Is a sick child ever a “blessing?” I can say with all certainty, “YES!”
God’s word tells us in 1Thess. 5:16-18…….”Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God chooses his avenues for blessings, and it could be financial trouble, the death of a loved one or even a sick child. Whatever the avenue he’s chosen for you, yield yourself completely and blessings will bloom from the “winter” of your circumstance.
I’m Julie and I’d like to share with you our story and the wonderful miracle that the Lord allowed us to be a part of. In February of 1994, my husband Mark and I discovered to our wonderful surprise that we were expecting our third child! We were happy and excited about having another little one.
Other than morning sickness my pregnancy was uneventful until around the 16th week. During a routine ultrasound at our doctor’s office, it was suspected that our baby’s abdomen was two weeks gestationally larger than its head. We had been asked to return the next day to the hospital, near the doctors’ office, for a much more detailed ultrasound.
Mark and I had been growing spiritually and we had learned that giving things to the Lord to handle was better than trying to fix them ourselves. We spent the evening praying and giving this baby to God and asking him to have his way.
That next afternoon, we arrived at the hospital and made our way to the radiology department where the ultrasound took place. After several anxious minutes in the exam room, we learned that our baby was just fine! What a test! And a wonderful answer to prayer.
Although the remainder of my pregnancy progressed well I continued to sense that this baby would be challenged in some way. We decided that whatever the outcome, we would love our baby since we knew it was a gift from the Lord.
On November 10, 1994, at 8:30 a.m., Jessica Ann Berry was born. She weighed 9lbs. and was 21 inches long and very, very healthy. Initially I was surprised at her health, but relieved that nothing was visibly wrong. She is our second daughter and third child. This was also my third C-section and I had always recovered quickly, but two days after my surgery I developed a fever and was given i.v. antibiotics. Then I began to notice some things about Jessica that heightened this strange sense that all was not right. She was not nursing well, and was lethargic. On the morning of the fourth day, I awoke to find that she felt warm to my touch. I called the nurse who came in to check on her. She took Jessica’s temperature and discovered that she had a fever of 101.4.
The charge nurse from the newborn nursery visited with us and explained that newborns rarely get a fever because they don’t have immune systems like older children.
Jessica was taken to the nursery and given i.v. antibiotics. After my i.v. was discontinued, Jessica and I were moved to the pediatric unit for observation and after spending seven long days in the hospital, we went home believing that all was well.
On the 13th day of Jessica’s little life we woke up to start a regular day and then I began to see the symptoms again only this time she had stopped wetting her diapers and was blue around her mouth. Mark came home, took one look at her and agreed that she did not look well. We had been taking her temperature three times per day as her doctor had instructed. It had dropped from 98.6 to 93.3 in a matter of a few hours.
We rushed her to St.Joseph’s Regional Health Center in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In the ER, we watched as several tests were performed. A spinal tap was clear however an x-ray revealed fluid in her lungs. The diagnosis was septic shock. Somewhere, somehow, a virus or bacteria had attacked her bloodstream. Her kidneys and other vital organs were shutting down to keep the blood around her heart and brain. The decision was made to air lift her to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas.
As we waited for the helicopter to arrive, the E.R. staff would tell us how far away it was. Seventeen minutes, fifteen, then twelve, then ten , five, two and…………….
As those last two minutes ticked away we began to hear the rotors of the helicopter as it landed. A team of doctors and nurses came in to stabilize Jessica and prepare her for the flight. They were so professional and caring.
As sick as she was, little Jessica still fought as they intubated her for the ventilator. We were informed that she had been given drugs to paralyze and sedate her so not to expect any movement when we touched her. I remember, though, when I touched her little arm, her body jumped as if to say, “Mom, it’s going to be o.k..” We then said our final “good-byes” and at 1:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning we watched from the hospital parking lot as the helicopter, so appropriately named “Angel One”, flew away with our precious baby girl.
I have never felt so entirely helpless………………………ever.
Jessica arrived at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 15 minutes. We would meet up with her in the hour it took to drive to Little Rock. I prayed for strength. I continue to be amazed and awed at how God dealt with the emotions we went through during this whole time. As Mark drove, God slipped me into a sleep that would totally recharge me for what was about to come.
When we arrived at Children’s Hospital, we found Jessica in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit surrounded by doctors and nurses, cardiologists and critical care specialists; all of whom had an interest in her care.
The various machines routinely sounded and kept us on edge. However we came to realize, after a short time, what wonderful care she was getting. Around 7:00 a.m. we went to get something to drink. Mark went to tell the staff, at their request, where we would be. When he returned, he said that the doctor wanted to speak to us. We met with the critical care specialist shortly after 7:30 and with tears in his eyes he told us that Jessica had gone into cardiac arrest and had no heart beat for five minutes but they had managed to get her resuscitated Then he tearfully said there was no other way to tell us except to say, “She’s not going to make it through the day.”
An Echocardiogram showed that Jessica’s heart was functioning at ten percent of normal. The left wall of her heart was swollen and the mitral valve that separates the top and bottom chambers was separated and moving aimlessly. Clean and dirty bloods were mixing together.
We began calling family and friends who in turn started prayer chains all over the country. Mark’s parents and our other two children were with us. We all cried and prayed together. More family and friends joined us throughout the morning. The emotions were so painful and our hearts ached as we grieved for our baby girl.
Around 10:30 a.m. we began to feel an incredible sense of peace. God was giving us that peace that passes all understanding. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be care filled for any thing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
God’s peace is different from the world’s peace. It’s not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good feelings. Real peace comes from knowing that God is in control.
We knew the Lord was carrying us and helping us stay strong. He had a plan, we only had to step aside and let Him work.
Jessica made it through that Thanksgiving day. She held her own and even improved slightly over the next several days.
At one point she was being given 8-10 different medications called pressers, to keep her heart rate and blood pressure up. There were daily ups and downs, routine adjustments and an actual improvement up to 18 percent in her heart function. Then on Sunday December 4th, the cardiologist met us as we came to visit Jessica. She explained that Jessica’s heart function had worsened, and that the heart muscle itself was now damaged without any chance of natural recovery. With this in mind our option was either a heart transplant or we could choose to remove the life-support equipment and not put her through it. We made our decision and chose every chance for life.
On December 5th,1994 Jessica was placed on the national heart transplant list at Stage 1 critical, and just one month old. She was moved to the Cardio-Vascular Intensive Care Unit to wait for a heart. The days were long and we sometimes felt no end was in sight. Mark had to return to work so I spent the days at the hospital alone, never wanting to leave but not knowing really how I should feel.
……..waiting for a heart……..
Several more days of waiting dragged on. I met families who had waited months for a heart. I began to get a sensation of being swallowed whole by the entire thought of it all and one Friday in particular I was feeling deeply alone and without anyone to talk to so I made the walk to the pay phone I’d used so many times before and called one of my grandmothers. I am fortunate to have two grandma’s who are tremendous women of faith and prayer. One of them lost a child at 11 months and I know this was like reliving it for her but I knew she was praying! I called just to hear a familiar voice and ask my grandma to pray. She reminded me that just as God had formed Jessica’s heart in my womb, He could also choose to remake it if that was his will. We began to call individual people and prayer chains, asking them to pray specifically for these two things; that God would heal Jessica’s own heart and that it would be unexplainable in mere human medical terms.
We prayed the answer not the problem.
Jesus prayed in this way. He spent much time in prayer, but never prayed the problem, He prayed the answer. What God says in his word is the answer. Jesus spoke accurately, never crooked speech. His conversations always consisted of what God said. He always spoke the end results, not the problem. Never did he confess present circumstances. He spoke the desired results.
My grandma prayed over the phone with me and then that afternoon when Mark came back to the hospital after work, I told him about my conversation with my grandmother and he agreed. Then he told me about his experience on the drive back to Little Rock that evening. As he made the drive back to Children’s Hospital, Mark said that God had ask him, “Do you believe I can heal her?” Of course Mark’s answer was yes.
The next morning was Saturday. Mark and I prayed before we went to see Jessica, again praying the answer and not the problem. We noticed she was more spirited than usual. It was a joyful visit with her and a delight to see her feeling just a bit better.
Around 3:30 the next morning the nurse on duty called us at our Ronald McDonald House room across the street. We thought it might be the call of information on an available heart for transplant. We were being so tested in our faith because if God was going to heal her we didn’t want them to preform a transplant! We HAD to have faith and trust the Lord to have his way.
This call, however, was not about an available heart but instead to inform us that Jessica had pulled out her ventilator tube by herself and was breathing fine without it!! She had spent the past 20 days on the ventilator and had stopped breathing on each of four other attempts to remove this support.
We were also told that for most of those 20 days, she was “one breath away” form being placed on “ECMO” (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.) Any person who requires ECMO is very ill and will probably die without it. ECMO therapy is invasive and the patient is subject to infections and damage to vital organs because of bleeding especially brain bleeds. ECMO is continued until the heart or lungs recover, or until treatment is not effective; it may be a period of days or weeks. Jessica was a very sick little girl to have even had ECMO suggested as an option!
We told the doctors and nurses that we believe in miracles but they kept telling us that the heart muscle will not heal by itself. From the medical standpoint, once it is damaged, there’s no hope. We asked several times for a Echo-cardiogram of her heart but it was refused, understandably, due to expense.
The following Thursday morning, I walked in the CVICU just as one of the cardiologists, was finishing an ECHO of Jessica’s heart. She informed me that Jessica’s heart was 50 percent improved and and her condition could be controlled with medication for the rest of her life. She also said that any available transplant hearts would be turned down!! I had to say it out loud!! “Praise the Lord!” With so many praying how could she lose! All the nurses and doctors in the CV unit were smiling and laughing.
But, 50% was not enough for the Lord!!!! What he starts he finishes! By Sunday, (one week later) all of her medications were weaned off except a tiny few by mouth which were only a maintenance precaution, her I.V. was removed, as was the central line which was in a vein in her groin area. By that afternoon, she was moved to a regular room.
On Tuesday, a final Echo was preformed and the result was 100 percent normal function of her own heart!!!! God is so good!! We got the first thing prayed for; a healed physical heart. The other was the reaction of the doctors. They were in awe! One doctor who had cared for Jessica in the PICU, was crying! Mark asked one of the cardiologists if he could explain this and his answer was “Not in medical terms.”
There have been a tiny few cases like Jessica’s but none that we know of as serious as hers. She is now a 20 year old Rodeo Queen, on no medication, and continues to have 100 percent normal heart function.
We still marvel at this wonder of God, our great physician.
Incidentally, we came home from Children’s Hospital on Wednesday December 21st just before Christmas. What a gift!!!!! The unit-secretary on the Cardio Vascular unit told us that every year at Christmas they are blessed with a miracle and that year Jessica’s healing was it.
I have to add that the viral and bacterial cultures never grew anything that could have been considered the cause of her illness. It remains a mystery.
But you see, the story does not end there. The Bible tells of another baby, a MUCH, MUCH greater baby and of the greatest miracle. God gave us the ultimate baby and the ultimate miracle. He sent his son to die on a cross and to donate the heart we all need. Just as our family had to have faith that Jessica would be healed, we as humans have to have faith that God sent his son as an atonement for our sin and to save us from an eternity of existence without Him. It is exciting to believe that the awesome creator of this magnificent universe extended to us this incredible invitation to accept His son as our savior. He didn’t ask us to understand it or prove it but to believe and accept it with all our heart. He will do the rest.
You see, we all have a heart condition; a spiritual one. Our clean and dirty bloods are mixing and our hearts are swollen with sin, and we’re dying with no hope of making it through the day. But, just as Mark and I made the decision at every chance for Jessica’s life, God has given you a much greater chance for life with him. He wants to give you the miraculous heart transplant that you need to heal your broken and damaged heart. All you have to do is say yes. Confessing your sins, asking Jesus to be your savior and letting Him take control of your life is all you need to do. He waits with a quiet anticipation for us to reach out and take His hand for all eternity.
…….the father’s hand……..
Don’t hesitate to accept this one of a kind invitation. Do it now………let Christ be the Lord of your life so that HE can restore your heart function to 100 percent! (JOHN 3:16) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have have everlasting life!!!”
Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”
Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 14:6 “Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father but through me.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”
Receive him by personal invitation: Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him.”
Prayer is talking to God. He knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. The following is a suggested prayer:
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.” Does this prayer express the desire of your heart?
If it does, I invite you to pray this prayer right now, and Christ will come into your life, as He promised.
Please feel free to share this story with anyone who might need to be encouraged. If you have a prayer request or this story has touched you, send us a note! We would love to hear from you! Have a Blessed day!
Story written by: Julie Berry
This story appeared on Real Imprints.