It was late Friday afternoon, and I was worried. Bob, my youngest child at 22 months, was sick. Earlier that day I noticed little spots all over his body. I thought they might be measles. I'd seen all of this before, since I had two older children. They'd had all the ordinary diseases, but even when they were sickest, they were livelier than Bob was that day. My other children still managed to play when they were sick, but Bob wasn't playing. And his spots had gotten larger, like the chicken pox, but they were still spreading.
We lived in the country with the closest doctor 30 miles away. A hospital was 50 miles in the other direction. I knew that our country doctor left early on Fridays to attend his son's basketball games, but I dialed his number just to be sure. The answering machine gave an emergency number. I didn't want to be a paranoid mother, but fear won out and I called. When his wife answered, I hoped she'd tell me something soothing to reassure me that Bob would be all right. She didn't.
"I want you to take him to the office immediately, and the doctor will meet you there."
Now I was scared.
"Pray these words"
Bob was unable to walk by the time we got to the office.
The doctor took one look at Bob and said, "He has spinal meningitis. I've never seen this kind before, but I'm sure that's what it is. He'll die before morning. No one ever lives more than 24 hours after they get it."
In spite of his dire prediction, the doctor gave Bob a shot so he wouldn't lose use of his legs. By this time, Bob was slipping into a coma because his fever was so high. As I sat helplessly by, the doctor called the ambulance driver.
"I've got the sickest child I've ever seen," he told the driver. "If he's got a chance, it's in how fast you can get him to the hospital."
In the ambulance I started to pray as I normally would in tough times, "Lord, touch Bob." But I didn't get any further. God stopped me.
I felt him tell me specifically to use the words, Heal him physically. Heal him mentally. Every time I tried to use other words, I felt a strong impression to go back to the same words. It was as if God wouldn't allow me to say anything else. I had to use those words. From then on, I prayed, "God heal him physically; heal him mentally."
The ambulance driver kept telling me, "Talk to him. Shake him. Do anything to try to keep him awake." I knew he was trying to encourage me since everything looked so bleak. But I couldn't do those things. All I could do was continue to pray what God had led me to pray.
"He'll be dead by morning"
We made it to the hospital in a record 26 minutes. After Bob was quarantined because he was so highly contagious, the doctors began to run tests. They informed me that the country doctor was right. Bob had bacterial spinal meningitis. With his fever at 108 degrees, it was burning up his brain. They confirmed that he'd be dead by morning.
The doctors explained, "The bacteria is breathed in and then goes up his spine and into his brain. It attacks the patient both physically and mentally." Those words kept going over in my mind—just what God had impressed on me to pray.
They let me know that no one had ever lived after catching this disease. It had a 100 percent mortality rate.
I tried to bargain with the doctor, "If he lives until tomorrow afternoon, will he have a chance?"
The doctors wouldn't let me off the hook. They tried to prepare me for the fact that Bob was going to die.
In an effort to comfort me, one of them said, "You have other children, don't you?"
Like that would make a difference.
"He's coming with me"
They told me on Friday night that Bob was going to die.
They told me on Saturday morning that Bob was going to die.
They told me on Sunday morning that Bob was going to die.
But on Monday, they told me the truth: "I guess Bob is going to live. We don't know how or why. It's nothing we've done. He won't have any mental or physical capabilities, but he's alive."
On Tuesday, Bob woke from his coma and just laid there. They had his hands tied down so he wouldn't pull the needles from his head and arms, but he didn't fight against the restraints.
Little by little, Bob started to come back. All the time he was unconscious, I talked to him. I told him about his brother and sister and how we loved and missed him.
He seemed to recognize my voice, but I don't think he knew I was Mom. Yet after a couple weeks they took the needles out, and he made a straight line to me. He could crawl.
When it was time to take him home, they tried to get me to leave him there.
"Bob will only be in the way," they told me. "He won't ever be able to learn anything or to do anything normal."
I was firm. "No. If he has any chance, it's with me."
"I wanted the house warm for you"
Bob was so weak, he could only sit up for minutes. But he was home, and we had time to help him improve. At first I had to hold him constantly. He didn't recognize anyone and was afraid I'd leave him. I did all my work when he was sleeping or I carried him around, which wasn't easy. Although he'd lost a lot of weight, he was still an arm full.
Gradually, I began weaning him from me. I stayed in his sight and talked to him constantly. Then I started to go out of his sight for a couple of minutes, which helped him to improve faster physically. He walked in six weeks, but Bob was my constant companion for several years.
There were other things about Bob that were different. His sweat smelled pungent. As he grew older and began to walk more, he made his way to the fields around us. The farmer across from our house made steps so he could walk over the fence that held his cattle. Bob used the steps to get inside the fence, where he stood rubbing the cows on their stomachs. When I saw him, I was terrified the cattle would stampede him. Bob hadn't any sense of danger from animals, and evidently they didn't from him. I think his smell kept them from knowing he was human. I found this was true of other animals too.
But the scariest change was that he couldn't feel any pain. One day I smelled flesh burning. I ran into the kitchen to discover Bob standing casually with his upper arm resting on the coal stove. It left his arm with marks that looked like a Burger King hamburger.
He tried so hard to please and had his feelings easily hurt. One day I went to the store and left our three children at home watching cartoons with their father. When I got home, my husband was outside. I stepped into the house and saw that one whole living room wall was on fire! There sat all three children unaware of the fire just a few feet from them.
I realized it was only a box full of paper that was on fire and managed to kick the box outside. I knew the two older children probably didn't know what had caused the fire. I didn't even look at Bob, afraid he'd think I was accusing him.
I asked Paul, my older son, "Do you know what happened?"
"No, Mom, I was just watching cartoons."
I asked my daughter, "Peggy, do you know what happened?"
"No, I was only watching TV."
Then I turned to Bob. Tears were streaming down his face.
"Mom," he admitted, "I just wanted the house to be warm when you got home, so you wouldn't be cold. So I took the poker and stirred the fire. I didn't want to put the dirty poker on your clean floor, so I put it in a box of paper."
"They all want to sit with Bob!"
Bob definitely had trouble learning. I had to trust God with this, too, and he gave Bob remarkable teachers to help him. When he was to start kindergarten, I called his teacher and told her of his problems. The first thing to face was that Bob had only been away from me for short periods of time. Even then it was in a familiar place, his home, and with his family.
She told me to bring him over to her house two or three times a week so he'd be accustomed to her before school began. Then when school started, I stayed with him, making the time less and less until Bob could handle it. He was in kindergarten two years—the limit they kept any child in one grade. He hadn't learned anything except that he could trust other people besides me.
First grade was going to be a problem. There were two classes. He was assigned to Mrs. Fletcher, who was a good teacher who'd taught my other two children, but she had a gruff manner. I was afraid that would set Bob back, so I went to see the principal before school started. It was the policy that if a teacher had one child in the family, all others in the family would be sent to her also. They didn't want to change this because it would set a precedent for other families.
But God was quietly arranging things in the background. The other first grade teacher, Mrs. Alexander, was concerned because they'd put her grandson in her room and she was afraid the other students might think he was the teacher's pet and treat him differently. She wanted to trade her grandson for another child. She knew Bob and would be glad to have him in her class. I found out later Mrs. Fletcher and Mrs. Alexander had been trying to find a way to get Bob into Mrs. Alexander's class since she'd already gotten acquainted with Bob and he felt comfortable with her.
After two years in the first grade, Bob started second grade with a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Smousely. I wouldn't have thought it possible for Bob to love any teacher more than he had his first two, but he did. And she loved him. She listened to my concern that Bob might become a bully since he was at least a foot taller than any of other students. She laughed and said, "It's just the opposite. When I tell the children they can sit together, they all want to sit with Bob."
When Bob got his first passing grade in the second year of second grade, we had a party.
"Ask and you will receive"
After the 10th grade, Bob got a job. He's now married with three wonderful daughters. The years haven't been easy. We've prayed every step of the way. But what life would Bob have had if I'd listened to the driver in the ambulance and tried to keep Bob awake instead of praying?
He had wonderful teachers and an even more wonderful God who says, "Ask and you will receive." But also he can tell you how to ask.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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