Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We Didn't Want to Lose Johnny So Soon

Here's what...

...praying and priesthood blessings.

In a previous post, I wrote about how I had not been able to blog for a few days due to keyboard problems, our move into our new home and a set of sick twins. Over the past weekend, however, two sick kids turned into five as the malicious virus spread throughout our family. The twins were afflicted by fevers that spiked to nearly 104 degrees along with congestion and coughing. The the 8-year-old began complaining of a sore throat and body aches accompanied by fever. Soon the 6-year-old girl and the toddler began showing signs of infection as well, suffering from everything to sore throats, coughs, fevers, body aches and congestion.

On Sunday morning, since we had five sick kids, I told John that I would be staying home from church. Our church lasts for three hours each Sunday and because I really felt like I had my hands full, I asked him if he could attend only the first meeting, then come home to help me directly thereafter. He agreed, dressed in his white shirt, tie and jacket, grabbed the truck keys and came to give Johnny, the two-year-old a hug good-bye. John was rewarded by being promptly vomited on.

"I guess I'm staying home," he said, and tossed the 16-year-old the keys to the truck and asked him to take himself and the two older kids to church.

Throughout the morning, we both did our best to keep everyone comfortable, keep vomit contained and comfort babies after having to have snot sucked out of their little noses with a bulb syringe.

Later that afternoon, John mentioned to me that he thought Johnny seemed to be having a hard time breathing. I looked at him and noticed that with each breath, he reflexively opened his mouth wide in an attempt to get more air. John had another church meeting to attend within the half hour, so he gave him a priesthood blessing by the laying on of hands and I told him I would keep an eye on Johnny. As the minutes went on, however, he began to worsen and I thought it was time to call the town doctor.

I told the doctor that Johnny was struggling to breathe and asked if he could see me even though it was Sunday. He agreed and I told him I would be there in 15 minutes. After hanging up the phone, however, the thought came into my mind that I should take him to my friend's house, who owns a nebulizer for her asthmatic son. I called the doctor and told him I was going to try something first and if that didn't work, I would call him back.

We gave Johnny the treatment and he showed good improvement. My friend said I could take her nebulizer home and that it would be a good idea to treat him once or twice more every four hours, as that had always worked well for her son. I was grateful to her and agreed to take the nebulizer.

Three hours later, Johnny's breathing began to worsen again and John suggested that we take him over to his dad's for another priesthood blessing and anointing. You may be asking yourself why we didn't seek medical help through this and the answer is simple. The nearest treatment center is a half an hour drive and even had we decided to make the drive, the medical community here in Mexico is about 20 years behind that of the states and many children simply die as a result of inadequate medical care.

I told John that I couldn't go with him to his father's home, which is across the street, as I was in the process of putting the babies to bed, but that I agreed that he should take him for another blessing as well. I waited for about twenty minutes, then was surprised to see John and his father rush in the front door, John carrying Johnny in his arms.

"Jen!" he called. "We need to do another breathing treatment right now!" I told him that it hadn't been the full four hours, only three and a half, but as I witnessed the struggle little Johnny was having, I agreed that we needed to do something.

As John's dad monitored his gradual improvement with his stethoscope, I told John that I think we needed to think about making the three and a half hour drive to the states where my mom lives to get proper medical help for Johnny. I told him that this was life-threatening if it was asthma because as the bronchial tubes close off, even CPR won't work in a life and death situation because no air can get in. He agreed and I called to all the kids to pack a suitcase for two nights as we were leaving town.

As we were finishing up his treatment, the thought came clearly into my mind that we needed to call our doctor in the main town 30 minutes away and have him look at Johnny to see if there was something he could do to help him before we made the journey to the states. I suggested this idea to John and he nodded and immediately dialed his number from the phonebook in his blackberry. There was no answer. He then thought he could call our bishop, who happens to be John's uncle, as he knew he would have an oxygen tank which we could take with us in case we needed it on the drive. He didn't answer. John tried to call him six more times, but to no avail. He then tried the doctor in the main town again and this time he answered. John told him the problem and asked if there was any way he would be able to help us even though it was Sunday night. He readily agreed, but before hanging up the phone, he mentioned something which later provided proof that God had performed a miracle in our lives that night. He told John that he didn't know how his call had gotten through because his phone was blocked. All calls went to an answering service before they got to him and that John's call shouldn't have gotten through. John simply shrugged his shoulders, thanked him for agreeing to meet us and said that we would be there in 30 minutes.

It seemed like it took decades to get everyone into the car, but in reality, things went very quickly and we were able to arrive at the doctors office at the pre-arranged time. He wasn't there, though, and John tried to call his cell twice, but couldn't get through. After a few minutes, however, he arrived and John took Johnny in while I stayed in the van with the kids. Under normal circumstances, I would have felt very nervous about being in the van outside at that late hour as there have been many drug-related killings in the town as of late, but because of the emergency we were enduring, all thoughts of danger left me as I focused my attention on what little Johnny was going through.

The minutes dragged on and I began to wonder why things were taking so long. I was anxious to get back on the road to the U.S. and things were taking much longer than I had anticipated. I fed a baby, put him to sleep, than opened up the laptop and did some things on the computer. After about an hour, my cell phone rang. It was John calling me from inside the doctor's office.

"Jen! You need to bring in the nebulizer right now and you need to hurry!"

It felt like my stomach had gone into my chest and I could immediately feel the familiar rush of adrenaline that courses through my veins when something horrible has happened. I nearly threw the laptop down in between the passenger and driver's seat, jumped out of the van, handed the sleeping twin to the sleeping 12-year-old, rushed to open the back of the van in which I had packed the large suitcase with the nebulizer, and ran, dragging the suitcase behind me, into the doctor's office.

This particular office has several rooms, including an operating room and as I entered, I could not figure out where they were. I frantically called out to them and heard them calling to me to try to show me where they were. After several attempts of calling, I finally realized that they were in the operating room. I ran through the door, flipped the huge suitcase on a table, got out the nebulizer and handed it to the doctor.

"Okay, just calm down," he said in English. I looked at Johnny, through a face mask in which oxygen and water vapor were being pumped, and he was laboring to breathe, but no different than he had any of the previous times. John firmly said in Spanish that he wanted to take him to the states, but the doctor calmly answered him in Spanish that it wasn't a good idea as we needed to keep him on oxygen and we wouldn't be able to do that if we were in the car. The doctor showed me that Johnny's blood oxygen level was at 95 %, but that his heart rate was more than double what it should have been and for that reason, he advised against using the Albuterol in the nebulizer again, as that had caused the racing heart rate. I asked him what his oxygen level had been before they put the mask on, and he told me it had dipped down to 83 %. I was still confused, however, as to why John had panicked and asked me to rush in from the car with the nebulizer if we weren't even going to use it.

Later, when Johnny had stabilized, and things had calmed down a bit, John and I had a moment alone in the office with Johnny. I asked John why he had called me in from the van the way he did. I told him it had terrified me and that I thought Johnny was dying. He answered saying that not one minute before I had come into the office, Johnny's bronchial tubes had constricted so much that he had literally stopped breathing. He was gasping and nothing was getting in. His little hand had clutched John's arms so tight in a panic and there was a terrified look in his eyes. His oxygen level had plummeted to 83% and even though he was being given 8 liters of oxygen per minute, nothing was helping. John thought Johnny was dying and had called me in a last ditch effort to do something, anything, to help him. He also thought we were going to have to say goodbye and wanted me to have a chance to do so before he died. As Johnny struggled for breathe, John said a fervent prayer to his Father in Heaven, first saying, "Thy will be done, and if you need to take Johnny now, we understand You know what is best, but if at all possible, we would really like to keep Johnny with us for a little longer."

In the 30 to 40 seconds it took me to get into the office with the nebulizer, Johnny had started breathing again, although struggling, and his oxygen level had climbed to 95%. There was no explanation for why he had improved so suddenly. Nothing had changed except that John had offered a desperate father's prayer, asking God's will be done, but please let us keep our son.

I stayed in the office for about an hour with John and Johnny, checking on the kids and switching twins to feed them periodically. Once I realized that he was not stable enough to take to the states, I suggested to John that I take the other 7 kids home. John called his dad and asked him to drive the half hour to accompany me home, as it wasn't safe for me to be driving at that hour, and within 45 minutes, the kids, John's dad and I were on the road home again. John and Johnny stayed in the hospital together as Johnny's oxygen level would not stay at a normal level unless he was hooked to the oxygen tank. Finally at 1:30 in the morning, after gradually decreasing the amount of oxygen that was fed through the mask, Johnny was able to breathe on his own with an oxygen level of 96% and was able to go home.

John was given instructions to have Johnny sleep with the nebulizer with water that night and was told that we needed to take turns staying awake to make sure Johnny kept his mask on. John and I stayed up until four o'clock in the morning, but then Johnny woke up and started struggling with his mask. The more agitated he became, the more he wheezed, so we took his mask off and comforted him until he went back to sleep. John decided that it was best to keep him calm and not try to force him to wear the mask, so we pulled a 3" mattress into our room on the floor right next to our mattress, which also happens to be on the floor as we haven't moved our bed frames in yet, and John slept pressed close to Johnny to make sure he kept breathing through the rest of the night. I slept between the twins in our king size bed next to Johnny and John and marveled at all that had taken place that night. Both the doctor and John's dad said that had we tried to make it to the states, Johnny never would have survived. Why had John and I felt so strongly about visiting the doctor in the main town before heading out? Why had John not been able to get ahold of his uncle, the bishop, for the oxygen tank, thus enabling us to bypass the doctor in the main town and keep going? Why had John's call gotten through to the doctor's phone when he had set it to block all unknown calls? John and I have concluded that there is just one answer. Johnny was supposed to stay on this earth a little longer. He has a mission to accomplish and hasn't achieved that yet and God made sure he could be here to finish it. John and I have wondered why we were asked to go through this experience. We have wondered what we were supposed to learn from it. We have certainly been reminded that God is all-powerful and our lives are in His hands, not ours. Our testimonies of prayer have been strengthened and we have been able to share this experience with our children as we sat together for our Monday night family home evening. We waited until then to tell them the complete story of what had happened and as John spoke in his soothing voice as we all sat around the fireplace, Johnny sitting on the rug in the middle of us playing with toys, I looked at each child and they were all staring at Johnny. I knew their testimonies of prayer and the goodness of God were being strengthened as well, and I am grateful that they were able to experience that spiritual growth.

Johnny is recovering well. He has to have a breathing treatment with the nebulizer and water three times a day (thanks again, Kara, and we will be bringing it back soon!)...

(Johnny enduring a nebulizer treatment)

(Johnny interacting with the family as he waits for his nebulizer time to be up)

... and we have to try to keep him from running around for a few days. Much easier said than done. I guess that's where The Lion King and Finding Nemo come in. Thank goodness for Disney.

Experiences like this make a person reflect on what's important in life and can tend to rearrange one's priorities. I am so grateful that we were given the opportunity to continue raising Johnny in our home, and even though he still has to spend time in time out for pinching the babies a few times each day, I have found that I am more loving and patient with him and that I stare at his cute little face more often and thank God that we didn't have to plan his funeral this weekend.

(Johnny is shown here getting warm with the twins by the fireplace after we came in from traveling in the van a few days ago.)

Thank you for all of your well wishes and prayers when I announced that we had had an emergency on Monday. It meant so much to me to have people that I've never even met offer to pray for our family. Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do for me in this blogging world. I'll see you tomorrow.


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Sandy Toes said...

Oh my goodness, my heart goes out to you!! I am so glad he is doing better..I have a child with is very scary!
-Sandy toes

Jodi said...

so glad to hear your story and that God answered your prayers! can't imagine how scary that was! thanks for sharing!

Tracy said...

Wow, that was intense! I love to hear how Heavenly Father guides us with promptings and answers our prayers. And I am so grateful you have your little boy with you still. From one mom to another, my wishes for many continued blessings on you and your family.

heidi said...

Oh Jen! I'm in tears thinking of how your mama heart must just been alternately slamming into your chest and lodging itself in your throat. PTL that Johnny is doing better!!

Anonymous said...

On my knees in prayer for complete healing and Praise for what He has done!!!

Sending Love & (((HUGS))), Whitney

Tammy W said...

WOW! That was a nail bitter! I'm glad he's doing okay now. Praise the Lord!

Donna@The Frugal Mom Blog said...

I am so sorry for your struggles. It so hard when your children are sick. My son is on the nebulizer all the time and there is nothing worse for me as a mother than to see my son struggle to take a single breathe because of his Asthma. May God take care of you and your family during this time.

misskp said...

What a scary experience! My heart was beating fast just reading your story. I am so glad it turned out the way it did. There truly are miracles on earth! Love, hugs and prayers to you and yours!

Frugal Finds said...

Your story sent shivers up my spine. I ahve a 7 year old asthmatic heart child and know first hand how scary these moments can be. I will keep your family in my thoguhts and prayers!!!

Michelle M. said...

Oh my goodness- what an amazing story. I hope Johnny heals quickly and that you don't have to go through this again. Praying for you all!

glorv1 said...

oh my gosh, how scary. I am so happy that your son is okay and that God was with you all. Our faith keeps us going. Very scary, but all is well. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I am so glad that Johnny is doing so much better, I was so scared by this post. I keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Totallyscrappy said...

What an awesome God we serve! May He continue to surround you with His angels.

~TAMY 3 Sides of Crazy~ said...

So glad to hear he is getting better! Will continue to keep you in my prayers.

Robyn said...

I'll say my prayers that he continues to improve and this will just be a closed chapter in your lives. How scary that must have been.

Goldibug said...

I was crying throughout the majority of this post. My heart still aches for you! My son has asthma and we've been in similar situations with his breathing before.

I wish I was closer to God at that time and that my husband held the priesthood but since he doesn't all I remember doing was praying. I didn't know anyone near me at the time to ask for my son to have a blessing.

It was scary and difficult. It got so bad that my son lied limp in my husbands arms. I prayed and prayed for him to get better and for God not to take him home yet. I told God I was selfish and that I couldn't bear to have my son leave me yet. I knew he'd bless so many lives if he was able to stay and I continued to beg for his survival.

God is absolutly great because my son is still here with us today even though we are constantly challenged by his food allergies and asthma. I'm so grateful that Heavenly Father has allowed us both to keep our precious children here and for the ability to read your post. It has strengthend my testiomony even more. Thank you!