Even though our little girl had been born 6 weeks premature, she appeared rosy-cheeked and healthy. No one could have prepared us for the painful weeks ahead because suddenly, our seemingly healthy baby girl was being whisked away to the NICU gasping for air.
Unbeknownst to us, a mass was discovered above our baby’s soft palette that was large enough to push down into her throat and block her airway. One emergency room doctor spoke too soon and informed us it was possible our daughter’s brain was actually coming down between two unfused bones in her skull. We were sick.
A tough road was upon us, and there was no way to prepare for it. All we could do was hope and pray that she would make it through. Fortunately, that emergency room doctor was wrong. The mass turned out to be a benign tumor that was formed by cells growing in the wrong place. However, it still meant we would face an intensive surgery at Denver Children’s Hospital followed by weeks of pins-and-needles recovery. Our newborn baby faced frightening milestones that had to be overcome at every turn. It was possible she would never swallow or speak on her own. There was a risk of facial nerve damage, throat damage, and deafness in one ear. Although the medical challenges seemed endless, we had no choice but to put one foot in front of the other.
Dealing with a child’s medical challenge is, by far, one of the toughest roads of parenting. Worry, anxiety, and fear is a constant cloud that darkens every corner of life during a medical scare. Parents lose sleep, lose faith, and if they’re losing their minds when going through a medical crisis. Here are a few things that helped our family through a scary season. I pray they’ll help you as well.
With two little boys needing our time and attention at home, we had no choice but to enlist help from family and friends. Even having someone take the boys to school and back was a huge help. Meals, errands, and other acts of kindness were delivered to us by many well-wishers. In this article, Helping Families During Medical Crises, this important point is made:
“Families experiencing medical crises are sometimes too overwhelmed to ask for help or don’t have the energy to think about what they need.”
Even if it’s difficult, swallow your pride and ask for help. Be specific about what you need. Allow those who love and care about you to pitch in. The truth is, you simply can’t do it alone.
According to Deborah Raiees-Dana, a contributor for Arkansas Children’s,“When your child is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, the world seems as if it has been knocked off its axis and everything is spinning wildly out of control.”
Because life turns upside down, many couples allow their medical challenge to divide them instead of uniting them. The constant stress interferes with even the most solid, loving relationships. That’s why it’s crucial to offer grace to one another and allow each person to deal with the challenge the best they can. Couples need to make a resolute decision to be united through it all, instead of letting the situation divide them. Keep the lines of communication open and be available for each other as much as possible. Most of all, give grace and space when needed.
During the time that our daughter was fighting for her life, we instantly realized what mattered most. I’m grateful for that time because it refocused our priorities. No longer did petty things matter, such as how clean the house was or the kind of car we drove. We were cast into an instant crisis that helped us prioritize our faith, our family, and our future. If at all possible, use this medical challenge as a time of reflection. Think about what truly matters and cherish every precious moment.
I’m thankful to report that our baby girl is now twenty years old and thriving. Her journey hasn’t been easy, but together, we overcame her medical challenges and watched her grow into a lovely young lady.
Wherever you’re at on your medical journey, I encourage you not to lose hope. Ask for the help you need, be united in your marriage, and most of all, prioritize what matters most. You’ve got this!