-system organ failure, that same God must have the power to remedy a handful of apneic spells.
Here is Jesher’s current medical report:
HERNIA—This past week Jesher was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia. This occurs when the canal wall that allows the testicles to descend into the scrotum does not close completely, leaving an opening for the bowels to protrude into the groin area. The diagnosis is common in preemies, and can be remedied by an outpatient procedure that is recommended at 52 weeks. However, Lhorraine and I have been very transparent concerning our keystone prayer, and we declare it just about every day. We want Jesher to leave this hospital completely devoid of deficits, disorders, or diseases. PLEASE ASK YAHWEH (IN THE NAME OF JESUS) TO CAUSE JESHER’S BOWELS TO RETRACT INTO THEIR PROPER POSITION SOMETIME THIS WEEK.
BOTTLE FEEDING—Jesher is now up to six bottles per day. The staff allowed Lhorraine and I to generate a plan that entails increasing his number of bottles by one bottle every 72 hours. This means, by God’s grace, Jesher should be at a full eight bottles per day (the maximum amount) by the end of this week. This would result in Jesher’s NG Feeding Tube [nasogastric tube] being removed. For the first time in his life, Jesher’s would then be free of all tubes. His face would not have any obstructions. PLEASE ASK THE LORD TO STRENGTHEN JESHER SO THAT HE CAN DRINK EIGHT BOTTLES PER DAY WITHOUT EXPERIENCING ANY SETBACKS OR COMPLICATIONS.
Lhorraine and I are still committed to charting and advocating for Jesher. The medical research is univocal concerning the benefits of parental engagement during NICU stays. When parents are lovingly involved, the level of care increases. This response is quite natural. Caring for a child while the parent is watching (whether while teaching, coaching, pastoring, nursing, doctoring, etc.) will cause the majority of people to be particularly attentive. The doctor’s testimony has not changed our commitment to being vigilant parents, but what it did do is provide refreshing perspective. If Lhorraine and I have been observing a miracle, then the norm for us will be light-years ahead of normality for others. Five apneic spells in one day feels like Armageddon for Lhorraine and me, where as other families have babies who have twenty spells per day. These families would give anything to see their child’s spell-count drop down to five. So as we survey, research, document, and assess, we now recognize that our only point-of-reference is a “medical miracle.” We don’t know the norm; therefore, even in times of concern, we can praise the name of Yahweh for all the great things He has done for Jesher.
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27