It’s a world I have known about and even been called into during other family’s storms. Intensive care (ICU) in a hospital stirs anxiety enough, but when the word “pediatric” comes in front of it, I get visibly shaken. Somehow, it has never seemed right to me, that children should have their own PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). I know there are accidents, traumas and trouble from the minute children are born; but to have a perfectly healthy grandchild one minute and the next minute have an episode or an illness that becomes critical and possibly life-threatening was unthinkable to me… until now. I am the Justus’ grandmother and tonight I came home with his sister Amaya after 47 days.
The PICU at Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital in Portland, OR has 20 beds. When we arrived, there were only 5 other names on the board and I thought, “Ok, not so bad.” As I walked through the unit over the next 27 days, I changed my mind. The nurse to patient ratio is one nurse to 1-2 children, because of how sick the children are. Every parent has the same tired, worried, frustrated, numb, disbelief, bad dream and desperate look in their eyes as they pass in and out of their child’s room. As our paths cross, we are all feeling the same thing: We can barely smile. In another world, we might be friends, but here, here in this place, none of us have capacity to hear about another critically ill child… at first.
Then, a strange thing happens. We begin to meet the same people in the unit pantry getting ice or a Popsicle. We might recognize each other riding the elevator to the 8th floor or visiting with our own visitors in the visitor’s lounge. The countenances haven’t changed but the feelings start to soften. We understand each other even before we hear the hard details of our critical child’s situation. And we are kind and tender and we listen and then try to encourage one another with things like,” You are such a good mother” or “I am so sorry”. While we are hungry for anyone’s good news or progress, we tread so lightly and so sensitively when we ask, “How are things today?” Then, when someone gets to move out of the PICU we are so happy for the family outwardly, but honestly, are sad it is not us; and we wonder what our fate will be on the 8th floor PICU.
It’s an exclusive club no one ever wants to be a part of or signs up for. One of the most daunting thoughts as I sat at my 4 year old grandson’s bed day after day was this… there are all these hospitals all over the world with really sick kids with gut wrenching stories. Stories of families who deeply love their kids and wish they didn’t have to be doing the unthinkable thing of watching their children suffer. Then there are other places that don’t have great hospitals, doctors or nurses or equipment or resources to care for patients and families like the one we are in. We are so blessed; we have excellent staff and facilities. I know there are many places that don’t have what we have.
So after 47 days in the hospital with Justus, one of the most compelling realizations to me has been, “ Only a big, sovereign, good, wise God, with a divine plan, that loves His creation more than I can understand, could ever listen to the begging, the wailing and the fervent prayers of these children’s parents; let alone, the crying, pain filled, fearful groaning of all of these sweet, critically ill children. But how does God take it? How does He know who gets better and who gets to come to Heaven? It has weighed heavy on my heart since we arrived. But I trust Him to be able to hear, and know, and listen and comfort and give wisdom and peace and… more than I can imagine, to a group of people who live hard lives in the hospital with sick children.
I don’t know about you, but my second thought is while I’m certainly not God, I have been following Him for 40 years, I believe He has a special way of dealing with sick children. No matter the faith of their parents, I believe Jesus carries them in His arms as they suffer. Do I have proof to validate this belief? None other than what I have witnessed with my own eyes with my grandson. I’ve been told there is scripture to support that theology, but like David, I’m not theologian.
Ultimately, as I drive home to Tacoma after 47 days, all I can tell you is this… not only did God, never leave Justus for one second, He did not leave me. Even if I felt mad, or sad or frustrated or overwhelmed for the suffering of my daughter and son in law as they agonized over their son (my grandson!), God was there, in the middle of the mess. And whenever I wanted to talk, or cry or scream or break down, He was there… to listen, to comfort, to carry, to give me a peace that did not make sense when Justus’s very life hung in the balance.
Deuteronomy 31:7 says, “…the Lord your God goes with you, He will never leave you or forsake you.” Thank you God for the way you have carried #TeamJustus. Our lives will never be the same. Justus, keep fighting to get better. Grammy loves you.
Oh yeah – quick update… Justus had a really good day. The doctor from Randall, where his rehab would take place, came and quickly said he is ready to come to Randall. So no it’s meeting with the neurosurgeons and then coming up with the timing of his move, surgery, etc. So pray for wisdom throughout the process as well as continued healing for Justus’ functioning. Thank you #TeamJustus also for praying for Tyler and several of the other prayer requests that came through today! Our job is to pray and then trust a good and sovereign God with the rest. The moon is round!!!