If you are just now joining us, please CLICK HERE to start with PART 1, "She has the Plague AND We’re Crossing the Jordan River!?” You can also read PART 2, PART 3 and PHOTO ESSAY(4) by clicking the links.
Friday morning, August 24, 2012, Sean dropped me off at the new house. On our way to Aspen Springs a still small voice whispered, “”Your family needs you.” I shook it off and said to myself, “Yeah, they need me to finish getting our house ready!” I knew I was arguing with God and I wish I had listened…
I worked all day prepping the bathroom for painting the next morning. That weekend we planned on putting in the laminate tile ourselves and the carpet was coming the following Wednesday.
I huddled down for the night in our little camper Sean’s folks had given to us to use. We had run out of money that month and the cell phone bill was one of the bills we skipped paying. Sean had no way of contacting me. I was just settling in to watch a movie when there came a knock on my camper door. A sheriff announced his presence and informed me through the door that one of my daughters had been rushed to the ER and he was to transport me to the hospital.
When I arrived at the hospital, I entered the emergency room and found Sierra bright red, unconscious and covered in ice bags. The nurse’s first words to me were, “She has a rectal temperature of 107 degrees.” Oh God, her little brain, is all I could think as lectures from an undergraduate neuropsychology class slowly passed before my eyes. I refocused and like a switch deep within me, I activated my faith and mixed it all up with a huge pile of denial.
It’s funny the things we tell ourselves in the middle of trauma.
I couldn’t believe this was anything but the flu until the doctor walked into the room with my husband. Sean had witnessed the unthinkable. He wept as he recounted the last few hours with Sierra and how he thought she was dead in his arms after having a seizure. I had given Sierra a heating pad and wondered to myself if that wasn’t the cause of her high temperature. Aren’t we good at blaming ourselves when one of our children becomes ill? I hugged my two older daughters who sat in the waiting room watching TV. I returned to an unresponsive Sierra. More than anything, I just wanted to hear her little voice. They had sedated her since she had a seizure.
Dr. Lewis was the ER doctor that night and as they worked to stabilize Sierra’s temperature, he worked to find us a hospital that could help. One after another, we were refused. Either the hospital didn’t have room, thought they didn’t have the facility or staff to support Sierra or thought our little hospital could handle it. Sierra’s illness sounded like a simple fiberal seizure (a fever seizure) but her age along with the extraordinarily high fever became confounding variables and no one knew what to make of itone open door and closed doors
Dr. Lewis and his staff are the first moments of God’s hands moving– they are our first heroes on sight because he knew there was something very serious going on with Sierra. It would be easy to get defensive or angry at those hospitals, but I don’t see it that way; I see a corridor of doors God shut with only one opened at the end. God had a very specific group of people He knew Sierra needed. Saint Lukes, Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital not only said yes, but they flew their flight for life team into our little airport in Pagosa Springs. According to the ER staff, that is rare and most patients must drive to Durango, an hour away! Every minute counted and God knew that.
A Modern Day Fairy Tale
Sierra and I arrived at the hospital under the cloak of night. We were tucked away on the pediatric floor where a beautiful African woman named Elizabeth, greeted us. She had the most beautiful accent and I felt a kindred spirit with this woman. I curled up on the couch and Sierra and I slept for a few hours in the early morning light under Elizabeth’s watchful eye.
The day stretched and yawned and forced us awake as nurses and specialists began the daunting but necessary process of poking and prodding my daughter. Dr. White entered the room, an intelligent beauty, and began with a series of tests and blood work and finished up with a spinal tap to rule out spinal meningitis. That is one procedure I don’t mind never seeing done again!
Meanwhile, Sean, along with his parents and Sierra’s sisters were en route to Denver. Since we were broke, my cell phone was off and we had no way to communicate, Sean had the foresight to bring our landline phone. We turned our other cell phone into a landline and have a Verizon tower box that uses the cell phone towers. This is so hillbilly and one of the many reasons why I love that man: he plugged that thing into the truck, brought the house phone and was able to call every hour on his six-hour journey to Denver. Miraculously, he had phone service the entire way.
Each time Sean or the girls called, Sierra would cry, “Where are you? Why aren’t you here? I need you.” We all needed each other like never before.
After some more tests they introduced an antibiotic and Sierra crashed. I had been helping her back and forth to the potty all day and this last time she crumpled up on the floor and her skin became bright red. At the same moment, Sean and the girls arrived only to find Sierra in an even more critical state that before. ”What happened!? Sean questioned, I thought she was getting better.”
Dr. White stood over Sierra, confounded at her reaction to the antibiotic. I stood too. That’s all I could do. I didn’t pray, I didn’t cry, I didn’t know what else to do but stand in the knowledge that God was with us.
Stand firm, and you will win life. Luke 21:19
The sun began to set and night began to play on the walls like Peter Pan shadows. Then in walked the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) doctor. The two doctors stood over Sierra, Dr. White and Dr. Snow. Incredulously I exclaimed, “Dr. Snow, really?” Snow- White!?” They looked surprised, never before putting together the Snow White symbology of their names. The Snow White metaphor would mark a significant introduction to a series of love notes sent to us by God.
After that, Dr. Snow took over Sierra’s care and the reality that her life was hanging in the balance set in. And I stood up. From the deep places of my chamber heart arose those familiar words once again.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Sierra drifted between consciousness and unconsciousness as Sean and I held her little hands. Doctors were introducing masks and gloves and robes into the environment as a precaution. I silently refused to put on any gloves; I needed to feel her hand in mine. Maybe I thought I deserved to get sick too, because I hadn’t been there. The things we think…. I placed my lips close to her ear and sang our favorite song to her. Her eyes faintly smiled and then she slipped into unconsciousness.
Angels dressed like nurses and ER technicians filled the room and began their work. With nothing left for us to do, we returned to the pediatric floor. By this time I had two hours of sleep in a 40 hour period. My Dad, who lives near Denver, picked up Brianna and Tiarra while Sean’s parents found a room at the Ronald McDonald House.
Once everyone was gone, we held each other taking turns weeping in the room where Sierra and I had first arrived.
Our angel, Elizabeth, guarded our room as we found unsettled rest on a fold-out-couch. At 3am Dr. Snow entered our room and explained that Sierra had severe septic shock. She deduced that based upon Sierra’s symptoms and our account of earlier events that week that she might have contracted Bubonic Plague.
This time, we couldn’t get up and later that morning I initiated a call to arms and asked anyone I knew for prayer.
Without trying to sound cliché, this was our introduction to a fairy tale with a real life threatening villain and a multitude of warriors fighting to save a princess– and who is the prince of this story you ask?Snow white and prince
Why it is He: the Famous One, the Glorious One– Jesus!
There is so much more to come… Next up, click HERE for Part 5: Who Will Be My Brother?