Finding Gratefulness in the Midst of Suffering

I spent most of  last night in the ER with my oldest son, while medical professionals attempted to troubleshoot what was causing his 106.5F fever. He had spent most of the day sleeping, waking occasionally to down some Gatorade and painkillers and complaining of a headache that was worse than any he’s ever had. My thermometer was broken so the prompting I had to take him to STAT Care on a beautiful Saturday evening when most people were outside grilling their dinners was definitely the voice of God.

At STAT Care he shivered in a blanket, head on my lap, while we waited for an hour to be called back to a room. When the nurse took his temp, she went into a very professional panic mode and he was led immediately to see a doctor. After a negative strep test and high doses of painkillers to bring down the fever, we were sent to the ER for an IV and more testing.

On the way there, we passed a homeless couple, begging by the side of the road, same spot they had been when I passed by earlier in the day. The brief exchange we had under the quiet dark summer sky, waiting for the light to change colors, stayed with me long after we checked in to the ER. As the hours passed, they ran many more tests; an IV,  CT Scan and X-ray. The plastic chair became too hard to sit on and I paced the tiny cinder block room, with noises and beeps all around, sirens letting me know that more and more folks were being brought in until all the beds would be full with many people still left waiting. We finally received the news that I was most hoping for – he did not have bacterial meningitis. They said that it could be viral meningitis or just a really nasty virus, but either way the treatment was going to be the same, so we could go home.

Gratefulness got me through the night.

We live in a land of incredible blessing. Our hospitals are not being bombed. Kids in this country don’t have to die for lack of medical care. Tylenol and Ibuprofen could have saved my son’s life, they certainly brought his fever down nearly 7 degrees in less than an hour.

Support. I lost track of how many friends who were reaching out in the middle of the night to let me know they were praying or taking care of my youngest son.

Technology. It allowed the doctors to diagnose relatively quickly and kept me connected to my husband on the other side of the world.

Humor. My son had me laughing out loud as we waited through his pain. He joked that he was turning into a super-hero, the Human Torch. He was sure that the fever had burned up all of his calories and he was starving, searching in vain for a food option on the call button but finding only water and toilet.

Kindness. When we finally got to the ER, another mom let me turn in my paperwork ahead of her when she saw my desperation. She also happened to be a Muslim, a distinct minority in this Midwest city I live in, and she was extremely generous.

Authenticity. I saw it in the eyes of the man by the side of the road. A mixture of suffering, strength, gratefulness, humility and dignity. A window into the human soul of all of us.

Peace. I’m a worrier. Anxiety is very familiar to me. Usually it’s for things I find later I didn’t need to worry about.  But in moments like last night, when I really have reason to worry, I have discovered a peace that comes from God alone. There’s no other way to explain it.

Home. It never looked so good. The reality of life’s unfairness is not lost on me. Around the world, many other parents have no hospital to take their feverish child to, and no home to come back to after a long night.

I hold these blessings in my hands, mindfully giving thanks.