We got the call early in the morning, as I was groggily trying to start my day. When I heard it was the hospital, my heart sank, terrified of the news they might be giving me. But I needn’t have been afraid. “He took the bottle!” the excited woman’s voice on the other end nearly shouted. That was one thing I loved about Children’s Mercy Hospital, they were all so compassionate and one always got the impression they were cheering for you and for your kid. You would have thought Joshua had won a medal in Infant Olympics or something. Soon, I was joining in her jubilation, my groggy head forgotten in the excitement. The bottles of mother’s milk had been accumulating uselessly in the hospital refrigerator, as they tried again and again to coax Joshua to take the bottle. Stubborn guy that he was, he adamantly refused, crying and pulling away. He wanted mama and no substitute! His surgery had been so urgent there had not been time to wean him onto a bottle. Now we were stuck. It was heart-breaking to see him hungry and not be able to do anything about it. This became our major prayer request – please, God, convince him somehow to take a bottle, at least long enough to get out of ICU! There would be no moving him to a room without taking nourishment by mouth in ICU. So, here he was, having finally successfully passed over the first hurdle. He was taking the bottle at last. He was scheduled to move to a room immediately.
It looked and felt more like a hotel room than a hospital room! This was a new concept at Children’s Mercy – the Parent Care Unit, where one parent stayed in the room with their child and cared for him or her, feeding the child and even giving medications. I clearly recall the terror I felt as the Doctor instructed me in the exact amounts and ways of administering Joshua’s medications – the diuretic, the Digitalin, other meds. Gosh, what if I didn’t do it right and killed my own son?! But with time and no adverse effects, I gradually became more confident. There was a chorus we used to sing at church, putting a verse in Proverbs to music. My favourite thing was to sing this verse to Josh as I gave him his medication twice a day – “a merry heart does good like a medicine, like a medicine is a merry heart…”. Almost as if he understood, Joshua would smile at me (or maybe he was amused with my singing voice).
But the 2nd hurdle, the one of Joshua’s heart tracking itself was causing concern. It was not making the progress we had all hoped for. His heart was still relying on the external pacemaker, only pacing itself a beat or two here and there. I began to wonder if this was the end of our missionary career. If Josh had to have an internal permanent pacemaker installed, how could we return to a country where there were no facilities to help if anything went wrong or for maintenance to be conducted? Now our biggest prayer became “God please help his heart pace itself”.
Finally, the day came when the Doctor made the big announcement, “Joshua’s heart is finally pacing itself”. Talk about pacing…my own heart was racing! You mean no pacemaker? Nope. In fact, the Doctor told us that having passed this second hurdle, he was now officially able to release him to go home to finish recuperation. Wow! I was ecstatic. At long last, maybe we could begin to live normal lives.