The Day My Heartache Began
For you, who have been following my series, my story, my testimony of who God has been in my life, I have to apologize that it has taken me quite a while to write about this next day, Finding Hope in the Midst of Heartache. Just being real with you. Even though this day was over twenty years ago, my heartache remains when I think on that time in my life … even knowing the outcome, God’s blessings, and hindsight. Just real stuff here. So here goes …
The days following Joshua’s birth were exhausting, to say the least. If you have ever had a child (or even someone you love) in the hospital, you could probably understand what I mean. It’s heart-wrenching enough not being in the same hospital with your new little one, and then to have no clue when your precious baby will be strong enough to come home. Heart-wrenching.
Our routine was simple back then. Wake up at 5:30 and call the nursing station before shift change. My husband left for work after he got a report from me. I called again at noon, and then again at 2 pm for check-ins. As soon as my husband got home at 3 pm, we left to go to Atlanta. We stayed at the hospital until 10:30-11pm then came home and went to bed. We woke up and did it all over the next day. Every single day. Exhausting.
While I would have loved to have him home with us, I really didn’t care about the exhaustion part because I loved hearing how good he was doing and how strong he was getting. There was one day that I had called to check in and his nurse told me that my little man, less than a week old, while lying on his belly, picked his head up and turned it to the other side, pulling out his ventilator tube.
That was completely unexpected but they decided to let him see if he could handle breathing on his own. Unfortunately, it only lasted a couple of hours and he was back on it before we got there that afternoon. But still. Rambunctious one with the red hair. Haha!
Let me go back for a second…
I will preface this post to say, if you are looking for a happy go lucky, life is awesome post to read today, this is probably not the one. If you are looking for real authenticity from someone impacted by a major life trial and how they coped, then I got you.
You can find the earlier parts of this series here.
And now, the day I got the news.
It wasn’t just any news. It was bad news. Extremely bad news. It was news that nobody ever wants to hear. I’m not going to lie to you. This is a difficult post to write but it’s part of my story. My testimony of how I allowed God to work in me, through the struggle. It’s not going to be one that everyone will want to read and that’s okay.
If you could imagine a new or not-so-talented surfer who has just surfed along a big, glorious wave, and then finally loses his or her balance and falls off. He or She looks up to grab the surfboard, only to get pounded in the face by a ginormous wave and is now gasping for a single ounce of air to survive. That’s how I felt the morning the phone rang.
I was sound asleep when the phone rang. I was so startled that I immediately jumped out of bed, almost knowing something was wrong. It was too early in the morning for someone to call. On the other end of the phone was Joshua’s doctor.
“Mrs. Hurst, who is with you?” he asked. I replied, “Nobody. I’m alone.”
With reluctance in his voice, he proceeded to tell me as gently as possible, that Joshua had developed a serious infection in his intestines that had showed up in the last 2 hours. They had ordered x-rays right away and the results were not good. They started him on antibiotics immediately, but knew that in the case of this particular illness, they were only effective in 50 percent of the cases. Yes, fifty percent.
The infection would continue to grow until his intestines, essentially popped. Once that happened, they would go in and assess for viability, take out the bad, repair the good… that kind of thing. They needed my approval to do surgery in case “it” happened before I was able to get to the hospital.
It all felt hopeless.
There wasn’t too much hope in the doctor’s words to me. He was so compassionate and walked me through my shock and heartbrokenness. I hung up the phone and called my husband, who came home immediately. My mom wasn’t far behind him and we rushed to the hospital, which felt like, was on the other side of the world.
As we were washing our hands, the nurse came in and tried to prepare us for what we would see since they had to sedate him. He looked so different from the night before. They told us he didn’t have any pain.
On a side note, even today, the smell of that soap still takes me back there.
At about 2pm, the nurse insisted we go eat lunch, so we did. When we came back they had ordered more x-rays and determined it was time for surgery. They had a team on stand-by coming from surrounding hospitals to assist in his case and had planned the surgery for 4pm, although everyone was in place and ready to start much earlier.
The updates during surgery were supposed to be frequent so we just gathered in the waiting room and waited. The first update came. Surgery had begun and Joshua was doing well. Twenty minutes ticked by. The doctor came around the corner and confusion took over as I realized it was too soon for him.
He kneeled down in front of us and began to tell us that when they began to assess and cut away the bad part of Joshua’s intestines, he was only left with about an inch, which wasn’t enough for him to have a healthy life.
In that moment, I wish I could say that I looked up and winked at God and whispered “I know you got this. Part of your plan, right?”
But. I. Didn’t.
Tears flooded my eyes in disbelief. I felt my heart beginning to shatter, not break, shatter. The doctor told us that we would need to make the decision at some point tomorrow about whether or not to remove him from his ventilator, but he would remain on it for now since there was plenty of time for us to figure all of that out.
At this point, they brought him to his own private room so that we could be with him and family would be allowed to come to see him.
That evening when my father and step-mother arrived from Tennessee, and we all met with the doctors to talk about what to expect. My father asked questions that I would have never thought to ask. Because of his specific questions, we knew this could be a really, long week. We also knew that once his heart rate began dropping, that we would be notified and should have time to get to the hospital if we were in the surrounding area.
He had already called to reserve a hotel room near the hospital so that we could take shifts, and so Joshua would never be alone. We all decided that Joe and I, as well as my mom, would stay the first night and then my dad and step-mom would come in the morning and we would go to the hotel and shower and nap.
And then we prayed.
Around 2 am, Joe and I went to the chapel and prayed.
Our prayer was very simple, but full of emotion and choosing (even in this torturous moment) to trust God and His plan for our family.
“Dear God, we know that you are the creator of the universe, our healer, and provider. We know that if it is your will to heal Joshua’s body, then we ask you to do it. We also know that your word says you have a plan and a purpose for us all, and so if it is your will that you bring Joshua home to be with you, we ask that you take him quickly and not allow him to linger for a week or more. We are putting our faith and trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
After that prayer, Joe and I sat at that little tiny chapel alter in silence. There was such a quiet peace in those moments. I will never forget it.
Joshua was 13 days old on December 4, 1992.
Just a little something to ponder …
This part of my testimony is a rough part. I realize that with all the ups and downs, it can be so hard to choose to trust in God, especially when you feel like you are as low as you can get and then the rug gets pulled out from under you. I know. I’ve been there. That’s the thing about testimonies though. Testimonies have rough spots, heartaches, hurts, struggles. All of it. But God. There is always an end to the rough season too … even when you can’t see it.
The sun is always shining behind the dark storm cloud. Just because the storm is raging, doesn’t mean the sun went away. Just wait.
Trusting God was not easy, but we were able to see that it was a necessary step for me and Joe. In our first year of marriage, this was only one of the trials that we experienced. More about that later. But it was a trial that cemented us together and bonded our faith in a way that nothing or nobody could ever change our vision of who God is.
If you are in the middle of some major struggle, I would encourage you to hang on. Write it down in a journal during your experience. And just like it says in Isaiah 40:31, “wait on the Lord to renew your strength.” There is a reason the old saying is “hindsight is 20/20.” Sunday is on the way.
If you are struggling with grief or loss, here are some resources to help you through your struggle.
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